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    J Mascis Interview


    T W E L V E Y E A R S O N T H E E D G E

    The Return of J Mascis
    by roxanne ruben

    patrick haley

    photo assistant

    lighting tech
    bruce benedict

    the time hotel, ny

    It’s nearly 2 p.m. in New York and alt rock visionary J Mascis has no idea what the weather is like outside. The curtains are drawn and except for a sliver of light, Mascis says he’s "enveloped in darkness." Adding, "I think it’s kind of gray outside but I haven’t even looked. I’ll be going out later to see Almost Famous," he says in a slow, groggy voice.
    Although Mascis may seek solace in the darkness, this solemn tone is noticeably absent on his latest effort, More Light. It is Mascis’ first solo album of new material in over three years and his first release for Ultimatum Music. With J Mascis and The Fog serving as his new band moniker, J’s vague about who the other band members are but does mention punk guru Mike Watt. However, rotating the band line-up is not out of character for the mercurial Mascis. After all, for 13 years, that was the modus operandi of his previous band, Dinosaur Jr., whose rotating array of bass players included Don Fleming and Screaming Trees’ Van Connor.

    Mascis began his musical career 16 years ago in Amherst, Massachusetts, when he founded Dinosaur Jr. and introduced audiences to his loud, hard-core guitar solos and laconic vocals. Dinosaur Jr. survived the arrival and exodus of a number of band members, most notably, Lou Barlow (Sebadoh, Folk Implosion) and later, drummer Murph (Emmett "Patrick" Murphy). In 1987, they released their groundbreaking record You’re Living All Over Me, on Black Flag’s indie label, SST Records. Showcasing the band’s unique musical approach based on Mascis’ feedback-filled, free-form guitar work, the album caused quite a stir in underground circles, with groups like Sonic Youth hailing the arrival of this fresh new sound.

    After releasing their non-LP cover of the Cure’s "Just Like Heaven" in 1989, the band left SST and moved into the more mainstream arena by signing with Sire Records. With the release of 1993’s Where You Been, Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. laid out the red flannel carpet for the grunge movement before disbanding in 1997. Credited with turning lead guitar to indie-rock, Mascis has been described over the years as "the Godfather of alternative music," and "founder of the grunge movement." These are descriptions he both winces at and finds humorous. "I don’t have any feelings about being called the Godfather of alternative music really. It’s just kind of whatever people label me and I’m not into categorization. I was just playing…just making music that I liked. I think it’s funny to be called the ‘founder of the grunge movement.’ I mean it’s not like we were spearheading the Democratic Party."

    While bands such as Nirvana made the grunge movement more mainstream, Dinosaur Jr.’s founding role faded into the background. Dinosaur Jr. was even supported by Nirvana while touring at one point. Although Dinosaur, Jr. established a fiercely loyal fan base and Mascis himself cult status, the band did not receive widespread recognition until their single "Feel the Pain" from 1994’s Without A Sound hit the airwaves and MTV. But looking back, Mascis isn’t disappointed about the way things happened. "I was psyched when Nirvana got really big because it seemed like something that should have happened actually did happen. It was kind of wild and they deserved their success. But, unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well in the end. Kurt’s gone."

    Mascis went on to work on solo projects including his first solo album Martin & Me as well as producing acts like Buffalo Tom. But he soon grew weary of being behind the board and says, quite simply, that he "didn’t like doing it anymore." In October, 1998, Mascis went back into the studio and for the next nine months recorded More Light at Bob’s Place, his studio in Amherst (affectionately named after his English bulldog). At one point Mascis, along with Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine) and engineer Andy Wilkinson, spent a solid seven weeks putting the finishing touches on the record. The overall process was not particularly eventful unless you count Wilkinson’s and Shield’s attempts at concocting the perfect chocolate milk shake. "They ended up perfecting it after many experiments," says Mascis. "Unfortunately, I didn’t partake. I don’t eat dairy products."

    Mascis flatly states that the writing and creative process for More Light was not the result of any sort of personal epiphany or an attempt to make a huge career progression. "I just play punk and hard core. I don’t know that this album is any sort of progression for me personally. I actually don’t really think about how I make music. It just comes out." On songs such as "Same Day" and "Where’d You Go," Mascis displays his usual guitar prowess, providing an aural excursion that couples lots of feedback with crunchy riffs. Guided By Voices’ Bob Pollard lent his vocal support on three of the tracks including "Same Day," "All the Girls," and "I’m Not Fine."

    This past April, Mascis got the opportunity to let a whole new audience across America get acquainted with his talent when he performed "Out There" on Saturday Night Live. Interestingly, Christina Aguilera also had her own performance on the show and Mascis gets surprisingly animated when he talks about his perception of the pop star. "I didn’t meet her but my roadie got her autograph and picture for his daughter because we were stuck on the same floor somewhere. She’s quite the little professional. It’s scary to think of being that motivated when you’re that young—she seems really driven to stay at the top. I guess she has a different kind of mindset—kind of like a businessman. It doesn’t seem like she necessarily wants to express herself. She’s showbiz. I think she’s been bred to be a star," he says dryly.

    In addition to his sonic endeavors, Mascis has another outlet for his creativity—acting. He made an appearance in Allison Anders’ 1996 film Grace of My Heart and wrote three songs for the soundtrack. In Anders’ upcoming project, Things Behind the Sun, Mascis plays, appropriately enough, a musician. In fact, he plays a drummer. The character is one J knows well—his initial place with Dinosaur Jr. was behind the drum kit. But after sharing his unique philosophy about drummers, it is highly unlikely that J Mascis will be hitting the skins in real life anytime soon. "It was interesting to try to get into the mind of the drummer. It’s like boxing in some ways. You get hit so many times you just start getting a little funny after a while. I think it’s the same thing with drumming. Somehow it rattles the brain too much and something starts happening…brain damage. Thankfully, I got out of drumming before it was too late."

    J Mascis and the Fog will raise the curtains and let the light in when they play the Troubadour on November 16 and 17.

    Sometimes all I really want to feel is love
    Sometimes I’m angry that I feel so angry
    Sometimes my feelings get in the way
    Of what I really feel I needed to say



    Good find! Pretty cool interview… [img]http://www.freakscene.net/ubb/smilies/face-icon-small-smile.gif[/img]


    "Feelings might go unexpressed,
    I think that’s probably for the best.
    Dig too deep –
    Who knows what you will find."

    – Randy Newman

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