Features Interviews Ian Mackaye

Interviews: Ian Mackaye

When SPB saw Ian Mackaye's new band The Evens play, it was situated in a large ornate church hall, with a crowd of varying age seated on pews in some twisted parody of a church sermon. If the crowd represented a congregation, did that make Ian Mackaye the preacher? Leading everyone in the refrain to Mt. Pleasant Isn't ("The police will not be excused / The police will not behave"), it almost looked that way, but as our man Matt spoke to him, it became clear that the role of a preacher to the masses is far from how Mackaye regards himself.

On your current tour with The Evens, you aren't playing with any support. How come?

Well because we have our own little PA, that little thing, and it's just not appropriate for other bands really. Last night, actually, we did play with a band that was just a double bass and a accordion, no PA. That was really nice.

Dischord has been relatively quiet lately - why is that, and when can we expect something new?

There hasn't been a whole lot of bands at the moment in DC, making music, so the label's been quiet. The label's actually a conduit, you know, and if the river's running a little dry, then there's just fewer things that come out. However, there's some action right now, there are some new bands, the Evens are working on a new record.

When's that gonna be out?

I dunno. Hopefully by the end of the year. I think French Toast are working on a new record, Joe Lally's working on a solo record, which is fantastic, it's such a great sounding record. So I imagine some things'll show up. It is an organic process... it comes when it comes. We're not worried about it.

What's the current situation with Fugazi?

It's just... it is what it is. We are on indefinite hiatus, which means we don't know.However, we are a family. Me, Guy and Brendan are working with Joe on his solo record. We're all in touch with each other regularly. It is a fact that you get to a point where... our lives made it impossible... for the band to function in the way that we needed it to function. So instead of like saying "Well fuck it, let's break up", we said we'd put it on indefinite hiatus. That means it could be a year, five years, ten years, fifty, who knows? But it at least means that... the four of us, if we decide that we wanna make music together again, that we wanna sit down and make a song together, then, we will.

Regarding Nike's Major Threat posters, how did you react to that? Would you have said yes if they'd asked permission?

No. The thing is... plenty of people have engaged in using symbols or icons from our label or from our bands or whatever over the years... especially Minor Threat, and that's... that's fine, it's not a big deal. But we usually aren't too bothered by it. But in the case of Nike, it seems a little ridiculous, frankly. They're a multi-national, massive $14 billion a year corporation, and it just has so little to do with us, and we would never ever let our music be used by them, or our image being used by them. It's a little embarassing for people to think it would be a possibility.

Presumably, that means there's Minor Threat fans working at Nike - are you annoyed with them?

There are, I know who did it. I'm not annoyed, they're friends. I know who they are, and it's a colossal mistake on their part. They were old punk rockers, and they were doing something they thought was kinda cool, because that's what they would have done with their smaller companies they used to work for. They just didn't think about the fact that they don't work for those small companies any more. They work for Nike. If your webzine had a parody of a Minor Threat thing, friendly or unfriendly. It'd be like, okay, that's fine, because we exist in that kind of community, and that's where those guys were coming from. The problem is, now they work for Nike, so it changes the rules. I think, mostly, it was incredibly irritating for me to have to spend weeks contending with the fallout from that. It's just so ridiculous. The fact is that it wasn't an advertisement, it was a flyer for a skateboard demo. It was just a ... a nothing, but the internet just blew it up.

How do you feel about the commercialisation of Straight Edge? Or do you not even wanna go into that?

I dunno what to say about it, it's nothing to do with me really at all.

Do people feel like it is?

Do people..? You'd have to ask the people that.

But do you think people come to you as some kind of authority on it all?

Are you? (laughs) What can I say? You're asking me a question, so I assume that you're people, and you must think I'm an authority on it. You know, I'm a punk rocker, and for me, ideas should be free. But they're not free for other people to profit on. They're just free. I think that the idea of straight edge, the song that I wrote, and the way people have related it it, there's some people who have abused it, they've allowed their fundamentalism to interfere with the real message, which in my mind, was that people should be allowed to live their lives the way they want to. By and large, I think most people who identify with that are just good people, who are just trying to do something good in their lives, and it's a shame they have to suffer the kind of stigma that other people have put on that thing. But in terms of it being a movement or whatever, it's just not a movement for me, I never thought of it. The mass marketing - I don't even know, I could never go to a store that engages in that. I keep hearing about it, so... I guess it's for real.

Have you ever considered writing a book?

I've thought about it, and I think at some point, if I feel I can contribute something, I will. But I don't just wanna write a book because, I should write a book. I should write a book if I have something to write about, so I can do it well. I understand that I could write something, and there'd be a few people out there like "Yeah, I'll buy it", but that's not enough. I need to actually have something of merit, that's worth writing. So we'll see. But for now, I'm in the Evens, I'm working, I have good things to do. I feel fortunate.

Interview and graphics by Matt, photography by Mark E. Dyer (intro photo by Pat Graham)

The Evens official site | Dischord Records Official Site


Words by Matt on Oct. 16, 2010, 11:05 a.m.

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Posted by Matt on Oct. 16, 2010, 11:05 a.m.

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