Indie-rock guitar god J Mascis has a load of side projects, including a solo joint under his own name. Yes, the Dinosaur Jr. frontman still shreds on Tied to a Star, and his wry sense of humor is on display in the cult-themed video for the lead single, "Every Morning," starring Fred Armisen.
Ahead of Thursday's performance at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Gimme Noise lucked into an interview with Mascis. It had been postponed due to him having a sick child -- never a good sign, especially when dealing with a tight-lipped subject.
"I think he's faking it," Mascis dead-panned when we eventually touched base. What followed was a very subdued chat about playing loud, First Avenue, and Grateful Dead covers.
Gimme Noise: One of the great things about [the new record] Tied to a Star is the feeling of effortlessness that pervades it. Now that it's out in the racks, how do you feel about the record?
J. Mascis: I usually like every record I do. [pause] I like it.
It's been getting good reviews and it's even done well on the alternative charts. Did you expect this sort of response or has it taken you by surprise?
It's definitely doing better than I expected. And that's cool. I never know what to expect.
Let's talk about songwriting. How do you approach it differently for a band versus for a solo record?
I guess when I'm writing, I have in mind what I'm writing for so if I come up with something that doesn't fit what I'm going for on this album it goes for something else.
Is solo the future for you or are you planning more Dinosaur Jr. records?
I hope so, yeah.
On Tied to a Star, you seem to be carefully choosing your spots for electric guitar. Do you miss the loud electric guitar aesthetic when you're making a solo record?
Yeah, I'd always rather play loud. It's more an exercise in restraint trying not to put drums on it. And noisy guitar. That's my instinct. That's what I like to do.
Is it easy to see the influence of Dinosaur Jr. in today's bands or modern music in general?
No, I can never really tell any influence unless someone tells me they've been influenced.[page]
Ever heard of Stare Rio?
His new release is called J Mascis Will Die and Other Sad Realities.
He'll do what?
J Mascis Will Die and Other Sad Realities.
Oh weird. Sounds depressing to me.
What new bands are you listening to?
Luluc, who I'm playing with. I'm sure there are others.
Along those lines, do you like touring?
I can't say I look forward to it, but it's all right once it's happening. I don't like changing, getting out of one version of you and into another one. But once you're doing it, it's OK.
Would you rather tour by yourself or as part of a band?
It's like playing. Definitely harder [solo] and more fun playing louder with a band than acoustic. All the traveling stuff is the same, but playing is definitely harder.
So you're playing at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. How did that come about?
I guess it was the best offer we got. I'm not really sure. I guess I can't picture it. I'll tell you after. Some clubs are definitely better than others. First Avenue I never liked all that much until the last time I played solo there. Like through the '80s and '90s, I hated playing there, but last time it was cool. I was surprised.
In general, do you like coming to the Twin Cities?
Yeah, I really like it there. I used to like, what was that place, the Uptown? That was cool. Yeah, I really like Minneapolis a lot.
So what's next for J Mascis?
Not sure. Maybe a Dino record. Maybe a Heavy Blanket record. I played on this Grateful Dead cover that Kurt Vile did. He sent it to me today and it sounded pretty good.
"Box of Rain." My favorite and his favorite.
J Mascis. SOLD OUT, 7 p.m., Thursday, October 9 at Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Info.