An Interview with Chuck Dukowski of FLAG!
WW: Who are the current members of FLAG?
FLAG/Chuck: FLAG is Keith Morris (Vocals), Chuck Dukowski (bass), Dez Cadena (Vocals, Guitar, Backing Vocals), Bill Stevenson (Drums), Stephen Egerton (guitar, backing vocals).
WW: What inspired you to reunite in 2011?
FLAG/Chuck: In August, Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt of No Age asked Keith and I to join them to play a few Black Flag songs as an unannounced treat for their fans at a free concert they were doing at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. I got on top of the songs and then rolled over to the No Age practice place for day one of 5 days of rehearsal. On day two Keith rolled up. I had hardly even spoken with Keith since his departure from BF back in 79′. He proceeded to unleash with all the intensity, emotional range and commitment that had blown me away when I first heard him in 77. We practiced hard for several days and and got a 6 song mini set going to a full blaze. When No Age was done with their set Randy started in with “Wasted” and the place came unhinged. Everyone went crazy…even the L.A.P.D. guys were getting into it. I body blocked a few cops off stage and then Keith told ’em where to go. It was all over before stuff could get too dark.
It was super fun, and jamming with Dean, Randy and Keith was amazing. I could feel it was the “real deal”. Six months later the founder of Goldenvoice Productions asked me to say a few words or something at their 30th anniversary show. He mentioned that the Descendents were headlining the last day…then I knew just what to do! Keith and I should do a few Black Flag songs with Bill and Stephen from the Descendents! Bill had played with me in Black Flag and I knew Stephen knew the songs because I’d heard of them playing them as encores in ALL. I gave Bill and Keith a call and we decided to play the 4 song Nervous Breakdown EP. That Sunday night we played and it was truly amazing. Afterward we decided that when we got a chance we’d do it again. We all got breaks in our schedules this year and we’ve played some amazing shows.
WW: You guys recently played some dates with TSOL, how was that?
FLAG/ Chuck: We asked TSOL to play with us on our last tour through the Midwest and northeastern U.S. It was a great tour and TSOL were amazing. I was impressed with their playing and it was really great to hear and see them every night. I have been a fan of their unique music since the early 80’s. Cerebral Ballzy opened for those shows, which was cool.
WW: Do you have another tour in the works? Or plans for touring in 2014?
FLAG/ Chuck: Nothing solid right now.
WW: How was playing FFF Fest this year?
FLAG/ Chuck: FFF was amazing. I got to say hi to my old Austin friend Tim Kerr whose band the Big Boys played the song FUN FUN FUN that gave the festival its name. He used to organize the shows Black Flag played in Austin and we’d stay at his house when we came through town. It was a treat to get to talk with him again. Austin is a wonderful town. It is beautiful there. I enjoyed seeing Thurston Moore, No Age, the Descendents and Body Count. Cop Killer is a classic! I wish a U.S. president would speak out against one of my songs!
WW: I know that recently some of your members were taken to court by Greg Ginn over trademark infringement. He lost the case. How has the case affected FLAG?
FLAG/ Chuck: Legal crap from Greg is an ongoing problem and a pain in the ass. Ron Reyes has quit or been fired (I’m not sure which) from Greg’s “Black Flag Official”. I guess Greg wants to be Black Flag all by himself with no other original members at all.
WW: Is that the primary reason that you guys decided to go by FLAG? As opposed to Black Flag?
FLAG/ Chuck: We wanted to have people understand that we were not Black Flag but that as FLAG we intend to honor the BLACK FLAG legacy that we all worked so hard to create and establish back in the 70’s and 80’s.
WW: Do you guys still get along at all? Or is there bad blood?
FLAG/ Chuck: We all get along with everyone but Ginn.
WW: Members of FLAG have been in a number of other punk rock bands. Can you tell us a bit about some of them?
FLAG/ Chuck: Oh jeez there are a bunch of bands. Since it is only me answering here I’ll do my best with my band-mates’ bands/ musical histories:
Dez: DC3, Misfits and Dez Cadena.
Dez formed DC3 right after he left BF. I believe it was in 83′. They had a great groove and inspired improvisations with Dez’s guitar and Paul Roessler’s keyboards really stepping out. DC3 was a great live band. I have not heard Dez’s current solo band but I am hoping that he has updated the DC3 direction. Misfits tour constantly and are cult legends. Their songs and skull mask logo have become a ubiquitous part of punk rock culture. Historically the Misfits were New Jersey/ New York contemporaries of BF. Black Flag drummer, Robo, played in the Misfits until a couple of years ago.
Keith: Circle Jerks, Bug Lamp, OFF!
Keith formed Circle Jerks after leaving BF in 79′. The Circle Jerks were an instant hit and became very popular. They appear along with BF, X, Fear, the Germs and others in the famous punk rock documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization Part 1”. The Circle Jerks had a big influence on many bands including Ian MacKaye’sMinor Threat. They have played shows until very recently and very well may do more. The story I heard on OFF’s founding was that Dimitri Coats was hired to produce a new Circle Jerks album but after some initial frustration with getting everyone on the same page he and Keith found out that he and Dimitri shared a similar feeling about music and formed OFF! instead.
Bill: Descendents, All, Only Crime, The Last
The Last are a group led by Joe Nolte who were contemporaries of BF. The Last were Hermosa Beach neighbors of Black Flag and practiced at the Church where Black Flag, Descendents and Redd Kross practiced. Their sound is heavily influenced by 60’s garage rock in addition to Stooges, MC5 and other heavier harder bands. Their sound is unique and they were popular in LA in the late 70’s. Their sound had a giant influence, along with BF, on the Descendents. They have 2 or 3 singles and 5 albums including their new album “DANGER”. Bill started playing with The Last from time to time and producing their records in the late 80’s or early 90’s and played their show at Beerland as part of this year’s FFF Fest.
Bill formed the Descendents in 78′ or so. They played with BF at BF’s second show. They have been active, with a couple of hiatuses ever since and played this year’s FFF Fest on Saturday night on the black stage. Stephen and bassist Karl Alvarez joined the Descendents in the mid eighties and when, vocalist, Milo had to take a break for work and family they formed ALL by adding a different vocalist to the lineup. ALL is still active and played a festival in Florida a week before FFF. Only Crime is another group Bill has been active with in the past few years.
Stephen: Descendants, All, Massacre Guys.
Massacre Guys was Stephen and Karl Alvarez’s group before they joined Descendents. They were based in Salt Lake City and opened shows for Black Flag during the early and mid 80’s.
Chuck: Wurm, October Faction, Seals with Antlers, United Gang Members, Chuck Dukowski Sextet (CD6).
WURM was my group during college. I brought a guitar from a friend at school and gave it to my friend Ed Danky. He picked it right up and we jammed every time we got together. In 1977 WURM moved into an abandoned restaurant, Beach Club building in Hermosa Beach (The WURMHOLE) where we met Keith Morris who told us he had a band called PANIC. He brought the PANIC guitarist and drummer over to our regular studio parties and after a month or so they rented some space in the building as well. I stated jamming with them because they were having trouble finding a bassist. At the end of the year WURM disbanded and I joined PANIC full time. A few months later after finding out that there were other bands named Panic we changed our name to Black Flag. WURM recorded an album in 1977 but we were to poor to pay the studio when our label went under and the tapes were lost. In 1982 WURM reformed to record the I’m Dead EP and play a few shows. In 1983 we recorded the FEAST album and several compilation tracks. After leaving BF, WURM did a bunch of shows in California and then broke up again.
October Faction was an idea that came about from me and drummer Greg Cameron jamming with Joe Baiza and some other people at the Black Flag rehearsal space in Redondo during 1984.
BF asked if we wanted to open shows on their upcoming tour with some of our jams. We decided to go for it. I had thought of the name while brainstorming for a new name for Black Flag during the unicorn lawsuit. So we called ourselves October Faction and just got on stage and played some Free Rock. October Faction recorded two albums, the first live and the second in studio. Seals With Antlers (S.W.A.) came together from me and Greg Cameron jamming as well. The songs I composed while we were jamming became the beginning of the group. We recorded 5 albums and played lots and lots of shows, many with Dez’s group DC3. United Gang Members was me Paul Cutler and Bill Stinson. We recorded an album but Paul decided he didn’t want to play shows. The CD6 is my family band. Me, my wife Lora Norton, our oldest boy Milo. and our friend Aston on drums. We’ve released three albums and have a song on a split 7″ with Mike Watt’s Missingmen. The latest CD6 album is “Haunted”. We are working on some new recordings now.
WW: Is FLAG planning on recording new material anytime soon?
FLAG/ Chuck: There are no plans to record though I must admit that the power and energy I feel playing with FLAG has had a big impact on my current songwriting.
WW: You guys formed Black Flag back in 1976. What’s it like being the founding fathers of punk rock?
FLAG/ Chuck: It’s great. It’s an amazing honor to be recognized for what we’ve worked so hard to do.
WW: Did you have any idea that Flag (Black) would end up being so influential?
FLAG/ Chuck: No, of course not, but I wanted it to be this way and worked toward it.
WW: Is SST still an active label? And are you still involved?
FLAG/ Chuck: I am not involved with SST records except in trying to get paid for my music and now getting sued by them. As far as I know SST only releases Ginn’s recordings these days. It is sad when you think of the legacy of great music that was released by SST in the past.
WW: Do you guys have “day jobs”? Haha.
FLAG/ Chuck: I have a family business. Dez tours with the Misfits and FLAG. Bill and Stephen produce records and tour with the Descendents and FLAG, and Keith tours with OFF! and FLAG.
WW: How do you spend your free time?
FLAG/ Chuck: I like to spend my free time with my family and playing music.
WW: Who are some of your biggest influences?
FLAG/ Chuck: Musically: Jack Bruce, Jimi Hendrix, Geezer Butler, Tony Viconti, David Bowie, Iggy, Jack Cassidy, Joe Baiza, Chris Kirkwood, Robert Fripp, Earl Liberty, Captain Beyond, Blue Oyster Cult, MC5, John Paul Jones.
WW: What is your definition of success in rock-n-roll?
FLAG/ Chuck: I am glad that my uncompromising music and ideas having made a lasting impression. I am glad that people are still interested in my music today. It is incredibly gratifying. That is what i set out to do. To me, that is success.
WW: Do you guys have any side projects going on currently? Or has FLAG become the primary focus?
FLAG / Chuck: FLAG shares primary focus with Descendents, OFF!, Misfits and my other band The CD6.
WW: If FLAG had a mission statement what would it be?
FLAG/Chuck: We started with the goal of honoring and giving new life to the music we worked so hard to create and establish with Black Flag in the 70’s and 80’s.
WW: Final words of wisdom to your legions of fans?
FLAG / Chuck: Bring your whole self and your best effort to what you do. If you can’t, you should find something different. Be constant and stick with it. Everyone is a unique and deserves to be respected. Ideals are useful as beacons, but are destructive when applied in rote to people. Try not to succumb to arrogance and contempt or they will be your undoing.