Nathan Gray
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FUGAZI Tribute: Nathan Gray (BOYSETSFIRE) discusses the influence and legacy of the underground icons

11 mins read

Washington, D.C. post hardcore gamechangers FUGAZI may not reactivate anytime soon, but the band members have managed to give us many exciting new projects in recent years, including the Messthetics and Coriky, and The Evens. To keep the fire burning, we’re honored and super excited to give you the first taste of the upcoming FUGAZI tribute compilation from Ripcord Records, “Bed For The Scraping”, performed by Nathan Gray of Boysetsfire. Nathan sat down with us to share his thoughts on the legendary band, give us his perspective on their exceptionality, as well as his personal projects. Read the full interview below.

Silence Is A Dangerous Sound: A Tribute To Fugazi features 43 bands (!), who have embraced that same drive and innovation to pay tribute to their forefathers with a diverse array of approaches. From the reggae-infected punk of Authority Zero through to ZAO’s searing hardcore, these unique takes on well-known and well-loved cuts are a testament to the legacy of one of punk’s most iconic and influential acts.

Fugazi Tribute promo - Ripcord Records

The compilation features FUGAZI covers from Authority Zero, Belvedere, Shai Hulud, La Dispute, Tsunami Bomb, Chamberlain, Viva Belgrado, Into It. Over It., ZAO, Jonah Matranga, STORM{O}, and a lot lot more! See the full track listing for both CDs at the bottom of this article.

Fugazi’s music and ethics have been immensely influential on punk and alternative music throughout the years, and has earned the band praise from many notable musicians as well.

Arising from the mid-80s DC punk scene, Fugazi created a wealth of emotional yet immediately absorbing music that countless bands strive to better even now. They crafted a sound that didn’t so much bridge the worlds of alternative rock, punk and hardcore but rather tightly interwove them, resulting in a sound that has influenced anyone with a guitar, a moral compass and the drive to create something that could tear the world in two, or stitch it back together.

They championed a DIY approach to recording and releasing music that is held up as a standard to this day, and it’s in that spirit that this collection has come to life.

Silence Is A Dangerous Sound: A Tribute To Fugazi is being released digitally and as a double CD (a one-time limited pressing of 500) on 1st October 2021 by Ripcord Records, and all profits made are going to the Tribe Animal Sanctuary in Scotland.


Hey there Nathan. Thanks so much for joining us here on IDIOTEQ. It’s a great pleasure to host a special feature in support of this amazing compilation release. Please tell us how you got involved.

Charlene from Ripcord Records reached out to see if I might be interested and I jumped at the chance. It was such a cool idea for a great cause, and I am honored to be a part of it.

You’re releasing a cover of FUGAZI’s “Bed For The Scraping“. Do you have any nerves? You also have a new album coming out in November called Rebel Songs – do you still get nerves with every new release?

I always get nervous around releases! I sincerely hope I never lose that feeling, because if I do, it means I’ve lost my passion for what I do. Doing a cover brings a different set of nerves, because you want to do the song justice, but in a way that doesn’t rub the original artist wrong. When I do what I do with boysetsfire, I am able to somewhat hide behind the band, which is comfortable and safe. But when it comes to my solo work, it’s like..succeed or fail, it’s all on me. It’s my legacy to leave, so there’s a lot of creative pressure and heart tied up into the work, and that weight can often become extremely heavy. I won’t act like I don’t go through a phase of panic leading up to a release. I absolutely do.

How did you go about choosing this particular song and reworking it your own way?

Choosing “Bed for the Scraping” was a very quick and easy decision for me because Red Medicine is my favorite Fugazi album, and I KNEW it was going to be the first time I heard that song in particular. That album hit me at the right place and right time, and I will stand by it as long as I live.

BOYSETSFIRE landed on the scene in 1994 with a self-titled EP and then your debut album in 1997, which was right in the middle of this kind of music revolution that was happening with emo and post-hardcore bands. Did you feel you fit into that scene and had you any idea you would still be relevant and influential 25 years later?

We had absolutely zero idea what scene we fit into – I think we were so diverse within the band itself and in what we were doing, neither us nor anyone else knew what to do with that or what bucket to put us in. I think largely because of that, we had zero idea we were going to be doing this still, or that anyone would still care what we had to say 25 years later. At the time, we just wanted to get out and play and have a space to talk about things that we were passionate about. I mean, we were honestly shocked the first time we made $100 bucks.

Now, as I fight to gain ground as a solo artist, I am often feeling the same kind of worries, pressures and unknowns. I really feel like I am starting all over again and just hoping someone out there feels passionate enough about my art and my message enough to take it along with them in their own path in life.

What about FUGAZI in particular? When did it become clear to you that they were going to be an iconic band?

When you couldn’t go anywhere and not hear their name. That was the moment. People were either super into them or super angry at them for their ethics. They were Polarizing. They stuck to their beliefs stridently, and it was such an inspiration for DIY bands everywhere. It gave us all hope that it IS possible to stick to your guns so fervently and still “make it big.”

Fugazi live at Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 3.29.96 - photo by Molly Stevens
Fugazi live at Masquerade, Atlanta, GA, 3.29.96 – photo by Molly Stevens

Revolution Summer of 85 had a huge influence on us, even in the in the 90’s. A lot of us grew up during the time of Rites of Spring. I remember when I was living in Florida as a young kid and I had somehow misinterpreted the name and put “FUNgazi” in grip tape on my skateboard. I even remember getting into an argument with a guy over what was the correct name, and he brought out a 13 Songs tape to prove to me that I WAS wrong. Sooooo, Fugazi had a huge effect on me but I was too young and dumb to know the name correctly.

Can you speak a little more about your perspective on FUGAZI and how you see them in relation to other top influential bands out there? How much of an influence did they have on your musical evolution?

Fugazi is like no other band, and no one has been able to replicate their formula in the way they did. They made business ethics work. I don’t know how to explain how they did it – they played music that didn’t fit in anywhere and it was dancy and funky and nothing made sense, but somehow…it made perfect sense. That was who they were to the core as a band, and it was inspiring. People needed something to believe in and feel, and Fugazi gave them exactly that.

They had a huge influence on my musical evolution because they set a standard I had tried to emulate. They gave me something to aspire to. I think most musicians out of that time especially felt the same way – Fugazi set a standard for who we wanted to be and how we wanted to succeed. It gave us all hope. Succeed or fail, we were sticking to what we believed in, and that in itself gave me personally hope in humanity and hope in arts role in humanity. Fugazi showed me that I could be myself unapologetically, and without asking permission, and people would hold onto that because it was genuine.

One of the other things I really took away from Ian as a person, was his patience. I remember seeing them play in Pensacola, FL, and after the show, he took the time to stand outside and talk to people. And these weren’t exactly friendly people, because it was in the Bible Belt and people really wanted to challenge him, but he stood out there and talked, even as they would try to draw him into an argument. He was always calm and collected and stood his ground peacefully. He earned my respect forever when he just took the time to listen to them.

What do you think it was about the band that inspired so many artists, including bigger names, who appreciated FUGAZI in the early 90s, and hundreds of DIY bands to become better writers themselves or even to pick up an instrument and form a band in the first place?

The music in general. Fugazi went out of their way to make good music. They had talent, and they were DIY, but they were songwriters, and artists, and they weren’t just standing there screaming and making noise. They put so much effort into the bass and drums to make their music rhythmic, and it felt like no one was doing that at that time. For a lot of us it was an “aha” moment – we can be talented AND popular AND ethical without being messy sell-outs.

Have you been lucky enough to see them perform live?

I have – I even got to play with them. My friend Jason and I actually set up a show at the college near us and it was crazy – Hammerskins showed up to yell at them while they played, and I remember Ian saying “You can’t be a tough guy, I just saw you licking an ice cream earlier” It caused a little stir but Fugazi kept on playing, and when the skins realized they weren’t getting the attention they wanted, they left.
Fugazi’s energy was unstoppable, and it was always a joy to watch them play. No one could deny their fire.

Can you give us your top 5 FUGAZI tracks every newbie should check out before diving into their catalogue?

  1. Bed for the Scraping (obviously one of my favorites haha)
  2. Waiting Room
  3. Repeater
  4. Great Cop
  5. Margin Walker

Ok, so since we’re here, let’s go ahead and touch base on the rest of your work and plans for the next months. First off, how has the Covid pandemic affected you and your fellow friends in your local music scene?

I am about to release my third solo album in a couple of months called “Rebel Songs” which, funnily enough, was inspired by bands like Fugazi. It’s the first album I am putting out that is so bass and drum heavy, and I took so many influences that gave it the meat and groove that Fugazi perfected so long ago.

I think you can ask any artist and they will confirm that the pandemic screwed all of us. So many of us depend on the income touring brings to feed our families and that was ripped away without notice. Those first few months of lockdown were very depressing, and it took a while for me to settle into the unknown and try to find a way to get back to work. It is unfortunate that it’s about to disrupt the world once again as we see cases rise. Get vaccinated. It’s the only way out of this.

Where do you think the pandemic and its impact on the music community is headed in the next couple of months?

It’s very touch-and-go honestly. Right now myself and many others are starting to get out there and play shows around the U.S. again, but with things starting to look grim as cases rise in the unvaccinated, there is a chance I may not be able to do the bigger tours scheduled for later this year. I try not to let myself get my hopes up, but it’s difficult. I want nothing more than to get back on the road to play.

It did force us all to get creative though – I’ve seen more collaboration between artists than I have in years. Since we were all stuck at home and unable to work in our usual ways, there was a lot of podcasting, song sharing, and virtual chatting among many of us, which helped keep us all productive and sane, and no doubt our families are grateful for that.

What are the main differences, in your point of view, between your solo work and BOYSETSFIRE and THE CASTING OUT? For me, I feel your solo work, so far, is much more personal compared to the politics of BOYSETSFIRE. However you’ve spoken recently about how politics is personal too – could you expand on that and how it relates to your solo work, particularly your upcoming album?

My first couple of solo albums were very “me” driven. They were an exercise in clearing out a lot of bullshit that was keeping me down, and I am now getting back to my political roots a bit more with the idea that the personal and political are one and the same. Our personal ideals drive our political leanings, and I think there is no way, reason or need to separate the two. As a human, an empathetic, passionate human, we should always align our politics to that empathy. When we don’t people stuffer. The personal is political is personal.

Ok, so finally, what are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond?

I have some U.S. dates scheduled in October, I release Rebel Songs in November, and (hopefully!) head out for my Euro tour in December. The year gets incredibly busy for me here out, and I am honestly BEYOND ready.

Great! Thanks so much for your time. Cheers from Warsaw!

On his third solo album, BOYSETSFIRE singer NATHAN GRAY sounds more political than he ever has since his band’s very first records while at the same time recognizing that no protest can bring change without the people behind it.

Rebel Songs” transforms this realization into twelve tracks full of changeability that not only spread a spirit of optimism through their lyrical character, but also convey a sense of “we” stronger than ever through the involvement of numerous guests – most notably in the title track, which features TIM MCILRATH from RISE AGAINST.

Nathan Gray also weaves in other exciting collaborators on a record that repeatedly brings up what are for the singer unusually snappy influences from archetypal punk heroes like The Clash or heartland rock in the style of The Hold Steady while at the same time daring to conduct many new experiments quite apart from any cherished structures.

PRE-ORDER the album through End Hits Records or Deathwish Inc.

Silence Is A Dangerous Sound: A Tribute To Fugazi is being released digitally and as a double CD (a one-time limited pressing of 500) on 1st October 2021 by Ripcord Records, and all profits made are going to the Tribe Animal Sanctuary in Scotland. PRE-ORDER HERE!

Fugazi Tribute promo - Ripcord Records

CD 1 track listing:

1. Authority Zero – Bad Mouth
2. The Darling Fire – Reclamation
3. Dowsing – KYEO
4. Belvedere – Styrofoam
5. The Last Gang – Blueprint
6. Shai Hulud – Great Cop
7. Crazy Arm – Epic Problem
8. Batteries – Target
9. Teenage Halloween – Reprovisional
10. La Dispute – Strangelight
11. Tsunami Bomb – Walken’s Syndrome
12. Taking Meds – Burning
13. USA Nails – Caustic Acrostic
14. Haggard Cat – Life and Limb
15. Direct Hit – Burning Too
16. Pet Symmetry – Public Witness Program
17. Glass Bones – Place Position
18. Chamberlain – Runaway Return
19. Viva Belgrado – Repeater
20. Frauds – Cashout
21. Seas, Starry – Brendan #1
22. Couch Slut – Full Disclosure

CD 2 track listing below:

Fugazi live at Sacred Heart Church, Washington, D.C., 2.15.91 - photo by Bert Queiroz
Fugazi live at Sacred Heart Church, Washington, D.C., 2.15.91 – photo by Bert Queiroz

1. Failure – Waiting Room
2. Nathan Gray – Bed For The Scraping
3. GILT – No Surprise
4. Swain – The Argument
5. The Hostiles – Turnover
6. This Is Hell – Sieve-Fisted Find
7. Into It. Over It. – Instrument
8. LIFE – And The Same
9. Big Ups – Do You Like Me
10. ZAO – Guilford Fall
11. Jonah Matranga – Suggestion
12. Heart Attack Man – Bulldog Front
13. Sounds Of Swami – Merchandise
14. S.T. Manville – Long Division
15. Bodega – Provisional
16. Braidedveins – Oh
17. STORM{O} – Break
18. Wojtek – Fell, Destroyed
19. West Thebarton – Margin Walker
20. Snapped Ankles – Give Me The Cure
21. Before Stories – Dear Justice Letter

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