Saturday, June 04, 2005

A Mascis Solo

A Mascis Solo

A Mascis Solo (2000)


Best known as the remote frontman of the influential indie trio Dinosaur Jr., J. Mascis was also an occasional producer and film composer. Born December 10, 1965 in Amherst, Massachusetts, he first emerged as a member of the hardcore unit Deep Wound, founding Dinosaur in 1984. Over the course of acclaimed LPs like 1987's You're Living All Over Me and 1988's Bug, the group emerged among the most highly regarded in alternative rock, with Mascis' creaky, Neil Young-like vocals and monolithic guitar leads becoming primary influences on the burgeoning grunge movement. The group temporarily disbanded in 1989, largely to allow the legendarily non-communicative singer the opportunity to dismiss bassist Lou Barlow, who went on to form Sebadoh; in the meantime, Mascis sat in on drums with a series of bands, among them the Velvet Monkeys and GobbleHoof, even producing the latter's eponymous 1990 LP. Upon re-forming Dinosaur Jr. in 1991, he scored Allison Anders' independent film Gas Food Lodging a year later, making a cameo appearance in the picture itself; he and Anders became regular collaborators in the years to follow, most notably on her feature Grace of My Heart. In the meantime, Mascis also produced records for pals including fIREHOSE (Mr. Machinery Operator) and Tad (Inhaler), and in 1996 issued his solo debut Martin and Me. After 1997's Hand It Over, Dinosaur Jr. disbanded. Keeping on with his personal musical eclecticism, J. Mascis and his new outfit The Fog issued More Light in fall 2000.

From an interview with J Mascis at twenty/forty:

twenty/forty: And the other guitar question I have is that in a random interview I read with an unmentionable band said "as for my guitars, I have a Telecaster, which was all I played for years, only because it was all I had. But Kevin Shields, J Mascis and Sonic Youth only played single-coil guitars." What is a single-coil guitar? And is it really all you use?

J Mascis: Pretty much. It's a Les Paul Humbucking or I use a Fender Strat. Basically, it's a kind of pickup. A single coil pickup is more noisy, and that's why they made the Humbuckers, they are really trebly. Guns N Roses is all about Humbuckers and Les Pauls. The Strat is a single coil. But basically, all guitar sounds the same to most people, a lot of people can't tell the difference.

t/f: How many guitars do you actually bring with you on tour?

JM: I guess, minimum two. And maximum of six. But probably three to four.

t/f: Do you bring your favorites, or what’s going to work best technically?

JM: I bring what I'm gonna use. I always play the same guitar for electric stuff, because I learned to play on it and I’m used to it. But I have a bunch at home. I use the same Fender Jet all the time. It was cheap when I started, now they’re expensive. My first was $600, now they’re like $6,000. But, oh well, I already have em.

t/f: Have you read the Dinosaur Jr. chapter in Our Band Could Be Your Life? Did the author get it right?

JM: Yeah, I didn’t think it was that good. He was more kinda trying to sensationalize the whole thing. I didn’t like how in all the chapters, it doesn’t talk about shows or music. That’s why people liked those bands. He wasn’t there at the time, and he never saw the shows, so he didn’t know the dynamic of it all. I mean, he didn’t even want to interview Murph; I had to make him. He was mainly just interested in Lou’s pain. There was a Mojo article, that I thought was a lot better; it would have been a better chapter.

t/f: When you think of the late-Eighties/early-Nineties, when all the best bands were pretty big and all touring, and Lollapalooza was in its prime, do you have fond memories of that time?Because to me, those were kinda the glory days of music.

JM: (Laughs) I don’t know about that. But it was a good time because I was playing with the bands I grew up listening to, like, The Minutemen, Husker Du, Meat Puppets. They were all influencing me. [Dinosaur Jr.’s] first tour was with Sonic Youth in ‘86, and that was the most fun tour we ever had. Before we started hating each other.

31. "Get Out of This" by Dinosaur Jr.
Soloist: J. Mascis
Album: Without a Sound
Year: 1994

Thanks to J. Mascis for imbuing alt-rock with a little non-stop Skynyrd guitar-rot. Hey, is this toothless stoner still considered a genius?

And from rate your music -- a comment from elporko on Dinosaur Jr.'s You're Living All Over Me:

One of my all-time favourite albums, I still listen to this about once a week. The songs are sometimes inconsistent, but if you're a fan of loud guitar music, then this is perfection. Full of heavy riffs and gorgeous solos ("Raisins" has my favourite guitar solo ever), you get the impression that Mascis is far better at articulating emotion with his guitar than with words.

Well, for what it's worth, I'm a fan of J Mascis. I wore out a CD of Without a Sound -- twice. As today's image suggests, his solos explode notes causing them to shower down in kaleidoscopic sharp shards.

Tomorrow, another indie rock soloist is featured.

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