Im writing an article for my school paper about Fugazi and the upcoming screening of Instrument, a film about Fugazi at the National Gallery of Art. I spoke to Ian for a few minutes today about his thoughts on the film, how Fugazi fits into DC music history and other things. Its short and sweet but enjoy and check out my other interviews.
…………The documentary came out in 1999, how involved were yourself and the other members of Fugazi in putting this together.
We think of it as a total collaboration. Jem and I went to high school together, he was one the central figures that got me into punk rock. He was around in my early days. Then he went to college and we stayed in contact. He actually never came back to DC, his family moved to New York.
Then he started making movies and would hang out at the Dischord House all the time. He just started filming, for no real reason, thats just what he did. But he is such a genius, such a brilliant film-maker. His work is really beautiful. At some point he realized he had this great pile of footage, all like silent super 8 footage. We started discussing in what capacity can this be used. We wanted to approach making a movie like making a record. Jem is the director of the film but we were all up there editing each individual piece to our approval. I cant even describe the amount of work that went into this. Each person had a different idea and vision at how the band should be presented.
We are very mindful of how we are represented if we have anything to do with it. In the interviews…theres a lot of scenes of Jem asking people about us. We were going through all of these video interviews with Jem. We at first only wanted negative stuff, negative comments, it was funny, to just have it be “oh this band sucks, fuck these guys they think they’re god.” And Jem came back saying that it wasn;t accurate, people do love your band. We didn’t want to make movie of people just saying nice things about us, it seemed too disingenuous.
…………….I wanted to clarify something that may be inaccurate on the National Gallery of Art’s website, they have the screening listed as all members of Fugazi appearing…….
I actually didn’t even know it was screening there until about a week ago. He is off in Europe, and set up the screening and forgot to tell us about it. I think he told them that the Fugazi guys would come over. I read about it probably on the same listing that you did. I sort of went “oh…I didn’t know that movie was showing….and I didn’t know that Im gonna be there.” Brendan is definitely out of town, Joe lives in Rome, Guy lives in New York, he would love to come down but isn’t sure if will come down. I think I will be there. I heard there was a little….blog excitement about it ” members of Fugazi here” Whats the big fucking deal? I live here. I guess I will go and answer some questions. Its no big deal though, its just a movie. We do really love that theatre and that whole place, we are quite pleased have it showing there.
I really like that movie, it is quite the piece of work. Its not a documentary but its true, its not a narrative but its a story, theres not a concert film but there is music. Its a true meditation of the band. I think a lot of the bands humor comes through. There is some good evidence of what we were really focused on which was just quite simply, making music.
……………..Why do you think that of all the bands that came out of DC in that time period, Fugazi seems to stand tallest amongst them.
I think it would be questionable for me to really try and take a stab at that. All those questions, how do you make a great record, how do you make people come to your shows. Its the same answer, we worked hard and minded our own business. I mean exactly what I just said, we minded our business, we looked after our affairs. I think a lot of bands don’t look after their business or they sell it to somebody else to look after. We stayed focused of what we wanted to do, play music, be together. Music is a living art, a common point of gathering and a common point of celebration. Gatherings and celebrations of that nature I think are sorely needed today.
Why people think about Fugazi over other bands I really do not know. I have said it before and I will gladly say it again, music kicked my ass, and I just intended to return the favor. Fugazi as a band affected people and I understand that because I have been affected by bands as well.
………Is there such a thing as a quintessential Fugazi record or sound?
Im not an observer….my relationship to the music….take for example “Waiting Room.” You hear that song first on record or cd and thats the definitive version. The one thats on the record may be the most identifiable version but…I played that song thousands of times. There are versions of that song done live that completely dwarf the version on the record. Those songs were living songs and they evolved. We played ” Waiting Room” the first show we ever played on September 3rd 1987 and at the last one which was in November of 2002. That is a long time for a song to evolve and change, but I was there for EVERY version of it.
……….How do you feel about how Fugazi has been filtered through pop culture, and its influence on other bands?
Music is a phenomenon, how people come to us doesn’t make much of a difference to me. Along with the movie we put out a soundtrack for the film. Over the years, Fugazi was recording all the time in our practice space. We recorded all these instrumental versions of songs and we loved the way they sounded, but couldn’t find any useful medium to put it out in. When we started talking to Jem about using the super8 footage, we realized we had the whole soundtrack. We had been recording everything, shows, practices whatever since the beginning of the band. We constructed a soundtrack, almost entirely of recordings that we had done in the years before. We went back into our archives and pulled music out that we liked. We did a record of these recordings, a soundtrack record.
We were doing a show in England and afterwords a guy came up to me said he enjoyed the show etc. And he said he was really surprised that there was so much singing. I didn’t know what he meant. He thought we were an instrumental band! He had only picked up the soundtrack on a whim, hadn’t seen the movie hadn’t heard anything else. I thought that was quite beautiful, to realize that a band is multi-faceted, people come at different times. Some people knew us before we ever played a show and others are still finding out about the band, anything in between, whatever record they came in on became the defining record for them. Their relationship with the band has to do with the context of what happened when they first heard us. There is no difference to me between making something better or worse, rather its just interesting.I appreciate other musicians who have said that they like our work. It means a lot, that was sort of the point.