The Top Four Reasons Why Black Flag Are So Awesome (by ninthandash)

Originally by ninthandash, posted on 8/9/2009

Black Flag, a name known by every punk rock kid worth their salt. In the hardcore genre, Black Flag are named as being one of the three most important and influential bands, according to the documentary film American Hardcore. And Michael Azerrad, author of the book This Band Will Change Your Life, calls Black Flag the ‘godfathers’ of the genre. There’s no doubt about the fact that Black Flag are certainly a hardcore band to be reckoned with, one of the most popular and well-known. But why are they so unarguably awesome?

Reason #1: The Ethics.

Black Flag were formed in 1977 by Greg Ginn; the guitarist, songwriter and — unusually — the only continuous member of the band through their many member changes. Black Flag are important not only for their music, but also for the ethics surrounding them. They were one of the first bands to tirelessly promote a very strong DIY ethic; Black Flag were all about what you can do yourself, without relying on anyone else, particularly the major corporate record labels. This is emphasised by the way Black Flag released the majority of their material through SST Records, which is Ginn’s own independent label.

Black Flag started a revolution. There’s absolutely no arguing with that. They started the whole idea of doing it yourself, of booking your own tours, releasing your own music, and many bands followed their lead. They were all about the word-of-mouth network, utilising hardcore and the punk scene as a community. Black Flag toured relentlessly, barely stopping, so dedicated to making this work. Before you even listen to the music, Black Flag demand your respect.

Due to their strong work ethic, many members quit in the early days. Ginn was the guitarist and songwriter and Keith Morris was the original singer, but they had a hard time finding a bassist. I’m trying not to turn this article into a history lesson, believe me, but there’s so much more to Black Flag than just the music. Black Flag are, at the risk of sounding overdramatic, about the lifestyle. They’re more than just a band; they’re a subculture, an ethic, a revolution. When they started, there were barely any places for punk rock bands to perform — because as well as pioneering hardcore, Black Flag were part of the first wave of American Coast punk rock.

They would perform at picnics, house parties, schools, anywhere that was available. Imagine growing up in ’70s California and having Black Flag perform at a picnic. The kids who were there for those first few shows were a part of history, and it must certainly have been an enviable experience. Morris was still the singer at this time, and he is without a doubt my personal favourite of the singers that Black Flag have had. The original line-up; Greg Ginn on guitar, Morris singing, Brian Migdol on drums and Chuck Dukowski on bass, was undeniably amazing.

Reason #2: The Members.

Keith Morris is, without a doubt, an amazing frontman. His stage presence is one of the most energetic seen in punk rock; throwing himself about the stage with a boundless and manic energy. He helped the band gain a reputation in LA, commanding the audience and demanding all their attention. Dukowski was also key. Although Ginn formed the band and wrote the lyrics, Dukowski was usually the spokesman to the press. Very intelligent and a fast talker, even after he left the band as bassist he stayed with them as tour manager and his contribution should not be overlooked.

Migdol was replaced as drummer by Roberto Valverde, known as ROBO. ROBO was such an awesome drummer, and he had a new sound due to the metallic bracelets he always used to wear. They’d clink as he played the songs and this soon became a part of his unique sound. After Morris left, Ron Reyes was singer, and after him came Dez Cadena, who was originally a fan of the band. He was much more reliable and the band started to become much more commercial and popular, although he’d had no formal training as a singer and soon had to leave.

Then, came Rollins. Henry Rollins was Black Flag’s longest lasting singer, and attracted a lot of attention from critics. Sub Pop critic Calvin Johnson wrote: “Henry was incredible. Pacing back and forth, lunging, lurching, growling; it was all real, the most intense emotional experiences I have ever seen.” Even after a lot of the members have left Black Flag, they are still important parts of the music and punk rock scene. Keith Morris now fronts Circle Jerks, and Rollins is well known for his spoken word, as well as campaigning for human rights in the United States.

Reason #3: The Music.

This, is a difficult one. Black Flag’s music is absolutely fantastic, but I’m bound to be entirely biased as they are one of my all-time favourite bands. They were one of the first punk bands (a phrase I’m sure you’re sick of hearing but, as I said, Black Flag were completely revolutionary and therefore one of the first punk bands to do a lot of things) who incorporated heavy metal melodies into their music. Not just that, but Black Flag also used a lot of different elements from different genres, such as free jazz, breakbeat, and contemporary classical. Black Flag’s discography sounds so much more varied than pretty much any other punk band’s due to this.

Black Flag have a lot of albums and EPs, so I’m obviously not going to talk about them all here in detail. My personal favourite has got to be the Nervous Breakdown EP. Released in October ’78 while Morris was vocalist (he never sang on any of the band’s studio albums), Nervous Breakdown is probably the band’s most well-known song, and according to Dukowski was used as a ‘badge of legitimacy’ and led to them getting a lot more gigs in the LA area. It was also the first release on Ginn’s SST records.

Nervous Breakdown is an absolutely classic song. Morris’ raw energy is audible through the sound, and the band sound both rough and together at the same time. For me, Nervous Breakdown as a song sums up Black Flag as a band — raw, loud, and slightly out of control. If you only ever listen to one Black Flag song, it should be this one.

Damaged is, arguably, the band’s best studio album. Damaged was incredibly controversial and many thought it would single-handedly corrupt America’s youth. Not so. But Damaged could even be called one of the best albums to come from the ’80s California hardcore punk scene. Rollins gave Black Flag the edge they needed to attract attention; his guttural roar energised the songs and pulled them together, providing the missing link.

Although My War has been called “a pretentious mess of a record” by critics, there is no denying the influence it’s had on many other bands, who cite it as influential for the departure it showed from the standard punk rock model. Although side two was not the great music expected from Black Flag, it wasn’t bad, just not up to their standards. If any other band had released side two of My War, it would’ve been awesome, but for Black Flag it was distinctly lacking. But that’s not to say that the album was worthless. The title track is formidable, with Rollins ‘howling like a caged animal’, and it is definitely worth checking out.

Reason #4: The Legacy.

This section is going to be a little less formal, a little more flailing. Black Flag have basically left a mark on musical history. Their experiences have become legendary, apparently blacklisted by the LAPD and clubs in the LA area, mainly due to the violent nature of their shows. So many bands have covered their songs, become influenced by them, so many bands have simply just formed because of Black Flag. They are a band who everyone into punk or hardcore has an opinion on. They are a talking point, a revolution, an inspiration.

Black Flag are what got me into hardcore, and I have never looked back since. I heard their song playing on a jukebox at some shitty run-down venue and found out who it was, and what song it was (unsurprisingly, Nervous Breakdown). I went home and I found out everything I could about this band. Black Flag led me to Bad Brains, Minor Thread, the Bouncing Souls. They were so unlike anything I had heard before — and they still are.

In conclusion? If you haven’t listened to Black Flag yet… why not? Go. Listen. And be inspired.

A Short Guide To Anxiety Attacks by soufex

Originally by soufex, posted on 8/9/2009

I am 19 years old and I’ve been living with clinical depression for around five years or so, and since the age of sixteen I have been having anxiety attacks – ‘panic attacks’ – ranging from once a year to several times a day. In any case, they suck, and are horrible for everyone involved. Anything can trigger them off, and in my experience they have lasted from 10 minutes or so, to several hours. I’ve been a few types of medication for them. I’ve had them at shows, at work, on train journeys, and in my own bedroom; in the company of complete strangers, my girlfriend, or no one at all. Sometimes I can tell when I’m going to have one, and other times they sneak up on me out of nowhere. The experiences can differ from person to person, but there are a few things that essentially happen to everyone:

  • Hyperventilation or shortness of breath
  • Loss of concentration or track of time
  • Nausea-inducing fear and/or terror

(The last one might sound a little harsh, but anxiety attacks are pretty terrifying, and personally, very embarrassing; breaking down in public is not my thing at all.)

My experience of an anxiety attack, in retrospect, is usually the same (excluding the times where I’ve been kicked in the head, because you never see that coming unless a security guard leaps in front of you). For some time before the attack, I’m generally very quiet and my attention span is much shorter than usual, and I find myself distant from, or disinterested by my surroundings. I get snappy with people, lose my temper quickly, or become apathetic or ignorant to whatever is going on around me. (At the time I really don’t know I’m doing this, but I’ve been told that I tend to display the same behaviour, and after the attack I realise I’ve probably been a proper bitch to anyone who happened to cross my path, which usually happens to be my rather suffering but incredibly patient and loving girlfriend…) Then, for the next however long, my skin (especially around my face) becomes tingly, and I generally curl up into a little ball and cry and hyperventilate until the attack is over, in which I am left twitchy and exhausted for quite some time. (The only good thing about them is that I sleep like the dead when I go to bed after one.)

An anxiety attack is basically the body’s means of protecting itself against a situation it feels it can’t handle, and the body’s natural instinct is to brace, and try and get more oxygen into the bloodstream. With this in mind, the next part is much like an airline safety card. Life does not come equipped with safety cards, however, so here is a short guide to dealing with someone having a panic attack from my personal experiences:

  • Make sure they can breathe. Get an oxygen mask, take them outside or to a clear area, hold them so they can’t constrict their breathing – whatever works. However, because they’re freaking the fuck out, they probably won’t be listening to any offers of ‘breathe in slowly’, do bear this in mind.
  • Find a balance in your tone of voice and actions – be firm enough to try and get their attention, but not so much that make the situation worse – yelling at a person who’s freaking out anyway doesn’t do much good.
  • Be patient. It’s horrible being trapped inside a panic attack, and it’s horrible watching someone else stuck in one, but eventually it will end and they will calm down. Don’t try and move them straight away, because they’ll probably be exhausted and shaky and standing them up will probably mean they’ll just fall flat on their ass again and funny as it might look, it hurts.
  • This isn’t necessary, but is (probably) appreciated: I’ve yet to have a panic attack, or meet anyone that experiences them, and hasn’t sobbed their fucking guts out during the attack, so try and find something to wipe all the ick and snot away with, either during the attack (if you can get in there) to make it easier to breathe through the nose; or after the attack, just because it’s grim having your face, hands, shirt, knees, and everything else covered in watery slime.

I hope this is helpful to anyone – I’m sure those of you who live with, or are people who have anxiety attacks already know the drill pretty well, but personally an Idiot’s Guide To Anxiety Attacks would have been hella useful for me in the beginning!

PS. Further reading:
Panic Attack and Anxiety Awareness
Wikipedia’s article on anxiety attacks

Six Degrees Of Separation Mixtape by fightclubsandwich

Originally by fightclubsandwich, posted on 8/9/2009

The game “Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon”, since its conception in 1994, has risen to the level of ubiquity enjoyed by the likes of such games as “I Spy” or “Consequences”. This rise to prominence is a testament to the human race’s love of trivia, especially as a means to achieve victory at a competition that is as trivial as the knowledge required to play it. The sheer simplicity of the game’s basic format can also be applied to the mixtape, a glorious invention that also owes its success to the human love of trivia and tiny, insignificant little details. If you’d like to learn more about mixtapes, they feature heavily in the film High Fidelity, which stars Jack Black, who was in Tropic Thunder, which also starred Tom Cruise, who was also in A Few Good Men, with Kevin Bacon.

The World/Inferno Friendship Society – Thumb Cinema

Is there any better way to begin a mixtape than with a delicious slice of World/Inferno? I can’t think of one. Thumb Cinema is one of the band’s most insistently catchy numbers, as well as one that falls more or less on the punk side of their fun and unique cabaret-punk sound. Thumb Cinema can be found on the album Addicted To Bad Ideas, and due to the band’s constantly changing line-up, their drummer for the touring following this album was Brian Viglione, best known for his work with…

Dresden Dolls – Backstabber

Brian Viglione is such an excellent touchstone between bands of wildly different genres that if another Six Degrees article such as this one should appear on this website, you should probably expect Mr Viglione’s presence there. For example, this particular song we’ve chosen, Backstabber, was a released as a single with a video featuring members of Panic! At The Disco. So actually, via The World/Inferno Friendship Society’s revolving door drummer replacement method, we could link them back to Leftover Crack (hello there, Ara Babajian) thus blowing your mind with the observation that Leftover Crack and Panic! At The Disco are only about four steps apart. But instead, we decided to link Brian Viglione with another musician who seems to be everywhere at once…

Nine Inch Nails – Starfuckers Inc.

Of course! Viglione drummed on the most recent Nine Inch Nails album, Ghosts I-IV. Aside from Mr Reznor himself, of course, the line up for Nine Inch Nails is suitably fluid as to allow us to connect them with a huge number of other bands. Not to mention that the band’s numerous festival appearances mean that they’ve shared a stage with even more. However, we’re going to take the obvious path and point out that a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, (well, the 1990s) Reznor produced the album “Portrait Of An American Family” by…

Marilyn Manson – Personal Jesus

Okay, so there are more connections between Manson and Nine Inch Nails than just that, as anyone alive during the 1990s will know, and will be scoffing at me for. They’ve shared musicians, most famously guitarist Twiggy Ramirez, Manson appeared in the video for Starfuckers Inc. and you know what? The list goes on, but a list of reasons that two musical acts are connected is boring, we have to keep up the pace and move onto another, cover as many bases as possible. This particular Manson song is, of course, a cover of a Depeche Mode song. This song was also covered by…

Johnny Cash – Hurt

What is there to say about Johnny Cash that hasn’t already been said? After a career of commercial success as well as artistic merit, he went out with a bang in 2003 with a slew of Rick Rubin produced songs that saw him returning to (maintaining?) the glowing success that he’d seen in his prime. Personal Jesus of course, was one of these, as was Hurt, which seemed the appropriate choice of song for this mixtape, considering that it was penned by another member of this list. Also, it allows me to maintain the theme of cover versions, which is how we reach our next, err, degree? A tribute album to Cash came out last year, with the title On the All Aboard. This album saw the song Man In Black being covered by…

Bouncing Souls – Night Train

Of all of their own original work, Night Train is a song with a particular Johnny Cash feel to it. The song is melancholy and depressing as all get-out, but there’s still a glimmer of hope that comes from accepting the heavy responsibility of having made mistakes. It’s very emotional, but not gratuitously sentimental.

So anyway, now that we’ve established that they’re completely excellent, who are we connecting the ‘Souls to? Well, their first full-length (The Good, The Bad & The Argyle) came out on Chunksaah Records, (way back in ’94, hmm, coincidence?) which is also the record label currently putting out music by…

The World/Inferno Friendship Society!

And the circle is completed! (In six degrees, as God intended.)