fter the hardcore punk act Minor Threat folded, Ian MacKaye (vocals/guitar) bounced around between a handful of short-lived bands, most notably Embrace. Unsatisfied, MacKaye decided he wanted a project that was "like The Stooges with reggae", but was wary about forming another band. Nontheless, he recruited ex-Dag Nasty drummer Colin Sears and bassist Joe Lally to practice together around September 1986. After a few months of rehearsals, Sears returned to Dag Nasty to be replaced by Brendan Canty (ex-Rites of Spring). Soon after, Canty's Rites of Spring bandmate Guy Picciotto paid a visit during a practice session to see how his friend was getting along; he later admitted he secretly harbored the idea of joining the group. But Picciotto was disappointed that there seemed to be no place for him and, as it turns out, Rites of Spring would be a very short lived venture.
To name the band, MacKaye chose the word "fugazi" from Mark Baker's Nam, a compilation of stories of Vietnam War veterans, it there being a slang acronym for "Fucked Up, Got Ambushed, Zipped In [into a body bag]". In September of 1987 Fugazi would get their first official gig, and their first tour in January 1988.
Under the line-up of MacKaye joining forces with Guy Piccotto (vocals), Brendan Canty (drums) and Joe Lally (bass), in June 1988 the band recorded its debut EP, Fugazi.
The track list for what was to be their debut album was cut down to an EP and released as Margin Walker the following year. Both EPs were eventually combined into the 13 Songs (1989) compilation. Upon the band's return from their European tour, Picciotto, unsatisfied with singing, began playing guitar also.
Today it is considered their trademark "Straight Edge" Hardcore style (The term "Straight Edge Hardcore" was taken from a track of the same title from a Minor Threat album), but Repeater (1990) was anything but a hit when it was released on the 'Dischord Records' label, a label founded by Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson. But after heavy touring, Repeater eventually went on to sell more than 1 million copies in the US, and more than 2 million worldwide. The album was critically well received, boasting an alternative rock sound that pre-dated more known releases like Nirvana's Nevermind and Pearl Jam's Ten, which unexpectedly broke the genre into the mainstream. While major labels began to court Fugazi, the band decided to stay with 'Dischord'. Steady Diet of Nothing (1991) followed.
Fugazi's third album, In on the Kill Taker (1992), would initially be aborted, however, when the results were deemed unsatisfactory; the band completely re-recorded the album. With the breakthrough of alternative rock in the early 1990s, In on the Kill Taker rode the wave to became the group's first record to enter the Billboard album charts, and subsequently became the band's breakthrough album.
For the next album, Fugazi opted to retreat from the high intensity "in-your-face" production styles of In on the Kill Taker in favor of a more ambient sound offering more range and depth. To achieve this, the band handled production duties themselves. The resulting Red Medicine (1995) would move Fugazi further toward art rock.
After the long worldwide tour in support of Red Medicine, Fugazi took an extended break and also began writing material for a follow up release End Hits (1998). The Argument (2001) would follow, along with the EP Furniture + 2 (2001).
Fugazi has since been on what they have called "indefinite hiatus" after the conclusion of their 2002 UK tour. The hiatus was brought on by the band members' insistence on spending more time with their families and to pursue other professional projects. Repeated media requests for future work have gone unanswered.
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Fugazi at Emo's in March 2002.
Photo: Tim Trentham from Austin, USA
CC BY-SA 2.0
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