The first time I met Ron Reyes was at the opening for a 2009 Chapel Arts gallery show of the photography of bev davies. She was leading me around, talking about her pictures and pointing out notables; she briefly introduced me to Reyes, telling me he had been the singer for Black Flag on their 1980 Jealous Again EP.
Open mouth, insert foot: “Holy shit, you’re CHAVO?” I gushed at him.
Reyes went pale. He was civil with me, explaining that he hated the name, which was rendered in full as “Chavo Pederast” on the back of the EP. It was given to him as a parting fuck you by his fellow members of Black Flag when he left under somewhat acrimonious circumstances (none of which did I know). This was years before he regrouped with Greg Ginn, beginning with a 50th birthday celebration gig at the Rickshaw that I was thrilled to catch, and even longer before the two fell out again, after the ill-fated 2013 Black Flag reunion tour.
Surprisingly, Reyes is still willing to say nice things about his former bandmates. Ask him who his guitar heroes are, for instance, and he replies instantly: "I gotta say Greg Ginn. I had seen and heard many guitar players before that but spending time with him close up just blew my mind."
Ginn, he says, "was a great motivator" when it came to Reyes first picking up the guitar, though Reyes rarely played it until he started his current band, Piggy. "I still can’t play chords properly," he confesses. "I just crank the fuzz and go."
Piggy lacks the fame of Black Flag, but their one-sided LP, Undignified, is a neglected Vancouver gem—a greasy, raunchy, raging slab of garage punk, whose release was overshadowed by the foofaraw over the Black Flag reunion. The band has also released an EP, Fit to Be Tied, with current vocalist Ange Trash, as a "last minute low budget attempt to get some new songs out in time for a tour."
Reyes counts "the four or five shows we did with Black Flag in 2013" as a high point of Piggy's career. He also counts singing with Black Fag—you read that right—in Long Beach as a particular delight (he performs in drag as Rhonda Reyes, and yes, there is Youtube footage). And he's proud of having gigged in Vancouver with OFF! "It was the first time they came up here, before they were famous, and just getting [fellow Black Flag alum] Keith Morris and I together again on stage was special." (That night also contains some of the lows of Piggy's career, Reyes adds, though he won't elaborate. "I'm not willing to drag anyone through the mud, but those who were there will understand.")
It's not a bad run for a band, but Reyes has now had enough. He is planning on retiring Piggy, with a Vancouver farewell slated for the Astoria on Friday (May 6). He admits that the bitter taste left from his final Black Flag blowout may have played a factor in his decision, but is quick to add, there's "soooooooo much more" to his disenchantment with the music scene.
"If it was any one or two reasons I would just power through, but when they all pile up, I just gotta say that this is a young man’s game," he shrugs. "Over the last few years the crowd I hang with the most is just getting too damn old, and I'm sorry but if you are marketing your product to old geezers like me you will fail. I know that music is ageless but when most of the guys in the band are in their thirties or more, and are in multiple bands that play far too frequently, well, that's just a recipe for failure."
Plus it's hard work having a full time band, he's tired of playing the same venues over and over again, and he's a family man at heart, anyhow (while Reyes daughters aren't really music fans, one of his sons is in two bands, OAF and Crumb. Both his boys are "way better than me" as musicians. "You just gotta take the freaking banjos out of their hands and give them loud amps and huge drums to bang on. Music has gotta have big hairy balls!").
Piggy's current members are devastated that Reyes is pulling the plug, Reyes tells the Straight. "Ange especially was so excited for our future and was excited about recording and new merch and a new website." But one treat for fans is that various past members will be coming to the Astoria to join Piggy onstage, including past vocalist Izzy Gibson, as well as Craig McKimm, Doug Smith, Nick Vinditti, and Lisafurr Lloyd, among others (It's kind of hard to keep track of who is and isn't in Piggy at present, but apologies for any omissions).The band has been unable to reach original vocalist Alexa Bardach, who gave them their name. But keyboardist Jenn Chycoski will also join up for "our first and last show with a proper keyboard player," which Reyes is particularly looking forward to.
Reyes does clarify that just because he's retiring his full-time band, he is by no means going to disappear totally. He's "very open to a few one off special guest" situations, and will be joining Richard Duguay on June 17 at the WISE Hall. He's also working on "what may end up being a solo record," for some distant time in the future.
But fans of Piggy—or people who have been meaning to see them for years—should definitely get out to the Astoria on the 6th.
"I will miss this band like no other," Reyes concludes. "It is not easy for me to walk away from this, but ultimately, you just can't keep going on promise and potential."