Black Flag

#TBT To That Time When I Interviewed Greg Ginn (of Black Flag!)

img_4857_15264915440_oWere we ever so young? Dave and I at a Knocks show back in 2009.

It’s funny to be old enough to have seen a life come and gone. Back in the day, before I’d fully embraced myself as a fiction writer and a musician (and loooong before Lew bounced onto the scene), I ran an online music reviewing magazine called Knocks From the Underground and that shit was serious. I managed a staff of writers and editors, fielded album and live reviews, hosted regular live showcases that attracted 100+ fans, constantly networked with bands and venues, and even produced a local rock compilation. I also met some of my still good friends through Knocks! This all went on for years and, while I loved it, I ultimately got tired of reviewing other peoples’ art and decided to make my own. But it’s always fun to revisit those days, especially the day my music journalism career hit its peak in a phone interview one beautiful, summer afternoon with Greg Ginn (formerly of Black Flag) right after his concert at the long gone Zebulon celebrating the release of his 7″ record with The Taylor Texas Corrugators on Electric Cowbell Records. Happy Throwback Thursday, ya’ll!

Feature Article: Greg Ginn on Touring, Drinking and Avoiding Cynicism
By: Becky Firesheets, Editor-in-Chief
April 23, 2010

gregginntaylortxGreg Ginn loves wine. Dry, red wine to be exact. As do the members of his latest project, an instrumental trio dubbed Greg Ginn and the Taylor Texas Corrugators. They all love it so much that, despite playing 21 gigs in a row on their recent three-month tour, the Corrugators still managed to stop at a winery almost every day.

“More have popped up in the last ten years,” Ginn explained during our recent phone interview. “They’re usually located in a real nice place just off the roadway. They’re really beautiful, you wouldn’t expect to see something like that only two miles off the road. It’s a great way to see different climates and places in the country. It’s a real nice break.”

Much of the Corrugators’ collection pleasantly lolls more like days spent drinkin’ whiskey, yet a refined taste in jazz (and wine) heavily influences each song’s direction. It’s not that any given tune is country, jazz, blues or rock, but rather any given tune is all of the above. Moody guitar riffs morph into experimental solos, organ melodies swagger from swing to free jazz, Latin rhythms shake their hips across the drum set. The band shares a soulful, funk breakdown then heavy bass lines rock in and out, pulling songs like “Welcome, Stranger” into a twisty acid world where cowboys and hippies host dance-a-thons with space aliens. The energy is engulfing, even from just a recording.

“I wrote all the songs on the new CD [Legends of Williamson County, 2010]. I started about 50% of them on bass, but I like to take different approaches when I write. I’ll start recording an instrument and then add to it from there.”

greg_ginn_black_flag_ruhrpott_rodeo_2013_imgp5891_smial_wpPhoto of Greg Ginn in 2013 by Smial (talk) – Own work, FAL / Creative Commons

The absence of lyrics may be unappealing to some but the album certainly isn’t lacking anything. “Breakfast at Night” is as upbeat and catchy as any pop song (just with more class and depth) while the drum solo on “Twirly Bird” rocks as hard as Led Zeppelin. The album, with Ginn on guitar/bass/organ, Gary Piazza on guitar and Sean Hutchinson on drums, also offers some in-the-moment grooves, blending composed and improvised material throughout. However, the TX Corrugators stepped it up on their past tour and completely improvised every show.

“I improv day to day, have friends over to play. You find the common denominator with other musicians and work from there. Others add in their perspective and you find what you can work with.”

While such a thing is mostly unheard of in our Williamsburg bubble of formulaic indie rock, the crowds at Zebulon and Issue Project Room loved the TX Corrugators.

“We were unsure how we’d be received in New York, if people would be into the whole improv thing or not, but they liked it, we had a blast. Brooklyn has changed a lot, it was really fun. I love this city.”

Whether speeding from the winery to the club in time for the opener or scoping out a local joint, Ginn regularly makes an effort to see new and unusual music.

“I like jam bands and electro and various kinds of dance. I really like to see live jazz. Mostly electro and jazz, and rock bands that improv and incorporate electro elements. I’m just not a big fan of indie hipster rock. I like things that are more spontaneous. You can get used to something and get comfortable but I try to get out of my comfort zone and hear stuff that I’m not familiar with. I don’t want to just see my friends. There’s a lot of good music at different places, from different cultures.”

gregginn7%22While Ginn himself has achieved celebrity status, his musical endeavors, past and present, are often labeled as “underground.” When asked what that word means to him, Ginn replied, “It means mainly bands that are spread by word of mouth and not mass media. I’m not against groups being successful, of course, but we’re doing something different and challenging and wouldn’t expect traditional media to pick up on it. Like it or not, we are firmly rooted in the underground.”

What does a long-term undergrounder have to say to the newcomers?

“I guess the main thing is that people get jaded. Just try to stay tuned in and find music you’re excited about making. A lot of success is dependent on timing and luck as much as everything else. You’re better off sustaining something you’re excited about. If you stop feeling that way then get out of the rut, leave all the other stuff for the media and other people and just make your music, make what you wanna hear. Don’t cater to someone else, to what you think someone wants to hear. Then you’ll get cynical and dislike being involved in music.”

Need some inspiration? Check out their record (album cover pictured above) at Electric Cowbell Records, a Brooklyn/D.C.-based label run by DJ/drummer Jimmy T who only releases original, limited-run 7”. Or, stream Legends From Williamson County here.