- Posted on Feb 25th 2011 4:00PM by Eric R. Danton
Sub Pop Records
No, really: Mascis' new album, 'Several Shades of Why' (out March 15 on Sub Pop), finds the soft-spoken indie-rock hero strumming around on acoustic guitar and crooning sweetly about matters of the heart. 'Shades' will mean a return trip to SXSW, a frequent destination for Mascis over the past few years, and although he did a solo set last year, he says he's more comfortable in a band.
"It's more nerve-wracking for me to try to keep it going, to entertain the people by myself without extreme volume to hide behind," Mascis says.
Extreme volume has figured prominently in Mascis' worldview since his very first group, the short-lived western Massachusetts hardcore act Deep Wound, and chatting with Spinner, Mascis reminisced about the early days.
When did you know that music was your life?
With Dinosaur. We just wanted to give it a shot. I just wanted to make a living through music and not have to get a job. And we had Charlie [Nakajima], the Deep Wound singer, originally in Dinosaur, and we called it Mogo. And after one gig, I realized I didn't think that could happen with Charlie as the singer, so we kicked him out and formed Dinosaur. All the bands we liked were touring, the SST bands. That's what we wanted to do: Our goal was to be on SST Records and be able to tour, and we achieved that.
So you were a teenager?
Yeah, and in college. It was kind of like, stay in college until the band can make enough money that we can survive. College was like the buffer zone where my dad would pay for me to exist while I tried to make it in music.
What did you do growing up in Amherst before you were in bands?
I was playing the drums, learning in the school band and jamming with people. Depending on who I was jamming with, we'd try to do some Zeppelin tunes or Jeff Beck or Sabbath, before I discovered punk rock.
Where did you first hear punk?
Charlie, the singer from Deep Wound, turned me on to it. He was sort of the only punk in school.
Do you have a signature song?
Probably 'Freak Scene' for most people, and for me, 'Bulbs of Passion,' which was kind of the first song Dinosaur did where we were getting some kind of sound. The first album, we were fishing around trying to figure out what sound we had, because we just made it as soon as we formed, basically. And 'Bulbs of Passion' we recorded after the first album and I felt like we were on to something, like we were honing in on our own sound.
You started as a drummer. Who are your musical heroes on drums?
I have three drum heroes: John Bonham, Charlie Watts and Ian Paice, and I was trying to have a style that combined those three.
What about guitar?
I have Ron Asheton, and Greg Sage from the Wipers, and Mick Taylor and Keith Richards. When I was starting Dino and playing guitar, I was kind of drawing on those to form a style.
Catch J Mascis' SXSW Set on Friday, March 18 at Red 7 Patio (611 E 7th St.) 12:10AM,Wednesday, March 16 at La Zona Rosa (612 W 4th St.) 9PM and Friday, March 18 at Radio Day Stage Austin Convention Center (500 E Cesar Chavez St. Exhibit Hall D) 3:50PM.
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