J Mascis – My Life In Music

The Dinosaur Jr mainman shares his formative freak-outs: “Nick Cave was my fashion icon in college”

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The Dinosaur Jr mainman shares his formative freak-outs: “Nick Cave was my fashion icon in college”




Exile On Main Street


I remember my mom giving me money to go grocery shopping and I stopped at the record store first and bought <Exile…> – took that off the top and then spent the rest of the money on food. And, yeah, I still listen to it. There’s so many songs on it that you’re always discovering a different song. I like that it’s kinda murky-sounding, there’s something magical about it. I didn’t really know anything about [the legend of its making] as a kid. It was just the record itself, the sound. They seemed to be taking off, from surviving the ’60s and then suddenly jumping into something that I really liked. Their guitar-playing inspired me, Mick Taylor and Keith Richards together.



The Stooges


When I was maybe 11 or 12, I got the Rolling Stone Record Guide, and I would try to collect all the albums that had five stars. I definitely discovered a lot of stuff through that, like The Velvet Underground. I dunno if The Stooges got five stars, but somehow I got onto their first album. Something about it really spoke to me, especially the guitar sound. That inspired me, as a direction, to try to emulate it. I played with Ron Asheton a lot, and it was cool to learn how to play The Stooges’ songs the right way. I see people play ’em the wrong way and it just doesn’t sound right. There’s a lot of subtlety that people bulldoze over, usually.


The Album


The record store that sold punk and new wave stuff, the owner would go to England and buy cut-outs, so there’d be 50 copies of the Eater album when I was getting into punk. I would just buy anything that was punk and I somehow really latched on to that. I’d heard that the drummer was 14, and I was 14 or 15 when I heard it, so I related to that immediately. I also liked the fact they would speed up covers, which became a big thing in punk. They did “I’m Eighteen” by Alice Cooper, but made it “Fifteen” and sped it up a lot. I thought that was cool. I just liked the sound of it – it was like the music punk Velvet Underground fans would make, who are young.



4AD, 1982

The Birthday Party was a big band for me, coming out of hardcore. It seemed like the hardcore scene had kinda died, and we’re all looking for some new kind of music that has the same energy. That’s where The Birthday Party came in, and Junkyard was the album that I had. I remember my roommate at college really hated it, which I thought was good. He liked The Doors and he would go mental when I played The Birthday Party. So of course that appealed to me – any music that I liked that would annoy other people, I would play more. I was really into [Nick Cave] back then. I even would try to copy his dress sense and hair and stuff. He was like my fashion icon in college.


Over The Edge

TRAP, 1983

I decided that I was going to switch [from drums] to guitar to form a band, because I didn’t like any guitar players around. The sound I heard for guitar, nobody around my town was playing like that, so I decided I had to try it. Gerard Cosloy, who runs Matador, went to school with me – he was the manager of my hardcore band at the time, Deep Wound. And he told me about The Wipers. I hadn’t heard of it until I was in college and started playing guitar, and that soon became one of my main things I was trying to copy when I was learning guitar, so it was a big influence on my guitar playing. Not that I could copy it, but I tried.


On The Boards


I got into that way later, probably around [Dinosaur Jr’s 1994 album] <Without A Sound>. My bass player at the time Mike Johnson turned me on to Taste and Rory Gallagher, and that album I thought was really amazing. It really spoke to me and re-inspired me. He [Gallagher] just played differently than other people. His leads went weird places, so it caught my ear because it didn’t sound like something I would play, or anyone would play. Where he was going on the guitar was cool – it was just different-sounding and very intense and immediate. There’s some great songs on the first Taste album, but the second one is good all the way through.


Bee Thousand

SCAT, 1994

That was something my brother actually turned me on to. He had seen Guided By Voices and I was feeling very kinda jaded on the whole music scene at the time. Knowing that this band’s older than me and they seem more enthusiastic and the whole album is so awesome, it definitely gave me a kick. Even when they’re in the basement, it was as if they were in a big studio. Everything about it, they were really going for it. We just played with them in Dayton – they did a 40th anniversary or something. That was pretty cool, to play with them in their hometown. They’ve always had a lot of friends hanging around, so it was cool seeing all their drinking buddies, the local crew.


I’ve Got My Own Album To Do


It’s always been a favourite of mine. I had all these Stones albums, and I was looking for more Stones, anything, and I found out about this Ron Wood album. Mick and Keith are on there, and it’s great to hear Ron and Keith singing together – I wish they would do that more often. When I was on Warners, my A&R man asked me if I wanted to re-release anything. I said, “Oh yeah, it’d be cool if you guys would put out the Ron Wood album on CD.” And when they did, they sent it to Jay Farrar, who ended up covering one of the songs on the first Son Volt album. At one point, I got to tell Ron Wood that, so that was exciting.


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