Greg Ginn And SST History In The Making
Born in Tucson, Arizona. Greg Ginn was an American guitarist, songwriter, and singer and business owner. He is best known for being the leader of and primary songwriter for the hardcore punk band Black Flag, which he founded and led from 1976 to 1986, and again in 2003. The band announced another reunion on January 25, 2013.
Since breaking up Black Flag, Ginn has recorded a few solo albums, and has performed with the bands HOR, Fastgato, October Faction, Gone, Killer Tweeker Bees, Confront James, EL BAD, Mojack, The Texas Corrugators, Jambang, Mexican Lions, and he also played bass with Tom Troccoli’s Dog. He also owns the Texas-based independent record label, SST, originally begun as an electronics company called Solid State Transmitters when he was a teenager in Hermosa Beach, California.
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1. The Stooges
2. Pixies – Surfer Rosa
Kurt says: A die-cast metal fossil of misplaced draft, with or without the fucking production. Everyone who has ever commented on ‘Surfer Rosa’ has said that the production’s amazing. I agree with that, but the songs are so strong that it wouldn’t have mattered if you’d listened to it through a boom-box.
I was completely nihilistic up until about four or five years ago, when I first heard this. It changed my attitude. It made me finally admit, after being into punk rock for so many years, that I finally liked other stiles as well. It made me finally admit that I’m a music lover. Their music reminded me of the music that I always wanted to do – and was doing – before I got into punk rock eight or nine years ago.
3. The Breeders
4. The Vaselines Son Of A Gun
Kurt says: I just have this feeling Eugene and Frances had a really cool relationship. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I think it’s a really amazing thing when a couple can get on together and write some of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. They’re kind of sharing their life with people. Eugene and Frances are the Captain & Tennille of the underground.
5. The Shaggs – Philosophy Of The World
Kurt says: It’s so obviously the real thing. I heard this one live song – a Carpenters song, maybe? – where they must have been playing a day centre, and the screams in the background are louder than the music. The Shaggs are another archetypal K band.
6. Fang – Landshark
7. MDC – Millions Of Dead Cops
8. Scratch Acid – Scratch Acid
9. Saccharine Trust – Paganicons
10. Butthole Surfers – Pee Pee The Sailor
11. Black Flag – My War
12. Bad Brains – Rock For Light
13. Gang Of Four – Entertainment
14. Sex Pistols – Never Mind The Bollocks
Kurt says: A million times more important than The Clash. How do I explain that? Hmm. Both were always a bad imitation of The Rolling Stones, in love with America. But at least they took their girlfriends on tour with them (The Slits). Their music was terrible, though. I blame Sandinista! for not letting me get into punk until years after I should have done – it was so bad.
The Pistols’ album has the best production of any rock record I’ve ever heard. It’s totally in-your-face and compressed. All the hype The Sex Pistols had was totally deserved – they deserved everything they got. Johnny Rotten was the one I identified with, he was the sensitive one. The only reason I might agree with people calling our band “The Sex Pistols of the 90’s” is that, for both bands, the music is a very natural thing, very sincere. But in terms of influence, fuck, no! Rock is too exhausted for that. We haven’t produced a totally original sound like that. We might be uncompromising, but that’s about it. We’re an obvious metamorphosis.
15.The Frogs – It’s Only Right And Natural
16. PJ Harvey – Dry
17. Sonic Youth – Daydream Nation
18. The Knack – Get The Knack
19. The Saints – Know Your Product
20. Kleenex – Kleenex/Liliput
21. The Raincoats – The Raincoats
22. Young Marble Giants – Colossal Youth
Kurt Says: The music relaxes you, it’s total atmospherics. It’s just nice, pleasant music. I love it. The drum machine has to have the cheesiest sound ever. We’re going to be on a Young Marble Giants compilation, doing ‘Credit In The Straight World’. I had a crush on the singer for a while – didn’t everyone? I didn’t know much about them – the Moxham brothers, right? I heard they might be getting back together again recently. Isn’t it weird how, when you hear something like that, you still get excited, even though you know you shouldn’.
23. Aerosmith – Rocks
24. Various – What is it?
25. R.E.M. – Green
26. Shonen Knife – Burning Farm
Kurt says: This was the first cassette that came out on K. Eventually, after a week of listening to it every day, I started crying. That’s how much it affected me. I just couldn’t believe that three people from a totally different culture could write songs as good as those, because I’d never heard any other Japanese music or artist who ever came up with anything good.
Everything about them is just so fucking endearing. They’re not too cute! That’s part of the charm. Do I think there’s a paedophiliac element to their appeal? I think in Japanese culture in general there’s a paedophiliac element – most of the women there dress op as young girls. It’s weird.
I’m sure that I was twice as nervous to meet them as they were to meet us. I didn’t want to offend or scare them in any way, because I know I’m a scruffy, slimy person who might scare them off – and that’s exactly what I did. They were afraid of me. In fact, on one of our first dates together, they saw me walking towards them and they screamed at the top of their voices, turned around and ran away, and then peeked their heads out of their dressing room. I was trying to reassure them that I was harmless. The communication we had with them was deathly silence and a lot of smiling.
In many ways, they’re the ultimate K band, because they are sincere, they are real. They don’t’ purposely put their guitars out of tune and they don’t purposely sing out of tune.
27. The Slits – Typical Girls
28. The Clash – Combat Rock
29. Void/Faith/Split EP
30. Rites Of Spring – Rites Of Spring
31. Beat Happening – Jamboree
32. Tales Of Terror – Tales Of Terror
33. Leadbelly – Last Sessions Volume 1
Kurt says: William Burroughs turned me onto that guy. He said that if you want to hear true honest music, you should hear Leadbelly. The songs are just amazing heartfelt.
Leadbelly was this poor black man in the early 1900s who went to jail a few times for wife-beating and robbery and getting into fights and bootlegging liquor. While he was is in prison, he started playing the guitar, and he sang so well that the governor started to like him, and let him out of jail. Leadbelly became an apprentice with Blind Lemon Jefferson and started recording songs, but none of the commercial recordings he made ever captured his true essence, except for these late sessions. They happened when this guy who’d been following his career for a few years caught him on a two-track tape recorder one night when they were hanging out at this hotel. It’s just really cool.
I hope that my songs approximate that honesty. That’s what I strive for. He was like the first punk rocker: he’d get into town, walk into an all-white bar, try to have a drink, get beat up and then go to jail because of it. So it’s really cool to hear this music, especially the air of the recordings themselves, because it’s so eerie to hear it on this crackly two-track. But that’s what Folkway records are like – they’re awesome. They even have the entire Watergate tapes available as a 10-album set. I’m gonna get a Folkways tattoo next to my Black Flag tattoo.
34. Mudhoney – Superfuzz Bigmuff
35. Daniel Johnston – Yim Jump Music
36. Flipper – Generic Flipper
37. The Beatles – Meet The Beatles
38. Half Japanese – We Are They Who Ache With Amorous Love.
Kurt says: I like to listen to Jade Fair and Half Japanese with headphones on, walking around shopping malls – in the heart of the American culture. I just think that, if people could hear this music right now, they’d melt, they wouldn’t know what to do, they’d start bouncing off the walls and hyperventilating. So I turn up the music really loud and pretend it’s blasting through the speakers in the mall.
39. Butthole Surfers – Locust Abortion Technician
40. Black Flag – Damaged
41. The Record
42. Flowers Of Romance
43. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
44. The Marine Girls – Beach Party
45. David Bowie – The Man Who Sold The World
46. The Wipers – Is This Real?
47. The Wipers – Youth Of America
48. The Wipers – Over The Edge
Kurt says: Is This Real? Yes it is. The Wipers released maybe four or five albums. The first two were totally classic and influenced The Melvins and all the other punk rock bands. They’re one of the bands I tried to assimilate. Their songs were so good. Greg Sage was pretty much the romantic, quiet, visionary kind of guy. What more can I say about them? They started Seattle grunge rock in Portland, 1977.
49. Mazzy Star – She Hangs Brightly
50. Swans – Young God EP
A Story of SST Records and the South Bay sound
SST which stands for Solid State Transmitters was started by Greg Ginn in 1966 as a business that sold electronics equipment. It would not become a record label until 1978. 12 years to go from slanigin’ electronics to the label that would form an entire sound and scene. Now, we cannot quite tell the story of this label without proper focus on the big 3 bands of the South bay. Those were Descendents, Black Flag and Minutemen.
Black Flag formed up in 1976 in Hermosa Beach, CA. They put out SST’s first release which was the Nervous Breakdown EP which boasted a pre Circle Jerks Keith Morris wielding the mic. Black Flag tore through 3 different singers before finding Rollins in 1981. Rollins had gotten off work at the Haagen Dazs and sang the song Clocked In with the band. They offered him a spot and Ian MacKaye told him to go for it and Henry relocated to Hermosa Beach, CA. Rollins would be their longest lasting vocalist going from 81 to 86 when they broke up. Black Flags’ aggressive style and constantly evolving music would be the birth of South Bay punk and an influence on everything in hard core music since its inception. Today Black Flag is back with Ron Reyes on vox and has new album coming out. I personally have reservations about the new music I’ve heard, but every fan should at least give it a chance then have an opinion.
The Descendents were a sonic blast out of Manhattan Beach, CA. There’s actually a Norm’s restaurant in the area with the Milo caricature spray painted on it. Descendents were not initially an SST band. They were on New Alliance until it got bought out by SST. I think the South Bay scene is better off for it. They had a number of eps and released the widely known full length Milo Goes To College in 1982. It would be 3 years until they recorded again as Milo was in the beginnings to his PhD in Biochemistry. They recorded with SST until 1986. They then became active with Epitaph and Fat Wreck. Milo and crew are credited as being one of the largest influences to the skate and pop punk scenes of the 90’s era and early 00’s. Later this year the documentary Filmage which covers both Descendents and All is due out.
The strange near funky sonic blast coming across the bridge from SST was the Minutemen out of San Pedro. Their first release which was equally as important as Nervous Breakdown and Milo was the Paranoid Time EP. It was hardcore with a punk vibe and really weird high minded vocal blasts. About the best way to get music from the guys is getting a hold of the Post Mersh 1-3 discs. Minutemen and Black Flag tore the South Bay apart with endless local shows. One main venue was an Alano club that’s right on the bay in San Pedro. Yeah, the recovering alcoholics love their good punk rock! Minutemen were much more short lived than they should have been due to D. Boone’s death in a van accident in ’85. More can be learned about the Minutemn by checking out the We Jam Econo documentary for free on you tube.
Another rock star of SST who only briefly played bass in Blacg was Raymond Pettibon who is Greg Ginn’s brother. Some may be wondering about this man’s importance. His artwork adorns most of Black Flag and Minutemen’s recordings, including the famous 4 bars of the black flag. Other than birthing an entire sound and scene and putting out other great punk like Saccharine trust, SST also put out some bands of importance to the alternative scene being Soundgarden, Husker Du Sonic Youth and Meat Puppets. If this article is anyone’s first exposure to SST bands, go check thos big 3 out right now! As D. Boone once said, “punk rock changed our lives.”