November 20, 2020
With no contracts and cheap releases from the likes of Fugazi and Minor Threat, Ian MacKaye and comrades rejected booze, drugs and riches to give US punk a conscience. They look back on 40 years of righteous noise
$5 gigs, not $10m deals: the story of US punk label Dischord Records
“Do you know what I call an un-played record?” asks Ian MacKaye. “A piece of fucking trash. It’s paper and plastic. So if I make something, I want to make sure it adds value.”
Thankfully, as the co-founder and co-owner of Dischord Records, MacKaye has made the very opposite of landfill indie. The Washington DC label turns 40 next month, having created one of the world’s great punk discographies by staying fiercely egalitarian. They do not sell merch, only music, and at low prices, too: a socialist and ascetic stance in a corporate US. MacKaye once told malcontent slamdancers, regarding the lack of security at a gig by his band Fugazi: “It’s more fun to look out for each other than to pay people to look out for us,” summing up his entire socioeconomic ethos. “We started and continue to exist on the fringe,” he says now.
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