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    The X-Press Interview: J Mascis

    The Band Of The Free

    For a bloke who has released 10 albums to high acclaim, been cited a rock revolutionary and generally been a name any music junkie should know, J Mascis hasn’t really much to say. But then he doesn’t exactly need to, indeed his degenerate anthems say it all.

    Though famous for being a painful interview, Mascis is a character who you can’t help but love – the slightly awkward chap who crawled from the Massachusetts hardcore scene to go and change the world, with not much more than a slightly bruised soul and a battered guitar.

    It’s now not far off two decades since Dinosaur, the band Mascis fronted, released their self-titled debut. What came next (aside from the threat of legal action from the hippy band of the same name, prompting Mascis to cheekily rename his band Dinosaur Jr) was a career that is popularly accused of, along with Frank Black’s musical vehicle The Pixies, initiating the success of the US alternative scene – indeed the same union of fanzines, minor record labels and underground music that Nirvana went on to transform into a multi-million dollar industry.

    But while Nirvana rose and then crashed, Mascis, along with Black, continued to plodder along and do what he does best: write and release music.

    Abandoning the Dinosaur Jr moniker after 1994’s Without A Sound LP to record under his own name, only to revisit the band name one last time for 1997’s Hand It Over, Mascis is content in his current musical world as J Mascis + The Fog – fundamentally the same set up the man has had since day one, where he summons a few mates to help him out on songs of his creation.

    Free So Free, Mascis’ second album as The Fog, indeed has all the bohemian rock charm that made Mascis so revered in the first place – that uncanny ability to construct songs that sound like they are written by a man who, somehow, has been given the key to unlocking rock’s wisdom; even if he denies it. But this time around, as well as channelling his talents into laying down some of the most inspiring guitar licks of the day, Mascis found himself questioning the suffocation of citizen rights he witnessed take place after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre, right through to the current war being waged by the ‘Coalition Of The Willing’ in Iraq this minute. A theme he says he found impossible to avoid in writing Free So Free.

    It’s likely the themes inside Free So Free will spark resonance amongst a population of people questioning the validity of this war and the subliminal effect on our sovereign liberties as citizens of a Western democracy. But what is certain is Mascis has released another monumental record that, quite simply, rocks. Now there’s a policy we can comprehend.
    J Mascis plays The Rosemount Hotel on Monday, May 12. Tickets are available from April 3 at 78’s, Beat, Mills and Planet.


    Hello J. How’s life treating you?
    Oh, a little sick?

    Why? Have they been working you a little too hard over there in the States have they?
    Yeah, and just … I don’t know. The flu or something.

    This is of course the second album for you under the moniker J Mascis + The Fog. Was it an obvious move for you to retain The Fog name, having worked as both Dinosaur Jr and as just plain old J Mascis in the past?
    It’s just kind of, yeah – The Fog to me kind of symbolises and sound like a band rather than an acoustic thing.

    Do you feel The Fog musically represents something different from the bodies of work you’ve done in the past under other names?
    Oh, I suppose. I couldn’t tell you (nervous laugh).

    As an album Free So Free does of course have the recurrence of the whole ‘freedom’ theme that snakes its way through the LP. Is it safe for us to assume that there’s more to that than jumping out of airplanes? (Mascis’ new hobby if his bio is to be believed).
    Yeah, it’s you know, I guess a response to the government over here’s kinda cracking down of freedoms since 9/11 – it feels kinda claustrophobic, and especially now that the war’s started it’s kinda freaky.

    It seems to be one of those monumental themes with everyone I’ve been interviewing of late. People more want to talk of the war than rock’n’roll. It’s obviously had a big effect on artists.
    Yeah. It’s hard not to be affected by that, it’s crazy. It’s just so weird to be like an American and have the President just going crazy and bombing some other country without the interest of his country really; without the people. He’s not really listening to what the people are interested in. He’s just got his own agenda.

    Are you hoping then that people really understand the meanings behind Free So Free, rather than just taking it as a rock record?
    I hope they get whatever out of it that they can, it’s just for anybody to get what they can out of it. Hopefully they like it.

    Do you feel that you are an artist who has always had an interest in writing music that has a social conscience?
    No, not really. It just kind of happened and it seems really weird now that the war has started and they’re calling it ‘Freedom’, or whatever Bush is calling the war. I can’t remember.

    He’s calling it Operation Iraqi Freedom.
    Yeah, something ridiculous.

    Free So Free is a good fun album with plenty of hooks and melody, and a real sense of rock cohesion. Was it a very easy album to record?
    Yeah, it wasn’t too bad. I mean, I didn’t labour over it so much. I just let it kind of come out. It took a lot less time than the last album. Just not wanting it to take so long, the other one (More Light) kind of meandered on and on.

    Is Free So Free more indicative of the way you’re likely to work in the future?
    Ah, I’m not sure.

    It could easily be claimed Free So Free is classic J Mascis. Is the album far more complex than that?
    It’s kinda like each album’s a representation in that time in my life, like a photo album.

    Are you an artist who regularly revisits your old albums and recall a time that once was?
    Not too much. Once in a while I’ll listen to one of them.

    In terms of musical ideology your name has come to represent so much, from the indie hero to the founder of a new alternative movement to all of a sudden being representative of a kind of neo Neil Young. All of these intellectual dissections of your life and music, is that something you can comprehend as the artist?
    No, not really.

    Have you any theories on why people are so fascinated with everything you’ve ever done?
    No, just hopefully they think they’re good records and they like them. I don’t know other than that.

    Do you appreciate and smile on the legacy of work you’ve left?
    Yeah, I mean I like all the records pretty much.

    When I was young and listening to Dinosaur Jr the thing that always stood out was my undoubted belief that you were a bloke who did have the skills to write a pop hit but chose not to, instead channeling your talents into more the experimental world that was Dinosaur Jr. Was I right?
    I don’t know about that (laughs). I was just – it’s kinda trying to, whatever songs come to me I just record. I wasn’t trying to particularly craft the songs in certain ways, I just kinda record whatever songs came to me at the time and I thought were good. But it’s hard to … I guess my mind isn’t like that, that I could construct a song to be a hit. I don’t think of it that way.

    The reason I ask is because Free So Free seems to be your most straight rock album to date. Whereas songs like Repulsion used to kick into a kind of rock anarchy, eventually sinking into a melody, the new album is full of songs with a beginning, middle and an end. Was that a conscious decision?
    (coughing and spluttering) I suppose, I don’t know. It’s recording what songs come out. Yeah, I don’t know. They don’t sound that different to me, Repulsion and something on the new record.

    Do you have an opinion at all about where you are now in music in comparison to your past? Are you becoming more experimental or conformative?
    I’m not sure (laughs).

    Free So Free also features some massive, massive air guitar moments. It seems as though Led Zeppelin and Hendrix are back on the record player.
    Well, they’re just burned into my brain I think. Not too much on the record player but all that stuff … I’ve had so many records over the years, it’s all just kind of filed away in there somewhere.

    Do you cherish your record collection?
    Yeah, I like buying records. I don’t know if I go and revisit them all the time but I like having all the … like I used to collect old punk singles when I was a kid and sometimes I’ll still try to finish of my collection of this or that. But I still like vinyl. I’m glad to see most records I want are still coming out on vinyl.

    Does vinyl collecting still, for you, harbour that kind of childhood romance it obviously did when you were growing up?
    Yeah, I like them. I’m glad they’re still around and haven’t been totally absorbed. CDs don’t do so much for me. I tend to destroy them within days. I can’t really keep CDs in a decent condition.

    In regard to your collection, people like to put you more in the Neil Young-esque category, but you undoubtedly have that heavier rock past there as well. What’s the major theme that runs through your record collection?
    I mean, it’s hard to say. I’d say Sabbath was my biggest influence probably, and the Stones and then like all punk rock. I was really into all the hardcore and all the different areas of punk rock.

    Are there bands around today that get you really excited in the way the Stones and Sabbath did?
    I don’t know, yeah there’s some good bands now and again (laughs), but … I keep finding things that I’ve never heard. I guess the only record that I was waiting to come out recently was the Cat Power.

    The thing that still stands out about J Mascis is you’re an artist that’s always had that anarchic side, that rock’n’roll side, but at the base of it is always a melody; a good tune. So many artists can master the rock poise, but what they lack is a decent song. It seems as if melody comes easy for you…
    I don’t know if it’s easy, but yeah I know certain bands, you like them but then you realise … there’s a lot of bands that I’ve seen that I’ve liked and then I get their record home and there’s no songs there. It’s all just kind of they’ve got the sound down and stuff but … I mean it’s hard to listen to a record if there’s no songs on it I guess.

    How do you envision your future? Are you happy to keep plodding along, recording and releasing as J Mascis + The Fog?
    I’m not sure really.

    Are you resolved in the knowledge that music is pretty much your life?
    Ah, well it is and I hope I can still continue, as I haven’t done much else so far.

    Is it a bizarre feeling, to see how much of your life you’ve devoted to music?
    (laughs) Yeah, and to think like the Stones are still playing, and stuff like that.

    You’re coming down to Australia for a round of solo shows. Is there a big difference between what you do solo and what you do as a band?
    Yeah, it’s a lot different (coughs and splutters again) somehow. But, I guess it’s more fun to play electric, it’s less pressure on me and louder. But the shows are also a lot more varied, I think the solo shows are more consistent.

    Well the music’s still great, but are you still experiencing a happy existence and making a living in the world of rock’n’roll?
    Ah, sort of.


    Pelt Sematary
    I mean it’s hard to listen to a record if there’s no songs on it I guess.

    :lol: 8) :lol:
    Thanks for the link!


    expect nothing

    "(coughs and splutters again)" pooor J :cry:

    Great interview, thanks for the link :) – I like the picture too, and the cover one :D



    "degenerate anthems"

    I like that :twisted:



    "But what is certain is Mascis has released another monumental record that, quite simply, rocks. Now there’s a policy we can comprehend."




    great to read a current interview with J :D :P :mrgreen:
    I hope he already recovered from that flu!



    wow … great find allison … that’s a pretty long interview …

    … and i’m really liking that wintry cover pic … :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:



    Gotta love that Degenerate Anthems thing :aliensmile:

    I hope J has some downtime before OZ, sounds like he could use it :!:

    Hoping for lots more press/promo bits from OZ, still keeping my fingers crossed for a triple J special :idea:

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