Interviews

Fugazi (issue 11)

Fugazi are an amazing band. their ethics and way-of-operating proceed them where e'er they go. In October 2002 they played three amazing shows; in Dublin, Limerick and Derry. Anyone who saw them will attest to this, their tightness and music is unbelievable. Myself and Pearse managed to catch up with Fugazi bassist Joe Lally, before the gig in Limerick, special thanks to Ivan, Albert and the AMC (Aspersion Music Collective), who organised an amazing gig in the Savoy that night. (Photos from the gig by Anto).

A= Anto, J= Joe Lally, P= Pearse

Joe rockin'

A: hows Washington DC these days? Is it as active as ever, many bands?
J: I don’t actually get out and see that many bands, so I can’t comment too well on whats happening in DC, I had a little girl last year, just over a year ago, so I went to see M’Crazy-Johnston I’d been waiting about twenty years to see him so I was glad I got to see that show. I don’t make it out often enough to actually catch local, so I’m missing a lot of stuff, theres like, MeaslesMumpsRubella which is supposed to be a good band. I did get to see the Black Eyes once cos they played in the summer – theres a place where bands get to play for free outside early evening so those shows I made Q And Not U in their new line-up so I caught a couple of things but its not like I’m kinda up on things the way I used to be.
A: Yourself and Brendan have kids now….
J: yeh, Brendan’s actually got a third coming…
A: wow, I’m just wondering do you find it hard to have time to play or record, go on tour, is that a problem?
J: really getting out to tour is the hardest part of it when you’ve just had a kid, its just not a time when you wanna be away so we take time off and we’re home. They [the band] left me alone pretty well for a long time, so we didn’t do anything for a long time. And then when I was ready to play some people were doing some other stuff anyway so we didn’t do much. So this whole year is going to be 6 weeks of playing (which is pretty much insane) but we did get into writing for the next record, before we left on this trip, before we started practising for this trip, so that’s a good sign, somethings happening.
A: do you think you’ll be able to continue to tour as you have families and stuff?
J: I don’t know, it seems like a lot to put on Brendan’s wife to leave her with 3 kids ‘cos I know how I feel leaving my wife with one child. That’s the toughest part of it so I really don’t know, maybe its just gonna be not very frequent and for very short periods of time, I don’t understand whats happening so far as that goes, but I know we’re all interested in writing another record so I think that’s probably what we’re gonna focus on.
A: What still motivates you to play and tour…
J: Probably listening to music, the original thing that motivated me to play or be in a band – always been inspired by music and I think music is the only thing I ever really cared about. I had a decent paying job but I quit it to be a roadie a long time ago, and this band started after that, there never seemed to be a reason to do anything else. Just play music and luckily focus on that (laughs)…
A: There’s always been a tradition of an active independent scene in Washington DC, kind of a political aspect to it, do you think that’s a mirror of the fact that Washington DC is the capital of the American administration?
J: It might, or it might be that you hear, like you definitely don’t hear all the bands that come out of Washington DC, you’re hearing a small percentage (of bands in DC). Because a lot of the punk bands that were on Dischord were perfectly happy to do shows that were benefits for different causes in DC then those bands might – it may
appear that the music in DC is very politically-orientated, it may just be a matter of perspective as its hard to say cos I can’t tink of any bands off the top of my head that are actually writing very political lyrics, what you would call political lyrics, absolutely referring to contempory politics. It depends on your interpretation I think in many ways, maybe they are political in other ways. Its definitely a strange town politics being the main business, they really try to keep it an anti-social town, don’t go out, its not a party-at-night type of town.
A: Has much changed since Sept. 11th? The Bush administration?…
J: well, (pauses)….yeh I think they’re totally pig-headed, they seem to think they have license to do whatever the fuck they want now, that happened all in the name of security; but the city itself theres probably a lot more police presence, theres this sniper* going around shooting people, not actually in the district, only one occurred just in the district line, certainly it turned into a state of emergency around there. *[same time as Washington DC sniper]
A: Do you think the whole idea of ‘punk’ or whatever still has relevance today?
J: sure!
A: sound! (laughs)
J: maybe more so because everything sucks, how about that?
A: that’s good! There was a version of ‘In On The Killtaker’ that was recorded by Steve Albini
J: yeh, I wouldn’t say all the songs were finished being written at that point. We did a recording with Albini, but the record should show, that we went into record a couple songs with him to see if we should record a record with him, that was in a basement of the house that he lived in at that time. I think we gave ourselves 4/5 days to come in on the first day and unload and pack up and leave on the last day, so that’s not too many days to record a whole record if you think about it, so the fact that we weren’t totally satisfied with it, and weren’t actually finished some of the arrangements of the songs. We decided we’d just let the whole thing be rather than trying to use parts of it.
A: Do you think it could ever see the light?
J: Theres no point for us, I don’t see how we would see there was any real point in putting it out, ‘cos I don’t see the relevance in putting it out. But maybe someone will bootleg it someday.
A: Obviously you’ve worked a long way to get to where you are with theband and the label and that, do you think its still possible/ important for bands/ people to work to build independent scenes or network…
J: Yeah, of course I think that because that’s what we do, but isn’t it obvious the way everything else is going in the music business – that’s what must be done…, it kinda doesn’t matter what I think or not, its not gonna make bands do it…
A: It seems harder multinationals seem to be getting into everything now….
J: It depends on how you look at it, I think it makes it easier because its so far out of the realm of doing anything yourself, everything is blown so far out of proportion as far as a major record label goes; as long as people have turntables…; you can make cds for cheaper than making 7”s.
P: With all this music industry hype I was reading about independent record stores that its actually benefiting them in a way, that the music industry is dying as such with mp3’s and blank cd’s, with the culture that’s been brought in, do you think it would actually help a band like Fugazi, because Fugazi are still [Fugazi cds are not as commonly available so how does this effect…]
J: I’m not sure I understand
P: say somebody could go in and buy a George Michael cd, burn thousands of copies of it and everybody has it, a huge artist like that…
J: Oh, because its harder to find our stuff people don’t actually take advantage of it, I don’t know.
P: they go in and buy the original because it so hard to find.
J: I don’t know, don’t you think there’s just as much of a network in the underground, I mean I just had someone email me to say maybe I was interested in this record; and its very obscure; was coming out, anybody who wants a copy of it I’ll burn it for you. So I wrote back and said ‘sure I’d have a copy’ because no matter where I’d find it, it would be $15 – I can’t spend the amount for regular cds these days independent or not, they’re expensive as hell.

Ian McKaye

P: but would you say the majority of your records are sold on vinyl or cd?
J: probably on cd, oh sure yea yea. I just don’t think as many people have turntables anymore even underground people, eventhough theres obviously a hell of a lot more people listening to underground music owning turntables, than people listening to popular music, they’ve probably thrown their turntables away ten years.
But theres probably a lot more to be said about that stuff, it’s a hard thing to ponder over; sure it could kill us too maybe it is killing us to some degree as far as record sales go but it doesn’t matter, I mean to me people could be downloading our whole records off websites, I never look what you can find through Fugazi, maybe theres whole records you can just download, I don’t know, for me as much as its becoming so expensive to buy cds, and I have a cd-burner with 4 times the speed I can dub a record so quickly, I still wish I had the actual cd with the artwork on it. It still means something to me, I like that about a record. I don’t like a bunch of things with just the title written on. That’s just me though, I don’t know how many people feel that way but maybe the type of people who buy our records maybe they actually like to have the record or maybe they say “these guys aren’t even charging that much they’re out there making an effort I’ll buy the damn thing”. I don’t know maybe they say that maybe they don’t.

P: so would ye’ have any interest in whether its benefiting ye’ or killing ye’.
J: You know if mp3’s or the downloading off websites and all that stuff is to destroy our record sales then so be it; it would not stop me from wanting to make music or record music with this band as long as everybody in the band wants to do it, I wanna do it; or with anyone else who I could make music with; its just beside the fuckin’ point. It’s a miracle that I’ve been able to live off the band for this long.
P: That’s an attitude a lot of bands have just forgotten, they see sales of records as …., its good that you’ve held onto your ambition to be artists first rather than selling records.
J: There’s no left and right side to it, its just the way it is, if its one of the few things you really care about, its not that I don’t care about people or whatever its just as far as things are everything for me; I just listen to music all day long, you know, I like silence but theres always, like now I just really want to listen to drummers drumming, jazz drummers or whatever, I mean its infinitely interesting to me. There’s always something, its either I’m going back and listening to everything Hendrix has done or everything the Beatles have done. You just can get stuck in someone’s catalogue, then you just have to listen to everythingand you re-explore; I’m a fucking nut I guess….

Joe and Brendan

A: If you had to record a shit 80’s song what would you pick?
J: I’m sorry what was that?
A: If you had to record a really bad 80’s song, dodgy 80’s song
J: I guess we’d have to decide what was a really bad 80’s song..
A: like ‘Power of Love’ – Huey Lewis & the News,
P: ‘Dead or Alive’, Duran Duran,
J: If I had to, I don’t know, the 80’s was a long time that’s 10 years, that’s a lot of crap to wade through , some of that stuff is so bad its actually interesting….but I’d have to think about it to actually out what was most awful to me ….it would be even harder to think about wanting to record it. Sorry.
A: Did you get the Hope book ‘Document’ with the recipes?
J: I bought it just yesterday.
A: I know there was Cynthia Connolly’s ‘DC people and their cars’, do any of you have bicycles or cycle?
J: yea, I have a bicycle. Isn’t there somebody pictured with their bicycle?
A: I think there is one girl from Fire Party
J: oh yeh, maybe Christina is with her bicycle, I forgot, tonnes of people have bicycles I guess the subject matter wasn’t ‘People with their Bicycles’ it was ‘People with their cars’ (laughs), maybe it should have been people with their modes of transportation.
P: The Dischord box-set that’s coming out, I just heard it was 6 unreleased Fugazi tracks and 73 odd tracks spanning the 20 years of Dischord, would you have part of that or is that mostly Ian’s running of Dischord?
J: well its all about the fact that they’ve been around for 20 years, they had done quite a bit of music before he’d even met me, but as far as Fugazi‘s tracks on it, we all talked about what should go, and thought about what seemed worthwhile to put on there. I like it [the cd], its a lot of music, spanning such a huge stylisation, different styles, its kind of insane in one listen.

a bloke walks over asking if Joe has any guests for the gig.
J: No, I don’t think I know anyone here.
P: Irish relations?
J: I might, my father, both his parents came from Ireland.
P: Whats your surname again?
J: Lally like Old M’Lally
P: Irish roots
J: yep, but I don’t really know where
A: you haven’t played Limerick before.
J: I think Derry and Limerick these are both first times.

Ian and Guy

P: You were writing tracks for the new album before you started touring?
J: well there’s only one song that’s starting to take shape I’d say everything else was jamming around. We start taping us thinking.
P: Do you ever feel pressurised, like ‘The Argument’ was a pinnacle album, another masterpiece for Fugazi. Do you ever feel pressure to follow up a record or do you ever go into a record thinking we’re gonna to this, this…
J: Its like that record, when we took out the songs that ended up being the single [‘Furniture’ 7”], I think it made ‘The Argument’ what it is, we had written those songs to go with it but listening to it, –without those 3 songs it sounded like a very cohesive album, but we didn’t know that while we were writing the songs.
P: You take an album, song by song
J: Yea, you just work on one song at a time trying to be satisfied with the song, it’s a challenge maybe for all four of us to actually be happy with the outcome of the writing of the song. When you’re tinkering around with the songs are written, especially if there’s a whole load of them at once, and you’re still trying to bang them into shape, you really can’t see them, I know I can’t see them as a whole. I can’t hear them as an album. Its not until you’re done and their mixed and you start thinking about the order, you get a picture as you’ve been listening to them but still its hard to stand outside of it and hear it. Until you’re passed it and go back and listen to it otherwise you listen to it and can’t even hear it ‘cos you’re so familiar with much of it. Suddenly its over and you forget to pay attention to it cos you heard it so many times. So its weird that way trying to create something like that because its such a piece of time, a length of time, 45 minutes or whatever it is….

Thats pretty much where the interview ended, special thanks to Joe. Contact Fugazi at Dischord Records, 3819 Beecher St., n.w.d.c., 2007, USA.
and Aspersion Music Collective, Limerick, Ireland. http://theamc.homestead.com/mainpage.html