Already, at the age of 28, I feel as if I've done most of the things I wanted to do in my life. I've driven across the country (multiple times), finished college, and fallen in love. I've written short stories, I've performed music in front of decent-sized audiences, and I've taken a dive from a bridge tower into a net thirty feet below meant to catch workmen's tools. But a couple of weeks ago, I got a phone call that changed my life. Here's the extremely short version of how that call went.
My editor, Chris: Hey dude. I was gonna interview J. Mascis last week, but something came up and they had to reschedule. Do you wanna do it?
Me: What???!!! Damn straight I wanna do it! Where do I sign?
Before we go any further, I have to admit that I've been a huge fan of Dinosaur and their later incarnation, Dinosaur Jr. since 1989 or so. So this isn't your typical disinterested, objective interview; not by a long shot. But don't worry your pretty little head over that teensy problem. The key is this: I got to ask J. Mascis a bunch of questions that have been sitting on a back-burner in my mind for some time now. And perhaps more importantly J. answered those questions. Well, most of them, anyway.
So, without further ado, I bring you - My Kick-Ass Interview With Former Front Man of Dinosaur, Ultimate Guitarrorist, and Heavyweight Licks Champion, J. Mascis.
LP: To me, at least, your career has traced a pretty clear arc, from the really dirty, noisy stuff on Dinosaur and You're Living All Over Me, to the somewhat lighter, more melodic stuff on Bug, to the cleaner, but more sort of depressing stuff on Green Mind and Whatever's Cool With Me (with the obvious exception of the song The Wagon) . Talk a little about how your guitar-playing has evolved over the years, and the kind of stuff you're trying to do now with J Mascis & The Fog.
J Mascis: I don't know if it evolved or devolved. It's always interesting when someone's just learning to play, rather than after you've been playing a long time and you've kinda got more ruts in your mind for where your fingers go or something. I can definitely play faster now, after playing so much but I don't know if that's necessarily good or bad. It's hard to tell.
LP: Nowadays, do you prefer acoustic to electric gigs? Because it seems like you play a lot more acoustic gigs now than you did at one time.
J: No, it's just a lot easier for me to do acoustic gigs than to try to get a band together and rent a van and stuff.
LP: One of my favorite rare tracks from you is Little Ethnic Song, which I first heard on the first Alien Workshop video. That was on the Guitarrorists compilation, right?
LP: Where did that song come from?
J: It came from that Guitarrorists thing, and then Neal Blender really liked it.
LP: Speaking of Neal Blender, how did you get hooked up with the guys at Alien Workshop?
J: I met Neal in L.A. when we played there to support the Bug album, and I just kept in touch with him. Then he started Alien Workshop with those other guys, and I met all of those guys too.
LP: Was that Neal Blender singing backup on that cover of Feel a Whole Lot Better?
LP: It sounded like his voice. Who was that?
J: That was this guy Artie his face is the sun on the first album.
LP: Oh, okay, cool. The reason I thought it was Neal Blender is that on the first Alien Workshop video there's that section where they play a song that Neil did when he was like 12 years old or something 'Barstools Are Hot' or whatever and it sounded like exactly the same voice.
Have you heard any of the covers Juliana Hatfield did of Dinosaur stuff?
She did Raisans with Juliana Hatfield 3 and she did Severed Lips back when she was working with Blake Babies.
J: Oh yeah, I saw her do that live.
LP: They're both stellar. I usually don't like covers all that much, but she did a great job on them. Have you two worked together on anything, or is she just a big fan?
J: No, we haven't really worked on anything together, but I know her and I've seen her around and stuff.
LP: Speaking of covers, everybody pretty much freaked out back in the day when you guys released that single with the cover of Just Like Heaven. I remember the first time I heard it in Iguana, the local skate shop where I hung out, we all thought the CD was screwed up because the song ended so abruptly.
J: Oh yeah.
LP: How did you guys decide to cover Just Like Heaven?
J: Im not sure I can't remember. We just kinda happened upon it somehow.
LP: It was a great piece of interpretation.
LP: Some of my favorite work of yours is from the Gas Food Lodging soundtrack. What was it like working with Barry Adamson?
J: I didn't do anything with him; he just did some stuff separately. I always liked Magazine and Nick Cave and stuff that he had done, so it was cool to meet him.
LP: You even had a part in that film, didnt you?
LP: How many takes did you guys do for that scene selling the dead guy's glow rocks? Did you do it just once, or were you there all day, burning up in the New Mexico desert?
J: I don't know. (laughter) I can't really remember.
LP: Do you have any news on Upside Down Cross?
J: No new news. They're still around. I hear from the singer occasionally. I'm not sure if they're doing anything. They seem to be very popular in Sweden. Whenever I go there somebody asks me about them.
LP: Have you ever worked out to the punk rock aerobics thing?
J: No, but one time I took the money for their class at the door when people were coming in.
LP: I tried the Face-Down Butt Lift, but I think I threw my back out. I couldn't figure it out. But that's a pretty interesting project. How did you get connected with that?
J: Maura (sp) (the girl who did the Punk Rock Aerobics thing) did all the artwork for the first three Dinosaur albums. I've just known her for a long time.
LP: What was it like working with Spike Jonze on the Feel the Pain video?
J: Yeah, that was fun. We had a good time just cruising around New York and stuff.
LP: Was he able to get across what you wanted to get across with that song in that video?
J: Yeah, it was cool, except MTV made us cut out some of the more violent parts which I liked, so..
LP: Is the uncut version available on DVD or anything that you know of?
J:No, I don't think so. It's a little more graphic.
LP: Has 12 o Clock High been released yet?
J: What's that?
LP: I don't know for sure. It's something my editor wanted me to ask you. He gave me a website to figure out what it is, and I didn't look at it. I guess it's not out yet.
J: I don't know what it is. So if you don't know, and I don't know, I guess it can't be that big of a deal.
LP: Here it is. 12 o Clock High volumes 1 & 2 DVD. It's a DVD that's coming out that's supposed to have Dinosaur videos on it. It's described as 2 hours of non-stop alternative rock videos. Sounds kinda suspicious.
J :Uh, yeah, I don't know anything about it.
LP: Well, thanks for your time today. I appreciate it.
J: Alright, cool.
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