Friday, 3 October 2008


I was asked recently to write a little piece on a personal hero of mine music related - for the artrocker online site. I chose to write about Ian Mackaye and Fugazi as i think punk rock and independant music is indebted to him/them in a big way.
Whilst the music of Fugazi is incredible and innovative, what im most inspired by is the staunchly positive approach with which Mackaye has seemingly applied to all his pursuits. Whether that be his strong influence in the rise of Hardcore in the late 70's early 80's with Minor Threat - coining the phrase 'straight edge' a movement of clean living that rebelled against the cliche's of rock n roll excess:

Straight Edge - from Minor Threat The First Demo

"I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need

I've got the straight edge

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I've got the straight edge

- or the establishment of DISCHORD records, a massively forward thinking DC based label, with a purpose of documenting local DC area bands...A label that has been responsible for the release of quantities of groundbreaking groups since 1980...some of the roster include:
Minor Threat, Fugazi and the Evens,
Rites of Spring,
Bad Brains
El Guapo,
Edie Sedgewick,
Black Eyes,
Nation of Ulysses
Q and Not U,
the Beauty Pill, to name a few.
All this achieved with a strong foundation of hard working Do it yourself ethics.

Fugazi became infamous for shows charging only the cheapest possible profitable price, often no more than $5, and pretty much always under $10
...Unlike most of their independant contempories they were able to maintain sustainable tours and make profits due to their low overhead touring costs. An example is how instead of paying for light rigs etc, they'd just turn on the house lights at the venue.
Mackaye was well known for his disgust for violent slam dancing at fugazi shows, often escorting repeat offenders to the door where he'd give them an envelope containg a $5 bill, before sending them on their way..Apparently a bunch of these envelopes were carried on tour in case of such incidents.

Fugazi represent to me a real attitude of cutting the bullshit that's so often present in music and more to the point the music industry, they were able to sell hundreds of thousands of records and maintain hectic touring schedules throughout the world for over 18 years, without radio singles or corporate backing.

I know this is a very crude and brief account of an incredible group of musicians, and i havnt even touched on the music or other important personalities that have made up these groups, so im sorry about that, but im not attempting to forge some sort of in depth Ian Mackaye bio. For that kind of thing i can recomend a book called 'Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes from the American Indie Underground, 1981–1991'. by Michael Azerrad, (2001)
or watch:
'American Hardcore: The History of American Punk 1980-86' (2006)
'the Instrument' a documentary on the band from 1987-1997


Steph said...

Even though you didn't go that in depth it was lovely of you to write that nonetheless!
Great to see there are others out there who share similar views :)

Keep spreading the love

x peace

designxthreat said...

Awesome post! Make sure you check out Norman Brannons book... The Anti-Matter Anthology released on Revelation Records recently. The book is a bunch of rare interviews complied from his Anti-Matter Zine featuring Fugazi, Texas Is the Reason, Quicksand and bunch of other post-hardcore bands from the 90's.
DIY to the tenth power, oh and come back to Perth soon!

cut off your hands said...

that book sounds great! have you seen it in Australia yet???

designxthreat said...

Only places that might have it would be Resist Records in Newtown, Sydney or Missing Link in Melbs. Otherwise you can get it online - but shippin might be abit expensive unless you through in some extra goodies.