July 6, 2009 at 8:54 pm #51144
Lou Barlow Opens Up About Opening For Dinosaur Jr.
"I totally lost my hugging mojo when I got back in this band."Quote:It is no longer possible to be antisocial. Because, if you could, Lou Barlow wouldn’t be on Twitter.
That’s right, the guy who couldn’t get out of his own head for most of his life is now having trouble getting back into it.
In an age when everyone’s modus operandi seems to be spilling their thoughts onto social-networking sites as frequently and quickly as possible, it seems that introspection has gone out the window. And Barlow, indie rock’s prince of pondering, agrees.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about that,” he recently told IndiePit, replying with an amusing choice of words. “The time that I would spend in the past – just writing in a journal, let’s say – I now spend going on Facebook and doing 10 blurbs to people. Everything becomes, ‘Oh yeah, I gotta keep in touch with this person.’
“I like that I’m able to connect with people now and it doesn’t have to be on the phone – which I have a real hard time with,” he told us via telephone, “but at the same time, I was realizing, ‘Wow, you know, I haven’t really sat down to do a lot of journals,’ where I was just writing stuff off the top of my head that I can use later or that just helps me sort through. But after a year of touring, I think there will be plenty of isolation. I have to reclaim that part of my life.”
Hearing Lou Barlow talk about needing to be more antisocial will probably knock your head off your shoulders if you’ve had it buried in the sand the past four years. In that time, Barlow has remarried his old fling, Dinosaur Jr., touring incessantly with them and anteing up two new albums, 2007’s Beyond and the just-released Farm (Jagjaguwar). Both have gotten strong applause from fans old and new.
“I think it’s a testament to J’s songwriting. Somehow we were able to make a record where people are actually saying things like, ‘This is the best record you guys have ever done.’ To me, it’s like, ‘It couldn’t possibly be … that never happens.’ But the fact that some people do think that, well, that’s good.”
The various goings-on have kept Captain Lou busybusybusy. Having just returned from hyping Farm across Europe, and about to fire up another short domestic trip, you’d figure Barlow would have been looking forward to the isolation he spoke about. But instead, the indie-rock sage is turning the knob all the way to 11 with a new solo album, Goodnight Unknown. He even has plans to tour behind it too, opening for … guess who? Why, an esteemed indie-rock trio known as Dinosaur Jr.
Whaa? At present, the Dinos – who originally formed 25 years ago – have 65 shows on their plate, all to happen before the end of the year. So why on earth would Barlow want a heaping helping of more gigs – not to mention all the band practices, press interviews and everything else that goes along with releasing a new album?
“Well, if you think about it, Dinosaur Jr. only plays for an hour and a half a night. And if you think about people who are our comparable age, veteran rockers, they play for hours every night. … When you’ve been around for a long time and have a lot of songs, then you’re excited to play two or three hours, more or less, a night. And Dino will be playing after that; I don’t really see a problem with playing a 45-minute set in there [beforehand].”
As his backing band, Barlow has recruited the Missingmen. He had only played with them for the first time two days before his IndiePit interview, but they’re likely quick-learners, having also joined forces with Mike Watt. Expect to see Barlow’s album – his first solo one in four years, even though it only took one year to write – on October 6 via Merge.
Hearing him lay out such ambitious plans, you’d swear he were on steroids – or at least doing Pilates. But when asked if he was exercising – running, in particular, as it’s been rumored in the past that Barlow liked to jog – he laughed off the suggestion.
You’d really be inclined to think Barlow is buff after taking a glimpse at Dinosaur Jr.’s sporty new video, for “Over It.” Rather than featuring the guys performing the song in a studio or onstage, they’re instead depicted doing ollies on skateboards and flipping BMX bikes.
Mad skills, you’d be inclined to think. Well, mad stunt doubles, is more like it.
“There’s no way!” Barlow howled when asked if the moves were his own. “They’re professional kids. Like, the kid who is doing what I’m supposed to be doing, he’s like 20 years old. Riding his bike on walls? There’s no way a 42-year-old could do that. And if I did actually have those kinds of skills, if I had developed them over the years – but I’m recording and songwriting and stuff … there’s just no way.”
Naturally enough, the stunts steal the show in the video, but as you’ll see (or just saw), nestled among all the action is maybe one of the most touching, insightful moments yet seen in a Dinosaur Jr. It’s of Mascis putting his hand on Barlow’s shoulder, so he can keep his balance.
It is rare to see the guys not just so comfortable with each other, but behaving as actual friends. That hand-on-the-shoulder moment should silence those who believe the band only reunited for the money. And it’s something that would’ve seemed to be a pipe dream following Mascis’ infamous ousting of Barlow from the band in 1989.
After all, who could forget “The Freed Pig,” the song Barlow wrote in the early days of Sebadoh? The sarcastic snarl was undeniably directed toward Mascis, railing:
“You were right/ I was battling you, trying to prove myself/ I tried to bury you with guilt; I wanted to prove you wrong/ I’ve got nothing better to do than pay too much attention to you … With no sick people tugging on your sleeve/ Your big head has that “more room to grow/ A glory I will never know.”
But how times have changed. Contrast the above with the Barlow of 20 years later: One of his two Farm contributions, “Your Weather,” is underscored by the line “Forgive, forget and roll on,” a lyric he admitted is a good summation of where Dino J. is at: “It probably is. You can’t really hold onto negative feelings. With us, there has been a lot of ‘forgive and forget.’ ”
Contrary to what Azerrad wrote in “Our Band” – particularly when he quoted Murph as saying “we were a psychodrama onstage” – Barlow dispeled the myth of in-fighting that has been perpetuated over the years.
“We’ve never really had drama,” he insisted, despite the tales to the contrary. “We only had one incident back in the day where J was attacking me. I think tension is great, it makes for great music. But I also like being united in a goal. I think that also makes for great music. I wouldn’t really say back in the day was all ‘psychodrama.’ We still play with the intensity we used to, bearing down.”
After all, as Barlow says on his second Farm contribution, “Imagination Blind”: “Without resistance I’d have no friends.”
By all accounts, Barlow is a happier man than he used to be. Or, if nothing else, he seems to realize that antisocial attitudes will only get you so far. Barlow gave a shrug when asked if his outlook has been changed because of his move from the East Coast to Los Angeles a few years back. But when asked to elaborate, it seems that his flight from the Massholes may have helped him narrow the antisocial gap.
“I was talking about it with someone else the other day. When I moved out to California and started getting friendly, I started hugging people, which I never did back in Massachusetts. There, you barely even shake hands with people. I began a real big hugger in the past 10 years. And then when I started the Dinosaur reunion again, pretty soon I stopped hugging people. It’s almost more casual … I realized when I got back with Dinosaur, spending a lot more time back in Massachusetts, hugging people started to feel wrong. Like I was really stepping over some boundaries. I totally lost my hugging mojo when I got back in this band.”July 6, 2009 at 9:18 pm #135814
"…nestled among all the action is maybe one of the most touching, insightful moments yet seen in a Dinosaur Jr. (video). It’s of Mascis putting his hand on Barlow’s shoulder, so he can keep his balance.
It is rare to see the guys not just so comfortable with each other, but behaving as actual friends. That hand-on-the-shoulder moment should silence those who believe the band only reunited for the money. And it’s something that would’ve seemed to be a pipe dream following Mascis’ infamous ousting of Barlow from the band in 1989."
A very nice read. Thanks, jeremiah.July 6, 2009 at 9:44 pm #135815
lol huggerJuly 7, 2009 at 1:00 am #135816
Yes, a great read! Lou is sooo cool. I wish he was my uncle or something.
Has anyone heard some of his new solo stuff, by the way?July 7, 2009 at 8:36 am #135817
It’s funny to hear him say that he’s lost his hugging mojo since re-joining Dino, since J’s now a devotee of the hugging guru.
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