Interviews

Black Flag's Mike Vallely on Former Singer: "He Doomed the Reformation From Day One"

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Up on the Sun: Tell me about the current line-up.

Vallely: The rhythm section is really dialed in at this point. We were looking for Texas-based musicians that could really commit to being in the band full-time, and that's what we've got. Tyler Smith on bass and Brandon Pertzborn on drums. I think this line-up of Black Flag will see the music fully realized. That's the goal here.

Up on the Sun: What is it like to be in Black Flag? It's never easy stepping in and filling someone else's shoes, especially when some of your predecessors are very well-respected?

Mike Vallely: Well, I don't really think of it in those terms exactly. I just look at it like I'm in a band right here, right now with three other members. I mean, I get it -- this band, this music is actually a part of my DNA, but when we step into rehearsals or onto the stage everything that was just needs to be dropped at the door. I don't and can't buy into any mythology or listen to the noise. It's about a living, breathing organism -- It's about musicians going someplace together. That's what matters here.

Yes, it's Black Flag. Yes, we are playing songs that are considered classics and we need to respect that -- that is fully understood. But if we get hung up on that or let it fuck with our heads, we won't be doing the music and songs and ultimately the fans that come out to see us justice because we will be trapped by whatever parameters buying into such ideas would set in our minds. That's not what music or being in a band is about. That's not what Black Flag is about.

Drummer Brandon Pertzborn: An absolute honor. I am very well aware of the respected shoes that I'm filling and I don't take that lightly at all. The hours upon hours I've put into learning, studying, and then rehearsing the music is a reflection of respect I have for the band. I know I will have to prove myself to people by my playing and I have prepared for that.

Bassist Tyler Smith: It's amazing. Waking up every day and getting to play truly great music that you love is more than I could ever ask for. I'm well aware of the previous bass players particularly Chuck Dukowski and Kira Roessler. I have tremendous respect for them, and they did indeed leave huge shoes to fill. All I can do is play to the best of my ability.

Mike Vallely: I'm up for the challenge. Not really worried about it all. I'm pretty confident in my abilities to pick it up but more importantly move it forward, That's not to say I don't respect the contributions and talents of those that came before me but I'm not hung up about it either.

What do you remember about the first time hearing or seeing Black Flag?

Brandon Pertzborn: I was 13 years old the first time I heard Black Flag. Around that time I was listening to a bunch of classic rock and I loved it. Every day at school, my friends and I would get together and share the new music we recently discovered. Usually it was the same type of rock music. I remember the day my friend had me listen to "Rise Above". I was absolutely sold after I heard that song and I bought the album, Damaged, the same week. It was perfect. I was blown away. I loved the intensity, the speed, the energy, and the fact that they did whatever they wanted to do. That album was a huge game changer in helping me develop my drumming style.

Mike Vallely: The first time I heard Black Flag was September 1984. The song was Rise Above. I would see the band perform a month later in Trenton, NJ. I was fourteen years old. It was a life changing experience.

Tyler Smith: Most of the bands I listened to while growing up were directly influenced by Black Flag, so that's how I was introduced to their music. I specifically remember "Six Pack" and "Black Coffee" being two of my favorites.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon