MMIAP Vs. DIY xxxx DIY Vs. MMIAP…XYZ
Text by Christopher Drapeau
My name is Christopher Drapeau, I’m a heavy metal, hardcore, and punk rock guitar player, a solo composer and songwriter, and a member of Musicians For Musicians. MFM is a non-profit organization advocating for the rights and interests of professional musicians. Our goal is spreading the idea that #MakingMusicIsAProfession. My involvement started after moving to New York City and starting to establish myself as a working musician. My career has always had a DIY backbone, and it is a very important ethic to uphold as a musician to be successful in my opinion; and MFM stands for that 100%.
It’s rather difficult to pinpoint when exactly music and musicians began straying from the proverbial path. You could even say that “path” is still avoided by very many artists and musicians across the world today, however it is also still a frequently traversed route as well. Clearly, you can apply the old adage “do it yourself” to many forms of art presently; especially with music and musicians and the current state of the industry at large, but aggressive music such as punk and hardcore will always come to mind especially bands like Minor Threat. The DIY approach has been not only a part of my career for the last 10 years as a professional musician, but it is also a very deeply rooted concept going back to the earliest outset of what could be called the counterculture of the 70’s and 80’s.
“DIY Ethic” has been a key component in all aggressive forms of music; punk and hardcore especially in my humble opinion. Youths growing up both during and after the Vietnam War were faced with fearful and disconcerting times and, with the 70’s slowly turning to the 1980’s, innervated those feelings through aggressive music with speeds and volumes never heard before. This also created a barrier between the scene itself and any commercial advancement.
Washington, D.C. is known for producing some of the most influential and iconic hardcore punk bands such as Bad Brains and Minor Threat in the late 70’s and early 80’s, and later bands like Embrace and Rites of Spring, both of which were part of the undeniably rich roster of Dischord Records; an independent label started by Minor Threat members Jeff Nelson and Ian MacKaye. Dischord also saw the release of the legendary Fugazi also fronted by MacKaye.
Started in 1980, Dischord Records gave a platform for many D.C. bands, and applied a self producing and self distributing approach that made the records affordable and canceled out the help and monetary advancements from major distributors. Giving this abrasive form of music more accessibility made it more of a spectacle within the underground; all the while sparking a community of like-minded people both within bands and within the fan base. This carried up into New York City to spearhead the iconic and legendary New York hardcore (NYHC) scene, but that’s another story for another day.
Minor Threat quite possibly could be the best example of “DIY” in hardcore punk in those early days. The anti-political, anti-religious, or just anti-anything “normal” at the time made it difficult or even impossible for any bands playing such abrasive and socially unacceptable music to get a leg up from an industry standpoint.
Ian MacKaye and company had more odds stacked against them being “Straight Edge”, a worldwide used term (unintentionally coined by the band and their song of the same name) to describe someone who doesn’t partake in drugs, alcohol, or tobacco; and on other accounts refraining from promiscuous sex and maintaining a strict vegan diet. This vocalized lifestyle, mixed with a lot of the aforementioned attributes to the punk and hardcore scene not only made Minor Threat outcasts within the industry, but it also made them outcasts in the ever-changing scene they were a part of. Although Minor Threat was short lived, their influence and legacy is still very much felt across the world both musically and as a deviance from social and political norms.
Within punk rock and hardcore, there has been numerous concepts touched upon that introduce new and radical ideas that are very thought provoking. This against the grain, against the system, and against the social norm approach has always been a huge influence on me and the way I feel, think, and carry myself as a musician. Hardcore music has harnessed ideas of equality and anti-racism, non-violence, PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) and most of all compassion for so many years, and these concepts are stronger than ever today with the current state of our world and the continuous growth of this scene since the late 70’s.
One of key tenets of MFM is the notion that “making music is a profession.” #MMIAP truly is a new and modern expression and music business style of DIY. From the position of someone who has seen (though a very little portion) how the industry favors the musician last many times, I believe people like Ian MacKaye see not only the worth in people but the worth in music and musicians. He has bridged music intellectually and confidently with political, social, and current events, and after his nearly 40 years in the industry, he’s still is fighting for music and maintaining a DIY formula backed by compassion and honesty. Dischord Records is still releasing material, and MacKaye has always worked to protect musician rights.
This “DIY Ethic” has proven effective for so many bands within the aggressive music community at large. It has always been a part of my career, and will continue to be that way because it’s a true testament to the value of music and musicians. When you produce something like music, and its done with conviction, pride, heart, and fully independent of what is expected, I feel the listener can see and hear that level of dedication as well. Thus, it becomes worth its weight in gold as much to them as it does to the person creating it.