IAN MacKAYE INTERVIEW PART TWO OLYMPIA 1994
Here’s PART TWO of my interview with Ian MacKaye.
This interview took place 7/16/94.
Do you ever have dreams that seem to have a power or meaning beyond the average dream? Like where you wake up just saying “What the fuck was that?!”
Yeah, I’ve been having a lot of dreams like that lately actually. Usually I don’t remember my dreams. Lately I’ve been having really vivid…uncomfortable dreams.
Have you ever gotten a song idea from a dream?
I’ve had dreams where I have this incredible song, like the best song ever but when I wake up I can’t remember it. I can start to kind of pronounce the drumbeat maybe but what I come up with sucks (makes an arhythmic slapping sound with his hands) but at the time in the dream I was fully sold on it,“This is the shit!” (laughs)
I’ve had some dreams featuring Fugazi that were out of this world, like nothing I’ve ever heard. I’ve also had some like that featuring Metallica so don’t let that go to your head! When I’ve had these dreams it makes me think about how music exists on so many levels inside and outside of us. Music is a mystery in and of itself. I mean, there’s no real reason that since the beginning of time people have played music, but we always have.
Well, it’s to echo the heartbeat. That’s how I think about it. It’s a rhythm and it echoes the heartbeat. You have a natural rhythm going on in you, music is a counter rhythm that works with or against your natural rhythm. That’s the way I kind of feel about it. It seems to me that’s what it’s about. You can construct a beat that slides right into you or you can make one that’s a weird counter beat or it can be something without a beat but you’ll put the beat in yourself. It’s like a canvas, an aural canvas of sound.
Most of my own Fugazi dreams are where we’re playing and we can’t remember a song. That kind of shit. I had an incredible dream once where much to my horror Jeff Nelson, Minor Threat’s drummer, had organized a Minor Threat reunion gig without asking me. I’m just totally horrified. I’m like, “I am not gonna do this!” but the tickets are already sold and I feel this obligation, the kids bought the tickets, they really want to see it, and it would be a dick move not to do it. So I go down to this gig, I’m totally embarrassed about it, humiliated frankly, because this is something I never was gonna do…
So back to the Minor Threat reunion dream…
…yeah, so I get to the show, totally bummed about the situation, but something about me is that if I’m obligated to do something, I fuckin’ do it. Straight up. If I say I’m gonna do something, I’m gonna do it. That goes for anything, if I have to clean up vomit, I’m gonna do it, as much as I may not want to, I just do it. So I get to this fuckin’ gig and the band is not there. It’s just a guy with a turntable and a Minor Threat record on it and there’s like 2000 kids chanting “Min-or Threat! Min-or Threat! Min-or Threat!”
So I walk out on stage and I’m like “Hmmm…this is really embarrassing. This is a total rip-off!” I’m thinking these kids are gonna be so bummed, none of the band is there, just me and the guy with the turntable…a single turn table...just one. So I’m thinking, “I’m gonna do this, I’ll just give it my all” so I tell the guy “Put the record on!” So he puts the record on and it’s just the record, with me singing on it and everything, and I just start singing along with the record!
Are the kids into it?
I’m just like “YaaaaaH!!” Screaming, totally jumping around, singing, and the kids are just standing there going “…wha? This is a rip-off!” And I’m just going “RED! I’m SEEING RED!!! Ahhhhhhh!!!” doing my best. I know on the one hand it is a total rip-off but on the other hand at least I’m trying.
It was such a fuckin’ surreal dream. I woke up wanting to kill Jeff! Most all my dreams with Fugazi are like, we’ll be playing Australia and then we’re all at home and I’m like “Wait a minute…we have another show in Australia! We gotta get back there in like 12 hours! It’s a 15 hour flight! Ahhh!” It’s usually organizational stuff because I’m the organizational one.
So it’s more anxiety dreams than power dreams about playing music?
Yeah. You know, but you gotta remember the difference between you and I is I play…
I’ve been in bands all the time. You don’t. You want to be a performer but you never do it, so your dreams might be working something out…
…yeah, maybe I’m realizing something internally you don’t have to…
In the early 80’s I was a total Punk fighting kid. I fought a lot. I used to have these incredible dreams where I’d be fighting with somebody and I’d throw my hardest punch at them and my fist would just end like a quarter of an inch from their face, it might even touch their face but I could never quite get a contact. I’d hit them as hard as I could but could never hurt them. But when I stopped fighting I’d have dreams where I would bludgeon people!
I stopped fighting in 1984. I never fought after that. After I stopped I’d have dreams where I’d be pounding people’s heads against the stairs and shit, just beating the fuck out of people! Before, when I was fighting, all my fighting dreams were really frustration dreams. I could never actually get a crack on somebody.
I’m not saying this is true for everybody, but for me it just filled in the blanks. I have had some dreams that I think were kind of prophetic. Where in life I’ve thought, oh my god…where something happens to me and I think “I dreamt this!”
Can you think of an instance?
I can think of a couple actually. For the most part I think they’re regenerative dreams I believe. I believe your mind is in a feedback loop or something. You think you remember something. I mean what is memory? Who knows what the fuck it is?
I can say “I remember this from a dream”, but do I? I don’t fuckin’ know, it could’ve been a computer chip stuck in wrong so it only seems like something I remember.
I do have one story: I got hit by a car in 1982 in Camden, New Jersey. Minor Threat was playing there with SSDecontrol, Flag of Democracy and…Agnostic Front might’ve been on that bill. I was standing out in front of this place, it was a little union hall, a fireman’s hall or something like that and I was standing out front in the street. It was a really shitty neighborhood in Camden, a very tough neighborhood. I’m in the street, there’s a kid skateboarding, Punk Rockers are all hanging around and SSDecontrol pull up in their black van, Al had bought this brand new black van, so I go out and I say Hey, How’s it going? I go over to the window of the van you know? There’s like 16 Boston kids in there. So I’m standing in the street talking to them through the window
On the driver’s side?
yeah…they’re stopped on their side of the street…kids skating around.
As I’m standing there talking to them I notice two blocks down a car makes a wild turn onto the street. The car was going pretty fast, I could see that. So I say to the kids in the street “Yo! Get out of the street this guy’s coming fast!” I squeezed up against the van and there was plenty of room for him to get between us and the parked cars on the other side. Anyhow, he’s driving up really fast and then about 20 yards away he pulls into the middle of the road and I just think “I’ve dreamt this before!”
The next thing I know there’s this insane explosionand there’s an orange light going in a circle, like a parking light, and then I’m lying somewhere behind the van. I’m in a fetal position. I wake up and I’m going “Where’s my shoe? Where’s my shoe?” because my left shoe is missing. It was like 40 feet down the street. What happened was this guy had totally plowed into the van, he’d run right into the front end of the van and totally destroyed stuff. I was looking for my shoe and everyone was asking me “Are you okay? Are you okay?”
The guy’s car is wrecked, he’s down the street. People see me coming and they’re like “Ian got hit!” Then the guy takes off. The point is I remember just before it happened thinking “I dreamt this! I remember this happening.” I knew he was gonna hit us.
Now I don’t know if I actually knew he was gonna hit us or not. My memory…well, I got hit by a car. I got flipped and landed on my head. I had a huge knot on my head, my calf was fucked up, I broke a toe. When I went to the hospital the guy there told me how lucky I was to be alive. I still played the show, as a matter of fact there’s a videotape and a bootleg single from that show. I was totally out of my mind and I fainted after the show. I woke up in Washington pretty much.
The one thing about it that was weird was that I talked with this one kid who witnessed it and he said about it afterwards, “Man you really looked like you knew what you were doing!” I asked him what he was talking about and he said, “well, the guy came down and he hit the van and it was like you were timing it because the moment he hit the van you grabbed the top of it, the little rail, and you jumped up and pulled yourself up so that when he hit the front of the van and slid down the side of it, the brunt of the car, you jumped over it!”
You pulled yourself up over the point of impact?
Yeah, I jumped over the grill of the car. My foot, this foot, hit the windshield. My leg and my toe hit the windshield and it flipped me around. I flipped upside down and landed on my head. The kid told me it looked like a stunt thing, like I knew what I was doing. I don’t remember any of this, all I remember is BAM! and then this orange light going in a circle…
Was this orange light an internal light from the impact or was it a light in your environment?
I think it was a parking light, like maybe on the back of Al’s van, a side light or something. I just remember seeing an orange light going in a circle…
…as you were going in a circle?
I guess! I don’t know, this is just what my mind tells me I remember. The fact that that guy told me it had looked so much like I knew what I was doing, that in tandem with my memory of right before I was hit feeling like I had dreamt it before…made me think…ya know...strange.
The only other thing like that involving dreams that I can remember, and I should say I don’t take a lot of stock in this stuff, believe you, me. A lot of people talk about this sort of stuff and they say “I dreamt it then it came true!” I’m not like that, I say “I think I dreamt this but I’m not sure”. I think my mind is more powerful than me, than I can give it credit for being, and that I didn’t actually dream these things ahead time…that’s what I really believe…that said, there is one time I can think of where I had some kind of proof that I’d dreamt something ahead of time.
Let me see if I can get this right. I dreamt once that I was driving down the New Jersey Turnpike and Mark Sullivan was in the backseat and he’s singing. He’s singing some 60’s song or maybe it was Chaka Khan’s Tell Me Something Good, a 70’s song. This is in the dream, he’s singing it and I’m singing and we’re laughing, and the next day I told Mark, “I had this crazy dream, where we were singing and laughing” and we laughed about it. It was some ridiculous song.
So anyway, about eight years later we’re driving down the New Jersey turnpike and he’s in the backseat and we’re talking about songs and Mark starts singing a song and I go “Mark! This is that fuckin’ dream!” and I reminded him about the dream and he goes “Oh yeah! I totally remember! You told me you had a dream about me singing this song!”
…from the backseat, on the New Jersey turnpike…
Yeah. It sounds crazy. Like “Wow, it’s proof!” but, you know,who’s to say A) the suggestion I made by me telling him the dream in the first place didn’t play a role in it happening later? B) Maybe the dream was about such ordinary stuff that it’s not so unusual that we would’ve lived it later, or C) Maybe I didn’t really have the dream, I just remember having had it, and he falsely remembered me telling him about it. That’s as close to something like that as I’ve come.
I did write down dreams for a while, but when I look at them now they’re hopeless, just totally nonsensical. My dreams are nothing special. I don’t think the power to see the future lies in some insane, holy injection into reality. I just think that when you think about stuff you can figure it out. It’s like gambling, if I put all my chips on 14 and I win it doesn’t mean I saw the future, I just played the odds. That’s the way it goes.
Can I ask you if you’ve ever seen a dead body or seen someone die or get killed?
Uh huh. Yes I have. I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies because I’ve been to tons of funerals and stuff like that.
How about in a circumstance outside where you might expect to see one?
Yeah, in 19…84…I went to go see a Yellowman concert, it was really packed, this was at the 9:30 Club and the place was packed. I knew a lot of people that worked there and they had asked me if I could help work security that night because it was a pretty crazy crowd. So I said yeah, sure. My job was basically getting Yellowman from the basement dressing room to the stage. At the club there is no direct access from backstage, the performer has to walk through the crowd to get to the stage. So our job was to open up a lane through the crowd and then work stage security.
Let me tell you, people went crazy for Yellowman. Like when he had to leave for an encore women were punching me in the face trying to stop me from opening up a lane, because they wanted him to play more. It was a very intense show. So when the show finally ends, after he does like four encores and finally we get him offstage, I go back to the stage to look after the equipment. People are exiting out of the place when all of a sudden I hear all this screaming. Everyone is screaming “GUN! GUN! GUN!”
We’re all diving to the ground because someone is shooting, right? So anyway, I’m lying there underneath, like, a keyboard on the stage, I’m holding down someone else because I thought someone was in the main room shooting up the place. Everyone is lying there then I realize the shooting is happening out front and some of my friends are out there so I decide maybe I should go out there to see what’s going on.
So I go running around to the hallway, there’s a long hallway at the 9:30 Club, from ‘F’ Street to the room it’s like maybe 30 or 40 yards. Halfway down the hall there’s a sort of little room, where there is an elevator and in that space I see a man lying there. He’s just lying there, and the hall is completely clear.
So I go running down the hall to the guy. He’d been shot. He’s lying there shot and when I get to him, I kneel down and he’s spitting and choking and stuff, vomiting, he’s pissed his pants and that kind of thing. So first off I get him on his side, so he doesn’t choke to death, cause I can see he’s choking and vomiting, so I turn him on his side and I get his shirt open and this guy Eric Lagdameo who sang for the bands Red C, Dove and Double O, he goes off to get some napkins, towels or something so we can stem whatever bleeding there is. I’m looking around for a bullet hole and I find one little bullet hole on his side but there’s no exit wound and there’s no blood to speak of, there was no blood because he was dying, he was on the way out.
I thought, fuck it, I’m gonna do anything I can for the guy so I’m sitting there telling people to get an ambulance and I’m holding the guy, talking to him, telling him, “C’mon, c’mon you can make it” or whatever. Then the cops come in and I say to the cops, “Hey is there an ambulance?” and the cop just looks down at me and says “That guy is dead, he’s fuckin’ dead.”
Was he dead?
Maybe…not exactly, he was jerking around a little but they were just his death throes. He died while I was with him. I remember driving home after that and I stopped fully at every stop sign because mortality was up my ass in a big way, ya know? One minute you’re totally happy, watching Yellowman and the next minute you’re fucking dead. It was weird. It was a very weird night.
It turned out it had been a drug-thing. This guy who died was the leader of a gang called The Baldies. They were Christian Jamaicans, they were called The Baldies because they shaved their heads. There had been a tit-for-tat drug shooting war going on with another Jamaican drug gang, or so-called posse, they were Rastas, dreadlock guys. This guy who died had already been shot twice before, his name was Patrick Grey.
I got called into the prosecutor’s office because I was listed as a witness and it turns out I actually knew the suspect, I found this out before I went down to the prosecutor’s office. The suspect was this guy I knew who used to hang out with the Bad Brains. I was like oh, shit. I knew a lot of the Rasta guys and this scene was involved with some very heavy players and I didn’t want to be called as a witness because I knew this guy and he knew me.
So I called up another guy I knew, one of these Rasta guys, and I said to him, “Hey, I’m in a bit of a predicament here, the prosecutor wants me to come down to testify and be interviewed, but this guy we know is the suspect…” My Rasta friend just stopped me and says, “Well, what did you see?” and I told him I hadn’t seen anything, I was inside when the shooting happened etc. so he told me to just tell them what I saw and not to worry about it.
It turns out it wasn’t the guy we thought had done the shooting who had done it, it was actually that guy’s brother. I went down to the prosecutor’s office and told him what I saw happen. They said “well, it’s nice that you had a guy die in your arms but it doesn’t help our case at all, so thanks for coming down.” I don’t know what exactly happened. I do know this though: the next night, the night after the shooting, on Georgia Avenue fourteen people were shot at a Rasta night club.
It was a related shooting?
It was totally related. It was a reprisal shooting.
How many died in that shooting?
No one died in that one. Fourteen people were injured though. The next night they just went in there and shot the place to hell. So yeah, I saw that guy die. That actually…you know what? That actually was a crucial time in my life, man. That really changed everything in my life.
In what way?
In that I realized it’s fucking hardball.
Life, you mean?
Yeah. It brought it all to a point. You know? This is the real shit and that all the fighting I’d been involved in, it was all just totally petty and ridiculous. It taught me…I just revamped…My whole life changed in 1984 so much. You can hardly imagine. There were all kinds of small, side things like I stopped eating meat. I stopped fighting. I just really started rethinking everything I was involved with and I thought about exactly what it was I wanted to do. That was the point.
You know with Minor Threat I knew I wanted to do something cause I was pissed. It wasn’t until after that, in 1984 that I thought “Hmmm…how is all this gonna translate into the rest of my life?” Seeing a man die was a major defining moment for me.
It was heavy. Other than that, I was there after a friend of ours had O.D’d. I was there when her body was discovered.
Were you the one who discovered her body?
I came pretty close to it, yeah. I went there to deal with it after another friend found her. She had not been answering her phone or her door for like two days. The door was locked from the inside. That’s kind of a bad sign. This was a case where it was like, she’s in there and she’s dead and you know it. So I went down there. She had been living in an apartment that my family owned. My mom wanted me to go down there so I could get there before this girl’s mom showed up. I ended up getting there like two minutes after her mom had gotten there.
Her mom and another guy had kicked a window in to get access. I had a key. So when I got there I went to the door of this basement apartment, they were already there, the mom was screaming. I asked the guy she’d come with through the door “Is she dead?” and he said “Yes, do you want to come in?” I said, “No, I don’t need to come in but don’t touch anything.” As far as I was concerned it could’ve been a murder. This was in a tough neighborhood.
I didn’t want to go in because as far as I was concerned it was a crime scene. It wasn’t though, she’d O.D.’d., straight up overdose. It was hard. I had to clean that joint out. I also cleaned out a place where my friend’s dad had died, after he’d been dead for a bunch of days. I had to clean that place out.
See, that’s the kind of stuff, like I was saying earlier, if I have to do something I’ll just do it. I don’t get fazed. I’ve had to put a lot of dogs to sleep too. That’s hard. I hold them when they put the needle in. I hold them right on the way out. That’ll fuck with you too. You just know, that on and off position. It’s not a fuckin’ game. You’re here or not.
I was with my grandfather when he died. It was an incredibly powerful experience. It really was like a light switch…where did that light go? Do you have any thoughts about that? Where the light goes after death?
It’s pointless even to make a hypothesis.
It’s totally pointless?
Yeah, for me it’s like, whatever! The pilot light is out, pal! The television is off, it’s just a box again. It’s definitely not present and you can tell too. When something is dead, it’s dead. That body is not being used anymore. When someone or some animal is dead, they might look like they’re living if you squint your eyes, but anybody who’s looking knows that thing is no longer alive. When I set one of my dogs down after it had died, it’s the same color, same shape, but it’s not sleeping, it’s gone. Straight up not there anymore.
The way the muscles go is really incredible when you feel something or someone die in your arms, the way the muscles relax is incredible. In a way it’s even kinda reassuring because it feels like they’re getting pretty comfortable. Everything just goes. It’s kind of amazing.
You said earlier in this conversation that death scares you…
Sure, because it’s like what the fuck does it mean?
Do you ever have a feeling of curious anticipation about the experience in any way or do you just accept that whenever it gets there it gets there?
Yeah, that’s how I feel. It’s so incomprehensible thinking about it just drives me crazy. I remember my first reckoning with death when I was about 11 years old. I was sitting on the porch with my older sister Katie and her boyfriend, we were looking at the stars and Katie said, “Isn’t it weird to think about how many stars there are?” and her boyfriend said, “yeah” and so I asked them “How many stars are there?” He told me there are more stars than you can even imagine and that it’s impossible to count them. I was like,“but you have to be able to count them! Is there a thousand? A million?” They told me that you just can’t count them.
So I’m thinking “How can that be!? How far out does space go? Where does heaven begin?” Then I started thinking “Wait a minute, heaven doesn’t begin anywhere!?” Up until that point I always had it really worked out in my mind ya know: 1st floor earth, 2nd floor space, 3rd floor heaven...that’s the way I had it worked out in my mind. Then I started thinking about it differently, like, “Let’s say there is a heaven on the 3rd floor, then what is on the 4th floor?” Then I thought “What if there is no 3rd floor? What if it’s just 1st floor earth, and second floor INFINITY!?”
This line of reasoning started to fuck me up! I started to have a nervous breakdown at 10-11 years old! I thought this is fucked!
It scared you, the thought of infinity?
It scared the fuck out of me, because suddenly, god is impossible. I realized it’s only there if I choose to believe it. If I choose to take this mission, it’s there. I remember I went inside and called my dad 223-6575 The Washington Post. I’m on the phone saying, “Dad! I’m having a problem here!” I’m crying on the phone because there’s no god, right? I ask him, “Where do you go when you die?” and he says, “Nobody knows, that’s why people go to church to try to figure it out, but nobody knows, that’s why they try and have faith.”
I say,“That’s not enough! You’re my fuckin’ dad! Tell me what the fuck is gonna happen!” He tells me “Nobody knows, they might tell you they know, they might believe they know, but nobody really knows.” It fucked me up endlessly, even to this day. I can remember for a few weeks afterwards I was seized with panic about it. Every night I’d just lay there terrified. Completely and utterly terrified. It was a sensation so strong I can’t describe it to you now how fucked up it was. I can still experience it and I still can’t explain it to you.
No part of that realization makes you feel good, it still scares you now?
Yeah, but you know, it’s not the dying that bothers me, it’s the incomprehensible eternity factor! Like what the fuck does it mean!? It makes me almost hope that the light just goes completely out.
Isn’t that no more or less incomprehensible an idea? I mean what would that be?
I have no fucking idea!
…because that’s still infinity…
Exactly! So where are we? What are we? What are we dong here? I have no idea! It’s insane, man! It makes my fucking organs rumble. Just thinking about it. I have no idea what it all means, I’m just totally clueless. So a lot of times, when faced with this realization, some people might throw their hands up in the air and just say “fuck it! anything goes!” but the way I look at is like this: I don’t know what any of it means at all and I’m terrified about it in a way, but I’m resolved to be here, since that’s where I am. So I’ll just do it. I’ll just be here and while I’m here, no matter how fucked up it seems. I’m just gonna try to pass my time in a pleasant way.
Doing what you think you should do…
…trying to do the right stuff, while also trying to be thoughtful about what other people might be going through while they’re making the same tough passage I am. I’m trying not to kill people in my life and I’m trying not to help them get killed.
That’s the thing to me about taking drugs too. Some people say to me the thing about taking drugs is that by doing them you’re trying a bunch of different things and you’re living life to the fullest by getting all these different experiences. I submit that you’re not. I submit that if you want to experience life to its fullest, that you don’t cloud yourself. That you just take it at full volume. It’s like when you’re in the recording studio, you have straight signal and then you have all these effects.
The effects may make it sound weird and they might jangle it up and make it supposedly interesting or whatever, but ultimately the straight signal is what it is, man. That’s what it really is. A beautiful note that has an effect on it, if it affects you, if it moves you because of the effect, that’s cool. But If a single note moves you, without any help, that’s amazing. For me, I’m way more interested with having an uneffected existence. I hope I can be moved without having to alter myself to get there. I mean how many people have religious epiphanies when they’re totally out of their minds? Everybody!
It makes it all easier to believe when your mind is effected. I’m waiting to believe something when my mind is not effected. That’s the real shit. It’s funny though, I’m kind of a loner on that sort of thing. It’s a lonely sport, but it is the way I am. It’s also not because I think anyone else is so fucked or anything either, I just think everyone has to deal with their own situation as they are. It’s a tough situation whatever way you do it. I’m just trying to make things interesting while I’m here.
Would you like to have kids someday?
Yes, I do think the kid thing is pretty important. The more I think about it. I mean, I’ve always wanted to have kids anyway but I do think there are some answers there.
In raising children?
You see the thing is, if you have parents, some people don’t have parents, but if you have people in your life who are older than you, you’re given an opportunity to watch them and to exist with them. You get to see them dealing with their situation as they go. Then there’s you on the next level and then if you don’t have that next level, which is a kid, there’s something missing there that fulfills the picture.
I think of when my grandmother died two years ago, she had been dying for god knows how long. She’d be dying then she’d pop back, “I’m okay now!” and she and my dad had a deal that if it came to it he’d pull the plug, ya know? It just went on and on, she’d live in a nursing home for a while but we thought that was too depressing so we got a house for her, we had her living in a Punk house. My brother lived with her, she had a place in the basement.
She was part of a Punk group house for a while. It was cool, it worked out pretty good for her. Otherwise she sat in her fuckin’ apartment looking at television until the nurses would come in and feed her. At least at the Punk house there were the Punk Rockers coming and going. She didn’t want to talk so much she just wanted to see people walking around…to see life going on.
So any way, eventually she died at our family’s summer vacation place in Connecticut, a place she’d had for like 60 years. My father was with her and I felt like she was totally ready to go. I find an incredible amount of solace when I see that a person die when that person is ready to die. That’s a lucky thing.
When I think about dying…I flew on a seaplane the other day and I thought about the plane crashing. I thought “If I die this is gonna suck” not for me but for everybody that depends on me for stuff. I always think about my mom. If I died my mom would bum out. You know, no mom wants to see her kid go before her. That’s my fear of death: my mom would be bummed…
(Nikki McClure walks up. “Nikki!” tape stops/starts)
…so anyway…ultimately it’s about that kind of stuff. When I think of my grandmother I just think that’s the way to go, when you feel like you’ve kind of done it, now you’re tired and ready…
I also have a wacked theory about senility too. I feel like everybody contains the insanity clause in life, which is essentially what we’ve been talking about this whole time…that everyone is kind of kooked out on life. People I know who are 25 and they go crazy, any of us can go crazy at any time! You have a license to because this is a totally ridiculous situation we’re in! But I think you might as well just put it on hold, go about your business, and try to interact with people and live.
You’ll probably go crazy on some level. Most people do, they work, and do stuff until they lose it in the end. That’s what I think senility is: you’re old enough to finally just let go and go crazy. What better time to go crazy? You know a lot of people once they go crazy they have a hard time ever coming back from that, at least socially you know? If you meet somebody who is like eighty years old though and they start replacing food with color, “I’d like to eat some more blue!” No one is gonna fault them for it. It’s okay, they’ve been around. That’s my theory about senility…obviously it’s not scientific!
When I see younger people go crazy I often think, just put it off! I don’t care how fucked up your life is, put it off! People might think I’m pretty arrogant about this, but in a way I mean it. Okay you’ve been fucked over in life, your family treated you like shit, yes. I acknowledge that that happened but, you know, don’t let them or that shit fuck you up anymore if you can help it! Live the life you think you want. Live that life! Don’t continue to suffer because of what happened to you. You’ve suffered enough, stop! If you have to go nuts, wait til you’re old.
Of course you might play this tape a few years from now and say “Listen to this guy, now he’s a fuckin’ kook!”
My whole thing has always been really straight forward: you want to do something, do it. You don’t want to do something? Don’t do it. You don’t like something? Don’t do it. Something makes you mad, think about something else. It’s like who the fuck is in the driver’s seat around here? That’s the burning thing for me always, who the fuck is in control around here? I submit that we are in control of our own lives.
All this shit about ghosts and all that, we have the power to create paranormal phenomena in our own minds, that shows you the power of our minds. You just gotta step up and use your mind. Sometimes I think people suffer because the think it’s an effective tool.
In what respect?
It becomes part of their thing, their identity. Like, that dude suffers, he’s bumming. I say, let’s not suffer. Let’s not do that.
Don’t you think that that way of living is rooted in being chained to the past or living in fear of a possible future outcome? It seems to me that the happiest people I know tend to be the ones who are able to enjoy what they’re doing at the moment.
Yeah, right. I think you’re right about that.
It also seems like that’s where creativity thrives as well, unless you’re doing some kind of academic art or music that is a tribute to a past master or something. It seems like all art that is about self expression is rooted in the moment.
That’s true for me. I don’t think of myself as someone who is stuck in the past, but I’m certainly aware of it. I have a good memory. I can remember stuff. I think it’s interesting to think about but when we talk about these sorts of things, I don’t think of them as building blocks. To me I just like to consider the past because it’s interesting and maybe it did have something to do with who I am now. Sure it did, why not? I also don’t regret anything. I have no regrets. Everything I ever did was a step I needed to take in my life to bring me here.
People might ask me “You were a fighter? Don’t you regret that?” I tell’em “No I don’t regret that I used to fight” It doesn’t mean I think other people should do what I did, it only means that’s what I did. That’s all. It doesn’t make me a hypocrite either that now I think violence stinks. I changed…tough shit!
As far as worrying about the future, I do get impatient. There are moments in the present when I do get impatient. Like something’s gotta give. I hate waiting for the future! Like in my life right now, I’m in a stasis. I can’t move. I can’t write a fucking song. I’m in this band. Either I have to write or the band’s gotta stop. Maybe I gotta be in another band or maybe I’ll never be in another band again! Something’s gotta happen. I’m not hedging my bets and I’m not worrying about the future because I know something will happen but right now I’m clicking my feet.
I’m pretty well seated though, I’m excellently seated in the present. I mean I’m here now, seated with you now as though I’ve been sitting here for five years. I enter into pictures, scenes, and situations as if…from the moment I’m there I’m instantly comfortable…here I am. That’s the way my life is. I know people for a few days a year maybe. I’m really comfortable, like right now I’m here in Washington, in Olympia. A week ago I was in D.C., yesterday I was on Orcas Island on a seaplane! I love it. The present is something I’m pretty comfortable with.
Yesterday I was on a seaplane, today I woke up and I thought “I’m gonna go over and see Jason, do this interview” After that I’m gonna go look at a garden! You know, bring it on!
END OF TAPE
(Photograph clockwise from top left: Monte Seifert, Shelley Seifert, Joe Lally, Cynthia Connolly, Ian MacKaye, Jason Traeger and Star Seifert (center) sitting on the front steps of the Dischord house. Arlington, VA. 1995. From my personal archives.)
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