A Conversation With Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto
of Fugazi

The New Puritan ReView
Minneapolis, MN
December 1991

Exploring the creative process that connects performing artists with writers and readers alike.

[This is the complete interview / conversation; ALL of which ended up in the published article, as it appears here.]

This article was first transcribed for The New Puritan ReView, from a cassette which was recorded on a semi-malfunctioning deck in 1991. Ian sent me a post card that same year, thanking me for the way I presented the group in the interview. Transcription for the world wide web began in 2008, from a malfunctioning floppy disc, before my two fingers and fumb caved in from typing. The final complete transcription was finished in 2014, from the OCR scans of an original typed transcript that has somehow survived all these years (originally typed in all caps, no less).

Prejudice. It’s a weird attitude that most of us fall prey to pretty easily if we’re not careful. Not strictly limited to racist views, prejudice means, quite literally, to pre – judge. It’s something that we’re actually taught, from the earliest stages of peer pressure throughout school, and even into adulthood, be it influenced by family, friends or media. Once you’ve established a preconceived notion about something or someone, you simply cannot judge it by its’ own terms; therefore, you have surrendered your ability to understand it simply because of an idea that isn’t even your own.

Ian Mackaye and the group he is a part of – Fugazi, is no stranger to prejudice. ever since Ian attained recognition as a vocalist in the group Minor Threat several years back, his watchful public following has turned some of the idealism of that band into an albatross for Ian, interpreting his every word as though it were some manifesto for politically correct living. By the same token, some diehards have taken it upon themselves to restate Ian’s remarks to suit just about any premise imaginable, often referring to him as though he were one of the chosen leaders of our times – something Ian himself seems to find extremely disconcerting, to say the least.

When Fugazi played in Minneapolis this past summer at the Avalon Theatre (a former X-rated movie house turned puppet theater), they played to a hot and eager crowd, and the air was thick with anticipation and sweat. After the show, the band retreated back to Lori Barbero’s stately manor, for a late evening of vintage animation, crickets chirping, and a heated discussion concerning some of the joys and dilemmas involved in the band and its’ grossly misunderstood reputation. The tape recorder was on the fritz, but the spirit of the night prevailed, thanks to Ian and Guy for their willingness to open up one more time. For the record, not a single word was altered or removed from this conversation, allowing any interpretations to fall to the perceptions of the reader.

[Originally written for Your Flesh Magazine, thanks to Peter Davis for letting this one end up in The NPR.]

Q How does a band like Fugazi leave its’ past behind?

A Ian: Bad presumption on your part. We were all in bands…Joe was in some other bands before this, Brendan was in Deadline, Guy was in One Inspiration, Rites Of Spring, One Last Wish, Happy Go Licky. I was in some other bands too – Minor Threat, Embrace […not to mention Pailhead and Egg Hunt, for all you completists – J.]. So, we’re not tryin’ to leave ’em behind – it comes with us, but we’re not trying to exploit any of that shit.

A Guy: I guess you could say on one hand that they are in the past, but we’re not trying to make a big deal out of ’em. We have no regrets about ’em. We’re not tryin’ to shed the past – rather, we’re trying to concentrate on what we’re doing. All the bands that he [Ian]was involved in, and most of the stuff that I’ve done are still totally respected. I just don’t have any kind of nostalgic perspective – that was good in its’ time.

Q How do you reflect on those earlier days, in terms of the direction you’ve taken since?

A Ian: They were all different bands and different people, so you can’t really compare them – obviously, there’s differences. I can tell you one thing about this band – we’ve been together for three years, and by far we get along better than any band I’ve ever been in. We play a lot more than any band I’ve ever been in. We seem to be more together.

Q Do you feel the premise of this band is more defined than any of the previous bands?

A Ian: See, there is no real premise.

A Guy: There’s no ambition or purpose to this band. It started very, very loosely. Joe and Ian had been playing for almost two years before I even joined the band. Brendan and I were doing other things, and it all kind of came together. The idea was basically, to play shows; after that it was to put out records, after that it was to tour. there’s no end product that we’ve been trying to conceive of. The thing constantly changes, which is a lot better – I think – than, a lot of times you try to articulate a vision of what you want to do, and you end up fucking yourself up. With this thing, it was incredibly loose, and the only thing that really mattered was that we respected and supported what each person in the band wants to do, and that’s what we’ve done.

A Ian: Joe and I just started to play together. I wanted to play guitar, and he wanted to play bass. We just asked Brendan to help us out, ’cause the guy who had been drumming for us stopped.

A Guy: It took me a while to figure out what I was doing in this band. I think that worked itself out the first time we toured. I had never gone on tour with a band before, and I didn’t have that much involvement with writing the songs at the time, ’cause I kind of joined late, so it took me a while to figure out. Once we went on tour, I pretty much made the decision, ’cause I realized this was probably the hardest working thing I’ve ever been involved in. I figured it was better to say yes to something that was kind of a challenge. Once given that commitment, things worked themselves out…playing guitar…we started to write more democratically.

Q Given the different personalities involved, would you say there is much of a difference in the creative approach each of you takes when writing the material?

A Ian: I think so, probably.

A Guy: We don’t judge it – he [Ian] writes lyrics and he sings, I write lyrics and I sing. At this point, the band is a whole, that’s all the reasoning. There’s no limit or concept of how – I mean, whatever Ian writes is whatever he wants to write about I never felt that I had to get the okay from the guys in the band – that’s what’s good about it. I don’t feel like there’s any limit on what we can do, or what sound we’re supposed to be having. I’m not particularly interested in having a sound, or in having a band image, or a band message, as opposed to creating different messages, different sounds, different images – whatever.

Q I don’t know if too many of Fugazi’s fans would agree that there is no message in your music.

A Guy: Yeah, but see, whatever that message is, is probably yours, and whatever you reflected off the band. As far as I’m concerned – depending on what your angle or your attitude about us is – you can come up with about a hundred different things, and depending on what your slant is, you can interpret it in the way that you do.

Q It seems likely that anyone who reads your lyrics would be able to pick up on a positive, and somewhat political bent, to say the least.

A Guy: From your point of view. Some people who are really political think we’re really ambiguous and vague and bullshit, and we’re not striving enough; and then other people who are not into that sort of thing think we’re just self-righteous. So I mean, any of it depends on what your perspective is. If you ask if we’re interested in politics, I’d say yes. Whatever the music is, is just reflecting what our concerns are. There are a lot of things we’re concerned about, and a lot of things that take place in our lives that we’re interested in.

A Ian: I don’t think we’re as message-oriented as we are Fugazi-oriented. I just don’t like it when people will say, “Are you a message band?”, or whatever. Every band is a message band, to some degree. Our message is us – that’s it, you know? When you play a show, the message is the show. The crowd can make what it wants out of the show the same way, that we can only pull so much weight. Sometimes we can’t get it together, and sometimes the crowd doesn’t get it together, and it kind of sucks. If you can strike a balance and get people to realize that they’re in the room too, it works out pretty swell.

A Guy: We don’t want into the “message-band” ghetto, or the “noise” ghetto, or the “D.C.” ghetto, or whatever. It’s not like we don’t have a presentation or a band thing, ’cause obviously everything that we do is a part of it, and the minute we start trying to peg it, pin it down, or whatever, you’re just limiting your action. That’s basically for me what was so great about this band, I really have never felt limited by anything. If I want to write a song, I don’t feel I have to be able to articulate what the hell’s the message supposed to be.

Q Aren’t you somewhat concerned about the ambiguity people extract from your songs? Presumably, you had a specific idea in mind when you wrote them.

A Ian: You notice on our records we don’t have any kind of manifestos or anything like that. If we see something political, then I get the impression that you’re gonna have a manifesto, or you’re gonna have your party lines; we have our lyrics and our music music and that’s it. The point of that is that if someone listens to that and they read something into it – or they want to read something into it – they want that kind of vision.

A Guy: Me personally, I read lyrics, I listen to ’em, and I have my desires out of lyrics. I usually say that I think there’s a strong message that speaks to me, whether the person intended it or not, and that counts. In the same right, some just like us ’cause they think we’ve got a good beat. “Positive”….I don’t know, that word has become meaningless, I think it’s one of the stupidest words I ever heard – as stupid as “negative”, what the fuck does it mean? ‘Cause, what are you – building something, it’s an energy, it’s an outlet, and a creation. All those words make sense to me. “Positive” – I don’t know, I can’t really understand it.

Q “Positive”, perhaps in the sense that your stance is aggressive but not preachy or threatening.

A Guy: See, we’ve been spat on and bottled and fought with or whatever, at tons of shows we’ve played, so obviously someone’s threatened by it. Maybe the people you deal with aren’t threatened by it because it’s not particularly something that gets under their skin, but I’ll tell you right now, we’ve played a lot of shows, and we’ve had plenty of people let it get under their skin. So once again, when you’re dealing with a lot of people, you’re dealing with the way a lot of people perceive an outcome.

A Ian: The places we’ve played are a really wide array – all sorts of different views, all sorts of different crazy places. To some people, we’re like a perfect band, some people think we’re just terrible, some people are just totally threatened by our concepts, some people think we’re the most righteous, or whatever. So it’s really hard to speak in any one light, because there’s too many people that are involved in this. I think there is a majority who are intimidated by most things – –

A Guy: Then again, it doesn’t mean that’s the way we intended that. I mean, for one thing, I think this band’s pretty much in the rock and roll business, and I don’t give a damn if those people are offended or upset by the way we do our business – I’m fine with that. We’re not into people who are into bullshit, and like ritual shows, or people who are into violence at shows, or things like that. Anybody who’s bugged by the band for any reason, for what I consider to be good about the band, then I don’t care. People who are upset by things because of misunderstandings don’t listen to the music anyway.

Q Given the opportunity, wouldn’t you want to clear up some of the confusion as to where you stand?

A Guy: Well, a lot of times people’s misunderstandings are so… I mean, you obviously can’t correct everything. We do try to be pretty straightforward about how we do things, we try to be on top of it, and we take full responsibility for our actions – what we do. So in that light, we try to keep control of what we’re doing. A lot of times, people that have problems or whatever, they’ll say this, that, or the other thing, I don’t really give a fuck about. I think sometimes you can spend more energy trying to get clean with one or two people, and it gets really stupid. If somebody asks a question, we’re certainly willing to answer it.

Q Do people really take the initiative to get back to you?

A Guy: Sure, we hear from people all the time.

Q So are you confident that you’re actually getting through to at least some of your audience?

A Guy: Well, as much as you can get through to someone as far as a record is concerned. Relationships with people through records, it’s pretty one-sided – their side. We made the record, but they listen to the record and they fill in the blanks. Friendships certainly have been born from that connection, but I wouldn’t say the connection is the relationship.

Q More cooperative, perhaps, like the scene in D.C. used to be?

A Ian: Yeah, and it still is. A lot of people are still involved.

Q Do you consider these people a family of sorts?

A Guy: But the family existed almost before the music. It’s really a chicken-and-the-egg kind of thing. In D.C., it’s always been very ingrown. People who know each other for long periods of time form a band. The whole thing comes on different levels.

A Ian: In Washington there is a fairly good community of friends – some very close friends, and some are just people you just sort of know and they come together, it’s definitely a community. I’m sure that in the next four or five months there’s gonna be tons of new bands. A lot of bands are gonna be breaking up, and they just reform or rearrange themselves. I definitely am looking forward to getting back there. You know, when people say, “What are your main influences?”, I just say our influences are the bands that we see, who are our friends.

[At this point, the tape recorder decides to excuse itself from the interview without telling anyone, replacing the next few minutes of conversation with a nearly indecipherable montage of human voices and the chirping of crickets. Meanwhile, Ian discusses the irony involved in seeing bands from his hometown while on tour, as a result of Fugazi’s extremely active itinerary, which often prevents the band members from enjoying the benefits of home. Guy suggests that in this way, many other towns have become surrogate communities to the band when on the road.]

A Guy: There’s scenes everywhere. D.C. to me is special because that’s where I’m from. The initial concept or whatever with punk rock music growing up from a grassroots level, is that local events – local communities, or whatever – are great things, and can create bedrocks where a lot of people’s stuff kind of sprouts up. Once you accept the fact that music’s gonna be a part of your life, then you live in it, you marry in it, things like that. Traveling around, we see it all over the place. There will be a different context, and different qualities to it but I don’t think it’s indigenous to Washington.

Q In a broader sense, this band – or at least Ian – seems to have been affiliated with certain movements, such as the “straightedge” community for instance.

A Ian: Yeah, I hear that too. “Straightedge” is a song by Minor Threat. Each of us have chosen our particular lives, that’s none of my business. People always want to know what we – or I – think about that movement, or whatever, but I’m not a part of that movement.

A Guy: Again, it’s just like the word “positive”, it’s just been beaten and shaped by so many different people that it’s just formless. It fits in with the militant rights concept, the same kind of noise. A lot of people have a morbid curiosity about people’s personal lives and habits. The song was reflecting an ideal, and that ideal was reshaped and reworked and beaten out for the past two years. I can see it as basically an ideal against obsession, which I still respect. But then again when it comes down to it, I’m not particularly interested in talking about people’s personal habits – it’s not something this band is about.

Q Can you say what the band *is* about? Ideals, perhaps?

A Guy: Every interview we do, they won’t ask any other bands that type of question, and it throws the band into a kind of company, where the band has a concept, and [motions toward Ian] it’s his song, but this is a new band. See, it’s weird, sometimes when people pick up on something which is something you’re part of, you’re instantly distanced by it. Like the song, “Waiting Room”, on our first record, which every time we go out to play, people will scream, “Play Waiting Room!”, and you feel like some one-hit-wonder kind of thing happening, and you also end up feeling like you’re distanced by your own song, which is a song that we put together and like and can play – but all of a sudden it’s become reflected back in a way that no longer makes sense to you. The same with “Straightedge” – things happened the same way, it no longer makes sense to me. I don’t appreciate in the way that maybe I once appreciated it, because it’s been reworked by something that no longer makes sense to me.

Q It certainly would appear that you’re very much involved with – and concerned with – how people treat each other, and in one respect that could lead to some of the pigeonholing.

A Guy: I don’t agree with that either, because I think once again you’re putting all the lyrics in a bag, and it doesn’t make sense to me. We’d have to talk about particular songs in which you could name. I don’t think I’ve written any songs that deal with people caring about each other – of course, not that I’m against people caring about each other – I just don’t understand what songs you’re referring to, especially from what I write. It’s not something I’m against or anything, I just don’t see the frame of reference. I don’t disagree with you, but if you want to ask a question about a particular song, then we can deal with that. I mean, I always say yes, we do songs about people who harm themselves or whatever, I just don’t think we could go and record a bunch of love songs. I don’t think that’s what this band is about at all, or is about at this moment.

Q That could be interpreted as though you’re suggesting Fugazi is uncommitted to any social outlook whatsoever.

A Guy: We’re not about people caring for each other, but also, I’m not feeling that we should say what we’re about, because I couldn’t tell you. We’re about being in a band, playing shows and playing music. If we had a message or whatever, I would give you a piece of paper. I’m not interested in giving out messages, I’m interested in giving out music. Every song is laced with about a thousand different messages as far as I’m concerned. Personally, I do not sit down and write lyrics with one idea in mind. Depending on your perspective, you’ll come out with what you want from it. If you were to say Fugazi is a band that’s about people taking care of each other, I would say that’s not true.

A Ian: If I were to hear you say that, then immediately you cut us off from any other concept.

Q Don’t you ever feel the need to respond more directly to the misinterpretations regarding your attitude?

A Guy: If someone comes to our show, like last night, and jumps off the stage and punches some guy in the mouth – this is at our show, so in a sense, he feels that in the environment that we helped to create, that’s something that we sensed. So, he’s obviously misreading the situation, he’s not interpreting us in the correct way. Another kid may come, see us, and go form his own band or whatever, and that’s great. But it’s not as if I were to say to this kid, this band is about you forming a band, that’s something he reflected off of it, and that’s a good thing. People pick up different things from it. We control what we consider the outlook, people are responsible for the way they see it.

A Ian: For instance, Guy and I, the first band we ever saw; maybe the band that has left the most incredible impact on us ever – a life-lasting effect on me, Guy as well, probably – was The Cramps. There was a riot, people were smashing up all the windows in the place, there was vomit all over…

A Guy: And they weren’t saying, “You can do it”, or whatever, but the point was, it was done.

A Ian: It’s more like finding this whole other world, instead of pre-prescribed conditions for you, it’s something that’s open to a thousand possibilities, ’cause you could do anything you want, and that’s something that was to me, definitely more attractive than the alternative, which was to go the route. This way I’ve talked to all kinds of different people and ideas, and I find it much more interesting. We don’t want to be with one idea, because we don’t want to just have an appeal to the people who want it. If you say you’re a band that likes catsup, you only end up being appreciated by people who only like catsup – I’m just not interested in that, because it gives you the idea that all four of us have one mind, one idea. Furthermore, in three years, you’ve had one single vision the whole time, and of course we don’t, because the longer you play, you evolve, you change. We’re human beings and we change, and things are different – and the situations get different.

Last year we played the 7th Street Entry to 700 people, last night we played to 1,100 people, and originally what we were doing was like 50 people – things change. You have to readdress things, that’s the way life is, it doesn’t always come out the same. You have to continue to readdress, and that’s just the way it goes. There is no one message. Let’s say I said, “Well, I wrote ‘Straightedge’, and that’s my message, my whole life”. Well I’d be feeling kind of bad now, because people have taken it and they’ve changed it all around. So, that’s why there’s not one message, and there wasn’t even one message when I was in other bands – there was the one message that everyone always seemed to choose to tell me was my one message, but there wasn’t – there was a song, and other people took it from there.

Q How do you relate that to all the grassroots punk groups who thought they were going to change the world with their idealism?

A Guy: What they found out was that they couldn’t do that. What they could do was change their lives, and that was what was so incredible. What Ian was talking about in ’79, I was in junior high school, I was thirteen years old. I saw The Cramps play, and it was so incredibly violent to my psyche, and I definitely realized that there was something incredibly different out there. I’ve seen other bands like Ian’s bands, and Bad Brains, performing with locals – that’s when I had the second realization, that not only was there something happening but I could get in on it and do it myself.

A Ian: If there’s anything that people should tap into, it’s the fact that they have a lot of power, maybe not to change the world, but they have a lot of power to change change their own fucking lives and do something that’s worthwhile. Not only worthwhile, but incredibly explosive in ways that can either be negative or positive – or both, which is probably the best thing. There’s a lot of energy to be tapped into, if people pick up on that, that’s great. Then again, that’s something that you can get from anywhere, from breathing in some new air. All this noise / music / art that’s come out, for me over the years it’s been totally a big part of my life. It’s been the fuel that makes me run, it’s an inspiration, everything. When I hear other people who have taken their own creations and are presenting them in their own way, to me that’s a kick in the ass. It makes me feel like, “Right on!”, and if other people get that out of what we do, then I’m totally into it, that’s great.

A Guy: There’s a caring to it, one of the nice things about it, like The Cramps and Bad Brains, all these totally different bands, they don’t share any kind of political message or anything, they’re just filled with an integrity that’s unique unto itself. It doesn’t answer anything else, it just presents itself the way it is, with what it wants to do. That to me is what’s cool.

Q On one level, you can consider yourselves entertainers, but obviously there are people who sense that what you present doesn’t qualify as entertainment.

A Guy: Yeah, well if people leave un-entertained from our show, I don’t feel bad at all. We’re not there for the function of just to while away a few hours. We’re hard on ourselves. I mean, we don’t sculpt and craft it carefully, but we do write songs for ourselves, and we don’t try to force the issue. All the bands I’ve been in, this is the first band where I’ve gone out and played – we played the last three years, all of the fucking time. We’ve been to Europe twice, we’ve been across the country a few times, we play a lot, and more than ever, the payoff is great. When we play, that’s the best thing that I know, that’s the best thing that I feel I can do – to me, that’s the payback.

[The tape recorder takes another break at this point, while Ian discusses playing benefits, which stems from the viewpoint that the band is able to raise “a lot of money”, and are quite happy to be able to lend their strength and support to a chosen cause. I suggest that Fugazi might appear to downplay their own benevolence at times.]

A Guy: We’re not downplaying the good, it’s just a matter of not trying to crank it up, like, “Here’s what makes us worthwhile”. It’s not a matter of downplaying it, it’s a matter of not making a press kit out of it.

A Ian: There’s nothing to sell. We’re just a band, that’s all. We’re just a fucking band. It’s hard to get into a thing about if you’re good or bad because we don’t think of ourselves really in that way.

Q Regardless, many of your supporters draw a good deal of inspirational energy from your music.

A Guy: Good! Right on! More power to ’em! That’s great! I mean, they should not pat us on the back, they should pat themselves on the back for creating that energy, that’s the thing. What people do with their lives, is what they do, it’s what they create, and that’s what’s important. People get inspiration, they get support from a lot of different things, but it’s what they do, and that’s what’s so fucking cool. I know what I do, I know what I do in this band, and I can understand any kind of evaluating on that term.

What people get from it, it’s up to them. If someone goes out and forms their own band, or blows up a prison, am I responsible for that or are they? They’re responsible. Some people get beat up at our shows – I hope to God I’m not fucking responsible for all the violence that’s happened at our shows. In a sense I do feel kind of responsible for it – you create an atmosphere, but I’m not the guy punching the guy in the mouth. We can’t take all the credit for all the good things people get from us, it just doesn’t make sense.

A Ian: Some people are inspired by us, and that’s totally great, as long as they know that I’m totally inspired by the people. When we’re playing a show, the crowd just leaps out, the crowd is right there, and it just fills me, it just makes me work that much harder. It’s a two-way street.

A Guy: It’s weird, ’cause I feel like I don’t want to misrepresent my attitude, but I feel very strongly about whatever big responsibilities this band has. That’s why I feel good about being in this band, because I know we take care of shit like that – why we do things, or how things are advertised or set up. We are definitely defensive and cagey about things we do. More than anything we want to deserve the freedom to do what we do, and to do it on our own terms.

A Ian: For instance, we try to keep a low door price, a five dollar door. It’s fucking great, people dig that, and we’re really happy. But if we push the fact, then it becomes almost like a selling point, and it becomes out of control, like, “the low-door-price-band”.

A Guy: Yeah, and then you become a member of “the low-door-price-movement”, and before long, you’re no longer a band, you’re just a part of something, some other people’s ideas or whatever. If people have ideas about us, that’s great, of course you can’t avoid that. To be a part of a mass idea, like one single vision of a band, then no longer are you in control of what you do, because you’re now a part of what other people see. I know, because the repercussion just from “Straightedge” – half the world worships this song, or this band or whatever, and the other half hates it. It’s a pretty frustrating time, because I’m just a fucking person. Other people probably think – on both sides – that I view other people in that kind of that really clean, cold, sort of division. Sort of like, they’re with me or they’re against me. You know, if they believe in the song then they’re cool, if they don’t believe in it then they’re not cool.

The fact of the matter is, I didn’t think like that, it wasn’t part of my idea, it was the expression of something back then. I didn’t take my friends and – a lot of people I love the most certainly would not fall into your stereotypical straightedge thing, you know. So in seeing that, it bothers me that some people can only think, “I like him ’cause he’s like this”, or, “I hate him ’cause he’s like that”. The reason we’re in Fugazi is we don’t want people to like us because of these little things people are applying to us. What it boils down to is, you can like us for being Fugazi, or you can hate us for being Fugazi – but do it because of Fugazi, not because of some little application or affectation that they read about in some magazine somewhere, or heard through the grapevine, or from a friend, or whatever.

[laughing] Don’t get us wrong, you’re not getting any special treatment – this is our standard interview. Because to be Fugazi, for us, is like, we only know how to go the rope, man. We just want to mirror control for each other, that’s the way we are, that’s the only way it will work for us. With shows, we say – that is the way it’s going to be, whatever the door price is going to be, whatever, because we fucking work our asses off in this band and we’re not interested in just giving up the band for other people’s fucking bullshit visions. [laughs] We want to be part of our own bullshit visions. I think we all know that the minute this band starts to exist as a contradiction it’s gonna break up, and we will break it up like that, because we’ve broken up a fuck of a lot of bands before this one.

It’s like with “Waiting Room”. It’s a song that we wrote and we play and we love, and yet, because it becomes other people’s property, it starts to become something that you almost get a bad taste in your mouth about sometimes. It’s stupid, it just makes you feel bad, because you play these songs you love – we’ve got like thirty songs and through a whole show people are yelling one song. You want to sort of keep it to yourself, not so that it can be our own little toy, but so that we can project it to other people in a way that’s still pure to ourselves.

It’s not a question of us sitting on the floor and staring at each other all the time. I want to blow it out, I want to present it to people, and I like people to try and interact, but the point is to offer them something which is purely from where we’re at and then receive as purely as they can from where they’re at. I respect an audience as much as to say that they’re equally as much as fifty percent of what’s going on, and to let us have our fifty percent. Whatever comes out of that is a third fifty percent, where we’re a combination.

Q How much of Fugazi is a business interest?

A Ian: All the records we’ve done with Dischord are still available in one form or another. You can mail order anything, it’s all there. There’s a lot of emphasis on documentation, in getting the stuff down and making it available. Like with that SubPop record [“Song No. 1” 45; also released on Dischord]; the idea of it being so limited – I mean, what’s the point? Two thousand happy people – why?

Q Some may wonder why you did it in the first place though, considering the dim view held for collectors.

A Ian: I knew Bruce Pavitt [the person in charge of SubPop], and he really loved the band. He was running this “Single Of The Month Club”, thing, which is sort like a celebration of the seven-inch. It’s a label we had some respect for; and also, the seven-inch for a lot of people was the format of choice in the beginning.

A Guy: Independent labels grew on the seven-inches when the punk thing first came about.

A Ian: So, from Washington to Washington, these two independent labels, it was kind of a cool concept. It pretty much worked out; the fact that we put it out ourselves, that was the main thing.

A Guy: They came out really beautiful; really great looking sleeves.

Q At this point in Fugazi’s history, can you summarize the most valuable things you’ve learned from being in this band?

A Ian: I would definitely say that as far as “positive” or whatever, it should be dealt with carefully, because it’s a word that some people hold really dear to heart – an some people don’t; and you are always gonna have a different definition of that. I don’t think that we’re an “anti-positive” band, as much as we are just a band, and we don’t want to be labelled. I would like to sort of clarify that, not to come off like we’re totally against people who think of themselves as this, or they think that we’re like that; that’s fine – whatever they want.

A Guy: We’re just into precision, and I think that’s a term that’s as un-precise and hopelessly bankrupt as any term I can think of right now. To some people, they can go, “What is he talking about? The word ‘positive’ is simply the word positive”, but in the context in which we’ve heard for the last fucking ten years, to me it’s totally bankrupt. To other people, maybe it’s fine, it may mean something to them, but to me it no longer means anything. If people want to label me, they’ll figure out another way to express whatever my needs are, and I’ll have to deal with that term.

A Ian: Over the years you become more immersed in the scope of it, and your perceptions really become skewed. You gotta remember there are still people who are probably amazed that bands write their own songs, you know, and the fact that there’s any kind of creativity whatsoever involved with rock music. It’s really such a piddly little tiny amount of people who are involved with this, that you kind of wait and invest in these things. Not in a sense of what they get out of it, but what they can get out of other people. They wield some words or some concepts, or whatever, as weapons against other people – that’s just bullshit. if people invest in stuff and it has something to do with their own lives, and the way that they do it, then that’s fucking great, and it’s not such a piddly stupid little thing.

A Guy: It’s weird, man – being in a band, and taking what you do seriously to some extent. It puts you in a position where you don’t like to be fucked with. Especially when you catch a band on tour, when things have become even more heightened, in terms of you’re busy isolating yourself to do what you want to do the most.

A Ian: Night to night, when you’re sort of confronted with this intense scrutiny, it really does change the whole way you look at the situation. As a bunch of people, I’ve never laughed more than I do with this band, and we laugh all the time, over the stupidest things, we say the dumbest shit to each other. At the same time, going to interviews – the humor just never translates, and it’s just kind of a waste of fucking paper. Not all of it – some bands, some people say great things. At the same time, you just try to answer these questions, and you don’t want to come off as staid and totally pretentious, so you just try to be honest, and unfortunately honesty a lot of times just comes off as bad copy. That’s just the way it is. Tough shit! [laughs]

You gotta remember that a lot of people have massive preconceptions about this band – either because of one of the bands we’ve been in, or our locale, or the fact that we’re “punk rock”, or whatever. For instance, this paper [picks up a Minneapolis weekly which shall remain unnamed here] referred to us an “ex-skinhead band”. Whatever fucking twisted vision those people have…people already have such a fucking take on what we are about that sometimes you just sort of feel like it just doesn’t make any difference what you’re gonna say anyway, because you just can’t go and correct it. Actually, I don’t even feel like correcting it, at this point. I think that what you do with your time is a lot more viable than what you talk about. We do what we do. We do it because we think it’s right, not because other people think it’s right.

A Guy: Like I said, there are statements coming out of the band every five seconds, messages flying all over, so to people who figure them out, man, that’s what it’s about. You don’t hand out the puzzle and the answer to it, you just present your music and that’s what it is.

A Ian: I think there’s a pretty practical reason for just about everything that we do. Like the five dollar door – quite honestly, it’s because we go see shows all the time, and five dollars seems like a pretty reasonable price.

A Guy: Plus, we don’t want to feel like we owe the audience entertainment. We like to feel that we’re there because we owe the audience our presentation. Five dollars is cheaper than a movie, you can come and go, not like the fucking show and not feel ripped off. We don’t feel like you need to explode, you know – the big fireworks and all the rest of the shit. We can just can go out and do our thing, and we’re not forced into some kind of entertainment position.

A Ian: We’re allowed to suck, because five dollars is not that big of a deal. Furthermore we always hope that people, when they come into a room before the show starts, take a look around and figure out where the exit doors are, because if they don’t like it they should always feel free to leave. That’s the power of choice, man, and that’s something that people seem to have forgotten – they don’t like something, they don’t have to stick around. We do think about the stuff we do, obviously, and there are reasons, but there is no one reason why we do all things. Each thing has its’ own reason.

A Guy: Yeah, we’re a myriad of reasons; that’s our group slogan.

© J.Free / The New Puritan ReView; 1991; 2022