WHUS hosts punk-rock punk talk
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013 02:02
With frequent humor throughout his two-hour question and answer session with fans, Ian MacKaye shared personal stories, thoughts, and feelings with an audience at the Dodd Center’s Konover Auditorium Tuesday night.
A singer, songwriter, guitarist, musician, label owner and producer, MacKaye has been on the music scene since 1979 as the frontman of the punk bands Minor Threat, The Teen Idles, Fugazi, Embrace and The Evens. He is the co-founder and owner of Dischord Records, an independent label based in MacKaye’s hometown, Washington D.C. He’s become a key figure in the development of hardcore punk, straightedge and modern do-it-yourself punk ethic.
MacKaye began the night by thanking the student run organization WHUS Radio and promotions director Jules LeFevre, who contacted him a year ago.
“I like doing interviews, I like answering questions, I like talking with people,” MacKaye said while explaining why he recommends public interviews. “Conversely if no one has any questions, we can turn the lights down and sit here very quietly for two hours.”
Without a program of events for the night nor rehearsed speech, he did not fail to keep the crowd entertained by encouraging crowd interaction and moving from question to question with thorough answers and sometimes stories off tangents.
He focused greatly on his ideals and beliefs, including incidents throughout his life that have shaped his mindset. As an independent label owner, he wanted to prove to music listeners that not everything comes through the corporate pipeline. In fact, when he first wanted to put out records with his band Fugazi, he recalled how each member saved up enough money to produce a full record rather than individual tapes, sending $500 for 1000 records. They created their own picture sleeves by pulling apart British 7-inch sleeves to see how it was constructed, outlining them, putting in their graphics, and making 1000 sleeves by cutting them out and gluing it all together. In a day and age where technological advances have made it so profit and revenue can be made off singles and music distributed online, MacKaye focuses on the present and putting out records without worrying about the industry.
Adding to this, he shared how he enjoys being completely free of the industry with his own PA system and lights, being able to put on gigs in spaces like bike shops, bookstores, old church halls and yoga studios. He hates venues that deny people music because of alcohol, not allowing those under 21 to enjoy the music played in the venue. He believes that music is a form of communication that predates language and should and could be everywhere. Having coined the term “straightedge,” MacKaye explained how he was brought up in a culture where drugs and alcohol were prevalent and he was looked down upon for not partaking in it.
He’s currently working on endless projects and “waking up every day with too much to do that he wants to do,” including a website in which every show he performs will be available. So far there are 250 videos and 700 to go. Each show has its own page that also has information about where the show was, who played in it, how many people came and more available for whoever wants to know. Unafraid to open himself up to the crowd, he shared life stories about the people he’s met, conversations he’s had, and the wisdom he’s taken away from it – ultimately, why he is the way he is and why he feels the way he does about certain things. He defines punk as the free space where new ideas can be presented and there’s an audience: a perpetual underground that will never die.
He left the auditorium with a story about the time he was kicked out of Disneyland before he ever got through the park’s gates, ending up watching a kung-fu movie dubbed in Spanish after almost getting arrested at the bus station and being made fun of by a uniformed soldier in an armored car. It was one incredible story in a night of them from the punk legend.