TS: About your new band…
IAN: FUGAZI.
TS: What does it mean?
IAN: It's a veteran slang term meaning screwed-up situation. I like the name because it's weird-looking and people always say, "What the hell does that mean?" They think it's some kind of oriental food or they think it's Italian. And most importantly, it's a name that doesn't presuppose. It's not like "Pain" or "Good." It's just FUGAZI, and you can take it as humor and as having a serious side to it. And it reflects sort of an overall view of the whole situation. We are in a messed-up situation.
TS: Do you reflect that in your lyrics?
IAN: I think that I've always reflected that in my lyrics.
TS: But have they changed?
IAN: I'm still writing the words, and they're still about things I feel are important.
TS: What's your line-up?
IAN: I'm playing guitar and singing. A fellow by the name of Joe [Lally] on bass, Brendan [Canty] from RITES OF SPRING on drums, and Guy [Piccioto] who was in RITES OF SPRING sings also, and sort of dances around and raises hell.
TS: You've always been an energetic live performer. Has having to play guitar calmed you down?
IAN: Well, you're a little more stationary because you have to stand in front of a mic, instead of being able to move with the mic. But energy is not only movement. Energy is expression and strength in your performance. And there's plenty of time for me to move around if I want. Yeah, it's more restraining, but then again, there's more freedom, because I'm able to create sound with the guitar and shut the sound up, and I'm in more control of the sound. It gives me more freedom in that sense, where I'm not always at the beck and call of the guitar player. I'm more in charge.
TS: How many times has FUGAZI played out?
IAN: About ten times now.
TS: Do you plan to release something?
IAN: I imagine eventually. Well, we're probably going to record in January, but currently, we're just playing live. We're still young. It's a young band. See, I have a strong belief in building and grass roots, in building your own foundation. You know, playing, really playing, to people, presenting new ideas, and really giving people the opportunity to hear you and think about the band, and not just "OK, here he is, Ian McKay I say "McKay" [pronounced mick-a] because my name is "MacKaye" [pronounced mick-i], and that's the difference between me and that other person. Ian McKay is my exploited alter-ego. "Here it is! Ian McKay's new band, FUGAZI! Ex-MINOR THREAT!" I don't care about that. The moment I undergo something like that is the moment that I say that the message isn't so important. The message is "come see me." And that's it. And for me, it is more important to present something that people would want to see, and to present something that people would want to hear, and to think about. And I'd rather play to 20 people and have them say, "Wow! Right on!" than to a hundred thousand people saying, "Hey! Cool! MINOR THREAT!" I'm not in MINOR THREAT. We're trying to put across music that people don't have to slam to. We're trying to defeat that because we want everyone to come out and dance, particularly aimed at people who aren't the same. People talk about unity. But a lot of women are left out. Also, it leaves us with the idea that the only way to dance is to dance that way. I don't believe that. That's been the hardest part. The people are hung up on that kind of stuff. They like to slam. For us, it's important to present music that they didn't have to hurt each other to. It's not a cop-out. It's a cop-in.
TS: Everyone seems to peg you with the foundation of the Straight-Edge movement. Did this start out as your own personal thing?
IAN: It's not a movement.
TS: It seems to have become one.
IAN: Mainly because of things like, for instance - I'm not jumping down your throat or anything - but in a lot of your interviews, you ask bands, "Are you straight-edge?" And you create the movement. It's a personal decision. It's not an issue really. If it's important, they'll say it. You see, people forever now have been using it as a chip. Like the answer to the one question, "Are you straight-edge?" could completely change the entire interview. Someone might say, "No" and everyone might say, "Oh, these guys suck!" Well,
yeah, I wrote the song "Straight Edge." I coined the phrase. Yes, I'm straight. I don't drink. I don't do dope, and I'm not down with a lot of stupid stuff. But at the same time, that's not the end. That's not the most important thing. That's not the point. The point is to get rid of distractions. To me, when you make the Straight-Edge thing to be such a big deal, then that creates a distraction. A whole new distraction. People are not in search for communication. They're in search of kinship, like, "Oh, you're with me or you're not with me." It's one more team to be a part of.
TS: Do you think it's gotten out of hand?
IAN: Of course, it got slightly out of hand. The moment that there's violence in the name of something, it's gotten out of hand. There's no movement more important than the human being. Period. The most important thing in the world is to be kind, good to other human beings and other life forms. The most important thing in the world is tolerance, and to not immediately jump to conclusions and not be full of hate. Because that's what the problem with the world is, that there's a lot of hatred, a lot of bad communication and misunderstandings. So for me, that's going to be way more important than what a person does or doesn't do. I'm surrounded by my dearest, dearest loved friends who drink… or smoke dope… or whatever. It's all around! But it's much more important for me to love those people, to be a part of them. Way more important than to say, "Screw you! If you're not with me, then I'm not with you!" That's the problem. I don't need enemies, man. I need friends.
TS: But do you see an upsurge of straight-edge bands? What do you think of these new bands?
IAN: They're nice guys, but I don't know much about what goes on. Obviously, a lot of people call me up and say, "These guys are so screwed!" People will always talk bad about each other. The people I've met tend to be very nice. I have no problem with them.

TS: Is running Dischord Records your full-time job?
IAN: No, but it's certainly full-time. But I try to make money elsewhere. Dischord pays my rent and my bills. Food-wise, I do odd jobs. I work at a record store now and then. Also, like Thursday, I will be serving ice and drinks to DEPECHE MODE. I work as sort of a busboy, a hospitality kind of guy for big rock shows. Like BILLY IDOL, PIL, STEEL PULSE… very interesting. A lot of fun.
TS: You like it?
IAN: Of course. I like everything. [laughter] It's very interesting to be in that part of the world. I have to get there first thing in the morning and serve their roadies all day. Go out and buy them shoelaces. Things like that. You learn a lot about rock and roll. I learned about things that I don't want to be a part of.

TS: Do you enjoy running Dischord?
IAN: Hmmm… It's been very fun and it can still be very fun. I feel that it's still important to do. There are still some very important bands here, and there is still some important thought, important things to be a part of, and I'm happy about that. I don't like the more business aspects of it, because it sucks having to work within the confines of the business world. It sucks, man, particularly when you have to answer to other people's wills or what they want out of a business. It's hard, because we try to put something out very non-pretentiously or very non-slimy. Someone will slime it. They're going to put MINOR THREAT on an EMBRACE record. But you look at the album, and you'll see that we're trying very hard not to go for stuff like that, because we're trying to defeat that. We're trying to defeat the given "slime tactics." I think it's depressing. And sometimes it gets to be a drag. It is a business, and you can't escape it, which kind of sucks. It's even worse because of the fact that there is a conscience involved. We have a conscience, and we want to make sure we're doing the right things.
TS: Which release sold the most copies?
IAN: The MINOR THREAT, obviously. I think that the "Out of Step" album has sold just over 50,000, and the number 12 [the 12" LP with two MINOR THREAT 7" EPs] is just under 50,000. These figures include cassettes.
IAN MACKAYE
[Originally published: Issue #6, circa 1989]
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