Ian Thomas Garner MacKaye
born April 16
), is an American
singer and guitarist. Active since 1979, MacKaye is best known for being the frontman of the influential hardcore punk
and alternative rock
bands Minor Threat
, and The Evens
. He is a founder and owner of Dischord Records
, a Washington, D.C.
-based independent record label
A key figure in the development of hardcore punk and a staunch promoter of an independent-minded, do it yourself ethic, MacKaye also worked as a recording engineer, and produced releases by 7 Seconds, Nation of Ulysses, Bikini Kill, Rites of Spring, Dag Nasty and Rollins Band. Along with his seminal band Minor Threat, he is credited with coining the term Straight Edge, though he did not intend to turn it into a movement.
Ian MacKaye was born in Washington D.C.
on April 16 1962
, and grew up in the Glover Park
neighborhood of Washington D.C. His father was a writer for the Washington Post
, first as a White House
reporter, then as a religion
specialist; the senior MacKaye remains active with the socially progressive St. Stephen's Episcopal Church. According to MacKaye's longtime friend, singer Henry Rollins
, MacKaye's parents "raised their kids in a tolerant, super intellectual
, open-minded atmosphere.
MacKaye listened to many types of music, but was especially fond of mainstream hard rock like Ted Nugent and Queen before discovering punk music in 1979 when he saw The Cramps perform at nearby Georgetown University. He was particularly influenced by the California hardcore scene. MacKaye looked up to hardcore bands like Bad Brains and Black Flag and was childhood friends with Henry Garfield (who later changed his name to Henry Rollins).
Ian MacKaye's first band consisted of one performance as The Slinkees in the summer of 1979, performing a song titled "I Drink Milk".. The band also recorded two demo tapes of covers as well as songs that would later be recorded by the Teen Idles.
In MacKaye's next project, The Teen Idles, he played bass guitar and sang back up vocals in from 1979-1980, and the short-lived Skewbald/Grand Union (1981-1982).
His brother Alec MacKaye has also been active in several notable bands.
After feeling creatively limited in the Teen Idles, MacKaye was determined to be the frontman and primary lyricist for Minor Threat
(1980-1983). MacKaye cited the dynamic performance of British singer Joe Cocker
in the Woodstock
motion picture as a major influence on his own animated stage persona. The Teen Idles and Minor Threat were modestly successful in and around Washington D.C., but would later be cited as two of the earliest and most influential hardcore punk
groups, and as pioneers of the straight edge
philosophy that rejects alcohol, illicit drug use and casual sex. In his early teens, MacKaye saw the negative effects of drug and alcohol abuse on several close friends and one immediate family member, and he vowed to never use tobacco, drugs or alcohol.
After Minor Threat broke up, MacKaye was active with several relatively short-lived groups, including Embrace (1985-1986) and Egg Hunt (1986). Pailhead (1988), a collaboration between MacKaye and Al Jourgensen of the industrial band Ministry, featured MacKaye on lead vocals.
In 1987, MacKaye founded Fugazi
. Cited as one of the most important post-hardcore groups, Fugazi were active until 2002 and have since been on indefinite hiatus.
Mackaye currently sings and plays baritone guitar in The Evens
with drummer and vocalist Amy Farina
of the Warmers
. The Evens released their self-titled album in early 2005, breaking a three-year silence by MacKaye. Their second album, "Get Evens," was released in November 2006.
In 1982, MacKaye sang lead vocals on one version of a Government Issue
song titled "Asshole". The previously unreleased track was featured on the 20 Years of Dischord
collection released in 2002. Backing vocals and collaborations -- as, for example, with brother Alec MacKaye's former band Ignition -- are numerous.
In February 2004, Mackaye produced the recording sessions for John Frusciante's solo album titled DC EP. After working with Mackaye, Frusciante states "Ian is one of the only living people who I really respect and look up to, so it was an honor and a pleasure as well as a great learning experience to hear his perspective.
Mackaye has also contributed guitar and backing vocals to Joe Lally's solo albums There to Here, released in October 2006, and Nothing is Underrated, released in November 2007.
Throughout his music career MacKaye has engineered and produced releases by a number of bands primarily on his Dischord label including 7 Seconds, Antelope, Bikini Kill, Black Eyes, Lungfish, Nation of Ulysses, One Last Wish, Q and Not U, Rites of Spring, Rollins Band, and others.
In 1980, MacKaye co-founded Dischord Records
with Jeff Nelson
. The label was originally meant only as a means for distributing the Teen Idles
7 inch EP, but over the years it became a very well-established independent record label, as well as a source for a variety of different Washington, D.C.
area artists. Today more than 150 titles have been released by Dischord.
Campaigning and activism
MacKaye refuses to advertise in mainstream or corporate media
, has rarely performed at events where admission was more than $5-$10, and consistently promotes anti-war
and civil rights
causes alongside his music. He regularly attendes left-wing organized protests
and events, working closely with the Positive Force
collective in Washington D.C.
MacKaye has also been known for his stance against concert violence and his confrontations with crowd surfers, and people who start fights at shows. This is especially true of his days with Fugazi. When people became belligerent or violent at a Fugazi show, the band would stop playing (sometimes right in the middle of a song) and MacKaye would tell them to stop. If those people continued their behavior, he would give them their money back and kick them out. Because of this, MacKaye gained a reputation as a killjoy with some fans, and a misconception that he was against all dancing surfaced. MacKaye has said on numerous occasions that he has no problem with dancing but he simply does not feel comfortable letting people get hurt at his shows, and he wants to make sure everyone can have a good time.
MacKaye recently assisted in the investigation of the Kent State shootings when he helped clean up a field recording made by a Kent State student who recorded audio of the incident on a reel-to-reel tape machine from his dormitory windowsill. According to Alan Canfora, a Kent State student who was injured in the wrist that day by a gunshot, a voice can be heard on the tape yelling, "Right here! Get Set! Point! Fire!" before there is the 13-second volley of gunfire.
Straight edge philosophy
The song "Straight Edge" was written by MacKaye for his band, Minor Threat
, and was released in 1981 on Minor Threat's self-titled EP. It was a song that described his personal life free of the "drugs" and the self-destructive idea of "sex as a conquest" which served as a part of the "sex, drugs and rock'n roll" banner originating as a rebellion
in the 1960s - smoking
, and drug use
- to what wasn't socially tolerated previously. It began to influence youth culture as Minor Threat gained popularity through numerous live shows and through sales of the song on their EP. Although to MacKaye the song did not represent a philosophy or a movement, over time people adopted the philosophy of the song and many bands began to label themselves straight edge, founding the straight edge
movement. Although straight edge is not explicitly supportive of vegetarianism
, MacKaye has stated that he is a vegetarian because he feels it's a logical progression from his view of straight edge.
Although "Straight Edge" gets the most attention, MacKaye wrote other songs with Minor Threat describing his clean lifestyle as well, most notably "Out of Step (With the World)," in which he said "I don't smoke. I don't drink. I don't fuck. At least I can fucking think." "In My Eyes" is also at least partially about his philosophies, with lines such as "You tell me it calms your nerves; you just think it looks cool."
In the fall of 2007, MacKaye was the subject of a death hoax. The false claims were posted on sites such as MySpace and Wikipedia before he was confirmed to be alive and well.
On Saturday, May 24, 2008, Ian MacKaye and girlfriend Amy Farina welcomed their first child, a son named Carmine Francis Farina MacKaye.
Mackaye was in the documentary films, "American Hardcore
", "930 F
", "Another State of Mind", "Instrument
", "Dogtown and Z-Boys
","D.I.Y. or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist
", "Don't Need You: The Herstory of Riot Grrrl
","Punk's Not Dead
" , We Jam Econo
and the K Records
documentary, "I Need That Record," The Shield Around the K
Mackaye is also featured in professional skateboarder Mike Vallely
's film Drive.
, Glen E. Friedman
(with Ian MacKaye
contribution), Burning Flags Press, 1998, updated 2004, ISBN 0-9641916-5-2. He also wrote a foreword for indie-punk band photographer Pat Graham
's photobook Silent Pictures
. MacKaye is also featured in the Friedman book "Keep Your Eyes Open" (ISBN 09641916-8-7), a collection of Fugazi photos taken by Friedman over the course of the band's career.
Notes and references