April 12, 2005 at 1:50 pm #47788
Great article, talks abour J working on a new Fog disc, sorta update on Murph, lots from Lou. They might take Lou’s mom on tour, mediator kinda deal…
Check out the site…stompandstammer.com
Dinosaur Jr. (Mar.05 issue)
Written by Jeff Clark
Time Heals Deep Wound(s)
But Can Time (and Money) Heal Dinosaur Jr.?
Better load up on earplugs.
While they’re both retaining a moat of caution and reservation about the prospect, Joseph "J" Mascis and Lou Barlow have all but confirmed a summer tour of the original lineup of Amherst, Massachusetts volumizers Dinosaur Jr, including drummer Pat Murphy. If true, then while the news isn’t quite as press-stopping as the recent reactivations of The Pixies or Mission of Burma, two other alt-rock acts of the same general era and area, it still is somewhat surprising, given the amount of animosity Mascis and Barlow have publicly harbored toward each other since the latter was booted from the group in 1989. Then again, every shattered band in the civilized world seems certain to reform eventually, and especially lately a glance at Pollstar makes it appear as though the â€˜80s never went away. While there was never big money in indie rock, there’s always big money in nostalgia, and with adult expenses, responsibilities and families with which to contend, "never!" can swiftly turn to "well…maybe" in short order. Fuji Rock Festival, here we come!
But gee whiz, don’t these fuckers hate each other?
"Well, I guess it depends on what state of mind everyone is in at the time," predicts Mascis, in his usual bored half-yawn, about the outlook for the tour. "I mean, theoretically it could go either way, in any direction. Like, it really depends on, you know, where people are at."
Hopefully, they’re not where they were at 16 years ago. By all accounts – and certainly the most in-depth one is the band’s fascinating chapter in Michael Azerrad’s excellent â€˜80s indie rock chronicle, Our Band Could Be Your Life – Dinosaur Jr was the world’s most dysfunctional band ever. Passive-aggressive, uncommunicative, slack, uncaring and neurotic, the trio nonetheless created some incredibly transcendent, over-amplified guitar-rock splendor that anticipated the early â€˜90s grunge movement and if anything sounds a damn sight more organic and alive than nearly all of those later bands. For proof, check out Merge’s reissues of Dinosaur’s first three albums: Dinosaur (1985), You’re Living All Over Me (â€˜87) and Bug (â€˜88, both SST). Due out March 22nd, the tracklistings go against the usual trend of packing on the bonus cuts – they’re basically straight reissues, with a couple videos tacked onto the SST albums and a live version of "Does It Float" on the first album. Barlow, who was not involved in planning or assembling the reissues ("I have not been a part of the Dinosaur decision process," he stresses. "That’s really J’s band, in a lot of ways."), was somewhat surprised to hear this, because while there was not an excessive amount of non-album B-sides or compilation cuts from this early period, there are some obvious things that would’ve made sense to include: their version of "Show Me the Way" from the "Little Furry Things" single, the B-sides to the "Just Like Heaven" single, a cover of "I’d Feel a Whole Lot Better" from an out-of-print Byrds tribute album, etc.
"Well, I don’t think J really… God bless him, but he doesn’t give a fuck. I mean, he really doesn’t," Barlow responds, laughing. "As far as packing them with stuff and making them feasts for the fans, as far as he’s concerned he doesn’t know why anybody likes it in the first place!"
Mascis contends that, as far as unreleased material, "we pretty much put out whatever we recorded. I’m not a big collector of live tapes. It’s hard for me to sit through â€˜em." Despite the skimpy extras, these albums still sound awesome – the SST ones especially are a delight, sounding completely tossed off/fucked up and epic/massive at the same time, assuming you can get past Mascis’ trademark nasal, warbling whine. And the reissues are basically the spark for getting the world’s most dysfunctional band together again in the first place.
"Yeah, we were totally dysfunctional," agrees Barlow. "There was no joy. It was the weirdest thing – we were incapable of enjoying what we did. I mean, I did, sort of in a closet kind of way. I enjoyed it, but it was nothing you could ever say out loud, like â€˜Wow, that was awesome!’" He starts laughing. "You could just never say that! You’d be betraying yourself. It was absurd."
So why even be in a band if it’s like that?
"â€˜Cause you don’t know any different," says Barlow. "And we were from Massachusetts. I mean, I had moved to Massachusetts from Michigan at the age of 12, and once I started going to middle school, I was like, â€˜Jesus, it’s different here. People are nasty!’ They just don’t make themselves emotionally available, let’s say. I mean, it’s uncanny. But it’s really a trait, you know. And to me, like, Dinosaur, we were just really about Massachusetts. We represented."
Around the time the introverted Barlow was discovering the regional particulars of Massacusetts social interaction, he also discovered punk rock and hardcore. "And there’s a lot of stuff from the late â€˜70s and early â€˜80s that I still really dig, before everything kind of became cookie-cutter, Minor Threat rip-offs and straight-edge and all that," he tells me. "There was actually such an incredible wealth of just bizarre sounding recordings from bizarre bands from all over the world. And the first bands were playing really, really fast, too, and there’s just something about that, where they weren’t really concerned with being tight, they were just concerned with ending the song at the same time," Barlow laughs. "It would be this full adrenaline rush with someone screaming over the top of it – that’s thrilling, you know!"
In his mid-teens, Barlow got a guitar, sorta learned how to play, and formed a hardcore band called Deep Wound. Their drummer was J Mascis. By the time they put out a record in 1984, Barlow says the hardcore scene had become "a drag." "We had hardcore shows out in western Mass, and the western Massachusetts bands were pretty ragtag. And the Boston bands would come out, and they were all bald, and they fucking beat you up on the dance floor, and they all sounded the same. Just this concentrated male energy agenda. It got pretty lame."
As an interesting aside, however, Deep Wound carried off an impromptu, one-song reunion at a benefit show for families of autistic children in Amherst last spring, and the positive blast of that success at least partially made the Dinosaur Jr reunion seem not so impossible after all. And we have Lou’s mother to thank for that.
"My mom organized the show. What was meant to happen was my band Sebadoh was supposed to play, and then J was gonna play after us, like acoustic, and then Sonic Youth. But leading up to the show, my mom started giving me these annoying phone calls, like, â€˜Lou, you know, it would be really, really nice if you and J played together… Maybe there could be a Dinosaur reunion…’ And I’m like, â€˜Mom, there can’t be, it’s just impossible. There’s no way that’s gonna happen.’ But the show went on, and it was at this big place, and it was totally packed. And while J did his solo acoustic thing, the two other members of Deep Wound were also backstage, and basically someone was running around going, â€˜Come on, you guys! You’ve gotta do this!’ And we just really brainstormed, like, â€˜What could we do so that as J’s walking offstage we just tell him to go sit behind the drums and play a song?’ It took us like ten, twenty minutes, and finally – â€˜Ah!’ – we had one song that, like, had four chords, a mid-tempo punk song…and as J was coming off we’re like, â€˜We’re gonna play â€˜Video Prick’!’ And J went right behind Steve Shelley’s drums, and immediately kicked into the beginning of the song, and it was great!"
"It was alright," Mascis mumbles, when asked. "Maybe we need to take Lou’s mom on the road [with Dinosaur Jr], just to keep things together."
Dinosaur, the band Barlow and Mascis formed with "Murph" in 1985, pulled J away from the drumkit and put him front and center with his crunchy, wailing fretboard crescendos. They looked like collegiate stoner trolls, but more than any other underground, alternative band of the time, Dinosaur (the appendage was added after their first album, due to another band with the name) ripped a few new holes in indie-rock’s tender amps by bringing classic-rock’s heavy guitar sensibility to the fore. Sonic Youth may have opened for Neil Young and Crazy Horse on the Ragged Glory tour, but a few years earlier Dinosaur Jr was welding them in application.
"Yeah, that was J," clarifies Barlow. "He had an older brother, so he had grown up hearing hard rock records before he actually got into punk rock." Musically, while there was a bit of tongue-in-cheek irony involved when Dinosaur would cover Peter Frampton or Guns N’ Roses, "we were pretty open-minded about stuff. I’ve never understood the concept of a guilty pleasure. If you like it, you like it. In Dinosaur we definitely had that attitude, like we just liked everything."
But after a while, they didn’t seem to like each other very much. Mascis and Murph fired Barlow, who immediately used his new band Sebadoh to get out all his repressed rage toward his former bandmates, specifically Mascis. "I think once I was freed from Dinosaur – although it didn’t feel like I was freed at the time – when I began Sebadoh, it was all about being completely ultra-personal. Extreme honesty, improvisation, and just pushing ourselves to reveal ourselves in some way. After being so pent-up in Dinosaur." Inadvertently, it seems Dinosaur Jr spawned emo too.
Barlow’s latest album is called Emoh. It probably refers to his sometimes-deserved reputation as a forerunner and inspiration to all those lo-fi confessional kids of the past several years. It’s also Home spelled backwards. What is definite is that, after partnerships with other musicians under the Sebadoh and Folk Implosion names, and solo hodge-podges primarily under the Sentridoh banner, Emoh should be considered Barlow’s first real solo album.
"I’ve had other things that were more like collections of four-track recordings, things that I had recorded over the years," he says, "This record I recorded, at least the bulk of it, at the same general time, and…I was after a certain textural consistency with it."
Lyrically, Emoh ranks among his most affecting records. Musically, it’s certainly his most consistant, beautiful and intimate. Other instumentalists, including various Sebadoh and Folk Implosion co-horts and, on one song, his sister Abby on cello, are used sparingly but tastefully, in the interest of each individual composition.
"I guess there were certain things that I had done with Folk Implosion and Sebadoh that sort of alluded to this direction but that I had never really followed up on, Barlow, who lives with his family in Silverlake, California, near LA. "And also I guess I wanted to do a more hi-fidelity version of the way that I used to record my four-track songs. I wanted to do something that was…wider, that had more space in it."
So lyrically, is it any more personal than before?
"About the same," he answers, "but I would say that just because it’s all my songs, all pretty much stacked one after the other, the feeling that you take away from it is that, yeah, it is more personal. With Sebadoh and Folk Implosion, I was always sort of balancing other people’s contributions."
Of course, track 10 breaks the mood a bit – an acoustic guitar and piano cover of Ratt’s "Round and Round" that actually rocks a lot harder than you’d think. At least harder than, say, Mark Kozelek’s similar reworkings of AC/DC fist-pumpers.
"I was a Ratt fan, yeah," confesses Barlow, he of no guilty pleasures. "I love their hit songs. When we watched MTV, we used to watch it with the sound off when Dinosaur used to practice, and when Ratt would come on we’d stop playing and unmute the TV. It’s great bubblegum pop music, you know."
When it came time to find a label to release Emoh, Barlow sent the tapes to Merge’s Mac McCaughan, whose band Superchunk had to have been inspired at least in part by Dinosaur Jr in their early, "Slack Motherfucker" years. Barlow was pleased to hear from Mac that he’d love to put out Emoh and, oh yeah, Merge was putting out the first three Dinosaur albums as well. "It’s total coincidence," Barlow says.
For Mascis’ part, he continued chucking out Dinosaur Jr albums until the late â€˜90s, some with Murph and some not, and it has to be said that there were some rather kick-ass songs on a few of them. Since he retired the name, he’s played and recorded solo and with a revolving-member backing band called The Fog, which has included Mike Watt and Ron Asheton, and whose most recent members hail from Athens: bassist Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, and drummer Kyle Spence of The Tom Collins. Through a friend’s recommendation, Mascis traveled to Athens last winter to meet with Schools, and ended up playing a show at the Caledonia Lounge. Spence’s band opened, and J was impressed.
"Well, Kyle, you know, he’s a serious Bonham freak, which is good. You don’t have to tell him much to play, like a lot of drummers," Mascis says. "And Dave…they can both just kinda play, you don’t hafta…tell â€˜em what to do. And it sounds good." Mascis was uncertain, however, if either would be playing on his next album, which he’s working on currently.
Before that comes out, however, there’s the matter of the Dinosaur Jr reunion tour. And getting Mascis motivated for it…
"I woundn’t say I really wanna do it," he snorts. "A lot of factors have to come together to make it happen."
One of those factors is money – and Mascis is demanding half of any the band makes.
"Yeah, that’s just like where…it would be worth it for me to do it," he confesses. "I just told Lou, you know, â€˜You don’t wanna be ripped off and I don’t wanna feel ripped off. So this is what it would take to make me feel like I wasn’t being ripped off, and if you don’t wanna do it, that’s cool.’ I suggested he could split it with Murph however he wanted. I was like, â€˜You can take 40 [percent] and give Murph 10, I don’t care.’"
But Barlow, now 38, says he’s agreeing to the arrangement – and that he’s splitting his share evenly with Murph.
"Ultimately, I’m OK with it, because I need the money, basically," he says, adding that his wife Kathleen Billus just gave birth to their first child, a little girl, which will, to say the least, compound the couple’s expenses. "That’s why I’m not complaining. I’m not gonna say no. And I’m OK with it also because the idea of doing a reunion with Murph and J just seems so completely farfetched and hilarious to me that I just can’t pass it up. It just sounds like a really cool opportunity to re-learn my basslines and hang out with those guys and just kind of, I don’t know, pull the skeletons out of the closet for a while, dust â€˜em off."
Murph, from all accounts, could use the money too, and some time away from home. "He hasn’t been doing so well," says Mascis. "I hear rumors about it, I don’t really know." Barlow is a bit more forthcoming: "He went on to play with the Lemonheads and stuff, and then he kinda went through some rough times. He’s in a halfway house right now. He’s kind of bummed â€˜cause he’s got some court dates coming up, â€˜cause he violated his parole. I don’t know…but he’s really psyched about the reunion. He definitely bore the brunt of the negativity that was Dinosaur."
For his part, Barlow says he no longer boils with the bitterness that gripped him after being sacked from the band. "When I actually read the full Dinosaur chapter [in Azerrad’s book] at the end I was like, the whole story was just pathetic! It didn’t matter that I had my say – I didn’t look good. I was like, â€˜Jesus, we were little.’ I was a little kid, and being kicked out of that band [at age 23] was probably the best thing that ever happened to me. So it made the whole idea of being bitter about it ridiculous. And especially because J’s career, he’s gone through similar ups and downs as I have. We’re pretty much on an equal plane, career-wise, at this poing, whereas I think in the beginning I was just completely paranoid that he was like this big rock star who was like crushing me under his heel."
But while 39-year-old Mascis is still unsure whether Dinosaur can actually get it together, plans are being cobbled together for European festival and theater dates throughout the summer, with North American shows tentatively following. And the three bandmates have yet to sit down in the same room with each other since 1989. "That’s why Lou’s mom might be used," Mascis chuckles.
"To be honest, I never thought we were particularly good as a live band," Barlow admits. "But you know, as long as I can turn up the bass and wail on it, I’m sure it’ll be approximately what I used to do."April 12, 2005 at 2:22 pm #108565
hey, that was a great read … i like how the writer interspersed j + lou’s comments to make one story … b/c it is one story + most journalists interview either j or lou …
sounds like ammaringnyc’s rumour about heroin could be true … i hope this tour helps him get his life together a bit more …
that’s kind of weird that they spilled the beans on the money issue … (ie the 50/25/25 split) … usually people are a bit more coy about these sorts of things …
+ what’s the deal with lou + his money situation … why doesn’t he have medical insurance … surely he must get a good amount of money in royalty checks from his dinosaur years … not to mention all his other solo stuff …April 12, 2005 at 2:28 pm #108566
Surprised they released the split as well, but hey, he was straight with him on what it would take to get it done, sounds fair to me.
Hope Murph does well on the tour, sounds like he could use something positive happening!
Looking forward to a new Fog disc
ps that health insurance deal in the states sucks, HMO’s charge too much, limit access to treatments, seems a lot of people don’t even have insurance…April 12, 2005 at 2:34 pm #108567
Now that was a great read!!!
ThanksApril 12, 2005 at 3:22 pm #108568
fuck yeah, enjoyed reading thatApril 12, 2005 at 3:34 pm #108569
AnnastefkaParticipant"Coma Girl" wrote:"I woundn’t say I really wanna do it," he snorts. "A lot of factors have to come together to make it happen."
One of those factors is money – and Mascis is demanding half of any the band makes.
"Yeah, that’s just like where…it would be worth it for me to do it," he confesses. ."
Go Mascis, It’s your BIRTHDAY, It’s your BIRTHDAY, Hell yea’, I feel so much better because, J seems to feel the same as I do (idol agreement)
So now I feel I must change horses mid-stream and say "It’s( the reunion) gonna be just great" "Have a wonderful summer, make some money"
One mystery sort of solved.April 12, 2005 at 4:52 pm #108570
I hope Murph can get things together.I don`t want him to go in the direction Cris Kirkwood did Awhile back over on a jazz site someone wondered what happened to a bass player named Henry Grimes.Someone tracked him down and found out things were not going great in his life.With some help from other musicians currently he`s back playing jazz again and touring so things can turn aroundApril 12, 2005 at 7:36 pm #108571
where the hell isQuote:Little Furry Things
on the reissues?? i have never heard of that song it would have been nice to get a song we never heard before, anyways….cheers to murph! look at peter Kriss’s turnaround…. just some make up and a flame throwing pyrotechnic dinosaur baby on stage and your set…., and kiss sucked! 160bucks for u2 my ass.y.! eah sucklords, sure its for ":harity".. more like spinal fluid from runaway brazillian soccer youth to use for botox injections…
[img]http://images.quizilla.com/V/VampireMelissaII/1061256398_turesPeter.jpg[/img]April 12, 2005 at 10:01 pm #108572
do you guys pronounce it little furry or little fury things? I wonder if the spelling mistake was intentional of not
either way both the breeders and death cab paid homage to the song name in song names
that was a great read. one of the best piece of dinosaur jr I have read in years.April 13, 2005 at 2:02 pm #108573
ive been listning to this album since i was 12 and have never called it furry things. the different title makes it sound like a remix or alternate version or something.April 13, 2005 at 2:28 pm #108574
no it’s just that when you see the words little and things with fury between it you tend to glance over and thinks furry because it’s a more familar phrase to people. the title is not in the lyrics so who knows. I think J is making a play on wordsApril 13, 2005 at 2:38 pm #108575
I think he just can’t spell.April 13, 2005 at 3:03 pm #108576
it’s definitely fury in my mind
"bout all those that believe
all of your lies
sunlight brings the rage out
in your eyes"
sounds furious to me. not furry.April 13, 2005 at 3:46 pm #108577
sometimes I think it’s the "red’s out in your eyes" that makes sense too but it probably is rage.April 13, 2005 at 5:00 pm #108578
andyfestParticipant"Javro" wrote:it’s definitely fury in my mind
"bout all those that believe
all of your lies
sunlight brings the rage out
in your eyes"
sounds furious to me. not furry.
Yeah but the song starts, "the rabbit falls away from me…" Rabbits are furry little things.
Before recently, I never even thought about the spelling I just always thought it was "furry" but now I have no idea.
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