The readers might have seen the post on Niels de Wit’s previous zine (Waakheer). This here is an excerpt from his last zine Weekhaar (‘hair of a week’) that got out in April ’89.
The interview with ‘Fugazi’ was done by Gert-Jan Polderman (in Eindhoven, NL) during the band’s first European tour, autumn of 1988. Smurfpunx also organised a show for them them (88-10-16). One can read how they were digging the independent/D.I.Y. scene at that time; unfortunately they already forgot about that on later occasions…
This will probably not be the first ‘Fugazi’ interview that you’ll get to read. During their short existence they have thoroughly toured both the American and the Old Continent. But a Weekhaar without ‘Fugazi’ would be like a soup without it’s mustache, so there you go.
A brief digression for who doesn’t know yet:
‘Fugazi’ started about 2 years ago as jam in a basement in Washington DC between the “living legend” (according to the Pop Encyclopedia) Ian MacKaye and rookie Joe Lally. Several drummers passed by until by the end of ‘87 Brendan Ganty sticked around; ‘en passant’ bringing along former colleague Guy Picciotto (from ‘Rites Of Spring’ a.k.a. ‘Happy Go Licky’) for his vocals and “Paul Rutherford dance routines”. In this line-up Fugazi began, in 1988, to play: first their home-city, then the neighbouring towns and finally the whole USA from East to West.
Quite a few amateurs feared the ‘Paul McCartney & Wings’ effect: namely that ‘Fugazi’ could never be as good as the previous bands that especially Ian MacKaye excelled in; this man stood, after all, at the cradle of the American hardcore ‘culture’ with ‘Minor Threat’ (whose classic In My Eyes recently was compared by a German professor of Sociology with the early ‘Beatles’). (Really!) (Good eh?!) However, it soon became apparent that the ‘Fugazi’s explosive approach left little of the gray pasts and thoughts there of.
Without even something out on record, the ‘Fugazi’s knew how to grab the whole world by its throat live, in the autumn of ‘88 also Europe. (The first mini-LP by ‘Fugazi’, simply entiteld Fugazi, came out in the middle of their European tour, Nov. ‘88)
Dynamic, swinging, from super-soft to heavily outbursting frisky punk / funk / ska / rock with one guitar and two lead-singers, Ian and Guy. Ian does the lead in songs with a bouncy singalong appeal such as Waiting Room (The “I wait I wait I wait I wait.” is easily starting to elbow the “Olé, Olé” all over the country.), while Guy takes the abstract songs, like Burning Man and Glue, on his account. No requests and 12XU’s, but 9 times out of 10 they conquer the venue. Several people found ‘Fugazi’ to be the band of 1988. I would say a good second after ‘The Blue Diamonds’.
Gert-Jan from Wormer (young, but facing a dynamic career) stuck a tape-recorder under the nose of ‘Fugazi’ (Ian, Guy, Joe, Brendan) in the dressing-room of the squat De Bunker in Eindhoven, before their fourth performance in The Netherlands, after a vegetarian meal, on October 18th. Also present was Eddie ‘Machety’ Janney, friend of ‘Fugazi’ and once ‘Rites Of Spring’ guitarist.
And Niels, the Weekhaar man, occasionally pops in, stammering a few questions for his heroes.
Ian: ‘Fugazi’ is a word from the Vietnam-veterans’ jargon, it means “fucked up situation”. But the name is meant to be open to interpretation. It’s just a word.
Niels: A band named ‘Marrillion’ has made an LP called Fugazi…
Ian: ‘Marillion’ are unknown in America…
Joe: Months after we came up with the name ‘Fugazi’, we saw that there was a record out…
Ian: We believe it’s OK that there’s a record out called Fugazi, we’ll name our first LP Marillion!
Gert-Jan: Why did you start this band? In what way is this band different from other bands you played in?
Ian: We all want to be in a band, and bands… Often it doesn’t work out with a band for whatever reason…
Guy: We wanted to find people that we could work with seriously, people who wanted to take it a little further than other people we might previously have collaborated with. The way it went now… Things have gone better than anything I’ve done before.
Brendan: We are all able to play as often as we want… Nothing holds us back, and that previously that was often different. In many other bands I was in, we had members who went to school. This is the appropriate time for the 4 of us to be in a band, because none of us have serious obligations, besides…paying the rent and having no jobs.
Gert-Jan (Jerry for ‘Fugazi’): All of you have been in different bands… Perhaps you’ve seen things happen in those bands that you don’t want to see happen in this band, so that you have started in a different way…?
Ian: The way I see it, is that we agree a lot more often than was the case in ‘Minor Threat’ e.g. We don’t all think exactly the same but… I don’t know, we’re older, it’s 1988, there’s no reason to be together other than for being together… There’s no formula or anything, it just happened naturally. In fact, even more natural than in previous bands. At first Joe and I played together with a drummer, then we asked Brendan if he wanted to join because our drummer left.
Brendan: I wasn’t really planning to be part of this band, it was just playing together with friends a bit. I practiced at Dischord House (Ed.: headquarters of the Dischord label and residence of Ian and Eddie.) and my drums were there, and they’d lost their drummer and I said: “Oh, OK”…
Ian: Guy was in the audience at the first gig we did, and we said: Why don’t you come and join us?”, and he said: “Yeah, OK, why not?”.
Brendan: We started to rehearse more and to arrange some gigs…
Ian: The first performance was a year ago but only during the tour we did across America we were a band that really wanted to be a band… Guy sang more songs; in the beginning he did kind of background-vocals. We are still in the growing-phase.
Brendan: Someone from DC said that to me that we are a band growing up in public. From the first show on the music was quite…loose, the band had no form. We’ve become somewhat more focused now, the 4 of us are really ‘the band’, and therefore…
Ian: Before that, it was all my lyrics, my songs…
Brendan: And now it’s a whole bunch by Guy, and Joe’s writing, that’s an important point, the sense of community in the band…
Ian: I’ve seen a lot of bands come and go, and I really try to keep up the communication-aspect in this band… We always get together and talk a lot with each other.
Niels: A while ago I saw the film Gandhi; Gandhi shaved his head bald as an expression of humility… Is that why you shave?
Joe: We’re touring for about 2 and a half months, and so far we’ve only taken one shower since we got here…
Ian: Haha …
Joe: …So with shaved heads it’s a lot cleaner, it doesn’t bother, it’s easy, it has no meaning. (This proves the usefulness of Weekhaar! [A week’s hair] – Ed.).
Brendan: People spend a lot of attention to their hair, all kinds of styles, the ‘new thing’ and so… Like: Henry (Rollins) let his hair grow, Henry has shaved his hair… And so everybody shaves his. When this band started Ian had long dreadlocks… Anyone just trying to pin down something as a kind of fashion, that’s ridiculous.
Guy: I remember that in the beginning it was a real attitude for me, totally anti-fashion because no-one had their hair shaved off in America. It was like: to shave your hair and go to school, it meant an attitude of anti-vanity, against caring how you look, it was a really ‘bold’ (‘bald’ – Ed.) move. Now, 8 years later, it doesn’t mean much anymore but there was a time when I shaved my hair… You went home and your parents were thinking you had become a Hare Krsna, and you went to school and they thought you’d become crazy or a cancer-patient…
Gert-Jan: Don’t you find it annoying when you’re playing somewhere and people think: “Wow, it’s Ian of ‘Minor Threat’.”. Or “Wow, it”s Guy…”
Joe: Some people who come, perhaps expect some kind of star-stuff, but once we start playing… Then that thought doesn’t last longer than 5 minutes; because they see that we don’t do the same things anymore, and if they came for ‘Minor Threat’ or ‘Rites Of Spring’, they’ll be very disappointed and probably walk out the door; those things have happened to us.
Guy: One of the reasons that I like this band is that I played guitar in the other bands I was in. This is the first band where I don’t have that to hide behind, now I need to concentrate more on singing, my body and using my voice.
Ian: Maybe Guy will return to playing guitar again in the future… (A prophetic statement, since they got back from Europe they began to practice with Guy on the 6 strings, 2 guitars – Ed.). Anything can still happen in this band…
(Chuckles: In the venue I Will Refuse by ‘Pailhead’ is on; they‘ve been playing nothing but Ian’s/Dischord releases all evening.)
Ian: Tasteless, man…
Guy: I don’t see this band any different than all other things I’ve done. I just work with the people around me at that time. When we got here, we found Eddie, who was in England, and he joined us as a roadie, and I know that in the future I’ll play together with him again, and if he wants he can play with us… In DC there are so many people, that all hang out together, they come and go, things change, but in the long run we all stick together. Some people go like: “What One record and already split up? What a bunch of assholes!”, etc. We just don’t want to cling on to the idea: “I’m in a band and that should stay the way it is for 10 years.”…
Niels: One thing that struck me during your shows was that all sorts of people who know nothing about your previous bands and also don’t like punk that much, were the ones that were the most enthusiastic and danced and so… That’s funny, a sort of crossing borders…
Guy: Yesterday they told us that we didn’t play in the right scene; we do this tour in squats and punk-venues, youthcentres and things like that. And the music we make is not what people expect… They go like: “You should play in the club-scene.” but I say: fuck that! We don’t come overe here to do what people expect or to provide a bit of entertainment. If they think we’re playing the wrong scene, I think we play exactly the right scene.
Ian: Besides… If there is one scene where we’re part of, this is it: squats and stuff. That’s where I feel most at home.
Joe: This scene is considered to be openminded towards different things.
Guy: Like you said: a bunch of people come to us and say: “Wow, great show, not at all what I expected.”. And that’s what I like hearing the most.
Ian: When I was in ‘Minor Threat’ and we did our first tour of America, everyone in each city knew how we would sound, in advance. Nobody… When we just started, people went like: “What the fuck is this shit?”. We played so much faster and more aggressive than most bands that played punk at that time… We didn’t fit into the scene, there wasn’t even a scene! And the same is true now too. I don’t mind having to play with bands that are very different from us (Their first appearance in the Netherlands was together with ‘Extreme Noise Terror’ for a mosh-audience that wasn’t really into ‘Fugazi’ – maybe they should take a gorilla as a singer then? – Ed.); when we started with the ‘Teen Idles’, we played with pop-bands, the difference was huge… That’s the thought: to present other ideas, challenge people. Not constantly deliver the same product; that kills every movement, all creativity.
Eddie: A lot of people get refreshed, luckily, now that they hear another sound, something they don’t expect.
Guy: That’s what this tour is about for ourselves, we’ve never been in Europe before, and certainly not as a band. And we’re learning… I’m also learning a great deal. Yesterday we talked with people from the squat where we were about the things that happen here… Completely different from what I thought. This is so different than America, a big difference. It’s exciting and that’s what it’s about.
Brendan: A big part of this experience is meeting people from the underground scene, in squats and youthcentres and whatever. If we were to leave this whole scene aside and immediately play the club-scene, we would miss out on a lot of this country, of the alternative scene.
Gert-Jan: Is it possible to squat in Washington or America?
Ian: No. You can go sitting in an empty house but you don’t have any electricity, gas or water.
Guy: Here you can go live somewhere, and get gas and water and so. In Washington you freeze your ass off in the cold, the gas- and electricity-companies are ingrained in the system, they don’t care about your rights; private property is everything in America.
Ian: People I know who squat, do that under the constant threat of being arrested, every moment they sit at home they think about the police, and each time they go out, they watch out if no cop is walking outside.
Joe: They have their stuff ready all the time, to take it with them if necessary.
Brendan: There are 15.000 homeless people in Washington DC alone. It’s madness, they sleep in front of the White House, in the gutter, in front of all art-galleries, in the subway where it’s warm, everywhere.
Guy: Squatting would be a wonderful thing for DC but it’s just not something people do there.
Brendan: In the last 20 years money for cheap housing has been cut down. Rooms, cheap rooms that were developed years ago, are all emptied and renovated, gentrified, high rent and stuff. It means that everyone stays on the streets. It’s a bad situation and it’s not getting any better.
So far for our friends from the country where anything is possible, newspaper-kids become multimillionaire and the standard of living is the highest in the world. ‘Fugazi’ finished their European tour 2 months after this. “It was one of the best (and thoughest) things I’ve ever done, no question.”, said Guy when he was back in America. ‘Fugazi’ has at this moment (April ’89) already another American tour right behind them. There will probably also be a second mini-album with songs recorded at the famous English Southern studios within a short time (although you never know with Dischord). They also did a Peel-session in England; if that will ever be released, I don’t know. Finally we’ll be able to see them back in Europe in the not too distant future. Busy boys, those ‘Fugazi’s.