The Ian MacKaye DIY Community Interview

May 8, 2012 by Chris Grosso
I heard Fugazi before Minor Threat, Minor Threat before Embrace and Embrace before Ian MacKaye’s various other endeavors, most all of which, have significantly impacted my life in one way or another. I have many fond memories of skateboarding in high school listening to Fugazi, Minor Threat and countless other punk/hardcore bands, many of which taught me not to give a fuck about what others thought of me. That’s a sentiment that still resonates very deeply within my heart today, though there’s a much less angsty application of it. There’s so much I could say about Ian and the impact his bands and record label has had on me but I’d like to share something my friend Ben Smith said while discussing Ian, and more specifically, the image on the back of Minor Threat’s In My Eye’s 7”, and the impact it had on him. He said, “What struck me about it was how normal they looked. They looked just like regular kids. They looked just like my friends and I. And if they could do it, I could do it too.” I think Ben really captured a large part of the essence of DIY punk/hardcore in that statement and if you grew up in it, you know exactly what he’s saying. So as I sat down to contemplate what I would ask Ian in our interview I put on Fugazi’s Repeater album to set the mood. Almost instantly, it took me back to the 90’s and the clubs I would frequent here in CT. I have so many great memories from those days. Simple things like the excitement of finally finding that vinyl record or CD I’d been searching months through various distro’s for. Skateboarding outside the club before the show. Looking at the flyer someone handed me, and seeing that one of my favorite bands had a show coming up soon in the area. Trying to have philosophical discussions about veganism and straight edge but really sounding like an idiot. Jumping up on stage and screaming into the microphone that one line of a song that touched me a little deeper than all of the others. Maybe I’m over romanticizing things, or maybe not. Those were very special times for me as I’m sure they were to many of you reading this as well. So in the spirit of DIY and old school punk/hardcore ethics, I decided I wasn’t going to create this interview alone but instead, open it up to others who were there with me, and not just necessarily in person but also in spirit. What did we want to ask in this interview? I asked that question to a community of old school punk/hardcore folks and received a lot of responses covering a wide range of topics. I handpicked a couple of the questions and then to be fair, randomly selected a few and viola, we had our interview. I knew Ian was extremely intelligent and always shared great insight in his interviews. I also knew some of the questions we’d come up with were rather “light” to put it nicely. He was an excellent sport about the whole thing however and was able to reply to even the most frivolous sounding inquiry with insight and poise, and for that, I’m grateful. So without further ado, WE humbly present you with…
The Ian MacKaye DIY Community Interview
TIS: Thanks so much for taking the time to do this Ian. It’s an honor to say the least.

IM: No problem.

TIS: Great. So the first question I have for you is:
Nate Newton: Do you still get on your skateboard and how has skateboarding influenced your life/ impacted your relationship with punk?

IM: Skateboarding has had a huge effect on my life and I still consider myself a skateboarder albeit, probably not the same way other people deem themselves skateboarders or what other people think skateboarders are. This is true as well for say punk rock. I think of myself as a punk rocker but the definition of these terms is very specific, very subjective. My relationship with skateboarding in the 70’s, when I first started, was a way to develop the ability to redefine the world around me, so skateboarding became a discipline and everything in the world changed in terms of how it applies to a skateboard. For instance, the other day I went outside and somebody had dumped a bunch of water in the alley and it had frozen, so I had the thought, even though I don’t really ride much anymore, but I automatically thought of skateboarding and that’s just how my brain works. Rain weather has a different relationship if you’re a skateboarder, sidewalks, swimming pool, curbs, banks. I was walking in the Washington D.C. subway system and the walls have a smooth curled transition and there’s a railing there and I thought about if I was to ride up that transition what the compression would be to get to the vertical flat. So in other words, I think that skateboarding taught me how to look at the world in a different way and to relate things in terms of how I was going to approach them. When I got into punk rock, it was the perfect tool to redefine because the approach we were taking, I don’t want to say we were trailblazer’s necessarily because others had done punk rock before us, however, coming out of Washington D.C. where there wasn’t an established punk scene we really had to figure it out. We’d put on our own shows, put out our own records. It wasn’t as if we were coming from a music industry town. None of our parents were in bands and nobody really had any idea of what to do. What we did have though, was the ability to look at a situation, look at the circumstances, the textures and environment and figure out how to make it work and I think skateboarding definitely played a role in developing that talent. I should point out that though skateboarding and punk rock/hardcore are often thought of as synonymous now, when I first got into punk rock, I kind of had to get a divorce from skateboarding because at the time, the people in my world who were skateboarding were just not kind about punk. A lot of the guys were kind of like jocks or rocker dudes who would call me a fag because of punk. I obviously didn’t like those attitudes, they were never interesting to me. So getting involved with punk rock, I didn’t hang up my skateboard necessarily, but I did stop being a part of that. A few months later, I started noticing skateboarders like Alva, Jay Adams and Duane Peters were getting into punk and it was an interesting parallel of evolution. I was never a great skateboarder, I was reasonable at best but I didn’t really give a fuck, that wasn’t the point for me. The idea of skateboarding for me was to have a practice in which I could be with people in unusual settings and spend time that way. In recent years, if I don’t have someone to go skating with it’s not as interesting, it’s not as compelling. There’s a park near the Dischord house and during the day it’s pretty busy, but if you go during the morning it’s pretty empty. So I had a thought of going to ride a pool at 8:30 in the morning by myself but then knocking myself out and it being 2 in the afternoon before the kids came in and found me. So if I’m not with somebody, I’m not as called to actually do it. I do however still think about skateboarding a lot. It’s funny, like a lot of things, skateboarding, rock n roll, punk rock or anything else, it’s filled with loathsome characters and terrible attitudes and really abusive practices, but that’s neither here nor there. From my point of view, I think I can approach skateboarding and think about it in a way that is really constructive and all the bastards can’t take it away from me.

TIS: Wow, that absolutely resonates with me . It’s crazy because I know exactly what you’re saying but don’t think I really ever made a conscious recognition of skateboarding effecting my view and awareness of the world around me. Yeah so anyways, the next two questions I have I thought you might want to tackle together which are:
Toby Hamp: Is there a band that you regret not having put out on Dischord like Hated or Moss Icon for example and Ben Smith: Why didn’t Dischord put out the Swiz records?

IM: I don’t have any sense of regret about bands I didn’t put out. There were logistical issues in terms of releasing things. We were poor and we really didn’t have that much money so a lot of time, after putting things out we’d have to wait for the money to come back to us. Then when we actually did have the money, we’d be so busy with things it was just still difficult. One thing people should think about when trying to figure out what was going on with Dischord was in 1988 I went on tour for fifteen years. Fugazi was touring a lot and it was such a busy time. Hated and Moss Icon were good bands. That was also a time when things were just so crazy I wasn’t able to get my mind around those bands necessarily. Moss Icon from Annapolis, they were a great band but broke up pretty early. I think they played their last show with us as a matter-of-fact. Actually, I’m wrong, I’m thinking of Admiral from Harrisburg but the reason I’m thinking of them is because both sets ended with somebody throwing themselves over the back of their amps in tears. Moss Icon was kind of great though, Tony is a good guy. I think they were a younger band so I didn’t know much about them and never really developed a relationship with them. I mean the bands on Dischord, for lack of a better use of word, I’ll say “signed”, but no one has ever been signed to Dischord, there’s never contracts. The records we put out were almost always the result of relationships. So in other words, you get to know people, start to see their band, become friends and develop a relationship with them and at some point, it’s like okay, maybe we should make a record. The idea was that energetic exchange and the way I look at Dischord is a way of documenting what was happening. There was an evolution in the 90’s where labels started to slide back more towards a traditional sense of putting a record out so that you could make something happen, so it’s a definite equation. In my mind, something is happening so you put out a record to document that and show it to other people. So there were a lot of bands I didn’t get to know that well. I knew the Hated guys a little bit but they were in a slightly different clique than I was even though we were in the same area, I liked them though, they were cool. Moss Icon out of Annapolis were younger and I just didn’t really know them, they were kids. Maybe had they kept playing or become more of a presence I would have gotten to know them. The Swiz thing is different. I knew the Swiz people. They were a slightly younger set than me but I knew about the singer Shawn Brown, who of course was the original singer of Dag Nasty. So I knew about the band and thought they were kinda cool. They were sort of on a mission to kind of re-inject the D.C. Hardcore scene with Hardcore. I think because at that time you had Rites of Spring, Embrace, Soul Side, Beefeater and all these bands that were stretching the form and I think Swiz were very interested in approaching  things in a more unorthodox way, and they were good. However, there were a couple of interviews they did with local zines where they were disparaging of Dischord in general and Fugazi and myself specifically so I thought, alright then, I’m not going to put out your fucking record. If you look at my interviews you would be hard-pressed to find one where I talk shit about people. I was never interested in people whose way of raising their profile is to beat other peoples profiles down, that’s just not interesting to me and I’m not particularly inclined to reward that. Not that I think being on Dischord is a great reward but you know, they can think what they want and say things about me but I’m obviously not going to invite them over for dinner. I don’t wish any ill will upon them and the truth of the matter is that Swiz put their records out on Sammich, which is a label that was owned and operated by my sister Amanda and Eli Janney and was paid for and distributed by Dischord. So the production and all the money that paid for their record was out of Dischord. It was my money and the distribution was though us so it wasn’t like I said fuck you, you’re on your own. I liked them and it was funny because all the guys in the band like Jason Farrell, he’s a great graphic artist and has done a lot of work for Fugazi and Dischord. Nathan of course went on to be in Shudder to Think. Alex is still around. I still see Shawn and I consider them all friends but it’s just one of those things, you know, like internecine. Though let me double-check that word (Ian references a dictionary he has close by to look up internecines definition.) Internecine, internecine, sorry there’s a lot of “inter” words…okay, here we go, internecine: “Marked by a great slaughter.” (laughing) That’s way too harsh. “Involving or accompanied by a mutual slaughter, mutually destructive.” Oh wait, here we go, number two: “Of or pertaining to conflict within a group.” They were maybe ten years younger than me and they said some shit and I didn’t put their record out. It’s funny because I don’t think any of us thought of that as controversial but man, have I gotten grief about that over the years. People often are like “What the fuck man?” or “You really wronged them” but again, I paid for it for Christ’s sake.

TIS: Well thanks for straightening that out.

IM: Yeah no problem, hopefully people can put it to rest now.

TIS: Hopefully indeed. So moving on…
Taylor Steele: What became of the ordinance in DC that you spoke out about in front of City Council concerning underage clubs etc.?

IM: It was ridiculous. There was a Go-Go club in D.C., Go-Go is dance music that’s indigenous to this city and it’s very deep, about thirty five years they’ve been playing it. It’s something that’s very serious in the African American community here. Part of what goes along with the Go-Go stuff though is a lot of drugs and gangs and neighborhood squabbles and it’s been an issue resulting in Go-Go being outlawed in different parts of the city. There’s also different types of Go-Go. There’s the older set, the dance club type stuff but then there’s these smaller shows that I’m talking about in particular. So there was a club doing a Go-Go show where there was a fight or someone was thrown out. That person left and came back with either his brother or a friend and they brought a gun to confront the bouncer. There were some shots fired and a 17 year old girl who was not involved with any of it got killed. So a city council person immediately wanted to ban all-ages shows. In this particular situation, they were letting minors drink & it was over capacity, the person who had a gun clearly didn’t have a license and shooting people is clearly not legal. So already, we can see there’s a series of laws not being followed and that the existing laws did not manage to stop this from occurring. So the idea of implementing another law, something as obtuse as making these all ages shows illegal seemed absurd, because it is absurd. I’m not sure if I said this during the hearing or not, but I was really curious about the woman who had been killed. If she’d been 21 would it have been an improvement on the situation? Let’s just say the show was 21 and over, would the person returning with a gun and shooting a 21 year be a more preferable situation? I don’t think shooting people is ever preferable, but the councilman was trying to figure out a way to respond because something happened in his ward. I’m sure there was pressure and strife, especially about the alcohol laws. The fact is that the alcohol industry has created a circumstance in which people are not allowed to see music based on their age and I think it’s just despicable. I understand the tragic circumstances and was very sorry that someone was killed, but it had nothing to do with it being an all ages show. We fought really hard with the city in the early 80’s to make all ages shows a possibility and I think that unbeknownst to the city council here, and a lot of people in the city, it’s a deeper, rational music scene, but the government just doesn’t have a clue. And that’s the thing about living here, I lived here my entire life but I think for the most part nobody has a clue of what’s going on. I don’t think the government has any idea of what it is I do or who I am or what we are. It’s just not on the map here. It’s kind of weird because over the last few years I started to feel a little differently, sort of like our work has become a bit more known. I’ve met some people who are higher ups who said they knew about us and that always shocks me because I just think of myself as doing my work and not coming across anybody else’s radar, but that may be changing. Nonetheless, that particular hearing went on for seven hours and was a nightmare, but after his declaration to put an emergency thing into place, the response was so visceral he backed off and it never happened. We still have all ages clubs like the Black Cat and the 9:30 club, the Rock N Roll Hotel and these are premier clubs that all people can enter, and it’s good. It’s the way things should be.

TIS: That’s most definitely a tragic story but I’m glad to hear they didn’t implement that ban. This next question incorporates your younger years with Rollins…
Steve Karp: Did you and Rollins get into any particularly funny antics working at Haagen Dazs?

IM: Well I served newspapers as a kid but the first four jobs I got were through Henry. The first was working at Friendly Beasties Pet Shop, the second was at the Georgetown Movie Theater, the third was at Haagen Dazs Ice Cream Parlor and the fourth was at the Bethesda Surf Shop which was a skate and surf shop. We didn’t really work together much at the surf shop but the other three jobs, especially the ice cream store, we were always messing around. Anytime Henry and I are together you can bet there is comedy involved, period. As kids, we often talked about doing absurdist comedy and we definitely were going to make a movie, because we wanted to laugh. Our time at the pet shop and ice cream parlor were just hilarious. Especially the pet shop which was crazy because it was owned by this American guy whose wife was from Spain and they had a manager who was an older guy and a bit of a kook. So the owner and the manager were having an affair and the manager and the owner’s wife were having an affair and they were constantly having these psychic meltdowns and going down to the bar to talk it out, so they’d leave the place to a 15 and 16 year old kid for hours. That is fertile ground for hilarity. I’m sure Henry talks about it somewhere. He talks a lot about the pet shop stories and I’m sure some of the Haagen Dazs stories. So I guess asking if there’s any particular funny antics would be similar to asking me if when I played in Minor Threat if anyone jumped off the stage.

TIS: (Lauhing) Well since you put it that way. As a guitar player, I’m particularly interested in your answer to this next question.
Ben Smith: Why SG’s?

IM: I saw the movie Woodstock like 16 times and saw Pete Townsend playing an SG and fell in love with that guitar. His performance in that film was incredible. The truth of the matter is though that in 1983 or 84, I got a job working at Yesterday and Today Records and the owner, Skip Groff had a guitar he wanted to sell for $250, which was a Gibson SG, so I bought it and that’s the guitar I used. After that guitar however, I bought another SG from a friend named Jesse Quitsland and those two guitars are pretty much the only two I’ve ever played. I still only have those two guitars. I don’t really change, I usually just use one guitar. I have backup guitars but I stick with the SG’s. They sound good too. I like them. It’s like when someone asks me, “What’s it like living in Washington?” I say, “I don’t know” because I’ve lived here for fifty years. I don’t have any idea because I haven’t lived anywhere else and it’s the same with SG’s. I haven’t really tried anything else. I mean I’ve played other guitars but I’ve just stuck with the SG. That’s kind of my way, I do what I do. It’s not like I went to a music shop and thought, “Well, hmm, this has a nice, resonant tone” or “I like the action on this one.” That’s what I had so that’s what I used. When I work on something, the things I use as tools, they become foundational in a way. Like, okay, I’m going to use this guitar, so there’s my point of reference and I don’t revisit that route because there’s something there which already exists as my point of reference. That’s how I work. It’s been like that with Dischord for 31 years now. I just marked the 30th anniversary of moving into the Dischord house. I don’t live there anymore but I still work there. I’m a long distance kind of runner, so these things come up and become points of reference which I build from. It’s not that I’m incapable or unwilling to change, it’s just that I’m not shopping for that sort of thing. I have other things to do. I don’t really care about new things. I’m not a gear person like that, I don’t really give a damn about it. In fact, I don’t want to think about it. I never use pedals. I just want a guitar, a cable and an amp, that’s it, and once I have that point of reference, I will manipulate that guitar and the equipment the best I can to create things that sound interesting to me, and I hope other people enjoy them as well.

TIS: Right on. So I have another two question that I think you could tackle at the same time which are as follows:
Jim Callahan: Did you ever hear that Embrace tribute that Trustkill Records put out and if so, what did you think? And- Brian Graves: Have you heard the Wugazi album that Cecil Otter & Swiss Andy of Doomtree did?

IM: I think Embrace was a very obscure band. The songs on that record were very important to me and I’ve often thought they were some of my best lyrics. I was really happy with that record and I really liked the music. It was a very shaky band, we only played fourteen shows and probably could have broke-up after the fifth practice but we kept sort of taping it together for about the last year. I’m always touched that music has affected people and meant something to them. I did another interview this morning and the interviewer asked me about Embrace because he was a big fan and that made me happy because it’s such a missing piece of mine. People always want to talk about Minor Threat and Fugazi but Embrace doesn’t get a lot of play in that sense. So I think the fact that they put together a record using those songs was really nice. Covers are very interesting to me, not necessarily the result, but more so in the approach. Sometimes people take a song that they’re inspired by and they will do their version of it. Other times, people are really trying to recreate the song, like a faithful rendition of it but I prefer the former. I like people to do interpretations of the songs and I think on that record, thought I’d have to say it’s been probably ten years since I’ve heard it, but I believe I remember there being a little of both and it was mostly nice.

The Wugazi thing, I listened to it one time and I thought, well Fugazi had some really great rhythmic music so I thought it was fine. I didn’t have much of a reaction to it. The amount of attention that thing got was a little bit startling to me. I knew nothing about it. It just showed up in an email to me like everyone else. I knew nothing of the people involved but as far as mash-up stuff, sometimes there are mash-up things that are phenomenal, I would say this one is good. There’s another Waiting Room with Destiny’s Child and that to me is really incredible. It’s a song called Independent Woman maybe, it was the them from the Charlie’s Angel’s movie. So whoever did that one, they really took the two things and created a third thing in a way that’s really unique. I have respect for Wu-Tang but I’m not deeply familiar with their music and don’t know all the words. There are a couple of songs I know really well that weren’t on there like an older ODB song, so the effect had a little less of an impact on because I didn’t know their work as well. Immediately though, I received a lot of requests for interviews about that and I’m just not really that interested in that. It’s all chatter, promotion and hype. Those are the types of situations where I have work to do and that work is not chirping away about things on the internet. As you know, the internet is an insatiable maul and the amount of content that is required is beyond comprehension. I have seen, I think, a very serious psychic shift in at least my society, and I really think it’s a result of the internet, and that’s not a positive thing. The phone will ring three times today and they’ll all be calls that were arranged through the internet, what’s missing is the calls from people who are friends just checking in. I understand that email is a way and texting is another way but I don’t think it’s the same thing as the voice or even more preferably would be a visit. I’m not a curmudgeon, I use a computer, but I think I’m mostly just interested in what I see as the effect of people spending untold hours working on the computer only to look up and see that nothing has moved. That’s really heavy and I think that’s going to have a deep psychological effect on our culture. Actually, I think it already has had a deep psychological effect on our culture and I think that people will push back because we are made to be together. We’re going to have to figure this out at some point because I think we’re out of balance right now. So the Wugazi thing, if there was no internet I don’t think it would have gotten near as much interest. I think it was just one of those things. I’ve been at the center of a number of internet phenomenon’s now and almost always always had nothing to do with them. There was a Nike situation where they used a Minor Threat graphic, there was a Forever 21 one where they did a t-shirt, there was also a rumor I had been killed in a car crash. The speed and almost euphoric response, people become so euphorically hysterical about things, it amazes me and makes me think they’re wanting for something more in their lives, really because there was nothing to the story and so it ends up that thousands of people will be chattering about nothing, so what’s going on there?


TIS: That’s a question I agree we’d all do well to ask ourselves when we get caught up in things like that. I’m not completely innocent, but I try to be conscious of it. Not sure how much you’ll dig the next question but it’s on the list so…
Timothy Hiles: In the movie adaptation of your life, who would you want to play you?

IM: Well I honestly don’t think like this. As far as I know, there won’t be a movie adaptation of my life and as much as I despise Hollywood, I don’t really give a fuck about any of it. What I think about Hollywood is there’s a form to which obscene amounts of money are spent preparing for a production which costs an obscene amount of money to actually produce, attended by obscene amounts of money wasted by taking care of the people producing it and an obscene amount of money spent advertising these obscenely expensive projects. Then they have the audacity to reward themselves on a television show, an award show, for this craft and a significant part of the world tunes in and cares about it. I find that shocking. It seems completely absurd to me so I don’t really care about any of that. I mean, I like a good movie but Hollywood has a lot to answer for. The other day I was reading an article and, how old are you?

TIS: I’m 33.

IM: Okay, you’re a little younger than me but there was a point in my life where the American relationship with the military shifted which was startling. When I was born, the military action in Vietnam, which was never officially a war, was just getting under way and ended when I was 12. In the years leading up to the end of it, the draft was happening. So during that time, my understanding of the draft was that you turn 18 and you go into the army. I didn’t understand some people didn’t go, I thought that was just part of the deal. So when I was 9, 10, 11, even 12 years old, I believed I would be called to go to Vietnam when I turned 18 and that was just a fact. That was such a disgusting and nasty war, all wars are nasty and disgusting but this one was particularly nasty and disgusting. America was stunned by what it had wrought and I think the sense of the military was like, fuck that, we’re not getting into that mess again. I really thought there would never be another war. It would be like if you and a group of friends were like, hey, let’s hold an M80 and see what happens, and then you blow your fingers off. You’d think you’d learn to never do it again. It’s sort of the way it felt to me, that this country had really learned a lesson. At some point in the 80’s there was a really a big shift in our relationship with the military. One of the things I think played a role in that was a movie called Top Gun starring Tom Cruise, which was about fighter pilots etc. So the U.S. Air Force or Army or whoever was involved, they put a lot of money and equipment into that production because it was a PR move, and it was a very fucking successful one. Hollywood has been practicing PR since almost its inception. If you read Gore Vidal’s book, Hollywood, it’s a historical fiction in which he talks specifically about Woodrow Wilson going to Hollywood and saying, I want to get into World War 1 but we have a problem. The problem was that America at the time, we had no kind of infinity with England. They were our enemy. Don’t forget that’s who we fought the revolution with. So people felt more of a connection with Germany than England and this was a problem for the business people because they wanted to be on the side of the allies. So they had to reverse the American perception, they had to change public opinion, and Wilson went to Hollywood asking them to help change the public opinion. This is where the character of the evil German started to come up. Think about silent movies where you have Baron Von so and so tying a woman to a railroad track, this was a deliberate move to vilify the German’s and it was successful and has been going on all along. So Hollywood has a lot to answer for.

TIS: Well I greatly appreciate you turning the question into something with a very insightful and thought provoking answer. Thank you for that. I have yet another light hearted question to follow up with.
Joseph P. McRedmond: Beatles or the Stones?

IM: Well the Stones have a couple of great songs. The Beatles have pretty consistent records and some pieces that are unquestionably great records. I don’t think it’s an either/or question though. Stones have some great moments but their records seem to be a bit uneven. Beatles albums I think are almost brilliant through and trough starting around Revolver. They’re just great records. Well crafted and thought out, well played, well sung and more consistent. I like Beggars Banquet. I can remember at one point making mix tapes and doing a Beatles compilation and how it seemed so weird to take songs out of the albums because you couldn’t really take a song out of the album, it belonged right where it was. They were one of the few bands where I felt that way.

Chris Grosso (TIS): At what point in your life did you find yourself not falling in line with traditional societal standards/values and instead, going down the proverbial road less traveled?

IM: Well I grew up in a time and a place that was during a sort of youth revolution in this country. My parents were left sort of people, they were anti-war and anti-racist and there was just an enormous amount of terrifying things going on. Martin Luther King was assassinated, there were riots and protestors in Washington, the U.S. Government had revealed itself to be pretty much an ogre, so I was taught to question authority, to question the government. It’s not that they’re always wrong, but you have to ask them because it’s a business. The problem with business and corporate business practices is that it’s always profit and that’s it. Everything else is 2nd, 3rd or 100th place, profit is always the #1 concern and if that’s the schematic, people are always going to get fucked. Profit is always going to be the priority and people are going to get fucked. So if that’s the case, which it is with the U.S. Government, then you have to ask questions, you have to question them. So as a kid, that was part of the reality that I dealt with and I think that very early on my parents infused a sense in me that I was a real person. I wasn’t a person in the making, I wasn’t a future person, I was a person at 8 years old, I was a person at 9 years old, I was a person. In our culture, I think children are often not considered people yet and that’s why you hear things like, “When are you going to be in five years?” or “When are you going to settle down get real and?” My parents didn’t talk like that, I was real then as I am now, and right now everyone, everyone is real. So I think having that sense about my life, there was a turning point incident around 14 or 15 years old in which I’d heard what I was sure was the sound of a car skidding and about to run me over. It was a skidding, screeching tire sound but was in fact an acoustic illusion as it was a car in the street bouncing off a nearby wall or something. I was lost in thought walking through a parking lot and heard this sound and really thought I was going to be killed. So I thought had I been killed at that age, my god, I’ve spent what seemed to me to be the majority of my thinking time in school and thought, well I’m not interested in volunteering another four years as soon as I get out of high school. I knew I’d finish high school but sure as hell was not going to go to college until I was ready to go. I’m wasn’t going to go and do another batch of time. I thought, “Why can’t I just be alive, why can’t I live?” which was pretty punk rock. I didn’t want to go to college, or I decided I didn’t have to go to college I should say. So I started to develop a practice in which I’d take an inventory of the things I had. There are some things I have picked up on my own but many things that are in our possession other people have either given us, or put upon us, and it’s our job to take an inventory and decide whether those things actually make sense and whether we want to continue carrying them or practicing them. Obvious ones for instance would be religious, political and ethical thinking or philosophies, diet etc.  Children aren’t born Republicans. It’s not a biological thing and I hope that kids who are raised in a Republican household stop and think, “Does this actually make sense, is this a tradition that I want to be a part of?” I think we all have the responsibility to take an inventory in questioning things and get rid of things that don’t make sense and that’s something I’ve done my whole life. Another thing about me, which is maybe different, is that I don’t think about the future. I’m not concerned about the future. I think the past is unchangeable and the future unknowable, so what are you going to do? So if a person is trying to navigate based on where he and she thinks they will be in five or ten years… Well let’s say you’re going to drive to the store and the store is ten miles away. If you’re staring at the store or trying to imagine the store, thinking about the store, you’re sure as fuck going to run into a wall or a tree in front of you, you’ve got to have your eyes on the road. I’m a responsible guy, I’m not saying live for now and fuck everything but I think that if you take care of the present, you are in fact living in the future now because the future has become the present and that’s the way it’s always going to be. So if you take care of yourself, you’re going to make it to the next place.

TIS: I share a very similar view on that sentiment and can’t thank you enough for your time to do this interview. It means so much to me. I’d go off on a tangent and tell you what you’re musical projects as well as Dischord has meant to me in my life, but words couldn’t really do it justice, so thank you will have to suffice.

IM: You’re welcome and thanks.

Visit Dischord Records Here!

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The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Al Jourgensen Of Ministry

The Indie Spiritualist Interviews Skateboarding Icon Mike Vallely

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Chris Grosso is a writer, public speaker, mental health youth group facilitator, and author with Simon & Schuster. He also writes for Revolver Magazine, Fangoria, and has spoken at a bunch of fancy-schmancy festivals and conferences (as well as even more events that were significantly less than fancy-schmancy). Chris's podcast, The Indie Spiritualist, is hosted on Ram Dass's Be Here Now Network.
  1. alex says:

    on the swiz stuff, i think ian gets it right. one of our members (not me!) said some dismissive stuff about the guy in a NY fanzine. i’ll never forget ian confronting us about it in front of the 930 club. they guy had just fronted cash for us to record—it was a bit embarassing!
    anyway, i think the guys in swiz worshipped dischord in a way, but also wanted to do our own thing. it would have been cool to have been on that label, but it was obvious we weren’t really part of what it was about, maybe. so i don’t think we ever felt dissed in any specific way—we just walked around with chips on our shoulders about EVERY SINGLE THING. it made us a better band.

    • Chris Grosso says:

      Thanks so much for taking the time to reply to that Alex! It was cool that Ian honestly wasn’t a prick in talking about you guys negatively in the interview. Swiz is the shit period, so thanks!

  2. […] to this article below. (If you’d like to read the interview in its entirety, you may do so here.) Photo: […]

  3. […] Now, those of you who know anything about Ian MacKaye know he is very detailed when he speaks, which often leads to short stories rather than simple answers. That being said, I’m only using a portion of his answer that directly relates to this article below. (If you’d like to read the interview in its entirety, you may do so here.) […]