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August 2, 2001 at 9:58 pm #43638
Hey everyone, uh, if there is anyone who hasnt seen the guitar magaziene interview with J from ’97, go to: http://www.guitarmag.com/issues/9704/dinosaur.html
Reluctant Guitarist Hits Hole in One
by Bob Gulla
"Hey," says a bleary-eyed J Mascis, opening his front door. "You the painter? Let me show you where I need . . . " He turns to lead me to some place in need of painting and his voice trails off. "Actually, J, I’m here for the . . . uh . . . interview." He scratches his head and looks confused. "Oh." Not surprisingly, national publicity is the furthest thing from his mind in the sleepy setting of western Massachusetts he calls home. "All right." He points to a chair, clearly perturbed.
On the hard rock music scene for well over 10 years, Mascis, now 31, has been called a lot of things, but "talkative" and "affable" aren’t among them. In fact, you’d be more likely to engage in a lively conversation with Marcel Marceau than with the enigmatic guitar player. Regardless, like a game journalist, I take my seat and begin filling the large and loud gaps of silence with a blather of words, asking Mascis about his new home, the neighboring town of Amherst where he grew up, his wood stove, how he plows snow off his driveway–anything that comes to mind. I fire off four questions before he decides to answer one.
"I like it, I prefer the quiet," he says, after sitting down across a kitchen table. "Every once in a while I wanna seek human contact, so I go to New York. Got an apartment there that takes care of that. Even in New York you can feel totally isolated, though."
As reluctant a communicator as Mascis is, he obviously feels comfortable on his own turf. He’s got all the solitude a man could want, he seems happy with his life and career, and especially satisfied with his new record, Hand It Over, his first heavy rock record in three years.
"Sure, it’s a rock album," says Mascis with subtle pride, as he pushes his long, brown hair back over his shoulders. "Yeah, you could call it that."
Okay, I will. Hand It Over is a rock album of impressive proportions. Though it doesn’t feature quite the same playing we’ve come to expect from such an archetypal "grunge" player–with his songs evolving around minor-key riffs and sloppy power chords–the new record presents more craft, more unusual and emotive soloing, more dynamism. And the band sounds great. With help from stalwart bass player Mike Johnson, along with sometime-bassist Kurt Fedora, songs like the eight-minute, Neil Young-inspired "Alone," the torrid but eloquent "Can’t We Move This," and the grandly stated hard rock of "I’m Insane" prove that Mascis is intent on growth as an artist and as a player, but at the same time, continues to train his sights on writing melodic rock.
"I brought some songs with me to London," he says, in a relative burst of loquaciousness. "I wanted to see what Kevin [Shields] could do with them." Shields, the notorious guitarist from the revelatory noise outfit My Bloody Valentine, produced two tracks on the new album, "I Don’t Think" and "Never Bought It," as well as played guitar and sang. "Kevin turned me on to these effects he had custom-made for him in London," he says, "a thing called the Meatball, the Wobulator, the Doppelganger. A lot of weird noises and different tones. Some never make the same sound twice, so if you find a sound you like it’s hard to get it back."
Recorded at Bearsville Studios and Mascis’ own Bob’s Place, Hand It Over stars Mascis and his fast-becoming-classic array of Jazzmasters and Teles. But this time, the guitarist enhances his arrangements with trumpet (played by Donna Gauger), piano (played by Dan McLaughlin), and (gulp!) a string quartet.
"I was just looking for different ways to express myself," says Mascis, looking out his sliding door onto a frog-filled vernal pool. "I didn’t want it to be just another guitar record." Surprising words from a master of hi-decibel guitar mangle. You might remember that in their earliest incarnation, Dinosaur Jr, along with J’s former bandmates Murph and bassist Lou Barlow (now of Sebadoh) had trouble playing more than a single gig in any one club because of their ear-splitting attack. "We were pretty loud," Mascis thinks back with a wry smile. "Those days were pretty fun."
On the new album, Mascis indulges his skills abundantly as a producer, as a drummer, and as a guitarist. On the epic "Alone," Mascis builds up to some impassioned soloing over a bluesy, three-chord rhythm track. Another, "Gettin’ Rough," stars a plucky Mascis on a banjo customized with a guitar neck, while "Sure Not Over You" is consistent with the acoustic material on Martin And Me, his recent unplugged live collection. As a result of this songwriting diversity, the guitarist moves himself slightly away from his sturm und drang, alt-rock guitar hero persona onto more well-rounded turf, where the spectrum of writing and playing possibilities become brighter, the sounds more multifaceted and the songs infinitely more compelling.
"I just do what I do," Mascis says with bored nonchalance. "I don’t think about it too much. If it sounds good. . . ."
The phone rings for the fourth time during our interview. Mascis picks up a cordless and heads to a corner of the room. It’s a personal call. I know because he’s smiling and talking in complete sentences. Sounds like he’s looking for a golf partner.
"I play as much golf as I can these days," says Mascis, after hanging up, his voice empty of the animation he just expressed on the phone. He sits down and looks out the window again, perhaps hoping the gray clouds overhead don’t scratch his round today. "I belong to a public club a mile or so away," he says, and I can’t help but think how such a solitary game is perfect for such a solitary man.
"I got this great new club. You should check it out," he says, finally finding something he’s excited to talk about. "It’s called the Titanium Bubble Burner, and it really smokes."August 3, 2001 at 3:39 am #57455
Hey Randy Jane
Thanks for the link
I Moved This Topic over Here
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