A quick-fire email round with the former frontman of LA hardcore punk band, Black Flag.

Where are you now?

In Los Angeles at the moment. Just got here from eight weeks of travel all over. I started in Riyadh and ended in Beijing.

What topics are you going to be covering for your 2010 tour of the UK and Europe? Is it important to be able to do shows abroad for people who don’t get to see some of your TV shows in America?

The topics will be where I have been over the last several months; what’s been happening, etc. That’s what I usually do. It’s important to do shows wherever they will have me – that’s what it’s all about.

What, for you, has been the best highlight of the last year?

I guess it would be working on ‘Sons Of Anarchy’. It’s a television show in America. I worked on it from April to September. It was a lot of work and commitment but totally worth it and a great group of people. I was sorry when it came to an end.

You are going to Africa in the coming weeks. Whereabouts are you going and what are you going to be up to?

I’ll be leaving for Senegal and Mali on Sunday. There’s a festival in Mali that happens near Timbuktou that I will be going to. I was at the last one – it was really good.

Do you still have faith in Obama as you once expressed in earlier interviews circa election? What do you think about his recent decisions to send more troops to Afghanistan and the disappointment over the ‘Copenhagen Climate Change Summit’ that have sparked controversy amongst activists? And his refusal to bring past political figures who are guilty of war crimes to justice (Jello touched on this on tour with The Guantanamo School of Medicine). It’s time to move forward but is it also OK to sweep the past under the rug?

I still have faith in the president; absolutely. I do not agree with his decision to send more troops to Afghanistan. I am sure he is more intelligent than I am and also has more information on the situation, but looking at history, it’s a fool’s errand. That he won’t unleash the hounds of justice on scoundrels of the previous administration isn’t surprising. That’s all his administration would be if he did. I wish he would but I totally understand. I would rather have healthcare sorted out than see those guys in court. I don’t think you can have both.

Did you hear the one about the one-eyed Scottish ogre, the insipid Tory and the British Nazi Party? Is there any hope for the next UK general election when there is no real alternative and so much political corruption in Parliament?

I am really in no position to make comment.

When today’s media is obsessed with celebrity culture – considering your appearances on stage, radio, TV and the big screen – how do you avoid becoming one yourself? Speaking in objective terms (we all know that the celebrity lifestyle shit isn’t what you are, but how do you avoid coming across as one in these media hungry times?).

I do my work and leave. I think you have to do a lot of extra work to attract that kind of notoriety. I do the show, get in the bus and split. I don’t know what else there is to do but the work. I am too old and not popular enough to be interesting to that kind of attention.

You did ‘Israel Uncut’. I didn’t catch anything about Gaza. What’s your view on the displaced Palestinian people aside to those living inside the borders and also your view on the illegal settlement program? Is there a solution and is America taking a good stance in all this?

I think Israeli policy is awful. I imagine you are talking about the expansion in Gilo. It’s a little murky, that particular location. I believe it is an Israeli territory, but apparently [they] have been knocking down Palestinian residences to clear area. A lot of leaders have come out against the expansion but that won’t make any difference I am sure. I have been to Israel twice and had a great time: the people were great, it’s beautiful, etc. I don’t always like how they conduct themselves though.

When The Ruts invited you to do vocals at the Cancer Research benefit gig back in 2007, what was it like being in the company of such influential British punk bands (The Damned, UK Subs)? Who are the British bands that you most respected?

I have known The Damned and The Subs for many years so it’s always good to see them. As far as British bands I like [go], there are too many to name. Some include The Ruts, The Damned, The Adverts, The Fall, Buzzcocks, Generation X, Zeppelin, Stones, etc. There are so many.

If you don’t mind being retrospective for a sec, what was the punk scene like when you started out in State of Alert back in the late 70s/early 80s?

At least where I lived, it was very small and tightly woven. You knew almost everyone at the show. It was a great scene. I had no idea that it would take off the way it did.

For yourself, is there ever a palpable and necessary overlap with spoken word and comedy? What do you prefer about this medium as opposed to being in a band? Have you got any plans for any musical collaborations in the coming year or, as you’ve stated before, are you focussing more on your other projects now?

The humor finds itself wherever it ends up; it’s nothing I really plan out. Sometimes things are funny. I like this way of performing because it’s all on me to get it across. I enjoy that kind of pressure. No music plans.

You speak about cynicism on ‘Talk is Cheap’. What would you say to the section of the UK population that still ignorantly affirm that most Americans are too stupid to be trusted?

I think Americans, some of them at least, are poorly informed. You can only go as far as you get the information to do so. Americans are good people but I think we have been sold a bill of goods by the media and our government. Over the last several years, there has been a lot of bad decisions made by the American government. They were radical. They do not speak for all Americans.

I’ve never been completely clear about your view on drugs. Could you elaborate with reference to their effect on society?

I think drugs are a monumental waste of time. If you want to do them, that’s up to you. I think many of them should be decriminalized. I wonder if that might not work to decrease drug use. I think, at least in my country, they are kept illegal so there’s someone to arrest and [to] keep the prisons full and people down.

What do you think of the police state? Cops who are too shit-assed to bring balls to a snowball fight vs the justice-fails-you system of short jail sentences for murderers and serial killers. What’s the correct balance in maintaining coherence between law and a liberal society?

Education. If you had better public education, you would have less bad cops, less bad situations with cops, less crime. Again, the prison industrial complex needs to keep the game going. High crime in America is an industry and business is good.

Is there a fine line between preaching and ramming shit down people’s throats? Is comedy a good medium for tempering things down?

I think humor is a great way to get things across. It’s important to tell an audience something from your point of view; from a unique vantage point. It’s one of the reasons I travel the way I do. This hopefully keeps me away from the preaching thing.

What do you think of musicians who think they are controversial by naming and shaming a few politicians, but at the end of the day have a mansion in LA and sue small people over brand damages? I saw a certain Sex Pistol’s band this week…

That’s nothing I really think or care about. It’s not the real world and not of any great importance to me.

Which place/community of people in the world on your travels has been the most inspirational so far and why? Are you working on any more travel journals/book publications?

Africa. That’s the most alive place I have ever been. People there seem to be plugged into something that I can’t get to. They seem somehow more alive than I could ever be. I have been to the continent nine times I think and I can never figure it out. Very inspiring though. Definitely doing more travel writing.

How would you advise someone to continue to fight for the causes that matter? Especially under the tricky circumstances of a police state that is growing increasingly violent? What causes are you addressing in your campaign work of recent?

You can be a force for change and never see a cop. Once these things get to that level, the street melee, it’s all over. The cops win; you lose; next. I think change comes with votes, and different ways of doing the same old things. This is everything from transport to recycling etc. You don’t need to get your head cracked open to get things going, whatever is happening.

2.13.61 – any exciting new releases to expect in 2010?

Not really. We put out a lot of stuff this year. There will be some CDs and DVDs but nothing really big. We don’t do big stuff though. This year was two books – that was a lot of work for a company this size.

In your hectic schedule, do you ever feel the need to take time out?

No. But I do it anyway. I am off the road for four days now. I will be back out in three. I am eating well, enjoying time with the nice woman and packing my gear for Africa and beyond.

Finally, could you fill in your thoughts on the following topics:

The Music Media?

I don’t read it.

Climate Change?

It is with us and needs to be addressed.

George Bush’s piss stain on the world/the world post-George Bush?

Heaven help us.

Punk is (not) dead – a musical perspective on a cliché but unanswered question?

Alive and well.

2010: What needs to change to make this a better year for the world?

Global climate change must be acknowledged as a fact. America needs to leave Iraq and Afghanistan. Israel needs to think very carefully about what they do.

© Ayisha Khan.