Someday, You Could Be a Punk Rocker, Just Like Ian MacKaye

By Kid Reporter PEDRO LAHOZ WOLFE, age 11

Vegan punk rocker and music producer Ian MacKaye, sat down with Kid Reporter Pedro Lahoz Wolfe to talk about music, politics and what it means to be an activist. A vocal supporter of Occupy Wall Street and the global Occupy Movement, Ian played in several bands including Minor Threat, Fugazi, the Teen Idles and the Evens.

Ian MacKaye playing guitar. PHOTO: flckr/DaigoOliva
Ian MacKaye playing guitar. PHOTO: flickr/DaigoOliva

IndyKids: What got you into music?

Music got into me before I got into music. I was playing piano by the time I was three. I thought I’d be in a band, but realized as a kid there was no way to be in a band. In high school, punk rock started. [Punk rock] was this incredibly liberating idea. You didn’t have to have formal training; you didn’t have to follow somebody’s rules. You could just create music.

What makes music ‘punk rock?’

‘Punk rock’ is a very subjective term: it’s a free space, where ideas can be crafted and presented without being directed by profit motives. Punk rock is the place for playing new music. There’s always going to be a mainstream and an underground, and for me, that’s punk rock.

Do you think music is impactful politically?

How you play your music, where [and] when [are] all political decisions. People gather around music. Since computers have created such an isolated reality, music is something people still come out for. They get together and can actually see each other. That’s how you make connections [and] feel you want to be involved. That’s political work.

How do you put activism in your songs?

An activist might be somebody who’s trying to change things, to spur movement. Music is a form people can be deeply inspired by. Punk rock pulls you out of the mainstream. You can see the world in a different way. If you start to engage with music, to explore it, you can see what’s wrong with the world and what needs to be done.

It has to do with my stepping away from mainstream culture, deciding what makes sense for me or for the world, and deciding whether I’m going to be a part of it, engage in it, or speak out against it. That’s the work of an activist.

Every kid that comes along inherits a system: their mother’s system, their father’s system, the school system. We have to figure out if it’s right for us. For me, punk was a perfect vehicle for that.

Correction 6/20/2012: Ian MacKaye collaborated with the industrial metal band, Ministry, to form the band Pailhead.

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