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"Minor Threats" - Tablet Magazine Interviews Ian MacKaye
June 29, 2011 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Minor Threats "The punk icon Ian MacKaye always wanted to create a tribe. Now an elder statesman of D.C. hardcore, the musician talks about organized religion, breaking toilets, and making peace with his mother’s death." A simply fantastic interview with Ian Mackaye from a magazine you wouldn't expect to be covering a hardcore music legend. I know there are some fans here on the blue who may really enjoy this.
posted by punkrockrat (74 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite

 
thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!
posted by tanuki.gao at 10:28 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a highschooler I saw Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina (The Evens) playing at Fort Reno. I was doing some silly dance moves and Ian MacKaye laughed and pointed me out to the crowd. That was one of the proudest moments of my life.
posted by azarbayejani at 10:29 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I ain't Got The Straight Edge!


NEVR SOBR


Seriously though, I can't be the only person here who likes to kick back with a beer but still enjoys Minor Threat.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:30 AM on June 29, 2011 [13 favorites]


Is this something I'd have to be not the first, hopefully not the last, and heading for that adult crash to understand?

Seriously, great interview.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:31 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


That was awesome- I also wanted to share this video of sir ben kingsley singing 12xU. Kind of bad ass.
posted by TheBones at 10:32 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, not 12xU- Minor Threat.
posted by TheBones at 10:33 AM on June 29, 2011


That is one thoughtful dude. Great find.
posted by ignignokt at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2011


My resized window threw the line break in after "elder statesman of D.C." and I thought, "Oh, that's right, he's a politician now wait what"
posted by griphus at 10:50 AM on June 29, 2011


I was never a big Minor Threat fan, but I did like Fugazi. I saw them live once and it was pretty so-so except for the people having sex standing up in the audience next to me. Not very straight edge, but a lot more fun. The straight edge semi-skinhead fad was a big drag and I was glad when it faded away.
posted by Forktine at 10:56 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about Ian. First, he can sometimes not really understand that there's more than one way to approach issues. We had a question of whether or not clubs who served alcohol and had bands could let the 18-21s in. I was for that, but he approached it all wrong. Our Councilmember, Jim Graham, is also the guy in charge of that committee. Ian testified and was really rude and confrontational and frankly, did not advance the ball on that one. Graham did not realize who it was and Ian was confrontational, saying something along the lines of being surprised that Graham did not recognize him because Ian had played a fundraiser for him earlier. It did not go well. Like it or not, if your purpose is to advance a particular agenda item, you need to first do no harm.

Second, Ian lives a block over. He seems really nice and we are of the "guy you nod to or say hi to" level of acquaintance. He's often out with Amy Farina and their son walking around. We live in Mt. Pleasant. I've lived here since 1998. So I was a little perturbed when the Evens put out a song called "Mt. Pleasant Isn't." I fiercely defend my neighborhood and have been very much involved in the battle to make it an inclusive place where different cultures can get together and I am frustrated by the song and its lyrics. If he doesn't think its pleasant, why does he still live here?

/$0.02
posted by Ironmouth at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2011 [11 favorites]


As a highschooler I saw Ian MacKaye and Amy Farina (The Evens) playing at Fort Reno.

It's possible we went to the same concert. Amy Farina and I went to the same elementary school. Her older brother is Geoff Farina, who founded the punk band Karate. Geoff used to be our paperboy. I'm not sure if Amy is officially married to Ian or not, but she is the mother of his son Carmine.
posted by jonp72 at 11:13 AM on June 29, 2011


Really fantastic interview, thanks.
posted by Errant at 11:20 AM on June 29, 2011


Coming out of the DC burbs in what I still think of as the beautiful punk heyday of the late 80s early 90s, I always thought McKaye got it very wrong. His attempts to replace the far left anarchy of punk with the strict structures of straight edge struck me as fascist. I still remember a show in Frederick where he stopped playing because people were slam dancing in the front. C'mon, that's what people do at punk shows. Those who don't want to don't go in the pit. All that said, out of step with the world was always a favorite song of mine even though I shared none of the values. Also, since we're talking about minor threat and fugazi, I feel obliged to post a link to waiting room.
posted by 1-2punch at 11:25 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, look, there's a picture of my daughter with her band coach, Amanda MacKaye.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:33 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I met Ian at my daughter's last show at the 9:30 Club.
I mean, if we're telling stories...
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:35 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


MacKaye has in the past few years done some pretty fascinating extended interviews that are now on youtube. Here's one. Here's another. I find these pretty inspiring, especially the latter.
posted by ferdydurke at 11:39 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the interview. I liked many of the things that MacKaye had to say, I was less thrilled with the interviewer, who I thought was a bit too present. But, I guess when you're interviewing one of your heroes you maybe can't resist.

I loved this bit: Why destroy a toilet? If ever you’ve been to shows in Eastern Europe it’s like, what are you people thinking? You’re breaking all the toilets, we need the toilet to take the shit away. It is our friend. There’s something that’s perverse about people that they have to break toilets. A toilet is such a good thing to have around.

We live in Mt. Pleasant. I've lived here since 1998. So I was a little perturbed when the Evens put out a song called "Mt. Pleasant Isn't." I fiercely defend my neighborhood and have been very much involved in the battle to make it an inclusive place where different cultures can get together and I am frustrated by the song and its lyrics. If he doesn't think its pleasant, why does he still live here?

Well, I'm not a huge Evens fan, and I'm not defending that song per se, but I would imagine that it's kind of tough being Ian MacKaye in a lot of ways. He's incredibly successful, and prosperous, and yet his self-conception is as an outsider, and to some extent, a malcontent. Certainly his political engagements have been for greater equality and social justice. Mt. Pleasant has a history that would likely make anyone who's primarily self-conception is structured around those values somewhat uncomfortable. The gentrification there has been incredible, and while he's clearly been a part of it in a lot of ways (the history of punk rock group houses in Mt. Pleasant is long and illustrious), my guess is that it isn't a comfortable personal position for him.* Further, it was a bit before you moved in, but the Mt. Pleasant riot is likely something that he was thinking about when he wrote the song. That riot, which in turn recalls other DC riots in the surrounding neighborhoods, encapsulated a lot of frustrations and injustices, a lot of tensions in the city, particularly in the immigrant community. I'm not at all surprised that he wrote the song, even if he loves and lives in Mt. Pleasant. (A final side note, I've always heard the song as, in part, an answer song to Tuscadero's song My Mt. Pleasant, which has a very different vibe. Tuscadero seemed to embody everything that MacKaye dislikes about one approach to music making.)

I love Mt. Pleasant, and though I don't live there now, I've spent many years of my life there.

On preview: Amanda, now there's a fucking singer! And her label released the first Swiz LP!
posted by OmieWise at 11:40 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seriously though, I can't be the only person here who likes to kick back with a beer but still enjoys Minor Threat.

Nah, I like em fine. Prefer fugazi though

I still haven't forgiven him for accidentally spawning the fucking hate-edge kids though. Those guys suck.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 11:41 AM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Worth quoting at length in case not everyone clicks through on their way to Your Favourite Band Rules/Sucks posting:
You may have looked at me like an older brother, but I looked at everyone in the crowd like, “This is us.” We were all peers. The band wasn’t putting on the show, we were all putting on the show.

Straight up, I think music is sacred. I think music is a form of communication that predates language. Music predates religion, it predates business, it predates all of that stuff. It’s serious. It’s not a fucking joke. I’m not a Christian, I’m not a Jew, I’m not a damn anything. I’m not a team member. I understand why people are drawn to that, I respect it, even. But for me there’s something that’s even deeper, more sacred than all that, which is human beings figuring out how to gather. Music can set us free in that moment. And if we’re in a room with other people who are all being affected this way, then you get into that mass energy, this thing that can be really cathartic. And I think it is a really deeply important thing to have happen, catharsis. To go off.
A-fucking-men. Fugazi live in Toronto ca. '95 was a revival, a baptism, a singular and sacred moment. There were a couple guys trying to cause trouble. They were singled out, calmly informed this wasn't that kind of space on this evening, and the revival continued.

And for the record, WhiteSkull, I'm a beer-loving Fugazi fan and never felt the slightest sense of cognitive dissonance about that. (And I mean, come on, The Argument is just killer pot-aided headphone music.) Mackaye's basically said he wasn't trying to write a rulebook or creed, he was just saying this is what works for me and makes my life meaningful and lots of people will tell you that you have to be self-destructive to be cool or punk or whatever and fuck that. Be true to yourself. Be as free as possible in your own mind and your own space. You are not what you own (or what you ingest). Powerful message, never gets old.

Finally, if you thought this seemed like a pretty thoughtful interview, I highly recommend buying any magazine you can find with a David Samuels feature in it. He pops up often in Harper's, sometimes in GQ and The Atlantic. Truly fantastic feature writer.
posted by gompa at 11:42 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't like neo-puritans now, and I didn't like them then.
posted by Decani at 11:42 AM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


I can't be the only one who always liked Guy Picciotto better ... I guess you're either a waiting room or a margin walker fan. I fall in the latter camp.

The Instrument movie (and soundtrack) is fantastic, imo.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:45 AM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


SXE4LIFE!
posted by hal_c_on at 11:53 AM on June 29, 2011


Wow its like a soap opera in here.
posted by fire&wings at 11:59 AM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


I can't be the only one who always liked Guy Picciotto better

Rites of Spring, now there's a hell of a band.
posted by DaDaDaDave at 12:01 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


"There's no set of rules, and I'm not telling you how to live your life."

Truly, Ian MacKaye is a fascist neo-puritan.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:03 PM on June 29, 2011 [9 favorites]


Rites of Spring, was indeed, a hell of a band.
posted by OmieWise at 12:03 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


The Puritans drank beer. So I guess he's not.
posted by Stagger Lee at 12:05 PM on June 29, 2011


Wow, great timing. I dreamt last night Ian and I were hanging out and I took him to see my parents. I had a hard time getting them to understand who he was.

Also, I met Ian once and he was incredibly gracious and friendly.
posted by toastchee at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2011


That riot, which in turn recalls other DC riots in the surrounding neighborhoods, encapsulated a lot of frustrations and injustices, a lot of tensions in the city, particularly in the immigrant community. I'm not at all surprised that he wrote the song, even if he loves and lives in Mt. Pleasant. (A final side note, I've always heard the song as, in part, an answer song to Tuscadero's song My Mt. Pleasant, which has a very different vibe. Tuscadero seemed to embody everything that MacKaye dislikes about one approach to music making.)

Ian's engagement with the immigrant community during my time here has been non-existent. I've always been wary of people of my background writing about the riots or anything else affecting that community, because, hey, I'm not in that community and I think they are more than capable of speaking for themselves.

Second, the Mt. Pleasant riots were in 1991. "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" was recorded 13 years later and released the following year. So I never really got the association you're talking about.

Personally, I've been on the front lines of the most symbolic aspect of that battle, to allow music into immigrant-owned restaurants here for the last 4 years. Ian was nowhere to be found. I admit that I did not seek him out, but after seeing his performance with Graham, whose opinion would be critical to our battle, I knew he was the wrong guy to go to on that issue.

I wasn't there for the riots. And even though I somehow, accidentally got wrapped up in the immigrant community here by not liking the way they were being treated as people. But I would not speak for them (ok, I am a mouthpiece, but you know what I mean). If "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" is about the riots, it reeks of cause-shopping.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fugazi live in Toronto ca. '95 was a revival, a baptism, a singular and sacred moment.

That was the tour I saw them on. Like I said, it was pretty mediocre; I think we got them on an off-night, and their hearts weren't in it at all. That's what's great about seeing music live -- you never know if it will be a transcendent experience, or like watching a bored bus driver finish his shift before clocking out.
posted by Forktine at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2011


MacKaye and Fugazi's ethic was spawned from the punk movement that they grew up in. You may want to mosh around at the front stage, but that's at the expense of all the women who also want to be there... I guess punk's answer to constraining externalities.

Interesting insights Ironmouth; that must have been especially infuriating to witness with Graham who's never been the most business accommodating councilman.

No where else to post it, Wutang Fugazi mashup Wugazi.
posted by stratastar at 12:13 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


"There's no set of rules, and I'm not telling you how to live your life."

Truly, Ian MacKaye is a fascist neo-puritan.


I'm sorry
For something I didn't do
Lynched somebody
But I don't know who
You blame me for slavery
A hundred years before I was born

Guilty of being white

I'm a convict
Of a racist crime
I've only served
19 years of my time

Guilty of being white

posted by Ironmouth at 12:14 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I still haven't forgiven him for accidentally spawning the fucking hate-edge kids though. Those guys suck.

Well, to be fair, I'd lay more of the blame for the increasing militancy of the straight edge scene at the feet of the NY scene--Youth of Today off-shoot, Judge, for instance, probably did more harm than anyone else on that front. And Slapshot, another influential, uber-militant straight-edge and quasi-skinhead outfit, came out of the Boston hardcore, ska and Oi! scenes that sprang up around Taang! records. Back when I was into the straight-edge hardcore scene (late 80s/early 90s), the DC scene almost seemed like straight-edge's hippy cousin, and MacKaye probably more than any other prominent figure on the scene took every opportunity in zine interviews to criticize the increasing militancy of the straight edge scene, often seeming reluctant and almost embarrassed about his role in spawning the movement.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:18 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I would not speak for them (ok, I am a mouthpiece, but you know what I mean). If "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" is about the riots, it reeks of cause-shopping.

Yeah, I can tell that the song really pisses you off, and as I said, I'm not defending it per se, but I think you're being unnecessarily uncharitable here. The song doesn't come off as anyone's attempt to "speak for" anyone. I take it as their attempt to come to terms with the history of the place they live. You can think that it's a crappy song that you don't like, or even, as I do, that it's probably a song borne of situational guilt, without thinking that this reveals a serious flaw in the guy's character.

As to cause-shopping: I'm not sure when you moved to DC, but your personal disappointment in MacKaye aside, I think you're seriously underestimating the time and energy, money and effort, that MacKaye has put in to local social justice causes. He sounds like he botched the Graham thing pretty badly, and that's too bad, but the guy, and those in his community, have been seriously engaged activists for decades. That he has not been involved in your particular cause doesn't invalidate that, and you might reconsider what comes off here as substantial antipathy, if that's its basis.
posted by OmieWise at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2011


MacKaye's already responded to criticisms about that song plenty of times before. It helps, at least in my mind, to consider the context: Minor Threat, legendary punk rock or not, was basically a high school band. At the time when those early songs were written and performed, MacKaye was a high school kid writing about his own personal experiences being targeted by racially motivated violence against himself and others in his peer group at his predominantly black high school:
Minor Threat's song "Guilty of Being White" led to some accusations of racism, but MacKaye has strongly denied such intentions and said that some listeners misinterpreted his words. The song was inspired by his experiences at Wilson High School, whose student population was 70 percent black. There, MacKaye and his friends were routinely picked on by black students. Slayer later covered the song, with the last iteration of the lyric "Guilty of being white" changed to "Guilty of being right." In an interview, MacKaye has stated that he was offended that some perceived racist overtones in the lyrics, saying, "To me, at the time and now, it seemed clear it's an anti-racist song. Of course, it didn't occur to me at the time I wrote it that anybody outside of my twenty or thirty friends who I was singing to would ever have to actually ponder the lyrics or even consider them."
When you consider that the song was written by a high school kid about getting his ass kicked for being white by bigots, its meaning seems a little less controversial.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:29 PM on June 29, 2011 [7 favorites]


oops. responding to this.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on June 29, 2011


" A toilet is such a good thing to have around."

These are definitely the words of a man who's been on tour most of his adult life.

Truth, brother.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:37 PM on June 29, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hey saulgoodman. I remember NY was very anti-straight edge when Minor Threat were still around. There might have been a few krishna bands preaching abstinence but for the most part it seemed like all the scenesters were reacting against what was going on in DC and Boston. Especially Boston.
posted by cazoo at 12:38 PM on June 29, 2011


When you consider that the song was written by a high school kid

So very true, this. They were fucking kids for fuck sakes. I'm not sure where but I read an interview years ago MacKaye did during the Fugazi days and he was talking about how they drink the odd beer after shows and such. The main point was that it was a one minute song that he had written the lyrics for years before and at some point people have to understand that it's okay to change and evolve as you work your way through life.
posted by Phlegmco(tm) at 12:42 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I remember NY was very anti-straight edge when Minor Threat were still around. There might have been a few krishna bands preaching abstinence but for the most part it seemed like all the scenesters were reacting against what was going on in DC and Boston. Especially Boston.

Minor Threat broke up before there even was a NY straight-edge scene, so I think that's unlikely. As far as I know, the Krishna thing (though it was there with YOT from the beginning) didn't really take hold until Shelter came around.

The dates published online seem to back up my recollection of things:

Minor Threat was an American hardcore punk band formed in Washington, D.C. in 1980 and disbanded in 1983
...
Youth of Today is an American hardcore punk straight edge band, formed in 1985 and still in activity.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2011


Interesting insights Ironmouth; that must have been especially infuriating to witness with Graham who's never been the most business accommodating councilman.

um, well, you see, uh. I can't say more.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:49 PM on June 29, 2011


Ian's engagement with the immigrant community during my time here has been non-existent.

Fugazi routinely played benefits for the Latin American Youth Center, Washington Free Clinic, Neighbors' Consejo, and other charities serving immigrants in Mount Pleasant, so he's not indifferent - I suspect his stepping back (across the board) in recent years has a lot to do with being a new father.

Personally, I've been on the front lines of the most symbolic aspect of that battle, to allow music into immigrant-owned restaurants here for the last 4 years. Ian was nowhere to be found.

FWIW, The Evens played a Hear Mount Pleasant rally in Lamont Park on 7/1/07, and Ian signed a letter from DC musicians protesting the ban. Dischord has also promoted Hear Mount Pleasant events through their site.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:58 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wake up sheeple.

Thanks for this. The first gift I ever gave my wife was a Fugazi cassette.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2011


Very nice read. Thanks
posted by Sailormom at 2:23 PM on June 29, 2011


Being involved in the punk "scene" since I was really young, I've read many, many interviews with Ian Mackaye. This is by far the best one. I always got a sense that MacKaye played things really close to the vest in interviews, which is why this one is so great. He actually seems to be shedding some light on the personal events in his life that formed his outlook on life. Because he's accomplished so much over the years, what formed his thought processes is well worth reading to me. Very well done piece of journalism here.

@SaulGoodman You're totally correct about Minor Threat being long gone by the time there was a SXE scene in NYC. The Krshna thing didn't really hit NYC hardcore until sort of the tale end of things as well, when Youth of Today broke up. There was always violence in and around the punk/hc scenes in NY, but I remember fights/beatdowns and all that dumb, macho stuff became the "norm" when the whole Youth Crew thing got huge all of a sudden. Bold, Judge, Youth of Today, Gorilla Biscuits and Chain of Strength were the big bands I associate with the tough guy mentality. The bands themselves weren't actually violent (I remember Porcell was an especially friendly, quiet guy) it was the fans. You get a bunch of teenage boys who don't drink, do drugs or have sex and put them together and you can be sure there are going to be fights!
posted by EvilPRGuy at 2:53 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well put, EvilPRGuy

I used to joke about some of the excesses of the sXe scene of the late '80s/'90s, particularly its vegan, environmentalist, and Christian elements (You know what other group of young people was vegetarian, didn't drink or do drugs, didn't have sex, was opposed to abortion, and used violence to back up their ideology?). I've since relaxed my stance somewhat, with the realization that a good deal of it was just a bunch of dumb, frustrated kids bashing their heads together. I remember a student of mine telling me about the SLC scene, how a lot of the bishops would tell parents not to be alarmed by the music, because their kids weren't getting into trouble with drugs or booze. Meanwhile, little Braydon and his buddies get picked up for jumping a guy who was smoking a cigarette outside a show. No one has a monopoly on stupid, and you really can't blame the music for what a 17-year-old jackass decides to do.

Unless of course it's Skrewdriver. Those fuckers can get dick cancer for all I care.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:52 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Unless of course it's Skrewdriver. Those fuckers can get dick cancer for all I care.
Didn't the lead singer already die in a fiery car crash?
posted by craichead at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Didn't the lead singer already die in a fiery car crash?

Yeah, it's a start.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:23 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Punk is better with drugs and alcohol. This is a fact.
posted by jonmc at 5:40 PM on June 29, 2011 [4 favorites]


Unless of course it's Skrewdriver. Those fuckers can get dick cancer for all I care.

I was watching a movie the other day where one of their songs was background music in a scene, and I was reminded of how Skrewdriver was simultaneously totally reprehensible and yet made pretty good music. I wish their songs were available with the vocals switched into fake English and sure, the proceeds could be used to fund your dick cancer vendetta.
posted by Forktine at 5:54 PM on June 29, 2011


For me, Minor Threat has always been the perfect music to blast excruciatingly loud after a really obnoxious day.

That being said, listening to Minor Threat also involves some sort of cognizance that this music is entertaining and loud and fun because it's rebellious in a very teenaged way.

RAAAAAAHHHHH FUCK ALCOHOL DON'T YOU TELL ME WHAT TO DO SHUT UP I DON'T WANT TO HEAR IT SHUT UP FUCK YOU FUCK SHUT UP.
posted by Old Man McKay at 6:02 PM on June 29, 2011


Skrewdriver really had nothing to do with the hardcore scene in the US. They were a fiercely British, militaristic, racist OI band.

Please don't categorize Minor threat with Skrewdriver.
posted by TheBones at 6:07 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


I lurve me some minor threat. "WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU?!??!? YOURE NOT THE SAME!!!!"

That and Reclamation is the greatest fugazi song ever. I saw them in Dallas in 1980-can't remember when the fire Marshall kicked everyone out.

I was straight edge in high school, yeah, I was a real dick about it too, but the whole point of punk is to piss on as many things a possible with as few words as possible. Straight edge did that beautifully, with only X'es on your hands.
posted by roboton666 at 6:37 PM on June 29, 2011



Please don't categorize Minor threat with Skrewdriver.


I wouldn't lump the two into the same category exactly. But I would put Minor Threat into the same loose category as Youth of Today and the other militant straightedge bands, and I'd certainly lump those in with Skrewdriver based on how both appealed to angry young men who liked to crop their hair short and kick some ass. (Musically, they are clearly quite different, with Skrewdriver ironically enough owing a lot to Jamaican music of the '60s and '70s.)

That whole east coast straightedge hardcore scene always seemed to me to be the moment that the meathead guys -- the frat boys and jocks and so on -- were able to switch from beating up punks to enjoying the music and then still getting in fights, of course. I was an angry young man, but not in that kind of way, and musically it wasn't really my thing. I can remember a ton of interactions with straightedgers involving threats of getting my ass kicked, which never seemed to happen with real skinheads, who were too busy with their own intra-tribal violence to bother with skinny little twits like me.

Oh, the good old days.
posted by Forktine at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2011


Thank you.
I really enjoyed that.
posted by brevator at 6:51 PM on June 29, 2011


Minor Threat is a gem of musicianship and originality. If the words are too harsh, the tones alone stand on their own.
posted by Meatafoecure at 6:55 PM on June 29, 2011


I am in no way grouping Skrewdriver with Minor Threat, sXe or the American hardcore scene. It's just that my default mode in any discussion of punk is fuck boneheads and fuck Skrewdriver. It's like Cato the Elder with his ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:56 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


with Skrewdriver ironically enough owing a lot to Jamaican music of the '60s and '70s.

I'd love to see how you connect the two. Yeah, originally the skinhead movement was tied to ska in the early sixties, but by the time sham 69 and cocksparrer came along, things had moved way past that. There were plenty of skinheads that listened to both, but by the time you got around to skrewdriver and the 4skins, things were so far removed from the traditional skinhead movement that they were linked by name and dress only. Then you hop the pond and 10 years later and you have an even lesser connection.

fuck boneheads and fuck Skrewdriver

I agree, though I really did like the movie romper stomper, if for nothing else an actual true portrayal of racist skinheads and the scene back then.
posted by TheBones at 8:30 PM on June 29, 2011


I'd love to see how you connect the two

Yeah, I want to retract that and apologize for the derail. I just listened to a bunch of Skrewdriver on youtube and now need to go and wash out my ears with bleach. Whatever I was remembering, it wasn't that.
posted by Forktine at 9:05 PM on June 29, 2011


Yeah, I want to retract that and apologize for the derail. I just listened to a bunch of Skrewdriver on youtube and now need to go and wash out my ears with bleach. Whatever I was remembering, it wasn't that.

Sir, you are a gentleman and a scholar.
posted by TheBones at 9:20 PM on June 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


1) First half of the interview is great when the Jewish guy is asking questions to Ian. Second half, where Ian can't get a word in, sucks hard.

2) I've gotten drunk at a few different Fugazi shows (during the latter half of the bands career). It's really more "don't be an asshole," but I can understand how those two activities can go together.

3) The refrain to "Mt. Pleasant Isn't" is "The police will not be excused." How is that slagging off the residents of that neighborhood? It's just the opposite in fact.

4) Before I listened to The Evens I was joking with a friend. "You're telling me Ian got all old and shit and plays hippie folk songs on a fucking acoustic guitar?" Yup -- and it's awesome.

5) I'm really divided about Fuazi doing a final album. "The Argument" was an amazing return to form, and at this point it might be nice for them to just make a final statement and end it. All of the guys are involved in their own projects these days.

6) Anyone with a passing interest in Fugazi or MacKaye should watch "Instrument." The most important thing about the movie? You find out that the guys in Fugazi, indeed, have senses of humor both about themselves and the world.
posted by bardic at 10:11 PM on June 29, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course, it didn't occur to me at the time I wrote it that anybody outside of my twenty or thirty friends who I was singing to would ever have to actually ponder the lyrics or even consider them.

Whether that's meaningful or not, I'll leave to you. It certainly ceases to be so when you choose to release the song on a record.

I like MacKaye but his line on this song has always bothered me: he regrets nothing, "Guilty of Being White" is a "clear... anti-racist" song in his mind, and yet we must be reminded always of the context in which it was written (white in a majority black school, frequently picked on by black students) and the age of the author (high school kid).

I would think an obvious response might be to backpedal a bit on a song that's proven so problematic over the years, but MacKaye continually refuses to budge at all on having written it and released it (and, of course, continuing to sell it); that's his right of course, but it rubs me the wrong way.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:04 AM on June 30, 2011


Handwringing about potentially offending someone isn't very rock.
posted by WhitenoisE at 3:34 AM on June 30, 2011


I stopped being sXe when I turned 17 and realized that people who fuck and do drugs make better rock music. (I still have zero respect for tobacco smokers, though.)
posted by Mooseli at 3:37 AM on June 30, 2011


Forktime: ...I was reminded of how Skrewdriver was simultaneously totally reprehensible and yet made pretty good music. I wish their songs were available with the vocals switched into fake English

How about having their songs covered by jewish punks, with the lyrics changed to 'celebrate the jewish lifestyle'? That's right, it's Jewdriver.

Also, Minor Threat/Fugazi were both amazing bands, and the Fugazi gigs I saw rate among the best I've ever witnessed. People often focus on their ethics, which were great, but first and foremost their music was incredible. Live they never used setlists and often improvised within familiar songs. It always made for a fresh exciting live experience.
posted by spectrevsrector at 4:43 AM on June 30, 2011 [4 favorites]


(I still have zero respect for tobacco smokers, though.)

That's cool, I have zero-respect for lapsed sXe kids.
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:05 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


I stopped being sXe when I turned 17 and realized that people who fuck and do drugs make better rock music. (I still have zero respect for tobacco smokers, though.)

How about we try not dehumanizing whole categories of people just because we don't like their choices? Zero respect? Really? For a person's whole being, with all our complexities, individual quirks and internal contradictions? On the basis of one relatively superficial trait? Now that's puritanism.

/Former lead-throat of militant straight-edge band, "Edgehammer" talking here

That's cool, I have zero-respect for lapsed sXe kids

Hey! If consciously choosing to abandon one of many temporary, developmentally transitional identities adopted and discarded throughout adolescence = lapsing, then I guess I'm guilty. Get the knives out.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:31 AM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


It was a joke... was a joke... was a joke...wasajoke
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 7:56 AM on June 30, 2011


Good interview, it would have been better if the interviewer didn't ramble on as much as he did, for example:

I love my kids. I like to read books. I like to write. There’s some specific music I like to listen to. But in general, I don’t experience myself as so separate from other people. I think there’s a certain kind of energy that I have in a moment, and then I’ll get some energy from someone else. I know I’ve got some energy that’s fucked up and I’ll try not to inflict it on someone else, but then kind of I do and I feel bad about it. So, there’s all this energy going through the world and through people who are all connected to each other in all these circuits, and you can’t begin to imagine where they begin and end and how they came to be. We are just so many pathways that energy goes through. So, if I die, what’s missing, you know? Of course there are specific people that I’m responsible for, and then I worry about what happens to them, but I worry about that everyday anyway. It’s not like that’s some special concern reserved for after I die.

Yeah.
posted by godisdad at 9:13 AM on June 30, 2011


I think that's the thing I liked about it; it seemed much more like a conversation and a give-and-take than a formal interview. Now, that raises the question: why do we care about what the interviewer has to say anyway? Well, maybe we don't, he's not a famous indie rock god after all. But Ian MacKaye seemed to care, and the conversation produced a much more in-depth view into what makes Ian MacKaye tick, because he's just jawing with someone he finds interesting. I'll take an occasional ramble from the interviewer if it produces this kind of result.
posted by Errant at 10:17 AM on June 30, 2011 [2 favorites]


"(I still have zero respect for tobacco smokers, though.)"

That's cool. My pre-17 sex and drug adventures make up for it, loser.
posted by bardic at 9:23 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


When you consider that the song was written by a high school kid

Oh, believe me, I considered that. It informed my opinion of the song, and the band, and the kid, to a very, very high degree.

This is a bit like saying "Well, when you consider that painting was done by a developmentally-challenged individual...". Yeah. Not bad. For a developmentally-challenged individual. Have a candy, developmentally-challenged individual. Meanwhile I'll stick to listening to/watching the good stuff.

Please don't categorize Minor threat with Skrewdriver.
posted by TheBones at 2:07 AM on June 30


There were similarities. Both were dogmatic idealogues, and tedious, humourless fucks who took the liberating, gleeful noise of punk and turned it into something grim and miserable. I hate them both equally.
posted by Decani at 9:30 PM on June 30, 2011


Not a big MT fan or punk/SE fan in general, but an ex of mine lived in Mt Pleasant and we'd often run into McKaye walking around with his baby in a Baby Bjorn. He was always really nice and smiley, I'm guess most of that neighborhood have no idea who he was. She certainly did though as a big fan, and one day she got up the nerve to tell him how much his music meant to her. He was absolutely gracious and grateful and classy.

I still don't really like the music that much, but there's my personal two cents.
posted by nickgb at 9:45 PM on June 30, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having Fun With Fugazi On Stage

(coulda sworn that was an FPP, but maybe just a comment ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 3:16 PM on July 5, 2011


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