This interview originally appeared in the first issue of the excellent (though shortlived) fanzine Outcry. Thanks to Steve Stiph for permission to reprint this. All photos by Steve Stiph except as noted.
(Black Flag members are: Greg, guitar; Chuck, bass; Dez, vocals; and Robo, drums. Robo was the only absentee when the band was interviewed by Steve Stiph on Sept. 25 at the new Black Flag headquarters in Torrance.)
SS: First of all, what is the status of your upcoming EP?
G: It's gonna be out in October.
SS: How many songs will be on it?
C: It's four songs and one surprise song.
G: There's gonna be five songs and one is...
C: A surprise.
G: Let's reveal the title right here.
SS: It'll probably be out before my mag will.
G: Maybe, but we should tell people any way. There's going to be "Jealous Again" (the title song), "Revenge", "White Minority", "No Values" and..."You Bet We Have Something Personal Against You."
SS: Have you done that live?
G: No, we never have.
C: Well, sort of. But not in this city. Not in LA.
G: It's the kind of a thing where we pull it out of the pocket when we...
C: Run out of songs or we feel like it.
G: And right now we feel like it!
SS: Is it gonna be 7" or 12" or what?
G: It's gonna be a 12" 45.
C: So you can eat dinner off of it.
G: You get a better sound that way.
C: You can cut it deeper and...
D: Everything comes out better, yeah.
SS: So, is Dez singing on the EP or Ron or who?
G: No, Chavo.
C: Chavo Pederinski.
C: That's his real name, you know.
G: Chavo is singing. C-h-a-v-o.
SS: Well who's Chavo?
G: Chavo is Chavo.
C: I mean, who else? You've seen him up there with us before.
SS: You talkin' about Ron?
C: That kind of half-Mexican, half-black guy.
G: It's just that guy.
C: You know that Puerto Rican guy.
SS: The short one?
C: Yeah. That's Chavo--the overcooked Keith. Ah, I shouldn't say stuff like that.
SS: Oh, the Ron. Uh, with that finally settled, how many did you sell of your first EP?
G: Three thousand.
SS: How many pressings did you do?
G: Two. We've sold out the second pressing and we're going to press some more.
SS: I've found out you guys have some real unlikely fans--like when I'm wearing a Black Flag button some long-hair type will say to me, "Black Flag is great" and I'm surprised they'd even heard of you.
SS: I guess a lot of people have heard your "Nervous Breakdown" EP on Rodney's show.
G: Yeah, but we've also played some weird places.
C: We get out and we've played new wave places, and parks and...you name it, we play it.
G: We like to play to any audience.
C: There's more impact in playing for people who aren't just soaking up the punk thing. It's actually more stimulating to play for an audience that has not heard it and probably has a prejudice against it.
D: I still would like to play Mira Costa High School.
G: Jan is trying to set that up.
C: You almost don't know what to do when you're in front of people who love it. It's much easier when you're in front of people who are sort of neutral or anti-what you're doing.
D: That was the best thing about Polliwog Park, the atmosphere.
C: You get all these people out there who've never seen it, don't know what to expect and you get out there and blow 'em away.
SS: Let's go back and talk about the history of Black Flag, how the band got started, who were the original members, etc.
G: I used to just play guitar by myself and I guess the first time I wanted to get a band together was four years ago. But, in Hermosa Beach I couldn't find people who wanted to play the kind of stuff I wanted to.
SS: What was your inspiration?
G: It just seemed that things had to open up as far as people being able to put a band together and just play how they wanted to, without the trappings of show business or whatever.
C: 'How they wanted to' is an important point. That's important in context of now.
G: I was reading about New York and the Ramones and stuff like that, and it was more of just a concept of the fact that I could possibly do it...and I never considered that before. I used to just play for myself. I tried to get people to play with then but I had a lot of trouble. I knew Keith (Morris) and he wanted to play drums but he didn't have a drum set. I convinced him to sing, and he really didn't go for that at first but he finally said, "okay". I had some songs I had written over a period of time and we started practicing them, and he knew this guy who played drums and we met this guy who played bass so we got a band together. It was called Panic back then.
SS: So what was the approximate date when the band first got together?
G: It was like the middle of '77 when we had a complete band. We played some of the same songs we play now, but we changed the name to Black Flag later--just before we put out our single. And the bass player kept leaving and then coming back and just kinda spacing out so Gary started playing with us, or Chuck.
SS: Yeah, which one is it?
G: It's Chuck. Erase that other...
C: Here's the story on that. About 5 years ago I got in some trouble and I had to change my name in order to avoid being traced down, but now things are cool.
G: So now he's resurfacing as Chuck. Then Robo joined the band in '78.
C: Around the time the Masque was opening, I was in another band and we were playing in this place down in Hermosa Beach. I was in the other band and they were in Panic except they never had a bass player--it was just the drummer, guitarist and Keith. And everybody would go, "You guys don't need a bass player." Anyway, we started doing all these parties together, playing around Hermosa and Redondo. We'd all go up to Hollywood together and cause trouble.
G: They wouldn't let us have gigs in Hollywood because they considered us outsiders, troublemakers. We always played the same way but we just rubbed them wrong.
C: About Christmas, in '78, the Hermosa Beach city council passed ordinances against us and declared the area we were in illegal for practicing with bands. First, they tried to get us out with the fire marshall because we would just lock the doors when the police would come around the corner. They'd pound on the doors, "Open up, police!" and you just wouldn't do it. And there would be like 30 people living in there, all these people just sleazing out. So finally they got us out of there.
G: People would say to us, "How come you just play for yourselves?" but we couldn't get gigs.
C: Then we didn't have a choice. It was either play for yourself or play like Led Zeppelin.
G: We don't feel good unless we play. We want to be able to put our stuff out for the public, but we played a long time without doing that.
SS: When was your "Nervous Breakdown" EP recorded?
G: It was recorded in January '78 and released over a year later.
SS: So how many did you do on the first pressing?
G: Two thousand.
SS: Did you think you could sell that many?
G: Yeah, we were real cocky. We liked it a lot, you know, and we thought, "Why shouldn't people like us?" because we would play it and go crazy.
SS: Yeah, I bought it at Zed, not knowing exactly what I was getting and I was thoroughly blown away by it.
G: At first, they (Zed) only took 5 of them and they were a little nervous about that.
SS: They took five!?
G: Yeah, and we said, "Why don't you take a few more" and they said, "Well, we'll see how it sells."
SS: What about that big, chaotic Hideaway show?
G: (laughing) Oh no!
SS: It seemed to me there were 1,500 people there. Were there that many?
SS: Why were there so fucking many people there?
C: I don't know.
G: Because a lot more people are getting into...
D: Charlie's Angels wasn't on that night.
C: We went up to Canada during the summer and the tour took us about a month. When we got back I noticed that any gig had more people than the big gigs used to have. You'd go to "Joe Jerk and the Fools" playing at Bumfuck Egypt and there'd be 300 people there. It used to be, you had to have X and the Germs to get three or four-hundred people. But the whole scene has expanded and I guess the bigger it gets, the faster it expands.
SS: Yeah, there's no question about the numbers...
C: It's at least doubled. When we first started out, it was like this hardcore group in Hollywood. They considered, if you were a punk you lived in Hollywood, you made your total dedication, you lived out there and you did that. That's why we got all this pressure in the beginning. Here we were from the suburbs, this bunch of wild jerks from Hermosa Beach, right.
G: We'd go to all the gigs and people like Bruce Barf, and people like that, they hated us.
C: They tried to kick us out all the time, tried to get rid of us.
D: You'd go to Hollywood and you wouldn't know anybody because the people were so fuckin' snobby it was pathetic.
C: And then the whole Huntington Beach thing opened up. Because of an aggressive attitude, a lot more people were open to it besides those who are committed to music and to being different. Then all the suburbs started getting into it, just because its been around for a while and all the media is starting to give it more press---be it bad or good, there's a lot more press. People are hearing about it, they're curious about it. If they're into anything new or have anything that's pertinent to themselves to get out, they get into it. Because, hell, I mean you can listen to Led Zeppelin and is that going to give you any satisfaction.
G: The drummer died today.
SS: The Zeppelin drummer? Really?
SS: I wish it would have been Page.
G: Or the singer. What's his...
SS: Plant. Yeah, those two have got to go. Hey, I live in Alhambra and I get hassled by your typical long-hair Led Zeppelin fans. They're not into punk in Alhambra--they're not even in to new wave.
C: But it'll happen. The young kids are getting into it. It's happening real fast.
(The conversation then goes to degrading all the new wave bands which have jumped on the bandwagon and merely copied the 'new wave formula'.)
G: Everybody should think and everybody should act. There is no excuse for any person of any age to be burnt out. People should resist control at as early an age as they can and keep doing it.
C: That's what I like about this. If you can keep something that says "always rebel and always think" going, then maybe you'll have less broth and more people that are trying to stir the soup.
D: You just wanna try to make people think more.
C: And act...and feel. The minute you start saying 'no' to what you feel, that's the end. Dig one grave, maybe three years later you'll roll over into a new grave.
SS: For those of us curious about age, how old are you guys?
C: I'm 26.
G: I'm 26.
D: I'm 19.
SS: What about Robo?
C: I don't know. He doesn't tell us anything about himself.
SS: What's Robo's real name?
C: Robo Robinski.
G: No, Roberto. Robo is just short...
C: Plus the way he plays drums. I was watching him play drums one time and he was sitting there almost at attention and I go, "Fuck it, he's a robot," and I say, "Hey Robo," and he goes, "I like that".
(Editor's note: The interview went on for another hour and although this may not seem like a logical ending point, it has to end somewhere...)
Black Flag / DOA gig shut down. Photo by Ed Colver.