Fugazi is an American post-hardcore band that formed in Washington, D.C. in 1987. The band consists of guitarists and vocalists Ian MacKaye and Guy Picciotto, bassist Joe Lally and drummer Brendan Canty.
After the hardcore punk group Minor Threat dissolved, Ian MacKaye was active with a few short-lived groups, most notably Embrace. MacKaye decided he wanted a project that was "like The Stooges with reggae", but was wary about forming another band after Embrace's break up. MacKaye recruited ex-Dag Nasty drummer Colin Sears and bass guitarist Joe Lally, and the trio began practicing together in September 1986. After a few months of rehearsals, Sears returned to Dag Nasty and was replaced by Brendan Canty (earlier of Rites of Spring). MacKaye eventually asked Picciotto to become a full member, which he accepted.
"My interests were not necessarily to be in a band, but to be with people who wanted to play music with me." - Ian Mackaye
Fugazi embarked on its first tour in January 1988. In June 1988 the band recorded its debut EP Fugazi with producer Ted Niceley and producer/engineer Don Zientara (who would become a long-time collaborator), and shortly afterwards embarked on an arduous tour of Europe. With Picciotto playing guitar full-time, Fugazi made the transition into jamming and writing new material as a band as opposed to performing songs composed solely by MacKaye. In addition to working on new material, songs they had been performing live were refined, such as "Merchandise" and "Turnover", for inclusion on their first official full-length studio album.
For Fugazi's second studio-album Steady Diet of Nothing, released in July 1991, the band once again asked Ted Niceley to produce. Nicely had become a chef and had to reluctantly turn down the job, so the band members decided to produce the record themselves. After the success of Repeater and its subsequent world tour, Steady Diet was highly anticipated, six months prior to its release Dischord had pre-orders in excess of 160,000 for the album. Fugazi recorded its third album In on the Kill Taker in the fall of 1992 with Steve Albini in Chicago; however, the results were deemed unsatisfactory and the band re-recorded the album with Ted Niceley & Don Zientara. With the breakthrough of alternative rock in the early 1990s, In on the Kill Taker; released on June 30, 1993, became the group's first record to enter the Billboard album charts, received critical praise from Spin, TIME magazine and Rolling Stone, sold 180,000 copies in its first week of release and subsequently became the band's breakthrough album.
Fugazi began writing the material for Red Medicine in late 1994, after touring in support of In on the Kill Taker. The band worked with engineer Don Zientara, but did not choose to work with producer Ted Niceley again. Fugazi opted to retreat from the in-your-face production values of In on the Kill Taker and instead worked to create an ambient sound which would display greater range and depth. To achieve this, the band handled production duties themselves, and in doing so, became more confident with in-studio experimentation. Red Medicine would take Fugazi a step further toward art rock. The band began an extensive worldwide tour in support of the album, playing a total of 172 shows between March 1995 and November 1996.
By March 1997 Fugazi had once again returned to Inner Ear Studios with producer/engineer Don Zientara to begin recording what would become the End Hits album with the intention of taking a more relaxed approach to recording and a longer amount of time to experiment with different songs and techniques in the studio. The group ultimately spent 7 months recording the album. Due to the title, rumors began circulating at the time that it was to be their last release. Released on April 28, 1998 the album was commercially successful and marked one of the band's highest debuts yet on the Billboard charts. However, critical reaction to End Hits was mixed. Many critics praised the album's heavier tracks, while others questioned the inclusion of the group's longer, more experimental songs.
Fugazi began work on the The Argument in 1999. This process saw the group taking more time than usual to write and demo material. Each member would bring his own individual riffs and ideas to the band, jam on them, and then begin piecing the songs together into various configurations before deciding on what would become the final versions. The album's recording sessions took place between January and April 2001 at Inner Ear Studios and Dischord House in Arlington, VA, located just outside Washington D.C.
"A main point of the song is that I will not agree with war across the board. It also talks about a greater argument: that these giant airplanes are dropping tons of homicidal weaponry, blowing the shit out of everybody, and guys are running around with guns. And that is an argument of colossal scale." - Ian Mackaye
The band once again worked with producer/engineer Don Zientara. During the recording process a considerable amount of time was spent finalizing each song's production, in particular the album's drum tracks, in an effort to give it a unique feel.
Between 1987 and 2003, Fugazi played over 1000 concerts in all 50 US states and all over the world. Over 800 of these shows were recorded by the band's sound engineers. Beginning in 2004 and continuing into 2005, Fugazi launched a 30 CD Live Series that featured concerts from various points in their career, which were made available for sale via Dischord Records. Continuing with the live series concept and after several years of development on December 1, 2011 Fugazi launched a comprehensive Live Series website through Dischord Records that features 750 recordings available for download at the suggested price of $5 each or a "pay what you want" sliding scale option for each download between $1–100 with the goal of eventually making all 800 of the shows that have been recorded available for purchase.For $500 fans can also purchase an "All Access" privilege which will include access to any future concerts and downloads added to the site.
On their first tours, Fugazi worked out its DIY aesthetic by trial and error. The group's decisions were partly motivated by pragmatic considerations that were essentially a punk rock version of simple living: for example, selling merchandise on tour would require a full-time merchandise salesperson who would require lodging, food, and other costs, so Fugazi decided to simplify their touring by not selling merchandise. The band was also motivated by moral or ethical considerations: for example, Fugazi's members regarded pricey admission for rock concerts as tantamount to price gouging a performer's most loyal fans. Fugazi's inexpensive target goal of $5 admission was spawned during a conversation on an early tour when the band's members were debating the lowest profitable admission price.
In later years and at many venues, particularly on the east and west coasts of the U.S., Fugazi was unable to get ticket prices below about $10–$15 total. However, it never saw the $5 rule as inviolable, instead aiming to charge a price that was both affordable and profitable. Unlike some similar, independent rock contemporaries, Fugazi's performances and tours were always profitable, due to the group's popularity, low business overhead costs, and MacKaye's keen sense of audience response in given regions.
- Ian Mackaye
- (April 16, 1962) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, musician, record label owner and producer. Active since 1979, MacKaye is best known as the co-founder and owner of Dischord Records, a Washington, D.C.-based independent record label and the frontman of the influential hardcore punk band Minor Threat and the post-hardcore band Fugazi. MacKaye was also the frontman for the short lived bands The Teen Idles, Embrace and Pailhead, a collaboration with the band Ministry. MacKaye is a member of The Evens, a two-piece indie rock group he formed with his wife Amy Farina in 2001.
- Guy Picciotto
- (September 17, 1965) is an American singer, songwriter, guitarist, musician, and producer from Washington, DC. He is most widely known for his role as guitarist and vocalist in Fugazi and Rites of Spring.
- Joe Lally
- (December 3, 1963 in Silver Spring, Maryland) is a bassist, vocalist and record label owner, best known for his work with Fugazi.
- Brendan Canty
- (March 9, 1966 in Teaneck, New Jersey) is an American musician, composer, producer and film maker, best known as the drummer for the band Fugazi. In 2007, Stylus Magazine ranked Canty at #29 on the list of "50 Greatest Rock Drummers", based on his drumming work with Fugazi.
|Albums||Year||Label||Billboard 200 Peak Position|
|Steady Diet of Nothing||1991||Dischord (060)||—|
|In On the Kill Taker||1993||Dischord (070)||153|
|Red Medicine||1995||Dischord (090)||126|
|End Hits||1998||Dischord (110)||138|
|The Argument||2001||Dischord (130)||151|