J Mascis/Dinosaur interview transcript


i've had a fun few days - fans of the milk really really enjoy calling me a cunt it seems - and it slipped my mind that i'd promised the interested few (and by few i mean approximately 2) that i'd blog the transcript of the j mascis interview that was published in it's neatly abridged and smartly edited version on Q online a few weeks back. here's the link to that: http://news.qthemusic.com/2012/08/qa_dinosaur_jrs_j_mascis_-_on.html

so here's the full thing, replete with awkward pauses, much confused giggling, a meandering intro and some none-more-fanboy questions...

(as you may be able to tell, i absolutely love dinosaur jr and the distorted wave of guitar they rode in on):

J Mascis Q & A

Over a near three decade career on the alt side of country and at the business end of a pedal rack that would put most metal players to shame, Dinosaur Jr’s J Mascis has remained a reticent and slightly mysterious figure. Whether he’s playing solo acoustic, thrashing it out in the day job or, most notoriously, confronted by something that makes him as uncomfortable and unhappy as can be – an interview – he’s remained a ‘music speaks for itself’ kinda guy.

Legend, and indeed various Youtube clips, will try to tell you that Mascis is a silent, monosyllabic Grinch of a man who, despite being heralded for his evident talents, is no friend of the inquisition. With some trepidation, on the eve of release of Dinosaur Jr’s mighty return to form album ‘I Bet On Sky’ I spoke with J about everything from the band’s reunited original lineup to volume levels via cyanide suicides and romance in music and found a warm, funny guy who just happens to not really have a great deal to say about Dinosaur Jr. Yes, the pauses are long, the drawl is as slow as you’d expect and J was either washing up or building a shed during the conversation but, you know, you can’t have it all. Or whatever, man…

Hi, how the devil are you?

“Alright.” (Noises of kids and dogs in background)

Sounds like you’re having a busy day today?

“Yeah. There’s a lot of stuff going on.”

Have you been doing a lot of press for the record?

“Uh, yeah. I’m starting to.”

First congratulations on making such a great record with ‘I Bet On Sky’

“Thanks. Thank you.”

No worries. So, the new record is out next month. How are you feeling about it? Have you got particular expectations for it? A particular feeling about it?

“I don’t know. Hoping for the best…yeah.”

Was your intention for ‘I Bet On Sky’ to be as accessible as it is? It’s a good record but also really commercial?

“Uh, no. I just kinda let the songs dictate where the thing is going.”

So you never start a record thinking ‘this should have a particular feel to it’?

“Sometimes, you know like on my acoustic record (2011’s Several Shades Of Why) I just wanted to be acoustic so that was (long pause) …erm…I had to keep that in mind the whole time. But this one I didn’t really have any idea. It goes out in a lot of different directions. Whatever was appropriate for the songs.”

Are you happy with this record?

“Oh, sure. Yeah… am I happy with the record? Yeah. Why not.”

A track like ‘Stick A Toe In’ harks back to tunes like ‘Thumb’ and ‘Get Me’  (from ‘93s ‘Where You Been’) a little bit.  Do you enjoy moving away from the faster, heavier stuff into more delicate territory like that?

“Yeah. Yeah. I just…it depends on what song comes out at that moment…I just go with it.”

This is your tenth record under the Dinosaur Jr name.  Is this a legacy? Did you see yourself being in music for this length of time when you started Deep Wound?

“I didn’t really imagine being alive this long. I guess.”


“(Laughs) Yeah, it’s true.”

M: I think a lot of people feel like that in their teens and twenties, like they’re not gonna make it past thirty so have fun now…

“Yeah, enjoy it while you’re here (laughs)”

Sticking with the early days – ‘You’re Living All Over Me’ was a big breakthrough for you.  Did you find it a strange experience going from being an unknown band to touring with Sonic Youth and you’re on SST? Was it something you wanted?

“We really, really wanted to be on SST. That was our big goal. That was cool when that happened.  (Long pause) Yeah…that was when we started looking out front of house and we started to have some fans…You know, like, more of them. I remember playing shows when the soundman was throwing bottles at us. That stopped. “

Don’t you hate it when the soundman throws bottles?

“(Laughs) Yeah.”

This reminds me though – your live shows that I’ve seen over the years have been crushingly loud. Are you intent on having it as loud as is humanly possible?

“Well. Yeah. It’s loud enough so that it sounds right. We’re not just trying to be loud.”

So it’s not volume for the sake of volume it’s just what you want the songs to sound like?


So, ‘Bug’ came after ‘You’re Living All Over Me’. A lot of Dinosaur Jr fans peg that as their favourite of your albums. You’ve been quoted as saying you don’t like it. You played it in full at Alexandra Palace last summer (as part of an ATP show supporting Flaming Lips)– do you feel the same way about it? Was playing the album strange?

“It was interesting. I probably…I definitely like it better now. “

You got used to it?

“Yeah, you know. Before…it reminded me of a bad time but now we’re just trying to make new memories I guess so…”

So was it on ‘Bug’ that things kinda went wrong with the original line-up (Lou Barlow departed to concentrate on Sebadoh at that time)?

“Yeah…but it was before. So the recording of ‘Bug’ was pretty hard. We weren’t speaking and…so most of the album I did by myself except for a few days…”

It must have been a really tough time for you emotionally?

“Yeah. It’s weird. It was weird.”

With ‘Green Mind’ and ‘Where You Been’ you got a level of success. You were on TV, MTV, on the BBC in the UK. Was that strange without the original line-up?

“We still had Murph at that point.  Murph was still playing on ‘Where You Been’…people just did whatever they did you know…people came out of the band ‘cos they couldn’t do it any more. (Long pause) It seemed like a natural progression at the time. “

It was early ‘90s you did the Rollercoaster tour with JAMC, blur and MBV.


Do you have good memories from that? Was that a fun thing to do?

“Yeah. That was fun , definitely.  (Unbelievably long pause)”

Did you hang out with the other bands?

“Yeah. Jesus and Mary Chain were the most anti-social people. I thought we were bad until I saw those guys. (Laughter) They really couldn’t deal with people at all. I guess Blur was the most friendly and having the best time.”

They were fairly crazy around that time…

“They were having fun and they were the most sociable. Everyone else was a bit socially maladjusted.”

This is a fairly obscure question. In the ‘Sonic Youth: 1992, The Year Punk Broke’ film you have a surreal exchange with Kim Gordon and you saying ‘Some guy set himself on fire since Uma’s been gone’. I could never work out what that meant. Care to let us know?

“Oh well, that um…in Amhurst some kid lit himself on fire on the town common in protest…to protest the war or something? That’s just sad and bizarre…”

So it was something that actually happened?

“Yeah. I remember driving through town and there being yellow tape up on the common and…”

That’s crazy

“Yeah, a lot of crazy stuff happened there. Another kid, a friend’s brother killed himself on college TV. Yeah. Made his own cyanide. Then he drank it on TV on one of the college TV shows. Everyone thought he was joking so they left him there, everybody left him on the ground. They didn’t realize he was dead.

Well. I asked. At least I know now. Moving on. When the Dinosaur Jr name was on hiatus and you were playing with The Fog, did that feel like a totally different band?

“It definitely felt like it to me.  If I just hired guys to play it’s not gonna convey what I’m feeling and they’re just..they have different limitations.”

You’ve always done things outside Dinosaur though like the solo album, Heavy Blanket (J’s instrumental stoner band), soundtracks etc. Do you want to continue that?

“Oh yeah. Probably.”

Do you have anything in mind?

“Not right now. I have an Oi! Band in the works.”

(Stunned silence) Really?! Who’s that with?

“(Very long pause) Oh. Just some friends.”

That should sound interesting at the least.

“(Laughs) Right.”

Of the things you’ve done outside Dinosaur Jr what’s been your favourite?

“I like this album Upsidedown Cross  (doom metal band) that I played drums on. Um. That’s my favourite thing I’ve been involved in.”

The original line-up coming back together (Lou Barlow and Murph returned in 2005) Was that a Disney homecoming or was it more awkward than that?

“It was probably more awkward.”

But you worked through it?

“Yeah. Still working.”

You’re on the road a lot since you got back together and you have a ton of dates for later in the year. Is that a conscious decision that you want to be touring a lot?

“Yeah. (Really, agonisingly long pause)”

So do you just enjoy playing live or is it that it’s a productive thing to do to push the record and get the music out to people?

“Well. Both you know. Just kinda like… It’s good to get out of the house a little bit.”

Sure. Are you coming to the UK this year?

“I don’t know what’s going on but I’m sure we will.”

Good news. So apparently the recording of this album was easier than previous ones. Do you think it has been a different process on this record?

“Yeah. It seemed the others were a little harder…I don’t know about better, but…”

Well you can only judge by the results can’t you?


Dinosuar Jr make romantic music. Am I really off-base in thinking that?

“(Laughs) Um. I don’t know. “

There seems like there’s a lot of heartbreak in there…

“Well yeah. That always makes for the best songs.”

Do you feel like you’ve still got things to express after all this time?

“Yeah. Um (Extreme, life-threatening pause) As long as you’re alive you’re gonna want to express yourself somehow.”

Do you have any ideas on a long term future for the band? It seems you could keep touring, keep releasing records for years to come – the fanbase is still there…

“I just play it by ear. We go day to day. Ya know. We’ve got this tour planned and we’ll do that…”

Well yeah I suppose if you’re contractually obliged to do the shows I guess you’d better do them?


One last geek question. There’s an awesome guitar sound at the end of ‘Don’t Pretend You Didn’t Know’ (from the forthcoming ‘I Bet On Sky’). What is that?

“Which number song is it?”

Let me see. Sorry J, just give me one second(I actually go and check I-tunes)

“I can only relate to them by the numbers…”

Sorry to keep you, J.  It’s the very first track…

“Ah ok. It’s a guitar synth.”

Excellent. Are you still as much of a fan of effects pedals? Do you still have love for the vast pedal set-up?

“Yeah. Yeah.”

Well thanks for speaking to me. Good luck with the record.


I’ll speak to you another time.

“Yeah, thanks , bye.”
A deep, deep exhalation of breath from me.