Formed in Massachusetts in the early ’80s from the disparate ends of quasi hardcore band Deep Wound, Dinosaur (the Jr. came later) originally featured J, Murph and Lou Barlow.
Eventually, the bad mojo between J and Lou prompted Barlow’s departure in 1989. Barlow poured the resulting resentment into all of those tasty manic-depressive songs that came with his successive band, Sebadoh. After years being left to most of us as a classic indie band that spurred a generation of indie rock, Dinosaur Jr are reforming after the re-release of the first 3 albums “Bug”, “Dinosaur” and “You’re Living All Over Me” on Sweet Nothing Records here in the UK.
J. Mascis has a reputation of being one of the hardest people in music to interview due to his presence being much like a sloth! In an interview years ago he described himself as the kid in the high school cafeteria who was always making animal sculptures out of his food. Zac phoned him for a chat one Friday afternoon so see if this was all true and this is what went down…by the way, if you read Zac’s questions like he is on speed and J. Mascis” answers like he is whacked out on valium, it will all make sense.
How’s it going J?
Pretty good. (drawled out!)
Where are you at right now?
I’m at home.just getting up.it was kind of a late night so.I guess I have been woken up by an interview. So…
Ah, did I wake you?
Well if you are up and about, I have some questions for you fella.
Full name please mate?
Joseph E. Mascis Jnr…
Is there a senior then?
Yeah, there was…he’s dead though.
(Oh shit, not a good start. Quickly moving on!)
Where were you born?
What was your first job?
I worked at the public works to unblock the sewers and the sidewalks. After a week I got a job at a gas station so I quit.I used to just sit around. (it took him ages to say this!)
What gets you out of bed in the morning apart from people like me interviewing you?
I have been trying to record some solo stuff, I walk my dog, and this and that.
What kind of dog you have? I would at a guess have you down to own a Bloodhound.
Nah.I have a bulldog.
I know they say that some dogs look like their owners, is there an affiliation there J?
Er. I don’t know.(as he says this, he laughs, I feel like I have finally cracked him) my dog can skateboard a little bit too.
Really?! Haha, has this been going on for a while?
Yeah, have you seen the footage of a skateboarding bulldog on the internet?
Yeah, I have seen it, is that your dog?
Nah, my dog is like that dog, she can do it a little bit but she is not as good. Haha!
Wow, it sounds like your Bulldog is better than me on a deck mate!
Let’s talk Deep Wound, how long did that band last?
A couple of years I guess.
What kind of bands did you play with in the punk scene at that time?
Er…we played with SSD, DOA, MDC…er..Haha!.
Any bands without 3 capital letters in the title or was that not aloud?!
Nah, there were others..Jerry’s Kids, The FU’s and others… (laughs!)
Is it true that your Mum actually knitted you a Deep Wound cardigan?
Yep, she did. In fact my wife wears that now!
Lou Barlow has had some pretty bad sweaters along the way as well huh? Would he beat you in a bad sweater wardrobe comp?
Yeah, most definitely, he is a huge sweater guy!
Who gets the J.Mascis vote for the worst dressed man in Rock and Roll?
It’s hard to say.. (huge silence)…Eric Clapton I guess. He made all the hippies wear suit coats and cut their hair and cured beards!
I heard that you love your hardcore and punk rock, what are your fave bands from back then that you still play at home now?
Yeah I do. Negative Approach, Minor Threat, Bad Brains..in fact I was just talking to some kids yesterday at this show who were into hardcore when they were kids, and I said, “when I was your age I used to go and see Minor Threat play” and they were freaked out. Haha!
I guess Minor Threat were, and still are one of those seminal HC bands from DC that will always carry respect. I hear that you are into English Punk Rock and Oi too, do you still have affection for that style of music?
Yeah, I still listen to bands like Blitz, The 4-Skins, Disorder, Chaotic Dischord, The Business and others.
The Business are still going strong here.
Oh really, the same band on Captain Oi?
Yeah man. What about Upside Down Cross, you played drums in that band right? Would ever consider going backwards to playing punk rock again?
Well, it’s funny you say that because at the moment I’m in a band called Witch. We have only played one show and we are kind of more Sabbath oriented. I play drums and there are 2 kids in the band about 22, and another 2 guys who are like 39 years old. Those kids in fact just listened to Upside Down Cross yesterday and they were like “whoa, you were in this band?” Haha!
Skateboarding and Dinosaur Jr always went hand in hand and still do in the naughties, why is that?
I dunno, I have no idea! We went to LA on the Bug tour and there were all these skaters everywhere. We met Neil Blender and some other guys and I always let them use the music and stuff.
So are you proud to be associated with skateboarding then?
Yeah I guess, sometimes I even get sent t-shirts and skateboards here!
Did you ever skate back in the day?
Yeah, mostly we would skate quarter pipes, 8 foot high ramps and stuff. I mean this was long ago now.
Do you remember what your first board was?
My first skateboard was a Flight. They were like this company that ripped off Alva. I had Mid Tracks and red Kryptonics 65’s…until my Dad gave it away.
Neil Blender did some art for you, do you remember which sleeves?
Yeah….he’s done several record covers for me like Without a Sound, J.Mascis and The Fog, Leaving on a Jet Plane 7″, and the back cover of another one.
Have you seen any recent skateboarding? What are your thoughts on it?
I see various stuff from Alien Workshop as Neil Blender sends me stuff. It’s cool I guess.
What was it like playing in The Stooges?
That was cool. I was playing with Mike Watt and we invited Ron (Asheton) to jam with us and then after that we played a gig at All Tomorrows Parties in LA, then got offered a tour. The Stooges then got back together with Iggy and then I was out.
How did you feel about that?
Haha, well, I was stoked they were back together but I was bummed to be left out!
What happened with Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie clobbering a fan in the crowd at the Shepherds Bush Empire?
Some guy spat on him, so he pummeled him with an iron mic stand. Yeah, whilst singing No Fun of all songs…it wasn’t nice.
Any plans to write with Mike Watt right now?
No. No plans.
So is it just Dinosaur JR related stuff that is on your horizon right now then?
Yeah, that’s all that happening now, kinda.
What kind of set will you be playing? Have you started rehearsing for it?
Well, I guess we will practice a couple of times and then play a couple of shows here in the US and then come over to see you guys.
What made you reform after all these years?
I dunno, the first three records were gonna get re-released and we had some offers.
So, you are playing the Download Festival this year here in the UK.
Yeah, I don’t know much about this festival though..
Black Sabbath are playing, Iggy is on, Slayer and others and there is a monster Snickers Bowl with Steve Caballero and loads of other guys who will be killing it.
Cool. I think we will miss some of those bands though as we have to go to Europe after our set.
Looking back, what was the best time throughout your Dinosaur Jr peak?
Maybe the best time was the first tour. We opened for Sonic Youth and that was the best time we had.
Lou Barlow mentioned that he was kicked out of Dinosaur and then worked as an orderly at a VA hospital, do have the same plans for him again?!
Haha!. Maybe, that was a good one!
Have you guys kept a relationship since Dinosaur split?
Yeah, kind of. I just see him once in a while around. I haven’t talked to him much.
Have you heard his new solo album EMOH yet?
Yeah, it’s alright. He played here recently; it was alright..folky stuff you know. I like some songs on the last Sebadoh record, I was kind of overdosed on Lou though, but maybe I should go listen to more of his stuff.
Is The Fog on ice then?
Nah, I have been recording, there will be a record at some point.
Freak Scene has gone down as one of those classic alternative tracks ever. Where were you when you wrote that song and what influenced its lyrics?
Er…I know I was in New York going to college at the time. The track is about the people I knew, a kind of mish-mash of relationships.
I have had numerous arguments over the correct chords for ‘Freak Scene’ (Mike Vallely, ‘Speed Freaks’) Please spill the beans.
You know what, I don’t know the chords but I will play it for you when I come over, how’s that?
Sounds good to me. OK, I have some stupid Quickfire questions here for ya, ready?
Ok, go for it.
So, what’s your fave Dinosaur?
Er. Shit. I guess a Stegosaurus or a T-Rex.
Tea or coffee?
Both I guess, but if I had to go with one…er..nah, both! Fuck it! I can do what I want!
George Bush or Death?
Drum solo or guitar solo?
Guitar..how many good drum solo’s have you heard?
True..OK smart arse – Minor Threat or Black Flag?
Oh, that’s tough. I guess I would choose Minor Threat as they really spoke to me at the time. That was when I realised that other kids were into punk. I was already straightedge in this hippy town and rebelling about people doing drugs and I thought all punks were junkies and stuff until I heard Minor Threat. I could then relate to the whole scene because I wasn’t alone anymore.
Spontaneous combustion or suicide?
Spontaneous combustion sounds great! Doing it anywhere would be cool.
Street hockey or Mercury Rev?*
Ooh, I have to go with street hockey!
* = A personal one that relates to J.Mascis kicking Mercury Rev off a tour back in the day as they played Street Hockey in the sound check warm ups. He hated it and kicked them off the tour allegedly!
Fog or Rain?
Folk Implosion or Sebadoh?
Sebadoh, but with Eric Gaffney.
Mudhoney or Nirvana?
Er…Nirvana I suppose.
Pain or pleasure?
Rock, fire or scissors?
Okay I got scissors, so you win Joseph!
I’m out of here, enjoy reforming Dinosaur Jr with Murph and Lou for the tour, see you soon.
The first 3 Dinosaur Jr albums have been re-released on Sweet Nothing Records out now and the band with the original line up will play at the Forum in London on 8th and 9th of June then at the Download Festival on 10th June. Don’t miss them.