May 20, 2003 at 5:02 am #46039
another phone interview of a NZ magazine.
mostly it’s more of the usual…
He doesn’t talk much, but J Mascis’ actions are generally considerably louder than words. By Steve Rendle.
The warnings are repeated and almost apologetic. J Mascis may not have a lot to say.
In contrast to the very loud band he fronted for 10 years â€“ there were special booths at Dinosaur Jr concerts selling earplugs â€“ he is a quiet man, they reckon.
First attempts at an interview don’t get past the answerphone. It’s easy to imagine the premier guitar hero of his generation stalled by inertia on the couch, simply lacking the energy to pick up. [… or maybe just a little bit bored as he will have to talk about freedom & skydiving again FC]
Mascis has an image as the archetypal slacker. Shoulder-length hair and lugubrious look. The slouch defying the sounds he wrings out of his guitar on stage.
But the facts don’t stack up a slacker attitude.
Dinosaur Jr may have been officially a band, but for the most part the band was Mascis, and if he didn’t play every instrument on the records, it wasn’t because he couldn’t.
He began performing as a drummer, and then reinvented the guitar solo as something acceptable to a post-punk crowd on the cusp of grunge.
And he skied. And played golf.
Breaking up Dinosaur Jr after 10 years in 1997, he carried on in much the same vein â€“ essentially solo albums under the name of J Mascis and the Fog.
The latest, Free So Free, brings him to New Zealand this weekend for shows in Auckland on Saturday and Wellington’s Bodega on Sunday, solo with an acoustic guitar.
And unlike a few of his contemporaries, you can be sure the songs â€“ and his playing â€“ will stand up to the test of minimalism.
A mellow show, then?
"Well, I use a few (effects) pedals," he offers by way of threat or promise.
"Some people like it better, some like it worse, I guess. It’s harder to do it by myself, playing, but everything else is easier. Touring around and stuff, without a bunch a people."
One of a growing bunch of rock stars making golf a respectable choice for the counter class, it doesn’t seem that the game is likely to feature highly on this tour.
"It’s not that fun to play golf alone," he says. After all, there is that temptation to just flag it for the day when things don’t go right â€“ "I feel that way any time," Mascis admits.
"I don’t mind playing alone if there’s not a lot of people on the course.
"I don’t have to deal with people all playing alone.
"I played once in Scotland and that was worse. Everyone was scowling and no one was having any fun. Their only goal was to play fast. It was just really unpleasant somehow."
According to the record company publicity, much of Free So Free was written in mid-air during J’s latest outdoor pursuit, skydiving. A nice story, perhaps, but total rubbish, he says.
Freedom crops up again and again on the album, and it comes as a bit of a surprise to find out that there is a political edge to the songs.
After giving the impression that he has achieved a rare isolation from the worries, and stylistic demands, of the world, Mascis says a lot of the album is a response to the United States Government’s actions after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
"It’s kind of just the state of America after September 11. It started feeling claustrophobic. The Government is taking it as their chance to clamp down on freedoms.
"I guess I just felt my freedoms were being taken away," he said.
"I think it’s a lot worse than Vietnam, the public opinion. Because everyone was against it before it even started. I think there’s a lot more people against it than Vietnam.
"It’s just bizarre. No one knows how it’s really all happening. We didn’t vote for the president (George W Bush), and now he’s president he’s just going nuts. And you feel just kind of helpless. You don’t know what you can do about it."
Mascis is no Springsteen â€“ thank goodness â€“ but overtly political songs may be the result of his enforced involvement in the situation.
"It’s intruding more on my life and I think about it more just because it’s more in your face."
Just don’t expect to see him on a Bob Hope-style road trip for the troops.
"I doubt it. I don’t have much sympathy for them. They weren’t drafted or anything."
Dinosaur Jr was officially dissolved in 1997 â€“ "It just seemed like a good time" â€“ but Mascis admits there has not been a great change in the way he works.
"I guess the only difference is that I would take into account what (drummer) Murph could play or not," hinting at a process that could spell control freak. Except that this is Mascis we’re talking about. He doesn’t exude the drive and intensity usually associated with that particular freak scene.
"I’m the type of person who doesn’t want to practise or teach people songs. I’d rather just play it myself. And I’d rather play drums than anything else â€“ if the beat isn’t right I can’t sing to it. That’s the instrument I would like to play the most on the record."
A Phil Collins for a new generation? Nope. "Singing drummers don’t really work." [:lol: FC]
J Mascis has carved his own niche in rock, with a style that blends phenomenal guitar playing with a hard-edged folky touch.
You get the feeling he pretty much does what he likes, managing to stay away from star trappings in his home town of Amherst, Massachusetts. It’s not a place where he is mobbed in the streets. "It’s not like everybody doesn’t know each other anyway, everybody’s famous."
J Mascis, he talks quietly but he carries an axe.May 20, 2003 at 3:11 pm #93733
Cool interview, glad the guy pointed out the facts don’t support the slacker theory :aliensmile:
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