Ian MacKaye was once in bands like Minor Threat and Embrace and is currently in the bands Fugazi and the Evens. He also co-founded and continues to oversee the excellent label Dischord Records, which is based in his hometown of Washington D.C. Steve Albini has been in bands like Big Black and Rapeman and is currently in the vital and wondrous rock trio, Shellac of North America. He’s a very well-respected recording engineer who owns and operates the Electrical Audio facility in the city of Chicago, Illinois, where he has lived for a good long time. In this first of a two-part moderated conversation between Ian and Steve, we discuss how they first met via either the late John Loder or Corey Rusk, Steve’s harshly written published review of the Rites of Spring record, Big Black playing D.C., machines and heartbeats, the formalization of punk, the influence of Minor Threat, punk violence, the Butthole Surfers, one-upmanship, explaining Pailhead and how Ian came to work with Al Jourgensen, the significance of John Loder, his company Southern Records, and its role in distributing underground music, Ministry, Revolting Cocks, Wax Trax! Records, Strike Under, punk to electronic music, Paul “Ion” Barker, the Blackouts, Bill Rieflin, drumming, Chicago’s drug scene, Minor Threat’s ferocity and execution, the time Pailhead employed an Ian MacKaye impersonator at shows, Adrian Sherwood almost working with Big Black, the story behind the In on the Kill Taker sessions, staying in London and missing John Loder, why Fugazi recorded in Chicago, how the greatest session ever yielded the saddest demo tapes, Fugazi let its guard down, Steve’s magical rapport with bands, Fugazi goes hard, how Steve bonded with Fugazi during their session together, stifling your fandom as an engineer, treating people you record with respect and trusting their vision, Ian teaches Steve how to double vocals, Ian’s phrasing, single vocals are just fine, trumpets, Ian as a prolific producer, the first Teen Idles recording session with a mean engineer, how Terrie from the Ex obtained his first guitar, Skip Groff and Don Zientara, Inner Ear Studio, Round Raoul Records, resisting technological trends when running a studio, how the In on the Kill Taker sessions with Steve ended up circulating publicly, Fugazi tried to bury it, how records leak, the song « Great Cop, » and that was the end of part one.
In this second of a two-part moderated conversation between Ian and Steve, we discuss the Independent Rock Music Label Festivals organized by Heather Whinna in Chicago that featured Fugazi, Shellac, the Make-Up, Blonde Redhead, and the Ex, Jay Ryan, the Rainbow Roller Rink and the Congress Theatre, confidence versus leadership, Ian on Steve’s interviews, how disempowered people feel, Ian doesn’t talk shit about people like Marc Ribot, exemplars, why Steve might call someone out on a position or argument, critiquing your own community, relating to “political correctness” today, the Reagan Revolution and ‘to care is selfish,’ being decent toward other people, biases and presumptions, the Fugazi song “And the Same,” which includes the lyric, “Yes, I know this is politically correct…,” derailing progression, charity was selfish and greed was good, growing up in D.C. without encountering many Republicans, Democrats can’t go radically left, why musicians play music, being attacked by others, Sylvester Stallone, the Urban Outfitters/Minor Threat thing and aquarium warfare, online pile-ons and Henry Rollins and Robin Williams, Steve defends Henry, internet distractions, making sense of the age of outrage, access and speed, super communication and one-way communication and real-life communication, anonymity, the Butthole Surfers, metrics, I can’t even, Steve belongs on twitter, the way Ian demonstrated how to be a decent, thinking person, the punk rock lawyer, creeping professionalism, custodial and active responsibilities, Dischord Records and Electrical Audio, the music scene in Chicago, it’s nice to be right, work and love, people don’t own their own time, the big payback, “The People’s Microphone,” and that was that phone call.