Our guest on the show this week is J Mascis. Along with Lou Barlow and drummer Murph, he formed Dinosaur Jr in Amherst, Massachusetts, in 1984. After their original run, which ended acrimoniously in 1989, Mascis continued on with Dinosaur Jr, the Fog, and plenty of other wiggy and interesting side projects. But in 2005, the original Dino Jr. lineup returned with a genuine comeback classic, Beyond. Since then, they’ve reliably issued a great album every couple of years. Plenty of bands come back in some diminished form, but not these guys. Their latest is Sweep It Into Space, produced by previous Transmissions guest Kurt Vile and Mascis. It’s full of incredible riffs and trademark melodic resignation. It was great to have J on to discuss it, along with his solo albums, early SST days, playing with heroes like Ron Asheton of the Stooges, and more. Listen for a special appearance by J’s dog, Candy.Transmissions :: J Mascis
Episode playlist: Dinosaur Jr, “I Met the Stones” ++ “I Ran Away”
Transmissions is written, produced, and hosted by Jason P. Woodbury. Audio is edited by Andrew Horton. Sarah Goldstein and Johnathan Mark Walls provide visuals. Our executive producer, top of the show announcer, and main man is Justin Gage.
Hope you enjoy this episode. We rely on word of mouth, so please spread the word. We’ll be back next week with another strange conversation for our continually strange times. Our guest on the next show will be guitar legend Richard Thompson, sharing reflections on his new book, Beeswing, Losing My Way and Finding My Voice: 1967-1975. But first, a new feature. We’re presenting transcripts of our episodes here in the show notes moving forward.
Aquarium Drunkard: J, thanks so much for taking the time to join me here on Aquarium Drunkard: Transmissions. It’s a real treat to have you here.
J Mascis: Oh thanks.
AD: Sweep It Into Space is a really, really good record. I can’t think of very many bands that come back in their original incarnation and do it as consistently and with as much new energy as you guys have. You’ve been continuing on making records this entire time. There was no real break for you, in terms of making stuff. I wonder: does it all feel like one thing or does Dinosaur Jr. coming back together, when it does, feel like its own unique thing for you?
J Mascis: I guess it’s both. I mean in one sense it’s just some other thing to do. I realized we have some sort of energy together that’s unique.
AD: The three of you guys. Yeah. At this point do you feel like, you’ve made a lot of different records and you guys have made a solid set of albums since returning, do they more or less come together, you know, easily now? I know that’s not something that was always the case for Dinosaur Jr., but does it feel like it does come together more or less on its own at this point?
J Mascis: Uh no. It’s still kind of similar. It’s a grind.
AD: Yeah. Yeah. Well if we could get a little bit more general, what’s your typical working day look like, when it’s either for solo stuff for other projects or Dinosaur Jr.? And is the process sort of different for you when you’re working on stuff for yourself than it is with Dinosaur Jr.?
J Mascis: Yeah, it’s different because I’m writing the songs with them in mind. You know, thinking if Murph could play this song or if this song might sound good if we played it live or something. So I have that in mind and then…I mean, recording—I can’t spend as much time as I used to recording. I’m like maybe good from 2-5 in the afternoon or something like that. I know some people like to record for like 16 hours straight. I just can’t concentrate that long.
AD: Did you guys have this more or less recorded before the pandemic pushed stuff back?
J Mascis: Yeah, most of it. I had to finish some stuff on my own. Kurt Vile was going to come back again, but he didn’t…I had all the vocals done and the stuff. I had to do some guitars and some keyboards.
AD: Did it feel good to have a project to focus on or were you focused on other stuff as well? Like in terms of making new stuff over the course of the last year when you haven’t been able to be on the road?
J Mascis: Yeah, I mean the whole album was done, I guess, at the end of April, it was mastered or something. So most of the year I’ve just been kind of doing little bits here and there. I finished an instrumental album, a Heavy Blanket album, and been trying to write some songs for a solo album, but not being too productive.
AD: I was thinking about how I have spent a lot of time over the last year and I wondered if you, like me, find yourself checking out record stores online or cruising Discogs and Reverb to find stuff. It’s kind of an interesting time to be a collector of stuff right now because it’s kind of a golden age, but it feels different than going out and digging for it. I wonder, do you sort of comb around those sites?
J Mascis: Yeah. Sure. If I hear of a record that I want to get, I’ll try to find it on Discogs or something. So that’s kind of—I guess record stores, I don’t go to as much because I have so many records and yeah, if I can think of a record or something comes up, I just try to find that one thing on Discogs or something. But yeah, Reverb, I’m always looking at that. Yeah, all the prices of everything seem to be going up.
AD: Just in terms of everything? Overall? Pedals and equipment and stuff?
J Mascis: Yeah. And records too.
AD: Yeah, record prices are…I mean, when I got into records, and this was a while ago, I could buy a lot more vinyl for less money and so I could just have a lot more music access to music. Now it’s not that way at all, you know? CDs are where the scores are right now. I don’t know if you get into CDs still.
J Mascis: I don’t. At all. To me CDs were like the “big lie” or something. You know, I was told they were going to be indestructible, but they turned out to be even worse than records. I never took them that seriously. So, they’ve always ended up at the bottom of my car all scratched up. I wish they had come out with maybe the mini disc would have been better because you never touch it and it doesn’t get scratched up.
AD: Yeah, that’s one format that just sort of never took off at all really, aside from maybe—did you have a mini disc? Was that a way you would keep track of song demos or anything like that?
J Mascis: That’s so vague. I feel like I must have had one at some point, but I didn’t use it much.
AD: How do you keep track of song demos? Do you do a lot of iPhone memos?
J Mascis: Yeah, I have some iPhone app. Some recording app, then I email it to some different places so it exists somewhere. I had that happened over quarantine: all the ones on my phone were erased. Luckily, I had emailed them all somewhere.
AD: When the pandemic started, I really liked that you would share these musical moments of solidarity on your Instagram. Do you like Instagram overall?
J Mascis: I don’t have Instagram, so I don’t really… I’ve looked at it a few times, but yeah, I don’t know. I don’t want to get involved really with it.
AD: Yeah. Wait, so does somebody run your Instagram for you?
J Mascis: I suppose. [Both laugh]
AD: Well, it was a cool thing. Are you a very online person or not really?
J Mascis: Yeah, for sure, but I’m just not a social media person. I have one. The one social media have is Strava for biking, but I think I only follow nine people and nine people follow me or something. I don’t open it up too big.
AD: You’re big into biking and skiing, right? Have you been able to carve out time to do that over the course of the pandemic?
J Mascis: Yeah, there’s definitely been a lot of time for that kind of thing.
AD: Did you like being off the road?
J Mascis: No, I didn’t like quarantine at all. It was pretty difficult. I didn’t like anything about it really.
AD: You guys have tour dates announced and they’re still a ways off, but does it feel good to have sort of that silver lining on the horizon that you are going to be able to get out and play some shows soon? Are you excited about playing shows for this record?
J Mascis: Yeah. I’m not sure that, you know, that it’ll all happen, but I guess it’s good just to have some hope out there. Yeah, I’m not really convinced it’s gonna to happen so quickly, but I guess having shows is good because if it can happen then we can play, but if we just wait and wait then I think there’ll just be a glut of all these bands when everything does open and then maybe it would be harder to pull it together.
AD: Yeah, it seems like it’s gonna be weird to have sort of everybody on the road at once or like some sort of logjam of fans getting out there. But do you still dig playing live quite a bit? Is that still a lot of fun for you?
J Mascis: Yeah, I like it more now than I used to. There was a period in the ’90s, I was kind of over it, but then I started getting more into it. Yeah, I probably like it more now than I used to.
AD: What, at that stage, did you dislike? Just the grind of it or was it that was bumming you out about it?
J Mascis: I’m not sure. I guess somehow I just didn’t appreciate it or something. Yeah, I don’t really know.
AD: At that time, did you still like playing in the studio? I mean, has the studio always been more preferable for you in terms of musical expression?
J Mascis: No, studio is always less preferable for sure. Yeah, I don’t know. Just at some point in the ‘90s, I think I was just kind of jaded and burned out. I just couldn’t deal with anything. Yeah, I’m not sure what was going on.
AD: How did that start to turn around? Obviously you made some great records in the ‘90s and then around the point of the 2000s, you know, you made that great Fog record and…then all that kind of eventually sort of led back into the to the Dinosaur Jr. stuff and a bunch of your solo records. So it feels like something turned around for you. Do you have a sense of what it was?
J Mascis: Yeah. The Fog. I was enjoying it more or something during that period and then that was strange. I toured her a lot on the first fog album, but then I got home after a year of touring and after playing all these shows for a year I was down $5,000. So that was kind of a bummer.
AD: Yeah. A sinking realization. Yeah. That sucks.
J Mascis: Yeah.
AD: I’ve been thinking about how you have a lot of side projects and I I was bouncing through sort of your extended discography to get ready for this and I hadn’t listened to that Unknown Instructors record, the most recent one, with you and [Mike] Watt and George Hurley and others. A bunch of SST pedigrees in that band. I was wondering if you could tell me who some of your favorite SST bands were? You a fan of bands on that label when you first got into music?
J Mascis: Yeah, big fans. I mean, that was kind of why we formed Dinosaur. That’s what we wanted to do. That was our goal, to be on SST, and tour and yeah. We liked all the bands on SST back then. For sure.
AD: I feel like if I got access to a time machine, but I had to stay in the same place relatively geographically, when I go back in time—I’m in Arizona. I’m in Phoenix—I would want to go see The Meat Puppets in that era. Them or maybe Sun City Girls. Did you ever get a chance to see either of those bands?
J Mascis: Yeah. Yeah and also the Wipers moved to Arizona.
AD: That’s true. Greg Sage was out here and Ryan [Rousseau]… There’s a great band from here too called Destruction Unit [and] he sort of had some back and forth with him.
J Mascis: Yeah, we got to play with the Meat Puppets, and I’ve seen them quite a few times. I guess the first time I saw them, they were opening for Black Flag. It was right when Meat Puppets II came out and a lot of the punkers did not like their new direction or something. But we always really liked them. I mean, people would call us kind of Meat Puppets Junior when we started out. They thought we were like ripping them off.
AD: Well, it doesn’t really sound that way to me, but I do recognize that there’s a little bit of—those guys were like big into the Grateful Dead and stuff. There was an open embrace of sort of a more wandering musical direction. I think about how that’s sort of evident in even the earliest Dinosaur Jr. stuff too. Willingness to maybe, you know…I’m thinking of that live ‘87 album where you guys open with a seven-minute version of “Severed Lips” or whatever. So it feels like by punk standards, that’s very, very long, you know, by hardcore standards. Did it ever bug you that people didn’t like a direction like that or did you just not care really?
J Mascis: You know, I don’t know. Of course, you would rather be liked. I remember playing in Boston, an early show, and people knew us from Deep Wound in Boston and the hardcore scene and yeah. The hardcore scene was not digging us, I guess. So that was—it’s a little disappointing, but obviously we weren’t really trying to be liked as much as just play music we wanted to do. I mean we were really hated in our town. We got banned from every club.
AD: What would you guys get banned for? Was it bad behavior or…
J Mascis: Basically just, I guess, being really loud and having no fans is a bad combination. Because then the bars hate you because they can’t hear when people are ordering drinks and you’re just annoying everyone. That was the basic problem. We just really stuck to our guns and we weren’t like the nicest people or anything. We just wanted to do our thing and it’s just… People were not into it here, I guess. You know, the first place we found any fans was in New York. Boston and Amherst were not into us at all.
AD: Who did you guys play with in New York?
J Mascis: Well, our first show, we opened for Big Black and that’s when we met Sonic Youth. So then, yeah. Sonic Youth and Pussy Galore moved to New York soon after. We were just one of the bands revolving around Sonic Youth. Yeah.
AD: Yeah. I feel like I should ask, just in case the microphone picks up: Do you do you have a snoring dog over there?
J Mascis: Yeah.
AD: What kind of dog do you have and what’s your dog’s name, if you don’t mind?
J Mascis: Candy. She’s a bulldog.
AD: Well, she sounds adorable via the ‘ole snores.
J Mascis: Yeah, she definitely…I’ve been doing some interviews and people have noticed for sure.
AD: I’m going to credit her as a guest on the podcast too. You mentioned Kurt Vile. He worked with you on your first solo album under your own name too and you guys recorded a Dead cover for the Day of the Dead compilation and some other stuff. Kurt seems like a pretty cool guy to hang out with. What inspired you guys to get together for work together on this new album?
J Mascis: I think like a record label wanted somebody to be involved to make it somewhat different than the other albums and yeah. He just came to mind and they liked the idea since I’ve worked with him before. That lightened up the mood a lot when we’re recording. It can get a bit grim, you know? Me, Lou and Murph playing the same song like 50 times. We don’t practice anymore. We just immediately start recording. The first many takes are just trying to learn the song. In the old days, we would have practiced and know the songs before we start recording. But now I just feel like, “Eh, Might as well just record it.” So it makes it seem a lot more tedious because you’re recording the same song for a while until it gels together, you know. Like the drum parts I have in mind for Murph. It takes them a while to sink into his head.
AD: And you said, Kurt would sort of help lighten up the mood in some ways. He’d kind of have a fresh vibe?
J Mascis: Yeah. Exactly. He’s crack some jokes.
AD: He’s a funny dude, it seems to me.
J Mascis: Yeah. I know a lot of people are surprised, from his music, what he’s like when you meet him. It’s, you know, some people can’t reconcile the two: the person and his music. Like, “That’s the guy who does that music?”
AD: Yeah. You two sort of share a little bit of a certain common ground. I mean, there’s certainly a kind of Neil Young and country thing that it seems like you guys share. But beyond that, there’s a sort of this thing that happens when you embrace simplicity or repetition in a lick. You guys both kind of do that a lot. I was thinking about how one of the things I revisited was your J and Friends Sing and Chant for Amma, which is dedicated to, how do I say Amma’s name? Her full title?
J Mascis: Her full title is Mata Amritānandamayī. People usually call her Amma Chi.
AD: I really liked that one. I had somehow missed it when it originally came out. But I wonder, do you ever approach…Was it almost like musical meditation? Before I make any assumptions, is that sort of the idea there: the chanting and what you were doing on that?
J Mascis: Uh yeah. In a way. It’s like a spiritual practice. Yeah, I guess.
AD: Does that ever enter into your records with Dinosaur Jr. or any of the side projects or anything? Is that something that creeps in there for you, at least personally?
J Mascis: Yeah. It can creep in a little bit. Yeah.
AD: I wonder if you don’t mind telling me a little bit about [your spiritual practice], unless it feels too weird to talk about something so personal.
J Mascis: Yeah, I guess it feels a little weird. I don’t know what to say about it, really.
AD: Well, we could maybe stick more with some specifics. Do you meditate generally? Is that something that you do on a daily basis?
J Mascis: Not anymore. Yeah. I guess since I had a kid. Before I had a kid, I was more kind of doing it a lot, but now more sporadically.
AD: Yeah, because you’ve got a person who needs your attention, I mean a fair amount of time. I imagine.
J Mascis: Yeah. I don’t know. But I keep it in mind.
AD: Sure, sure. That’s a cool record. And then there is the song on the Fog which also references, the first Fog record, that also referenced her, which is like an interesting…it seems to me like Dinosaur Jr. doesn’t necessarily explore the same sort of thematic, you know, scope. But there is always sort of this recognition of your place in the universe. I even think of the title, Sweep It Into Space, you know? Just sort of this wondering where, you know, when you sit down to write a song, what that usually looks like. You mentioned that you guys don’t necessarily have the songs down when you head into the studio. Do you usually have like the lyrics written up?
J Mascis: No.
AD: So you have to do that on the spot to some degree?
J Mascis: Yeah. After the take is done and I have to sing it, then I’ll have to write the lyrics. Yeah.
AD: Do you usually have something at least as like a placeholder lyric? Or do you just sort of come to it whole cloth and approach it after it’s done?
J Mascis: I might have a phrase or something and lately I’d end up using the phrase I’ve been singing to try to fit into the lyrics or something.
AD: Yeah. Well, we talked a little bit about some of your early days. I wonder if we could go back a little bit to earlier in your life and you could tell me who some of the guitarists were that made you want to first play music?
J Mascis: Well, when I played drums, I wanted to be in between Charlie Watts, Ian Paice, and John Bonham. I was trying to be somewhere in between those. Guitar, I was like Ron Asheton, Greg Sage, from the Wipers, and Keith and Mick Taylor from The Stones. Those were kind of my things I was trying to combine.
AD: You were always pretty into the Stones, it seems. Would you learn to play a lot of that stuff at the time?
J Mascis: Uh no. I’ve never learned any songs on guitar particularly unless they just kind of came to me easily. I never sat down and tried to learn. I remember one Wipers song just came to me really easily. I was sort of amazed by that. But yeah. I never tried. I mean I did try to play a lot of songs when I was learning drums. I learned a lot of songs, but with guitar I was just trying to write songs and I didn’t know how to play well enough to really copy stuff. I wasn’t really—yeah, I just picked up the guitar to write songs and be in a band, so I wasn’t trying to play other people’s songs.
AD: Do you remember what your first guitar was? What was the first guitar that you got your hands on? Like the model.
J Mascis: I mean the first one I bought was a Jazzmaster. I borrowed some before that. I borrowed a Hondo Les Paul, that Lou had when we were in Deep Wound and I think I had some Sears guitar somebody gave me.
AD: Where were Hondo’s made? Are they Japanese?
J Mascis: Yeah.
AD: They’re pretty okay copies, right? Generally?
J Mascis: Eh, it wasn’t too good.
AD: So when you got a Jazzmaster, were you sort of already involved in the hardcore? Yeah, you said you’d already been playing in Deep Wound. Jazzmasters weren’t really the most common guitar in that scene, I don’t imagine.
J Mascis: No, I got the guitar to form Dino and I thought just from my concept of what the band was going, I thought a Fender would be good. I don’t know why I thought so. I wanted to just kind of do strumming, I don’t know, I just thought I should get a Fender and that was the one I could afford. They were cheap back then. Yeah, I just kind of learned how to play on that guitar.
AD: How has it felt having Fender come to you and ask about making signature models and stuff. You’ve got a Squier signature model and a Fender. Has that been a cool gratifying thing? Thinking back on those early days when you got a Jazzmaster and then eventually they’ve got your name on one. Is that a pretty cool feeling?
J Mascis: Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s pretty weird.
AD: Yeah. How did that work? Did they call you and get ideas for the guitar or specs or anything like that?
J Mascis: Yeah. Actually, the first guy that approached me was—I guess Fender was in Arizona at that time. The guy from Arizona and yeah, I just said, “I want this and that.” Nothing too crazy. Jumbo frets and I don’t know.
AD: You have a pretty fair amount of guitars. Is there ever a thing that you could say you’re looking for in a guitar that inspires you to find one? How do you go about collecting guitars, if there’s any sort of metric or guideline?
J Mascis: First, you’re just trying to cover all the sounds. Like having a palette to work from like, “Oh, I want to be able to get this sound and that sound.” So that’s kind of where it starts: trying to get all the sounds that I might want. And then now I also I think if the guitar might have any songs in it or not—it’s a big consideration for me. Also, I like old guitars. I think maybe some of them could have a lot of songs in them or something.
AD: You know what’s funny is that I would almost wonder if there’s a part of me that would have thought, “Yeah, that seems like a weird way to think about it”, but I actually picked up a very, very old guitar recently from the from the ’50s and I got a sense of exactly what you’re talking about. This feeling of like, “Wow. This thing’s been used to make music for a really, really long time.” Like somehow, maybe something does get in there, you know? You’ll have a sense of that when you look at something or play something maybe?
J Mascis: You’re hoping. It’s hard to tell exactly, but yeah, certain guitars just feel good and you hope something will come of it.
AD: When you guys went into the studio for this, did you bring a lot of guitars or do you sort of show up and use what they have at the studio? What’s your approach as far as getting that? Because you have a pretty dialed in signature sound, you know? But I’m sure you also are interested in exploring different tones and different palettes and all that stuff. Do you usually have a sort of in mind, “I think these are the guitars that I’m mostly going to use on any given project”?
J Mascis: Oh yeah. I guess it depends on the song, too. You go, “Oh this might sound good on this song” and then I’ll have some…or the song I’ve written that, I mean the guitar I’ve written the song on, I might want to use that on it and/or I have some new guitars that I might just want to use. I mean they also, for like practical reasons, like I had a St. Vincent guitar that Ernie Ball gave me and it just plays way more in tune than like an older guitar. So if I have a capo on the 9th fret, a lot of the old guitars won’t really play too well and tune up there. This new guitar plays perfectly in tune, so I’d use that.
AD: Have you ever run into St Vincent like backstage or something and said like, “Hey, I use your guitar?”
J Mascis: I have a met her, but before I had her guitar.
AD: Yeah, I mean that probably would be a good topic of conversation, but that’s cool. Those things are really interesting looking. Very interesting shape.
J Mascis: Yeah.
AD: You had mentioned that Ron Asheton was one of the big guitar guys for you. How did you first meet him? And then, you know, how did you guys start playing together for the time that you did?
J Mascis: When I met him, he was recording with Don Fleming and Steve Shelley for the Velvet Goldmine movie, I think I met him. His sound on the first Stooges album, that’s like the holy grail sound that I’m always chasing. And then when I, and Mike Watt played on that record too, so when I was touring with Mike Watt, when we played in Ann Arbor I said, “Hey, Mike. You should call up Ron and have him come down and jam” because we were doing a couple Stooges songs because Watt always liked to sing Stooges stuff. And then just from there, I just played with them more and more.
AD: What was it like to play with somebody who sort of had like a formative influence? Were you surprised by anything that you saw him doing or tricks? From having listened to the records, you assumed you knew what he was doing, but then when you’re standing next to him, you realize it’s a whole different approach or things like that?
J Mascis: Yeah, it was cool to learn how to how he played the songs, and it didn’t seem like he had lost anything. He just sounded the same kind of when he played. I don’t know if he’s just been playing in his basement for years, but he’s still as good as he was back then. It’s cool to see him play in person.
AD: Yeah, I did an interview with two of the guys from Teenage Fanclub and I was talking with them about how they had played with Alex Chilton, you know? And I was, in my brain, I was so hung up on like “So what was it like to play with somebody who was like a hero,” and they were like, “Well it was great and we loved playing with Alex, but the key to doing it is that we didn’t ask him weird questions about what it was like to be in Big Star or anything like that. We just played music with him, you know? We just tried to respect the moment.” And I wonder if it was similar for you with Ron where it was just a thing where you’re just focused on what’s happening. Is it easy to be in the moment when something like that’s happening? It could be very tempting to lapse into a sort of, “I can’t believe this is going on” sort of thing.
J Mascis: I think I probably felt more comfortable with Ron than they might have felt with Alex Chilton, but yeah. I could ask him any questions. It wasn’t that weird. He was psyched that he was playing and that people liked him and his brother, Scott Asheton, we started playing with him. I really got along with him too. I just felt like they were, you know, easy guys to hang out with. They weren’t like each other, but they were both easy to hang out with.
AD: Yeah. Yeah. You’ve worked a lot with Mike Watt, right? When did you guys first meet?
J Mascis: Uh, I mean when he was in Firehose. I had seen Minutemen a few times and I met D. Boon and I gave him a Deep Wound record, but I didn’t talk to Mike Watt until he was in Firehose and I don’t know if I saw them or we played with them. But yeah, that’s when I first met him.
AD: He’s a guy who, it seems like he’s just inexhaustible in terms of his energy. Is that a pretty exciting thing in a collaborator? Somebody who is that sort of jazzed to make stuff?
J Mascis: Sure, it always helps. Yeah.
AD: Yeah. It seems to me, when you when you’re off with various bands, like I’m thinking of all sorts of stuff. The Sweet Apple record comes to mind. Like all this stuff like where you’ll go off and you’ll do something or thinking about which you play drums in. How often do you play drums these days?
J Mascis: I play a little bit, you know. I just kinda try to play a couple of minutes a day or something just to kind of bang around a little bit.
AD: Do you have any projects that you’re playing drums on right now?
J Mascis: Mm hm. Yeah. Just a solo album. I was playing drums.
AD: So you’re working on another solo album? You’d already mentioned that. And an instrumental record?
J Mascis: Oh yeah, I played drums on that.
AD: What’s the vibe of this instrumental record? Is it pretty all focused in one sort of zone or is it all over the place? What’s the field?
J Mascis: Yeah, it’s a little all over the place. The first Heavy Blanket album kind of sounded all the same, but this one’s a little bit different. And a couple of the songs I recorded with the intention of being a Witch album, but the singer didn’t want to sing on stuff he hadn’t written or something and we just never did anything with them. And then there’s a song that I was trying to- kind of a tribute in my mind to Fleetwood Mac/Danny Kirwan. Kind of his songs.
AD: That’s cool. That’s not always… There’s so many different eras of Fleetwood Mac, you know? But the Danny Kirwan stuff is really cool. I can’t remember if he’s on that Future Games album. That’s a really cool one. I think he is.
J Mascis: Yeah. I’m fuzzy on that too. I mostly listened to the Peter Green ones he’s on.
AD: Sure, sure. Was Peter Green a pretty big influence? I mean back when you when you were growing up or did that that show up much later?
J Mascis: No. Much later. Like it’s funny how things come in. Like I remember when Alex Chilton and Big Star became—when I started listening to that. There are different things like our first tour without Lou and we had Donna Biddle. We went to Australia. That’s when I first started listening to Big Star. I don’t know. Yeah, different periods I remember getting into. But yeah, Fleetwood Mac was definitely way later. Yeah.
AD: Did you have any of the sort of like typical, when you were younger, did you have this sort of punk aversion to things like that? Did you get sort of hung up on the punk dogma side of things at any point in your life?
J Mascis: Yeah. At some point I just couldn’t understand why you’d want to listen to any other music but hardcore. And I sold some of my records. I was really focused on that which was really just happening all around me. That’s what I was in doing. I just couldn’t understand all the old stuff I listen to. I just kind of wasn’t really, yeah. I just couldn’t understand it anymore. I was just really focused on that. But then it kind of seemed to end and then I wasn’t into it anymore. Then I was trying to figure out what to be into because I still like music. That’s kind of when the Birthday Party came in. They were like a big band for post-hardcore people. I think it’s just like the step out of hardcore into other music or something.
AD: Was encountering that stuff—it is obviously a step away from hardcore, but it’s still really commanding and powerful and all that stuff. Did it sort of feel almost like a bridge into other stuff?
J Mascis: I guess so. It just seemed like hardcore ended one day and if you still want to listen to music it’s like, “Oh yeah. This seems like a good place to start.”
AD: At that point, did you start expanding in a lot of different directions? When did sort of the more post-punky stuff, like yo interest in the Cure or something like that sort of come in?
J Mascis: Oh, that was like kind of around before punk and all that. And all the post-punk stuff, I was listening to during punk. And so I guess after the post-hardcore period, I started listening to a lot of…There’s also a lot of the bands that sounded kind of like R.E.M. Like the Neats and R.E.M. and Green On Red and Dream Syndicate. Those kind of bands, and I liked New Order and, you know, the Birthday Party was the big thing. But yeah.
AD: Yeah, that whole thing like Green On Red and the sort of slightly like psychedelic-tinged stuff, Paisley Underground maybe is what some people would call it, that’s interesting that there was a little bit of that because it feels like the psychedelic elements are all always there in Dinosaur Jr. Almost from the from the beginning, there’s at least touches of that, and that’s a pretty interesting thing. The SST bands. It felt like they sort of once the hardcore thing, the template was established, everybody broke it and just moved in different directions. Did you like records, like the Black Flag records, where it’s almost experimental improv and stuff like, I’m thinking of like Family Man. Were you kind of turned on by the fact that people were exploring different templates and blowing the format up a little bit?
J Mascis: Yeah, if it was good, you know. Yeah. Black Flag. It was like sort of hit and miss. Like I liked some of it and of course I like their earlier stuff, but as they went on I liked some songs and then some songs I didn’t like him. But yeah, I was open to anything that if I liked it.
AD: How about the influence of you know, you covered Mazzy Star on a record and that was a really cool cover. Was the sort of quote-unquote “slowcore” thing that was sort of happening, Dinosaur Jr was pretty much sort of in that slipstream to some degree. But it’s not always what people would think about. Were you interested in fans that were?
J Mascis: Yeah. Well he [Dave Roback] was, you know, in Rain Parade. I like that one when Dream Syndicate was out and stuff. So yeah. I liked his stuff. For sure.
AD: Yeah. Yeah. How about how did it feel when you first heard My Bloody Valentine? Did you like Loveless?
J Mascis: Yeah, but I like the stuff before Loveless better, I guess. I met them…They came to see us the first time we were in England and then some journalists said I should listen to it. They were at our show and said “you should check out this record.” That’s still my favorite record. The first one I got. That song “Thorn,” I really like. That’s the first EP I got. I guess You Make Me Realize EP and then I like their first album. But the thing with Loveless is like, I really like the drums and bass going crazy and then Kevin [Shields] and Bilinda [Butcher] just standing there singing. But with Loveless, it was kind of like, you know, Colm [Ó Cíosóig] was having a hard time. There wasn’t any drums. It was all drum machine stuff. So that element of it I wasn’t as into, but I liked a lot of the songs. But yeah, like the crazy drumming behind it better from before.
AD: You started off as a drummer. When you put on a record, I’m sure you’re listening to the overall record, but I’m curious if, as a listener, do your ears sort of focus in on the drums initially on stuff or do they focus in… Is there any specific element that you start once you get past the sort of, “Hey, this is a cool song,” do you start listening for specific things in music?
J Mascis: No, just whatever jumps out.
AD: Well this record is, like I said, it’s really cool and it’s exciting that you guys continue to do this stuff. And I, to close, I was wondering if we could discuss, you mentioned how things are—I’m curious, without fully formed songs necessarily, what informs the decision for Dinosaur Jr. to say, “Alright. Let’s go make another record.” Is there any one specific thing that sort of triggers it or do you just somehow know? I mean, do you guys talk back and forth and it presents itself when it’s right? How does it work for you guys?
J Mascis: A lot of it, it’s kind of like it’s back to the old SST days when they would say—like Mike Watt would say—that a record’s a flyer for the gig. Like the first Dino record we made, before we played many gigs, it was just so that we had something to give to clubs and so you could get gigs. It kind of feels like that again. It’s like the record is just, “Well we want to tour some more, so we should make any record so we can tour more.” That’s kind of the basic impetus. Once we’re burnt out from touring on the previous record and feel like we need some new songs to keep touring, like a new kick. The album’s like a kickoff to start touring again and have some new songs. So that’s why it’s weird now. I wasn’t sure we should put it out even yet, but it’s been a year, so people wanted to get it out. But it seems weird to put out a record now and not be able to tour.
AD: Well, I hope that when shows kick back up, that it’ll all work out OK. In the meantime, it’s exciting to have this record and I appreciate you taking the time to chat with me about it.
J Mascis: See you later. Bye.