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Backstage Pass: A Discussion with Ian MacKaye

September 20, 2010

Thursday night, the Memphis Music Foundation presented Backstage Pass with Ian MacKaye at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art. Music Resource Center Director Cameron Mann filled us in on how it all went down.

Six months ago, I did not know what to expect when we first talked to Ian MacKaye about coming to Memphis and talking to a group of fans and musicians.  I knew, of course, about his success as a frontman for legendary acts Minor Threat and Fugazi, and the many hats he has worn as artist, booking agent and label owner.  He said he did not want a moderator or any logos or banners in the room.  I should have known this was not his first rodeo.

Thursday night, he held court in front of more than 200 people, singular mic in hand, letting the group ask him questions about anything.  The topics of questions ranged from favorite book or current music of choice to more hard-hitting industry issues like legal hurdles he’s faced or key influencers throughout his career.

His answers to some of the seemingly simple questions revealed a depth of thought and an ethos that make sense for a man regarded as one of the progenitors of DIY.  For example, his response to my question about legal issues in the music business was: “Well, we didn’t copyright, we don’t trademark, and really, when you take lawyers out of the equation – there cant be any legal problems, can there?”

Every time he answered a question, his responses bordered on the philosophical as he would take the audience on anecdotal rides with him through his youth, the Washington, D.C. hardcore scene, having children, the reality of how kids and dying parents affect one’s life and art.  Many audience members expressed to Ian how life changing his music has been to generations.  His response? “Well, it’s like waking up in the morning. I don’t know how feeling any other way would be.”

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