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August 9, 2001 at 5:40 pm #43642
Thursday, February 1, 2001
New release sheds More Light on Mascis
By KIERAN GRANT — Toronto Sun
Since J Mascis’ emergence with Dinosaur Jr. in the late ’80s, rock journalists have spilled as much ink detailing the U.S. guitarist’s reticence as they have praising his musical skills.
He’s notoriously noisy on stage, the story always goes, and equally silent off.
For some reason, we talked to him anyway.
Could be that there’s a strange masochistic satisfaction in finding out that Mascis is as un-chatty as his legend suggests — that he does, in fact, express himself … a little … like … this.
Or it could be that he recently released his first proper solo album, the fine More Light, is playing the Opera House tomorrow night with new backing band The Fog and just returned from an odyssey through India.
"I just went to check (India) out," he says, over the phone from his Massachusetts home. "It’s hard to call it a vacation. At times it’s fun … but it’s kind of hard … in India …"
Considering South Asia’s recent influence on Alanis Morissette (Mascis is a big fan), should we expect an Indian dalliance for his music in the near future?
Mascis laughs. "Nah."
Does he like Indian music?
Mascis retired the Dinosaur Jr. name in 1997, after 12 years in the service of guitar "skronk." The band had done respectable business in the ’90s but, as his creativity flagged, there were lingering hopes that he would revisit the rippingly melodic heights of dual masterpieces You’re Living All Over Me (1987) and Bug (1989). More Light comes the closest he has in years, with Mascis finding a renewed and tuneful focus for his Neil Young/Black Sabbath/Jesus & Mary Chain wailing.
A drummer by training who originally picked up guitar as an experiment, he tackles piano for the first time on More Light.
"It’s interesting, the things you come up with when you don’t know how to play," he says. "I couldn’t really play any of the songs all the way through. But melodies just come out."
With his first album in four years, does he have a renewed interest in playing in general?
"It’s just a reflection of where I’m at," he says through a yawn. "I think I just feel better or something."
Supplying bass — and Stooges covers — on stage for The Fog is ex-Minuteman and punk legend Mike Watt.
More Light, meanwhile, includes guest turns from Mascis’ old friend Kevin Shields — Irish-born/British-based My Bloody Valentine mastermind and sometime Primal Scream cohort — and Guided By Voices singer Robert Pollard.
"I just sent Pollard a tape with the stuff I wanted him to sing and he did and sent it back," Mascis says. "I haven’t even seen him in a few years …"
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