Interview By Mike Layout by Ed
The first part of this interview was in issue 4. Sorry for doing it as a two part series but after it hit page 12 I had no choice but to cut it off. If you haven’t read part one, I hope you will at least find this interesting or maybe even go back and search out issue 4.
NLY: (The interview ended with us talking about the birth of his son and becoming a parent and the miracle of life) Yeah, the tree that grows in the yard, the dog that runs down the street, or somebody else kid or….
Ian: Right, so I just feel that there is, having a child is profound but it’s profound because there’s a decision. I think other decisions when you decide not to have a child, that is also profound. I will say this also though, for people who are gonna have a child and they’re about to become parents. Let’s say someone’s pregnant and there’s a kid coming along, Ivor Hanson, who’s the drummer of Embrace, I remember I talked to him at some point and he just said it’s already inside of you, don’t worry. And of course it is!! With the child is born a parent. It’s what humans have been doing since the beginning. It’s not coming out of a book and it’s not coming off the fucking internet. It’s inside of us. We’re made to do this. Literally made to do this. When you break it down, in life, you’re born, and once you’re alive you need air, water, food, procreation, that’s it. Those are the fundamentals for the human race to continue on. Everything else is an additive. Literally made to be parents. Doesn’t mean you have to be a parent just means that’s what humans, that’s the job.
NLY: It means that you’ll figure it out because it’s in your DNA. It’s there.
Ian: That’s about how I look at it. Of course, having said that, obviously there’s been a lot of tweaking along the way. I imagine early on, people would have kids and the kids would just die. Maybe or maybe that started later when everything started becoming toxic. You’ve got to remember, all the improvements, for every antibiotic there’s some new fucking bug. Anyway let’s not talk about this, what else ya got?
NLY: I’m sure this is a topic you’ve covered a ton but it’s one I’ve always wanted to ask.. In Minor Threat you write the song “Straight Edge”, a song about a personal belief, about something you feel inside you, about you and for you. Years later things snowball into what they become, a whole movement spurs out of this, and we get to this point today. Have you ever looked back and wished you hadn’t written that song or hadn’t coined that phrase?
Ian: NO! I stand behind every song I’ve ever written, every lyric. That’s crazy, why would I wish that I hadn’t written it?
NLY: Not that you hadn’t written it, have you ever regretted being held accountable for coining the term?
Ian: No, I actually think that for every miscreant who’s claimed straight edge is the rational for his or her behavior, there’s been probably a hundred or a thousand people, who just thought like I just want to live and try to do right in my life for the world. People don’t talk about that. You don’t talk about the people who aren’t fighting at the party. Right? So, I feel like by and large, I think that the idea of take responsibility for you actions and recognizing it’s your life and it’s your choice how to live, I think that vastly more people got that message than the ones who later interpreted it as a way to exorcize the violence within their bodies. That was just the power
problems they were having. I’m sad it became a term of derision, because people were so offended by these other morons, these people who were beating people up, but that’s alright. It’s a phenomena I had no control over, but I don’t have any regrets honestly.
NLY: That’s a great way to live life.
Ian: What’s the point?
NLY: Life’s too short. Learn from the mistakes and move forward.
Ian: Do the do!
NLY: Everyone’s got mentors in their life, people who make a difference, people that introduce them to something, or help mold and shape who you become. Is there anybody you can look back in life and think, that was my mentor, that person taught me this life lesson or something that changed and made you who you are?
Ian: I can look back and see 10,000 mentors. I don’t have a single mentor. I’ve thought about that a lot, I just don’t really have a mentor. But occasionally I will be, like I was at my dad’s house, I have tea with my father every Wednesday, he makes bread so I was cutting a piece of bread. I was cutting the bread and I remembered, when you cut a piece of bread off of a loaf, look at the loaf not the piece of bread and you’ll cut a straighter piece. Somebody told me that, that’s a mentor. Over the year, I just glean things. I talk to people, I watch them, I glean. I’ve been communally mentored. I could make a list of different people who played significant roles in my life. Each of them maybe taught me something or maybe they taught me the same thing from different points of view, I don’t know. I don’t really have a guide, I’m not a subscriber.
NLY: To take something from everyone around you, to learn, just to be involved in the moment and get what you get out of that moment, just absorb it, take it all in. It’s interesting how we become who we become. I’ll get to the last one because I know you’ve got things to do and I appreciate you taking the time, this is kind of a vague one but it’s one that you always wonder. You’re definitely someone who’s done, I can’t imagine how many hundreds of interviews over the years, answered some many questions, answered the same question a thousand times, occasionally you must trip over a new question or something you haven’t heard yet. Is there something you’ve always wanted to discuss in an interview but never been asked?
Ian: No. If there is I can’t think of it. For me it’s just conversations. There have been times where people have brought up something really like wow, ok, that’s interesting. Generally speaking I think of interviews as, some people, some houses when a child is growing, there’s a door jamb somewhere that has little marks on it, little lines notating the height and a particular date, right? That door jamb is unchanging but the height changes. In interviews, people often ask me similar questions. That may be unchanging but I’m changing, so the way I answer those questions, shows my growth, or lack thereof. So I don’t mind answering the same questions. For instance like your questions by and large, it was nothing like totally different than what I’ve been asked before. I appreciate like the Embrace, people don’t usually ask me about Embrace so I was happy to talk a little bit about Embrace and think about it. I don’t usually get into the detail about it but I feel that you were someone who was keenly interested in it so fuck it, I’ll be happy to tell you about it. I think I really try to approach interviews as conversations and then you get me where I am. I feel like that’s my growth or lack thereof. I often wish people would ask me what they’re really wondering, but that’s part of society, I think most people don’t really ask what they’re really wondering. So there’s a lot of dancing around and I find that a little bit, I’d rather just get into it. I don’t have time for the pleasantries.
NLY: Put on the gloves and throw down. It’s gotta be weird being in your position and thinking like that, because I hate to put it this way, but you’ve got to be somebody who most people in our community have an opinion on or thoughts on, or think they know who Ian Mackaye is. I know going into this interview, I don’t want to go in with preconceived notions. I don’t know you as a person, I know you as you’ve been portrayed in interviews, and I know your music, and I know what I’ve seen in videos and things like that, but I don’t know you on a personal level. I don’t even want to pretend to know how you think, how you are, how you live your life, your ideology. I only know what you’ve put forth, and again, what you’ve put forth is only a portion of who you are. So I never want to go in with this preconceived notion in my head and throw something out there because of my perspective on who you are. I’d rather come out and ask questions and let things kinda develop organically and come from the answer into another part of that question or into another answer than to come in there like this is Ian and I know who Ian is and I’m gonna ask you this question because I know how you think about this. I don’t have any clue.
Ian: I always recommend to anybody interviewing, ask questions you are actually interested in. People often ask me questions they think I would be interested in or they ask questions they think somebody else would be interested in. I encourage them to ask questions they’re interested in. That actually makes the interviewee feel like there’s something occurring.
NLY: It’s not you just talking into a recorder, it’s you having a conversation and being involved. It’s a 2 way street at that point, that’s where the Embrace question came from. That’s something that’s always stuck in my head, he downplayed Embrace, maybe not the record, but the band or something, I gotta know why.
Ian: Wrong characterization. All I said was the band was a short lived band. That’s just the reality, it’s not me downplaying it, it’s just the truth. I loved that band clearly, I fuckin worked on it. I was disappointed, I would’ve thought we could’ve done more but that’s alright.
NLY: Anything hidden in the vault?
Ian: No, unfortunately!
NLY: No demo? Nothing?
Ian: Nope, actually there is a 4 track demo we recorded with Eli Janney. He can’t find the tapes and I’ll keep digging around, maybe they’ll show up one of these days. What I’d really like to find and I think it exists but I haven’t yet found it is, I’m sure that we recorded a practice tape with Jeff drumming the songs, I’d like to hear that.
NLY: So would I!!!
Ian: That kind of stuff always fascinates me to hear. The way songs sounded thru their earlier forms. When it comes to stuff like that, practice tapes, oh my god, I have stuff, people that are interested in that stuff, their mind would melt. I mean I have, are you familiar with the song Great Cop by Fugazi? That song was written, I wrote that piece of music in 1981 as a Skewbald song. So there is a practice tape of Skewbald doing that song, I think when Minor Threat reformed after Skewbald played, I’m pretty sure Minor Threat tried it. I know Egg Hunt, when Jeff and I recorded we tried that song, it didn’t get finished. We had this brief sort of moment where I was playing with Jeff, so it was basically 3 with me on guitar, the band 3. We did that song. Then Fugazi tried it a few times early on but it wasn’t until 93 or whatever it was that we finally, so there’s all these different versions of that song. There’s tons of stuff like that.
NLY: You could almost do a whole record of versions based off that one tune.
Ian: Yeah, if you get into the Fugazi practice tape roll there’s just so many different versions of songs. You hear a song where the verse is from one song the chorus is from a second song and the endings from a third song, we mixed and matched.
NLY: Found the parts and put them together. The Legos of songwriting. So that Egg Hunt record when you recorded that did you only record those 2 tracks? I’ve heard that there’s 2 others floating around.
Ian: They’re not floating around, but there are 2 other tracks. There’s no vocals on them. There’s a song called Wicked City and there’s a song, well it wasn’t called Great Cop at the time, but that’s the other song. But we didn’t do vocals, it was never mixed. I don’t think anyone else has it, maybe somebody else has it.
NLY: Somebody on Instagram a few weeks ago was talking, I think I posted the Egg Hunt 7″ or something like that, and was talking about records and somebody said there’s a tape somebody’s got with extra tracks.
Ian: I never gave out that tape, it was never finished, never mixed. I don’t even know where that 24 track is, it’s probably in England still.
NLY: So it’s Southern?
Ian: Yeah John Loder recorded it. I’ve listened to it, it’s just not good. I mean like Albini Session, the Fugazi Albini Session. That’s not that great, it’s ok. It’s interesting. I don’t just want to put stuff out cuz it’s curious. It has to be good or something. Here’s the problem with records these days or in general, people don’t really listen to them. You know what you call a record you don’t listen to? You know what I call it? A piece of fucking trash. It’s a piece of plastic just sitting there. Though I put these things out I always think, I don’t want to just put stuff out because it’s curious, I actually want people to be engaged by it. If they’re not then let’s just stop now, we don’t have to make any more trash.
NLY: No, please don’t stop because you’ve been pulling some great stuff out of that fault and I’m ready for more of it.
Ian: We’ll see. I actually talked to Don Zientara yesterday and I think we’re gonna try to set up, like every couple of weeks I’m gonna go in the studio and, I have all these sort of unmixed things that I’ve just been sitting on for years. There’s a Double O session that never got mixed, I’ve got to start mixing these things and see what’s on there.
NLY: Wow, I was so stoked when that other demo 7″, that double 7″ that floated around for a while by them came out but I didn’t know there was still more stuff floating around.
Ian: I think they did a whole album that never got finished. It’s funny Bert Quiroz who’s the bass player in the band, I was doing some transfers and he gave me these 8 track tapes and sure enough. Wow that’s a whole album’s worth. He goes yeah but we never mixed it.
NLY: Ian thank you so much, it was great getting to talk to you.
Ian: Give my love to Kevin (Seconds, who I’m waiting on a returned interview with) and those guys if you talk to the other guys, but he’s one of my favs.
NLY: That’s why I figured it would be the perfect books ends for this issue you and him.
Ian: He’s the champ!