Home › Forums › Dinosaur Related Discussions › Dinosaur/J News & Discussions › Mainichi interview with J from 02.23.01
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July 17, 2001 at 5:57 pm #43622
"The feel of things is hard to communicate, that’s why it’s lots easier for me just to play." – J
has a pretty cool pic too
Nowhere near extinction
Ex-Dinosaur Jr. guitarist J. Mascis rolls back in with new band The Fog
By Wayne Gabel
Friday, Feb. 23, 2001
Copyright Yuki Kuroyanagi / Pony Canyon Inc.
Now hear this: J. Mascis at On Air East in Tokyo
Though it sometimes seems as if he’d rather let his music do the talking, ex-Dinosaur Jr. frontman J. Mascis is not entirely at a loss for words, even if he is a bit hazy about the nature of his new group, The Fog.
"I knew I’d have to get a band together eventually," he says of the individuals who do not appear on "More Light," the October release on Pony Canyon credited to J. Mascis and The Fog.
Actually, that disc largely amounts to a solo effort by the multi-instrumentalist, who’s been dubbed the godfather of grunge. Lauded by critics as a highly successful comeback, "More Light" features many of the hallmarks of the Dinosaur Jr. sound – notably Mascis’ slow, drawling vocals and fiery guitar work – and a few new touches, like piano.
To take that music on the road, Mascis turned to the talents of onetime Dinosaur Jr. drummer George Berz and Mike Watt, bassist for the seminal California trio The Minutemen and their successors, Firehose.
"It’s the first record," Mascis told the MDN on Monday morning as his Japan tour was winding to a close. "So far there have been no personnel changes."
That wasn’t the case with Dinosaur Jr., which regularly shed members left and right. Whether the departed left of their own accord or were fired by the laconic guitarist is still a matter of debate in some circles.
What’s clear, however, is that Mascis is glad to be back playing live – and loud.
"I like it more now. This setup is the best I can remember," he says of his current band.
When it comes to the issue of his apparent preference for doing everything himself in the studio, he remains noncommittal.
"It’s easier," he says after a long pause. "But I don’t know if it’s preferable."
Recorded over a nine-month period that stretched from 1998 into 1999 and not released until last year, "More Light" represents a departure from Dinosaur Jr., if only in name. It also stands in contrast to the stripped-down, unplugged solo shows Mascis has been doing in recent years.
"I put the band name on the record because I thought it would differentiate it from my acoustic shows." he explains. "If you see J. Mascis and The Fog, you’d know it was a band."
Already at work on new material, Mascis envisions The Fog’s current lineup recording with him. There is one problem, however.
"I wouldn’t mind if I weren’t playing guitar or whatever, but I like to play drums on the record," he explains. "Drums are a really subtle part of the songs. It’s got to be in a particular way. A lot of bands don’t really care about drums, but if I’m writing a song, they’re part of it. It’s not just a beat to play along to."
Getting others to understand just what it is that he wants has proven difficult at times.
"The feel of things is hard to communicate," Mascis says. "That’s why it’s lots easier for me just to play."
In the studio, that is. Although he considers himself a drummer at heart, Mascis claims he doesn’t have what it takes to sit behind a kit onstage, as he learned during a recent Michigan gig with former Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton.
"Just from playing one song, my body was in pain," he says, breaking into a slight laugh. "It made me glad that I played guitar. Physically, it’s easier for touring."
Playing guitar is also what made him such an influential figure in rock. Though Dinosaur Jr., which debuted in 1985, never really broke big in the mainstream, they were an inspiration to musicians like Nirvana who did. Mascis himself is also credited with bringing guitar solos back into fashion among a generation of fans who’d come to regard them as little more than self-indulgent musical masturbation.
"Soloing is my favorite thing to do playing live," Mascis notes. "It’s of the moment, and I’m just expressing myself at the time. It’s the thing that changes from night to night."
Courtesy of Pony Canyon
Some evenings are more eventful than others, as Mascis discovered when he appeared with The Fog recently on "Saturday Night Live," a long-running U.S. television show with a history of showcasing edgy comedy and music.
"You’re going on live TV in front of millions of people, and you can’t blow it," Mascis recalls. "I’ve been there for the shows a few times, but when you’re involved in it, you see how stressful it is. You realize why [the cast members] do drugs. Everyone is really maxed out for hours."
Preferring a mix of big-city hustle and bustle and small-town tranquility, Mascis now splits his time between New York City and his native Amherst, Massachusetts, where he recorded "More Light" in his house.
"It was a natural progression," he says of the decision to record at home. "I found myself sitting in some studio, paying a thousand dollars a day, and I’d sit there and stare out the window, thinking about spending a thousand dollars to sit and stare out the window. At some point, I just couldn’t get anything done in studios."
Working in his own environment – and at his own pace – with the likes of My Bloody Valentine’s Kevin Shields, Mascis crafted a disc that sandwiches midtempo numbers like the haunting "Ammaring" between the stunning opener "Same Day" and the almost abrasively noisy title track. The Japan release also has an unlikely, but oddly pleasing cover version of John Denver’s "Leaving on a Jet Plane."
"I didn’t like him really, but I like that song," Mascis explains. "It always pops into my head if I’m getting on a plane and leaving my girlfriend behind."
Perhaps equally surprising to those who associate Mascis with electric fireworks is his foray into acoustic performances.
"A lot of my friends like them better because they can hear the singing and there are no solos," he notes. "It’s just a different angle to the songs."
Picking up on the differences, let alone appreciating them, is too much of an effort for some listeners, though.
"Sometimes people don’t take the time to listen. They’re like, ‘Oh, another record. I’ve got a Dinosaur record. Why do I need another one?’ " Mascis says.
Not that the soft-spoken guitarist is particularly fazed by the inattention to detail.
"If you want to play music, you’re going to do it regardless (of trends). Those things come and go," he says. "When I started, I had no thoughts about becoming that popular or anything. I’m grateful to still be doing it."July 17, 2001 at 6:42 pm #57436
Thank U for all These Great Links & Interviews
That Picture is great
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