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J Mascis

J Mascis

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Friday 20th February, 2015 10:23AM

J Mascis is notorious as a difficult artist to interview. There is a long chain of evidence of the Dinosaur Jr frontman giving awkward interviews, like this one from 1993 on American music show Alternative Nation, and right up to this very day Mascis still has a blatant dislike of talking about his work. He also hates reading reviews about his music. But one thing he does like is playing guitar, thank god, because he's pretty fucking excellent at it. And when he's not busy with Dinosaur Jr (or watching daytime TV, which he has a well-known fondness of), he spends time at his home studio writing solo music. The latest fruit of his lone labour is Tied To A Star, a full-length record which came out last year and is characterised by an intriguing blend of both electric and acoustic guitar work that underpins his melancholy-tinged tunes. UnderTheRadar spoke to Mascis in the wake of the album's release, and with his impending visit to these shores for a four-date tour we thought we would share the resulting conversation with you...

UTR: Hi J, Where are you at the moment?

JM: At home.

Are you doing a lot of interviews today?

Yea. Quite a few.

I’ve watched and read quite a lot of interviews with you, and it kinda seems like you don’t like doing them very much. Or are you just not a big talker?

Yeah. I guess I don’t like them too much [long pause] it’s kind of a weird way to talk, or something.

How are you feeling now that Tied To A Star has been out for awhile, what kind of reception have you have had?

Ah, so far so good. I haven’t really got out and played or anything. I haven’t seen, like, my public. I haven’t talked to too many people about it.

Do you read reviews?

Not really. I can’t deal with reading reviews.

What do you mean?

Oh, they just drive me crazy. Even if they are good I find something to hate about it.

Fair enough. It seems like it would be hard having people impose their thoughts on your creative output. That would be strange.

Yeah, totally. It’s annoying.

I read you recorded the album at home, is that right?

Yeah, I did it all at home.

What’s the studio set up like in your house?

It’s on like the top floor of my house.

So do you self-record or do you get someone in to help with it?

I get an engineer to help.

And how did you find recording this album, compared to your previous solo work. What was the process like?

It was much the same, I guess. I just sit there and hoping to come up with some stuff I like, so I feel like I’m not wasting my time.

So when you step into the studio, the songs aren’t fully written?

Well, the music’s mostly all written. The lyrics I have to come up with along the line. And we’ll change the songs a little bit. Or like on the third song ['Heal The Star'], the second half of it is a jam that I did on guitar and we added stuff on top of it.

You also did a track with Chan Marshall (aka Cat Power), how did that collaboration come about?

I just thought her voice would sound good on the song, so I tried to get her on it.

Did it take much convincing?

I just texted her. I mean, she was into it, it was just hard to pin her down and finally get her to actually do it. But she always seemed to want to do it.

Are you guys friends?

Yeah, I know her a bit.

How do you divide your time between dividing your solo work and your work with Dinosaur Jr?

Um, I just kind of do the solo stuff when I’m not doing the Dinosaur stuff, I guess that’s kind of a priority. And when I have time I can do the solo stuff.

Do you spend most of your days working on music?

I set aside time to write for this album. I spent a couple of month writing it, and now I’m not writing anything. I’m trying to sing a little bit to get ready to tour.

I’ll just ask you one last question, what’s your favourite song on Tied To A Star?

I guess the first song. I just like it somehow. I usually put the song I like first.

Here's a recent video J Mascis playing 'Me Again' (aka the first song off Tied To A Star) live at the Converse Red Light Sessions...

J Mascis is playing a handful of New Zealand shows next week, kicking off with a performance at Dux Live in Chrischurch on Thursday 26th February. Head over here for more details and to buy tickets.


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