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While the latest material doesn't ape Black Flag, it does serve as a reminder that it was Ginn, not vocalist Henry Rollins, who wrote the vast majority of the music and lyrics for that band. In the time since Black Flag dissolved, Rollins has been a much more prominent presence than Ginn, recording albums with Wartime and the Rollins Band, appearing at the first Lollapalooza festival and Woodstock '94 and, through his frequent interviews, TV appearances and advertising work, earning the enmity of those who consider him deserving of the title Whore of All Media. Ginn is unlikely to leap to his former cohort's defense; while dispelling the notion that Black Flag was Henry's baby, he cannot even bring himself to mention Rollins by name.
"Actually [Rollins] was the fourth singer in Black Flag," Ginn notes, "and really, the ground was broken earlier. The group was actually pretty established when he joined, and we were bigger in cities like L.A. and New York before he was in the band. People who were around at the time know what was going on, but there have been some efforts by, uh, some people to rewrite history a little bit."
What's inarguable is Black Flag's influence on the current alternative and grunge movements. On the act's 1984 album My War, Ginn audaciously combined punk and metal styles--and received excoriating reviews for his efforts. But what was seen then as musical heresy has become the sound of young America, as heard in the work of bands such as Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Ginn has been cited as an inspiration by members of these and many other groups, but while he appreciates the credit, he doesn't make a big deal out of it. "There was always a big metal influence in punk rock," he says. "That didn't invalidate the music then, and it doesn't now." He adds, "Some people think that if you're influential on something that sells millions, that's flattering. Well, it is to me only if it's good. If somebody takes something from us and makes something good, that gives me a sense of accomplishment. But if they don't, but they sell a lot of records, that doesn't mean anything to me."
Besides, Ginn is focused more on the future than on the past. He's touring behind Let It Burn; developing a syndicated radio program (Screw Radio) that should start appearing on public and college outlets later this year; working behind the scenes with Confront James, a new act that should have its first album out soon; and overseeing the day-to-day operations at his SST, Cruz and New Alliance labels, whose catalogues include everything from classic discs by the Descendents, the Minutemen, fIREHOSE and Husker Du to T-shirts that bear the phrase "Kill Bono." And yet he insists he's still living the punk-rock lifestyle.
"Negativland attempted to excuse what they did by saying that I have this gigantic income--which is not the case," he says. "In 1990 they said I made something like $800,000. Well, I looked at my income-tax return for that year, and I made about $4,000. I was living and sleeping in my rehearsal room, and I didn't have a shower or a car--and I was living in L.A. If that's success, I guess I've got it made."
Greg Ginn, with Transition and Gladhand. 8 p.m. Monday, September 12, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax, $8, 830-2525.