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    J Mascis [originally published in basement-life : issue 04 : October 2000]

    In 1993, J Mascis was Mr. October. Spin magazine splashed the Dinosaur Jr. guitarist on it’s cover, sporting a combed glossy mane, outfitted in a purple velvet suit and topped with a berry colored fedora, and they declared: "J Mascis Is God." Marketing seems to have won that small victory for the slack rock guitar veteran. Mascis signed to Time Warner owned Blanco y Negro records and they were stuffing the pockets of glossy magazines trying to convince the baggy panted brethren that there was more to music than pre-for whom the shotgun blows Nirvana, and that, God dammit, this slacker was going to be a contender for the Cobain reign.

    Despite the characterizations of God and genius like guitar playing, there was one inherent problem: J Mascis was never meant to be a rock star. In contrast to most rock-n-roll wunderkinds, Mascis is a reserved mediaphobe, intrinsically apathetic – emotionally, physically, and even in his dress, despite what Spin tried to do for his fashion sense.

    Like a case of herpes, every couple of years, Mascis will breakout with a new record and then go dormant. Now, Mascis has retired the Dinosaur Jr. name and is releasing, More Light, his first recording under the moniker J Mascis and The Fog which is slated for an October 24th 2000 release. Public relations companies being what they are, asked Mascis to speak to the media again and we caught up with J just weeks before he heads out to support his latest release, which continues his trademarked rot-gut feedback guitar solos and rock solid compositions. Much like the somber tone of his lyrics and music, Mascis’ languid manner makes one wonder: is this guy stoned out of his fucking gourd? Is he a neanderthal? Is he so timid and such a recluse that this may be physically, emotionally and psychologically painful to him? Is he playing the apathetic, dim-witted, recluse who couldn’t care about the media?

    Basement-Life: It’ been a while since the public’s heard from you. What have you been up to?
    J. Mascis: Ugh, well, I wouldn’t say too much. I guess I’ve been trying to get ready to practice. But it’s expensive so I don’t practice.

    BL: I noticed most of your tours in the last couple years have been acoustic. Are you looking forward to getting back out on the road with a band? JM: Yeah. It’s louder and I get to solo. When you play acoustic you have to play the songs by yourself and I can’t solo. So yeah, I want to solo. BL: Mike Watt will be joining you won’t he?
    JM: Yeah, that sounds right.

    BL: I saw Watt a couple nights ago in Denver. Is there going to be some overlap between his tour and the start of yours?
    JM: I’m flying down to Florida to the place where Watt is playing on Sunday. Our tour starts at the same venue there one day later.

    BL: Well, since you haven’t been practicing together, do Berz {George Berz, the drummer} and Watt know the songs?
    JM: I don’t know. But we’ll practice that afternoon.

    BL: So you’re practicing once before starting your tour?
    JM: Yeah.

    BL: Sounds like it could be a little raw.
    JM: Could be. Wait, where you at?

    BL: Denver. Says here you’re scheduled to play Denver in early November.
    JM: Maybe, I don’t remember. When?

    BL: November 11th.
    JM: Well I wouldn’t know anything about that. (long pause) But if we are, it’d be one of the last places we’re playing so it could be polished by then. (After a short conversation about snowboarding, Mascis remembers that he scheduled to play Denver.)

    BL: On your tour itinerary the venue is unconfirmed. Any idea of where you’re playing?
    JM: Hootie

    BL: Huh
    JM: With Hootie

    BL: You’re playing with Hootie and the Blowfish? (Then, getting back to a previous question, Mascis answers[img]http://www.freakscene.net/ubb/smilies/face-icon-small-smile.gif[/img]
    JM: I can’t remember where. But, Hootie stole our show.

    BL: What do you mean?
    JM: Hootie took our venue.

    BL: Oh. You seem to have a general disinterest in interviews and promoting yourself in the press – and that’s understandable. But you’re established and you could probably sell a lot of records on-line and then you wouldn’t have to sit through an afternoon of answering questions from people like me.
    JM: True. But I want to reach as many people as possible and that’s why I can’t sell stuff just on-line.

    BL: So what are your thoughts on media and particularly people attempting to peer into your life by conducting interviews?
    JM: What can I think? I’m not very articulate when talking to people on the phone. I’m much better at writing.

    BL: Thematically, the protagonists in your lyrics seem like victims of unrequited love. Would you say they are victims, or do they antagonize the situation with their lovers to the point that they destroy the relationship and then are left wallowing and wondering what happened?
    JM: I don’t believe in the whole victim thing. There are no victims in heartbreak and I don’t believe in songs like that.

    BL: Do your lyrics draw upon personal experience?
    JM: No, they’re not autobiographical. They’re more about other people’s experience and they come from my imagination.

    BL: A lot of your songs are pretty depressing, sounds like you have pretty dark surroundings and imagination.
    JM: Well, I don’t write songs when I’m happy. Man, you can’t write music when you’re happy. If you were happy then you’d be out doing something else. But music is more for people to have something to relate to. I’m not into the whole bummer thing, but it’s supposed to make you feel better.

    BL: From an artist’s point of view I can understand that because you’re purging your emotions. But who’s supposed to feel better, you or the listener?
    JM: Hopefully, the listener.

    BL: While you continue making records you’ve also produced albums for fIREHOSE, wrote a soundtrack for Gas, Food, Lodging and played drums with the satanic metal band, Up Side Down Cross. (Upon mentioning Up Side Down Cross, Mascis for the first time during the interview, seems alert and remotely coherent)
    JM: (laughs) Yeah, those guys are weird man. I’m mean weird. (laughs)

    BL: The record was the real deal, it was pretty evil.
    JM: (still chuckling) They’re no joke. (the back sleeve of the release has a pencil sketch of Mascis adorned with a crown of thorns assuming a crucified position)

    BL: I like your portrait on that record.
    JM: Man, they’re a great band. That may be one of the best recordings I’ve ever done.

    BL: Your latest, More Light, continues the distinct Dinosaur / J Mascis sound but it seems a bit more tame until the final track, "More Light" where the feedback is atrociously ear piercing. It kind of makes you want to turn the stereo down a bit…. There’s a vast dichotomy between the delicacy of your acoustic playing and the wall of sound feedback on that song.
    JM: Yeah, that’s a good song.

    BL: More Light also continues your tradition of playing most of the instruments on the release. Are other people not able to able to play what you imagine the final take to sound like? (Mascis’ attention begins to veer off again.)
    JM: Huh, oh I don’t know. I’ve always played drums and uh, well I guess I want the songs to have a certain feel to them and some people just can’t get the feel. (In the background a dog starts barking)

    BL: Is that your dog? I thought I heard a dog barking in the background of "I Can’t Take This On?"
    JM: Yeah. That’s Bob. He’s sittin’ right here. He’s my manager.

    BL: What flavor is Bob?
    JM: He’s English Bulldog flavor.

    BL: Is that Bob on the inside cover of Where You Been?
    JM: Yeah, that’s him. Oh, wait a minute. No, he was on that last one I did.

    BL: Hand It Over?
    JM: Oh yeah. That’s the one.


    Sometimes all I really want to feel is love
    Sometimes I’m angry that I feel so angry
    Sometimes my feelings get in the way
    Of what I really feel I needed to say

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