The Making of a Punk

Ian MacKaye has built one of the most thoughtful, admirable careers in contemporary music. Growing up in Washington, DC, he is as responsible as anyone for the influential punk scene that flourished there in the 1980s and ’90s. From his first fierce high school bands, the Slinkees and Teen Idles and Minor Threat, to Embrace (which he describes as the bridge in his artistic and political development), to Fugazi and his current band, The Evens, MacKaye has never been boring; he has never been selfish; and he has never taken the easy route. Those are high compliments for any artist.

The same compliments can be paid to Dischord Records, the label MacKaye founded in 1980 with friend and bandmate Jeff Nelson, and which still thrives today. They have prized integrity and accessibility over financial gain, and, for more than thrity years, their records have remained relevant and exciting contributions to the national music landscape.

There’s a well-known story in the punk world that demonstrates the depth of MacKaye’s dedication to his ideals. When Fugazi started filling large halls, one night they were approached backstage by a famous record executive who offered a hefty sum (reportedly more than ten million) if they would sign with his major label. The band turned down the offer, preferring to stay independent on Dischord, and the rumor is that they were polite about it, thanking the executive and then pleasantly chatting him up about other subjects. Whether or not the story is completely true doesn’t really matter—the fact that it exists and circulates says enough about MacKaye and his bandmates, about the way they’ve conducted themselves and what they’ve valued.

Ian has never allowed his legend to overshadow his identity as a regular guy. He still lives in his hometown, the nation’s capital, and still makes time for old friends, new acquaintances, and interviews with young magazines. We spoke on the phone for a couple of hours. I asked him to begin by describing his early years at Wilson High School.

—Dan Stone


Ian MacKaye: I grew up in Glover Park in Northwest DC, just north of Georgetown. At the time when my family moved there in 1962, it was a working-class neighborhood of people largely from West Virginia, Italian and Polish people, and very much a neighborhood. It was insular, sort of off the grid. So my experiences growing up were first my family and then my block and then the four- or five-block radius in the neighborhood, and then it slowly grew. By the time I got to high school, it was really the first serious interaction I had with people from other neighborhoods.

I loved the widening spectrum of people in high school. There were more people to talk about music with in high school. My elementary school was essentially a totally white school. And then my junior high school, Gordon—which is now gone—was, I think, ninety percent black. Wilson High School was probably sixty-five to seventy percent black.

So at Gordon, I was just trying to get through the day. It was a pretty rough-and-tumble scene with the white kids, because we were a minority, and most of the other kids were bused in. I won an award for reading the most books one year. Instead of risking the playground, I would just go to the library and read, because it was too hectic out there. At the high school, I understood the rhythm of it, and there were more kids to talk to and more ideas. And then punk rock came along, and a lot of the kids who I learned about punk rock from came from other neighborhoods. They had their own cliques, and that was fascinating for me. I loved it. I was focused on punk.

DS: Before you got into punk, what music did you love?

IM: I was first really into the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. And I really loved Woodstock, the triple-album set. I spent a lot of time with that. I actually bought a couple of copies because I would play it so much. I saw the movie, and I just really fixated on the idea of doing a free concert. When I would go on a family trip I would look out the window and scout fields, looking for a place to put on a concert that was that epic. This was in the late ’60s, early ’70s.

Where I lived, Beecher Street, there was a group house on my street for college kids, and they were hippies. They had record collections, and I would go hang out with them. It was almost like a commune. They would let me look at their records. I still remember this one woman had two crates of records, which was just the biggest collection I’d ever seen. I remember hoping that someday I might have that many records. I couldn’t believe how many she had. James Gang, and The Band, and all that stuff. I was fascinated by it.

And then I was skating. I met Henry [Rollins] when I was eleven. I listened to records with him—Cheap Trick and Zeppelin and then Ted Nugent. Henry and I saw Nugent three times. This was the Double Live Gonzo!–era Nugent. Those shows were phenomenal—and so scary, so insane. I’d never seen anybody cuss onstage. You know, this was a guy wearing a loincloth and a tail. Pretty amazing. I understand the incredible irony of it is that his character is pretty much the opposite of me at this point, but I don’t back down from how great I think that era was. I still think those shows were great.

There was this song he did called “Great White Buffalo.” I loved the song, but it was really about the decimation of a buffalo herd by the greed of the white man, and how they threw nature out of balance, and I realized later on that it was really what I was looking for. That’s the thing about art and music, is that the receiver is ultimately the one that has the rudder, who’s going to attach what these things mean. With Nugent, I’ve never spoken to the guy, and I don’t really give a fuck, but the things that I was taking away from the songs were probably my own construct. Which is true for a lot of music. You ever heard of a band called The Obsessed?

DS: Yeah.

IM: I love this band. They’re from DC, one of the original stoner-doom kind of bands. The guitar player and singer, this guy Wino, Scott Weinrich, is a genius. Over the years, he’s written these amazing songs. There’s one called “Touch of Everything,” and the lyrics seem so expansive—he wants to live life to the fullest and have a touch of everything. I was talking to him one day, and I said, “I got to tell you, I really love this song ‘Touch of Everything.’ It’s so heavy and so beautiful.” And he goes, “Oh yeah, I wrote that song when I was taking a shit.” Wow. I’m sure that the sentiment of the song was real, but for me, I was picturing him in this moment of deep genuflection. Of course, maybe he was genuflecting while shitting, I don’t know.

DS: How did your musical tastes develop during your teen years?

IM: Though I liked Hendrix and all that stuff, I liked hard rock, hard funk, like Funkadelic, Kool and the Gang, and Lakeside. I liked Aerosmith, and I liked the current heavier stuff. I wasn’t crazy about Kiss; I was a little bit dubious about them.

DS: Too much stagecraft?

IM: Yeah. A musician friend of mine many years later said to me, “I know what it is, what you like in music. What you look for in music is just the truth.” That’s it. I think it was obvious to me that the presentation was absurd, and the comic look. I mean, I really struggled with The Ramones to begin with. I thought they seemed ridiculous, like they were cartoons or something. I couldn’t understand the music. At that point, in terms of rock, I had really been surrounded by radio rock, commercial—maybe it wasn’t commercial, but it was FM radio rock, like Aerosmith and stuff like that. So punk—I just didn’t understand it. It didn’t work for my ears.

Then in the fall of ’78, I borrowed some records from my older sister, Katie, and also from another friend, this guy Burt [Kerrison]. The Sex Pistols album, the first one, The Ramones’ first album, and a band called Tuff Darts from New York, and The Clash. Maybe The Damned. And Generation X. I remember listening to these records, and they scared me a little bit. I couldn’t quite understand them; the music was so weird to my ears. The Sex Pistols record was upsetting for me because there are a couple of songs on there—specifically the song “Bodies”—which are just incredible rock numbers, I mean, so heavy. At the same time, the lyrics were terrifying. That was certainly the first time I had ever heard anyone explicitly singing about an abortion. That just didn’t exist on other records, or even cussing—I had never heard anyone cuss on a record except Nugent’s live records.

So hearing the Sex Pistols, it was simultaneously really rocking, which I could get to, but then there were really terrifying lyrics. Suddenly, I got it. It just hit me. All of a sudden, everything sort of snapped to grid, and I realized, Oh, this is the counterculture; this is something that I had been looking for for six or eight years—all my teenage years.

I grew up in a time where there was a youth revolution going on, in the ’60s. We belonged to a very radical-left church, and there were a lot of war protesters and civil rights protesters. It was a sanctuary for demonstrators, so people would show up and hundreds of kids would be sleeping in the sanctuary, and they had Black Panthers come to the church. H. Rap Brown spoke there. It was a radical scene, and I was raised in it. I thought it was this obvious trajectory, that you’re going to question authority and not trust the government, and you’re going to be a part of a subculture that rejects mainstream values. But in the ’70s, by the time I was in high school, I felt like my friends—though I loved them—I felt like the only thing on the rebellion menu was self-destruction. The people I knew who were rebellious, they would get high or drunk. It didn’t make sense to me at the time. I thought, How’s that pushing back against the mainstream? I was depressed. No wonder I got so into skateboarding, because it gave me something to do when everybody else was partying. I remember going to high school parties and hanging out for an hour, and then things would start getting blurry for people, and I’d say, “Later,” and go out with a skateboard and ride until four in the morning.

So punk was the first time I found that this could be the counterculture, the subculture where there’s actually people doing critical thinking and challenging conventional ideas. My first show was The Cramps, early ’79 at Georgetown University. When I got there and saw the people, I was like, Whoa, here we are. There was no question about it. I was sixteen.

DS: Was there a moment when you jumped from being a music fan to thinking that you wanted to create music?

IM: I always wanted to be in a band. I played piano my whole life. I did take lessons for a while because my mom thought I should, but it really put me off the piano because I always just had an organic relationship with it. I quit, stopped playing the piano long enough to sufficiently forget what they taught me, then started back to the way I play, which is just vaguely bluesy kind of stuff.

Then I tried to learn how to play guitar because I was always so interested in Alvin Lee and Ten Years After and Carlos Santana and Hendrix. I thought those guys were amazing. But my brain just couldn’t make the connection between a piano keyboard and a guitar fretboard.

I took one lesson from a neighborhood kid who taught me how to play “Smoke on the Water” on one string. I just gave up and skateboarded. It seemed obvious to me that it was never going to happen. But then when I saw punk, I saw that the audience was there. The people came out and wanted to see the new idea, and the new idea didn’t have to take any specific form. Then I realized, that I can do. I’m ready to step on the stage. And because I could play “Smoke on the Water” on one string, I could play bass. So I did.

That was February ’79, and by March or April, we decided to be a band. Jeff Nelson and I were best friends by that point. He had played timpani in the school orchestra, so he would drum. Then Geordie Grindle, who was from my neighborhood, and Mark Sullivan, who was on our skateboard team—Mark and Geordie had been in a non-starter punk band called Dr. Chaos and the Teenage Lobotomies, or something like that. Geordie played guitar, and Mark sang.

So we formed The Slinkees and practiced that summer. We first had to learn how to play, or at least I had to learn how to play. We did only one show, which was in August of ’79, because shortly thereafter Mark went off to college, and that was that.

DS: Do you have vivid memories of that show? What was it like to perform for an audience for the first time?

IM: Yeah, I totally remember that show. First off, the circumstances of the show were unusual. There was a guy named Brian Fox who had these high school keg parties where bands would play. We asked if we could do a show there. It was going to be The Slinkees and a band called The Zones, another Wilson High School band. They were the first teen punk band that I really knew about in DC. We were going to open for them.

An arrangement was made with Brian Fox to use his garage. So we had everything set up and good, but then Brian got into trouble, and his mother, to punish him, canceled the gig. This is a week out. He said, “Sorry, guys, you can’t have the party.” And I was like, “Are you kidding? We’ve been practicing all summer for this, and Mark’s leaving for college three days later.” And he’s like, “Well, she’s not going to budge.” So I wrote a letter to her and said, “Listen, I understand that Brian messed up, and I understand that you’ve got to punish him, but in a way you’re not really punishing him, because his band wasn’t playing. We’re playing, and you’re punishing us, and we’ve worked really hard to do this.” I wish I still had the letter, but I sent it to her. She wrote me back and said, “I’m a child psychologist, and I know what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to manipulate me, and it’s not going to work.” But she caved. We had the gig.

I remember this feeling of playing, and how radical it was. A couple older punks came. We put fliers all over the place. We didn’t expect anyone would actually show up, but this guy Kim Kane who was in a band called The Slickee Boys came. He was an elder, and we were shocked. There were a few other people.

Henry was our roadie at this point—Henry Rollins, or Henry Garfield at the time. There were these guys in the neighborhood at the time called FUDS, which stood for “Fucked-Up Individuals,” and they did not like punk, so they came to fucking wreak havoc. At one point during the show, there was a standoff between Henry and this other guy. Henry had a pipe, and these guys were trying to attack us. It was crazy. I remember Henry was wearing skateboard shorts. It wasn’t like he was a super tough guy. He was always kind of a tough guy, but it wasn’t as if it was a full punk throwdown. It was goofy-dressing kind of stuff. They actually attacked somebody later on in the alley who they probably thought was Henry. There was a lot of weird stuff going on. We had gone down to this little convenience store to pick up some sodas and stuff, then these guys jacked us there and were going to beat our ass for being freaks. It was a good night. Very tense. I’d imagine we weren’t that great, but there was nothing to compare it to.

DS: I love that to get your first gig, you had to convince somebody’s mom to not punish him, rather than negotiating with a club owner.

IM: Yeah, the idea of playing at a club was impossible. Also, keep in mind, I was seventeen; Geordie was sixteen; my brother was fucking thirteen at the time. My sister Amanda was at the show, and she would have been eight. No club was going to have that gig.

DS: In those early years, how were you and your friends treated on the streets of DC? You spent a lot of time in Georgetown, which—I don’t know if it was much different then, but from the years I lived in DC—was certainly not the most radical part of town. It’s pretty buttoned up, with the university and the high-end chain clothing stores. How were you guys treated on the streets?

IM: Fortunately, in the ’60s and ’70s it was really not buttoned up. It was sort of the freak scene. By the late ’70s and early ’80s, Georgetown was where people came to congregate, the people from the suburbs and other parts of town. There were clubs and restaurants and bars. You would just end up there. And this, of course, is before cellphones and computers and all that stuff, and everybody was living at home, so there’s no way to find out where everybody is—you’d just go. You’d go down to Georgetown and start walking around.

I worked at the Georgetown movie theater and also at Häagen-Dazs ice cream store. There were two or three record stores down there. Punks would work at these different places, and you’d just go down and stop in and say, “Hey, who’s down here? What’s going on?” And then they’d say, “We saw so-and-so, they went to Ikaros”—which was this pizzeria we used to hang out at—“or Roy Rogers.” The fast-food restaurant was a big hangout. Or maybe down by the river. People would leave little notes about where they were going to be, and you’d just walk around and find them. And while you’re walking around finding them, there’s also other gangs of kids from other scenes, not punk kids, but what we used to call “grits”—it was a mid-Atlantic thing meaning rednecks, a localized term. So there were all these other kids who came in, and everyone’s sort of in these packs.

Then you had Marines and Army dudes who’d come on their weekends to party. It was a hectic scene. Early on, we were very much committed to this idea that, whatever you think of punk, we’re not that. We’re not going to wreck stuff; we’re not going to attack people. It wasn’t our style. We didn’t do graffiti; we didn’t do vandalism; we didn’t steal. We were kind of nice kids. But we were also punks, and I think that freaked people out. It wasn’t like we were being savaged every fucking day, but there was definitely a lot of people talking smack. Occasionally there was a situation where someone, a drunk guy, would step to you. Marine guys especially loved to get in your face. Fights started. It was a volatile place.

DS: It seems as though one of the big shifts in the punk scene that you were part of—from Minor Threat to Fugazi—was from a more violent scene, both at the shows and street fighting, to a decidedly nonviolent scene. You guys tried to make the shows more inclusive.

IM: Originally, we were kind of tough guys just because we took on the uniform of the enemy. We embraced the freak costume, which made us an enemy of the mainstream, and we were treated as such. Cutting your hair at the time was revolutionary. You cut your hair and people were like, fuck you, because you cut your hair. It seems crazy, but it’s true. At the very beginning, we might yell back at them, but then we would run because we were kids, and there was so much animosity that it was startling.

There are deeper currents at work here. One thing is that the media, specifically television, was really derisive about punk. They made fun of it, saying things like, “These people, they slash themselves with razor blades; they stick safety pins in their faces; they like to eat their own vomit.” Stuff like that, these descriptions of moronic, nihilistic, self-destructive people, like punks are always these loony, violent guys who are doing really terrible things. That sort of caricature fueled the animus in terms of mainstream society.

We started running into situations where people would jump out of cars. They yelled at us; we yelled back; they stopped the car and chased us and tried to fight us. There was a group who was beating up kids down in Georgetown. They would follow kids into a side street and beat them up. There was a point in time when we decided this was going to have to stop. A car would go by and yell “faggots” or whatever, and we’d yell “fuck you,” and then they’d stop, and we would just full-sprint run towards the car. That turned the tables. They jumped back in the car and drove away. It was mostly bluster anyway.

That was the beginning. We’re going to circle the wagons and protect ourselves. We had a few scrapes and fights, not tons, but what became more problematic in terms of this caricature that had been brought about was that people who were self-destructive and nihilistic and maybe mentally unstable saw those images and thought, “Oh, I must be a punk.” And they started coming to the shows. Suddenly these self-destructive forces were on the floor. Some guy would show up—and, you know, he had his hair cut off, and he’s wearing some crazy clothes—and then you’d start dancing, and he’d immediately start pounding people. So, we said, “Okay, we’re not going to take that either.” It was really kind of orchestrated. If a guy was fucking with people and punching people, somebody’d go, “Hey, man, why don’t you cool it?” First we’d give him a warning, and then the second time you’d go in front of the guy and dance kind of silly, and then if he pushed a kid or was aggressive, it was over. We’d take him out. We were protecting ourselves. And the 9:30 Club, where a lot of this happened, said, “Guys, we trust your instincts on this,” which is crazy. It wasn’t a bouncer’s issue; it was our issue.

As a kid I identified as a pacifist, so though I was a fighter, I also had developed this philosophy that I would bruise egos and not bodies. And what that meant was just that I wouldn’t be scared of anybody. I’d step to somebody, but I’d never beat them to a bloody pulp or throw them down the stairs or try to break their nose; I’d just come back on them. Again, I don’t think I ever sent anyone to a hospital or anything like that. But obviously it’s a conceit. When you get down to it, violence is violence is violence. And even if I may have felt justified in my violence, and I may have felt like my philosophy was robust, something I could really stand behind, people around me weren’t following it, that’s for sure.

With violence, when you engage in it, it’s empowering. It’s insane. Especially for young men. The adrenaline rush, and everything about it, is just over the top. Then the triggers, the mechanisms for violence, became increasingly more sensitive, like anything could set off a fight. Whereas in the beginning, someone had to do something really egregious for there to be a fight, then it started to be like somebody didn’t move out of the way, or who knows. It was a pack mentality. “We’re having a fight!” And you’re like, “Okay, I’m helping!”

Then the skinhead thing started seriously kicking in around ’83 or ’84. It was all violence for them. It wasn’t music; it was just violence. In my mind, we were there for the music and the scene, and violence was an adjunct of that. For the skinheads, their thing was violence. The music was actually just...

DS: A soundtrack?

IM: ...a place to find a fight. And a place to find a thousand triggers for a fight. It was so easy to get into a fight with a skinhead. Bump into someone’s girlfriend, or wear the wrong color shirt or shoelaces. That actually happened. I remember talking to one of the skinheads and saying, “What is wrong with you people? Every night is a fight.” And this person said, “We just grew up watching you. You used to protect the scene, now we’re doing it.” And I thought, Wow, I get it. At the same time, the people who are in my set, the older, more established scene at that point, they were totally put off by the skinheads and the fighting that was going on. Thoughtful people, including most women, moved away from the front of the stage and then eventually started to move right out the door.

At one point we decided, let’s let them have their scene, and we’ll just start another one. And this one will be based on nonviolence. I made a clear decision that I would never fight again. I still remember the last punch I threw. I think it was at a Minutemen show. This guy attacked my brother, and I punched him, and then said, “Oops, I said I wasn’t gonna do this anymore.” 

The fighting was not okay. We had to put a stop to it. So our decision was, We’re going to form other bands, and we’re going to play music that’s not going to appeal to these people, and we’re going to have our own punk shows. And that’s where you got Rites of Spring and Embrace and Kingface and Soulside. Those bands were playing music that was not what these other kids wanted. They still showed up, but not as if it had been Minor Threat playing. It was a
different scene.

DS: When you were with Minor Threat, the focus of the music was more on the personal side, rather than political. And by the time of Fugazi, your focus had become less personal and more broad, more political. Is that accurate?

IM: Minor Threat, yeah, was personal. But if you listen to Embrace, there’s a song that says, “Your emotions are just politics, so get control.” I think Embrace was this real bridge. I started to understand that politics are personal, and everything is political. But that’s just evolution. Earlier, when we were talking about my growing up in DC, I said, “First I was in my family, then I was on my block, and then I became part of the city.” I expanded, as one does. And the same thing with bands. At the very beginning, we were trying to figure out who we were. And then we tried to figure out how we interrelated to each other. But then when you’re in your twenties, especially after you’ve created a tribe that’s actually stayed together, you start looking around the world, seeing larger gender issues and these things your country’s doing. You’ve never really thought about it. Of course, growing up in DC, the din of the government is so loud that you don’t hear it. It’s just the factory in town. I still don’t pay much attention to it, honestly. We focused on our own circumstances, and then slowly that widened.

Especially after the mid-’80s, with Rites of Spring and Embrace and Beefeater, there was a lot of discussion and critical thinking going on about these other issues, about choices we make in our lives, about how we live, what we do, what we spend our money on, what we eat and don’t eat, all these sorts of things. For me, there’s a perfect, natural arc to the whole thing. It’s just growth. Even today, at fifty-two, I’m still working on it. I’m still fucking trying to figure it out. I reckon when I figure it out, that’s the end of the road.

DS: The decisions you’ve made as an artist have been selfless and inspiring. Can you talk about what made you decide with Fugazi, for example, to play a lot of benefit concerts or insist on five-dollar ticket prices or make sure your shows were all-ages? You applied those same ideals to what you were doing with Dischord Records, shifting the commercial aspect from the forefront of the conversation. A lot of bands back then caved in to the allure of money and commercial success. But with all your various projects, you didn’t.

IM: Everything is just creative response to a situation and being thoughtful. That’s all. Each of those things you cited, there’s a different reason for it. I mean, I’ve never played shows that weren’t all-ages. There have been some shows that turned out to have not been all-ages after the fact, but I’ve never agreed to play a show that wasn’t all-ages, because I started playing music when I was under eighteen. I couldn’t go to shows. It’s still insane that music, this sacred fucking form of communication, would be off limits because people aren’t old enough to drink alcohol. Who’s fucking calling the shots here? I mean, did you listen to music when you were fifteen and did it mean anything to you?

DS: Yeah, of course.

IM: Yeah, so why would you not be allowed to see a band for six years? Because you’re not allowed to drink? That is odious and insane. So that one’s going to the grave with me. I’m never gonna play shows that are not all-ages.

Each of these things you talked about, like making a record—we decided instead of thinking in terms of making the most money possible, let’s think in terms of sustainability. How much do we need to pull this off? We’re coming from a different point of view. I think all my decisions, all my work, whether with the band or the label or any of my other projects, I just try to think about it with a pragmatic, creative response. It’s always that I thought about it, and that’s what made the most sense. Straightforward.

DS: So playing shows for five bucks, you guys started doing that early on, and stuck with it even when Fugazi was at its height of popularity.

IM: We just broke down the economy of a rock gig. Most rock gigs, the way money’s being spent is extremely wasteful. And the way most bands were operating—and still operating—is that they’d ask for a guarantee. So if you’re going to play a town, and you say, “I wanna play there, but you have to pay me this much money,” you’re putting the promoter in a position where he or she is at risk, because they’ve guaranteed they’re going to pay you X amount of money. In our case, we said we’d work on percentages, so we’re prepared to take the risk, too.

So then once you’ve got that established, you say, “Okay, what are the costs of the show?” Obviously, we don’t want to waste money; we don’t want there to be padding in the cost of the show. So we go down the list: How much is the rent on the hall? How much is the P.A.? What are the other costs associated? We don’t need the kind of catering that most bands ask for. We travel with our own mics. We don’t have to pay for a light show or whatever. We broke it down. It’s just a different approach, a different methodology. If you do that, if you’re willing to do the work, then you can bring the price of the ticket down, and then it’s for all people.

I think shows are way overpriced now. If you’re going to charge a fortune, thirty or forty bucks for a gig, you better deliver exactly what the people want, exactly the songs they want to hear. But Fugazi didn’t do that. And that meant that we may play some songs, we may not play some songs, we might be in a good mood, we might be in a bad mood, who knows. Whatever’s gonna happen is gonna happen. If we suck, we suck. But you paid five bucks. That’s less than your parking space. So what the fuck. It freed us from this sense of having to deliver exactly what the people wanted because they paid for it. Instead, we approached it as if we were collaborating with the people to make a show. It’s a different way of thinking about it.

DS: It seems that all of those things—keeping your records cheap through Dischord, having all-ages shows, low admission prices—they’re about finding ways to make sure that everyone can access what you’re doing.

IM: Of course. It’s a matter of saying, “Okay, we’re open to everybody.” Every song I ever wrote, I wrote to be heard. So why wouldn’t I want to make it possible for anybody to see us? I wouldn’t want my financial needs to scare people away. I don’t want that to be the driving force. I want music to be the force. I want the gathering to be the force. 


This essay is available in Radio Silence print issue 03.


Ian MacKaye is a musician, songwriter, and producer. Born in Washington, DC, MacKaye has fronted such iconic groups as Teen Idles, Minor Threat, Embrace, and Fugazi. In 1980 he founded the label Dischord Records with Idles bandmate Jeff Nelson. Today, MacKaye sings and plays guitar in The Evens, his band with wife Amy Farina.

Dan Stone is Radio Silence’s founder and Editor-in-Chief. He has taught middle school, high school, and college, and worked for six years as a program manager and documentary producer at the National Endowment for the Arts. He grew up in Syracuse, New York, studied poetry at Colorado College, fiction at Boston University, and played poorly in a handful of forgotten rock bands.

Jay Ryan's work has appeared on posters for The Flaming Lips, album covers for Andrew Bird, and books by Michael Chabon. His own books include 100 Posters, 134 Squirrels: A Decade of Hot Dogs, Large Mammals, and Independent Rock: The Handcrafted Art of Jay Ryan (2005). He lives in Skokie, Illinois, where he runs the screen-printing shop The Bird Machine.

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