>> From the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.
[ Silence ]
>> Leslie Johnston: [Background talking] Welcome
to the Library of Congress.
My name is Leslie Johnston and I'm the Acting Director
of the National Digital Information Infrastructure
and Preservation Program or NDIIIPP and I'm happy to welcome you all
to the library for this event in our NDIIIPP digital preservation series.
Word about NDIIIPP; NDIIIPP is a digital preservational organization
at the Library of Congress.
We have over three hundred partner organizations.
The goal for our program is to build capacity
for digital preservation nationally and build a national collection
of digitized materials and born digital materials
that are very much at risk.
And it is in this mode that we are holding this series of speaker talks
at the library about digital preservation, the preservation
of born digital materials in particular.
The library is dedicated to the preservation of all materials,
born digital or digitized, and we'd like to let people know
for anyone who's interested the PBS News Hour is actually airing a show
tonight about the library's Packard Campus down in Culpepper, Virginia
and what they're doing to preserve sound and film collections.
So we very much encourage anyone that is here tonight
or watching this alter to go online and check that out.
But on to why we are all really here.
As I'm personally really thrilled to be introducing our speaker tonight
because I started listening to his music in the '90's [laughter].
So I'm going to date myself and him.
>> Leslie Johnston: Mackaye, yeah [laughter].
You know I know that but Ian Mackaye is the founder of a number of bands
that we've all heard including Minor Threat and Fugazi;
and he's a key figure in the Punk and Post-Punk music scene,
especially here in the Washington, D.C. area.
You know, his espousal of thing like the DIY ethic
and the Straight Edge Philosophy is influential not just locally
He current performs in the duo The Evans.
>> Leslie Johnston: Evens.
Yeah so, but the other reason that he is here tonight is
that he's well known as the founder of Discord Records which has
as a part of its mission the preservation and distribution
of local Washington, D.C. music, and in this citizen archivist role,
that we really wanted to bring him here tonight to speak to you.
So please welcome Ian Mackaye.
[ Applause ]
>> Ian Mackaye: Thank you.
Well first off -- sorry, I'm going to have some water here [thumping].
I met this fellow Butch Lazercack [assumed spelling] -- right--
some months ago and he has the unenviable task of working
on a project archiving every webpage -- is that correct?
Something like that.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Well, you're part of a team [laughter].
>> It's only a few billion.
>> Ian Mackaye: Yeah, which I came here to visit him and I said,
"What are you work -- and I said,
"We're actually archiving every website."
I said, "Wow, have fun with that [laughter]."
Anyway, he's a nice guy.
Everyone I've talked to here's been nice
and they invited me to come talk.
He said, "You want to come talk at the Library of Congress?"
I said, "If people have questions I'm happy to talk."
I don't usually have -- I don't have any presentation
to be honest with you.
What I can tell you -- just to speak a little bit
to what my introduction -- how I was described.
I will date myself.
So consider myself dated.
And I started playing music in 1979 when I came across Punk Rock
which was this incredible discovery for me.
Growing up in the late '60's and being a part of --
or being witness to sort of the social upheaval and revolution,
seeing the civil rights movement, seeing the anti-war movement
that was happening, being really inspired by those things as a child
and also thinking foolishly as it turns
out that this country was progressing beyond
such ridiculous pastimes.
I entered the '70's thinking okay, when I'm like an adult
or a teenager -- once I realized I wasn't going to go to Vietnam --
you got to remember being born in 1962 and thinking in my head like,
okay, when you're 18 you have to go to war.
So for the first 12 years of my life I figured okay,
I'm going to go to war.
It wasn't until 1974 that they said, "Oh, war's a terrible idea.
I said, "Okay, I guess I'm not going to go to war."
Which was a good thing.
Then I discovered that the '70's really -- there's nothing going on.
Like I would look around
and I couldn't find any sort of counter-culture.
I couldn't find any kind of traction with a community of people that felt
like they were challenging conventional thinking.
In fact what I mostly saw were just people who were getting high.
That's pretty much what I saw.
Especially in high school.
I went to Wilson High School here in Washington, D.C. and, you know,
I loved all my friends but so many of them were just partying.
And it seems like such a --
I don't know, disappointing that that was the only form of self --
only form of rebellion that they could come up with
which was self-destruction.
I was never interested in that at all.
I think actually being witness to sort of the self-destruction
that I saw in other people around me and also in musicians
that I was a fan of -- a lifelong Jimmi Hendrix fan and knowing
that he put an end to himself ultimately at the age of 27.
Janice Joplin who was another hero of mine
who also died at the age of 27.
That I thought I'm not going to get near any of that stuff.
I want to be here every moment.
I want to be present every moment.
However, there was nothing going on so I became a skateboarder.
Skateboarding is not a hobby and it's not a sport.
Skateboarding is a way of learning how
to redefine the world around you.
It's a way of getting out of the house, connecting with other people
and looking at the world through different sets of eyes.
When you're a skateboarder, especially in the 1970's
when everyone thought it was a hobby --
they all thought it was like a strange version
of a Yo-yo or Hula-hoop [laughter].
I think that they -- you know, I think at that time it was very
under the radar so for most people when they saw a swimming pool,
they thought let's take a swim.
But I thought let's ride it.
Let's see what the transition is like at the bottom.
But they saw maybe a -- you know, a -- the curve or a street;
they would think about driving on it.
I would think about the texture.
I slowly developed an ability I think to look at the world
through totally different means.
I had a whole other idea of what was happening.
Weather played a very different role in my life at that time.
If it rained -- like today would be a miserable day for me.
In 1978 my more illuminated friends in high school started listening
to New Wave which I thought sucked
because that's what [laughter] the party line was,
and New Wave sucked and Punk sucked.
And I argued veraciously and in defense of Ted Nugent
and Led Zeppelin [laughter] and I said that, you know,
I was really against the Ramones and against the Sex Pistols.
And also it's worth pointing out that my knowledge
of these bands was largely coming through mass media
which of course is a dubious source at best [laughter].
How -- I don't think I can even go --
give it that much credit [laughter].
Finally a friend of mine said,
"Have you actually listened to New Wave or Punk?"
I had not.
Which made my argument slightly ridiculous [laughter].
And I borrowed some records from a friend and also from my sister
and within these records there was the Sex Pistols and the Ramones,
The Clash first album, The Damns first album.
Whole series of bands that were confusing for me.
Bands I'd never really heard of, record covers that were scary,
music that was unrecognizable as music.
It was -- didn't make sense to my ears.
But my ears had been trained by the radio,
which is a dubious source at best [laughter].
And I've used this analogy before and I'll use it again;
if you grew up eating a hamburger and french fries every day
of your life for dinner when someone puts like a delicious bowl of faux
in front of you or a rice vermicelli dish,
you would not recognize that as food or dinner.
But it is dinner for a lot of people in the world.
And it's better for you than a hamburger and french fries.
See? So it took me a moment to get my mind
around what I was listening to.
The first song that really connected me was a song
by the Sex Pistols called "Bodies".
Sex Pistols are a much more straightforward band,
pretty straight forward in terms of being kind
of recognizable as a rock band.
But they had a song called "Bodies" which is a song about an abortion.
This is subject matter I had never heard anyone sing
about ever, period.
I'd never heard anyone cuss on a record ever before, ever.
So this was very scary territory which is exactly why I was drawn in.
Because when you see something that scares the shit
out of you go towards it.
You're about to learn something [laughter].
So once I cracked that I thought this is fascinating.
Because I realized that moment --
and I imagine for most of you you've had a similar moment in one field
or another where you realize there's a whole other layer of life,
a whole other layer of culture, there's something
that you've never even realized
but you just found the portal, the entry point.
This was extremely exciting for me when I realized
that these few albums represented thousands and thousands of musicians
and band around the world I had never heard of,
didn't know they ever existed, knew nothing about it
but now it was mind to learn.
The first show I saw was The Cramps at the Hall of Nations
at Georgetown University in 1979.
It was February of '79 or may of late January.
Again, a transformative moment walking in and seeing a room filled
with people -- maybe 600 or 700, maybe 800.
I don't know how many people.
Virtually everyone there challenging some conventional idea
about how to live.
Whether it was a musical one obviously, a fashion one obviously,
but also political and sexual.
I think that they were challenging everything they could think of in
that room and I thought, "I'm home."
Because this is where the counter culture exists
and this is where I want to be.
Because the mainstream has always felt to me to be a toxic journey.
One that ultimately supports hideous endeavors like drone attacks.
A hideous endeavor.
Horrible on our dime.
So, I was in.
I had to quit skateboarding at the time because skateboarding --
all the skateboarders just though Punk was ridiculous
and called me terrible names.
That was all right.
It was a fair trade [laughter].
Then I realize in this new found world that I could now play music
because there was an audience built in.
I didn't have to be of a particular caliber of a player
because I really didn't know how to play and I was glad I didn't have
to be of a particular caliber.
Because it wasn't that I was bad, I just wasn't.
Do you follow?
I wasn't at all.
And I learned how to play bass only because the only three people in the
and picked the other instruments [laughter].
I said, "Okay.
I'll figure this out."
I played piano before so I had a rough idea.
We can figure this out.
First band I played in was a band called The Slinkys;
played one show [laughter].
One. At a party on MacArthur Blvd.
One that almost canceled because the guy whose house it was got
into trouble with his mom [laughter] and she canceled the show.
And I was outraged [laughter] so I sent her a letter saying,
"I understand that Brian did wrong [laughter].
But he's not in our band and it seems unfair to crush our dreams
on behalf of his mistakes."
And she wrote me back a letter saying,
"I am a psychologist [laughter] and if you think I'm going
to fall for that you are wrong."
The show happened [laughter].
Whose wrong now [laughter]?
Then I -- the band -- our singer went off to college sadly.
One of my dearest friends.
So we got another singer and we changed our name
to the Teen Idels; I-D-E-L-S, Idels.
Good name [laughter].
And we started to play music.
At this point we had seen the Bad Brains who are from here,
Washington, D.C. One of the greatest bands of all time -- period.
Such an inspiration.
A band of the -- their discipline, their talent was undeniable
and being able to see them up close and to know them and to realize
that they were from Washington, D.C. That was profound for me.
Because I'm from Washington,
D.C. I'm a fifth generation Washingtonian.
And my mother said, "This is a good town.
You don't have to leave.
We've got all four seasons well represented [laughter].
I had no intention of leaving but anyone who knows
if you play music they said, "We got to move to New York."
But I wasn't moving to New York.
There's no way I'm going to New York.
That's where everybody seems to go to play music and then to see a band
like The Bad Brains and realize they're from Anacostia; come on.
And to see them work and to understand like their dedication
to their craft was so inspiring to us.
So we practiced, and practiced, and practiced.
We played for a year.
Because at that time making a record was kind of a sellout thing.
Because a record is a commodity.
Right? So you made a record like what are you trying to do?
Make money off of this thing now?
Because that was totally the opposite of Punk Rock.
You're not supposed to make money.
You make shows.
You're a point of gathering.
It's why we all got together.
It's why we're here right now actually.
I'm not getting paid for this either by the way; or am I [laughter]?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: I'll see you later.
Why this podium by the way [thumping] [laughter]?
So we went a year with no record.
This is telling.
We played here.
The first show the Teen Idels ever played outside
of Washington, D.C. was in Los Angeles.
That's our first tour.
Four days on a Greyhound bus.
And that shows your commitment to not playing New York.
Because we heard about a punk scene
on the west coast we thought was pretty cool
and we're like, "Let's go play it."
So we booked a show there.
It was four of the four band members and two roadies.
Two. And the best part about it was we brought a guitar,
a base and a pair of drum sticks [laughter].
Why do we have two roadies [laughter]?
One of the roadies was Henry Rollins [laughter].
My best friend since 11-years-old.
He came with us.
So we got to L.A. and we played a show in which we made $15.
And we got there; we assumed -- because that's the way you do --
that the band will let you use the gear.
But that's not the way they roll in L.A. We said which gear do we use?
They're like, "What are you talking about?"
Like, "Well, we just brought our base and guitars."
They're like, "You're crazy."
We had to beg them and we finally -- they let us use their equipment.
And then we went to San Francisco; we made $11 up there.
In fact we went to San Francisco, we were on a great bill
with the Dead Kennedy's, Flipper and Circle Jerks and the Teen Idels.
And we got there [laughter] and the guy who ran the club;
Dirk Dirksen of the [inaudible] Gardens dropped us because he didn't
like the picture we sent him.
He just didn't tell us.
We'd been on a bus at that point for five days
to play this one show [laughter].
So then some other people -- a friend of ours out there interceded
on our behalf and begged him and he finally agreed.
Okay, they can play the next night.
So we played the New Wave night [laughter] in front
of like seven people [laughter].
I remember we played with the Wrong Brothers.
Get it? Not the Wright Brothers [laughter].
See? Lost Angeles.
That's the kind of bands we were playing with that night.
Anyway, I don't mean to digress [laughter].
The point is Teen Idels [laughter];
we played for a year and then we broke up.
And we broke up, we saved every dollar we'd ever made
and it was in a cigar box.
A cigar box which I still have.
So when we broke up instead of splitting the money between the four
of us; each getting, you know $200 and some dollars,
we decided that we would document the music that we had been making
because we had recorded a demo tape at [inaudible] Studios in Arlington.
It was a keepsake.
It was a yearbook.
It was evidence of something that was very important to us.
So we decided to make a record.
I didn't think that anybody would care about it except
for our 15 friend -- or 20 friends.
But at that time you had to make a minimum of 1,000 records.
But we figured why not.
Just spend the money and we'll see what happens.
You can imagine by the way the interest that labels
around the country had in a teenage punk rock band from Washington,
D.C. that had broken up [laughter].
I mean people were obviously like, "Why'd you decide
to put out your own record?"
I'm like, "Are you kidding?"
Like no -- there was no interest whatsoever.
We didn't exist.
There wasn't even -- I mean it wasn't that we weren't on the radar.
It just -- we weren't even a part of anything
where the word radar could be used [laughter].
It just -- we were non-existent.
So we decided to make this record.
None of our parents are from the music business.
We had no idea how to make a record.
So we just asked one friend of ours who had done --
had put out a record and said, "How do you do that?"
He said, "Well here's a phone number.
So we called National Record Productions in Nashville, Tennessee
and they said just send us a tape and send us a check for $500.
Okay. Got a money order, sent it down there.
Then we took a -- it's a 7-inch record;
we took apart a picture sleeve from England and pulled it apart
to see how it was configured.
So you can imagine, you know, seven by seven [inaudible] it's 14 inches
with a little kind of flaps on the side that fold in.
So we just opened it up, we sketched it on an 11 by 17 piece of paper
and then we put our own art into that.
We just laid it out on there then we took that to a print shop and said,
"Can you give us a thousand of these?"
Which the guy ran them off -- in a week we picked them up.
11 by 17 pieces of paper with this weird shaped art
and then using scissors and glue [laughter],
we cut and folded every one of those record sleeves.
That is the way Discord Records worked for the first 10,000 records.
By hand, cut and folded every one of those sleeves.
That my friends is the record industry [laughter].
That is the true record industry.
It was incredible to sit with people -- your friends --
and make records together.
It was an amazing experience.
In the time it took us to make
that first record other bands were forming.
So we decided that should we actually sell these records --
which we weren't certain we would --
we decided we would use whatever money we made to put
out another bands record.
Now Henry at that point was singing for a band called S.O.A.
; State of Alert, and he decided that he didn't want for us to wait
for us to get the money back
so using money he had made being the manager at Hagen Dazs Ice Cream
in Georgetown [laughter] where I was one
of his employees by the way [laughter].
He paid for his own record and said, "Any money that comes
from that can also go towards Discord."
At that point it was just on.
The decision was on.
We were going to document something that was profoundly important
to us; that is our scene.
The punk scene here in Washington, D.C. And that's how it really began
in terms of the collection.
The idea that something important was happening that we were part
of -- not important necessarily to the world, but important to us.
And I'm not a hoarder, people -- some say, "Are you like a hoarder?"
No. I'm not a hoarder.
I'm not a collector.
Like I don't -- it doesn't give me a thrill to get some, you know,
rare -- I don't give a damn about any of that.
I really don't.
I don't care.
However if there's some evidence that something positive, creative
or constructive is happening that's moving to me and I like to hand
on to that sort of thing.
Now it doesn't hurt to be 52-years-old and having all lived
in three houses your entire life [laughter]
and having keys to all three of them.
The house I was raised in, in Grover Park my father
and sister still live in.
The Discord house I lived for 21 years; that's in Arlington.
I own that house.
And the house I live in now in Mount Pleasant.
So if you don't have to move it's a lot easier to save things.
I feel for you all [laughter] holding that clutch
of letters right -- I don't know, maybe it's time
to say good bye to this thing.
Not me [laughter].
I never really said goodbye to those things.
Those seem especially important.
Our mother always saved her letters and at some point
of her life she decided that she would go through the letters from --
like she would keep them by author from her friends and she would go
through and with a typewriter she would type up all her favorite sort
of sections of the letters.
So she made kind of little kind of digest versions
of the correspondence and then she would send back the whole bundle
of letters to the person.
So imagine being a steady pen pal, you know, for years
and then 30 years later getting a bundle
of your letters in your handwriting.
It's kind of cool.
My friends have something to look forward to.
I can do the same thing.
Should I take questions?
What do you think?
Or should I just keep on going here?
Have I answered any?
Have I talked about the archive thing yet [laughter]?
All right I'll say -- well let me say one more thing
about the archiving spirit.
Because I think it's maybe a blood prob- -- a blood thing here.
My father's mother -- my grandmother Dorothy Disney -- Dorothy Mackaye.
Her pen name was Disney.
She wrote a column for the ladies home journal called
"Can This Marriage Be Saved?"
It was one of the earliest advice columns.
It was essentially a column where she would interview a man
and a woman who were having a difficult --
difficulty in their marriage and then a counselor
who would weigh in on their problems.
It was -- I mean there was trick -- it was a trick thing.
You see 3/10 of it had already been sorted out but it was a way of --
you know, it was interesting.
Like she was writing these columns up and she started to --
at some point when -- she did shorthand of course
but at some point when tapes, cassette tapes especially came
into use she started using those the way --
she used to record the conversations.
I don't think she used them to listen to.
I think she actually relied mostly on her short hand.
But she kept the tapes and I keep coming across boxes of tapes
of these people and they're like in the 1969,
1970 talking about like all the hassles it is.
You know? All the hassles they're having.
How their husbands balling somebody or [laughter] you know.
That's '60's slang for having sex people [laughter].
Thanks to my sister for laughing [laughter].
At some point my grandmother made a very strange decision
that she wasn't just going to tape these interviews with these people.
She was just going to tape everything.
So I have tapes of my grandmother in the back of a taxi cab,
lost in Los Angeles, screaming at the taxi driver [laughter].
At one point the taxi driver's saying,
"You sound like my father [laughter]."
She goes, "Well your father must have been very disappointed
in you [laughter]."
I have tapes of my grandmother --
I have a series of tapes called
"Dorothy Works the Phones" [laughter].
She would tape her phone calls and I have tapes of my grandmother talking
to me when I'm 12 driving me crazy.
Like just working me.
Just -- you can hear -- and now that I actually have --
like you can hear -- like she --
my grandmother did not drive so she was always trying to figure out ways
to get people to give her rides places.
And I mean once I got a driver's license I was
on the list [laughter].
But now that I hear these tapes; I always suspected that she was
up to something but now I have proof.
Because I can hear her calling different people,
going down the list of people and getting to me
and giving me the story and going, "Okay,
like it's 8:00 in the morning."
Like, "Are you still sleeping?"
Of course I'm asleep.
I'm 16. You know [laughter]?
Anyway I have these -- all these tapes
and then our mother also starting running tapes.
She'd just run tapes in the house [laughter].
Just her playing cards [laughter].
I think the original idea was she had this idea --
she and her friend has this idea that they were going to --
do you know what Scategories is [laughter]?
The game? It's a tile game like Scrabble.
But they had this idea -- or no I'm sorry, Anagrams not Scategories.
Anagrams, that's the one.
That's the tile game.
And she and her friend had come up with this idea they were going
to invent noiseless anagrams [laughter].
And noiseless anagrams was basically Anagrams or Scrabble like tiles
but like on cardboard so they don't clack.
That was it [laughter].
So then they thought they would [laughter] --
in their product development [laughter] they would also include
in the package recordings of what a noiseless anagrams game would
So she just ran tapes.
But a lot of those tapes just have kids --
we just walked in and out of the house
because the tape recorder was just on.
[Laughter] So there's just something about the sort
of documentation these moments that are really nice and do --
and there's also like tapes of them -- tapes of my parents arguing.
You know, there's really interesting things.
Things that most people like, you know, my mom died in 2004 and up
until that point I remember going into that house, coming in the house
and she would turn -- like I'd come over to play cards and she's put
on -- she had a little Panasonic tape deck
and she would hit play/record and we would just talk.
At some point you don't even notice it.
I'm not you know thinking about it.
I used to think that's really nice.
Like mom -- you know because I was traveling a lot.
I said, "Mom," I said, "Listen to me."
She likes to listen to her kids.
You know, it's a nice way for her to spend time with us.
It was not for her [laughter].
It was for us.
When she died I was like, "Oh I get it.
It's for us."
Like these tapes -- to hear her voice is fascinating.
To hear here in just general conversation; really nice.
It's a nice thing.
I have a lot of friends who -- whose parents have died and they say --
it occurs to them, "Oh, I'll never hear their voice again."
This has changed I think now with the perverted amount
of documentation that's going on.
The fact that everyone is carrying a documenting module in their pocket.
But still, it's something that these tapes they're really -- they're --
it's incredible to have these things and I'm slowly in the process
of digitizing those, as well.
I have a lot of projects.
Too many projects.
Let's take a question.
Who has a question?
Yeah. Wow, that was fast [laughter].
>> A very young Mick Jagger said that it would be ridiculous for him
to be playing "I can't get no satisfaction"
when he was an old geezer in his 40's [inaudible].
But some people feel like Rock and [inaudible] are
like a young person's game.
Has your musical tastes and attitudes changed significantly
since you were like in your 20's and your Punk days?
>> Ian Mackaye: Did you all hear the question?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: I'll repeat the question.
Starting off by talking about Mick Jagger singing --
saying that in his 30's or 40's that he would --
that it would be ridiculous to be singing
"I can't get no satisfaction" in his 60's or 70's and now seeing
that he's actually on tour the question brings
up that many people think of Rock music as a young person's form.
Is that a fair -- some of that.
Do I -- have my tastes changed as I've gotten older?
My favorite kind of music is music made by people
who don't have a choice in the matter.
So Punk for me is still relevant.
Like the stuff I cut my teeth on.
But so of course is Jimmi Hendrix and Janice Joplin as I mentioned.
Nia Simone, [inaudible] Cudi; like this is music --
I'm interested in music coming from --
and it doesn't really make a difference what it sounds
like in terms of the genre.
Well let me -- I feel like the music beyond the racking designations,
music beyond what the Stones or Mick Jagger whatever he was trying to --
you know whatever he was trying to do
when he was doing this press conference
or answering this questions -- whatever he was selling beyond all
that -- like music is something
that is far more profound and far more sacred.
Music is a form of communication that predates language.
That's how I look at it.
So in my mind like the music industry has cheapened music,
because they want you to think like --
what's the new thing to listen to.
Because that would then compel you to buy new records.
I don't buy a lot of new records.
I have not bought a lot of new records in the last 30 years.
I mostly study music that I'm pulled to because I'm interested
in not what's being sold to me by the media but rather what I trip
across is my exploration, my spelunking.
Right? I'm interested in that.
I like to go into the cave and find things.
Every once in a while some -- and usually if you are --
if you are sort of involving yourself and people who are also
in this sort of same sphere of the search then you get tips.
You know people send you things.
The internet in some ways is an incredible gift of that
because finally there's access to so much music, you know,
that is out there you can hear things
that you've only ever heard about.
I do like that.
I don't like that aspect of that.
I like the fact that it's freedom
from the tyranny of the record industry.
It's a good moment right now to point this
out that I always ask this question.
What is it that record labels sell?
I can ask you all what is the answer to that?
What is it a record label sells?
What are they selling?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: What's that?
>> It's almost like a brand.
>> Ian Mackaye: Brand.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Any thoughts over here?
>> Ian Mackaye: Products?
>> [Inaudible] escape.
>> Ian Mackaye: Escape, experience.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Here's my rap.
Record labels sell plastic.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: That's what they sell.
They're not evil.
They're not bad.
I had a record label.
Record labels sell plastic.
The plastic they sell has become more attractive to you
or to the buyer because of the information
that has been infused into it.
It's essentially the same as jumping
between like you have a baseball cap that's blank or one
that has the Washington Nationals W on it.
You know? Why are you paying more for that?
It's because the hat maker in theory at least has paid to have the rights
to putting this W on that hat.
So essentially what record companies are selling is plastic.
That's what they have been selling for a 100 years.
I heard a fascinating interview with a guy named Dave Alvin
from the Gears in L.A. -- an early L.A. band who said
that record players start out like pieces of furniture
but furniture companies were making them,
and that they started making records as a way to get people to want
to have this attractive piece of furniture
which was the phonograph into their house.
That gives you an idea of the role music has always been consigned to.
The shill, the thing that is selling the product
as opposed to sort of the point.
Record labels sell plastic and the reason I know this --
why I'm so sure about it is that the stuff they want to sell is the stuff
that has to sell the most.
If it doesn't sell enough they drop it.
They're not interested in the level of the music.
They say that's a steal.
Do you think that all these greatest song --
the bestselling records are the best songs?
Come on [laughter].
I don't think this is bad by the way.
I'm not saying this is evil.
I'm just saying it's just something to think about.
So if you back away from that.
You realize that music was here before the record industry
by a long shot -- by a long time; thousands and thousands of years.
If you're with me you don't believe in creationism.
You know? You think that like all right, thousands and thousands,
and thousands of people have been making music -- there's never --
you're never able to bottle it before.
It wasn't until electricity came alone they figure
out a way to make a product.
At that point they enjoyed the 100 year monopoly.
Then the internet came along and screwed things up for them.
But there's still trying to figure out how
to wreck the tool -- the tool booths.
And they'll do it because they've got Congress on their side.
It's just for those of us who don't want to engage in that to figure
out how to get around their silly tool booths.
You had a question sir?
>> Yes. You mentioned that everyone has this pocket documenter.
Like it's available instantaneously after a moment [inaudible].
Do you feel like that wears down the value?
>> Ian Mackaye: I think that it -- you are --
did you hear the question?
Oh, you want me to repeat the question.
Okay. I mentioned earlier that everybody has a pocket documenter
which is of course the telephone thing, the cell phone thing.
Do -- now that it's -- everyone can do it does he --
the question is do I think that it waters down the --
how would you describe it?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: The value of documentation.
I think that what it does is it increases the interference
of documentation in the moment.
I think that people are constantly thinking about capturing things.
They're not actually present for the things they're trying to capture.
I'm quite sure of this.
I also think its insane how many pictures have
to be taken these days [laughter].
I've got into a situation now --
you know when I play a show with The Evens
and in this show I sell records.
And I'm happy to have a chat with everybody.
Like tonight, afterwards I'm sure I'll say hello to everybody
if they want to say hi I'll say hi.
But I talk to people.
I like talking to them and then the question;
dude can I just get a picture of me and you?
I'm like, "Oh, let's hold off on that."
Because I will be there for an hour and a half taking pictures
of me going like this [laughter].
Something's wrong [laughter], something is very wrong.
I do think there's -- I'm not sure if it is lessened the value --
I mean true documentation, the fact you have a way to record something
at the moment that it's happening; that's pretty incredible.
So there's actually -- I've been thinking about this.
Like some of the stuff -- like -- do you sort of see like --
my God, there's a [inaudible] picture of that.
That's crazy that somebody actually had a picture of that.
You know if you think
about historical events and not always bad ones.
I understand why people immediately think explosion or whatever.
But I'm just saying just down the road you think
about historically you would read about something that happened and --
my God, I wonder what that looked like?
But now you don't have to wonder.
Because it -- if you're not taking the picture,
the government is [laughter].
Right? They're [noises] -- they're filming us all the time.
So it does -- it's a weird time.
All I can -- I have to say that we just have to hold our noses I think.
We just have to just realize that there's a level of documentation
that is just like -- it's just a chattering.
It's just like this like noise and that beyond that people
who are truly documenting are going to figure
out a way to puncture that.
I am concerned about what is called documentaries these days.
I find the current form of video documentaries to be very disturbing.
Because they have narrative arcs
and I don't think life has a narrative arc.
It has many narrative arcs.
So when I see documentaries where I -- my emotions are being pulled
and I'm being pulled through this like --
and then this happened and then this happened.
I -- you know, du, du, dah.
And you're like, come on.
This is crazy.
If you look at early documentaries there's no narration at all.
It's like here's a camera, here's what -- here's like --
here's what's going on, experience, figure it out.
That seems to me to be -- that trusts the viewers to engage
on some kind of intellectual level.
I have seen documentaries in which I am a part of
or my story is connected to and I can tell you
that it may be a history but it's not my history.
For instance, I think that a lot of the Punk Rock stuff when I hear
like the narrative about the Punk Rock experience whatever --
and this is American -- the American Punk Rock experience --
there's a lot of credit given to Ronald Regan.
Ronald Regan gets no credit at all from me [laughter] period.
You know? The only thing that he did that was really -- pretty notable --
I mean I could go through a long list of things
but he somehow defied the Indian curse.
Does anybody here know about the Indian curse?
I think it was Andrew Jackson that was messing with the Indians
and they said okay, that's it.
Every president elected in a year ending
in zero is going to die in office.
And they did starting I think with -- who's 1840?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: It's the Library of Congress [laughter].
All right, 1860.
Lincoln died in office.
>> Ian Mackaye: Died in office.
1900? McKinley; died in office.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: That was before -- we've been through this.
That's my father [laughter].
He predates the curse [laughter].
>> Ian Mackaye: It was Hardy.
He died in office.
Right? 1940, Roosevelt died in office.
1960? Kennedy died in office.
1980? Regan, he got shot but he lived.
He broke the curse [laughter].
Thank you very much.
That's why we're here.
We want to talk -- anyway [laughter].
I don't know why I told you that story.
Oh, you know why I was telling that story is
because [laughter] it's a faux narrative.
This idea that Regan came along we're like, "No,
we're going to form Punk Rock bands."
That's not what happened [laughter].
>> I remember I think about a year ago I was reading a piece
by Henry Rolling's and Henry was saying that you
and he had a visit here in the Library of Congress,
a visit of the music archives.
Since we're here today and I'll see them,
I was curious if you could give us your thoughts upon your visit
and what kinds of things you saw.
>> Ian Mackaye: Sure.
The question is he had come across an article that --
written by Henry Rollins for the L.A. Weekly
in which he discussed our visit to the Library of Congress --
was it last year or a couple years ago?
I don't recall.
Yes, that happened and what are my thoughts about the visit?
Well as I mentioned I was born and raised in this town.
I had never set foot in the Library of Congress ever [mumbling].
Isn't it crazy [laughter]?
Because you know for me Capitol Hill, it might as well be Boston.
I still -- I'm like from the other part of town.
I just don't -- I just don't know.
I've never come down here.
I don't have any -- I feel no connection really
to the federal government at all.
It's like the big factory in town.
No offense to the -- any of you all who work for the government.
I'm just saying I've never felt a connection.
My parents were not government people.
My dad was a newspaper man.
You know, like I just didn't -- I just never felt a connection to it.
But then a friend of mine who works
in the book repair department; she invited me down.
She had worked with me on my archives
which is probably the reason we're here actually.
And she invited me down and it was pretty incredible.
I have to say I was pretty blown away to see their craft.
I mean I never thought about this but these books get wrecked.
So every day there's just crates and crates of wrecked books being sent
down to this little shop in the corner of this building
and these people are working away putting them back together
and doing it very well.
Then I got to go look into rare books repair room.
They have some old books in there [laughter].
And I remember there was a book -- Susan -- do you remember...
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Susan B. Anthony; that's right.
Susan B. Anthony had given a book of like --
like a Merck Manual kind of book to a friend, and she inscribed in it
and said like, "You know, I don't know; this works for me.
Check it out."
I mean essentially that was the tone of her inscription.
And like our mother handed out the Merck Manual all the time.
Like here, check it out.
This is my -- yeah, look it up for yourself.
And I was really -- when I saw that I was --
it really -- it was humanizing.
I got it. Susan B. Anthony; she's not just a coin now.
Then we took a walk around to the downstairs
and I realized it's like a city here.
There are a lot of people work in this building.
A lot. And they have --
in the basement they have these long tunnels that has a railing
between -- along the middle of it.
One side is for the people who are allowed to go on there.
The other side is for the people that are not allowed
to go -- the special lane.
The special lane is for the -- I guess the guys who move stuff.
That sound about right?
>> [Multiple speakers].
>> Ian Mackaye: The guys who push things and --
but it's definitely split.
You're not crossing that barrier [laughter].
The other thing; I met Butch on that visit.
He's upstairs collecting every webpage
in the history of the world [laughter].
Then when Henry came to town I said, "Hey, do you want to go
down to the Library of Congress?"
He said, "Yeah, let's -- I'd love that."
Because he also -- I think he had been in the reading room
but he had never been in the bowels.
So we had a really -- it was great.
Went to the music -- I went to the music room the first time too.
It was great, fascinating.
I want to go to Culpeper.
Very nice to meet people who work here because I don't -- I had no --
I really had no clue what goes on down here.
And it's a little overwhelming.
Even this particular talk --
Butch asked me if I would do a Q&A; I said, "Yeah sure.
I'll do something."
And then people -- I started getting these emails like,
"Oh my God congratulations on going -- like the Library of Congress.
Are you kidding?"
I just didn't think about it.
I was like I'm just going to come have a chat with you all [laughter].
So -- so it's nice.
You know, it's a crazy place the Library of Congress.
But there are a lot of people here.
Most people even -- if they're not just protecting their own jobs.
They're really, really, really concerned about taking care
of the things that have occurred in this country.
That seems like a good practice.
Somebody have any questions on this side?
On this side?
Anyone? Yes sir.
>> [Inaudible] system or a routine
for processing these thousands of hours of tapes?
And also do you have any practical advice on how to avoid say --
accidental basement floods, or [inaudible] [laughter]?
>> Ian Mackaye: The question is do I have a system
for processing these materials and do I have a way
to avoid basement floods.
Yes [laughter] to not put things in the basement [laughter].
That's for real.
I don't -- if you do put things in the basement you can only put it
in the basement -- put it on blocks.
For real. Because you're probably --
if you're going to get water it's probably going
to be a couple inches deep.
I know so many people who just like that one day they just
like had moved something.
I say there's no such thing as a minute on the floor.
That's just curtains.
You know? [Laughter] Let me tell you a little bit about --
the biggest audio collection I have is the band Fugazi;
we started to paly 1987 and our first show as at D.C. Space
which was at a small club on the corner -- not our --
I'm sorry, not our first show.
Our first show was at Wilson Center at 15th and Irving Street northwest,
and that particular show we played -- some friends of ours who,
you know, this guy Seth Martin; he just ran a tape
because he was mix -- he was doing the sounds in the front
and he seemed like a nice idea.
We had no records out and we had --
you know, working on these songs for a year.
Writing and practicing and practicing.
So in a way to have documentation
of that first show is just nice to hear it.
Oh, cool, like that's all -- we have a tape.
Then the second show we played I think was
at D.C. Space or St. Stevens Church.
I don't recall.
But each time we just were running tapes and it was mostly a way
to hear what the song sounded like in that context.
I have kind of philosophy like that a song isn't really a song
until it goes it somebody else's ear.
You know? So the same way -- when you play a show, you play a concert,
you actually present these songs --
hearing evidence of that transferal is nice and it was a way of,
you know -- like okay, we get the idea of what's happening here.
So the very beginning we're like -- oh, here's a tape of the show.
Great. We just listened to it maybe and then just put it on the shelf.
Then when we'd travel people would say,
"Do you mind if I record the show?"
I said, "Oh no problem.
Just give me -- send me a copy of the tape."
So we, you know, would play, you know, maybe in Spokane,
Washington in a very strange like new center in the basement
of a former bank or something [laughter] and they would --
at some point, you know, a few weeks later somebody would send me a
cassette in the mail and I'd, "Oh cool."
Put it on the shelf.
Then -- and about 1990 Joey P. who was an old friend of ours
who did sound -- he was a sound man; he started doing shows with us
and he was mixing our shows in Washington --
he would sit in front doing the sound.
And he started running tapes because he was interested
in the process of recording shows.
We asked him to go on the road with us and he said,
"Would you buy me a box of tapes?"
And we said, "Sure."
So we bought a big box of, you know, good cassette tapes --
you know, the gold ones [laughter].
And he just started running tape every night.
And in the beginning it would just weird us --
I don't know [inaudible], okay great we have these tapes.
We'd come home -- and we wouldn't listen to the tapes.
Because let me tell you something.
If you're playing six and seven nights out of a week
and you're driving every day four, five, six hours;
you know what you don't want to listen to on
that drive [laughter] is yourself.
Because it's horrible.
It just drives you crazy because you just -- it just --
because the experience of playing music,
being in a band, when you're on a stage.
It doesn't not bare any resemblance to what it sounds
like on the tape the next day.
I often think it's something akin to someone filming you have sex
or something it just doesn't look so good [laughter].
You know it feels a lot better at the moment [laughter].
But slowly this pile started to grow.
We just took boxes -- we'd come home and there'd be a box of tapes.
We'd just stick into a close- -- literally into a closet.
We did not listen to these tapes.
At some point around 1991 we already had about 300 tapes and we said,
"What are we doing with these tapes?"
But at that point we couldn't stop.
It was kind of just over the edge, which is part of the routine.
Just record, record and just put these things away.
So we had this idea that we would start a --
we would put in our records a flyer
that would list all the recorded shows and then invite people --
if you wanted to order them
from us we would do a one to one cassette copy.
It's un -- unsustainable idea [laughter].
Cooler heads prevailed [laughter] and with
that idea went out the window.
But we kept playing and we just kept piling up the tapes.
Then by the time we stopped playing -- our last show was end of 2002 --
we had played about 1,100 shows.
Almost 1,200 shows.
We had about 800 or 850 recordings.
And they're just sitting in boxes.
And we had no idea -- no one could go through them.
What do you do with that much material?
I mean it's a -- our shows were -- last few years were two hours each.
That's a lot of recorded material.
What do we do with this material?
Do -- and we said well maybe we could make a live record
but what would it be?
Would it be one show?
Just one show?
Do we pick on show out of all these shows?
And what's the criteria?
Like the best sounding in terms of the audio or fidelity
or the most eventful in terms of the part where the skinheads rioted
or the, you know, the police shut it down?
Or do you do the best performance?
Like the -- the criteria was impossible.
We could not figure out what we were going to --
what we were going to do.
We didn't know how to do it and we were incapable of picking one show.
Then we thought maybe we'll just pick one song from different shows.
But which ones?
And again, based on which criteria.
It was too much.
It was too much.
There was a brief moment when we picked out --
we just sort of randomly picked out 20 or 30 shows and we tried to --
we made CD's of these shows.
We called it the Fugazi Live Series; it was in the early 2000's
and we sold them for $10 bucks each or $8 bucks each or something,
and we made very small runs.
Like a couple thousand or something.
But the logistics of that were difficult because again you have
to make a minimum number and you actually have to make --
there's plastic involved obviously and another one of my philosophies
in terms of the record business is that, you know, what's another word
for a record you don't listen to?
A piece of trash.
Right? It doesn't exist.
If you just have a record and you don't play it, it doesn't --
it's just a piece of trash and the world was filled with that already.
So I'm very sensitive about the idea of making 10,000 of something
if I can only -- only 500 people ever want to hear it.
That's 9,500 pieces of trash.
I don't want to be a part of that.
I don't want to make that kind of mess.
So the 30 CD's we put out, you know, people bought them and it was good
but it was also impossible.
That's 30 out of 850.
So we had a long way to go.
And then the internet is a miracle in a way when you think about it.
Like suddenly there was this possibility
in which you could make one source
and have an infinite number of copies.
And then suddenly it was possible and the band could agree
to the idea -- like instead of having to pick one show or put --
one or two songs or picking songs from different shows;
we are comfortable with just put it all up
and let them figure it out [laughter].
So the process began with a guy names Peter Elexic [assumed
spelling] who was an archival art student at NYU,
and Peter Elexic came down -- he made me his thesis.
He had come across my collection while researching another person's
collection and saw -- he's like, "Whoa, can I make you my thesis?"
And I said, "Sure."
And he spent probably two months just going through all the tapes,
entering them into -- you know, he created a database
and this is -- the live tapes are 850.
We have hundreds of practice tapes and other ephemera.
He went through everything.
He really worked hard and he made a database.
For the first time we actually had some logical organization.
Then I had another person go through the thousands and thousands
of photos I had accumulated and she was able to put them
into some organization by tour and identify
where most of these were taken.
So now we had visual sort of evidence, as well.
Then the flyers which the aforementioned Lindsay Hubbs
[assumed spelling] had come and she had created a database
for the flyers; scanned them all in.
So suddenly we had all these materials
and then we created the website --
a website in which all of these materials are made available.
So the idea is that every show we played will have a page
on this website.
If there's a recording; eventually,
it will be posted and people can buy it.
We ask for $5 because we played historically $5 shows.
But if people really can't deal with parting with $5,
even if they'll gladly pay $15 to watch a 3D move [laughter] --
or if they can't part with the $5 they can chose $1 if they want.
Here I'll show you the thing.
Can I show -- can we do this one?
Let's see if I can make it work.
So here's -- there it is.
Okay. Can you see this thing?
All right, so this is a show in Flint, Michigan
and you can see here this is the flyer
and there might be a photo, let's see.
Here's -- this is the main page, this is the beginning
so you can see all the shows are listed.
You can search by year, city, you can search by song.
Every song we -- so you go --
like, you know if you like the song "Blueprint" for instance you just do
that and then -- well, it's supposed to do something
and then you can search -- where's the go button on this one?
So it shows you every show we posted
in which we play the song "Blueprint".
I think its interesting [laughter].
Here's a city we played.
I love this because -- let me go back.
I love about -- when we did this it was incredible.
How do I get out of this thing?
>> So the NYU student did all this?
>> Ian Mackaye: No, well he did the -- he did the database.
I actually was the one who kept all the --
I kept all this other information.
So yeah, when we working -- sorry, this is the cities.
This is crazy.
Look at how many cities we played [laughter].
I felt like man, [laughter] we did some --
that's a lot of cities [laughter].
That was heavy.
I remember Gee called from the band, he's like, "Have you looked
at the city list [laughter]?"
A lot of cities.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: What's that?
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Well, you know, Fugazi we buried the hatchet
with New York [laughter].
Actually [inaudible] did play -- Teen Idels never played New York
but [laughter], but you know it's all good.
I got a lot of people up there now [laughter].
So we started -- so this is -- so here -- okay, here's our first show.
Is that our first show?
What is that?
This is different.
Okay, well here's -- let me go back to this thing.
Sorry, I don't know how to -- okay, so this is the --
there's our first show at Wilson Center.
So there's the flyer.
For those of you who are interested this is a four --
in the beginning Fugazi was a three piece.
See? There's me with long hair and Brenden and Joe.
Gee was a really good friend of ours and we were trying desperately
to get him to join the band and he wouldn't.
So I had Ian Svenonius from Nation of Ulysses draw this poster
and make Gee the waiter [laughter].
I thought he would love it.
He did not love it [laughter].
He was furious about it.
So I think -- let me see if I can go to the next show.
There might be some -- so here's me with my long hair.
So this is another Wilson Center show I think --
or St. Stevens Church in the lunchroom.
So we -- these are photos.
Any kind of ephemera that we had we'd tried to stick up.
I mean obviously there's a lot more but we do
like three or four photos per show.
But you can see I kept notes.
The date, the venue, the door price which I think is interesting.
How many people were there.
A band called Sarcastic Orgasm opened for us [laughter].
There's Joey Pecurie.
He's our friend who did the sound.
This is the person that mastered this particular show
and then the source was a cassette.
Our rating system.
Now, the rating system is controversial [laughter].
And I believe that when we update this thing we're going
to get rid of this rating system.
And I'll tell you why.
The very beginning we thought -- okay first off check this out.
So this is actually a sample so people can -- you can hear this,
you can hear it for yourself and decide.
You can rate it your own damn selves.
But the original idea of the sound quality was
that we thought we should give people some indication,
like this is terrible sound --
mostly warning it' going to be terrible sounding.
So we originally thought okay, well do a four stars --
like we'll do four stars and that'll give people an idea
of the rough quality.
But the person who was rating it,
thought the one star was the best [laughter].
So we had had hundreds of shows --
I'm sitting there [inaudible], "Man you're right.
Pretty hard critic on these things [laughter].
Everything's poor or just like god or poor."
He's like, "No, it's all excellent or very good [laughter]."
I was, "Like but it's one, two stars."
He's, "Yeah, one star's the best."
I go, "No [laughter], one star is not the best [laughter]."
So then the person who was helping me build the site, Alex Bourgeois
who designed the front end of this thing.
I say to him -- he says, "What do we do?"
I say, "Just invert it."
It's complicated though.
It's hard to invert.
You think, okay now two equals three [laughter].
Nobody knows if these are real -- what I found out --
in other words it's completely abstract really [laughter].
Like what is good?
What does it mean -- what is good?
Is it like the sound quality is good?
Or like for me personally, the greatest shows are not the ones
that sound perfect but where something is transpiring.
Like we played a show in Dallas, Texas in 1990.
Maybe we can find this here.
In 1990 we played a show.
You want to drive?
Why don't you drive?
Dallas, Texas 1990 Canton Warehouse.
In which -- at that particular show the band had gone and we'd set up --
these people let us play in their warehouse.
It's a totally illegal spot.
But there were nice people.
They were artists, hey had a warehouse.
They said, "Yeah, you can have the show here."
And we -- you got Dallas?
Yeah, that's it.
So -- okay good.
So [laughter] looks good doesn't it?
So these people said, "Yeah, you can play in our warehouse."
So, we got there and it's a big space and there was a lot
of kids there and we were really working --
they had built a stage on the top of a wrecked car.
It was like a trashed car.
They're [inaudible] artists so -- and they --
it was going to be a nice night.
At that time in Dallas there was a big skinhead problem.
And there were two gangs.
One was a gang called --
I think they were called the Confederate Hammer Skins
and these were White Power, Nazi kind of skin head guys.
And there was another gang I think called the DVB
who were anti-Nazi skin heads.
So they had both descended on mass, they'd all come down to the show
and they were going to like I guess settle it [laughter] at the show.
So I went out to -- actually we, the band was like this --
we actually called for a meeting.
We said, "Listen, I understand you have difficulties
with each other [laughter].
This is not the place to sort it out.
So I'm going to ask you not to wear your jackets in this show.
You can fight out in the streets but not here.
These people let us use their house essentially to do this show."
I have the craziest memory of this particular meeting
because I really -- it's to the degree in my mind now that the guy
from the White Power group was
like wearing a monocle or something [laughter].
But I don't know -- I think maybe my brain is filling
that in now [laughter].
So but they agreed and we had -- they were --
it was peaceful, there was no fighting.
The first band played; a band called Last Rites.
Then the stage collapsed.
So now the stage is at a very weird lean [laughter] but it seems
like it's not going to be going any further
because there's a wrecked car underneath it.
See? [Laughter] So we setup on the stage.
It's pretty rickety but, you know, we are there and Fugazi --
we had a principle which was the gig, you play the gig.
Like we -- people are there, we are there,
we're going to make it happen.
We never miss shows.
It wasn't until 1996 that we ever actually --
I think maybe we had missed two shows prior to that.
Once because our van blew up in San Francisco,
one because Gee couldn't get off the floor in Austin, Texas.
He was crawling around screaming because his stom- --
something terrible was happening and we didn't make it to Phoenix.
But we never canceled shows.
For us it was the gig.
So we obviously bartered this negotiation
with these two warring factions, the stage had collapsed,
we were still going to play and then right before we went
on the police show up.
This is Tim right here.
You see Tim?
I know his name is Tim because he kept calling me Ian,
and I finally looked at his badge and said, "Well,
Tim [laughter]" -- I said, "Well Tim."
He said, "You can't -- this show can't happen."
I said, "Well Tim, it's going to have to happen
because these people are here."
So he called the fire marshal in,
and the fire marshal looked at it and said, "Nope.
Like you have no exit signs and no fire lanes."
So the band and the promoters, these people who lived in this house;
they were the promoters -- we and the audience worked together
and we got through it and moved -- we created exit lanes,
we used duct tape on the floor.
We made exit signs above doors.
We made sure -- we worked for an hour [laughter] right,
while the crowd stood there and we made -- we followed their --
we got exit lanes, we got exit signs,
we made sure everything was clear.
We went back up and Tim said to me, "Shows off.
Go tell them the shows off."
I said, "I am not going to go tell them the shows off."
I said, "If you want to cancel the show you can tell them,
but I'm not going to tell them that.
That's not going to happen."
I said, "We worked hard.
Everyone here's been nice, all these kids have worked hard
to make this -- make this go."
I said, "I'm not going to do it."
So he -- then he told me he was going to arrest me
for trying to provoke a riot.
I said, "You're the -- I'm not the -- that's you.
You're the one with the gun [laughter]."
You can see that we're negotiating here [laughter].
You can see that Gee is not happy about the negotiations [laughter].
Finally after much discussion it's decided they will let us play
but the audience has to stand outside.
In the street.
This was insane but they said that's the only we could play.
We had to play to an empty room.
We could leave the sort of garage door thing open
and the sound would spill into the street
and the would close the street
and kids could stand and dance in the street.
And that's what happened.
I don't know why that was a better idea [laughter] but it happened.
So check this out.
That's me telling the kids -- they're not happy [laughter].
This is us -- this is the police making everybody go outside.
Everyone is bemused [laughter].
There's Tim [laughter].
I love this.
This is us looking outside the gate to make sure
that people aren't beaten.
Between songs we would run down ad climb up and look out.
We played to an empty room.
This next picture kills me.
This is kids jumping off of parked cars [laughter].
You see the kids foot [laughter]?
How is this a better idea [laughter]?
And again, it may be my own mind filling in the blanks.
But I have this recollection of bonfires burning
across the street [laughter].
To me this might be a better show than the excellent quality one.
These are really incredible and we --
now our concert was a play as we were.
If we mad, or sad, or happy, or glad,
or whatever we just dealt with the element.
We never used a set list ever.
We just played what occurred to us at that moment.
It was interactive.
It was reactive.
So the sound quality issue really didn't make any difference to me.
What I found when we did our first sort of report
on what shows had sold the most I was blown away to see that the show
that had sold the most was a fairly nondescript gig
in Los Angeles in 1998 or something.
Not that it was a bad show but just nothing particularly
I don't think.
But it was rated excellent.
And I thought, "Whoa, like so it's just the rating."
And I talked to some people and they said,
"Yeah, that's what people want.
They want guidance."
But I think -- again, going back to my spelunking concept.
I want people to get to the mouth of the cave and want to go
down these things and learn what's there.
Don't tell them what the --
where the fried egg stalactite is [laughter].
Like don't do that.
Let them find it, let them go look.
So I kind of feel like forget this rating system.
Let's let people discover for themselves.
I want to show you one more thing here while -- for --
so you can see that to down -- does this show up yet?
Yes. Where's the -- okay so you see here --
so here's a little description I put up trying to explain
and then here's the songs
and the last thing you can see is "Outside the Gig".
Somebody sent me a recording that he made.
He was going to record the show but then he's put out on the street.
So he's recorded outside on the street
and it's an amazing verbocumet of all --
you hear kids [noises] jumping around in the background [laughter].
You like a little bit of music kind of echoing down the street
and at one point you hear this guy like, "Dude, hold my keys I'm going
to jump off a car [laughter]."
So I just want to point out one more thing here.
So here's out buy for $5 bucks thing.
But if you don't want to pay that, you have a different price
in mind you can just click here
and then you can pay $6 bucks [laughter].
See? Or you can pay a dollar,
or you can pay a hundred dollars [laughter].
It's up to you.
I have to tell you that most things
that we do are funny to us [laughter].
I think most people don't realize that about it.
We think it's funny.
I love the fact that it goes to $6 [laughter].
It kills me every time.
Do you want to pay $5?
Pay $6 fool [laughter].
But if you do it, if you pay $6 bucks you have
to write here why [laughter and clapping].
And I did a talk at another webinar something or other.
Whatever it was.
And someone said, "What do you do with the comments?"
Absolutely nothing [laughter].
There's abso- -- there's no -- it has no bearing on anything.
It's not like there's a special code or -- it's just whatever.
You could just put the letter M a hundred times.
It doesn't make a difference.
It's just funny to see.
And everyone is very studious.
They're like I'm a student I have very little money.
Or like, you know, I am -- you know, I didn't really like your band
but I want to hear this show.
Or I only want to hear one song.
People put in these really good an- -- I mean I have to say,
I enjoy looking at them but they have no bearing.
So no you know the inside track [laughter].
There's a lot of these shows and we now have been working on it
for four years and we have about 300 shows up.
We still have 500 to go.
This is an insane project [laughter].
It involves the digitization of all the cassettes and the dats.
We digitize them, make them into files, then those files are mastered
and then edited so they're individual songs.
It is crazy.
It's a crazy job.
And honestly like the amount of money we've put
into it not counting the hours.
It's not making any money.
But man, just the idea of splaying it open, just saying here it is.
I mean maybe somebody in this room gives a damn, maybe not.
But somewhere down the road some kid very much like me is going
to be interest in like what was happening, and most of the time
in the past like what was happening has always been sort of curated
by the major label industry.
Like they're the ones who've decided about the history or Rock.
If any of you remember that incredibly informative History
of Rock that was on the PBS channel some years ago -- maybe in --
was it the late '90's they had this like --
the PBS History of Rock documentary and it was incredible
because it starts out -- like the Punk chapter was great because it's
like the Sex Pistols were playing, The Ramones
and then then Nirvana [laughter].
And then -- so it's like a serious
like 15 year jump, like -- whup [laughter]!
But meanwhile right here in the United States there were kids,
like just kids, like 12, 13, 14, 15, 16-year-old kids
who for the first time really were writing their own songs,
putting on their own shows, putting out their own records,
they have their own fanzines, creating networks,
touring around the country.
I can tell you stories about tours
that would just raise any parents hair -- man.
Its crazy the stuff that was going on.
But this is happening and it was completely under the radar
and never -- it didn't even --
nobody in the major label had anything to do
with it whatsoever until, you know, that familiar odor of money made it
over the mountains to them.
You know? I mean, again I don't think they're evil.
It's just -- that's just their nature.
They just got to work like that.
But for PBS to just skip over this profoundly important chapter
of American music history is disappointing and it calls
into question all histories and all documentaries.
That's what I've learned about being a part of something
that is considered history is that it is really questionable
like what actually happened.
There's a lot more to this story.
This is maybe a -- I don't think it's a vanity project.
But I like to think that it does at least lay it all out there
for people to check out if they are so inclined.
What else are we going to do with these tapes?
And right now in this country --
and for those of you who are
in the library world I'm sure you know this --
there are people who are collectors with a capital C who are sitting
on incredible collections of recordings and other books
and so forth and they are holding onto those things.
For them it's a financial concept, a fiscal thing.
Like they want -- they're like they're not going
to let this stuff go because they think they're sitting
on a gold mine.
But in the process they are not sharing something
that is deeply important which is culture.
I know about people who have amazing collections of recordings.
Unbelievable, thousands of tapes and they're
in their basement rotting away too close to the water and when
that person dies [popping] -- are we done?
You all right?
>> Five minutes.
>> Ian Mackaye: Five minutes.
Okay. Yes ma'am?
>> I just want to tell you about on kind of the [inaudible].
>> Ian Mackaye: In terms of sharing -- oh, file sharing.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Sure.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Just very briefly.
Every song I ever wrote I wrote to be heard.
So if I was given a choice than 50 years from now, like,
I have a dollar or knowing that some kid was listening to the song.
I'd go for the kid listening to the song.
I think that the internet has made the possibility of studying music
like so -- people are able to do that now.
I do it all the time.
In terms of file sharing I have no problem with it -- whatsoever.
Very briefly I can tell you a story about The Evens going to the --
South America for the first time.
The Evens are my partner Amy and I; we're a two piece.
We went to South America; to Chile, Brazil and Argentina in 2006 or 2007
and we were invited to come play and we kept --
and we were invited by people who had brought Fugazi down before;
Fugazi fans and we were a little bit nervous
because we don't have distribution down there and we said, "Oh,
you know, we're not Fugazi."
"We know -- yes, yes we know."
"But just so you know we're not Fugazi."
And they said, "Yes of course, we know you're not Fugazi."
So we got there to Chile, our first show was in Santiago
and we set setup, and we got to this room and it was huge,
and a lot of people came.
Like 600 people came and Amy said, "We are screwed [laughter]
because these people are expecting to see Fugazi."
And I was like, "I -- you know I don't know."
You know, it's going to be awkward
because we're nothing like Fugazi [laughter].
We started to play our first song; a significant portion
of the audience started to sing along with us.
This was -- it felt insane.
And I've used it -- again, you know, I've used it before but this was --
it'd be as if like if you were asking me a question
and then everybody in the room started to ask the question a long
with you at the same moment.
You're like how -- what's happening here?
That's what it felt like.
It was like I couldn't understand it and Amy and I were both looking
at each other like, what is happening?
And then it occurred to me.
Like, they don't have the records.
They have the downloads.
This is -- they weren't buying those things.
I said, "You've downloaded this."
And people were like, "Well, uh, what [laughter]?"
And I said, "You did not pay for this did you [laughter]?"
And there was silence and I said, "Thank you."
Like can you imagine writing a song and then hundreds
of people thousands of miles away being interested enough
to actually -- like, pull it off and listen to it,
and listen to it well enough to know the words?
That's a gift.
The internet did something good at that moment.
That was good.
If people insist they only want free music they're going
to run into some problems.
There's two realities as far I can tell in terms of free music.
If you only want free music.
If you don't want to pay for music get ready for your music
to be suffused with advertising.
That's already happened.
You can't hear anything without like getting it through some car company,
or some liquor company, or whatever.
That's already -- I mean music has always been beaten
by these companies.
But it's getting beaten even worse now.
The second thing is have fun with the past.
Because you can't make music for free.
The only music that is potentially free is
that which has already been recorded.
Now there is particular chord than we'll ever be able to hear
so it can keep people busy but it doesn't do much
for moving culture along.
But I'm not worried about it.
I think people will support music.
I think people will continue to want to hear new music and we are going
through a process, an evolution.
But music can't -- it can't be stopped.
It was here first.
It's going to keep oncoming.
And the people who make it can't be stopped.
People are like, "Now what do we do?"
I'm like what do you think they were doing all those other
You know, hundreds of years people were walking around playing guitar.
[Inaudible] we have to figure this out.
We'll figure it out.
Can't be stopped.
Can't be stopped.
Do you have a question?
>> It was just a comment.
>> Ian Mackaye: Oh yeah.
>> I was going to ask you if you [inaudible].
>> Ian Mackaye: Oh.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: New Wavish.
>> Ian Mackaye: Yeah.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Mm-hm.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: Right.
>> [Inaudible response].
>> Ian Mackaye: [Laughter].
She's asking me if what I recall by the [inaudible] Gardens which was
by Daeo Pilipino Restaurant, by Night Punk/New Wave club.
That's the place I had mentioned earlier about playing there in 1980.
I did not eat there.
I had no idea that they actually served food [laughter].
But it was a destination, it was a very legendary club in our mind.
And we knew about this place.
Again, these were -- these venues around the world,
like around the country and then around the world like 9:30 club
for instance and D.C. Space here in Washington.
But there's rooms around the country where people are sort of allowed
to present these new ideas and I think this is very important.
Like people ask me like what is Punk?
And this'll be my last thought because I'm getting some stink eye
from this guy over here [laughter].
They say, "What is Punk?
Like what is Punk?
How do you define Punk?"
Here's how I define Punk.
It's a free space.
It's just a free space.
It could be called Jazz, it could be called Hip-Hop,
it could be called Blues, or Rock, or Beat.
It could be called Techno.
It's just a new idea.
For me it was Punk Rock.
That was my entrance to this idea of the new ideas being able
to be presented in an environment
which wasn't being completely dictated by a profit motive.
The problem with the profit motive model is that most venues,
the income is being generated by the clientele.
The clientele is the audience.
There is not audience for new ideas.
So you have to either be referential or genre centric or whatever
but it's very hard to have new ideas.
But Punk Rock in my mind was a place where the people who were involved
with it were just -- they were prepared to be the audience
for whatever people put on stage.
I understand that the media has done incredible disservice to Punk Rock
by showing it as being annalistic or self-destructive, moronic.
I understand that.
It's easy for them because it scares them and that's what they
like to do is like scare us too.
But what I can say about that is that there may have been elements
in the Punk scene that were annalistic or were self-destructive.
What's more important is that there were so many creative people
who continued to contend with that fact, who continued to identify with
and as punk rockers who created so much music;
to me that's the real -- that's the real message.
That these were construction workers willing to put
up with adverse conditions.
That's Punk Rock and I feel like that the [inaudible] Gardens
and these other places they were like rooms
where that sort of thing could happen.
I don't -- when that place closed I didn't think that's the end of it.
There's always going to be another spot.
Because ultimately it is the people
and that's why whether it's called Punk or not, Punk can never die.
[ Applause ]
>> This has been a presentation of the Library of Congress.
Visit us at loc.gov.