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Over the course of 10 years, I worked on Instrument, the film done with and about Fugazi (“In on the Killjoy,” 10/17). I went to Wilson with Ian MacKaye and have known, argued, and laughed with him for 26 years. I think it’s fair to say that I have a good sense of what these people are really like.
It is an idiotic myth that Fugazi is puritanical. There is nothing that ever pleased that band more than to have people dance wildly at their shows. They just got sick of seeing punk equated with thoughtlessness and dancing displaced by mindless violence.
Ian MacKaye isn’t reacting against “fun”he’s reacting against the connotation of the word that is constantly forced down our throats by sitcoms or Entertainment Weekly or commercial rock radio. Fugazi does care a great deal about music; so the band always did its best to let it happen without a lot of crap in the way: music-business crap, the tired rebellious-youth simulations that ad execs cultivate on MTV. That the band occasionally stopped violence at shows in the hope that everyone would be able to hear and dance to the music nonetheless reflects a tiny fragment of their thousands of hours on stage. Most Fugazi shows I attended were joyous, furious explosions, and they could get as wild as any rock ‘n’ roll ever has.
In making Instrument, it took no special effort on my part to dispel the absurd myth that the band is humorless; I often found myself laughing so hard that I was barely able to focus the camera. I have never met less self-important, funnier, more downright goofy people.
Like the Minutemen, the Ex, the Mekons, or, for that matter, Fela Kuti, Fugazi happened to understand that there is nothing antithetical about making fierce music while giving something back to the community and confronting the world of politics as usual. Like any humans, the band members are individuals with flaws and sorrows and complicated histories that deserve better than Michael Little’s cruel and casual distortions. MacKaye and Guy Picciotto didn’t orchestrate movementsthey wrote songs, sometimes when they were just kids. They view the extremes of the straightedge and emo “movements” with nausea. They shouldn’t have to disown what they never wanted in the first place.
So here we are, in a world where Kid Rock and Blink 182 supposedly represent the unpuritanical side of rock music. Meanwhile, they market clothing lines and show their support for George Bush’s wars. Little, in his entirely unoriginal tirade, disguises a reactionary sensibility with cliché#s of rock ‘n’ roll recklessness. Maybe he just thought he was being funny, but doesn’t your paper have anything better to do than print this petty, libelous junk? Rupert Murdoch would be proud.
I would have shrugged it off, but I recently woke up to news of Elliott Smith’s death, whom I also happen to have known and filmed. I loved his work and was quite fond of him. It would have been nice if he’d managed to avoid the addictions and self-destruction your story so idiotically promotes. Elliott won’t be making any more music, Kid Rock is on Rolling Stone’s list of the 50 richest “acts” in rock, and certain real D.C. musicians will continue to effect change and have fun, with all of the joy and rage they can muster.
No help from you.