Dinosaur Jr. was one of handful of punk and alternative bands to emerge in the '70s and '80s that built their music around exploratory guitar playing. Along with earlier bands like Television, and such contemporaries as the Meat Puppets, Mascis' band demonstrated that there were more than two chords and attitude to be had in the alternative movement.
Well into his solo career, Mascis is touring in support of his latest release, "More Light." Though credited to J. Mascis and the Fog, "More Light" is a solo album in the truest sense. For touring purposes however, the Fog is real, featuring Dinosaur Jr. band mate George Gerz on drums, and the legendary Mike Watt, of Minutemen and Firehose fame on bass.
The Mag caught up with Mascis only minutes after he negotiated the snow drifts in his Massachusetts driveway after returning from the Australian leg of his tour, and less than a week before resuming stateside touring with a planned performance in Austin at SXSW with the Fog being joined by Ron Asheton, a founding member of the Stooges, and the man that drew the blueprint for punk guitar.
Q: I understand you were recently in India. Was that a vacation, or a pilgrimage?
A: Oh, I went to just hang out at this ashram of this Indian lady that comes to America a lot. She comes every year and I've seen her for like five years or something. I just thought I'd check out her scene in India.
Q: Was that your first trip over there?
A: Yeah, it was pretty wild. It's just so different. It's just so poor and stuff. It was really hardthe trip, so it makes me think everything else is easy like touring or anything.
Q: Do you go to an ashram when you're home?
A: She has one in California. She used to have one in New Hampshire but now she doesn't anymore.
Q: Do you practice a particular type of meditation? How would you describe your pursuit?
A: HmmmI dunnojust kind of hanging outher name is Ammachi and she goes around the world and basically she hugs people. All these people come up to her and she hugs each one individually and say some stuff in their earlike some mantras or something.
Q: Is that a therapeutic experience for you to get that hug?
A: Yeah, especially it was wild in India because we went to a place that was like her biggest gig so to speak. There was like 20,000 people she hugged in one dayso like two seconds per personwailin' through for like 18 hours or something. She doesn't get up the whole time. It was pretty wild; in America she might do 2,000 people in a day. But to see her hug 20,000 people was pretty wild.
Q: When did you first meet Mike Watt?
A: I think I met him right at the beginning of Firehose, but I'd seen the Minutemen a few times when I was a kid. I gave D. Boone a record of my hardcore band at one of the shows.
Q: You played a show with Ron Asheton in Ann Arbor and you're gonna pick it up again at SXSW, have you known Ron for a while?
A: I met him when Watt was recording with him in New Yorkthe Wild Rats for the Goldmine movie He was there recording with Thurston, Don Fleming, Mike Watt and they had a band they called the Wild Rats for that movie.
Q: Were the Stooges a band you were listening to from a real young age?
A: Yeah, especially when I started playing guitar I was really imitating Ron Asheton a lot, trying to learn how to play.
Q: So how did it come together in Ann Arbor.
A: Actually I was in Ann Arbor to see that Indian lady, Ammachi a couple of years ago and my friend who I met there, he was from Iowa, he's really into the Stoogesthere his favorite band. I told him I'd met Ron Asheton, and I told him I could get his phone number probably if he wanted to call him and he got all freaked outlike "you call him". I'm like "I don't care, I've already met him, you call him. I don't wannaI can get you his number if you wanna call him." Well then he called him, but he wasn't home and that kind of led of led toI'd get emails from his girlfriend and stuffand when we were playing there she emailed and we called him up and asked if he wanted to come down and jam 'cause we'd been playing some Stooges' songs anyway cause I'd played some gigs earlier in the year with Mike Watt where we did all Stooges' covers. So we knew a lot of them.
Q: Playing with him must have been satisfying, you're gonna do it again
A: Yeah, it was great, I mean we were psyched, and he was psychedthe audience was psyched
Q: What do you make of this whole Napster business?
A: I didn't have any real strong opinions butI just figured if Metallica wasn't into it, it must not be that bad. I guess I was just for it because they were against it.
Q: Then as an artist you don't feel threatened by people getting a hold of your music that way?
A: I dunnonot threatenedI feel if more people hear it that's a good thing. I mean hearing Dr. Dre say he has to put his kids through college or somethinghe wanted to get paid for what's rightfully his so he can put his kids through collegeI was like gimme a fuckin' break
Q: You don't think he'll have trouble paying tuition?
A: Yeah, I don't for see he'll have a big problem with that.
Q: Are you producing much these days?
A: Not really. I've thought about it because I have a studio now but I never liked it too much though. I think maybe I have a better temperament fort it now.
Q: What didn't you like about it before?
A: I just didn't like. I didn't like anything about it really. I just didn't like who I became or something as a producer. I just get really annoyed at the bands.
Q: What seems attractive about trying it again now?
A: Because I have all this equipment and I don't use it all the time and I'd like to help out some bands that I like.
Q: Who do you like?
A: I like Love As Laughterwe're gonna do some shows with them. I've been listening to a lot of Rocky Erickson lately
Q: Is the studio at home or in New York?
A: It's just at home. I didn't build anything, its just equipment laying around my house in different rooms. A band is supposed to be coming in todayBeachwood Sparksthey're from L.A., they're on SubPop. They're gonna record hereI don't know what I'm gonna have to do with it. I think I'll get out of the way. I might play something here or there. E toured with them a little bit. They kind of sound like Gram Parsons era Byrdskinda country rock. I always really like that kind of stuff and not a lot of people are really trying to do it so faithfully. They really try to sound like that, which is interesting. It's just like pleasant music. It's like happy
Q: Did you get any golf in while you were in Australia?
A: Nope, I couldn't really. I was in winter mode. I didn't want to make the jump into golf. The last time I was in Australia I played a lot. I've done it in the past, I just don't feel that inspired right now. I was beaten down by golf last year. If you don't play much you don't wanna play muchthat kind of thing. If I don't play much I really suck, which makes me not wanna play much. I have to really jump in and start playing a lot to be into it. So I didn't want to play in Australia once and just suck.
Q: What's been the response to the new album, anyone mouthing the words in the front row?
A: A couple of showsin Cleveland, and in Japan. It did the best in Japan so far. It sold more in Japan I think.
Q: Are you gonna record with the guys you're touring with at some point?
A: It could happen. It depends on what Watt wants to do. Every day we don't have a gig he has another gig. In this week we have tom get home, he's playing two gigs in L.A. and one in Hawaii. He's always really busyI dunno man.
Q: Is Mike a lot of fun to play with?
A: Yeah, It's not boring, that's for sure.