A New Generation of Punk at Dischord Records

From '20 Years of Dischord'

Just some of the songs and bands promoted by the record label through the years:

Ian MacKaye, left and Jeff Nelson today.

Ian MacKaye, left and Jeff Nelson today. Dischord Records hide caption

itoggle caption Dischord Records
Back in the day -- MacKaye, left, and Nelson as teens in 1980.

Back in the day -- MacKaye, left, and Nelson as teens in 1980. Dischord Records hide caption

itoggle caption Dischord Records

In the short list of world capitals of punk rock music, there's London, New York City and Los Angeles — but that list wouldn't be complete without Washington, D.C.

In the late 1970s, teens in the nation's capital were building their own punk scene, complete with spiked leather and dyed hair, that was as bold and electric as the music they made.

Many of those earliest D.C. bands recorded for an independent record label called Dischord, founded 25 years ago by Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson. That pioneering label is still alive today, and a new generation of bands are finding a home for their socially conscious, harder-edged style of rock 'n' roll.

Dischord put out its first record in 1980, a 45 rpm recording by the MacKaye/Nelson group Teen Idles called "Minor Disturbance." The band cut, folded and glued each of the thousands of record jackets by hand. That sense of communal mission, says MacKaye, is what drove the label.

"We had a slogan: 'Putting D.C. on the map.' Our initial mission was to document the punk scene," he says. Another long-standing tradition at Dischord has been political activism. Groups like Mackaye's own disbanded Fugazi have routinely written songs and joined protests against homelessness, apartheid and U.S.-led conflicts around the world.

Today, the label may be a modern business, but it's still driven by the straightforward communalism that first defined it. "We don't use contracts, lawyers, any of those kinds of things," MacKaye says. "We are partners — they make the music, and we make the records."

Purchase Featured Music

20 Years of Dischord

Purchase Music

Purchase Featured Music

Album
20 Years of Dischord
Artist
Dischord Records 3-Disk Compilation
Label
Dischord Records
Released
2002

Your purchase helps support NPR Programming. How?

 

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.