HT Interview: J. Mascis, Channeling Ignatius J.

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HT: How did the collaborations with Ben Bridwell, Kevin Drew, and some of the pretty well-known indie guys come about?

JM: I just asked people I knew that I thought might sound good to play some stuff. I guess Ben came out sounding the most like how I thought it would sound. Most of the other people, I didn’t know what they would play or how it would sound, so I just kinda had play on all different parts to see if I liked any of it, and ultimately used bits and pieces of stuff that people played.

Is It Done – With Ben Bridwell on backing vocals

[audio:https://glidemagazine.com/hiddentrack/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/05-Is-It-Done.mp3]

HT: Do you think you will bring musicians along for the tour or you doing the full-on solo thing?

JM: Pretty much solo, although I was trying to get some people who played on the album to open, so that they could play on a couple songs, like Kurt Vile and The Black Heart Procession. They are going to open some shows and they played on the album, so maybe they could play on a couple of songs.

HT: This is kind of a random question that I was just thinking about on the way home. I know you’ve listened to a lot of punk over the years; what is your opinion of the evolution of so-to-speak of punk music over the past ten or twenty years, since it has move toward a more poppy, hook-laden dynamic?

JM: Yeah, I’ve honestly kind of lost track of a lot of it. You know, I was into punk, and then hardcore, and then around ’83 I got into The Birthday Party and other bands that the kids I knew who were into hardcore we also getting into, somehow getting away from that hardcore sound. Then, I went to New York, and there were a lot of bands sort of half starting out like Pussy Galore, and I met Sonic Youth. It was still all punk, but didn’t have the same formula that punk seemed to turn into, as if it was some “type” of music like polka or something. I was just listeninig to bands that were trying to have their own sound.


HT: I saw that you did the Neil Young tribute show the other night. What are some other more acoustic singer-songwriter type artists that you like?

JM: I like a lot of English stuff from Pentangle to Incredible String Band, Fairport Convention, and all the offshoots like Bridget St. John, just a lot of English folkie stuff.

HT: I know a lot of people have asked you about this, but I’m curious not specifically about the custom Jazzmaster, but more about the process of when someone from Fender or wherever says, “J, we’d like to build a custom guitar line for you,” how does that work? Do they say, “Hey J, what do you want? What do you want to tweak? How should it look?” Essentially, how did the whole thing come to fruition?

JM: Yeah, I was so easy. The guy I was talking to knew exactly what I was talking about, and it really didn’t require anything that difficult. You know, it was just jumbo frets, a tune-o-matic bridge, not too much finish on the neck, and of course, the purple sparkle. It really wasn’t too tough. I know some people will really get into the minutiae of everything, like they are doing that Johnny Marr Jazzmaster that has a lot of work being done and a lot of back and forth getting into the minute details.

HT: Thinking about the Jazzmaster, and listening to your guitar playing, it’s obvious you’re capable of improvising. Do you ever listen to, or play for that matter, any jazz, improv-based rock, jambands, or any of that type of thing?

JM: Just kind of improv stuff in general. There’s a lot of shows around where I live [Amherst, MA] that are like improv noise stuff, but not too much “real jazz.” I mean, I used to play drums in jazz workshop in high school, but that wasn’t very inspired improvisation or anything. Ideally, I tend to like more free jazz than any kind of traditional stuff. There’s a lot of it around this area too. There’s like a free jazz “scene.” I can appreciate that way more than like bebop or something.


HT: So, you strike me as pretty quiet guy. Going back to when you were younger, was it challenging for you getting started in terms of the singing and being nervous?

JM: Yeah, I didn’t really want to sing, particularly, it just kind of happened. We had a singer originally that didn’t really work out, so then me and Lou [Barlow] kind of split the singing up. But yeah, it’s kind of weird. It’s kind of strange, you know, singing. [laughs]

HT: Does it change the way you approach being on stage given that in between songs, there’s just of lot of, well, quiet?

JM: It does, it’s pretty awkward I guess. [laughs] That’s when the folkies tell jokes and stuff. Or you just try to keep playing to minimize the awkward silences. Or, just kind of go with it, and have the awkward silences. [laughs] That’s a hard thing about playing alone though.

HT: Do you have any newer cover tunes that you’re kicking around for this tour?

JM: I did an Edie Brickell cover for this Japanese track, another thing that Megan from Sub Pop wanted me to do. She sold t-shirts for Dinosaur for a tour and we were listening to the Edie Brickell album, something Murph brought into the van, and somehow we all kind of got into it.

HT: What about female guitar players, do you have any women guitarists that you’re a fan of?

JM: I like the Screaming Females. I used to like Sylvia Juncosa who was on SST Records, but there’s not a whole lot I guess. I haven’t heard that many. Oh, I like Magic Markers a lot too. It seems like there should be more though.

HT: Do you read music?

JM: I can only read for drums, but I don’t know how to do guitar reading.

HT: Alright, we’re getting to the end of our time, but what kinds of things do you like to read or watch on television?

JM: I like a lot of TV shows. Currently, I really like Californication. The new season is pretty good. I also tend to read a lot of music biographies. I just read the Cherrie Currie one recently. I hadn’t read that one before, and it was really interesting.

HT: Alright, last one, the new material strikes me as extremely accessible and something that could have really broad appeal. Would you be excited by the prospect of a big whopping reception for the album? Well, to the extent that exists anymore at least?

JM: You mean Grammys and stuff? [laughs] Yeah, that would be cool. But who knows, we’ll just have to see where it goes.

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4 thoughts on “HT Interview: J. Mascis, Channeling Ignatius J.

  1. _goffasaur jr. Reply

    great interview Ryan.

    I met J. last year in Ithaca right before his gig.

    He’s a great guitarist/musician.

    Looking fwd. to his solo tour that’s kicking off in Ithaca soon.

    thanks for the diverse HT content.

  2. Joel Berk Reply

    great interview, Ryan. looking forward to the new record and hoping to catch him on tour.

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