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Starting with the Teen Idles’ Minor Disturbance EP in 1980, Washington D.C.’s Dischord Records has released a glut of punk, hardcore and post-hardcore records. Co-founder Ian MacKaye tells Murray Stassen how it all started


Washington D.C. is a city in perpetual flux. Presidents and administrations come and go and the world’s media fly in and out as the political elite carve out policies that make headlines on the other side of the planet. Dischord Records was born 38 years ago in the underground of this government town, and has since grabbed the music world’s attention with a social consciousness and intense musical sensibility that’s unique to Dischord and unique to D.C.

For the last nearly four decades, it’s been at least one constant force for good, championing the city’s arts and culture and inspiring bands and labels the world over.

What makes Dischord so exceptional is that from day one, it really has just been about music, and its co-founders, Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson, have been far more concerned with documenting the D.C. punk scene than with corporate expansion plans.

“I think that, precisely because we just never had a plan for the label, it’s one of the reasons it can continue,” says MacKaye over the phone from his off ce in Washington.

“It keeps going because there was no trajectory,” he continues. “I had no goals. I still have no goals. Honestly. I just do the work that’s in front of me.”

The label started in December 1980. Nathan Strejcek, Geordie Grindle, Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson had spent much of the previous year playing shows around Washington as the Teen Idles alongside the likes of D.C. hardcore pioneers Bad Brains.

The Teen Idles’ first show outside of the Washington area was in California, with the band and two roadies, one of which was Henry GarTheld (later Rollins), taking a crosscountry Greyhound bus to play a show in LA and one in San Francisco.

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