Interviews

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

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In 2013, Black Flag officially reformed for the second time since 1986 (there was a short, three show reunion in 2003). This reunion, on paper, looked like a possible return to glory with former lead screamer Ron Reyes coming back into the fold. From this perspective, it seemed like Ginn and crew were not going let Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Chuck Duckowski, Bill Stevenson, and Stephen Egerton have all the fun playing Black Flag music as FLAG, so they got back together to go on what would become a much maligned and ill-fated tour.

See Also: Keith Morris Talks FYF Fest and the Future of FLAG

Up on the Sun: Tell me about your perception of what went wrong with the reformation....I think there is a lot of confusion out there about your role in the departure of Ron, for example. Did you really fire him mid-song/mid-set?

Mike Vallely: Well, no matter what I say, I think the general perception will always be that I did fire him onstage, mid-set. That's what is out there, that's what people believe and in a sense I guess that is what happened. But the main thing is, Ron very definitively quit the band that very morning -- And although I realize that he'll never own up to that because it would detract from the sob story of him being the victim here, I also don't feel bad about doing what I did and I'll willingly accept the role that I played in his departure. The reality is, when Ron was asked to leave the stage, Black Flag finally became Black Flag again, and so it had to happen. But don't get me wrong, I was never pining away for Ron Reyes' job.

All along I wanted nothing more than for Ron Reyes to succeed and I worked hard day in and day out to help Ron Reyes succeed. To help the band succeed. He knows that. He knows the effort I made night in and night out on his behalf, But Ron was always Ron's own worst enemy. Ron was Ron's only impediment to making this whole thing work -- He couldn't get out of his own way. So, he can rant on and on about the drummer, the Theremin, the start and stops of songs and anything else that he can think of, but really it was only Ron Reyes that stood in the way of Ron Reyes.

And it's too bad. I liked Ron, and I think he's great vocalist and that he could be a great frontman for Black Flag still, but the way he played it -- that just wasn't and isn't possible. He doomed the reformation from day one from only having one pinkie-toe in the Black Flag camp and the rest of his existence pandering to the Facebook crowd. Really, it's sad. When he quit the band that morning in Australia, we weren't even sure if he'd turn up for the show. When he did turn up, we were very concerned about him using the stage as a platform to air his grievances. When he did begin to use the stage as such a platform, I cut him off. It wasn't some overly premeditated thing, it was rather spontaneous -- I mean, I was ready for it but I didn't really want to have to do it. And, of course, Ron being Ron, he didn't really give me a choice. The thing is, with the way that he had handled himself on his way out the door, I didn't feel that he deserved to have his cake and to eat it too. Enough was enough.

How do you feel about the backlash related to the last record cover?

Mike Vallely: I feel that if Ron Reyes was still the singer of Black Flag and that if he would have just really owned being the singer of Black Flag, and if he would have just owned the artwork that he created, and if he had actually written songs with substance that he and the band could stand behind regardless of any critic's opinion, then it would all be a non-issue. It's only an issue now because of how Ron let things play out, and his half-assed approach to being in the band, creating the artwork and writing the songs. It's unfortunate. Greg opened the gates and Ron shit on the lawn. That's just my opinion. Time will be the judge of that record but I can tell you, I'll never listen to it nor will I perform any of its material.

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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