ONE needs to flick through the dusty
annals of rock-lore to remember that 1977
was the year of punk. An exclusively
British phenomenon, or so it appeared.
fought pitched battles with drapes in the
Kings Road Saturday afternoon civil wars,
the Jubilee was denounced, a generation
of newly born infants were force-taught
nappy knotting due to safety pins
becoming a scarce lapel-adorning (or
nose-decorating for the really daring
even her majesty's regal nostril
did not escape) commodity.
years of revolting musical sycophancy,
anything American was severely ridiculed.
that, then peanut vendor ruled territory
of the USA, a few things were stirring
and new wildly rancid musical forms
springing to life. Six thousand miles
from the Roxy and unaware of the London
new wave explosion guitarist Greg Ginn
and bassist Chuck Dukowsky were piecing
together the ingredients for their own
band of untamed angry energy.
handle was Black Flag and the place, a
suburb of Los Angeles called Hermosa
"We were really into the Detroit
bands. The Stooges and MC5 and also a
Detroit band called the Dogs who were
playing in L.A. We liked Black Sabbath
and Little Richard too which was the
stuff that really inspired us to start
the Ramones came out they started a whole
new thing with us. A lot of people think
we heard the Sex Pistols but we were
encouraged by the Ramones really. We
didn't hear the U.K. stuff until much
later. was really a parallel scene
happening in L.A. and England."
this emerging scene in L.A. itself, the
Black Flaggers weren't exactly welcomed
to the spikey fold. They were considered
suburban yokels, hicks from the beach.
The L.A. punkers displayed their hipness
by intoning the popular phrase 'Fuck
recruited Colombian-born drummer Robo and
guitarist but singer-by-necessity, Dez
Cadena, the unwelcome quartet retreated
back to their home ground and spent two
and a half years displaying their raucous
wares at parties and in parks.
"We rented a deserted bath-house
from the twenties by the beach. It had a
restaurant and bar area. We made upstairs
into living space and converted
downstairs into three rehearsal rooms.
was a big Hermosa Beach sub-culture then.
Anybody passing through L.A. would always
spend a couple of days there. People came
in from the surrounding suburbs to party
this would all bleed into our rehearsals.
Eventually the police closed the place
down because they didn't like the looks
of the people moving in and out."
"What is now called the 'new' L.A.
punk scene burst out of the suburbs. Much
of this resulted from us putting up some
sixty thousand posters in high schools
and spray-painting places. We got sued
and threatened but at least it woke a lot
of people up."
of the pockets of punkdom slowly building
up across the nation, the early L.A.
groups released records independently,
discharging the five hundred pressings
amongst fellow dissidents of the smoggy
Flag recorded their debut E. P. 'Nervous
Breakdown' in January of 78 although due
to lack of dollars in the kitty of the
tiny label promising its release, the
tape remained unvinyled until a, year
later when the dark flag four formed
their own company, SST.
grooves were quickly available in the
shape of another value for money
multi-tracker called 'Jealous Again'. Due
to the vast distances involved, getting
Stateswide product distribution is, as
Chuck puts it, "a tough nut to
Flag were fortunate, to stumble across
the services of Unicorn, a holding which
has a distribution arrangement with the
massive MCA corporation. They duly
constructed an LP and all was hunky dory
until, very late in the day, an MCA label
chief took it upon himself to be the
voice of 'morality'.
one Al Bergamo, who refused to allow
release of the item under the corporate
banner. He reportedly spent an entire
weekend listening to the offending Sounds
and emerged with the conclusion that, as
a parent, he considered it an
'Anti-parent' record. The effect of this
forty-eight hour listening stint on the
relationship between Bergamo and his
parents is not known.
hard core band, X, suffered a similar
fate when the man read some of their
lyrics. Believers in freedom and The
American Way will be comforted to learn
that Bergamo does not believe in the
burning of books.
"Originally they'd okay'ed it and we
had twenty five thousand sleeves printed
with the MCA logo but then they got
scared off. Ironically they spoke to
someone from Rolling Stone magazine about
it. Rolling Stone have their own
territory and don't want anything new
coming out. Working in the U. S. is a
great challenge to us because it is so
"People leapt in at the end of the
sixties and grabbed certain niches. They
and made money. They won't accept new
sounds because it would put them out of a
job. It extends throughout the whole
culture. Generally you see it by cops
coming to our gigs and beating up the
their unjust and hostile treatment Black
Flay care not to dwell on the nasty side
of American life in their lyrics. Most
are about getting drunk, stoned and
generally wrecked in as short a time as
a new three song splendidly solid
blasting available now through the Jello
Biafra connected Alternative Tentacles.
The main cut is a beer ode entitled 'Six
Pack' Dez was still leading voice when
this disc was recorded but the group have
now availed themselves of the ferocious
throat tones of Henry Rawlins.
I'm Henry the crooner," he says at
our first meeting. He's an old friend of
the band and hails from another emerging
bastion of hard core punk, Washington DC.
Dez has now returned to his first love,
"We don't want to get into politics
and moaning songs. The basis of our music
is very personal. None of our songs have
anything political in them except maybe
'Police Story', which is based on our
cops have a very direct effect on our
lives. We've been run out of three homes.
We can't live where we want to. We're in
Hollywood at the moment to escape the
Hermosa Beach police. The Diks have a
great line: 'If you can't find justice,
justice will find you' that's very true,
we're not even doing anything
"The cops are really big guys,
trained like Marines. They carry guns and
sticks. They're very fascistic and they
kill. They bother us only because we
stand for people doing what they want and
not what they're told. The police have
spent ten thousand dollars surveilling
us, figuring they'll get us for something
in the end."
horrifying tales follow. Not only
concerning the officers of law
enforcement (force being the operative
word) but the antics of ordinary
'law-abiding' citizens who object to
girl tells me how she was victimised in
highschool and had her locker destroyed
at regular intervals because of her
such distressing stories it comes as
something of a light relief when the talk
turns to the famed 'Black Flag Kills
Ants' campaign which first brought the
combo to the attention of Sounds readers.
"We just said as a joke, 'Black Flag
Kills Ants' and this guy had a load of
stickers printed. It was a spontaneous
thing, it just happened."
"When Adam came to town it was
great. All our friends went down and
there was Adam in a record shop, standing
on a pedestal shaking hands and signing
autographs. Then this big pirate ship
came down Sunset Boulevard and ell these
people started throwing eggs, pretty much
in fun but Adam got really bent out of
shape and sent his bouncers chasing them.
don't dislike Adam personally, we've
never met him but it's the slickness in
the music, the same kind of thing that
was around in the early seventies."
"There's nothing there except a guy
making a calculated attempt at
"To the people in L.A., a lot of the
things Adam did were really