A Night with Greg Ginn
It was a damp Tuesday night after a 45-minute set at Zebulon Café Concert in Williamsburg, Brooklyn when I meet Greg Ginn, formally with Black Flag. Ginn had played that night a completely improv set with the Texas Corrugators and members of the CSC Funk Band, and now stood covered in sweat looking cold in a thin t-shirt as we started to talk.
Ginn, since parting with Black Flag in 1986 has been working with two different bands, The Texas Corrugators and Jam-Bang. Both had a regular tour schedule, which keeps him more than busy. For the past two months though he’s been on the road with The Texas Corrugators and still had a month left. Nothing seemed to make him happier than being able to play every night.
Greg, What made you change from your roots in punk rock and Black Flag to the improv jam-band style music you play today?
Well, my roots when I started playing guitar were in improvised music, which was really how I started playing guitar in the first place. I would record parts and play along with them.
So would you say it was Jazz that got you started then?
I don’t know if I’d say Jazz was it, cause I don’t really play Jazz in a formal way, I’d never studied it, but I did listen to a lot of Jazz when I started getting into music. I guess Jazz has been a big part of it from the beginning and always has been but also a lot of improv rock.
Kinda like a Jam-Band setting?
Well you know, when I first started playing, my favorite band was always the Grateful Dead but I was always into many kinds of music. Black Flag was the first band I was ever in.
You were with Black Flag till 86?
Yeah, well the band was together for about ten years.
Do you think most of your fan base has changed over the years because of that?
I don’t know, in a sense I guess, it was so long ago. I just play music and people show up.
How much longer do you expect to be performing five to six nights a week?
Well we like to fill it in as much as possible and play just about every night. I love to play and I’d rather play than have too many nights off. Every once in a while is fine.
So you still love it?
Oh yeah, otherwise I wouldn’t do it. Like tonight, we did an all improvised set. We love the feeling we get from a night like that.
Are most of the songs on your album improve-like or are they composed?
The album from the Texas Corrugators is more structured, but generally our recordings have a big element of improv.
What made you change from guitar to bass?
Well, a lot of people know me more as a guitar player but I’ve always played both. For myself I’ve always been a 50/50 bass and guitar player. I really enjoy playing both of them. Since we are only playing one set for this show it worked out where I’m only playing bass. We also do stuff with samples for other shows.
You’ve picked up a new opening act Cinema Cinema. Are they gonna be on the rest of the tour with you?
They’re gonna be with us on the rest of the northeastern part of our tour before we head back down south. They’re a band we’ve wanted to do something with for a long time and it’s nice to be able to get out here and get a chance to play with them.
What do you think is possibly next for you or the band?
For me, I tour with a couple different bands, The Texas Corrugators and I have another group called Jam-bang I also tour with. With Jam-Bang we sync up to a video, so it’s much more structured material with synth loops. We have a new Jam-Bang DVD coming out next month also.
Do you think people expect punk when they come out to your show?
No, I’ve done so much since then. I’ve been playing instrumental music for quite a while now and we try to promote the shows right so people don’t get the wrong idea that we’re playing oldies.
As we talked, a group of locals from Brooklyn and friends of the band, CSC Funk Band, who were about to take the stage next walked past and noticed Ginn and said hi distracting him for a minute. Ginn, saying I’ll see you inside turned his attention back to me.
Were those fans?
They were friends of the band CSC coming on next. I just met him yesterday, he was at the show.
Very nice, so where to after this on your tour?
Well, First we’re heading up the East Coast, then down to the South. We like it in the South. We’re gonna be in Florida, Louisiana, then back home to Austin, Texas.
Cause you live in Austin, did you go to SXSW?
No. it’s too much of a cattle call. I prefer to stay away. I go to a lot of shows and festivals but that’s just too much of a commercial environment where people are trying to hype their new thing. I don’t like that, I like when it’s more a band/fan atmosphere. I’m tired of those kind of things. We actually left before it started, but I wouldn’t have gone anyway to tell you the truth.
Saying goodbye, I walked back in to catch the final act, The CSC Funk Band.
Check out Greg Ginn’s new music at www.gregginn.com.