Greg Ginn hasn’t had the best of reputations. Between his contentious relationships with ex-Black Flag members, recurrent allegations of non-payment of album royalties, and allegations of abuse toward family members, Ginn just hasn’t seemed very cool lately. Especially compared to his brother Raymond Pettibon, who has had somewhat of a renaissance in the art world in the past decade. Nonetheless, Greg Ginn is still cooler than you. And here’s why:
1. He founded the most important American punk band that isn’t the Ramones.
Black Flag is widely acknowledged as one of the most important bands in the punk rock scene. Not only that, but Black Flag basically started the American hardcore punk scene, due to music that was faster and heavier than traditional punk rock, with the angry self-involved lyrics that hardcore music is known for. Ginn, who wrote the majority of the music, who was the leader of the band, and who released the music on his own record label SST (Solid State Tuners), is the biggest reason why.
2. Greg Ginn is a hugely underrated and influential guitarist.
When people talk about great guitar players, it’s rare for punk rock musicians to be mentioned. Then again, Ginn was never constricted by conventional punk rock “three-chord” songwriting, and he thought nothing of playing atonal guitar solos or adding some jazz influenced riffing. When Black Flag slowed down and got more progressive, it pissed off a lot of people…but it would eventually influence a hell of a lot more people. Some of his finer work was with his instrumental band Gone, which featured the bad-ass rhythm section of Andrew Weiss and Sim Cain, who would later be poached by former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins to start the Rollins Band.
3. Greg Ginn was the biggest singular influence on the 1980’s independent music scene.
SST Records in the mid-1980’s was a ridiculously prolific indie label. At one point or another, they signed Sonic Youth, Soundgarden, Bad Brains, Husker Du, The Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, and Saint Vitus…all of whom released albums that, for the most part, are considered classics today.
4. Greg Ginn was a big influence on how bands would tour, record, and get exposure.
With Black Flag, Ginn would be responsible for booking shows himself, with tour schedules that bordered on insane. He would rarely turn down a show, and saw the importance of getting maximum exposure for minimum expense. He did all album production in-house, and he got some quality album recordings. He would inspire countless bands to stop waiting for record label handouts and to get out there and do it themselves. D.I.Y.
5. Greg Ginn doesn’t give a fuck about what you or I think of him.
What has Greg Ginn done in the past 5 years? Well he released the latest Black Flag album, “What The”, which wasn’t very good, largely due to the shitty production and laughable cover (the cover was created by Ron Reyes). He did a performance at Coachella in 2012, which was basically him stoned out of his mind jamming on a guitar while backing tracks played. He lost a court case where he had tried to get exclusive rights to the Black Flag name, and in the court of public opinion he may have lost even more. He kicked Reyes out of the band in 2013 and enlisted skateboarder Mike Vallely to become the new frontman, and did a short tour in 2014. And…that’s pretty much it.
The consensus between most people is that Greg Ginn is basically an asshole. Well, I’ve never met the guy, nor have I done business with him, but he doesn’t seem like an asshole at all. He seems like a laid-back stoner who has no tolerance for bullshit, and who is (rightly) defensive about the backlash that he gets. I’m sure part of it is good old brotherly animosity between him and Pettibon (Pettibon did the album art for almost all of the Black Flag albums and designed the famous “bars” logo). I’d guess that the laughably juvenile Reyes album design on “What The” was actually a big fuck you to Pettibon.
Regardless, Ginn doesn’t give a fuck about you. He doesn’t give a fuck about me, and he surely doesn’t give a fuck about this article if he happens to be reading it. Give him a guitar, a solid state amp, and some fire ass weed and he’s gonna do his thing.