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Josh's Top 25 Guitarists #4 - Greg Ginn

As the brains behind the hardcore juggernaut Black Flag and as the founder of über-influential independent record label SST Records Greg Ginn's impact on the underground music scene of the late 1970's and early 1980's is immeasurable. The roster of bands he had signed to SST through the better part of the 1980's is staggering in retrospect. Everyone from Sonic Youth, Meat Puppets, Screaming Trees, and Soundgarden to Minutemen, Bad Brains, Descendents, and of course his own Black Flag released records through the SST imprint, and all of them went on to considerable acclaim and influence.

The wide variety of acts that SST attracted can be attributed in a large part to Ginn's vision with his own band, Black Flag. The more inventive his band became, the more the label attracted bands with different musical approaches. Although they started as a hardcore punk band (often credited as the southern California band that defined the style) each and every one of Black Flag's releases sounds nothing like the ones that came before it. Where Damaged was an explosive howl punctuated with squealing feedback, by the time they got to Loose Nut, Black Flag was channeling Black Sabbath so completely they hardly sounded like a punk band anymore.

As the band's primary songwriter, each step away from hardcore punk and towards psychedelic, jazz-influenced metal was calculated by Greg Ginn, and he took the band down that path whether or not the fans would like it. It was the music he wanted to play, and if the world liked it and wanted to hear it, then great. If no one cared, it seemed that Ginn didn't either. His focus on art over fame is evidenced by the fact that following Black Flag's demise, Ginn focused on a completely instrumental band, Gone.

His angular, semi-tonal style stands completely alone amongst all his peers. In fact, it is nearly impossible to think of a single person to ever touch the guitar that played quite like Ginn does. He might not be the most polished player to ever pick up the instrument, but what he lacks in cleanliness he makes up for in sheer passion and ingenuity.

To show how much his songwriting changed over the years, here are two songs from opposite ends of Black Flag's career. From the early, hardcore days, "Police Story" (even on a comparatively simple song like this, Ginn manages to add personal flairs through out, particularly at the end.)

The other end of the spectrum is the spaced-out instrumentals the band would perform towards their later years. "The Process Of Weeding Out" is a great example of Ginn at his most expressive.


Low Man In Yellow Coat
Then there's this.

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