The surprising musical influences of Fugazi's Ian MacKaye

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I recognize so much of how I found and consumed music when I was in high school - finding and treasuring records from non-mainstream bands which took work, and venturing into parts of the city I wasn’t really supposed to be in.

It’s so so different from how my high school/college age kids consume music. Spotify has changed everything, and it’s for the better. Their tastes are both deep and broad and interesting. They know so many more bands because it’s all right there. The notion of “current” is totally gone, their playlists include artists from across the last 60 years just naturally.


I’m a huge fan of Ian, and I get a pretty great giggle from imagining him and Henry going absolutely bonkers to Catscratch Fever as kids.


i’m not surprised at all. as a completely out-of-touch teenager i think minor threat was one of my first real exposures to punk. a friend made me a tape of the discography, and the music did resonate, but when i heard them cover paul revere and the raiders’ “stepping stone” i felt a little more at home in my uncoolness. i still remember being made fun of when my reply to the question “do you like punk” was “billy idol’s ok.”

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I agree. I hear a lot of grumbling about streaming*, and while I agree some albums were designed to be listened to as a whole, most aren’t. A lot of my friends think it’s bizarre I’m so into Spotify, but I’m like a kid in a candy store there. I remember the old days too well. Overpriced box sets only the wealthy could afford, etc. Sure I miss the record store experience, and I still go to the few left to keep them in business, but most people have conveniently forgotten all the times they got burned by blindly taking a chance on a record.

*Now, the artist payment in streaming services is a whole other issue, and I’d gladly pay more money if it paid the artist more. As it is, if you like the album, buy it direct from the artist (or some merch) to support them.

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You never heard of mixtapes?
I just thought you’d get a cassette and record side A of an album on one side, and side B of the album on the other side. It had never occurred to me to mix and match songs.

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it doesn’t totally suprise me that he was into a bunch of ‘softer’ stuff- the great secret thing about fugazi is that they actually make very beautiful music! (see 1:35-2:55)

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I first heard Washington Phillips because Steve Albini recommended his music in a long thread on a poker message board. I was already pre-disposed to love anything recorded in the 1920s but the contrast between the music Albini makes and the music of Washington Phillips is quite something, though both are definitely idiosyncratic and from the heart:

A lot of the punk rockers that “hated” classic rock really loved it, and their ambivalence was a sort of “killing their fathers” thing.

The Clash talked shit about Led Zeppelin being dinosaurs but later admitted they loved the music. Johnny Ramone threw rocks at the Beatles at Shea Stadium, but later said: “I’ve always felt The Beatles were the best band. I don’t feel like anyone else is even close.”


The whole mythos of punk, and industrial music wanting to smash everything before it is such bullshit that it’s kinda of embarrassing to have bought into it at one point.

I wasn’t even old enough to drink when Pigface came to play my town. So my friend and I came up with a plan to hopefully try to get us into the over 21 show. We got some drugs, (weed, LSD, and X,) thinking that we could hang out around the tour bus and possibly trade them to one of the band members (Nivek Orge) to get on the guest list.

The plan worked, with the exception that the band members that did want drugs didn’t want what we had. They wanted heroin. Neither of us did heroin, but we wanted to get into the show, so we found some.

When we got back to the tour bus a couple of hours before the show, the half of the band that wanted heroin drug us onto the tour bus so they could go in back and shoot up. I stayed up in the front of the tour bus while the half of the band that wasn’t doing herion stared daggers into me for being the hook up and enabling the other half the band. And I totally get why they hated me.

So there I was in this very weird situation where I was hanging out with a bunch of musicians that I was enamored with. Half of them hated me and half of them were shooting up a drug that honestly scared the shit out of me, a drug that I had just bought for them.

And what were these “badass” industrial musicians that I somewhat idolized listening to, and completely geeking out to on the tour bus?

Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris, Texas

It was a pretty big wake up call that my opinions about music were turning me into an insufferable prick, and that my fascination with junky artists really needed a bit of a reality check.


Good musicians like good music, regardless of who makes it.

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Like in Fugazi, I used one guitar, one amp, one cord, and no pedals. The idea [being], what sounds can I get out of this instrument using only these few tools? How can I mimic an effect by using tone or volume or the way I finger things? I don’t want more options. I want less options and more engagement.

So cool

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