Interviews

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

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I'd love to think that I have an inkling about what Black Flag is all about, but I'm interested to have you go deeper with that...What is Black Flag all about? What does it mean to you and what does the band stand for?

Mike Vallely: To me, Black Flag is about the moment. Total freedom of expression. It's about musical evolution -- expansion, spontaneity.

Tyler Smith: To me, Black Flag, more than anything, represents the "do-it-yourself" attitude. If you don't know how to play a musical instrument, teach yourself. If you're not signed to a record label, start your own. Black Flag is about pure musical expression and the rejection of everything superficial.

Brandon Pertzborn: To me, Black Flag represents freedom of expression. They never played by the rules. They play fast, they play slow, they write songs that are 50 seconds long and then write songs that are 6 minutes long. Who cares? They didn't try to conform. They didn't want to conform. They stayed true to themselves. I believe that in 2014, we will still carry on this same spirit. The same mindset Black Flag has always had, will continue.

So...What is working with Greg like? He's got a reputation of being a bit of a control freak. An old band of mine opened for him in the mid-90's and he watched our whole set and was sort of friendly, but I also got the sense that he just wanted to crush us, too, after we were done. Is he competitive?

Mike Vallely: No, not at all. The first time I met Greg my band was opening for him as well. He stood out front, watched our entire set and then went and bought one of our T-shirts. At the time it seemed so crazy to us. But over a period of time we would end up doing a series of shows supporting Greg and he stood out front and watched us play every single night and on many of those nights he was wearing our shirt. That's just who he is. Last year I did over eighty shows with Greg with our band Good For You, and anytime we had support acts on the shows, Greg made a point to watch all of them. It's a matter of respect. Bands get billed to do support acts and in a sense "play with" a touring act or whatever but many times they never even meet the band that they are gigging with. Greg doesn't go for that. If a band is supporting us then Greg wants to see them and support them. It's about respect, musical kinship, not competition.

As far as Greg being a "control freak" -- I don't really see it like that at all. I mean "control freak" has such a negative connotation. I more so see it as Greg is really just a true artist, and that he knows exactly what he wants to do. He has a very clear vision for his music. And as it relates to Black Flag, the majority of the music and the spirit of what Black Flag is has always emanated directly from Greg. That's just the way it is. At the same time, my experience in working with Greg has been very open. If I have an idea creatively that I feel strongly about, Greg is the last person that is going to stand in my way -- unless of course it's a terrible idea. At the same time, I would never dream of telling Greg what he should be doing musically, creatively. I mean, if him protecting his own artistic integrity makes him a "control freak" then really, shouldn't we all be control freaks?

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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