Over the past three years, we have slowly and steadily interviewed each of the four members of the trailblazing DC band Fugazi... except one: inimitable singer and guitarist Guy Picciotto. Today we complete the set, and we're going to have to find a new goal in life. (Counting Crows, maybe?) The chance to finally to speak with Picciotto arose because he's performing twice this week in NYC with Vic Chestnutt, whose haunting and heartfelt new album At the Cut features Picciotto.

The Athens, GA-based Chestnutt has just embarked on a long North American tour with a deluxe, nine-piece band; they play Bowery Ballroom tonight and the Music Hall of Williamsburg tomorrow. Reached by phone last week, Picciotto enthused wildly about Chetnutt, Fugazi, and one French credit card company's love for "Waiting Room."

How pumped are you about playing with Vic Chestnutt? I really hope people will check it out, because I really do think it's one of those situations where there's a guy operating at the top of his artistic game right now, and I think people will really be blown away by him. I really feel like he's on a higher level, for sure, so I hope people will come.

For those who may not know, who is Vic Chestnutt? Well, there's a lot to say. He's someone whom I met when I was in Fugazi, when we were playing in Athens for the first time. I think it was in 1988, and he was playing bass in a band that was opening for us. He immediately impressed us; he's one of the most profane and funny people we'd ever met in our lives and we just instantly started hanging out with him, and he was in a circle of people that we knew in Athens, and we were really blown away by him, his personality and his character and stuff like that. And over the years we became friends.

This was even before he even put out his first solo record. When his first record came out, it was really kind of blew everyone in DC's minds, that first record "Little" that he put out, that Michael Stipe helped produce. So then we just maintained the friendship for a really long time. He's somebody who's consistently put out amazing records, and really a variety of records. The thing about Vic that makes him really interesting to me as a musician is that it can just be him and a guitar, and it can be the most powerful thing you've ever seen, but also his music, the complexity of his chords and depths of his lyrics, and... What he brings to the table also really lends itself to arrangements and lots of different styles, and he's got a really disparate catalog with all kinds of different approaches to what he does.

I think another thing that's kind of incredible about him is how prolific he is. In the last year or so he's put out three records with completely different supporting casts and completely different angles of attack. I don't really know anyone that I've ever met who has consistently put out top shelf material each time at that kind of rate. Particularly in the last few years. It's kind of phenomenal. The man sits on hundreds of songs that he's written that he's never recorded, he's sitting on this massive song, and he also continues to write new stuff, and it's crazy, it's really crazy.

Yannick Grandmont

He's just like a conduit for music? Yeah, and lyrics. He's also really rare in that he's got a really kind of complex sense of chording and intense knowledge of the guitar and music in general, but he also has a really refined lyrical sensibility which I think is really rare. I think for people who love to read, and love to read lyrics, I don't think there's anybody better than Vic.

You say he's funny, but he's also had a really tough life in some ways? Well for sure, when he was really young he was in a car accident, and he damaged his spine. He's a paraplegic; he's in a wheelchair. But he uses his hands, plays guitar, sings incredibly, and he tours harder than anybody I've ever met. He's definitely had some adversity or whatever, but I don't think I know anybody who fuckin' works like he does. He's just a total total machine, it's really incredible.

Do you have a favorite song off his new album? I really love "Chinaberry Tree." That's an amazing song, yeah, it's really like a crazy hallucination, that song. Really amazing. I think the new record is really... We had done two records together. On the first one, I think it was a situation where the producer Jem Cohen, a mutual friend of all of us, assembled the characters that he thought would work and he was really right on because the band... we gelled making the record. And we hadn't toured or played anything before we got together to make that record, and we started touring, and then this new record is the result of us really knowing each other and really knowing how we integrate, or what the strengths of the band are, because we did two tours together. The first record is, everyone is just super jacked to be playing together. And the new one is more of a refinement of the first one.

You've got a pretty long tour lined up, how do you feel about getting back on the road? Yeah, it's a pretty intense tour; we're bringing a gigantic band out there, it's like nine pieces, and one of the couples in the band is bringing their three-month-old kid with them, and it's a real caravan. So we're really excited. Just the logistics of the trip are really tough to set up, but we've been rehearsing the last two days and it's really massive, really incredible, to have that many pieces to build these really intense arrangements. It's pretty overwhelming; it's amazing.

For me, I haven't done a lot of touring... actually I haven't done any touring besides with Vic since Fugazi stopped playing over 5 years ago. And I haven't toured the states at all. So just for me personally, I'm frothing to get back out there and see people i haven't seen in a really long time, just to be across the country and see what it's like now. Because when I was in Fugazi we toured every year, sometimes as much as six months a year. It's one of those things that's almost like being an athlete and then all of a sudden you go through this weird contortion with your body where you're just used to this one rhythm and then it stops and you feel like you're losing your mind. And that's kinda the way I felt for a while. I love to tour, I love to play, I love to travel, I love to be with the people in the band, I like that camaraderie, I like the challenge of trying to make something happen every night, you know, and I really have missed it, so I'm really really excited.

What are the instruments involved here? There are drums, bass, violin, organ, another kind of smaller keyboard, and I think four guitar players (laughter). And Vic, so it's huge. I think one of the guitars is a Baritone,three electrics, and then Vic plays acoustic.

Are you singing at all? No, I haven't really done any singing since Fugazi stopped playing, but I'm playing guitar.

Have you been to the Fugazi Dischord page yet? Because it still says "Fall 1987-present." Yeah. [Laughter] Well, the band hasn't broken up. It's one of those weird things where we never could agree amongst the four of us what the nomenclature should be for what was going on. It's not one of those situations for us where we got together, formed a band, then played a few shows, released a couple records, and then decided to call it a day. We had been friends since even before the band started. I mean, I've known Brendan, the drummer, since I was like 14 years old. Up to this point I had only ever been in bands with him; I've been in like 6 groups with him. That's a friendship that predates the band and will go to the grave with me, and the same with Joe and Ian.

There's a bond there that goes beyond whether or not we have a gig booked next week or we have a studio date booked, it's just different than that. Initially I was kinda like, "Well, maybe we should say we broke up just so we can stop the phone from ringing and take a break." But nobody felt right about it because it seemed kind of false. The band may do something again; we don't know. We see each other all the time. We certainly always have work to do concerning the band, and we're still working on projects within the band—like right now we're trying to get every live tape that we have from the group archived on the Internet so people can listen to 1200 Fugazi shows! [Laughter] If they want to! You know, shit like that. We're always dealing with stuff, there's always an outside chance that we may decide to do something.

If nothing more happens at least you guys went out on a high note with "The Argument," which is just so excellent. I still listen to that all the time. Oh, that's great, thank you. We were pretty stoked. I wish we were able to play the songs a little longer live. But yeah, we were really happy with that record.

You don't seem like the kind of person who looks back and gets nostalgic. But in terms of the body of work, are there certain songs or shows that stand out to you as high points? With Fugazi? Not really. For me, it's more the whole experience of it. The experience of being on stage with those guys, just any time, regardless of any individual shows, just the experience of being on stage with them was really great. It was a really great feeling. There was a communication that happened when we were playing well together live that was, for someone like me... I've always kinda felt a bit like a dilettante as a musician. I was always trying to figure out what I was doing, but to be in a band like that where I felt completely free and I felt like we had that musical understanding that we could do something... It was incredible; it was a really powerful feeling to be with those guys.

So yeah, just the whole thing. I don't have any particular moment; I don't listen to the records that much. For all of us, we've all been working non-stop on other stuff since the band stopped so I don't spend a whole lot of time rehashing, but I'm very proud of it, and of what we did.

That song "Strange Light" from The Argument; I just cannot hear that song enough times, and I love the ending. Do you remember where you were at when you were writing those lyrics? No! [Laughs] I don't know what the fuck was...that whole record I was in a pretty strange state of mind. That was cool. One thing I liked about that was figuring out a guitar part and having Brendan transcribe it to piano and then we kinda came up with stuff; we were using stuff we hadn't done before. So it was cool to have parts work with the cello, and work with the piano. Brendan is an incredible musician. The man can play anything, so it was really nice on that record for him to be able to do stuff besides drumming, and on that record he played really nice piano, on that song in particular. So that was cool.

One more question. You were saying in another interview you guys had to deal with a lot of requests from people to use the music or misappropriate stuff. What is one of the weirdest requests you've gotten to use something Fugazi-related? It's usually "Waiting Room" that people want to use. I think it was three or four years ago, there was a French credit card company that had wanted to use "Waiting Room" for this commercial, and they sent us the clip or whatever, and it was so surreal.

It was like a little blue animated ball running through the street. I guess he represented fast credit or something like that. And it was just so shitty and so fucked up, we were just stunned, and we were like, "No, of course not, you can't use this." So they hired some guy who added an extra quarter note every bar or something, but he basically re-wrote "Waiting Room" and put it on there, the instrumental part of it, and it's supposed to be an homage or something like that. Certainly, I'm sure we had legal ground to completely sue them. But they were shocked that we were offended! They were like, "No, this is the highest of compliments" or something. We definitely got a lot of emails from confused people who saw the ad, wondering, "What the fuck is this, what are you guys doing?"