Most people have heard of Fugazi but in my opinion not enough people have actually heard Fugazi records. For me they are the most innovative and direct band on the planet. Much is made of their "anti music industry" stance, dishearteningly taking focus away from the actual musical content. It is a tragedy that this policy results in close to nothing is ever heard of them in this country as they refuse to speak to the mainstream music press. They're often compared to The Ruts, Gang Of Four and Crass but for me they are more the band that links Nirvana to Henry Rollins and vice versa. I first heard of Fugazi, reading Gina Arnold's Route 666 book intrigued by her tales of them and how she ditched watching Nirvana at Roskilde 92 to go see them play a club in Berlin. Any band capable of such exploits had (has) to be special.
Whether they like it or not, Fugazi is the flagship of Dischord Records (don't even bother trying to squeeze the Make Up into this equation). Dischord (as in DC, as in Washington DC) was started in late 1980 by Ian MacKaye (previously in the Slinkees, who played just one show) and Jeff Nelson of the Teen Idles when they released an eight song 7" by their own band, paid for from "seed money" earned from playing shows, some of which were with Bad Brains. It was recorded on four track and still sounds amazing to this day. Dischord's next release was a ten song 7" by State Of Alert (S.O.A.) who featured Henry Rollins. Next came MacKaye and Nelson's new band, the legendary Minor Threat. With another ten song 7" they inadvertantly started a whole movement called "Straight Edge" whereby teenagers would proudly profess to not drink, not smoke and not take drugs. Despite worryingly potentially being picked up like a trend and unnecessarily producing sheep mentality, it still provided a relief from posturing rock stars and fucked up role models. The EP contains Screaming At A Wall which the Beastie Boys have covered and were originally accused of being Minor Threat copyists in their hardcore beginnings. By the end of 1981 Dischord had released three more 7"s by Minor Threat, Government Issue (the Legless Bull EP containing probably my favourite hardcore songs ever in Religious Ripoff, Fashionite, Asshole and Bored To Death) and Youth Brigade. There is an amazing compilation CD of the first six 7"s called "1981: The Year In Seven Inchs" (DIS14) which has 48 tracks on. Dischord continues to release material by Washington DC bands and for its 100th release issued a previously unheard Teen Idles EP. The Beastie Boys have commented that Dischord Records has acted as an inspiration for Grand Royal.
Minor Threat split in 1983. Read the lyrics to Salad Days to pretty much understand the situation at that time and why they split up just as bigger (not necessarily better) things were seemingly approaching. Band members disagreed about what direction the band should go in. Brian Baker eventually ended up in, amongst others, Bad Religion. That was one direction. MacKaye's next band (direction) was Embrace and were a whole lot better than their current namesakes who probably don't even realise they're flogging a taken name. Embrace was basically Ian fronting Faith, replacing his brother Alex on vocals. Option described the band as "MacKaye's transistion from the tense impassioned songs of Minor Threat to Fugazi's more expanded sound". They produced one album (DIS24) before MacKaye's next stop and current position in Fugazi, also not forgetting the brief (and somewhat surprising) collaboration with Al Jourgenson, Pailhead. He also did some early production work on the Rollins Band.
Guy Picciotto and drummer Brendan Canty (a blood relation of the Make Up) played together in Rites Of Spring, One Last Wish and Happy Go Licky. Happy Go Licky and Rites Of Spring had the same band membership, with HGL being the latter to exist, but with an entirely different musical program. Happy Go Licky released a six song 12" on Picciotto's own Peterbilt label, played a total of 7 shows and split on New Year's Day in 1988, in the early days Guy was only a temporary member of Fugazi. A 21 track live album was released late last year jointly by Peterbilt and Dischord including the original six 12" tracks. Similarly Dischord has released has released a Rites Of Spring (DIS16) compilation of the couple of records it put out on Dischord in the 80s. Picciotto has produced and recorded a number of bands including Blonde Redhead and the Make Up and is also into film-making. The fourth member Joe Lally entered into punk later than the other band members, going to Rites Of Spring shows and touring with Beefeater as a roadie.
Fugazi was finally formed in 1986/7 by Ian and Joe. Brendan joined on drums and brought Guy along shortly after. Fugazi actually played their first show without Guy but, in his own words, "almost immediately after, I quickly insinuated my way into the group, singing backups and dancing for the first year then playing guitar from Repeater onwards". They actually played their first show in the fall of 1987. The self titled 7 song EP came out in 1988 and by the Margin Walker EP in 1989 Guy's position in the band was cast in rock. A single, 3 Songs, came out on Sub Pop in 1989 in limited form and on Dischord in unlimited form. Since, they have released five full length albums: Repeater (1990), Steady Diet Of Nothing (1991), In On The Kill Taker (1993), Red Medicine (1995) and End Hits (1998), all at mid price. Their only other release is the track, In Defense Of Humans, which is on the State Of The Union compilation (DIS32), although Reprovisional appears on a K Records IPU compilation, a convention they had an amazing time playing at. In 1992 Ian MacKaye appeared on a major label release, playing guitar on the Sonic Youth track Youth Against Fascism from the Geffen album Dirty. A documentary film made with Jem Cohen called Instrument featuring numerous shows with tour and studio footage came out in early 1999 along with a soundtrack album featuring demos, alternative takes and previosly unreleased songs.
With the co-operation of Tom and Matt heres an e-mail interview with Guy Picciotto.
How are you
and what have you been up to recently?
Why did you
choose to be in a band?
would you like your music to have on the listener?
What are your
touring plans for 98? We haven't had the opportunity to see you live
yet, how does a Fugazi show differ from the records?
Over the last
year you've recorded the Make Up and Blonde Redhead in your basement.
What studio set-up have you got and who would you like to record next?
Who are your
favourite British bands of the present and past?
have any of the band had any formal musical training?
What was the
last book you read?
What was the
last film you saw?
How's the film-making
going? (Both the Jem Cohen film and your own Super 8 stuff)
What are your
views on the internet in general? (vague question)
considerable influence on loads of bands. Have you ever been namechecked
by anyone you despise?
Do any of Fugazi
play in other bands or is it totally full-time?
How many Paul
Sky King tapes are there?
Have you heard
the rumour that you folks beat-up people who own TVs?
the accountant still dance (and make a spectacle) on stage with you?
What was playing
the Lorton Correctional Facility like (other than playing to a bunch
of hardened crims unaccustomed to the Fugazi sound or anything nearing
your favourite Simpsons character?
Best of luck with the label and gigs - sounds like a positive flurry of activity.
[taken from No Pictures 9]