By Vish KhannaWhen first approached about participating in this Timeline, Ian MacKaye politely declined. A pioneer of punk, hardcore, and independent music, MacKaye has fostered cultural change with the strength of his convictions, playing music on his own terms. Within his revolutionary work as an artist, MacKaye is a reluctant figurehead with no desire to perpetuate his own legend. "The thing you have to understand about me is I care but I don’t give a fuck,” he explains. "That’s just straight up. I really, really care about my work and the people I work with but ultimately, I don’t give a fuck. If you’d never called me and just wrote this story, I’d be like, ‘all right.’ Let me tell you something; I’ve had shit written about me that is so off base, so cruel, that if I cared, I wouldn’t be able to wake up and get out of bed. People are so uncharitable and so poor-minded with such dark aims; it becomes discouraging for me.”
In the end, MacKaye agreed to help ensure that this piece was as accurate as possible, separating facts from long-held fiction. It was a gracious move by a proactive artist interested more in his productive future than his accomplished past. "I reckon there’ll be a point in my life, perhaps, where there’ll be time to reflect on this sort of stuff but I would hope it would come after I feel that I’m finished doing things — so maybe it’ll never come.”
1962 to 1974 Ian MacKaye is born on April 16, 1962 in Washington D.C. to William R. and Mary Anne "Ginger” MacKaye. Both writers, Bill left the Seminary and later worked for the Washington Post for 20 years, including a stint as religion editor. Prior to this, Bill was a White House reporter and was in the motorcade when JFK was assassinated; most recently, he edited the crossword puzzle for the Washington Post Magazine. Ginger was a historical writer ("Ian MacKaye,” Dan Sinker, Punk Planet, #31, May/June 1999, p.41) and later became the unlikely matriarch of D.C. punk. Ian is one of five children and the MacKaye family is close. "When I didn’t go to school, my parents didn’t give me a hard time at all,” MacKaye later tells Punk Planet. "They were totally supportive. They knew that music was so important to me.” (Sinker, 41) MacKaye falls for the idealism and countercultural aspects of rock ‘n’ roll early, repeatedly watching Woodstock and listening to Jimi Hendrix. In 1974, Bill pursues a fellowship at Stanford University and the MacKayes live in Palo Alto, California for nine months.
1975 to 1976 At 13 years old, Ian returns to D.C. to discover his old friends drinking, smoking pot, and committing petty crimes; missing this transition, he is not impressed and abstains. (Our Band Could Be Your Life, by Michael Azerrad, p.120) A charismatic teen, MacKaye stuck out among a fledgling skateboarding posse of Woodrow Wilson High School renegades and neighbourhood kids such as Jeff Nelson and Henry Garfield. (Dance of Days, by Mark Andersen and Mark Jenkins, p.20-21)
1977 to 1978 MacKaye gravitates towards hard rock; at his first concert, he sees Queen and Thin Lizzy on the "Bohemian Rhapsody Tour” and they floor him. Soon after, he and Garfield attend a Ted Nugent show together, marvelling at his gonzo antics. Outspokenly anti-drugs, the Nuge in particular affects MacKaye and his fellow skaters for his intimidating virtuosity. Sensing that playing music is beyond him, the long-haired MacKaye sticks to skating. (Azerrad, 121) MacKaye’s interest in music resurfaces, however, after buying his first punk rock record (Sagittarius Bumpersticker) by a local father-and-son band called White Boy. The single’s homespun sound and look are a revelation. "That was my first inkling of an underground independent music thing,” MacKaye said. (Azzerad, 122) Older Wilson High kids like Nathan Strejcek adopt the British punk look and the skaters take notice. By 1978, Georgetown University radio station WGTB is a punk lifeline for MacKaye and company, who also make frequent trips to a nearby record store called Yesterday and Today, run by knowledgeable punk enthusiast Skip Groff. (Andersen and Jenkins, 23)