Enginered & Mixed - John Agnello
Mastered By – Bob Ludwig
Technician [Fixed Amps And Lent Us Microphones] – Greg Dwinell
Painting [Cow And Dog Paintings] – Woody Jackson
Painting [Front And Back Cover Pizza Box Paintings] – Neil Blender
Recorded at Dreamland / Wendell Recordings Studio / Baby Monster / Sear Sound.
Mixed at Electric Lady.
Mastered at Gateway.
Mike Johnson, John Agnello & J Mascis in the studio. Photo via John Agnello
Well, the snows finally came, but it was still a rough winter for J Mascis. First, he picked up a bad case of pneumonia while engaged in a snowmobile trek across Alaska with a famous Canadian guitar player. Once he’d rested up from that, his wrist (damaged in a fast pitch softball tournament in the Philippines) started to give him a lot of damn trouble. Some days the pain was almost enough to keep him off the ski slopes. Then, when he would get out on the mountain, the powder would be clogged by a bunch of no-talent hooligans hogging and trashing the slopes with their snowboards. It was almost enough to make him write off the winter entirely. But finally the snow melted, the spring came, and J’s thoughts turned to the things of warmth: golfing, and recording a new Dinosaur Jr LP.
The results of these twin pursuits are now before us, and they are both damn impressive. Certainly, J’s one-over-par performance at Beaverbrook’s “Our Lady of Keilbasa Invitational” was enough to make him consider renewing his pro status as a golfer. But it seems unlikely, given the majesty of Without a Sound (his current Sire/Reprise offering), that his attention will be diverted too far from Dinosaur Jr in the new future. “For now, Sunday is golf day,” says J. “I really prefer to play the white trash courses. The other places get snooty and strange about letting non-members play. Maybe if I get really famous they’ll treat me better and I’ll feel better about them. I also like the new mini golf course in Hadley (Massachusetts). There aren’t many gimmicks on it and the greens are really weird. It’s one of the most skillful mini golf courses I’ve played.”
And J knows his mini golf. “I played a course at West Yarmouth, on the Cape, every day for two summers. When I was 15, I had a chance to win the club championship, but I choked. It was a lot like the US Open this year. I had maybe a three-foot putt and I choked. We had to go into sudden death and the other guy just kicked my ass. I came in second, so they gave me some toy made of ropes, with a little buoy in the middle. The guy who won got a free season pass for the next year. But I got in free anyway ’cause I knew a guy who worked there.”
J’s career on the links has more serious rootage than that, however. “I golfed quite a bit when I was a kid,” he says. “Then, when I was nine or so, I won the tournament for my age group at the Amherst Country Club. There weren’t that many people in my flight, but I felt like I was at the top of my game, so I quit for a few years. I still have the trophy.”
Recording Without A Sound at Dreamland, West Hurley, NY. J Mascis, John Agnello and Dan McLoughlin.
As to Without a Sound, it was again recorded in the sylvan majesty of Woodstock and also in the wooded glens of Wendell, Massachusetts. For that reason, it seems even more redolent of piney majesty than previous Dinosaur Jr releases. Asked if the studios were close to golf courses, J bristles. “Recording and golfing are not the same at all. Golf is absolutely relaxing, recording is the opposite.”
For the recording, J played guitar and drums. Mike Johnson again handled bass chores (as well as a few mellotron flourishes). Guests this time are Kurt Fedora on two songs and Come’s Thalia Zedek on three others. Rumors that Anthony “Tony” Bennett would appear on Without a Sound, as a return favor for J’s recent musical support on his MTV special, appear to be unfounded. But J has recently been spotted at Worcester’s El Macombo nightclub (a well-known hangout for many noted Italian-American songbirds, including Bennett), so it’s possible that a high-profile collaboration is in the works.
In the meantime, J is hard at work on his short game. “I’ve been hitting drives up to 270” he notes. “I feel like I’ve finally gotten control of the Beast, but I’ve really got to get it together on the green.” He is also putting the finishing touches on the video for “Feel The Pain.” “It’s the first golf video I know of on MTV, but it won’t be the last,” he says. “I think the Manhattan golf cart scenes will start a trend.” And J knows about starting trends, so mark his words. If he says golf is going to be the next hip scene, I suggest you grab your putter and start yelling, “Fore!”
“Feel The Pain” – Written while waiting in the chiropractor’s office, this is the song where J puts the MP back in empathy.
“Don’t Think So” – Imagine J and Tony Bennett swapping choruses while they wander down the fairway. Neil Young could be their caddie.
“Yeah, Right” – Classic thug-stroll-rumble riffs combine with the croak of conscience to free all of our asses. Even Thalia’s!
“Outta Hand” – The sweetest ballad yet to tumble from the haze of Dinosaur Jr. The song had its germination in a house limit poker game that used to run in the back of an Amherst barber shop. More than that I cannot tell.
“Grab It” – An invitation to visit one of the many country fairs that are held each fall in the hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Hit the target, kill a pixie.
“Mind Glow” – Late, late, late at night you remember that time you wouldn’t give Uma Thurman and her friend a ride to the free Scientific Americans matinee at Rahar’s. Fire up a bomber and start your life again.
“Get Out Of This” – When the Connecticut Highway Patrol stops you for exceeding the speed limit by 40 miles per hour, it is sometimes necessary to write a song to explain exactly what you were really doing.
“On The Brink” Subsonic despair of window-rattling proportions. Some days you need a compass just to get out of bed.
“Seemed Like The Thing” – Sometimes shadows appear to be far larger than the objects which cast them. Emotions amplify both volume and distance.
“Over Your Shoulder” – When it all comes down, it’s not just you. It’s all of you.