Saturday, November 15, 2008

Ian MacKaye

Last night, I attended a Q&A with Ian MacKaye at St. Edwards University here in Austin. For those of you who are unfamiliar with MacKaye, he is the lead singer of the highly influential 80's punk band, Minor Threat, as well as a member of the equally influential band, Fugazi. He also owns the Dischord record label.

I saw Fugazi several years back at Tipitinas Uptown in New Orleans and it was, without a doubt, one of the best concerts I have ever witnessed. Fugazi, though no longer in existance, always charged five bucks a ticket for their live shows despite the fact that they could have easily charged twenty to twenty-five bucks. They refused to play venues that didn't allow access for all ages. The integrity of Ian MacKaye is second to none and anyone starting a band today should seriously study the path that this guy has carved out in the musical landscape. Here is a brief recap of some of the questions posed to MacKaye last night:

When asked about a possible Minor Threat reunion, MacKaye had this to say - "That would be absurd. We were reacting to the world around us at that particular time which would be totally irrelevant today." I, personally, have always had mixed feelings regarding band reunions because it is, more often than not, an opportunity to cash in on nostalgia rather than a burning passion to create, which is why music should be played in the first place. A few years back, one of my all-time favorite bands, Gang of Four, reunited and went on tour eventually making their way to Austin. I couldn't bring myself to see a group of people who were now well established in the corporate work world, singing their brilliant anti-corporate songs of twenty plus years ago. I don't have a problem with people doing whatever it is that makes them happy, but you shouldn't try to ignite a fire that no longer burns inside of you for the sake of making a buck - it's phony.

When asked about his feelings regarding piracy, he simply said that he made music with the sole intention of it being heard and anything that restricts people from hearing his music, he's against. I think that's quite a noble statement coming from someone who owns a record label. I can't tell you how many kids I have come across who tell me that their main goal is to be able to pay their bills and make some money with their music, as though you can't make music without it being economically feasible That saddens me. Whatever happened to passion?

MacKaye also addressed an issue regarding a song he wrote while in Minor Threat entitled "Straight Edge," a song(lyrics below) that still dogs him to this day...

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and fuck my head
Hang out with the living dead
Snort white shit up my nose
Pass out at the shows
I don't even think about speed
That's something I just don't need

I've got the straight edge

I'm a person just like you
But I've got better things to do
Than sit around and smoke dope
'Cause I know I can cope
Laugh at the thought of eating ludes
Laugh at the thought of sniffing glue
Always gonna keep in touch
Never want to use a crutch

I've got the straight edge

...anyway, it spawned the "straight edge" movement that still exists today, some twenty odd years after it was written, complete with gangs who will beat you up(seriously) for drinking, smoking, etc., and MacKaye has been unfairly attributed as the leader of this movement. The "straight edge" question was posed to him last night and he said that the song was written not about how he feels people should live their lives but, rather, the freedom to live your life how you want to and that was how he chose to live his. He insists that he wasn't trying to preach or start a movement because, as he said, movements often care more about the cause than they do the individuals they claim to represent.

Overall, the Q&A session was inspiring and, even though the place was packed, I sincerely wish more people could have listened to the wisdom of Ian MacKaye.

Friday, November 14, 2008

My Favorite Music of 2008

When punk rock was born the day the Ramones hit the stage, it was clear that this genre of music was made for the freaks and the misfits of society and music has been the better for it. Fast forward to 2008 and the heir to this throne is Deerhunter's lead singer - Bradford Cox. Gay and afflicted with Marfan's Syndrome, there is not a better misfit in the music world than this guy and I mean that in the most complimentary way possible. Though his music doesn't have the typical "punk sound" that people associate with three chords, it is clear that he is a descendant of this genre in the "DIY" sense.

Refreshingly humble, Cox is also one of the more enthusiastic champions of music today. If there is a better frontman for a band alive right now, please let me know. For the last four years, women have dominated my favorite album of the year(2004 - Loretta Lynn; 2005 - M.I.A.; 2006 - Cat Power; 2007 - M.I.A.), but the female dynamic has finally been broken by the "solo" project of Bradford Cox, known as Atlas Sound, whose album - Let The Blind Lead Those Who Can See But Cannot Feel - is my album of the year for 2008. I love, love, love this guy and I love, love, love this album.

The Evening Descends - Evangelicals
This is an extremely underrated album. Why the Evangelicals aren't bigger than they are is beyond me.

What Does It All Mean? - Steinski

Two Men With The Blues - Willie Nelson & Wynton Marsalis

Offend Maggie - Deerhoof

A Place To Bury Strangers - S/T

The Renaissance - Q-Tip

Shapeshifters - Invincible
The best rapper alive today.

Promises Promises - Die! Die! Die!

The Slip - Nine Inch Nails
The best music of Trent Reznor's career.

That Lonesome Song - Jamey Johnson
The Country Music Awards SUCK. Thankfully, there are artists like Jamey Johnson who are keeping it real.

The Odd Couple - Gnarls Barkley

Favorite Songs of 2008:

1 - "Skeleton Man" - Evangelicals
2 - "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" - Gnarls Barkley
3 - "Electrical Feel" - MGMT
4 - "Golden Age" - TV on the Radio
5 - "Sideways Here We Come" - Die! Die! Die!
6 - "Gettin' Up" - Q-Tip
7 - "Agoraphobia" - Deerhunter
8 - "To Fix The Gash In Your Head" - A Place To Bury Strangers
9 - "Problems" - Mahjongg
10- "Tell The Police The Truth" - Mahjongg

Favorite Video of 2008:

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

I Was Thankfully Wrong

As a (former)southern Baptist son of the Deep South where the utterance of the name Martin Luther King, Jr., was the equivalent of saying a curse word in church, I can honestly say that I didn't see this coming. I never thought that a black man could ever possibly win the presidency, much less one with an Arabic name in this post 9/11 climate. And he won it honestly. The youth vote failed once again and Black voter turnout was only slightly higher than in previous presidential elections. Barack Obama defeated John McCain because of white working class voters and that is a HUGE turning point for this country. I was WAY OFF. He unofficially won 72 percent to 28 percent of the electoral votes. When the youth speak of old people not knowing what they are talking about, this could certainly apply to me regarding this campaign and I couldn't be more pleased. Does this signal the death of racism? Of course not. However, whether you're conservative or liberal or whether you agree or disagree with Obama's political beliefs, you have to be impressed with the fact that, within the short span of forty years, we've gone from blacks not having the right to a black man winning the presidency of this country. Amazing.