TS: But in your life, it's such an important part.
IAN: It's an important part. But I'm not only a part of the punk scene, I'm a member of the world. I know that as angry as I've been with MINOR THREAT, it doesn't make any difference to the world, unless I take it to the world. Even with MINOR THREAT, it wasn't like I was trying to change the scene. I'm trying to change people. And I can't only speak to people who are punk. I can't only do that. I've met the most beautiful people in the world through punk, and I've met some of the ugliest people through punk. That's the nature of any scene. The cue word is "scene," and I don't want to draw lines. I want to take it further than that. I'm involved with protests and stuff. These things are important to me. These are important. Because, even with MINOR THREAT, the nature of the lyrics speaks about personal stuff, supposedly, but it's not personal. It's about the world. It's about compassion for other living creatures, compassion for the world, compassion for the ground we walk on. To care more about what you're doing and why you're doing it, and why you're here and what you're going to do with yourself. That's what the songs have always been about. That's why when you look at any of the songs, you don't see me singing, "Oh, you're not punk because you don't do this." Because that wasn't the bottom line. The bottom line is life.
TS: So you're saying changing yourself for the better changes society for the better?
IAN: Of course! I've always been accused of writing "emocore" or "personal politics." But in the EMBRACE song ["No More Pain"], there's the line, "Your emotions are nothing but politics." The song is saying the same emotions as "You think you're so tough" in the end is all bullshit. Because your emotions are the same things that make the world go around, the same things that make governments fight with each other. The same thing that makes the people who are in power crap on the people who aren't in power. The same things. These emotions are the same things that fuel the fire. Do you see what I'm saying? I'm singing about the little punk scene we live in, but in the end, it's about the whole world! People talk about, "I'm an American." You're not an American; you're a human being. Don't draw lines like that. Don't always say, "I'm this" or "I'm that." Don't think of it in those terms. Because when you do that, you're joining a team. And the moment you're part of the team, then you have to have opposing teams. That's competition.
TS: So looking back, when you say, "I'm straight edge," do you regret that?
IAN: No! Because that song wasn't about a movement. The song was about an idea. About putting distractions out of my life. It just says, "I'm straight." I don't take dope, and you can't assume that about me anymore. At the time, punk rock and rock and roll was nothing but drugs. If you were in a band, everyone thought that you must drink and do drugs. And I wanted to shake people up, saying, "No, I don't. I've got the straight edge." Please realize you're talking to me now. I'm 25 years old and I rationalize things a lot differently, because I've time to reflect. I've changed. I've progressed. I don't disassociate myself from those words. I consider it part of climbing a flight of stairs. Each step is as important as the next. They're just different levels. Without one step, I wouldn't have gotten to the next one. The fact that it's made people think, then it's very important. And if I can make people consider their existence at all, then at least that gives them the potential to think about their own existence. That's the greatest thing in the world. I'm very pleased to have had that opportunity. I'm very proud of it and hope to continue doing it. I mean, I seem to be bound to piss people off no matter what I do. I'm always ready for that. People are always angry at me.
Copyright 2007 ThreateningSociety.com/PhillyPunkRock.com
TS: What do you think is wrong with the world?
IAN: The problem with the world, for me at least, is that people completely play a part in a situation that's hurting a lot of other human beings. For instance, with vegetarianism, of course I'm bothered by something. That's part of the whole trip, because people don't think about what's going on. They think about themselves. People have a very self-centered way of looking at things. They're very concerned about, "Oh, it's so inconvenient to have to make your own food," or, "It's inconvenient to not have a nice car." These are the problems that I see with the world. I don't find things like, "Oh, well these guys did this," or, "They didn't do that." Who cares what they did? This is a tiny little microcosm of a community this punk scene. It's insignificant.
TS: But now you're willing to talk it out instead of fighting.
IAN: I've always been willing to talk it out. The fighting thing was a concept. An idea. I had this whole idea that I'd be able to fight people without injuring them. Just to bruise their ego. It was this great idea that I had. What happened was that it never ended. The fighting continues on and on and on. People were always fighting. And then a new breed of people came, and they were fighting. And they always say, "Well, you used to fight." And they're right. I used to fight. Then one day I realize the only answer was for me not to fight anymore, because violence is the end. Pain hurts, and that's one thing we all agree on, and no one should suffer in life. And when people hurt you, they're out of line. I might defend myself. I don't know. For three years or so no, I haven't fought. I don't do it.
TS: Do you see more fighting now?
IAN: I see a lot more people acting tough, but I saw way more fights in the early days. I'm sure that there's a lot of violence, but I haven't seen as much. I don't see bands that promote violence, and that may be one of the reasons. There's a lot more thuggery. Intimidation, extortion, stealing… gutter shit like that. It's important to look at these people as individuals, too. Try to communicate with them.
IAN MACKAYE
[Originally published: Issue #6, circa 1989]
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but I haven't seen as much. I don't see bands that promote violence, and that may be one of the reasons. There's a lot more thuggery. Intimidation, extortion, stealing… gutter shit like that. It's important to look at these people as individuals, too. Try to communicate with them.
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