August 12, 2005 at 9:57 pm #48336
Hey there – not sure if this has been posted before – sorry if it has. From Guitar Magazine Volume 5 #8 Aug 1995.
As a disciple of Deep Purple and purveyor of some of the most OTT guitar ever recorded, Dinosaurs JrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s J Mascis remains an unlikely alternative here. Danny Eccleston hears him come clean: Ã¢â‚¬ËœA lot of people donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like guitar solos. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not one of those people.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Backstage at LondonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Camden Underworld club, J Mascis is grazing with bovine languor on a bunch of grapes. Contemplating the agricultural effect, the Mascis lower jaw moves from side to side, as if to annihilate all that troublesome cellulose for later digestion by one of his five stomachs. As befits one of the noisiest guitar players on the planet, and in understandably muffled tones, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simultaneously holding forth on a subject close to his heart Ã¢â‚¬â€œ amplification.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœMy theory with vintage amps is that once youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve blown Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem up ten or 20 times you finally work the kinks out of Ã¢â‚¬ËœemÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ he drawls sleepily. Ã¢â‚¬ËœThat way you weed out the shitty components people have put into them over the years. God knows where theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been butÃ¢â‚¬Â¦they definitely blow up real regular when you first get Ã¢â‚¬Ëœem. After that they are generally okay.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
This J Mascis we know, the apostle of the 68 Marshall Plexi, of the 71 Super Lead, the Mascis who likes his amps purple and his tone shot to fuzzbuggery. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the Mascis of the phenomenal Bug and YouÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re Living All Over Me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ milestones of underground guitar rock that Brit groups like Swervedriver, Teenage Fanclub and The Boo Radleys have only recently found the strength to crawl from under.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœThe Boo Radleys used to sound like us?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he hoots incredulously. Ã¢â‚¬ËœBut their last single sounded like a car commercial!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
This is the Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. of the spluttering solo-fest that was last years Without A Sound LP, and for some strange reason heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s in Britain undertaking a solo acoustic tour. J Mascis unplugged? Has the world turned upside down?
Ã¢â‚¬ËœI think a lot of my friends are into the acoustic shows and arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t that interested in guitar solos necessarily Ã¢â‚¬â€œ which I like to playÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ he says smiling at the understatement. Ã¢â‚¬ËœA lot of people prefer it since itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just the song and, um, not quite as loud. In this set I only play one soloÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
JÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s live performances under the Dinosaur Jr banner, sporadically chaotic and lacklustre since a draining stint on Ã¢â‚¬Ëœ93s Lollapalooza jaunt, couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have a starker contrast in his solo acoustic show. Occasionally aided by support act and Dinosaur collaborator Kurt Fedora, the set highlights Mascis the songwriter, recalling the more muted textures of 91s Green Mind album and breathing new life into the high octane material that graced the last brace of Dinosaur discs. His kinship with Neil Young Ã¢â‚¬â€œ vocal vulnerability included Ã¢â‚¬â€œ is thrown into even sharper relief, and damn our eyes if Porno For PyrosÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Perry Farrell wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so bowled over he leapt out of the audience at Js second British show to duet. Shedding the big rock trousers and big touring responsibilities of the full-on Dinosaur package must have been a huge reliefÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœEverything else about it is much easier Ã¢â‚¬â€œ no equipment or people, not much to deal with. But on stage IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been much more nervous than I have been in a long time. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no one else to take the pressure off and thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no noise. Playing an electric guitar, you can fluff a note and no one will really notice Ã¢â‚¬â€œ acoustic, well thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a lot different. Kurt FedoraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a much more technically proficient guitarist, so watching him always inspires me to pull it together.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
This time around thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s no product to support, no promotional obligations barring a chat with TGM. In fact the whole tour seems unusually self-starting for someone whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been labelled Mr Lazybones.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœWell, you canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really fight that kind of thing. People can think whatever they want. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve just got some records to buy; thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s why IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m here.
MascisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ afternoon trawl around CamdenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s second hand record shops has resulted in a weird and occasionally ugly catch. There are Ruts and Sham 69 singles. ThereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Spinal TapÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Bitch and a purple vinyl copy of SabbathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Symptom of The Universe, all 50p apiece. And then Ã¢â‚¬â€œ bloody hell Ã¢â‚¬â€œ thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s CinderellaÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Ã¢â‚¬ËœOoh yeahÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Cinderella. I reckon theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re kinda Stonesy and the lead guys got some cool Juniors and Esquire. I suppose theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re pretty much the bottom of the barrel as far as most people are concerned – and my guitar techÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disgusted with me Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but I kinda like to scout around the fringes of bad taste. And I picked up this Suede singleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Mascis adds, waving a dog-eared coy of Metal Mickey Ã¢â‚¬ËœBernard Butler is, like, the riffmaster. Some of the tones are outrageously trebly, but kinda cool, too.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
He may express a bizarre prediction for Sham 69, but itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty clear who J MascisÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ favourite band is. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Deep Purple. Grunge and the more radical, no-nonsense elements of current hard rock may have revived Black SabbathÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s particular brand of brutal detuned chunk, but Mascis might have his work cut out if he means to engineer a hip rehabilitation of PurpsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ twiddly 70s baroqueÃ¢â‚¬â„¢nÃ¢â‚¬â„¢roll. After all, theirs was the blueprint that led us to Yngwie.
But then Mascis know how it feels to be ostracised. Possibly the most precocious and OTT guitar soloist of his peer group, his perceived arrogance, laziness, insensitivity to the world around him, the alleged reactionary-rock leanings of Dinosaur JrÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s recent albums and the fact that heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just taken up golf have all drawn comment. In TGM vol 4 no 8 SebadohÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Lou Barlow, a former Mascis collaborator, described him as a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœsell-outÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and concluded that Ã¢â‚¬Ëœnow heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s just another fuckinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ guitar playerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, whilst a German journalist recently accused him of being a Ã¢â‚¬Ëœrelic from a dead eraÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœA lot of people hated usÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ states J. Ã¢â‚¬ËœA lot of people still donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t like guitar solos. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m not one of those people. Like , on the Mike Watt album, Ball Hog Or Tugboat, where I play that Maggot Brain cover, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s practically a 12-minute long solo. People asked me, Ã¢â‚¬Å“How do you play a solo for 12 minutes at a stretch?Ã¢â‚¬? The answer is pretty easily, heh, heh!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Mascis barely recognises the notion of Ã¢â‚¬Ëœplaying too much guitarÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Get Me boasted three guitar solos, Feel The Pain three of them at once Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and if there is a parallel between himself and Deep PurpleÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ritchie Blackmore maybe thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s itÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœBut to me, in a way, Blackmore is the weak link in Purple,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Mascis reflects with brow furrowed. Ã¢â‚¬ËœI mean, heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s coolÃ¢â‚¬Â¦itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like, I played drums when I was younger and Ian Paice was my idol. I wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t really listening to the guitars at all. And recently IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been struck by the revelations that Ian Gillan was the best singer ever. Mind you Blackmore is the only one who actually seems to have gotten better, and on that reunion album they did a coupla years ago they all sucked except Blackmore. But possibly the best thing about Purple is that they are hilarious. You have to get that video Heavy Metal Pioneers; the things they say are unbelievable – so much better than Spinal Tap because itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s real.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
So what does the soi distant Purps buff think of Steve Morse taking over the Blackmore gig? Is there incredulity Ã¢â‚¬â€œ jealousy perhaps?
Ã¢â‚¬ËœIt seems completely bizarre, but IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m psyched to check it out. I was psyched for Satriani to be involved, because I think heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s actually pretty good Ã¢â‚¬â€œ better than Blackmore. It seems off the wall though I do think Rod Morgenstein drummed a lot like Ian Paice when he was in the Dixie Dregs with Morse – so thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a link. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve wondered what it would be like having Ian Paice playing drums in Dinosaur Jr, but I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to be disillusioned, either personally or professionally, heh hehÃ¢â‚¬Â¦Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
That J Mascis appears more comfortable talking about drummers than guitarists seems initially strange Ã¢â‚¬â€œ but loses some of itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s mystery when you learn that he began his musical life as a drummer in the revoltingly named Deep Wound. With the departure of on and off Dinosaur sticksman Murph, Mascis played all the tubs on Without A Sound, repeating the multi-instrumental role he adopted on Green Mind. HeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s also manned the traps for hardcore punk band Upsidedown Cross and on Screaming Trees vocalist Mark LaneganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Whiskey For The Holy Ghost album. Does he think the way he plays he drums influences the way he plays guitar, and vice versa?
Ã¢â‚¬ËœOh sure. Playing guitar makes you much more sensitive to the songs as a drummer, and drums makes you more rhythmic on the guitar. Recently IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve realised. He more IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve played with other people, how percussive my guitar style is. Other people seem to wash through the chords, but I think I can hear the drum influence in what I do Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the way I hit a chord is more definite.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Applied liberally with margarine, introduced to a crowbar, and with his arm ever so slightly twisted, Mascis mumbles a list of those he considers to be the best contemporary players of guitar solos. Marc Ford of the Black Crowes is mentioned, as is Chris John from maudlin Stateside indie types Come. Ã¢â‚¬ËœSatriani seems a lot better than Steve Vai or Kirk Hammet or the people he gave lessons to,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he adds. Ã¢â‚¬Ëœthough I saw Vai on the first David Lee Roth tour and he was the best guitar showman IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever seen. He doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to have a great deal of soul. But his moves are awesome.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
The one guitar player that prompts JÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s jaw to drop floorwards however is our own Richard Thompson. An inveterate contributor to tribute albums, having had a version of Lotta Love released on The Bridge Neil Young tribute and a crazed rendering of Feel A Whole Lot Better on the Byrds tribute Time Between, Dinosaur Jrs most recent recorded cap-doffing was a fine, squalling cover of I Misunderstood on Thompson collection Beat The Retreat.
Ã¢â‚¬ËœHeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s so good!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ marvels J. Ã¢â‚¬ËœItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like, all the stuff I could never imagine playing. It seems insane. His live acoustic performing is just awesome, and thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s inspired me to do this Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Ã¢â‚¬Ëœcos the best shows IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve seen over the last couple of years have been his live acoustic things. When I last played in LA, he came to the show. I was very flattered. His son came too, and heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like 20 or something. Mike our bass player said to him Ã¢â‚¬Å“IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m such a big fan of your DadÃ¢â‚¬? and his son said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yeah, so am I.Ã¢â‚¬? Which I thought was really cool.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Of course, this wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t JÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s only recent brush with idolatrous awe, having been asked Ã¢â‚¬â€œ along with a bizarre bevy of other Ã¢â‚¬ËœalternativeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ stars to appear on the evergreen crooner Tony BennettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s famed MTV Unplugged slot. If anyone had the lingering impression that the likes of Evan Dando had turned up to merely revel in the comic kitsch factor, they should think againÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
Ã¢â‚¬ËœYeah,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ J recalls uneasily. Ã¢â‚¬ËœTony BennettÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s like a serious star. So I was really flipped out Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the most nervous IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve ever been. We were playing this pretty simple blues standard Ã¢â‚¬â€œ St. James Infirmary Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and I was meant to be doinÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ some solos but foolishly hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t even practised. So it comes to the solo and he goes: Ã¢â‚¬Å“Play the blues, man!Ã¢â‚¬? I guess I just looked at him and thought Ã¢â‚¬?FUUUCK!Ã¢â‚¬? It appearedÃ¢â‚¬Â¦.insane.
You might assume that all the minstrelling about Europe with a Martin New Yorker strapped to his back would be fuelling an almost volcanic desire to get back home, plug into an enormous stack and cause maximum mayhem, but Mascis claims that just isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the case. The only amp he uses at his Amherst, Massachusetts abode is a Fender Super Champ, and there are no plans to record or even write any new Dinosaur Jr material Ã¢â‚¬â€œ not tomorrow, not next week, not even next year. Instead the immediate plans are to play drums on Dinosaur bassist Mike JohnsonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s solo album, and guitar on Mark LaneganÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s forthcoming tour: because heÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s supporting Johnny Cash.
J Mascis plays guitar like a shark at a feeding frenzy; could we reasonably expect him to have energy left for anything else?
Ã¢â‚¬ËœIÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m in no hurry,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ he shrugs, still grazing. Ã¢â‚¬ËœKinda like the Cure I guessÃ¢â‚¬â„¢August 13, 2005 at 6:21 am #112029
Great article, thanks for posting it!August 13, 2005 at 10:55 am #112030
does anybody have that videoÃ‚ J talks of: "MTV Unplugged w/ TonyBennet & J Mascis"?
sAugust 14, 2005 at 1:03 am #112031
i believe j was edited out…
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