"We Know How the Machines Work and We're Able to Take Control:" An Interview with Fugazi's Guy Picciotto
Some may say that punk has an altogether simple formula: three chords of noise, plenty of sneer and snarl, and middle fingers everywhere. But for about a decade and a half, Fugazi has proven that it's vastly more complicated, to the point that perhaps the term "punk" itself can be considered reductive.
What Fugazi have brought to the table is a strict DIY work ethic, some of the most diverse musical compositions you will likely encounter from one band, and enough conscientious lyricism to make your average punk -- and mainstream media fan(atic) -- think twice about what is going on in the world. And, as one of the chief architects of Fugazi, Guy Picciotto is no slouch when it comes to current affairs, as you will read later.
So it comes as to no surprise to anyone -- except Fugazi, perhaps -- that one of their finest albums to date, The Argument, was released hot on the heels of yet another American war full of sound and fury. What it signifies is ultimately up to the warriors involved, and like most exemplary Americans, Fugazi just want everyone to think before they speak. But definitely act.
Thill: So I was in my friendly neighborhood indie music store and
someone there told me you broke up. Two weeks later, The Argument
came out. What happened?
And I also think that some of it comes from the fact that most bands don't last. I think we're going on to our, what fifteenth year? So it's natural for people to assume that it's going to wind up at some point. And over the years there have been times that we haven't worked as hard as other times, and during those lulls, people start to speculate. As far as we're concerned, if we're not obviously working, you can bet that we're somewhere underground working because we never stop.
And even when you guys are touring, it's a word of mouth thing.
You talked about going on your fifteenth year. Looking back, are you
guys proud of the run you've had so far, as well as the fact that you
can claim total ownership over all of your creative production? And
make a living while doing it?
We never were overtly ambitious and we never really planned anything out. It's just a matter of working and always focusing on the next task at hand. And that's kind of what happened.
Speaking of clicking, one of the things I think that many fans -- underground
or mainstream -- seem to miss when it comes to Fugazi is just what amazing
musicians you are, how you click musically with each other.
I think many people don't realize that our drummer, Brendan, writes a lot of our music. Everyone contributes stuff, but no less than anyone else. Everyone is coming in with ideas. I mean, when the band started, there were a lot of songs left over from when Ian and Joe were working together, but at this point, every single song is a group work. And we just have a good communication with each other, particularly from touring so much. When we're onstage, it's like mind reading: we're on the same page.
Especially, on a smaller level, the guitar work between you and Ian.
Some songs off The Argument like "Epic Problem" recall your
earlier stuff, but there are some that are beautifully different, like
"Strangelight." How did the idea for the songs and the lyrics on The
Argument come about?
We put out that Furniture EP at the same time because most of the songs on it were much older ones that we never committed to recording. It was a weird thing, kinda like we were taking stock. It was like we had a parts graveyard, where all these parts got left by the wayside. We have an enormous amount of practice tape, and we went back and scoured over it all when we were making the Instrument movie, because we used a lot of those pieces for the soundtrack. And that experience led us to, "Oh yeah, there was this thing! How come we never developed that?" And then others, like "Strangelight," were brand new ideas that came out of nowhere.
It's kind of funny, because for the longest time "Full Disclosure" and "Strangelight" were actually the same song. And they don't sound anything like each other now! They never coalesced, so they separated and became two different songs. For us, it's weird, because we know their genealogy and how they break down. But for people hearing them for the first time, they're not going to pick up on it. (Laughs)
Right! I'll look at one of the lyrics and go, "This is perfect for what's
going on in the world right now." And it was written ten years earlier!
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