Rage hard

Fiona Shepherd talks to Ian MacKaye of Fugazi —- urgent, explosive, and a band who like to keep a tight grip on their affairs.

Now look here, you teeming hoardes of rampant hardcore-loving masochists with a taste for feisty derangement: Fugazi never asked for this. For a bit of attention, malleable minds, and a forum for debate maybe. but for popularity? There they were in 1987, vocalist Ian MacKaye and guitarist Guy Picciotto fresh out of their respective cult successes Minor Threat and Rites Of Spring, pooling their aggression and confounding expectations in and around their native Washington DC; and five years on, where do they find themselves? On the lip of a British tour (their third) which finds them tackling venues the size that bands of their contrary persuasion would normally reserve for pipe dreams. Yet MacKaye, no trace of the detonated urgency that steamrollers a path through Fugazi’s abrasive records, is supremely relaxed about the whole scenario.

‘I guess it‘s not really hard for us to play any size crowd because I think that once you get past 300 people it’s pretty much all the same. You’re still going to have the same kind of contact with the first ten or fifteen rows and after that you could add as much as you want, it doesn’t make any difference.

‘We genuinely enjoy the the variance and the opportunity to be able to play both, though I’d say the bigger shows are sometimes harder to get into that kind of compression we like to have as a band, but on the other hand when it does click and when the crowd and the band can work together in a room that big, it can be pretty amazing.‘

MacKaye comes across like the unobtrusive auteur. He won’t make a fuss over it, but Fugazi affairs conform to his agenda. Which is bad news for outsiders who rely on making money from the band - promoters and the like. Just as well that he’s the group‘s label boss, booking agent and producer.

‘We really have to work hard to make sure things go the way we want them to go because when you get to venues as large as these, there‘s an established kind of business practice that we don’t agree with and that we have to work against. In America we book ourselves and we‘re able to confront this directly whereas here we have to work through people and it’s much more complicated.’

As is usual for Fugazi, this tour is not designed to push any record releases. Those hoping to chant along to the latest anthem had better look to their back catalogue.

Last year’s Steady Diet Of Nothing was a claustrophobic affair, squeezing rather than expanding on its comparatively more accessible precursor Repeater, with MacKaye filtering his bleak vision through crisp, clipped phrases. articulated with a bestial rasp, like a lifetime’s frustration compacted into forty minutes— like his is the last outpost for free speech, and he‘s about to be stifled. But that was the last album; ifanything, Fugazi tutor us in the art of overturning what’s expected. Just don‘t imagine they‘ll discuss it with you. MacKaye has never been drawn into expounding Fugazi’s music; it would be presumptious to expect him to start now. So let’s get presumptious. . . what’s the new material like then?

‘Oh I don’t know. I can‘t ever answer a question like that.‘ Bummed.

Such is MacKaye’s volubility however that he will make some concessions to the practice of

self-analysis. ‘We write from the same place that

we‘ve always written from, so after a while you realize you just play what you play and leave it like that. We‘re not always necessarily happy with everything that we do but it’s just documentation, that’s the way we perceive our records. We think of it as like “that’s what Fugazi was doing on that day when they went into the studio and that’s just what we came up with.” It’ll never be perfect because we‘ve done the songs too many times and we know there‘s too many different ways of doing it; it just happens to be the one way we did it that day. The new songs are obviously interesting for us and we‘re still fine-tuning then.‘

This reluctance to satisfy curiosity seems to stem from the same source that makes Fugazi’s music so ‘difficult‘. It’s also what makes them so tantalizing. Although it could just be a ploy to make sure you don’t miss out on their next raging explosion. Fugazi play Barrowland, Glasgow on Sat 16.


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