A Chat with Black Flag's New Singer Before The Punk Legends Crash Into Portland

Vortex Music Magazine

Black Flag has seen some troubled times but they’ve persevered and’ll be rocking out at the Hawthorne Theatre on May 28. Leave a comment below to win a pair of tickets!

It’s been a heavily covered topic, but when I saw the album cover for Black Flag’s What The... album last year, that’s exactly what I was thinking. It was pretty bad—like “the placenta lovechild of Cartman and Punchy of Hawaiian Punch fame swimming through Ecto-Cooler and Hulk jizz”—especially considering it was their first record since 1985’s In My Head.

Just days before the record hit the street, Black Flag fired lead singer Ron Reyes (who sings on What The...) on stage—coincidentally he’s also the man also responsible for the album cover. For more than a year, during and after Reyes’ time, the band was also involved in a lawsuit with the offshoot band Flag—which features ex-Black Flag frontman Keith Morris and former members Chuck Dukowski (bass), Bill Stevenson (drums) and Dez Cadena (guitar/vox) alongside the Descendents' Stephen Egerton (guitar)—over the band’s name and use of the iconic Raymond Pettibon-designed black bars logo.

Recently settled, Greg Ginn—the founder, principal songwriter and only continuous Black Flag band member over the decades—finally won (most of) the battle, which means Flag will no longer be allowed to use the logo. That said, Flag will still continue to tour playing a back catalogue of Black Flag songs.

Vallely and GinnVallely and Ginn

Surviving this turmoil, Ginn is back on tour, and before their Hawthorne Theatre show on May 28, I spoke with lead singer and band manager Mike Vallely, who Ginn announced last month would be fronting the band. Initially taking over for Reyes when he got fired during the 2013 tour, Vallely is a professional skater who was previously in the punk band Mike V & The Rats. His reception has been varied as his previous tenure with the band included just a few reunion gigs in 2003, but the current Victimology Tour should show what people really think. He tells us they’re recording music, and while Wikipedia mysteriously lists a potential forthcoming album in 2014 of the same name as the tour, Vallely says nothing is set in stone for a new record.

How'd you end up meeting the band?

I first saw Black Flag in 1984 when I was 14. It was a life changing experience. I met Greg and gigged with him a bunch in 2003 and we became friends. Eventually, we started working together on music, which became our band Good For You. That relationship evolved into me now singing for Black Flag.

I hear you've been working on new music with Greg. Are you recording a new Black Flag album?

We are just always recording and working on music. None of it is designated or assigned to Black Flag at this point. There’s no real plan yet here. We don’t want designated plans to get in the way of the creative process.

Tell me about a clusterfuck moment you've had with the band so far as well as a moment that’s defined where the band is going in its current incarnation.

As the vocalist, I’ve just been working on being on top of the music. It’s just work, a process—that’s it. Nothing clusterfuck or defining about any of it. Just doing it.

How long have you listened to Black Flag?

Since September 1984.

How do you feel about the punk rock scene these days?

I don’t think or feel about punk rock. I love music and I don’t distinguish between different types of music. Music either speaks to me or it doesn’t.

How long do you plan to stay with the band?

No plans. As long as it goes, it goes. I’m here now—that’s my only focus.

What's the worst thing in the world?

Trying to answer a question like that.

Supporting the band on the Victimology Tour are the Brooklyn two-piece Cinema Cinema playing their brand of atmospheric punk. Leave a comment below for your chance to win a pair of tickets to see Black Flag on Wednesday, May 28 at the Hawthorne Theatre.

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