Much like Glenn Danzig, Ian MacKaye is a punk legend. And while he’s never really left the public eye, the fact that he’s not as beloved or acclaimed as he arguably should be has made the onetime Minor Threat and Fugazi member one of those guys everyone in music writing just loves to love.
MacKaye has probably done thousands of interviews over his lifetime, but the latest and one of the most interesting comes courtesy of counterculture publication Huck. Writer Andrea Kurland Skyped with the musician as part of a theme issue on survival, and while she admits to being unable to “look him in the eye,” she still manages to ask him all sorts of interesting questions about life, death, and what it means to be popular. MacKaye, always game for a chat, plays along, dropping gems like this one:
In my industry, statistics seem to be the new barometer of success. It’s as ridiculous as how many Twitter followers you have. How can we navigate that notion of success and find fulfillment? If you have a certain number of followers, you’re relevant. If you don’t, you’re irrelevant. I just think it’s nonsense. This one situation came up when a local paper wrote an article about the fact that Urban Outfitters was selling Minor Threat T-shirts. They called to see if this was true and I said, ‘Yeah.’ Another company makes them, and I just don’t give a fuck. The headline was something akin to, ‘Ian MacKaye Doesn’t Care Anymore’. This set off a day-long siege of comments. It was just so absurd. Friends called to say, ‘I feel terrible, you’re getting your ass kicked online.’ But you know, the internet is an aquarium. There could be the fiercest battle – like the fish could be going at it, just tearing the crap out of each other. The castles could be knocked over. The gravel displaced. But for those of us outside the aquarium, not a drop gets on us. It’s just not real. If people want to engage in that communication, I’m not judgmental. But if it hurts you, or it’s dispiriting, then get out of the aquarium. I mean, you spend more time in that world, what do you make of it?
Or this one:
I hate to talk so much about the fucking computer. The fact that it’s dominating this conversation is a sickness. All we can talk about is our devices. For the last decade, society has been stoned on technology. If we’re living through a screen, we’re not doing anything. I thought a lot about the psychological effects of an office. People working eight, 10, 12 hours a day. Look up from that computer, look around you, and nothing has moved. Never in the history of the world have people worked ten hours and nothing has moved. Imagine if you were sweeping for twelve hours how clean your fucking house would be? The dirty plate next to your computer? It’s still there! As a society, there’s gotta be a psychological effect. I don’t know what it will be, but at some point, people will sit back and realize that this is a tool. And that life – real life – is outside of it. I can accept it’s a miracle that we’re talking across an ocean, but fuck if I’m gonna live in it! I wanna go outside, too. If you want to talk about real navigation, one should seek balance. If the right foot and left foot are out of whack, then you go down.
The entire piece is over at Huck, along with a number of other really fascinating interviews with counterculture icons and pieces about radical politics.