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November 17, 2002 at 4:27 pm #43765
one of the phone interviews with J during the recent US tour
J Mascis goes it solo at Iron Horse
By GEORGE LENKER
IF YOU GO
Event: J Mascis in concert
When: Thursday, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Iron Horse Music Hall, Northampton
Cost: $12.50 in advance and $15 at the door
For more info: Call (413) 586-8686
Fans and critics alike have usually cast J Mascis in the mold of a post-modern guitar god.
But the former Dinosaur Jr leader doesn’t necessarily see himself that way.
"I don’t think about myself in those terms that much," he said in a telephone interview last week. "It depends on what day it is, I guess. Sometimes I think I’m a guitarist, sometimes a songwriter, but I usually think of myself as a drummer."
Mascis plays all these roles and more on "Free So Free," the new CD by J Mascis + the Fog. Those looking for the growling guitar gilding of Mascis’ previous works won’t be disappointed, but neither will pure pop mavens. "Free So Free" is a melodic hook warehouse overstocked with catchy tunes and memorable riffs. Mascis will showcase the new CD in stripped-down acoustic form this Thursday at the Iron Horse.
While Mascis prefers playing with band, he said playing solo also has its upside.
"I like traveling solo better because there are fewer hassles, but it is harder to play some of the songs and fill up the space," he said.
On the CD, Mascis filled up a lot of sonic space by assuming drumming duties. He did this partly because of his fussiness about the rhythmic "feel" of a song, and partly because of an admitted lethargy.
"I don’t like to practice and teach someone else the parts," he said. "Even when someone plays it right, feel can be so subtle that it still doesn’t sound right."
The story of Mascis’ rise to fame begins in 1983 – the year the reclusive rocker formed a band called Dinosaur in his hometown of Amherst, with bassist Lou Barlow. At first, Mascis played drums, but he switched to guitar when drummer Patrick "Murph" Murphy joined the band. After being sued by another band called the Dinosaurs, the group added "Jr" to its name.
Five years later Barlow quit to form Sebadoh and Murph also left to join the Lemonheads (Barlow also plays the Iron Horse on Oct. 30.) Although he employed other drummers and bassists throughout the years, Mascis played almost every instrument on 1991’s "Green Mind."
Scanning the titles of "Free So Free," one might think it’s a concept album. Track one is called "Freedom," track three is "Set Us Free" and the fifth song is the title track. But Mascis denies any conscious effort at theme-weaving.
"It’s just that a lot songs about freedom kept popping up," he said. "I could have edited them differently but it was just the way it happened."
Mascis admitted, however, that the concept of freedom has been on his mind, especially in light of some of the governments restrictions in post-Sept. 11 America.
"It feels like some of our freedoms are being squashed," he said. "It’s also about a kind of claustrophobia. I was in New York City on Sept. 11 and it was really claustrophobic. It was this island with so many people on it and you couldn’t get off. Now the government is acting really bizarre in some ways and I hope it turns around."
Mascis also believes in artistic freedom, which is one of the reasons he stopped producing albums for other artists. In the 1990s Mascis produced such artists as Buffalo Tom and fIREHOSE.
"I don’t enjoy producing," he said. "I’m always in a bad mood when I’m producing. It’s such a nebulous job. I don’t want to be a Nazi and tell bands what to do. Shouldn’t they have their own ideas anyway?"
Mascis has also done a few film scores, but that’s another area from which he’s shying away these days.
"I did it mostly for friends, but the movie business is even worse than the music business," he said. "It’s a lot of back-stabbing creeps."November 17, 2002 at 4:37 pm #57738
And yet another one of those dozens of German articles/ reviews:
If Foo Fighter Dave Grohl wouldn’t have been the drummer in the probably most innovative band of the 90’s, perhaps nobody would give a damn for him. You’ve been lucky, dear Dave, because according to the original plan, a certain Joseph Donald Mascis should move the sticks in Kurt Cobains band Nirvana. But this guy rejected the job with thanks and rather devoted himself to his own project, Dinosaur Jr., where he could make his own decisions, and where he is only on tours dependant on the assistance of other musicians. Typical autocrat syndrome, however, that was probably also the reason for the failure of Dinosaur Jr. in the end of the 90’s.
But where is actually the difference between a band, that occurs as one-man project and a mere solo act? Probably Mr. Mascis will have asked himself the same question when he created right away the next phantom band named ‘The Fog’.
The master himself remarks:<strong>"The new band is a solo project at the moment. Sooner or later I will look for musicians, but not right now. The Band has got a name, but no musicians. The name just sounded good. If you have a band without musicians, at least the name has to sound good. I think it has got something mysterious. It comes out of the darkness and transforms into matter. In the end it is perhaps the same band as Dinosaur Jr.?" </strong> [ <img> ]
He’s a real media professional, the 37 year old multi-viruoso from Amherst, Massachusetts, who knows how to "sell" music.
And now, after almost one year, we may be pleased about the third solo work of J Mascis, as he calls himself in short form. It’s called "Free so Free" and it’s more or less about Mascis’ experiences with his new hobby, skydiving, if one may believe the press info – what no good journalist would do…. Like on the ingenious predecessor "More light" (2000), "Free so Free" is dominated by noisy rhythm guitars, shrilling electric guitar solos, rumbling drums and the master’s consistently laconic singing style. Indeed an inspiring mixture, which lets the complete retro-gang like the Strokes, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Interpol, The Vines and the likes sink into the dust. [ <img> ] The irony is only that Mascis music would have been filed under "also-ran" ten years ago, and nowadays it represents something completely special. [ <img> <img> ] But that’s the way of the world.
Right at the beginning of the album, the drums are stomping and the bass is rumbling that you feel like being carried back to the blessed days of Indie rock ("Freedom"). But Mascis would not be Mascis, if he wouldn’t decorate his songs with a big pinch of pop. And so on "Freedom" the guitar reminds in some instances of no other than The Edge of U2 [ <img> ] at a time when the "Joshua Tree" not yet stood in "Zooropa". A strong beginning. But instead of increasing the speed, there comes track number two ("If that’s how its gotta Be"), an acoustic ballad, that relies only in the final part on electric instruments. "Set us free" and "Bobbin’ " are more purposefully in comparison. At this occasion, the listener can experience what it means, when J Mascis feels like playing one of his manic guitar solos. The Fender sounds like a circular saw in a way, that the trees fall down voluntarily. Absolutely cult. Whereas in the 80’s, guitar solos were taken as as deterring example of old-fashioned rock music. The Grunge veteran proves however, that the purposeful insert of feedback isn’t only the invention of a Neil Young and that it still has got the right to exist. In the alternative ballad "Someone said", Mascis presents big, cinema-like emotions which could easily have been put on the "Singles" soundtrack ten years ago. "Everybody lets me down" sounds a little like Soul Asylum in a time, when they made real good music, a time, that is – without surprise – also ten years back. And so you go along, song by song on the search for good old parallels to the times, when Dave Grohl was still an employee of Kurt Cobain and when flannel shirts were totally en vogue.
"Free so Free" is absolutely an old school record, which of course must be consumed in an authoritative volume. The ten songs permit a longing view back into the past, when bands such as Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr. or Soundgarden stood still in the shoes of their childhood and the eighth wonder named Grunge didn’t yet exist. It’s a record for those who have fun with this kind of reminiscence and for those who have the opinion that there is actually nothing better than alternative rock. The others rather wait for the next disk of "3 Staind Linkin Bizkits".
Recommended songs: Bobbin’, Freedom, Tell the truth, Someone said, Everybody lets me down
Evaluation: 7 out of 10 points
<small>[ 11-17-2002, 02:39 PM: Message edited by: Flying Cloud ]</small>
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