So. here’s the fine Gaesteliste Article/interview in a rough translation <img>
I somehow didn’t feel comfortable, though, with translating J’s words back from German, because the probability is high, that I chose different words/expressions than those which J said originally… but anyway: <img>
Freedom like I mean it
[the German headline "Freiheit, die ich meine" is the title of a well-known German kitsch song <img> ]
J Mascis is not considered to be a comfortable interlocutor. Some might still remember the "interview" for the MTV show "120 Minutes" in the mid 90’s, where the former Wonder Stuff singer Miles Hunt (who mutated to a MTV presenter), nearly despaired about J – at that time still frontman of Dinosaur Jr – because Hunt couldn’t get any answers from J in an approximately 10 Minutes dicussion except of "yes" and "no".
When J was now recently in Cologne, in order to explain the local journalists his second post Dino album "Free so Free", he had actually been supposed to sit besides "Gaesteliste.de" at 11.00 o’clock in the morning. Around 11.15 o’clock he then finally entered the lobby of the Cristall hotel – obviously three and a half minutes after he woke up. At least his hairstyle – unchanged within living memory – was even more indefinable as always, and his face was hidden by oversized sun glasses of a kind which is forbidden since the early 70’s.
J seemed little interested in profane things like interviews, nevertheless he hummed by himself the whole time some – probably new – songs and played air drums even while he poured the coffee! It often might not look like it – but J is always at work!
"Free so Free" is the second solo album of the somewhat self-willed, in the meantime 36 years old American, nevertheless is it in certain respects the new start, which some had already expected with the predecessor "More Light".
Although J might see that somewhat differently, Mascis seems to present himself on "Free so Free" musically more reserved, with the acoustic gem "If That’s How It’s Gotta be" and the ballad "Someone Said" that reminds of My Bloody Valentine.
Some may perhaps think that the balance of song and sound changed in the meantime for J, but he negated that vehemently. The Songs for themselves were actually always more importantly, even if it may have sounded sometimes perhaps differently, says J.
On the new album there are also typical songs like the great current single "Everybody Lets Me down" and interesting outliers like the obviously Glamrock inspired bubblegum rock song "Bobbin’ ". "That simply happened", J repels the question about latter song and adds laughing: "it wasn’t anyhow like I had a large T.Rex phase or so."
The term "free(dom)" emerges on the new album not only in the title, but also in a multiplicity of song lyrics – perhaps, because he wrote them during the practice of his newest Hobby (skydiving)?
To talk about a new songwriting approach or a concept album would be wrong, however. "I can’t actually recognize a real connection between the songs except the lyric references", says J in his typical creaking voice, that always sounds a bit like if he wouldn’t open his mouth when speaking. "The only thing which I made differently this time, is that I didn’t cut down the lyrics in such a way, like I did frequently in the past. I would have cut several ‘freedoms’ out of the lyrics in the past, this time I simply kept them." Nevertheless there have been several changes in J’s Songwriting during the last 15 years. "I can still remember that the songs on the first Dino album had many more parts. At that time I probably felt more unsure with writing songs, therefore I never only stayed with one idea, but I crammed many different parts into a song. That is probably the largest difference to today."
Anyhow, the same feeling of freedom that is inside of many of the lyrics, will also be significant for the upcoming tour (which will lead the man from Massachusetts for a handful of shows to Germany at the beginning of November) – probably it will be a pure solo tour for the first time.
However, not only because one-man concerts mean more liberty, like J explains us: "naturally it is easier, to be on tour alone, but above all it is cheaper. In order to be completely honest, on the last (band-) tour I did not only make no profit, I lost money. That was a pretty hard stroke for me, because I would have never thought that that would happen. I never even thought about this possibility, because that never happened to me in the past. The solo tour is thus also a reaction to that. In Europe I will probably play alone, but as for the tour in the States I don’t know exactly at the moment."
For the tour J will have old songs in the baggage, too, of course, however record and shows are primarily for his own amuesement, as J admits frankly. He also revealed however, that he listens also on his audience from time to time. "In the past I was accused of playing too few ‘hits’. It always depends on the situation. If there are requests from the audience, I play those frequently. However, I would never play ‘Feel The Pain’ or ‘Start Choppin’."
Does that mean that J has the feeling that something is missing sound-technically in his solo shows? "no, but naturally it is more arduous to play alone. It is kind of a big challenge for me, but many people like it, because it is not so loud and people can understand the lyrics and so on. And it is so uncomplicated to travel alone that it simply makes sense. You can also do many other things alongside, because you do not have to play a show each day, only to break even."
It seems to be a questionable situation when a legend like J has to think about how to tour without paying in addition, particularly, if one considers that his status as Indierock God wasn’t affected through the years.
In the meantime whole Songs were written about J or there are other musical tributes to him. Mary Lou Lord for example wrote a "J Mascis Song" (later renamed in "Western Union Desperate") and borrowed the final line" when to I need a friend it’s still you" from the Dino classic "Freakscene". "When I hear such things, it seems to be weird in the first place. Mary Lou Lord, She co-operated with Bevis Frond, that’s very interesting, because he is someone, whom I discovered for myself right this year. My favourite albums are ‘North Circular’ and ‘Internal Marshland’. The latter record I found quite inspiring."
Bevis Frond is a good keyword, because their Mastermind Nick Saloman has a preference for genuine solo works on which he often plays all instruments alone, similarly to J .
Does J have actually sometimes the need to ask other people for advice when he works completely alone on an album? "sometimes I ask some other people about their opinion. On this record the guys of Cobra Verde participate on a few songs and to other songs they said something, too. Naturally, it is never really predictable whether other people will like the new Songs or not. For the new record there was a song intended for example, which my girlfriend didn’t like. Thus I left it out."
Thereby a very compact record came out, which ties at J’s glorious past, but opens many perspectives for the future, too. It’s exactly the record which one may expect from an expert such as Mascis.
<small>[ 10-19-2002, 11:40 AM: Message edited by: Flying Cloud ]</small>