Black Flag was an American Hardcore Punk band formed in 1976 in California. The band was established largely as the brainchild of Greg Ginn, guitarist, primary songwriter and sole continuous member through multiple personnel changes. They are widely considered to be one of the first bands of their genre.
Black Flag forged a unique sound early on that mixed the raw simplicity of the Ramones with atonal guitar solos and frequent tempo shifts. The band was also known for the intense and evocative lyrics found in their songs, most of which were penned by Ginn. Like other punk bands of this era, Black Flag gave voice to an anti-authoritarian, non-conformist message, featuring songs punctuated with descriptions of isolation, neurosis, poverty, and paranoia, themes that would be explored further when Henry Rollins joined the group as lead singer in 1981. Most of the band's material was released on Ginn's independent label, SST Records.
Black Flag was, and remains, well respected among their underground culture, with their influence primarily in their tireless promotion of a self-controlled DIY ethic and aesthetic. They are often regarded as pioneers in the movement of underground do-it-yourself record labels that flourished among the 1980s punk rock bands. Through seemingly constant touring throughout the United States and Canada, and occasionally Europe, Black Flag established an extremely dedicated fan base. Many other musicians would follow Black Flag's lead and book their own tours, utilizing a word-of-mouth network.
Over the course of the 1980s, Black Flag's sound, as well as their notoriety, evolved in ways that alienated much of their early punk audience. As well as being central to the creation of hardcore, they were part of the first wave of American West Coast punk rock and are considered a key influence on the punk subculture. Along with being among the earliest punk rock groups to incorporate elements and the influence of heavy metal melodies and rhythm (particularly in their later records), there were often overt freestyles, free jazz, breakbeat and contemporary classical elements in their sound, especially in Ginn's guitar playing, and the band interspersed records and performances with instrumentals throughout their career. They also played longer, slower, and more complex songs at a time when many bands in their milieu stuck to a raw, fast, three-chord format. As a result, their extensive discography is more stylistically varied than many of their punk rock contemporaries. Their later, sludgier, metal-influenced material in particular was cited as an influence by Grunge bands.
- Ascended Fanboy - When the band was performing at a bar, an audience member requested that they play "Clocked In". The band suggested that he sing it himself. He did, and he was good. The current vocalist was looking to switch to guitar to avoid damaging his voice, so the band hired the fan, Henry Rollins, as their official vocalist.
- Bifauxnen - Bassist Kira Roessler. Often the only thing gave it away was her affinity for wearing dresses on stage (and even then mostly for shock value) during concerts.
- Darker and Edgier - Ginn said that after Rollins joined, "We couldn't do songs with a sense of humour anymore ; he got into the serious way-out poet thing."
- Epic Rocking - "Nothing Left Inside", "Scream" and "Three Nights" from My War are all about 6 minutes in length. "Armageddon Man" from Family Man clocks at 9 minutes. "Your Last Affront" and the title song of The Process of Weeding Out are both just under 10 minutes.
- Genre Shift: Starting with side B of My War, they started getting slower and more experimental.
- Hardcore Punk
- Jerkass - Rollins once said to Ginn "Why don't we make a record that was like the last one so people won't always be trying to catch up with what we're doing?". As revenge, Ginn buried his vocals in the mix of their last album In My Head.
- Protest Song - Well, they are a punk band.
- Revolving Door Band - Ginn was the band's only constant member, although towards the end of their career they toned down the lineup instability somewhat.
- Self-Deprecation - Henry Rollins has said numerous times he thought Black Flag's best work was before he joined the band.
- Signature Song - "Rise Above".
- Stage Names - Two notable examples: their first bass player used the name "Chuck Dukowski" as a protest against the then-prevalent anti-Polish prejudice (and "Polish jokes"), and after several falling outs Ron Reyes was credited as "Chavo Pederast" for the Jealous Again EP, to which he retaliated by hitting his replacement Dez Cadena with a brick and smashing the windshield of the band's touring van.
- Henry Rollins changed his name upon joining the band (his last name is actually Garfield), which he claims was to avoid trouble with the police.
- Take That: "You Bet We've Got Something Personal Against You!" was a blatant one against Keith Morris after he'd left the band.
- he was talking about "TV Party" specifically