Greg Ginn (Interview 2) - 2003

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As the Black Flag reunion concert grew nearer, and Keith Morris issued a confusing press statement "explaining" why he wouldn't be taking part, Greg Ginn suddenly announced that the reunion show band would perform the My War album in its entirety! I needed to speak to him - I still had questions! Plus I needed some more info about his cat rescue hobby for a New York Tails article I was writing. So Citizine Editor Thom White set up a second interview and awaaaaaay I went! My questions? Bold. Greg's answers? Nope. No bold.



Hi, this is Greg.

Hey Greg! How ya doin'?


It's good to speak to you again. So you're doing My War now?

Yeah. Eddie said you wanted to find out more about that. We started out kinda making the rough theme of the show "The First Four Years," so people would kinda get an idea of the bulk of the songs that we'd be doing. But then we just decided to do more as a support act - not change the focus but add to it - we're gonna do the entire My War album from beginning to end. Mike V from Mike V and the Rats is going to do the vocals, and then I'm gonna play guitar, Dez is gonna play guitar - we're gonna do some two guitar stuff and then of course Dez is gonna be singing some other stuff, but we're gonna start out with the My War stuff. And Dale Nixon is gonna play bass - the original bass player from My War. I'm really looking forward to this thing. Mike sings the songs really well, and that was really the key. And they're playing on the first night - Mike V and the Rats. I've done quite a few shows with those guys locally myself, and I really like them a lot. They're a great band. And that's the idea of him singing My War.

Cool! How are you gonna pull off the Dale Nixon thing?

Umm. a little bit of sleight-of-hand, but it will be done. I think that's gonna be really good.

Cool! Are any other former members besides Dez gonna be there?

Well, yeah. Definitely the people who've been practicing for the band. C'el, our last bass player.

Oh wow! Yeah!

And Robo came up from Colombia. Some of the people that had been pushing me for a long time - "Let's do a reunion! Let's do a reunion! Blah blah blah. We'll make all this money! Blah blah blah" - Now that the money's been taken out of the show, they're nowhere to be found. But then some of the people that were less involved, just doing their own thing - those are the people that have really been excited about doing it. Like Robo called me from Colombia, "What about the show?" And I said, "Well, the only problem is that it's a benefit. So there's no money involved." And he said, "I'll get the money together. I'll get a plane ticket one way or another. And I've gotta be there playing." And when we're playing, he gets into it most of all. And people like that - that's the kind of people that are involved.

I didn't understand at all that press release that Keith Morris sent out.

It's kind of strange because he's the one that's been begging me to do a reunion forever. Yeah, I don't understand what particular -

I didn't even understand what he was saying.

Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. He said he was gonna do this show. That's what's really bizarre. He told the promoter a number of times, he told us, the show was delayed because of his schedule. That's what's aggravating to me about it. He didn't want to do it; he just wanted money. Like I told him - you know, what I've found in doing this - rock and roll benefits - is that people are making money on them. They're not really benefits - they just throw chump change at the benefits. And I just don't want to be any part of that. And so I talked to him and explained that it was a benefit. And he goes, "Well, how much money is involved?" And I said, "Well, it's a benefit." And then he says, "Well, how much money is involved?" And I'm just, "It's a benefit! What? How. it's a benefit! We're trying to raise money for the plane tickets and some of the other costs involved, but we don't want to take it out of the money from the show. So we've gotta figure out something else." So it's like I say, it's kinda turned out ironic in that way.

Yeah, that's disappointing to hear.

But that's good for me in that the people who are involved want to be.

The people who are there want to be there.

Yeah, and we're really having a good time. Our practices are like, you know, switching off, this and that. It's really - I mean, I wasn't looking forward to this! But really it's turned out to be fun. And that makes me really happy to be doing the benefit. The people involved are honestly interested in doing it, and it's really turned out to be a positive experience. I mean, let's face it - a lot of people played with Black Flag. You know, there were about 10 different versions in the first four years. The truth is you could throw a hundred dollar at just about any trailer park and get a quorum for a Black Flag show.


But that's not what this is about! And I don't know about the thing with Keith. It's kinda bizarre - you told us you were gonna be there and now you're not - and YOU have a problem? I don't know! But the thing with Keith is that I don't think he can really do that many songs. I think he gets tired every few songs. I think he's getting better, but we're gonna play for quite a long time. And we're certainly not gonna take money from cats for anyone involved.

Is Dez gonna do any of the singing? (note: I didn't realize until listening back to the interview for transcription that Greg already SAID Dez was gonna sing some stuff - oops!)

Dez is gonna do a lot of singing!

Oh good! Yeah.

Yeah, Dez was important because with the first two singers, a lot of people don't realize it, but we'd play like 20 and 25-minute sets. Play and move on. And that was great, and we'd be playing with 8 or 9 bands playing short sets when we were starting out. But it wasn't til Dez was in the band that we were really increasing our sets to an hour and fifteen minutes, an hour and a half. And bringing a lot more variation into the set, and technically a whole lot more songs and playing a lot longer. And touring, you know. That's when we started touring a lot. So Dez was really key. But also it'll be cool to do double guitar on the My War stuff. Because he actually sang a lot of the songs, and he also played on a lot of them. Or he didn't sing - he played guitar on a lot of them before -

Yeah! That thing - I think it's only available by bootleg but those 1982 Demos are incredible.

Well, yeah. But that's pirated stuff.

Is there any chance you could ever release that?

I'm sure, but you know..

Don't know if you wanna go back that far?

Yeah. It's like some people think that they get a tape and we should put it out, but whatever. That's really trash.

Oh okay.

So that's gonna be great, playing that stuff with two guitars.

Yeah. Are tickets on sale now?


How much do you think you'll be able to raise for the cats? Or what's your hope?

I don't know - I don't wanna, like.

Jinx it.

But I think it's gonna be a lot. Quite a lot of money.


We're gonna be doing some merchandise. Everything involved is gonna be for the benefit. So I think it's gonna be a lot of money. Because tickets are being sold for $27.50. But that's the reason this is happening - because it's a benefit.

Have you decided yet which organizations you're gonna give the money to?

Yeah, there's 6 or possibly 7 of them. They're all - you know, I explained to you before that I've been involved with cat rescue for years, so I became familiar with a lot of these organizations through their web sites, which have a lot of information about cat care and issues involved with cats. And what we wanted - there are some large organizations that we network to, like the Feral Cat Alliance, but we wanted to - I thought that the better thing would be to do it with local organizations that facilitate adoption of cats, and also people volunteering to rehabilitate cats. Basically we wanted to get funding to people who are involved with cat rescue in all-volunteer and non-profit organizations. That way, we could help them as opposed to, like, the Feral Cat Alliance, who do a lot of lobbying and have lawyers and an established presence. We wanted to benefit people who help cat adoption locally, working directly with the cats, because they need the money a lot more than the larger organizations.

How long ago did you first become so compassionate about cats? I mean, I like cats. I've always been a dog guy, but I was just wondering when it was that you realized, "Man, there's a lot of cats that need help and I need to -"

Well, I've always liked cats from when I was a kid. I'm probably more fond of their attitude and stuff. But I didn't have any pets for a long time, because I moved so many times. My lifestyle just wouldn't have provided any stability. But then I got involved in rescuing a litter, and it kinda snowballed from there. What's funny though is that I used to collect cat figures - not expensive stuff, but anything with cats. I used to collect those. But I have so many real cats I don't buy that stuff anymore. But it's probably been about six years since I got into it.

How is the relaunch of SST going?

Oh good! We've got four good cds coming out. I don't know if I'd call it a relaunch. It's just been a while since we've put out any new stuff, whereas the old stuff has always been available. But it's been a couple of years since we've released new material, because our distributor went bankrupt.

Did you enjoy the - or do you enjoy the business of actually running the label and having to deal with egos and this or that? Or did you mainly like having a label so you could put out stuff that other labels won't put out? Or -

Yeah, I've never been one for the big rock and roll circus, all that stuff. Like hitting radio stations over the head, "Can you play this? Blah blah blah." So it's been certainly, you know, dealing with egos and stuff, it's been good to have a rest. But right now, with some stations, we're getting back into them very slowly. One thing is that I've just played music for itself for such a long period of time. And yeah it can get to be a lot of responsibility for other people, and with the responsibility of other peoples' expectations, which at times can be pretty bad.

Yeah, I remember the whole nonsense with that Negativland single. I was on their side at the time, but now I'm thinking, "Well, why would this be the record label's responsibility?" If you gave the artists the complete creative control to do this, why was it thrown back in your face?

Well, especially when they all agreed that they would take the responsibility. It would be one thing if that wasn't clarified, but it was made very explicit.

They're still kicking around apparently.

Well, that kind of thing, I just think it's the result of their being bitter about not being more successful. What's ironic about them is that they have all this anti-consumerism, but it's a band that from the start and every step of the way was so involved with money and penny-pinching, and just the consciousness of money, you know? And it's become anti-consumerism. I don't like to consume stuff, but I don't make a big deal out of it. I don't really like to go to the store, but that's a personal thing. I don't dwell on it, because I don't like it! So sometimes when people are so hyper about something like anti- consumerism, they're actually maybe just not consuming as much as they want to.

Just trying to create an image?

Well, of course.

Yeah. Did you see this press release they put out recently about how they got a ClearChannel radio station to change their format or something? Did you see this?


I like some of their music, but this latest thing was just pathetic. They wasted all this time and energy making some mockery of a radio station that was supposed to only play `60s and `70s music, but Negativland noticed they were playing `80s music? So they had people sending in emails, and it was just such a dumb target to waste time on. I just didn't understand it at all.

Well, the U2 thing was weird because they were fans of the band!

Oh, they were?

Yeah! And I hate U2. I always have. So I was like, "Oh, dump on them? Cool! That arrogant Bono and this and that," but they were like, "Oh no! They do some cool guitar stuff." And I just went, "What?"

So really they just did it `cause they had the samples.

Yeah, they did it because - well, they didn't know they would hear from U2's management. They thought it would all be a label thing, and they wouldn't be dealing with U2 directly. I wouldn't have thought that U2's own manager would have been brought into the story. I would have thought it would have been a label lawyer. They had no idea that they were gonna actually make contact. But it's like they're fans of the band, yet they'll make a target of it because they can make a success of it. Whereas me, it's like no - I hate U2. And I would target them for that reason! If I liked them, then I wouldn't target them, you know? If they were just easy, but I was a fan? Would I choose to target them? No. Why would I do that? Would I target the Grateful Dead, whom I like? No.

Interesting. I never knew they liked the band. On another note, I just finished that Henry Rollins book "Get In The Van." How did you live like that? It just seems like such a rough way of living, being on the road all the time -

Well, the Henry Rollins thing was that it had gotten easier by that time.

Really? Ohhhhh.

Henry complains a lot. He acts like it was Vietnam or something. You're in a fucking rock band!

Yeah, he did! He made it sound like it was Vietnam!

Like wait a minute. It's not that it was easy and all this and that, and sure and this and that. But to me, I look back at it and well, I had a ball! We were in a fucking rock band! And I'm gonna whine about that? You know, sleep on a floor. Big fucking deal. Like I can't sleep on a floor? What, am I gonna snore improperly because I'm on the floor? What's gonna kill me? It's like get over it, guy. You're in a fucking rock band, and this isn't the jungles of Vietnam. And to pretend that it is, is a little bit scary.

Was he as angst-filled in person as he is in that book? Like he just, "No one understands me!"

Well, a lot of times, people are different in front of different people.

He seems to have respected you a lot. He says nothing but good things about you in the book.

Well, it's kind of a back-handed thing. People say that, but then when they say more about what he says in the book- it's like everything, well whatever. It's like, "Well, Greg was blah blah blah." And that's really nice, what I WAS in 1982, umm. okay? Thanks a lot, Henry. It's good propaganda, but that's about it. But not recommended. I mean for entertainment value maybe - he knows so much about being in a rock band.

So what was the experience like for you in Black Flag? Did you just have a really good time?

Yeah! Some of it was difficult, but what isn't difficult? I mean, what do you think?

It seems like it would have been really fun to be in Black Flag.


It does sound like there were some rough sleeping arrangements and driving conditions -

Well, so what?

But to go around the world making fans everywhere and playing with that many great bands, it does sound like it would be a really important -

It was a blessing! It's a privilege, you know? You know, if he had went to Vietnam or something, you know what I mean? It's not like he was called to duty. But it was a fucking rock band. Get over it! Go catch up on your sleep and on your way. You know? And like okay! And there's all this, "He said this about me. She said this about me." And you know, I just don't know what to say about that stuff.

Why did you end up breaking up the band? Was it no longer fun or you wanted to move on and do some other things?

It was a good time, and I always thought it was a good time. The music - the underground made a transformation, and I didn't think that the group were, of a mind, well enough rooted to go through that without it having a negative impact on us. And then I saw some many bands do what I wanted to avoid. I mean, look at all the bands who were contemporary to Black Flag in 1986, and what so many of them did after that. Or didn't do. And you'd see a lot of groping for commercial success. A lot of groups saying, "Oh, we gotta be on a major," and it just doesn't work. In almost all cases, they'd go to the wrong major or this or that. And their music would start to sound like hideous polished rock. Ever since then, I've been convinced that it was the right time to end the band. There wasn't any kind of argument. I just decided that, looking forward.where would we be? A lot of it was that Black Flag was always strong enough to fight the prevailing general opinions out there, and I just didn't think it was at that time. I felt like it had gotten kinda to the point where it would be about growth. It wasn't up until then. It was just right at that point. A lot of punk rock became alternative, and I don't like alternative rock. It's like a return to new wave. "Oh, we'll make it palatable, but we'll kind of have the look." You know, we'll look like the Germs or something while we make a pop album. "Yeah, we're influenced by the Germs, but we play pop rock. Okay?" Okay, Kurt!

(laughs) I take it you weren't into those guys too much.

Well, they were okay. Kinda bland.

So the show's just in a couple of weeks, right?


And do you know how long the set's gonna be? It sounds like it's gonna be really long.

It's gonna be fairly long. People want it to be choreographed, but that's the thing. That's not Black Flag. Black Flag was always, "Oh, Keith left?" Well, Ron was in the band two days later. We didn't put out a notice or a press release. But now it's like people want it to be choreographed and "Is Peter Criss gonna be there?"


And blah blah blah and "Are they gonna be bringing so-and-so out in a wheelchair?"

(laughs again!)

That's not Black Flag! You know? "Oh, what songs are you gonna play?" No! That's not Black Flag. "Oh, who's gonna be doing this, who's gonna be doing that? Who's gonna be blah blah blah?"

Did you get that tribute CD that I sent to you?

Oh, yeah! But I haven't heard it yet.

I had nothing to do with it. I just enjoy it.

Yeah, yeah. I appreciate that. It's just, I guess, just doing stuff all the time, I haven't really had time to sit down with it.

Do you think there's any chance that after this reunion, you and any of the old band members might record something together? Not as Black Flag, but just -

Well, you know, everyone lives in different places. We're just trying to do this. I mean, we'd have to record something before this, or right after. I play with a lot of different musicians on a regular basis, and so I'm open to jamming with a lot of people. But the people involved live in other places, and have a lot of other obligations. So we're just gonna concentrate on the benefit.

Is there any chance you might record it, and if it's good enough, maybe issue it as a benefit CD?

I don't know. If we did do that, it definitely wouldn't be a commercial venture. And it might be a bit much, because cats are my issue and all that. I don't want to ask too much of the people who are taking part. I want to be sensitive about that. I really appreciate the people being involved, but I know how it can be when someone is real zealous about an issue, which I am about cats. Cats are a big part of my - you know, call it a hobby or whatever it is. But I don't want to project that on other people. I think it's possible maybe, but at a certain point, everyone's gotta go back to their real lives.

What do you think about all these bands - well, not ALL these bands, I'm thinking of two in particular really - the Dead Kennedys and the Misfits? Not the current Misfits, because I know the current Misfits have Dez and Marky Ramone, but the one before that? Where they put out a couple of CDs without Glenn Danzig? And the Dead Kennedys without Jello Biafra?

With that kind of stuff, it's just - is the music good? In those cases, I haven't even seen any of those groups. That's why this reunion thing is like - that's why I haven't done this before, until it became something that I wanted to do a benefit for. It came from that motivation. Because I never go to any of those shows! I saw the Sex Pistols in the `70s. I didn't want to see them in 80s, I didn't want to see them in `90s and I don't want to see them in this fucking decade! Just let it die and go home please, John Lydon.

(laughs - I like to laugh!)

I don't go to any of those reunion shows. I understand their reasons, I don't have any qualms. People should go, but I'm more likely to go to a techno club or something. It's not really my thing. I understand it, and I understand the history, but I'm more likely to go see a new band play. Unless an old band has new material or something. I'm not putting it down - I think if they write something new and record it, I might be interested, but obviously I can't hear everything. So a lot of that stuff I can't comment on. I haven't really heard the Misfits - I didn't really hear that version. So it would be really hard for me to say anything. On the face of it, I'm not necessarily against it. It doesn't matter. If people are playing vital music together and all that, it doesn't matter what name you call it. It could be the old name, the new name, whatever. That doesn't matter to me. It's more why, the reasoning, the purpose of being together. Is it just sort of a Memory Lane kind of a thing? And that's understandable, but I'm not a sentimental person. So that's not big on my list of reasons to hear music. You know, to remember the old days. I've never really felt a need to be sentimental. But I understand it, and it's fine.

Whatever happened to Poindexter Stewart?

Oh, Poindexter Stewart is around. When he heard his name, he wanted to get on the phone, but I don't think I'll let him. But he'll be back. He's gone into hiatus due to legal problems.


Something to do with an illegal substance..

Oh, Poindexter!

Anthrax or something -

Oh no! Alright, well I'll let you go. Thank you so much for taking the time again to speak with us. And I hope the show goes great!

Oh right! I think it's looking real good. It's hard to just all of a sudden do two big shows, but we're trying to be ready.

Okay. Have a good'un!

Thank you very much!

Thank you!



Reader Comments (Taeil Kim)
Saw the Friday reunion and it wasn't a regret. The new drummer DD really kicked ass but Mike V totally sucked cause he looked like he was doing a Rollins impression. But people were pissed. They wanted to see all those previous members. Didn't realize who C'el was 'til this interview. I thought it was Dez's bro!

This was really insightful and suprised by Ginn's sense of humor. Unfortunately it was bad on his part by the fact that this Black Flag reunion was advertised as "THE FIRST FOUR YEARS". It kinda was, but man Chuck should have been there (that would have been a true lineup rite then and there).

This reunion didn't turn out so well for the fact it was over fucking money. (Lord Kennedy)
"A guy took the microphone from me, called me a pig and bashed me in the mouth with it, People spat at me, hit me in the face. one guy burned me a few times with a cigar i got these big burns on my leg now.... One guy got onstage. The bouncers beat him up. i tired to get involved and i got hauled off and punched in the jaw"

This is an exerpt from GET IN THE VAN. and this all took place in one show! As Greg stated (probably 6 times.) it may not have been vietnam but i can sure as hell tell you that this sort of thing won't be found at any of even the most "hardcore" shows of this day and age. Give Henry a break. being the singer of Black Flag has it's territory. anamalistic audience for anamalistic music. (much like the b-52's) I'd like to see any other singer or band, with an exception of maybe The Sex Pistols try and compare notes to the shit he was put through on tour. Indeed it all seems rough, than again i'm still not too sure about what to think about the, what i like to call, intermission where about 20 pages are nothing but him writting in a dark shed about his bizzare, off-tour, manic-depressive, anxiety-ridden psychosis problems. aside from having nothing to do with Black Flag, that was a little much.

Neil Gunter
I'm a little late reading this interview, but I just wanted to say that Greg always appears to be extremely optimistic, despite the talk that circles him and SST. I respect that about him.
Well, now that I've heard a good chunk of the 1982 demos, I'd have to say it's unbelievable (The version of "Slip It In"? With Ginn and Dez feeding back like Lou Reed every time they stop playing? Thrashes the studio version by a long long mile...even though Kira was amazing on the studio version). So, I must comment on Ginn's words regarding the demos as "pirated stuff" and as something he wouldn't release because it would go back in time too far? Did I read that wrong, or did Ginn actually say he thought they were trash? The 1982 demos? Is he nuts?

I respect Ginn, but he must be crazy! Those 1982 demos, with proper remastering, would be an album to rival or possibly even better Damaged!

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