J Mascis has been writing and recording music since 1983. Best known for his work with Dinosaur Jr, he has had mountains of praise steeped on him for his immaculate playing style and melodic guitar work.

Posted on Mar 17th, 2011 in Features and Interviews, J Mascis, Sub Pop / By Joshua Edwards
J Mascis Dinosaur Jr disbanded in 1997 and reformed in 2007; during these years J continued to make his mark in the music business, appearing on releases as a special guest or co-producer for such artists as The Lemonheads to much critical acclaim.

Now out and about promoting his new solo album Several Shades of Why, Joshua Edwards grabs ten minutes with this living legend...

Why a completely solo album? Why not another Dinosaur Jr album or J Mascis and the Fog?

Well, I wanted to do something different with myself, working with no boundaries and I didn't have to limit myself by considering the others. It's not me being selfish, I just had this idea for a while to play an album with just me, myself and I. [J Mascis and] The Fog isn't going to happen for a long time (if at all) but I know there will be another Dinosaur Jr album but not any time soon.

Why is the album called Several Shades Of Why?

It's a lyric in one of the songs, and I just thought that that was the right moniker for new album. I didn't want to think too hard about the album title this time round; I've been through it for so long where I just sit there and come up with a new album title that I thought why not just name it after a lyric? So that's where the title comes from.

Why did you choose the album to be a solely acoustic and not another electric or full band album? Did the idea of having another electric album bore you at all?

No, not at all! I wouldn't say that electric instruments or bands bore me, but I wanted something more personal and more intimate than previous albums. When you're listening to an old Dinosaur Jr album, it's hard to get the feel for some of the more meaningful words in the song - so doing it acoustic felt more natural.

How did it feel to produce on your own rather than having Murph or Lou [Barlow] around?

It felt strange but also quite at home. I record in my barn just outside my house so whenever I got annoyed with a song or whatever, I could just walk into my house and talk to my wife or just sit down and get some more inspiration somehow. I suppose I prefer working alone and getting something to sound perfect in my own time, as opposed to having someone else telling me what they think should be done.

How would you compare your latest work to your previous albums?

I would say that I'm not trying too hard. Before I'd be thinking of a solo that sounded melodic enough to go on each track or thinking of the right bass line that would fit this or go there, so this new album feels like more of a relief than I had earlier presumed. It felt pretty similar to [J Mascis and] The Fog years but still more relaxed.

Are there any specific inspirations for the new album? Any new bands you've heard or seen?

I'm still heavily influenced by Neil Young and Nick Cave but lately I've been listening to new bands like Biffy Clyro and they seem really cool. I heard that Biffy's song has been used by some pop singer? Is that right? Yeah I'm not a fan of that kind of stuff. Anyway, I wouldn't say that any new artists have influenced me but who knows what bands I'll listen to in the future.

You said that ‘You're not a fan’ of pop singers in competitions singing songs by rock bands, How would you feel if American Idol asked you if they could use a Dinosaur Jr song, or one of your new solo songs for their winner's single?

(pauses) ...I couldn't Imagine that at all, it'd be too weird, I mean I'm all for new creations of old songs, but that'd be just wrong. It'd be nice for publicity, for the youth and the people that watch the show to get to know myself and my music, but I'm still hooked on the idea that if it ain't broke don't fix it at all. I couldn't live with myself knowing that I would've ‘sold out’ to let some pop star take my song, even though I still couldn't imagine it - just the thought is making my blood boil slightly.

Have you any festival plans for your upcoming tour?

A few. I should be playing some European festivals. I've never played Glastonbury so I'd really like to play there, I don't want to play at Reading they're too strict on rules. Last time I played there they wouldn't let me and the band go and see acts that were playing on the main stage because we only had passes that allowed us access to the stage that we played on which WASN'T the main stage. I'm quite excited for the US festivals. They're the ones I get the most excited for, it's like you get to introduce some new songs to people who have or haven't heard of you before and that's the kind of stuff that I enjoy when playing at festivals.

Several Shades Of Why (Sub Pop) is out on the 15th March 2011