Thirty years after launching his music career, what does it mean for Ian MacKaye to be a punk rocker? In the 1980s, MacKaye rebelled against popular culture as the front man of the influential D.C. punk bands Minor Threat and Fugazi, and founded his own label, Dischord Records. These days, he maintains the label and plays in a more stripped-down outfit, The Evens, with his wife, Amy Farina.
MacKaye may have changed stylistically, but his core values have stayed the same. He leads a clean and sober (“straight-edge”) life, has stayed true to the DIY (“do-it-yourself”) punk ethic, and keeps his shows affordable and open to people of all ages by performing in nontraditional spaces, like barns and art galleries.
At NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C., MacKaye chatted with Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg about why he likes performing for audiences with the lights on. His reason is simple: He wants to know who he’s talking to. MacKaye also shared why he encourages people to not fight at his shows. “It would be if like I was having you over for dinner and someone started stabbing you with a butter knife,” he said. “I would encourage that person to stop. It just seems obvious.”
After an enlightening interview, we put one of MacKaye’s fans to the test about the punk rocker’s personal tastes. Does he use an electric or manual toothbrush? Which old school media format does he prefer: vinyl or tape cassette? Get ready to discover some things about MacKaye that you never thought you’d know.
Don’t miss MacKaye’s Ask Me Another V.I.P. Challenge, wherein he teamed up with NPR’s Stephen Thompson for a game about classic punk songs. And listen to MacKaye’s story about his impromptu 1981 Saturday Night Live adventure, in the Web extra on this page.