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‘Startling’: Ian MacKaye reacts to Bad Brains’ Rock Hall of Fame nomination

SInger H.R.'s electric stage presence was memorable in early years of D.C. punk innovators, Bad Brains. (Photo Lucian Perkins)

WASHINGTON — Ian MacKaye, a senior member of D.C.’s punk scene, finds it hard to picture Bad Brains at an induction ceremony for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“If they’re actually selected, it would be pretty startling,” said MacKaye, acknowledging that adjective selection was an understatement, given Bad Brains’ history in the music industry.

As a young teen, MacKaye was initially a fan of Bad Brains, citing their breakneck precision as a reason he wanted to play in a band.

MacKaye’s early bands included Teen Idles and Minor Threat, which led to his co-founding of Dischord Records.

Bad Brains sought to be known as the fastest punk group in the world, but their experiences in playing jazz fusion gave them an unmatched precision in a world of bombast.

“In 1979-80, not only did we have this great local band, we actually had the greatest band in the world playing in Washington,” MacKaye told WTOP.

Bad Brains was among 19 acts nominated Tuesday for the Cleveland-based Rock Hall’s Class of 2017.

Bad Brains frontman Paul “HR” Hudson, guitarist Gary “Dr. Know” Miller, bassist Daryl Jenifer and drummer Earl Hudson are on the ballot.

Bands are eligible to be nominated 25 years after the release of their first record, but this is Bad Brains’ first appearance on the ballot.

“I don’t know who the nominators are, and frankly don’t care, but the person who put Bad Brains name in the hat is either visionary, or they’re savvy and trying to bring some legitimacy to their brand,” said MacKaye.

“The Bad Brains obviously connected with a lot of people in the 1980s,” said MacKaye. “Maybe some of those kids swam upstream to where they now want to bring Bad Brains along.”

MacKaye, whose do-it-yourself style is antithetical to the pageantry of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, says he’s “not mad” at the possibility of Bad Brains in the museum.

“If the members of the Bad Brains, if this is something they want, I’m happy for them,” MacKaye said, convincingly. “I know the impact they had on my life, and that of other people.”

Bad Brains performed at the Afropunk festival in Brooklyn, New York in August — their first performance after Miller’s recent long hospitalization, in which he was on life support.

“They’re locals; they’re D.C. people,” said MacKaye. “The fact is, some kids from Washington, D.C., could make celestial music that was inspiring beyond imagination.”

Bad Brains were featured prominently in local filmmaker Scott Crawford’s documentary “Salad Days: A Decade of Punk in Washington, D.C.”

“If you ever saw the Bad Brains live, it’s not something you would ever forget,” said Crawford, who was 12 years old when he first witnessed a performance.

“HR — there was no equal as a frontman,” marveled Crawford. “There was so much energy, and precision and anger, in this short blast of hard-core fury.”

Now, almost three decades since the band’s debut, HR’s wife has said he suffers from a rare neurobiological disorder, which causes extreme headaches.

Regardless, MacKaye and Crawford believe the influence of Bad Brains, in their prime, is clear.

“It changed my life, and anyone that’s ever heard the Bad Brains, or seen them live, would probably say the exact same thing,” Crawford said.

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