FLAG'S Chuck Dukowski Pretty Much Confirms Greg Ginn Is a Total Douchebag
A total fucking godhead of bass guitar shred, Black Flag's Chuck Dukowski annihilated the four-string on massively iconic records like Damaged while penning a chunk of BF's most iconic tunes ("My War," "I Love You"). Dukowski, along with guitarist Greg Ginn, Joe Carducci and his BF mates at the helm, birthed and epitomized the DIY and punk/hardcore aesthetic in piloting the Amerindie underground via the revolutionary SST Records.
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During its crucial 80's heyday, Dukowski played an integral role in captaining the SST mothership when the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Hüsker Dü, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr and BF reigned, sending aftershocks throughout the scene still felt to this day. Of those sages, flannel flyin' punk godfather Mike Watt still jams econo, the brothers Kirkwood remain twanging with the Pups, SST lineup-era Dino Jr are still pedal-hopping and Hüsker dudes Bob Mould and Grant Hart march on.
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But there are two warring BF factions: Ginn's current incarnation he has touted as "Black Flag" versus, arguably, the bane of his very existence, FLAG, a hardcore super-group consisting of SST vets led by Dukowski and original BF vocalist and OFF!/Circle Jerks' provocateur Keith Morris, guitarists Dez Cadena and Stephen Edgerton, and drummer Bill Stevenson (ex-BF and Descendents) "performing the songs of Black Flag."
Needless to say, the volatile and universally-despised SST founder (just listen to OFF!'s Ginn-stabber "I Got News For You" for the low down) didn't take kindly to FLAG stealing the reunited Black Flag's thunder--he abruptly slapped Morris and Henry Rollins with a lawsuit. No matter. With true hardcore iconoclasts Dukowski (fifty-fuckin'-nine-years-young) and Morris (fifty-effin'-eight) and their FLAG mates face-ripping with total abandon, FLAG have soldiered on, thus keeping the independent ethos they placed on the proverbial map, intact.
We got in touch with Dukowski via email to catch up on FLAG, lawsuit shenanigans, and the jaw-dropping lengths he's gone to collect money Ginn owes him. It ain't pretty.
So, the seeds were planted for FLAG when you and Keith joined No Age for a set of Black Flag songs back in 2011....
Chuck Dukowski: YES! We did a free concert at MacArthur Park in Los Angeles. They called it 'No Flag.' We had a great day. There was a kid that got to crowd surf in his wheelchair. The police came and Keith cooled them off...it was beautiful...
Were you familiar with No Age?
Yes. I knew about No Age through our oldest child, Milo. Milo is also the guitar player of my other band, The CD6. Milo was even in an early No Age video but I hadn't heard them play live until Keith and I did the show with them at MacArthur Park.
How did the rest of FLAG ultimately join the fray?
A while after the No Age/No Flag show, Gary Tovar from Goldenvoice Productions asked me to give a speech at their 30th anniversary show. Goldenvoice, who now puts on Coachella and other festivals, was very crucial for Black Flag. They were the only promoters that would touch us. We had so many problems with the police; with the violence that they generated, that Black Flag literally could not play. So when Goldenvoice asked me to give a speech I thought "Let's play some songs instead." I knew the Descendents were playing so Keith and I could just get onstage and do some Black Flag songs with Bill Stevenson and Stephen Edgerton. I knew Bill and Stephen would rage. Initially, Henry Rollins was going to sing as well but he had a scheduling conflict. We had a great time so we thought it would be fun to play together some more.
You have been covering "My War" with The CD6 for a long time. But what about the other BF songs you played with No Age that night in 2011?
I don't call "My War" a cover since I wrote the song...but I hadn't played many of the songs since I was performing with Black Flag back in the day. Dean and Randy were great to play with. They put the time in to play the songs well. It's deceptively difficult material. Many people don't really get it right.
When was the last time you played those BF songs live? What do you remember about that last time?
Black Flag became a heavy negative thing for me at the end. I wrote the song "My War" about it, the feelings of betrayal, of futility and loss. I ended up writing songs for the band even after I stopped playing with them. It was hard. I went to jail for contempt of court for releasing the Black Flag album, Everything Went Black, even after I had been forced out of the band. I went through some things in jail. My heart goes out to everyone who has had to suffer our prison system, especially for non-violent crimes. It is very evil.
Did you have to go back and re-learn the tunes? What kind of adjustment has it been for you as far as the physicality?
Yeah, I pretty much had to relearn them. Sometimes my recollection of how they should be played was wrong! The tempos and feel are so important--they are a challenge. I knew that playing a long set of high energy music demands that you be in shape both physically and musically. I started running months in advance to build physical stamina and I practice hours of bass every day.
Now with FLAG, what kinds of emotions run into your head as crowds go ballistic to songs that you wrote that are over 30 years old?
It's fucking awesome! It is such an honor that the music I wrote and that I performed is so important to so many people. I feel so glad that people can appreciate the dark beauty and stark emotion that we worked so hard to convey. I feel like it is an affirmation of the human spirit and of human truth to have a crowd of people explode in catharsis and unbridled emotional energy. What a privilege to see that huge ass pit from the stage! What could be better?
Keith's band OFF! has seemed to hit on hardcore in the last few years like no other band has for, god knows how long....
Yes, they are great!
Were you into OFF! prior to FLAG coming together?
Yes, I was. Keith is so talented.
OFF! has also taken on an SST-like route in its vision, with Raymond Pettibon's artwork on their album covers and Raymond is even in one of their videos. Seeing that, how did it inspire you?
I love Ray's art. Ray is a genius. The iconography that he created for Black Flag cannot be underestimated. He has been so generous to OFF!, and to FLAG and to so many other bands. The man is a genius. It can't be said enough.