Sometimes interviewing musicians can be like trying to understand a soap opera in a foreign language. Often the answers can consist of rapid, fidgety mumbling with only a few short sentence fragments between that don’t make sense in any particular context. Some just come to understand that there is probably a reason why musicians make sounds that aren’t words. However, once in a while, a musician or an interview will come along that will just sort of sum it up, maybe even border on the profound. This morning, Jewish publication Tablet published an interview with Ian MacKaye, straight-edge punk icon and former lead singer of Minor Threat, and it’s absolutely one of those rarities.
Interviewer David Samuels grew up in a strict Orthodox community, but found a sacred sort of fervor in MacKaye’s music, his movement, relating it back to a formative experience at a Minor Threat concert in 1983, when Samuels was just 16 years-old. The interview is less of a series of questions, and more an engaged conversation on a number of topics—religion, 9/11, death, community, music and silence.
On the intersection of sanctity, music, religion and community, MacKaye had this to say:
Straight up, I think music is sacred. I think music is a form of communication that predates language. Music predates religion, it predates business, it predates all of that stuff. It’s serious. It’s not a fucking joke. I’m not a Christian, I’m not a Jew, I’m not a damn anything. I’m not a team member. I understand why people are drawn to that, I respect it, even. But for me there’s something that’s even deeper, more sacred than all that, which is human beings figuring out how to gather. Music can set us free in that moment. And if we’re in a room with other people who are all being affected this way, then you get into that mass energy, this thing that can be really cathartic. And I think it is a really deeply important thing to have happen, catharsis. To go off.
The problem is, because people are drawn to it, because it’s so fucking important, people always say, “How can I set up a tollbooth there?” How can I get them to come to my place, so I can charge them and make money from their rite, their ritual.
And another nugget from the Tao of MacKaye:
(…) I think that people, if they could make peace with incomprehensibility, then I think we would live better in this world.
Put that one in your peace pipe and (don’t) smoke it. You can read the full interview here.