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Black Flag’s Ron Reyes, Black Pacific’s Jim Lindberg talk about “The Other F Word”
October 4th, 2011 by Kevin Cody
“The Other F Word,” a documentary based on Manhattan Beach resident Jim Linderg’s autobiographical “Punk Rock Dad: No Rules, Just Real Life,” has its Los Angeles area premier on November 4 at the Nuart Theater in West Los Angeles. Lindberg was the co-founder of the punk band Pennywise, and more recently Black Pacific.
Variety magazine reviewer Andrew Barker wrote of the documentary, “The Other F Word” is a raucous, eye-opening, sad and unexpectedly wise look at veteran punk rockers as they adapt to the challenges of fatherhood. To be sure, watching foul-mouthed, colorfully inked musicians attempt to fit themselves into Ward Cleaver’s smoking jacket provides for some consistently hilarious situational comedy, but the film’s deeper delving into a whole generation of artists clumsily making amends for their own absentee parents could strike a resonant note with anyone (punk or not) who’s stumbled headfirst into family life.”
In addition to Lindberg, the documentary’s subjects include two dozen other punk rock dads, among them former Black Flag singer Ron Reyes.
Reyes grew up surfing and skating in Hermosa, where he worked in the kitchen at Hennessey’s on Pier Avenue and lived in the next door hotel, which is now a youth hostel.
“It was a great little room with a window looking out on the surf. I surfed Hermosa for years, but never hung out with surfers,” Reyes said.
When Reyes replaced Keith Morris as Black Flag’s singer in 1979, he moved into the basement of the former Baptist Church on Manhattan Avenue, then the center of Hermosa’s seminal punk scene.
In 1980, he abruptly quit Black Flag in the middle of a performance at The Fleetwood nightclub in Redondo Beach. Over the following years, he lived alternately in Vancouver and Los Angeles. Bands he performed with include The Happy Tampons (with Dez Cadena, who replaced him in Black Flag), Red Cross, the Tracks, The Bludgeoned Pigs, Hawaiian Spy, Hastily Beastly, The Braineaters, Kill City, Raw Power, Funhouse, The Zamboni Drivers and Crash Bang Crunch Pop.
Reyes now lives in Vancouver with his wife of over 20 years, and four teenage children.
Last July, Reyes celebrated his 50th birthday with a reunion concert with Black Flag founder Greg Ginn at the Rickshaw Theater in Vancouver.
In the following interview with Jim Lindberg, Reyes shares his memories of Hermosa Beach.
Interview by Jim Lindberg
Lindberg: With the Descendents headlining the FYF fest this year and playing to 35,000 people, there’s been a real, renewed appreciation of the big three bands from Hermosa recently — Black Flag, The Circle Jerks and The Descendents. What do you make of it all?
Reyes: To me, out of all us, The Descendents deserve it more than anyone, just the music and the songs. I love the Jerks, I love Black Flag, but the Descendents have the songs. I’m a sucker for good pop music and the Descendents and The Last have the songs that get stuck in my head, so they deserve it absolutely. I’m not surprised at all that people are getting into that again.
Lindberg: The Last was one of the bands that really kicked it off here, with Joe Nolte kind of being a patriarch of the scene. And while their band might not have been as hardcore as some of the bands to follow, to me their music was as much a middle finger to the mainstream because everyone else was listening to Led Zeppelin and Queen at the time. What was your experience hearing music that was so different from what was popular back then?
Reyes: I’m not a historian like [Circle Jerks’] Keith Morris is. I’ve forgotten more than I know. There were a few early L.A. punk rock shows at The Masque and at The Whiskey, and of course Black Flag’s first show in Redondo Beach that were totally mind blowing. Before that I was going to KISS concerts and Ted Nugent and Queen, so I was enjoying a lot of mainstream music. But then a friend who went to Mira Costa High School said “Have you heard of these guys?’ and he introduced me to the Sex Pistols and bands like that, and it all just blew my mind. There was no turning back after that.
Seeing Black Flag the first time kind of changed everything, because everything that I’d heard up until then was connected to what I had known before, and Black Flag just completely blew that connection apart. They obliterated it. It was like nothing that I had ever seen or heard before. The Last was fantastic as well. I mean you talk about them having a not so crazy, intense hardcore sound, and that’s true. But if you’ve ever seen Joe sing and the look in his face and the intensity of how he plays when he used to play songs like “I Don’t Wanna Be in Love,” it was so intense. They were not laying back by any stretch of the imagination.
Lindberg: Looking back at your recollections of Hermosa Beach and what the vibe was like back then, it was supposed to be this mellow surfer/hippy place, but with Black Flag and later with the Circle Jerks, there was so much anger and resentment. What do you think that came from? It was even angrier than the Sex Pistols.
Reyes: You know what, I think a lot of the punk rock stuff was about external demons and Black Flag was about internal demons. Those kinds of demons follow you no matter where you live, even if you lived in Palos Verdes, in Hermosa Beach or on Hollywood Boulevard. So I’m not sure living in Hermosa Beach made that much of an impact on the songwriting. You’d have to talk to the songwriters, but I’m not sure it did. I lived and hung out in Hermosa Beach and I loved some of the places there and surfing, but I wasn’t really involved in the culture there. There was a little bit of the subculture like Greeko’s and I used to spend a lot of time in Either/Or Bookstore, just sitting and reading, and walking up and down The Strand. But I wasn’t your average beach kid and I don’t think any of us were. And sure, there was part of us that looked around and couldn’t relate to the long hair and the beautiful people and the lifestyle and all that, but to me that wasn’t any kind of inspiration to be angry, and it wasn’t that I was revolting against that. It was just the internal demons that all of us had, just not feeling good about ourselves and growing up in dysfunctional families and that happens no matter where you’re from.
Lindberg: Obviously The Church era [Editor’s note: A large, former Baptist church in downtown Hermosa] of Black Flag is the most talked, about especially with Penelope Spheeris’ film, The Decline of Western Civilization. What are some things about that time that people may not have gotten from the movie?
Reyes: Unfortunately, none of us had digital cameras, so much of it went undocumented. But it was crazy, particularly when the Orange County crowd started to come in. Before that we were left pretty much to ourselves. We tried to keep things on the down low because we were making a lot of noise and we didn’t want to be kicked out of this really cool place we had. There were a few small gatherings here and there, but when the Orange County crowd got wind of us, that’s when the doors kind of got blown open and things got really crazy and eventually it kind of imploded on itself. Before that it was pretty low key, just sitting around watching Greg [Ginn] putting together his little SST electronic things, and Ray [Pettibon] coming over and doing art, and just hanging out and watching Greg play guitar for what seemed to be endless amounts of time. He would play for hours and hours everyday, very quietly in his front room and people would come and go and then in the evening we would make some noise, and after that we would go to Alta Dena dairy and grab a bite and come back and do it again. It was pretty quiet really. There wasn’t a huge neon sign outside saying “Punk Rock in Hermosa Beach, Come and Get It.”
Lindberg: Was there ever a moment after a certain song you practiced that you knew was it going to connect with a lot of people?
Reyes: Even before I joined Black Flag it was so off the charts compared to anything else that was going on. When I think about some of the original L.A. bands, they were grounded in the glam or art rock type of thing more than they were in the Stooges and stuff like that, and Black Flag were more grounded in American angst. I never for a moment thought, “This is gonna hit,” or “This is gonna connect with millions of people.” In fact, I was pretty sure everyone was gonna hate it. But I didn’t care, I don’t think any of us cared. I don’t think it entered into any of our minds to change the direction because of that.
Lindberg: Obviously there was the Santa Monica Civic show. Are there any other shows from your time in the band that stand out?
Reyes: I’m not sure. I really enjoyed playing out of town. When I was in Black Flag, that period in time was when we first started to do some touring up and down the coast and that to me was a lot of fun. Up to that point, we didn’t really have that great of a following. Everyone will tell you that Black Flag really took off when Dez and Henry came in. Keith and I were still in that stage where there were more people that didn’t like us than really liked us, but when we got out of town, it was like everybody loved you. We had some good times for sure.
Lindberg: What are some of your recollections from making the “Jealous Again” E.P.?
Reyes: It’s funny you should say that because I’ve been in the studio recently recording some projects and it just brings it all back into perspective of how much I hate being in the studio. I live for the 30 or 40 minutes on stage, and everything else for me just completely sucks. I have so much admiration for guys like Keith Morris who can go in the studio for eight hours and record 16 awesome songs or something crazy like that. I could never do that, even back then Greg had this vision of excellence and he wouldn’t let things go that weren’t right and we would do things over and over again. It took a long time to get things done. They weren’t done quickly like the new “OFF!” record. I didn’t like sitting around. I didn’t like listening to myself. It was brutal. I hated it and I think everybody knew that. One thing I did enjoy though was listening to the background music. I mean what kid wouldn’t give the left nut to be in my place, to be in the studio listening to the “Jealous Again,” and a lot of the stuff that would become the “Damaged album. I was there listening to that stuff at its creation, I mean, how awesome is that? But when I came in it was a nerve racking, horrible experience.
Lindberg: Similarly to you, I left my band once over what I saw as the pointless violence in the L.A. scene that to me was just over the top, and you got to experience that first hand. Was that the key factor in your decision to leave?
Reyes: Oh, absolutely. It had nothing to with the band or the guys in the band. I mean, I loved being in that band. Who wouldn’t? It was incredible, and the opportunities presented to me at the time for a young kid were amazing, to be in the best band in town, touring and making records, playing live, who’s not going to love that? But I came up in the Hollywood crowd, which was more grounded in art and glam rock. It was less furious, let me put it that way, but when the Orange Country crowd came in they brought a fury. It was wonderful in some ways in that there was something organic and liberating about it, but it was also like, “hold on a second people are getting hurt here, and that’s not what I’m singing about, that’s not what I care about.” I don’t really care about smashing each other. Smashing the state is one thing, but smashing each other is another and that did not resonate with me at all. A lot of people can justify it because of the inner demons and what I was talking about before, and how you have to have an outlet for that. I get that, but to me it seemed a little but contrived, like (they were saying) “I have the right to do this now.” You can try to sugar coat it and try to justify it and many people have, but it just didn’t resonate with me. I loved the music though and by that time I had been introduced to Vancouver B.C. scene, where I live now and it wasn’t anything like that. The music was still raw and real but the violence and the drug use hadn’t taken hold yet, and I was like, “You know what? I don’t need this.”
But the moment that I walked off the stage at the Fleetwood, I hadn’t thought all that through. It wasn’t like, “I’m out of the scene. I’m quitting the band. I’m leaving town.” I didn’t have an escape plan. It was just at that moment I had to get out of there. I remember looking back at the band, standing at the back of the hall, and the band just kept on going, and rightly so. But at that point it was like, ‘Well, they’re carrying on quite nicely without me, so then it was like, “If they don’t care, then maybe I shouldn’t care either,” and that’s when I started thinking maybe it was time to move on.
Lindberg: And after that you went back and forth to Vancouver and eventually ended up staying?
Reyes: Yeah I moved up here and was in a lot of bands that would just play a few shows and it was real and live and I really liked that and I loved the opportunity to just get in and get out. It wasn’t until the mid ‘80s that I moved back to L.A. for a while and put together Crash, Bang, Crunch, Pop. That was my first attempt to put a real band together and they were a lot more like The Last and the Descendents, where more of my glam roots crept in. It was not hardcore by any stretch of the imagination…
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