Fugazi (Incredible Shrinking Fanzine #5)

During a week of ‘holidays’ at the Edinburgh headquarters of A.K. press/distribution (actually my mate Ramsey Kanaan’s flat) in the early 90s, I was introduced to this fanzine. I brought home #3 (which had a HC/punk feel – featuring ‘Goober Patrol’, ‘Rectify’, etc.). Later issues 4 (interview with ‘NoMeansNo’, ‘Political Asylum’, ‘The Dickies’, etc.) & 5 (talks with ‘Nectar 3’, ‘Anhrefn’, etc.) had more of an indie touch (glossy cover e.g.). The editors were David Gilchrist & Andrew (Mac)Vannan (with help from a bunch of friends). They also released a couple of records on their label Incredible Shrinking recs (e.g. a 7″ of ‘Nectar 3’ with ex ‘Political Asylum’ drummer Keith Burns).

There’s another interview with ‘Fugazi’ on this website but that’s from an earlier period. Here they were considered an ‘established’ band, with already quite a few releases under their belt. They’d also chosen to tour the indie circuit instead of the truely HC/punk underground. The person mentioned in the interview (criticising this) is yours truely… The open letter about the matter is reprinted below – not to stir things up again but just for history’s sake; this needs to be seen in the context of that time…

Fugazi (Incredible Shrinking Fanzine #5) aFugazi (Incredible Shrinking Fanzine #5) b

>> For those sho do not know yet, let me explain where my line of thinking comes from… My idea about the HC/punk-scene is that it should be an alternative for the mainstream music-industry/-business (which is a pawn in the capitalist system). We should organise our music-scene totally seperate from this; without using major recordlabels or affiliated distributions (multinationals that exploit us), the established media (people turning their backs to the underground has proven – especially during the last few years – to be disastrous), the rock-circuit with it’s agencies and venues, and so on…

To put this a bit in perspective I’ll give you an example that you’ll all know very well. A band that is considered as a big, positive example (both in the US and also – to some extent – over here): ‘Fugazi’. This is not about ‘Minor Threat’ and this is not about Dischord recs as it started out. I talk about them because I dealt with them in the past and I want to demystify them. There’s a lot more north-american bands with an alleged DIY-reputation (Propagandhi e.g.) that come over to the ‘Old World’ and start acting as rockstars using all the tricks in the bag of the rock’n’roll-biz. I want to expose that.

Now, on to the ‘Fugazi’-story… In ’88, the gig-collective I was in at that time (Smurfpunx) organised a gig for them (at that time quite unknown) ‘cause we wanted to support new bands which appeared to have bright ideas. Everything went fine; the band got their money and food (they didn’t need sleeping-places since they were moving on), people were enthousiast,… From that moment on (the band gained more popularity) we discovered that their tour-promoters (Konkurrent), who realised big bucks could be made, didn’t want to work with us anymore although they never complained before and had always been satisfied: they started booking their bands (at that time ‘The Ex’, ‘Fugazi’ and ‘NoMeansNo’) in commercial venues and gave us all kinds of stupid excuses (no real reasons) so they wouldn’t have to book their bands with us (small-time DIY organisers) anymore.

Here I want to point out that ‘Fugazi’s argument of having everything under control (door-price, etc.) doesn’t mean a thing: these (commercial) venues make a lot of money anyhow (whether a supposedly DIY band is playing or not) and by playing there, the so-called alternative promotors and bands are supporting the music-business ‘cause money made on their backs is used to set up other commercial things so where is the alternative they’re supposed to be aiming for?! By the way the people in ‘Fugazi’ have declared on several occasions they dislike these big, commercial venues (no contact between band and audience, security, etc.) so why did they do concerts there in the end anyway?

The promoters (now an agency that lives of booking tours) also argue that the band draws such big crowds that they have to make them play these big clubs. Bullshit! The bands can play small independent clubs several times or play in towns not so far away from each other or do gigs unannounced or under another name (incognito). If a band is really alternative then they should be able to put their egos aside and do what’s necessary to keep everything alternative. The rest is nonsense. There have been bands who did that succesfully…

I have tried to communicate about this several times (I sent letters and published an ‘open letter’ but Mr MacKaye declared in interviews “Brob is boycotting our gigs. He’s spreading out flyers.”. Instead of dealing with the message, they were attacking the messenger. At a certain timepoint someone of Konkurrent even threatened to attack me physically with a baseball-bat if I would ever run into them. Now that is a lot of attention for a small-time organiser, isn’t it? Obviously the truth was hurting…

These interviews contained a lot of crap. After discovering ‘Fugazi’ was touring through ‘commercial club-land’ (a few independent places left aside but any support to the established scene is – to many people here – condemnable) and knowing Konkurrent wasn’t goin’ to work with us anymore, everybody asked me if I was goin’ to ‘Fugazi’-shows, I answered no. Off course I had to explain why and I told them the above. A lot of people in the belgian HC-scene come to my house, a lot of people write me and we see each other a lot (Belgium’s a small country) so that’s how my opinion got around. I never imposed my opinion on anybody, let everybody free to choose and did not write a boycot-flyer (maybe I should have). I have to meet the first person who can show me one. I just explained when I was asked. For me this is also being constructive (I help constructing the alternative by criticising some who don’t). By the way the percentage of time I spent on this ‘Fugazi’-thing is very small compared to all my other activities (everybody knows what I’ve done and what I’m doing), opposite to what Mr MacKaye wants to make believe. Concluding: instead of dealing with the problem, ‘Fugazi’ continued to spray mist.

What else? The people of Konkurrent used to be volunteers. Even then, it doesn’t mean they can get away with anything and have no responsabilities towards the alternative scene that other people try to build up. I never said the band shouldn’t get a decent sleeping-place (as Mr MacKaye insinuated; I fail to see why this has to be a hotel?). I have toured myself and know what it is not being able to get some decent sleep; so I can talk about it, contrary to what Mr MacKaye wants to make you believe.

I did book them in ‘88 through Konkurrent, right; ‘cause I believed in them. Konkurrent and ‘Fugazi’ presented an alternative at that time. Obviously things have changed. So on later tours, it was not the same: band and tour-promotor had different ideas compared to before. So I am not the problem, I haven’t changed my views. It’s clear that even if they wanted me to organise a gig I didn’t want to anymore. It’s easy for Mr MacKaye to say they would have done it when they know I would have refused. He didn’t even find it necessary to answer (not even in many years) or discuss things so who’s “talking shit”? I know what constructive things I’m doin’, it’s not because I’m not in the media as much as Mr MacKaye that my opinion doesn’t count…

Enough raving for now. All this just to show you what a big divide there can be between what a band says over in North-America and how they behave in Europe. As I’m writing this there are supposedly DIY bands from the US touring here with promotors that are known to be money-sucking dickheads. People over there should know that the truely DIY scene here is not gonna provide them with the lucrative business-deal that lots of people dream off. If you’re DIY and wanna tour here, you’re wellcome but don’t come over believing it’s all a bed of roses just because you’re American and pretend to be DIY. A band like ‘Chokehold’ have discovered what a money-grabbing promotor (in their case MAD) does to reach their goal. In this scene you’re supposed to show some solidarity not behave as some kind of greedy conquistadores who come to reek in the cash. Needless to state that there are also bands coming over who show respect and work for a true alternative (‘Born Against’ e.g.). From what I hear from the relatively very few euro-bands that have toured north-america, the euro-scene does a hell of a better job. So please show some respect for what activists have carefully constructed during years and don’t behave as a bunch of imperialists or cultural barbarians. And inform yourselves before you come over; try to get in touch with really dedicated people, not with businessmen! <<

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