As the frontman of the legendary punk bands Fugazi and Minor Threat and co-founder of Dischord Records, Ian MacKaye has proven himself to be both a prolific songwriter and a keen businessman. He birthed the highly respected independent label nearly three decades ago, and it has since grown to be the very nucleus of do-it-yourself punk culture. Viewed as the moral and dignified godfather of the hardcore and straight-edge scenes, MacKaye seems to start accidental revolutions simply by speaking his mind and doing his work.
With the much-missed Fugazi on indefinite hiatus, MacKaye has plenty of other projects to cultivate. In addition to speaking engagements, running the label and giving interviews, MacKaye is busy scheduling tour dates for his newest band, the Evens, a lo-fi (yet still intense) duo with Amy Farina, formerly of Washington, D.C.'s the Warmers. Though the Evens could easily cash in on its members' punk-royalty status in exchange for the best gigs in town, the band schedules the dates by itself and prefers to play small, nontraditional venues, including art galleries, libraries and community centers.
"I work really hard," MacKaye says over the phone from Dischord. "[Other] people, they punch out for the day and they go home. I never punch out. I'm never off the clock, in a way. The fact that I haven't separated my work from myself — it has its pluses and it also has its negatives. I wake up every morning having something to do and wanting to do it."
Aside from the advantage of keeping costs down for fans, MacKaye explains his booking choices this way: "So we can be liberated from the rock world, which is pretty constricting when you get right down to it. I mean, you think about the kind of venues or the kind of establishments where music can be presented, and ultimately it's pretty limited and largely dictated by one of two industries, you know, and that's the rock industry and the alcohol industry. And since we don't feel beholden to either, then why not break free?"
MacKaye pushes off any concern about touring burnout. "I like places. I like people. I like going somewhere. I like that fact that music is a point of gathering that can effectively work anywhere," he says.
"I guess I don't ever feel burned out at all. I just feel fortunate to be able to go play music."