Nardwuar vs Ian MacKaye of Fugazi  
  Hear this interview in Real Audio!

PAGE 1 | PAGE 2 | PAGE 3

How did San Francisco respond to the speed and the aggression of The Teen Idles?
Well, the night we played was a new wave night, so the actual response of the new wave crowd was one of disinterest. Extreme disinterest, I might say. But, the night before, the show we were supposed to play on was The Dead Kennedys, Flipper, and The Circle Jerks. Dirk Dirksen, who was the guy who ran the joint, The Mabuhay Gardens, just dropped us from the bill. He asked us for a photo. We sent him a fuckin' photo. Sorry. We sent him a photo and he just said, "Dumb photo." So he dropped us from the bill without telling us, so we'd taken a bus all the way out there for two shows and we got to the one show and it was gone so he put us on the next night, which was new wave night, but a lot of the kids we met, primarily HB kids from LA, the Huntington Beach punk rock kids that came up for the Circle Jerks, and they seemed to like it.

What were The Mentors like? Did they help prepare for working with Tesco Vee of the Meatmen?
They were just kind of scary guys. Big, with hoods on. El Duce, I remember, would carry his SVT cabinet by himself. That's a heavy cabinet. They were kinda weird. It was all weird. We were all so overwhelmed by the whole experience. The whole thing was just strange. Tesco, on the other hand, I knew as a person. I didn't know him as a character.

What do you think of Tesco Vee, because some people think his records are kind of crazy. Crazy. Tesco Vee. Hey, that kind of rhymes.
Um, I haven't listened to a lot of his records. I produced the one. "Dutch Hercules." And I know the very first one, "We're the Meatmen and You Suck!," but I'd never listened to the other ones, really.

When other Minor Threaters got involved with him, you weren't embarrassed for them or anything?

Ian, HR of Bad Brains. When they started out, was he a pre-med student?
So I've read. I didn't know of that until it was recently written about in a book.

And what was HR like? Did he ever display any homophobia towards you at all?
No. Not to me. HR was the energizer. He was really passionate about what he did. He was a visionary. He really got a lot of us kids thinking we could do anything. He was really full of great ideas and was always the one who said "Go!" The Bad Brains always started their set with, "Are you ready?" They were a complete inspiration as a band, so I knew them on that level. When he became a rasta, things became more distant and all the homophobic stuff kinda came up later on. At that point, I didn't barely know him any more and now if I see him, we will say 'hi,' but we haven't actually been able to have a conversation in twelve years.

Ian MacKaye of Fugazi

Ian, [reads qoute] "I have some really great practice tapes with about seven minutes of music and about eighty-three minutes of arguing-Ian MacKaye"
By which band?

I don't know. That was a quote of yours.
Oh yeah. What do you want to know?

What did you mean by that?
Minor Threat practice tapes. That band argued all the time. People ask, "Why did you break up?" Because we were sick of each other. We argued all the time. We were kids. Brian was 14 or 15. Lyle was 16. I was 18 or 19 and we were struggling how to live and grow up and that band was full of fire, so we had intense arguments. And, actually, one of these days, I might try do a record of just arguments because they're just so classic.

Like Thurston Moore did that for Venom, didn't he? Did the Venom stage banter.
I never heard that. I'd like to hear that some day. There's one argument we have about how much to charge for the "Out of Step" record because I wanted to charge $3.50. I thought $2.50 for a single. Make this a twelve inch, make it $3.50. Bam. It'd be nice. But we ended up having an argument for half an hour about that.

Speaking of arguments and stuff, Ian, what was the last time you got in a true blue fist fight?
How do you define "true blue fist fight"?

Real, full-on fist fight. Like James Dean.
[pauses] I think in 1985. I had been in a hospital with a shoulder problem that they thought was cancer, but it wasn't. It was undiagnosed pain and I came out of the hospital. I had a biopsy on the shoulder and I went to see The Minutemen play. Rites of Spring had opened for The Minutemen. Brendan had been in a car accident and had his arm in a sling and they had to do an acoustic set because he couldn't actually drum. He had to play a stand-up snare, or percussion-type thing. And during that show, a guy punched my brother, Alec. And I think I hit him with a right, but my arm was sore and it just reminded me. It was such an intensely painful experience that it reminded me again I was done fighting for good and I did not fight again. I've had moments of altercations - not fights. In a sense of like there was an argument that got into a fight. More like somebody pushed me or did something where I pushed them back. But I don't fight. I think, as a form of communication, it's a bankrupt form of communication.

There was a rumor in the fanzine, Butterfly Juice that you once hit a kid in the head with a hammer.
That's not true. That's a mutation of a story about when I was in high school, there was a kid named Josh.

Josh Freese of the Vandals?
No, because he's from Los Angeles and I'm from Washington DC.

I was just throwing a joke out.
Oh, okay. Josh Winer. We were in a theater production together called The Wilson Players. It was a community theatre that was actually in the school and I was building a flat. Do you know what a flat is?

A house?

A flat of beer?
The flat would be the things you put up around the stage kinda that backdrop the scenery, the set. To build a flat, you build frames, then you stretch out some fabric. You paint the fabric to look like walls. I was squatting on my hands and knees, banging, nailing down a frame for a flat. A bunch of kids were smoking dope in there, which was pretty normal at the time. It was 1979 and I was just building this flat and they were all getting high in the corner and Josh came over and tapped me on the shoulder and I stood up and said, "What's up?" and he was at arm's length and he blew pot smoke in my face, which was just insane. I took a step back and threw the hammer at him. I hit him in the knee. I didn't hit him in the head, though. It was not in the sense I was trying to break his knee. It was that I was having a reaction to being sort of assaulted. I felt like I had been assaulted. I don't appreciate that. I was minding my business. He was a bully. Do you understand that?

Yes I do, Ian.
I wouldn't hit someone in the head with a hammer. I'm not a malicious person.

Ian, winding up here with Ian from the rock'n'roll band Fugazi in Vancouver, British Columbia Canada.
What fanzine was that? Butterfly?

Butterfly Juice Fanzine. When SSDecontrol came down to New York, they brought a lot of their crew with them and it was the Boston crew fighting the New York crew. Who do you think won verses the two crews?
Was I there?


I was just curious what your take was. The intense loyalty. The Boston crew versus the New York crew.
What is your question?

What is your take on that? The two crews fighting. Boston going down to New York and the New York crew's there and there's a big slam pit and some of the kids from Boston had giant "X"s on their foreheads so they knew who was on their 'team'.
Hmm. Where did you hear all that from? Where's your source on all of this stuff?

This is a from a friend of mine, Jonas.
"X"s on the forehead? Well, in early punk rock, things were very regional. There were kids from Philadelphia, Boston, New York, DC, Richmond, Detroit, Atlanta. Part of being a punk rocker is feeling marginalized and looking for a family to belong to and because it was an era where there was so much sort of animosity coming towards kids who were punk rockers, they started to form fairly tight cells - their families. So, when they moved and went into other places, they would run into other people who were also in their own kind of families. I know Boston had a crew of people. I know those kids from New York. I know those kids from Washington. I knew there was a lot of friction but not everybody from Boston hated everybody from New York and not everybody from Washington hated everybody from New York. It was sort of like, you just knocked heads. As far as Boston and New York in a slam pit with "X"s on their heads, that sounds like a big cartoon to me. I don't know what you're talking about, but sure, there were times when people had disagreements or whatever, but who would have won? Who cares?

Has a lady ever come up to you and said, "I want to have your kid?"
Uhm. In those exact words?

Maybe not quite.
No. Not in those words and not in that kind of sentiment, no.

Have you seen the film "The Filth and the Fury"?

How would you compare that to "Instrument" and you guys played with P.I.L. at one time and have you met Johnny Rotten?
He didn't speak with me, so I didn't meet him, I guess. Minor Threat did open for P.I.L., October 31st, 1982, Ritchie Coliseum. We played for a pizza and a case of Coca Cola. That was our payment that night. When we came off stage, they pulled up in a limousine after us. It was sort of two ships passing in the night. And I don't really compare "Instrument" to "Filth and the Fury." I never bothered comparing it. Did you?

No. I was just curious if you thought of any comparison between the two.
No, I didn't think about it.

How did you guys get on top of the Capitol building with Bikini Kill?
We're not on the top of the Capitol building.

Well, there was some big concert there. It seemed pretty wild. In front of the Capitol buildings or whatever the American word is.
[laughs] What is an American word is? What does that mean?

I dunno. American explanation. "Park." "Buildings." "Capitol." We don't have words like that in Canada, Ian. We have like "parliament" and "democracy."
What is your question.

Bikini Kill. Did you do a gig with Bikini Kill?
Fugazi and Bikini Kill played - it was out in front of the Supreme Court. It was a park about three blocks to the north of the U.S. capitol, which is the home of the U.S. government, which, I guess, is not a parliamentary system, so I'm sorry about that. You seem put out by that.

I was just joking.
Yeah. Thing is, Washington, there's a lot of federal land there and if you ask for a permit, you can use those grounds. You can't really have concerts there, but you can have demonstrations, but because our concerts tend to be - we have themes about them, usually - they're considered demonstrations, so we're able to pull off a lot of that stuff. Conversely, there's some places you can't have demonstrations, but you can have concerts. It just depends on where you go. For instance, the Lafayette Park, which is right in front of The White House, we wanted to put a concert on there. This was 1988 or so and we just wanted to have a May Day celebration kind of concert. They wouldn't let us have one because it wasn't a demonstration, so we decided, okay, we'll have a demonstration about education of teenage pregnancies. May Day. It was kind of spring. And they said, "Yeah, no problem." All you have to do is come up with something. It's arcane and it's bureaucratic and that's the U.S. government. That's all governments, probably.

Thank you very much, Ian MacKaye. I really appreciate your time. Keep on rockin' in the free world. And doot doola doot doo...
Nice to see you again, Nardwuar.

Back to the Menu!

Please, Ian? Doot doola doot doo...
Take care...that was rhythmic!

Interview Done: July 7, 2001

Discuss this Interview in Thee NardNest Discussion Forum!