Fugazi's Guy Picciotto and Photographer Glen E. Friedman
In separate interviews Guy Picciotto and photographer Glen E. Friedman discuss the new book Keep Your Eyes Open; Fugazi.
Photo: Glen E. Friedman
Since the 1980s, Guy Picciotto has been a key force in the Washington DC music community for his work in bands such as Rites of Spring and Fugazi. Fugazi played their first show together on September 3, 1987 and went on to significantly alter the ways in which people experience and play rock music. Picciotto was keen to discuss his friend Glen E. Friedman’s latest book, Keep Your Eyes Open; Fugazi , which captures he and his band-mates—Brendan Canty, Joe Lally, and Ian MacKaye — from lively and intimate angles throughout every period of Fugazi’s existence.
Guy, just by the scope of Keep Your Eyes Open, it’s clear that Glen and Fugazi have had a strong relationship over the years; other than being the subject, did Fugazi have any role in how this new book took shape?
Well, not really. It was Glen’s baby pretty much but he did ask for advice a long the way and commentary from the band and he would send things down for us to look at. I mean, he knew and understood that we were uncomfortable looking at tons of pictures of ourselves and he kind of factored that into whatever we had to say about it. But we did do stuff to help him out. He does a bunch of stuff in the book that he wanted to make sure was correct, like listing the song titles chronologically instead of using page numbers, so he checked with us to try and figure out the chronology of when the songs were written and things like that. We definitely lent him some ideas and criticisms along the way but ultimately… anyone who knows Glen knows that he doesn’t take direction from anybody! [Laughs] So, it’s definitely his puppy, man!
What do you make of this book?
Again, it’s tough for me and obviously a different experience for me to look at it than probably someone else, but there are things about it that I think are gonna be really nice for me down the line, to have and to be able to show my kid. It’s really an amazing thing to have. Beyond just the photos and getting to see the band through the years or whatever, which is kinda nice for me, I really enjoyed having the essay by Ian Svenonious that precedes the book, and Glen’s essay in the back. It was really, really nice to have friends writing about the band in a way that was different from the way the band have been portrayed up until this point. I think they both had unique perspectives and it was cool to be able to read that.
As a long-time fan of Fugazi, I’ve always appreciated the way in which the band have been documented, beyond you all making records. From recording shows to the amazing footage that was on display in the film Instrument and the photographers who’ve shot you over the years, these things are always rendered with great care and artistry. Why do you suppose all of these unique people have gravitated towards capturing Fugazi over the years?
Aw, man, I have no idea. We’ve been lucky in the friends that we’ve had. Jem Cohen is someone who knew Ian since he was in high school and we ended up working with him on Instrument and he just happened to be close friends with the band. Glen is someone… I mean I knew Glen even before I was in Fugazi just from his photography, seeing it on other people’s records. Particularly from this thing that he put out back in the day called My Rules, which was like a fanzine of his punk rock photography. I remember I was working in a record store when that thing came out; it was really like a one-of-a-kind thing at the time. It was a fanzine completely devoted to photography and was one of those things that everyone had to have and it set the bar for how cool photos could look. And also, at a time when there wasn’t information available on the internet, you could look at all these bands and get a sense of them. Bands that I hadn’t seen live — I could get a sense of them from My Rules and not just snapshots but really great composition shots, the way only Glen can shoot them. It was really awesome when I actually did get to know him and become friends with him around the time when the band was starting. So yeah, we’ve been really lucky. I’m not sure why these people want to hang around with us. [Laughs] Sometimes I find it funny that people find us photogenic at all because, unlike a band like the Beatles who had a different look every six months, I look at our book and I’m like, ‘Hey look, we’re wearing the same t-shirt for 16 years!’ [Laughs] And no one has a moustache but y’know, that’s the way it goes.
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