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June 13, 2007 | Author: Steve Tauschke

Two decades after sparking in an indie-rock explosion, American power trio Dinosaur Jr is back, remastered and reunited for a new generation. Steve Tauschke speaks with singer-guitarist J Mascis.

Dino JrIf you’re searching for the missing link between Neil Young’s 70s proto-grunge and the Seattle rock phenomenon of the early 90s then look no further than Massachusetts’ favourite sons Dinosaur Jr. Quite distinct from the J Mascis’ solo vehicle of the 90s, the original incarnation of Dinosaur Jr was arguably at its peak, producing a triumvirate of incendiary albums culminating in the 1989 classic Bug, and its pre-Nirvana grunge anthem Freak Scene. Now, on the back of 2005’s back catalogue re-issues and last year’s reformation world tour, Mascis, bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Murph have recorded Beyond, the trio’s first studio album in 18 years.

So what was the initial catalyst to get back together?
“These albums were coming out again and we thought we could try it out and see if we could promote the album somehow and see if it’d work.”

What do you make of the recent spate of reunions; Pixies, Lemonheads, etc?
“I like Mission Of Burma, they were kind of an inspiration and they seemed to be better now than they used to be back then – and they’re even older than us and that was a big help to see that it could be good, you know.”

So how did it feel reconvening with Murph and especially Lou after so long?
“I mean when we first played together it kind of felt the same, like no time had passed. It was kind of strange how it sounded the same. But I guess we’re a bit more consistent or something. We don’t fall apart as much these days.”

Do you mean musically or personally?
“Probably both.”

Was there tension in the room initially?
“Yeah, a little bit but not nearly as much as the bad days. It’s interesting to see that while there’s not much tension there’s still some energy there. There’s something there besides tension, which is good. The shows and stuff went better than I thought they would.”

What are your lasting memories from the early days of the band, pre-1990?
“I know that I like playing better now than I used to and I’m trying to figure out why. I often wonder why we stuck it out and kept playing when we didn’t have any fans and even more than that, people actively disliked us when we played, especially people who worked in the clubs. We got bottles thrown at us from soundmen and if you’re really loud and have no fans it drives people away. So I just wonder how we kept going because we weren’t great friends or anything and we had no fans and somehow we kept playing.”

Well, the new album Beyond is out, recorded at Bisquiteen, your home studio .. do you physically record in the same way you used to?
“Nah, it’s different because there’s no time limit specifically so the pressure’s off in that way and you can create your own time which isn’t the best thing. So you’ve got to try to figure out ways to make it end.”

You obviously enjoy recording with John Agnello?
“I’d been working with him since 1992 and I think he’s a good engineer and knows how to get good sounds. I get along with him and it’s easy to work with him.”

Tell us about the DVD that’s coming out?
“It’s mainly one show we did at ‘The Middle East’ in Boston and the crowd wasn’t overly enthusiastic and I liked that better than the shows where everyone was going crazy in the audience because that seemed like a better representation of the band because we had to win people over in the early days.”

I have to say, you almost deafened me during your Barwon Club show in Geelong in 1989 … are you still using some of the same gear?
“Oh, that was a Big Muff Fuzzbox and I have a pedal that made it quieter before that so it seems like it gets louder. I still have the pedal but I don’t really have the old equipment I used to use, some if it got stolen a few months in New York ago, some Fender Jazzmaster guitars I’d had a long time, one from 1959 and one from ‘61. We have similar stuff but not the same.

“Fenders are what I learned to play on first and I got used to them I guess and developed my style around them. I have a ‘58 Jazzmaster and a ‘66 Jazzmaster. Fender’s making a Jazzmaster model, a J Mascis model and I have a proto type of that one that I use. I have two 100-watt Plexi Marshalls and a Victoria Tweed Twin copy and maybe a Hi-watt amp also. I change different pedals now and again but I have a Big Muff and an Electric Mistress, those have been my main ones for a long time and I have a Super Fuzz copy that’s actually made in Australia that I’ve been using.”

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