Stevie Chick lives in North London, and has been writing about music for over a decade, contributing to titles like MOJO, The Guardian, NME, The Times, The Quietus, Kerrang!, Melody Maker, Sleaze Nation and Plan B, and editing the zine Loose Lips Sink Ships. He is also the author of Psychic Confusion: The Sonic Youth Story (Omnibus) and Ninja Tune: 20 Years Of Beats And Pieces (Black Dog). He is a keen amateur bread-baker, prefers cats over dogs, and cannot decide when asked to name his favorite Black Flag frontman.
Spray Paint the Walls: The Story of Black Flag
Author: Stevie Chick
Publisher: PM Press
Published August 2011
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 432 Pages
Black Flag were the pioneers of American Hardcore, and this is their blood-spattered story.
Formed in Hermosa Beach, California in 1978, for eight brutal years they made and played brilliant, ugly, no-holds-barred music on a self-appointed touring circuit of America’s clubs, squats and community halls. They fought with everybody: the police, the record industry and even their own fans. They toured overseas on pennies a day and did it in beat-up trucks and vans.
Spray Paint The Walls tells Black Flag’s story from the inside, drawing on exclusive interviews with the group’s members, their contemporaries, and the bands they inspired. It’s the story of Henry Rollins, and his journey from fan to iconic frontman. And it’s the story of Greg Ginn, who turned his electronics company into one of the world’s most influential independent record labels while leading Black Flag from punk’s three-chord frenzy into heavy metal and free-jazz. Featuring over 30 photos of the band from Glen E. Friedman, Edward Colver, and others.
"Neither Greg Ginn nor Henry Rollins sat for interviews but their voices are included from earlier interviews, and more importantly Chuck Dukowski spoke to Chick—a first I believe. The story, laid out from the band's earliest practices in 1976 to its end ten years later, makes a far more dramatic book than the usual shelf-fillers with their stretch to make the empty stories of various chart-toppers sound exciting and crucial and against the odds." —Joe Carducci, formerly of SST Records
“Here is an exhaustive prequel to, followed by a more balanced re-telling of, Rollins' Get in the Van journal, chronicling Flag’s emergence in suburban Hermosa Beach, far from the trendy Hollywood scene (Germs, X, etc.) and how their ultra-harsh, hi-speed riffage sparked moshpit violence—initially fun, but soon aggravated by jocks and riot police. Greg Ginn, their aloof guitarist/slave-driver/ideologue dominates in absentia. Gradually, he fires everyone but Rollins, yet, his pan-American shoestring SST empire is relentlessly inspirational. A gory, gobsmacking read.” —Andrew Perry, MOJO
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Spray Paint the Walls: Political Media Review
- Spray Paint the Walls: Razorcake
- Spray Paint the Walls: Pop Matters
- Spray Paint the Walls: Booklist
By Simon Czerwinskyj
Political Media Review
April 2nd, 2013
Chick does a great job of conveying the wild energy and desperation that formed the cultural whirlwind of the mighty Black Flag. Their legacy is undeniable and the early recordings will always be incendiary, immediate, and revolutionary. Spray Paint The Walls is passionate and invested, a true fan’s testament to a ragtag band that refused to die in the face of the protestations and physical threats of straight society’s henchmen.
I think that in my head I saw [Black Flag’s] independence, their struggle, in idealized terms; admiring what they achieved, and imagining it could only have been accomplished if all the members were selflessly dedicated to their cause and superhuman in their abilities. The truth is, the people in Black Flag were very human, very vulnerable, very complex.
I remember Joe Carducci talking to me about how they were all under pressure within Black Flag’s world, and that because of the dysfunction they’d all grown up with [as individuals], they probably weren’t best prepared to deal with the pressures in a positive way. So some terrible things happened between the people involved in this struggle. There were successes but there were also frus- trations, and the successes came at such amazing costs in terms of their health, their psyche, and their mental balance.
By Kurt Morris
Monday, January 23 2012
Author Stevie Chick did a fine job of compiling a lot of various sources into a generally fluid narrative, including interviews with band members, roadies, friends of the band, and those who worked at SST (Black Flag’s record label) to describe the motivations of individuals in the band. He accurately described the sound of Black Flag better than just about anyone else I’ve read and he did so without leaning on clichés, silly metaphors, blanket generalizations, or putting in his two cents when he easily could have done so. His decision to include a number of black and white photos of Black Flag in the middle of the book is a superb idea. They capture the intensity and energy of the band live, as well as showing some of their more casual side away from the stage.
By David Ensminger
July 29th, 2011
For a plunge into SST lore, this is the book to grab for summer’s enervating heat. Don’t expect newfound testimonies that will upset the Black Flag brand, but do expect a fascinating and eventful journey into the heart of damaged territory.
Formed in Hermosa Beach, California, in 1978, Black Flag toured America and the world relentlessly "on pennies a day" before disbanding in 1986. New interviews with founding member Gregg Ginn and the band's controversial, longest-lasting lead singer, Henry Rollins, are notably absent, but their dominating presences loom large. Rollins went on to greater solo success and penned Get in the Van (1994), his own definitive account of his time in the band, which Chick reverently references. Without Black Flag, Chick argues, there wouldn't be such platinum-selling punk/pop acts as Green Day and Blink-182. It's a valid argument that's laid out in gritty, no-holds-barred style in an exhaustive group biography that will delight most punk purists.