March 28, 2005 at 3:19 pm #47735
Really pleasing article on Dino Jr & interview with J while he was over in London…
Great pic up on the site, kinda familiar
Reissues have a habit of making you stop and look back for a few moments.
They make you realise just how long ago everything is. Suddenly Dinosaur Jr are history. Their first three albums, remastered by mainman J Mascis, bring you right back to the mid to late eighties, the pre-Nirvana zone of post hardcore American rock, a great fertile period of loosely aligned bands that sounded nothing like each other. Its great to hear ‘Freak Scene’ and ‘Repulsion’ and other lesser known songs again: those loose melodies and sky scraping guitar solos, nothing has dated at all. In fact Dinosaur Jnr sound quite revolutionary, the guitar shoots off almost free form into the kind of territory that only Black Flag’s Greg Ginn was prepared to explore. This was Dinosaur still scorched by hardcore innovation before the Neil Young tinged work of later years.
Dinosaur Jnr have been so low profile for so long that you forget just how damn good they really are. Last time I saw them was a couple of years ago when they played Manchester. It was a bit of a legendary line up. J Mascis had bass genius Mike Watt, and former Stooges guitar hero Ron Asheton in tow. They played some classic Dino tunes and then ended the set with a run though some Stooges classics. Asheton’s guitar chug sounded exactly the fucking same as it had done in prime time Stooges days whilst Mascis’ guitar squelched out those amazing solos that he peels out without breaking a sweat.
Apart from that nothing.
But then J Mascis has never been famous for being a hard worker. Laid back, virtually horizontal, it all belies a keen and active mind.
Your music has so much energy and yet you’re so laid back, I say to him.
"I save it up."
Mascis still speaks in the bored drawl that is his trademark – he’s over in London promoting the re-release of the first three albums.
"I remastered the first one off vinyl and it sounded pretty good. Somehow mastering them from vinyl sounded better than tape, so I did the rest of them like that. You get the scratches out with a computer."
Was it weird to go back an listen to all these records again?
"When I first listened to it it sounded pretty cool. I was glad to remaster some stuff – it sounds a lot better now – ‘Bulbs Of Passion’, the b-side of ‘Repulsion’ sounds lot better now so I made it first song on the album. That was my favourite song. Remastering was really interesting – listening to it all I found songs that I had forgotten. It was like I don’t remember this one at all."
Dinosaur emerged in the late eighties along with a bunch of American bands appearing out of the hardcore scene, groups who had been fired by punk rock and then worked through hardcore, but who were far too maverick for that discipline’s tight and boring rules. Mostly found on the Homestead and SST labels, the bands included Black Flag, Husker Du, Minutemen, Sonic Youth, Big Black and Dinosaur Jnr; it was a resurrection of American rock and the missing link between punk rock and Nirvana. It was low budget and high in ideas.
"Our first album was recorded for 500 bucks. We recorded it in Amhurst. This guy had the local PA system set up at his house, he brought his board in, and we recorded it there."
At the time my band The Membranes were labelmates with Dinosaur Jnr on Homestead Records – they stopped over at our ramshackle house in Manchester and even filmed the classic video for ‘Freak Scene’ in our back garden. The video is on the compilation. The band mime the song in the overgrown garden surrounded by all the rubbish we had accumulated on tour, including a six foot tall yellow plastic fisherman statue that we had knicked from Blackpool prom. Homestead was a great label, run by maverick music fan Gerard Cosloy who these days holds the fort at Matador. J. and Cosloy go back a long, long way, all the way back to Mascis’ Boston roots infact. Turns out Cosloy used to manage J’s oi! band, Deep Wound.
"Deep Wound! Yeah, I want to reissue that stuff too. It’s more hardcore than oi! really, it’s superfast, it’s kinda like Discharge but five times faster. I was really into bands like Discharge. When I saw them they were terrible; when Pooch joined, oh man it was rough. I’ve got some Varukers records – loads of third wave punk music. I liked Blitz, 4-Skins, Disorder, Varukers. I collected No Future records. Before that I was into the Stones, Deep Purple, then I got into first wave punk. You have to go through first wave punk to get to the second wave! It’s funny, that’s a whole genre of music that a lot of people in America don’t know much about. I suppose in America you don’t get to see how stupid all the people are. You have the records and you listen to them. Over here you have to deal with what idiots they all are."
Mascis was the drummer in Deep Wound, and he’s still a great drummer today, the super fast skills required for hardcore have been a useful base for him.
"I had a spikey haircut as well."
After Deep Wound, Mascis put together Dinosaur, wittily adding the ‘Jr’ onto their name after the Grateful Dead spinoff band with the same name complained about their band monicker. Mascis’ songwriting and blistering guitar solos quickly marked them out, along with his laconic interview technique. Along with fellow band member and future Sebedoh frontman Lou Barlow, they were part of a new vanguard of American music. The relationship between the pair was fairly fraught and Lou Barlow was eventually kicked out of the band. Recently they have been speaking again.
"Yeah, we speak a little bit."
So you’re friends again?
"I wouldn’t go that far! He’s just kind of mellowed a little bit and realised that he should be a bit nicer…"
After Lou left Dinosaur Jr continued their ascent. There were major label deals, great albums. They got big time and then J looked bored and took it down a few pegs. There were occasional records, off the wall tours and then two years ago he turned up in Manchester with the aforementioned Asheton and Watt Dinosaur line-up. It was an unexpected twist, to say the least.
"It was a pretty fun. I first did some gigs with Mike Watt before he joined the band, where we just did Stooges songs. He was trying to get into playing again because he had been sick. He knew Ron Asheton so when we played in Ann Arbour we asked him to play with us. We kept asking him to play different shows and then he started playing and he brought along his brother Scott."
Ron Asheton sounded amazing, he sounded exactly the fucking same. He would come on at the end of the Dinosaur Jr set and they would bash out the old Stooges songs. A portly middle aged guy peeling out those classic chugga chugga riffs that you know backwards, it was even rumoured that was using the same amp and guitar!
"Nah, I mean Iggy sold all that shit for drugs years ago."
But there was that clip of Ron playing his old guitar and amp in the cellar of his mother’s house in the early nineties.
"Yeah, I saw that, the Dutch TV thing. Not sure if it’s the same gear though…"
What was he like to play with?
"He just starts rocking. He’s cool. He’s a pretty normal guy. He’s lived with his mom for so many years. He didn’t do much for some time and then when Iggy heard about the gigs and read all the good reviews I guess it made him want to get The Stooges back together and then I got kicked out!"
Have you seen the reformed Stooges?
"Yeah, they were pretty good. They have not done the album yet, but they are doing it pretty soon. I heard the Iggy album – they sounded weird. I don’t know, I hope it’s good, I heard Iggy was going to retire soon. He said when he’s 60 he’s going to retire, he’s 58 now. I mean what’s he going to do? He’s got a bent knee or something. I guess he’s not so healthy, his body looks all messed up, he looks really like fucked up too. Like he’s got arthritis or something."
And what going on with his UK buddie and man of similar work ethic Kevin Shields. Has he finally got round to finishing the My Bloody Valentine album?
"Yeah right," he laughs.
Is he even considering finishing the Valentine’s album?
"It’s more that he has to start it rather than finish it!!
I heard he had recorded the drum tracks.
"And then he erased them all again!"
And what about you? are you going to record with your new Dinosaur Jr line up?
"I dunno if I’m going to record with those guys. I might just do it all by myself. It might even be acoustic. Acoustic guitar solos (laughs).Â¹"
He chuckles away, the Dinosaur Snr.
The first three Dinosaur Jr albums have been rereleased and remastered and are out now on Sweet Nothing…March 28, 2005 at 3:31 pm #108178
Thanks!March 28, 2005 at 3:34 pm #108179
andyfestParticipant"Coma Girl" wrote:"Remastering was really interesting – listening to it all I found songs that I had forgotten. It was like I don’t remember this one at all."March 30, 2005 at 10:01 am #108180
that’s a cool interview … i like what they did to that pic …
there’s so much dinosaur jr promotion going on over here now … it’s great !
also, i noticed that today on the nme gig list the dinosaur jr show is ranked 4th after the LAs, reading, (another festival – can’t remember) …
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