Ian MacKaye
Washington, DC

TP: Do you remember when you heard about Kansas for the first time?

IM: The venue?

TP: The house itself, like, what was going on here.

IM: Well, I had first started going there when it was a thrift store. Arlington at the time was mostly, in my memory… I moved to Arlington in 1981. I moved out of D.C. October 1st, 1981.In fact Dischord House will be 30 years old on October 1st of this year. And when I moved in, that area, from what I remember, was used car lots, actually. Clarendon was called Little Saigon at the time, all these Vietnamese shops. But if you start to head out Wilson Boulevard, you get to Mario’s– Mario’s Pizza. Which was a really important spot for us. That was… they were open till 3 or 4 in the morning, so we’d all go over there and get pizzas. I remember I was obsessed with their steak and cheese in the early 80s, very greasy… Have you ever eaten there before?

TP: I had pizza there once.

IM: It’s pretty rough. But at the time…

TP: But at 3 o’clock in the morning it tastes great.

IM: I think from our point of view, the kind of people we were, we just thought it was Heaven’s food. It was like a bounty of Heaven. But directly across there was this house that, I think at some point I was just driving by and I noticed it was a thrift store and I decided to go take a look. I don’t do a lot of shopping, I don’t really go shopping, but every Christmas I’ll go shopping. I’ll just drive around Arlington, or DC, or wherever. This year I was driving around Silver Spring. Just looking for anything, just because it’s the one opportunity I have to go looking, to go inside some of these buildings. This is one of the weird thing about living in a town for so long, is that I don’t get to go into many buildings. Like, in fact, when you were talking about this interview, I thought, I’ll just come to your house because I’ve never been in a house at 7th and Jefferson, might as well come check it out, you know? So I don’t really go shopping, I don’t really go to these stores, and this was an opportunity to drive around Arlington and I saw there was a thrift store and I remember going in and there was an old woman who ran it. And it actually was, it was two floors and you came in the front door, and she had a counter, it was actually just a desk, to the left and then there was a table. I remember that had a lot of postcards, antique and vintage post cards. But it went all the way to the back to the sun porch and also you could go upstairs, and also there was clothes upstairs. And she was not a particularly friendly… she was a little crazy. The first couple times I went there I thought she was a little stand-offish. But I also thought it was a little uncomfortable because, I don’t think I’d ever been there one time when there was another customer there. It was just me and this woman.

TP: Do you know if it was the woman who owned the house?

IM: It was, yeah. And it was really isolated… At that time, already, there was no other houses right around it, they’d already started tearing down… there might have been others down the street but it was sort of still isolated, it wasn’t part of a row, or a series of houses, as I remember. But anyway, it just felt odd to be in there with this… she gave me the sense that she didn’t feel 100% safe, which is not a good feeling, for a customer to feel, being thought of as a threat. But, I went there, probably a dozen times, every Christmas, I would just go wander around. I think she got to know me, and I got… I’m pretty chatty when people will sort of thaw enough for me to feel like, okay let’s talk about it. I can remember buying a number of things there that really have resonated. I did buy a number of old postcards and old photographs that I quite liked. But I remember buying a rubber cauliflower which was at Dischord House for many years until Jen Thomas’ pit bull tore it to shreds. Jen worked at Dischord for a few years. I also bought a small metal figurine of– probably it was a metal– it went on a horse or something, but there was no horse. It was just sort of this outstretched figure which I quite liked. I gave it to my mom and after she died it actually came back to my house. So that thing still exists. Then some years later… she stopped doing the thrift store and then some years later, I’m guessing it was.. was Askew in the original house?

TP: No, he never lived there.

IM: Okay let me think… was it Ann, was she there?

TP: Yeah, she was there.

IM: Okay, so Ann… just people I associate with Cohrrsen and Renee and sort of the Go! Record store era people, kind of like Arlington’s scene. I just remember, maybe we were invited, maybe Ann had a party or something. And I remember going over there and sort of like, oh, cool, and at that time, Arlington had a number of group houses. There was a period of time, during the late-80s very early ‘90s where there was maybe a half a dozen punk group houses out there, maybe more, but I could tell you right off the bat there was Dischord, Simple Machines, Teen-beat, Positive Force. There was 8th Street and Kansas, and I’m sure there were other ones too but those are the ones that I know. Oh, there was Edison Street… and then Amanda lived on, what’s the D… Daniles? And of course there were a couple more. I remember going into that house and thinking, oh, everything is cool, you know, cool house, and they were having… it was like a party, a dance party or something. And then suddenly, I think it shifted and I was like, oh my god, this is that thrift store! Like, I had not connected, even though it was the same location, I think also I had gone to the party at night. I was going to Ann’s house, or whoever’s house it was at the time. Who was in the house originally?

TP: Well, originally, it was Derek Morton. And some JMU people. And then that shifted, and the JMU people moved out, but Derek still lived there. And Suzanne Clarke lived there.

IM: Was she a dancer?

TP: Mary Richards did some dance stuff.

IM: Oh right, yeah.

TP: But then Bob Massey moved in.

IM: Oh right, Bob was there.

TP: And Ann moved in somewhere… I remember when Bob moved in, because I remember meeting him for the first time here. And being like, oh you’re this new guy Bob that everybody’s talking about.

IM: What about Kreinik, did he live here?

TP: Yeah he lived in that back room.

IM: Somebody else I knew lived in that back room, though.

TP: Jason Hamacher lived in that back room.

IM: Did he really?

TP: And Chris Richards lived there for a spell.

IM: Yeah, it was a schlubby little room when he was in there. But I think probably… Massey, there was a scene that was kind of developing that I was not really… first off, I was on tour, like what year was this?

TP: Um, probably like ’98 to 2002.

IM: So at that point, Fugazi had been playing for a decade, and I was on tour a lot. So, there’s a lot of stuff that, and also I was getting to be sort of, like my sort, of, in the scene, it was harder for me to connect with people. I mean, they all knew who I was. I mean, I have an ongoing problem, which is, I’m introduced, I meet people, and then I’m never introduced to them. They know me, but I don’t know their names. And if I say to them “hi, I’m Ian,” they go yeah duh and they never tell me their names. So I started to feel just kind of, I just keep to myself because it’s just too awkward.

TP: Katy Otto mentioned, too, she said you had asked her to make a tape of what was going on in basements at some point.

IM: Oh yeah.

TP: But that Kansas was a place that you felt like that sort of, tension wasn’t around.

IM: Yeah, that was pretty good there. Because I had made friends with the Go! people, I guess was Frank-from-the-Bank there? He wasn’t there at the very beginning, he was there for a while, he was around.

TP: He was around… I feel like…

IM: See he was kind of an activator for me because he wasn’t a punk rock guy, he was just this fucking kook from the bank who became friends with Renee. I’ll never forget he came to see Fugazi play at the 9:30, maybe it was one of the first shows he ever saw. I don’t know. And he ended up riding home with me, I gave him a ride back to Arlington and he had just gone off. And I just remember thinking, there’s no baggage with him, he’s just Frank-from-the-Bank. So I think that scene I started to get connected with. Was Go! gone at this point? Was Now Music and Fashion around at this point?

TP: I think… I was just looking at that today.

IM: It gets blurry.

TP: Now was late 90s. Because Go! did all that hopping around…

IM: Go! had gone from– they started above the old Nazi headquarters, then they went to that pizza place across the street, that’s it. Now did the Clarendon, then they went all the way up Wilson, then they went to Alexandria. But maybe, it’s weird, really think of Go!… was gone at this point? I always think of Go! as the center of Arlington punk and indie rock, that sort of epicenter. Askew worked there, for sure.

TP: Well, that’s how I met Jimmy, because I went in there, probably somewhere in like 1993, 94, and Jimmy was trying to sell me a Helium seven inch. And I felt like I was being sort of…

IM: Patronized?

TP: Well, no, I don’t want to say patronized, but I was definitely being typed. Like, I was just looking at stuff and he was like, you look like you would like this stuff. And I think I actually bought… I guess that’s the definition of patronize, I think I bought it because I thought…

IM: But that’s positive, at least he was thinking about it.

TP: Yeah…

IM: It wasn’t like he was, get out of my store, you wouldn’t understand this music or something.

TP: Yeah, that’s true.

IM: And you can do a lot worse than a Helium seven inch. It would be one thing if he came up to you and was trying to sell you, I don’t know, Spice Girls, or something.

TP: Yeah, that’s true. And that’s how I met him and at the time Jason Hutto was kind of, he just got here and I remember there was one time when Jimmy had invited me to go to some thrift stores with him and Laura Teeler who I think ended up not going. But they were definitely, this was maybe like, 95? And Go! was like, the place, if you wanted to know what was going on.

IM: So Kansas Street popped up a few years after that?

TP: Yeah… According to Derek and one of his housemates, they moved in there in 1995, and there was a tenure of what Nicole had called “frat boys.” So it was a thrift store, and then Marguerite rented it out and she really wasn’t happy with how they were treating the house. Amd they saw an ad in the Post. It was either the Post or the City Paper, one of those… they said it was the Post. But it could be…

IM: Probably the Post. I can’t imagine that she would be advertising in the City Paper. She’s a Post person.

TP: And they saw the ad, and she really didn’t want to rent it to a group. She wanted to rent it to a family or a couple. But Nicole convinced her that they would take care of the house. And they moved in, and Derek was really happy because his band at the time needed a practice space.

IM: What was his band at the time?

TP: It may have been… it was either Music Arch Deluxe or Ex-Atari Kid. It may have been Ex-Atari Kid. And so they got the house and they practiced there. And that sort of how… because Marguerite was sort of absentee about it. And apparently she spends a lot of the year in Greece and owns a lot of other rental properties.

IM: She’s still alive? The thrift store woman? That must’ve been her mother.

TP: Maybe the thrift store was her mom.

IM: Yeah, because her mom had to be in her 70s in the 80s.

TP: Yeah, so then it was her mom. And this is sort of according to what everyone has told me about how they dealt with her. And that she sort of… she lived for part of the year in Greece and she owned these other properties, that she really only showed up if there was a problem. And they really didn’t have much of a lease, so if somebody was moving out, it was really easy to get somebody to move in because they just said, we have a room open.

IM: It was just lax. I mean, Dischord House, when we moved to Dischord House in 1981, they asked us to sign a year lease and I crossed out one year and I put six months because there was no way I wanted to stay in Virginia for more than six months. I mean, I was trying to get out of my parents’ house… not even. I wasn’t trying to get out of my parents’ house, I trying to get to a place where we could practice, but I had no choice, because we really needed a detached house where we could practice, a house that was cheap because we were broke, and a house that was safe because we were punk rock kids in the 80s and it was already bad enough just being that.

TP: And how long did you live there?

IM: 21 years.

TP: six months…

IM: Yeah, but the thing is there was never another lease of any kind ever again. In fact there was two owners and we never signed a single agreement with anybody ever again. We just paid our rent.

TP: But you bought that house, right?

IM: I bought it in ’94, yeah.

TP: So they moved in for the same reason, basically that you moved into the Dischord house: cheap, safe, basement.

IM: And at that time in Washington, in terms of detached houses, the only detached houses in Washington that we knew of were in Chevy Chase which was too expensive, or in Northeast which was just too sketchy for us, too dangerous. And we weren’t just thinking about ourselves. We wanted to be a place for kids to go, because you gotta remember, at that time, there were no other punk group houses. Everyone just lived at home. So we knew the moment we got a house, it would just be where everybody came. And it was. We had people staying there, pretty much, all the time. And we had kids would just come out all the time, or every weekend. Just come out. We never had a party, but we always had a full house.

TP: And that’s kind of like what was happening at Kansas, too because it wasn’t really formally a show house when Derek lived there, but they would have parties that bands would play at. Or, I remember going there religiously to watch X Files and there would just be a bunch of kids there.

IM: I remember that. The X Files thing there.

TP: And then Ann and Bob moved in….

IM: I’m sorry, it just occurred to me you don’t ever hear about that show but I think about it. I think that X Files show, in the Punk history, was hugely connecting. I know Pirate House people were into X Files, everyone just, people watched it in groups. Which is funny, when you think about it… this is an aside, like, because it was on television, because it came on at a certain time, what was it, on Sunday nights? It came on at a certain time on a Sunday night and when it was over, it was over, you couldn’t… there was no computer to look at it on, and in a way, people had to assemble at that time, there was no way to see it otherwise. Which is, even though it’s television, which I don’t promote everyone just sitting around and watching television, it did actually bring people into a room together and then also create some, I guess, some source of conversation, whether it was good or bad or whatever.

TP: Yeah, we used to watch it. And Kansas, they had satellite TV which was very exotic at the time, and I remember we would watch it, and it was a Philadelphia channel. It was the Philadelphia Fox channel, so then we would make fun of the Philadelphia Fox news, and then maybe hang out for an hour or so after that and then go home. But it was, you’re right, it was an event that happened that brought everybody together for this thing, that, I don’t remember calling anyone to say I was coming over.

IM: Where were you living then?

TP: I was in Mount Pleasant, so I was driving over the river to go over there.

IM: You could have just gone to Pirate House!

TP: I know! But I didn’t really know those guys. I didn’t even know that was even happening.

IM: I think it was earlier, too. I think X Files was on in the early 90s. It started then, didn’t it?

TP: Yeah, I feel like this was somewhere between 1995 and 1999 that this was happening.

IM: You’ll have to do some research to see when it was on, because in my mind, for some reason… I guess it could have been the mid-90s, that sounds about right. It was definitely on in the early 90s, I’m sure of that. The reason I’m sure is because Gillian Anderson, is that her name?

TP: Yeah.

IM: There’s something about her that always reminded me of Lois Maffeo. And of course, Lois was living on Newton Street in the early 90s. And I was quite good friends with her. There’s just something about it, like a physicality, just something about her. Or she reminded me of her. So I wouldn’t have thought… I mean, I knew Lois in the 80s, but I don’t think I would have thought of her in the same way.

TP: So, did you go to shows there?

IM: I did, and I was trying to remember what shows I saw there. I must’ve seen Q and Not U there. I saw a number of shows there. Did Dead Teenagers play there?

TP: Dead Teenagers first show was there.

IM: I saw that show.

TP: I don’t know if they played there more than once but I know that they played.

IM: I saw that show.

TP: They basically were a band for their friends who were touring.

IM: Yeah, what was that band?

TP: The Dishes, according to Erik Denno.

IM: Yeah, I saw that show… do you have a list of shows.

TP: No, and it’s somewhat impossible, because no one really kept a record of it.

IM: That’s weird.

TP: And there’s a lot of shows that are coming up… it’s interesting, because in a way, it would be really cool to have a list of shows, but at the same time, it’s almost more interesting to hear what people remember.

IM: Did S-Process play there?

TP: Yeah.

IM: I think they played there with Q and Not U, actually. It’s possible.

TP: It’s possible.

IM: Black Eyes?

TP: I think they did. I went through and found on the hipfux archives on the internet group, whenever there was a group that Bob was around for he would send out an email, so there’s some there, like the Juno show he had posted about.

IM: Juno, I saw that.

TP: And I think he posted the Dead Teenagers show. But then, it also depended on who was living there at the time.

IM: Did Most Secret Method play there?

TP: Yeah.

IM: They probably played with Juno there, don’t you think?

TP: No, Oswego played with Juno.

IM: Oh yeah, I remember that.

TP: I can’t remember who Most Secret Method played with. Most Secret Method maybe played with Telegraph Melts.

IM: That sounds right.

TP: At least one of the times they played there. I imagine they played there more than once. Dismemberment Plan played there a bunch of times.

IM: Yeah, I remember seeing that. I thought about playing there with Fugazi but it was just too absurd. I do know, and I think I told you before, was one of Bob Massey’s Punk-Not-Rock things. I saw a show, that show he did there, it was a night… do people talk about those things?

TP: Yeah.

IM: He did about five of them maybe, maybe more? I don’t know… I remember, I think I went to one. I know I went to one, I might have gone to two but I think it was just the one. I can clearly remember, there was a guy that was a classical whistler, and I thought it was just a joke, but then he whistled some classical piece and it was unbelievable. I still don’t know what to make of it. I still don’t… I don’t believe there’s such a thing as a classical whistler, but he did whistle something that was pretty epic, and I recognized it. And it was really an involved, long piece. Vin Novarro played bowls… where you at this show by any chance?

TP: I don’t know… I remember I went to something that he did.

IM: A series of bowls with different amounts of liquid in them. And there was a couple of other pieces. And what I really liked about the format is that the people would come out, and they would set up, and say a few words. They would present just one piece, and then there would be a talk with the people, and the people were just sitting on the floor. It was very relaxed.

But Alberto Gaitan, he did something that night that was incredible. Which was, he had put together a string quartet, or maybe it was a trio, maybe a small string piece. Just kind of unremarkable, I mean it was nice, but it wasn’t anything really crazy. Just a little piece, and he was sitting off to the side, and they played this piece that was maybe four minutes long, I’m guessing, four or five minutes long. And then, they’re playing it, and I was sitting right by the front door, and there was a car going by, or a car stopped in front of the house it seemed like. And it had a boombox. It was kind of a hip-hoppy boom boom, and you felt this sort of vibration of really loud, and I was thinking at first, oh, you know, that’s the charm of the situation, we’re in this house, and that’s the world outside. Quite often, classical music, a lot of music is being presented in essentially, an isolation chamber. Like it’s almost in a vacuum, where you don’t hear any of the outside sounds or ignore what’s going on in the outside world. But, I’m sitting by this front door and there’s this music outside playing, of really you know, distracting and the car just kept sitting out there and I thought, come on! Like, is this dude stopped at the stop sign, just sitting out there?

But then their piece, they’re changing key and the bass outside changed key with the piece, and I thought, that was weird. What are the chances of that? That those two would be a modulation between what they’re playing and what this guy is listening to in his car? And then it changed again and it changed, at some point I realized it was a rouse, that Alberto actually had a car parked in the driveway, and he had a boom– it had a bass system in there. He was playing it from inside the house, it was a written piece, the whole house was vibrating from outside. It was a great, great piece of work.

I remember thinking, that was a deeply inspirational night for me. That series was great, a great idea, I wish I had gone to them all. It didn’t strike me as snobby, but it struck me as people sort of being, stepping up and saying here’s some ideas and really challenging the people in the room and it was engaging. I really appreciated that and it made me think about music in a way that… I think that so much of the way that bands, over the years.. in the very beginning I feel like for me, it was, we’re gonna wreck the room. Not like break it up but we’re gonna play so hard, because we’re from Washington and we can’t be questioned about that. If you’re from DC, you don’t leave the stage standing for everybody. But then, over the years, because of the natural cycle of things, people became more self-conscious about things, and more introspective, and it was sort of like, here’s our music, or whatever, and then people were sort of like, we just like to play music and it doesn’t really mean anything. We’re just having a good time, or whatever. But there was a disconnect between… there was a point where the audience and the band had drifted apart again, and this kind of that event– the Punk-Not-Rock thing– even though it was a much smaller audience, I felt that it really reconnected, it made the event. If Alberto had been by himself, it would have been kind of fun for them. But having the people in the room, for those of us who were in the dark about what was going on, it was a really deeply, sort of almost mystical experience. How could this be happening? Well, it was happening because it was a set up, but it was a good fucking set up. Alberto, he’s smart like that. Have you talked to him yet?

TP: No, I’ve never met him but Cynthia had mentioned… Cynthia mentioned that piece.

IM: It’s great… you should talk to him, he’s an interesting guy. You’ve never met him?

TP: No, but a lot of people have mentioned that, and how, sort of the same way… like how incredible that this thing happened, which could really only happen in a place like that, because you couldn’t have it, like if traditionally a string quartet is going to play in a concert hall, that would have been a difficult thing to pull off.

IM: True, I mean, I’m with you, but it’s the punk thing. I have to say, Kansas Street is an important spot, and I think Dischord is an important spot, but ultimately, it’s not the building. It’s just the people and the punk. That’s the way I look at it. Like DC Space, people were like, oh DC Space! And like, yeah, DC Space– it’s a building. And you know, DC Space was around a long time before it shut down, and a long time before it was actually cool. I mean, I played DC Space in 1980. I first went there in, I think I went there in ’79. I may have even played there in ’79, even. But, no, I played there in ’80. And we were quickly banned. And there was no shows there for like the first four years, like the early ‘80s… none of us would go there. It was like a place for like art poser people. But then Claudia De Paul got in there and Cynthia, and they started booking shows there that were kinda cool. So, in other words, the building itself… I mean– there are attributes to the building and there are circumstances that are specific to Kansas Street. Like, that it was this house, this lone house on an empty block so you could have music and it was on a busy street and for whatever reason the Arlington cops didn’t bug out constantly, so who knows? And you’re right, there are aspects of the equation that did make that sort of thing possible. But, I never attribute to much mysticism to a house.

TP: It’s a confluence of things that happened.

IM: Right.

TP: In a way, it’s almost, it almost hinges just on the fact that they saw this ad and they needed a basement to practice in. Anybody could have rented it. Marguerite could have said to them, no, I don’t want it to be a group house and turned down their application and waited for a family to come in.

IM: But those people might have gone somewhere else.

TP: Yeah, exactly.

IM: And it might have been something greater, or it could have been worse. Who knows?

TP: Exactly, and there’s no way of knowing that.

IM: I mean, Dischord house… that was the first house. I was born and raised on Beecher Street. No, I’m sorry… I was born on Capitol Hill, we lived in Capitol Hill when I was born. When I was six months old we moved to Beecher Street, up in Glover Park. I lived there till I was 19-years-old when we decided we needed to get a punk house. The first house we ever looked at was Dischord House. Like, I had found the ad so I had first choice of the rooms, it was $525 a month, we walked in…

TP: For the whole house?

IM: Yeah, we walked in and we said okay we’ll take it. And then they put out this year lease and I crossed out one year and I put six months. And I ended up living there for 21 years. I mean, what are the chances of that happening? Like, I mean, how many houses have you lived in?

TP: Other than the house that I grew up in, in Philadelphia, then I lived on campus at GW…

IM: And then you moved to Mount Pleasant and then here?

TP: Actually I lived in Maryland before that, but I lived in Mount Pleasant for ten years, which is like, and I think about that when people say things like, well, I move every two years. That stresses me out!

IM: I’ve only lived in three houses my whole life.

TP: Yeah, I mean, really… that makes sense to me. Like, when people who say I move every two years– I guess for some people it works that way for them, they probably have way less stuff than I do, you know, because they don’t have a chance to accumulate it all.

IM: Right. I guess my point is that I don’t think Kansas Street… I think you’re right, it’s the confluence, but I don’t really… I guess I think it’s the people. It’s just the people, and again, when I say the Punk, you gotta remember, I think the Punk is the free space. So it can be anything, it’s just a new idea. And it may not always be called Punk, it hasn’t always been called Punk, it might have been called Folk or Blues or whatever it was called. But it’s basically the area where profit is not dictating the creativity, where profit is not the aim. Like, Bob Massey wasn’t thinking about making any money, and Alberto wasn’t thinking about making any money, they were given a canvas and said yeah, if there’s gonna be people there to look at it? I will fucking paint on it! You know, if you can give me some people to look at it? That’s what artists need. They just want somebody to look at their art, or hear their art. And punk rock actually, is like, that’s the audience, because people are like, yeah, what do you got? Give us a new idea. And so Kansas embodied that, in a way for a while. There was also– it ended up being a deeply fucked up party house, there was also that kind of thing. And this is what actually puts me off about these kinds of places. Because at some point, I don’t know what it is, its like there’s a certain point where the focus of the party is, let’s drink beer. It’s like every creative gathering, it always ends up being a kegger. Down the road, it’s just another kegger. It’s just like, I don’t understand that. And I’ve seen it in almost every scene ever, life just becomes one giant kegger.

TP: It kind of devolves to that. Sort of this inertia that sort of falls to that. What can you say about the neighborhood where it was. You talked about the beginning and the 80s…

IM: Well, at the time it really was… it was stuck between Wilson and Washington Bouldevards, and it was kind of a no man’s land. It was also, it was that area, because Metro had just come in, and 66 had just gone in. Remember, I moved out there before 66 went in. 66 went in in 1985 maybe? Something like that? I forget when they opened it but it was just like, I remember when they were digging that thing. But when 66 went in, it just kind of stretched everything out, like, people just drove right on by. And then the Metro went in, and what had been there, the neighborhood that had been there, people were like, it was just being bought up by the developers. Arlington County had a plan, and it was realized. They were making a vertical, high density neighborhood, based on the Metro. If you look at the Metro, you can see, Rosslyn, Courthouse, it just goes right on out. And you can see what they’ve done. So, the houses that were there, there weren’t that many by the time I got there. They were just getting knocked down. I think people were selling off because developers were just buying off all the land. So, the Kansas Street House, that whole area was pretty quiet. And a little dumpy, over that way. And the Giant, where the Giant is now, you know, the Giant on Washington Blvd.? The Giant was originally the FDIC building. The Giant faced toward, it faced, um, is that right… I’m trying to remember how it would look. They turned the Giant, it used to be turned the other way, it was sort of closer to what is it, Washington? Wilson, then… oh no, what’s the next street over– Fairfax. Fairfax Drive, I’m getting it confused. So, the Giant was closer to Fairfax than it was to Washington. And it was pretty just scrubby and dumpy over there. I mean, it wasn’t dangerous, it was just sort of quiet. I mean, Arlington, like a lot of other parts of Washington, you could park with your eyes closed. There was nobody there at night. And I think Mario’s was pretty much the only thing that was open. And then the Merit gas station. And then in the late-80s, there was this place called Cue and Chalk, do you know about that place?

TP: No.

IM: You know the gas station, is it Merit still?

TP: I don’t think it’s Merit, it might be a Sunoco or something.

IM: Okay, well it used to be a Merit, at the corner of 10th and Wilson. Right, it was before that Dunkin’ Donuts. By the way, that Dunkin’ Donuts thing? That was just a parking lot, all the way up to Mario’s. And there was a gas station, and right across the street, that little street, like you know how 10th kind of curves into Fairfax? There’s that little cut through on the other side of the gas station, and right there, there was a pool hall called the Cue and Chalk. And everybody I knew, all my people went there. Like Cynthia and Guy and Brendan, all of them went there almost every night and played pool till like four in the morning. I never set foot in there once. I think I had too much work to do. I don’t know how people had so much time to play pool, I never once went there. But that was, and then Mario’s was like… I guess this would have been ’88. I remember, Brendan and Guy, Svenonious, my brother, Mike Hampden, Michelle Cochran, any number of people who lived at North 8th Street, North 8th between Garfield I guess, or no, maybe Monroe, sort of back right behind there.

TP: So that’s sort of, I guess Simple Machines was on Monroe but on the other side. They were farther over.

IM: They were back towards.

TP: That was like 4th I think.

IM: No they were on 8th.

TP: No, Simple Machines was…

IM: They were at 6th, 610 Monroe. They were at North 8th between, I guess it would have been Jackson or something like that. Do you remember the original Simple Machines house? Over by the school? Over by Washington and Lee? That was the original one.

TP: No, I never went to that one. I went to the one at 610 after Laura moved in, and Amy Domingues was there for a while.

IM: That’s right, Amy Domingues was there. Um, anyway, so Cue and Chalk, that area, as I was saying, the pool hall was there, Mario’s Pizza was there, there was a fabric store, I think there was a stamp collecting place… oh, it was a coin place right there across Wilson. There was really not much going on over there. It’s funny, I used to do something over there… I can’t remember what it was. I used to go over there kind of regularly but I can’t remember what else I would do… I don’t remember what it was. Actually in the late, in 1996, my lung collapsed in Australia, in November of ’96. And I came home and the doctors in Australia told me, you should really do yoga. Because I had this huge operation, where they did this, like cut down my back to get this fluid out of my lung. And I had been thinking earlier on that tour, I really should do yoga or something, because I should really do something with my body. And I started taking yoga from a place, that Unity Woods place in Arlington. Which is right back there, like, 9th and Quincy. So I used to ride my back through all those buildings, before they had knocked down the rest of them and they were still building. There was that curry house, that Indian place back there. The thing was, by and large, it was constantly under construction. And I never really felt a connection with Arlington, really, until around that time. Like, Go! and Frank and all those people and when the Arlington scene started popping up. I didn’t really think about it. I never really had any sense of Arlington. Because really, all my business was in Washington, for the most part. I bought my food at the Giant. I might go to Uncommon Market, but by and large, Dischord House is so perfectly located because you could just go 50 to Georgetown, or 395 to Downtown. I could get to the 9:30 Club in like five minutes flat when it was at 9th and F. Or DC Space in five minutes flat. It was great. Great location. In fact, moving to Mount Pleasant has been quite a shocker for me because it’s a lot farther away from everything.

TP: Yeah because you have to navigate through all the little streets and stuff.

IM: Yeah, to get down… of course it’s also been exacerbated by the fact that it’s so much more dense this city. There’s so many more cars now, traffic is really… Like, I could drive from Dischord House to BWI in one light. One set of lights between my house–BWI and Dischord house. But getting from Mount Pleasant to BWI, it takes me like a half an hour longer, or more, because I have to get all the way across. Anyway… what other questions do you have… I don’t mean to…

TP: No, this is perfect. I’m trying to think… So one of the questions that I ask everybody, and it differs whether they lived there or whether they spent time there, but I ask this and I tell everyone that you can define the terms of the question however you want to define them. What was maybe a significant moment you had the Kansas House.

IM: I told it to you.

TP: About the store?

IM: Well, that was very significant, and the…

TP: The Alberto Gaitan thing.

IM: The three most significant things I remember: that thrift store, which I spent a lot of time at, that was my special, I would go there every year, that damn rubber cauliflower. The realization that this new group house was that thrift store, that blew my mind, just sort of the telescoping… because I think she’d been closed for a few years, they’d been gone. I hadn’t gone there in years, maybe five years and just didn’t think about it. And then I think the Alberto Gaitan thing was really significant. I have some memories of some kind of cake, some pie party type thing, some parties like that.

TP: One of the things that you kind of said, that you sort of mentioned that Eric Axelson and Joe Easley were sort of talking about, and Travis Morrison, too, that during a lot of the time that this was happening, for the people who were going there all the time, they weren’t there because they were on tour.

IM: Right.

TP: So they would come back and they would hear about this place where everybody was kind of hanging out. And it seems like one of the things, at least that I think is really interesting, is that you have these people who are from DC but spent most of the year doing something, sort of representing DC to the rest of the world.

IM: Yeah, some people.

TP: And that was something I hadn’t really thought about, and I don’t know where I’m going with this, but that I hadn’t really thought about, from being here and sort of, when you didn’t have something to do over the weekend, well, I’ll go to the record store and see what’s happening. Or, there’s something that’s happening at Kansas, and I might not know who the band is but I know that everyone I know will be there. And so, I think for a lot of those folks, we sort of have this affinity for a place where everyone who is on tour missed that happening. It was a different experience coming back.

IM: Yes, I don’t think that, yes, the tour played a roll in that, First off, I think it’s not everybody was hanging out at Kansas House, there was a clique there. I mean, Pirate House was in full bloom at the same time, and Embassy was full. The Embassy was happening and Wallbridge was happening, and Adams Mill was happening. And 1830 was happening. Mount Pleasant was rife with happenings. I’m sure there were other houses. I mean, Simple Machines had their scene. So there was all these different… I think your cliquoe, or a clicque that you associated with, that was a really important place for you. And even if I’d lived here and not been on tour, I probably wouldn’t have hung out there, because I just wasn’t part of that clique. One thing about cliques, I don’t mean this in any derogatory manner. I think of myself of having been part of a clique. A lot of it has to do, I think, with people, you know. It usually starts when you’re a teenager, and it goes into your 20s, when you’re, as you are leaving your biological family, you start to create a new extended family. And part of that makes sense, because we are looking, to some degree, for connectivity, especially, I think, romantic, or intimate. Not like boyfriends and girlfriends, but rather, that we’re looking to be part of somebody’s life and for them to be part of our lives in a way that makes us feel like we exist. We are looking for our constellation, for our stars to shine. That’s it. We’re looking for the framework. And constellations are profound when they form, and they are changeable, but there are certain stars that you just can’t bend, and that’s constellation. That’s just the way it is. So I think that Kansas Street, along with the other houses, was a place where there was a constellation, and there were interchangeable stars but by and large, the framework of it were centered around that. And even if I had stayed, and had no band and was just sitting here, I don’t think I would have hung out there, because I’m older than everybody else. I mean how old are you?

TP: Almost 39.

IM: So I’m nine years older than you. I’ll be 49 in April. So, ten years before that, you know, mid-80s, I was fully engaged in all this stuff, like Garfield Street and all these other group houses I was talking about, that’s my world. That’s where, like, on a Tuesday night, I’m over there house till one in the morning. We were writing musicals. That’s the thing, like, we fucking wrote, we wrote full musicals. There’s radio plays… Have you ever heard the London Pie series? I could play you something that would blow your mind. We were working on a musical of Pinocchio at Garfield Street, up at Wisconsin And Garfield… Guy, Brendan, Mike Hampten, Lydia, Molly Burnham, all these people. We had scored it, and we were even trying to come up with the props. We had all these bands, like the Brief Weeds, and the Marvelous Sit-Coms. There was this bloom of creativity because we had an audience – each other. We had each other. So I feel like, there are things that I missed because I was away, but I think I would have missed them anyway.

TP: And I think what you just said is really… it goes back to what you were saying that the place is just sort of the place where it happened. Because that’s what happened at Kansas. Like, Marc Nelson organized this whole thing where he did his audition for graduate school when he was going into the theater academy.

IM: Yeah, Catholic, where did he go?

TP: He went to GW, that program through the Shakespeare Theater.

IM: I know.

TP: And he figured, well, if I’m doing that, if anybody else wants to do something like that, they can come over, and he organized this whole thing. With just the bands playing there, it’s kind of like, the space was a place for people to go but what was really important was that you had these people who were doing the creative part, and that allowed all those constellations to become constellations.

IM: Right, and you had an emotional connection to that place, didn’t you?

TP: Yeah.

IM: And there are people that you think of who probably are lifelong friends. You know, probably for me they’ll be my lifelong acquaintances. But for me, my lifelong friends, the people who I’m talking about, and I don’t mean this, again, it’s just a different thing. Like someone, like Lydia, I just saw Lydia last week, Lydia Heeley. And that’s someone who is a lifelong friend for me. I just know that I will know her till one of us dies. And I’ll know her after if I’m still alive, and she’ll still know me if I die before her. And it’s not, I don’t think of the people, when I say lifelong acquaintances, I mean that in all fondness, it means I just don’t know. I mean, I’m not privy to, really, I think one thing, and I’m going to bring this up because I think it’s a really interesting… I’ve thought a lot about this recently in terms of history. Like, I haven’t read Mark’s book, Dance of Days, but I certainly know about it. And Sarah Marcus did this book about Riot Grrrl which I haven’t read yet but I know about. And I’ve read music books about other scenes, and I’ve read books about politics, about 60s radical politics, and there’s a component to all these things that I think is so significant, that I think gets left out, and I haven’t quite coined the phrase yet but it something along the lines of The Fucking Schematic. Because there’s a lot of fucking going on. There were all these relationships happening, and they played a significant role on who was where when, why, and how. And I know, for instance, why bands, like in the early 90s, my band moved to this town or left this town… I know, because there were people fucking and breaking up, and that was happening. And I assume, I don’t know this, but I imagine, you can think of all these people and be like, that’s right, they were fucking. And that person fucked that person and they broke up, and then that happened. And see, you know… that in a way is one way of defining the difference between a life long friend and a life long acquaintance. Because I don’t know who was fucking who at Kansas Street.

TP: But somebody else could say, this was happening because this person… yeah, that’s totally true.

IM: And I think that’s profound. Like, I don’t think people who write music histories about scenes, they’re no going to ever know what was going on. Like I know, for example, Mark Anderson, again, early on in Mark’s book, he had done a draft, and he gave it to me to look at, this is like three years, five years before he got it out, and I read the first chapter which is sort of before my time, and I thought, this is, woah… really incredible, because I’m learning things, he had done some research on early 70s, mid-70s music stuff here that I didn’t know, or I didn’t know from that perspective. But then when I come into the picture, it was like, woah, that’s weird, like reading about your own story and also what he wrote was very kind of intimate knowledge. And there’s a scene, I don’t know if it’s still in the book, but in the draft, there’s a, I’m sitting in my room at Beecher Street, in the basement, my basement room at Beecher Street and I’m bummed thinking about that Reagan just got elected or thinking about what is going on in El Salvador… you know, and I started writing all these lyrics and I’m thinking, that is not what happened. Like, I was bummed because somebody who I wanted to be with wasn’t being with me. And I was trying to figure out, how does this work? How does all this fucking work? Because I can’t understand it. And I wrote a song. Like, a lot of songs are really about that.

TP: And I think about this, just in writing songs. It’s like, this is about a building, but really, it’s about a relationship.

IM: Right, and I guess… so I think about it like, you see like a body of water, right, and there’s all this action on the water, and it’s like, well there it is. But really, it’s the deep water currents that are making shit happen. Like, I can only really think, in terms of that whole scene over there, like with Go! and all that stuff over there, I can only think about one relationship thing that I was aware of, and it seemed like, sizemic, with what happened in that relationship. And you know, somebody was diddling with somebody or other, and it just had such an effect on the whole scene. And I suspect that’s really, if you’re privy to that, then those are your people. It’s like, you know about your own family. In your biological family, it’s like, you know, aunt so-and-so came over and was drunk and puked on the floor, but we don’t talk about that outside the house, you’re a part of that family. And if you’re at Kansas Street, and someone came over that they got so drunk that they ended up puking in somebody else’s bed that they’re not supposed to be in that bed, then like, okay, that’s our family, it stays in our family.

TP: And people have told stories like that, where, like not necessarily trying to name people or anything, but it does add to that idea that this was a place, where there were things that were happening there, and maybe there were bands that were happening there, but because it was also a house, you had crazy stuff that was really specific to peoples relationships that were also happening, and they existed together and influenced each other, and certain bands couldn’t play there because this person didn’t like that person because whatever happened…

IM: That’s what I’m talking about. Almost always that had to do with some relationship stuff. I am sad about, the one thing about the all roads lead to a kegger aspect of this, is I’m deeply interested in sustainability. And I think that the situation that people have and their recollections on the kind of, we were so crazy, or this shit was so crazy, or this happened. Like the way people always put a premium on, not necessarily nihilistic but somewhat unhealthy or destructive kinds of things. Because when you hear people talk about, oh back in the day, this went down or that went down, or I remember that night, this happened… that’s stuff’s not sustainable, but that’s what people remember. But, what’s more important was the mundanity, the mundane aspects of it. That people chose to live in commune. That they chose to live in a communal setting. And I was really interested in the idea of communal living. I still am. I’m not living in a commune, but I still think of it as ideal, in my mind. But, like Dischord Hosue, from the very beginning, we were like, we will not have parties, because we didn’t want to be a party house, we wanted to be a punk house. We didn’t want to have parties because we knew that all parties end up being keggers at some point. And then it’s just people coming by to just have a good old time, that wasn’t the idea. Because in some ways, people think of it as just a good old time, because that’s not sustainable.

TP: And that’s true, because I remember… the parties or the show parties that were at Kansas where, it wasn’t, even if there was beer, it wasn’t a kegger.

IM: Yeah, I’m trying to make a distinction.

TP: But then, when I talked to Jason Barnett, who lived there, I think he said that he lived there for like seven years, and he was the guy who did Hott Beat with Allison, they talked about that basically what they were having were keggers, and there were these people who were coming in off the street… he told me that these frat boys came in off the street and sort of thinking, oh, it’s a kegger, and asking where they could get weed and stuff.

IM: Right.

TP: It’s like, that’s not really what’s going on here. Or they would get people that were saying, who would move in that they would be cool with it, and sort of not understanding that what it was, was that it was a punk house, and not a party house, and those are two different, two really separate things.

IM: But the thing was, and this is why, I think the… there’s this weird, I think that actually in a way, these are actually the sort of seeds of discontent– no the seeds of destruction, in a way… the introduction of the party, like the idea of the party as opposed to the gathering. It’s just not gonna… it’s just gonna yank the rug out from everything eventually. It’s gonna disintegrate, because it’s not sustainable. The Frat Boy world is not sustainable. Like, if they don’t actually drink themselves to death at 18 on a fucking, chug contest, they’re gonna end up being some fucking dicks running a company somewhere, ripping people off. That’s the trajectory, you know? And I think that– this is sort of where I always felt like that’s what makes me a punk, because I’m not interested in that scene. I can remember, early 90s, we had dance parties that were just blowouts, I don’t know, maybe you went to them. But we had these parties and nobody was drinking really. Maybe somebody would have a beer, outback or something, but it was just dancing. And all we’d do is just dance and dance and dance. And at some point, it became more and more people started drinking. Actually it was when Dante’s opened up. That restaurant, that place on 14th Street. That became, the gathering point was no longer the houses, but you know, people started to gather at Dante’s which was, though it had a menu, it was a bar. It was a bar. And after a while, people who just hang out at a bar, most people, almost everybody, they’re gonna become bar hounds, they’re gonna start drinking. And I think that was a really, that was a huge shift in what I consider my sort of scene, that there was something that, the emphasis was on drinking, and it didn’t make people bad, they weren’t bad people, it just meant that the dance parties went away, because they were actually just parties, that some people might dance in. Where before, they were dance parties.

TP: And that’s really, when I think about my favorite times there, were the ones where it was a dance party.

IM: At Kansas.

TP: Yeah, at Kansas.

IM: I danced, I went to a dance party there.

TP: Ryan Nelson djayed, and I think one year Trans Am, a version of Trans Am played…

IM: Oh yeah, I saw that show. Yeah.

TP: Yeah, and another year the surprise band was the Dismemberment Plan. And they were some of the best times because people didn’t really care about…

IM: Exactly, and then later on, Kansas, for me, I went to something much later, but I was just like, in and out, because it was like, you know what, there’s too many dudes hanging out in the kitchen. It didn’t feel good at all, like, you know, see you later.

TP: And Ryan actually talked about that, too, and this was definitely true for me, when I didn’t know anybody that lived there anymore. I think the last person, Ann may have still lived there but Bob was gone, and I had gone to a show there and it was a really good show but I didn’t feel like I needed to stay there because it wasn’t like I knew anybody who lived there anymore. It was like, we were in somebody’s house, we didn’t need to stay here. And Ryan kind of talked about that as where he went to a show where he felt that it was not a space that belonged to him anymore, where it once used to be a place where he practically lived there, he would sleep on the couch for like days on end or whatever, to this place where he didn’t really know the people anymore. Because when I talked to him about it, he said people had told him about the fact that the house was being torn down and he said, well, to me, that’s not really… I said goodbye to the house already. It was kind of what you were saying, it was the actions that happened there that were important, he had a moment where he sort of recognized that was the case and that he didn’t need to be in the physical space there anymore.

IM: Definitely… that space… that may again, there may be some component to the space that adds to the situation, but ultimately, it was y’all.

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