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- Posted on Apr 8th 2011 1:00PM by Eric R. Danton
All the same, the Dinosaur Jr. singer and electric axeman, who plays drums for Witch and Sweet Apple in his spare time, traded in his usual instruments for an acoustic guitar on his new solo album, 'Several Shades of Why,' out now on Sub Pop.
It's a tuneful record, full of reflective almost-love songs augmented by guests including Kurt Vile, Sophie Trudeau of A Silver Mount Zion, Kevin Drew of Broken Social Scene, Ben Bridwell of Band of Horses and more. And yet, there was one would-be player who got away. Mascis tells Spinner who, and gives us some insight into his new, softer side.
Did you write these songs for this album, or were they tunes you had hanging around?
Mostly, I wrote them for this album. A few I had hanging around. I wanted to just not have drums on it and be acoustic and have some limitations to try to steer the album in a different direction than the stuff I normally do.
Why no drums?
I was planning on doing an acoustic album, and I wanted to try to keep it that way. If you start with drums, it's a slippery slope and then electric guitar comes in and then it ends up sounding the same as everything else I'd done.
You've said in the past that electric guitar sounds wimpy compared to drums. Where does that leave acoustic guitar?
In a way, acoustic is less wimpy feeling than electric, because it's harder to play and you end up playing it more percussively than electric. But it still doesn't get that loud, ultimately. It's a different way to play, trying to get a sound out of an acoustic.
When did you start planning this album?
Megan [Jasper] from Sub Pop had been asking me to do it for a long time, because I used to play quite a bit acoustic shows, and she was into that, she wanted me to make an album like that. It's been quite a while in the works. Maybe eight years.
Why so long?
I guess the Dino reunion happened and just kept going, so it kind of got pushed to the back burner a little bit.
Was there something in particular you wanted these songs to express?
Just trying to communicate somehow with other people, or hoping you can have some successful communication. I usually have some good songs, and if they're good, they're sad somehow. Sad good songs, I guess that's what I was after. I'm not a fan of happy songs.
It's a change from the early Dinosaur songs, which seemed like they were about alienation.
It's probably just where I'm at in my life. If I was an alienated teenager, I'm sure they would sound more alienated.
Where are you at this point?
An alienated middle-aged person. [Laughs]
There are a bunch of guests 'Several Shades of Why.' Was there anyone you wanted and didn't get?
I had one instance where I was like, maybe I should get Derek Trucks to play a guitar, and he was the only guy who said no. I don't know him, either, and I know all the other people. There was just one song, I like his guitar playing, and it seemed like it would be good for that one song.
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