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awkward aural adventures

Dinosuar Jr – J Mascis Interview

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The notion of interviewing Dinosaur Jr founder and mainstay J Mascis is always adaunting one. Famously reticent in interview Mascis comes across as an otherworldly and aloof professor, reluctant to communicate verbally what he could so easily impart with a simple solo or feedback squall. However, in person, hunched over a west London hotel couch, though never bordering on chatty Mascis is engaging, witty and warm. As well he should be, for life is good for Mascis at the moment, the original line up of Dinosaur Jr are about to drop ‘Farm’ their second album since reforming for ‘Beyond’, they have signed to new home Jagjaguwar and Mascis is also a new father. Though for now he seems far more interested in iPhone apps.

‘Yeah I use one for making notes or song ideas when I’m at home, around the house, so o record them right into the iPhone, it’s called Note2self, and it sends it all to your email’ states Mascis revealing a little insight into his current writing process behind ‘Farm’. Somethings in the Dinosaur camp have not change though as Mascis still writes all the songs alone and takes them to Murph and Lou Barlow. This includes the drum parts, a situation that in the past led to Murph wanting to ‘kill J for the longest time’. Things are a lot more harmonious these days though, and Mascis is allowed to create the only way he knows how. Given the breathtaking tour de force of songs like ‘Ocean In The Way’ it would seem it’s certainly a formula that works. ‘Yeah, I write them’, states J ,’ I usually just sit down in front of the TV, so it’s usually at night.’ Though there are some who are still reluctant to fall into line with Mascis‘s timetable, ‘well yeah I’m usualy more nocternal but I have a kid who’s forcing me to get up early so I’m not really sure where I am tight now.

Farm was recorded at J’s own studio Bisquiteen studio which allowed the band to work at their own pace. ‘Well it starts with us trying to get the drum sound down, but we don’t practice before hand, so we’re practising as we go, so it takes a long time. Because I’ll make a demo with drums and guitar and give it to Lou and Murph, and it takes a while to sink in to Murphs mind’, he says with just a hint of a wry, knowing smile. When asked if there’s any debate about the drum parts Mascis simply smiles and says ‘no because to me it’s part of the song so there’s not much room for diversion.’

The artwork for ‘Farm features two green behemoths striding through a cityscape, it’s very reminiscent of the Ents from Lord Of The Rings, which given Mascis‘s propensity for saying a lot by saying very little seems highly apt. It also rings with environmental connotations that spring to mind. ‘No, I don’t think so, I don’t really think about that with music,’ J notes when asked if there were any themes or outside influences that had seeped into ‘Farm’s psyche. ‘The guy who did the artwork, Mark, I’ve never actually met him. But my mangershowed me his website and there was a black and white cover piece on there which I really liked so we went with him.’

Where Beyond was wrapped up in the hyperbole and epectations of the reunited line up ‘Farm’ finds itself having to live up to a different weight of expectation, as the fan have now accepted the idea that the original band is back together and together to forge new music and not just regurgitate the old records their is a hunger to see if they can match the power of those early records. ‘I think maybe it was a harder record as we wanted to finish it in a much shorter amoint of time, so we were all stressed out and we had to concentrate to get it finished. I guess in a way it seems more confident”, notes J in a voice that makes it impossible to imagine him ever being stressed by anything. Whatever the pains of the birthing process though Farm is a stunning record featuring everything that Dinosaur fans could possibly ask for. There are moments, in ‘Plans’ that match anything they have ever committed to tape, as well as a new found maturity that has subconciously added another level to the bands music. Despite the writing process there is a frision to the way these three men play for each other that seeps through inn record and devastates live.

‘Right now we only know one of the new songs ‘I Dont Want To Go There’ so we need to learn some new songs. I guess I’ve picked out maybe half of the new songs we’re going to learn off the record.’ States J when asked about the setlistinga for the upcoming shows in support of Farm.

In terms of sound, as their very moniker suggests, there is never too much evolution from record to record, yet Mascis is a man at constant toil to gone and refine his sound.  ‘I always get a couple of new pedals to try out for each record. I really like the Roland B-Bop fuzzbox, I’m always hooking up a bunch of fuzzboxes together. Ampwise I used a Vox Super Berkeley which is like the American version of the AC30. Live I use a completely different set up. Much louder!’

Talk then briefly turns to J’s solo work and his recent involvement with the likes if Alien Workshop, specifically a new film he has contributed music too. The promo for which features J busting some crazy skate moves. Does be still like to get on a board? ‘actually now I’ve got a kid I’ve been skating again when we’re out in the yard a little bit’, he reveals. And with that Mascis is whisked away for lunch, a contented and warm man.

Dinosaur Site


Written by Jonathan

June 13, 2009 at 12:58 pm

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