Who are they?
Fugazi are Brendan Canty, Joe Lally, Ian McKaye and Guy* Picciotto. They formed mainly from two bands Embrace (Brendan and Ian) and Rites Of Spring (Guy). The initial band was just Brendan, Joe and Ian, they added Guy after the first show (which he attended). They play what was called Emo before the scene became impossibly watered down. Basically they play a more melodic, thoughtful and sensitive version of Hardcore Punk*. They are also straight edge although they sometimes deny this, they keep to the main tenets.
What's with the name?
Fugazi is a piece of vietnamese slang (from the era of the vietnam-america war) meaning a "messed up" situation* which Ian found while reading a book on the vietnam war.
More details on the members
As well as being in the band Ian runs Dischord records who put out many records by Fugazi and many others from the Washington DC scene. Prior to being in the band Ian was in The Slinkees, Teen Idles, Skewbald/Grand Union, Minor Threat, Egg Hunt and Embrace. Guy was in Rites Of Spring, credited as the first Emo band and also Happy Go Licky and One Last Wish. Brendan was in Rites of Spring, Happy Go Licky and One Last Wish with Guy and also in Deadline. (add more information on members).
The first record realesed by the band was a self titled EP. It is an excellent starting place for listening to Fugazi and has definite roots in hardcore and also reggae. Highlights of the disc include Waiting Room, Bad Mouth and Suggestion. The latter song is a powerful indictment of the objectification of women in modern society "Why can't I walk down the street free from suggestion/is my body my only trait in the eyes of men". Waiting Room is probably the most instantly accessable Fugazi song. The EP is also available with Margin Walker on the LP 13 Songs.
Next came Margin Walker an EP which sticks much to the same ground as Fugazi. Stand out tracks include Margin Walker, Provisional, and Burning Too. Provisional tackles politicians and attacks the current political system which leads to people attempting to retain office at any cost. Burning Too is a plea for people to take care of the environment more. The ep joins Fugazi on the LP 13 Songs.
The bands first LP is claimed by many to be their best and a corker it is too. Still in broadly the same territory as the previous EPs it moves more towards a sparse bass and drum dub reggae feel. It features a remake of Provisional entitled Reprovisional. The album also marks a more stark anti-commercial attitude, with several songs sttacking consumers themselves "you are not what you own".
Steady Diet Of Nothing
Their darkest effort and a transitionary album on the way to later albums such as Red Medicine. Tracks such as Keep Your Eyes Open and Latin Roots stand out from this album, but not by much the quality of the album is fairly consistent if not as good as Repeater or Fugazi.
International Pop Convention - Olympia
This 5 day underground festival hosted by Calvin Johnson of K records in Olympia the labels home town occured at a pivotal time of the underground scene going overground for a brief few years, just as Nirvana started gathering momentum. Another reason this event is important is because it's climax on the fifth day was what has been designated Fugazi's best live performance ever and has therefore been selected as an example of a Fugazi gig. Fugazi shows tend to be cheap and, where possible, all ages. They are also well renowned for playing charity shows for such causes as AIDS and womens clinics. The band is also against Moshing, many take this stance to be anti-fun but it is in fact an effort to prevent violence and the strong getting the best places at a gig by brute force.
In On The Killtaker*
The last of Fugazi's old style of albums and heading towards the experimental end of the scale with 23 Beats Off and Last Chance for a slow dance being good examples of this. However there are still a good number of rock tracks including the brilliant Great Cop as well as Smallpox Champion and Facet Squared.
An experimental album with the odd rock track (Target for example) the rest is largely devoted to the more eclectic end of things. A prime example of this is combination lock a funky rock number with a slightly robotic voice saying "I have forgot my combination" in the middle and no other words. The whole album is very good once given a small chance although not the ideal first Fugazi album*
The title of this album put the rumour mill into over drive for obvious reasons. However the name really comes from the idea of ti being the end of the century or the end of an era. It is also due to one of the tracks on the album called "No Surprises" which has a tacked on ending. Basically the end of the album has a hidden track which features all the attempts at the ending most of which failed because of the drum beats not being in time or wrong in some other way. These were titled "End Hits" as they were hits at the end of the song. Another lesser known rumour is that they were breaking up and came from the title of the final track f/d which is legal shorthand for Final Disposition*. Apparently the name actually comes from the track being based on the original music for the red medicine track "Fell Destroyed". Anyway on to the actual album. This album is more in the style of Steady Diet Of Nothing than it's immediate predecessors. It still retains the experimental edge that has become a Fugazi trademark with songs like "Arpegiator" an entriely instrumental track. Other highlights of the album are anti-corporate rant "5 Corporations", Caustic Acroustic and No Surprises.
Instrument is a film based on the life story of the band so far. It is filmed by a friend of Ian's, Jem Cohen, who is a professional music video director*. Accompanying the video is a CD soundtrack mainly made up of oddments and rarities, both items are esential for Fugazi fans. The video particularly gives a deep insight into the band and is an entertaining and refreshing change from most band documentaries.
The bands views
Below are some of the common beliefs people hold about Fugazi and the real story behind them
- The band are humourless and always serious and political - This is far from the case and the band themselves often refer to their behaviour as "goofy" this is seen on the Instrument video when the band are recording in the studio and Guy and Joe are waiting near a keyboard with sampling abilities for their next recording session. Joe and Guy basically sample their own voices and modulate them before looping them. The sound of Guy saying "You ate all the chocolate" in a high pitch voice that's been sped up has to be seen to be believed. They are however very serious about their music.
- The band live in a group house*, only eat oats and have no heating - There is just one shred of truth to this rumour. Basically Ian and some of his band mates in the Teen Idles lived in a group house in 1980 that Ian still lives in, so Ian used to live in a group house. The band are varying degrees of vegetarian but none of them restrict themselves to just oats. The part about not using heat is equally incorrect. The band are fairly anti-corporate and thus dislike giving money to big companies when they can avoid it, but that just isn't practical when it comes to heating.
This is best approached from two directions the personal influences of band members and the influences of the band as a whole.
- Bad Brains
- Gang Of Four
- All Scars
- The Beatles
- Jimi Hendrix
- Janis Joplin
- Cheap Trick
- Ted Nugent
- Brendan, Guy, Ian
- Scott Weinrich
- Arthur Lee
- Louis Armstrong
- Joy Division
- many more...
The band are very politically active and play many benefit shows for various causes in the DC area. Regarding music politics they are fiercely independant and refuse to believe in music as a commercial product, because of this CDs by them cost around $8-12 to cover time and materials, and shows cost around $5. Some of the political causes that Fugazi support are listed below :
- Amnesty International
- Food Not Bombs
- Campaign for Tibet
- Fort Reno*
- The Washington Free Clinic
- Emmaus Services
- Positive Force