outside of the middle east in cambridge, ma
Being from Western Ma., it's true I have a certain pride when it comes to the "local boy makes good" story of J Mascis. I also admit to a certain bias when it comes to things Mascis. The fact is, he's my friend. Having said that, I must also say that I'm a fan. I respect his mucianship and his body of work . I love his playing, and I love the fact that he is greatly responsible for bringing the art of the guitar solo to punk rock.
He's got a new band called J Mascis And The Fog, a new record called "More Light" (ultimatum) and recently stopped in at The Middle East to perform a sold out show as part of his 2001 "More Light Tour."
The Fog consists of long time Dinosaur Jr. drummer and fellow Western Ma. compadre George Berz on drums and punk rock legend Mike Watt on what he likes to call Thud Staff.
I caught up them after their sound check, and this is the conversation we had:
Me- Hey J
Mascis- Hey Ray.
(Eric the tour manager comes up and tells J the photographer and writer from Boston Soundcheck are ready for him)
Mascis- Who's doing the interview?
Me- Dude, I'm the one interviewing you.
Mascis- Yea, right.
Me- I'm serious.
Mascis- What's the name of the magazine?
Me- Boston Soundcheck.
Mascis- Why would they let you write for them?
Me- 'Cause I'm the man.
Mascis- Oh yea? I forgot. (laughs)
(Watt and George walk up)
George- Hey Ray what's up? J, when is this magazine geek showing up?
Mascis- That would be Ray.
Me- So can we get this started or what?
Mascis- Why don't you just make stuff up?
George- Yea, you can have full artistic freedom.
Mascis- That might not be a good idea.
Me- Alright, enough!! So how's the shows going?
Mascis- That's a lame question.
Me- Dude. I'll kick your hippy ass.
Watt- (laughing) That's pretty harsh.
Me- That's our relationship. We see each other twice a year, and give each other shit. But today I'm gonna try to be nice. Okay, how 'bout a golf question? Who's gonna win the Masters.
Mascis- (Suddenly interested) I guess the obvious choice would be Tiger (Woods)
Me- What about John Daly?
Mascis- Is he playing? I don't think he still has eligibility, but if he does, yea, I want him to win.
Me- You know, he shortened the length of his driver, to try to improve his accuracy.
Mascis- I think that's a good move.
Me- I think he might be drinking again too.
Mascis- Another good move. No, he's gotta get it together.
George- He was better when he was drinking. Won the PGA shitfaced.
Me- So you've done some gigs with Ron Ashton playing. How'd that come about? Have you known him for a long time?
Mascis- I met him once when he was recording with Watt for some movie soundtrack.
Watt- Velvet Goldmine.
Me- You played on the Stooges songs for that?
Watt- Well yea, some of it. Like when the Bowie character sees the Iggy character play for the first time, we did "TV Eye" and for the studio part we did "My Unclean", Mark Arm (Mudhoney) sang for the record, but in the movie, they overdubbed his vocal with the actors. Kind of jive, but that's Hollywood for ya. Anyway, that's where J met Ron, when we were in the studio recording it.
Me- Is Ron going to play anymore shows with you guys?
Mascis- Yea, in New York and then in L.A
Me- What about Iggy?
Mascis- That would be cool. I saw that he's playing on the west coast the same time we're there. Who knows? It would pretty great.
George- Jello Biafro wants to sing some Stooges with us when we play San Francisco
Mascis- This is turning into some kind of "Ringo Starr's Punk Rock All Star" thing. I don't know…….
Watt- Ray, are you from Amherst too?
Mascis- NO!! He's from Greenfield.
Watt- Is that near Deerfield?
Me- Yea, next town north. You been there?
Watt- All over man. I like it out there, it's pretty.
Me- So Watt, what's it like playing with J?
Watt- It's happening. Different for me. Not used to being a sidemouse. I've only done it for Perry (Farrell) and J. Those are prolly the only two guys I would do it for. It's cool though. With the way J plays guitar, it makes it fun. It's a lot different for me he plays so much differently than the guys who play guitar for me, you know, Nels (Cline) and Tom Watson. It's more like playing with D. Boon.
Me- D. Boon was the man. Long live fat guys in rock!!
Watt- (laughs) Right on.
Mascis- (Laughs) All right.
Me- So here'a the music geek question. I have always dug the way your riffs make the chord progressins. Kind of Hendrix style.
Mascis- Really? Thanks.
Me- When you write, what comes first? The chords, the riffs? The melody?
Mascis- The guitar, the drums and the melody all kind of come at the same time.
Mascis- They come later.
Watt- I start with song titles.
Mascis- Really? GBV does that. They make up a bunch of titles first.
Me- Speaking of Guided By Voices, Bob Pollard is on the record too, is he gonna show up at any gigs and sit in?
Mascis- I don't know, I haven't talked to him in a while.
Watt- He's on tour now too.
Mascis- Yea, it's cool. He's playing shows with a whole buch of different guys that have been in his band over the years. Lots of different line-ups.
Me- How about Kevin Shields (My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream) ??
Mascis- I dont know 'bout him either. We're all busy doin' our own thing, you know. I'd be into it though.
Me- How was Europe and Japan?
Mascis- Japan was really good. They seem to really get it. That's cool.
Me- Okay, politics, what do you think of George W.?
Watt- I didn't vote for him.
Mascis- I think it's awful.
Watt- Seems like it's all blowin' up in his face. China and all. Like you can tell them what to do.
Me- Do you think someone else is pulling his strings?
Watt- Dear old Dad? Dick Chaney? Uncle Dick.
Me- Was there talk about George W. in Japan and Europe?
George- Oh yea. A lot.
Mascis- I was over in India and people were bumming on me.
Me- Yea, it's your fault.
Mascis- I think the young people in Europe are actually psyched about it. It gives them something else to be pissed at us for. Feeds their art.
George- It does seem like a lot of his dad's old vendettas are coming back into light. Like the Saddam thing.
Watt- The UN Ambassader. He's got a torture guy. He's Reich.
Me- It's fucked up.
Watt- It is. You know, you want to be a good farmer, use a lot of manure.
Me- This is getting heavy. Lets talk about your grey hair. What's up bro?
Watt- It's frosting.
Mascis- It's not as bad as my brothers.
Watt- Yea, he's really frosty. Our goal is to look as young as Ron Ashton. It's tough.
George- Yea, it's a commitment.
Me- Your brother is playing tonight right?
Mascis- Yea, The Warblers.
Me- They any good?
Mascis- I dont know, it's their first gig.
Watt- Warbler cherry gig.
Me- You haven't heard them in the basement or anything?
Mascis- Well yea, but never up on stage representing. (laughs)
Watt- Mike (Mascis) has blown up a bunch of amps already.
Me- I think there was something in the water in their house when they were growing up.
Me- So you've been into Ammachi for a while right? Can you talk a little about her?
Mascis- Well she's from India. She's an Indian saint. She goes around the world hugging people. She tours non- stop, pretty hardcore. Just spreading love around the world. When I was in India, one day I saw her hug like 20,000 people. When she's in the states she hugs like 3,000 people a day.
Me- Is there any books or anything you can turn people on to about her?
Mascis- She's got a web site you can visit. The address is www.ammachi.org.
Me- George, you're talking too much. Anything you want to say?
George- What do you want me to say?
Me- Are you gay?
George- Well YOU know that.
Me- What about Napster? What do you guys think about that issue?
Mascis- Well my first feeling was whatever Metallica was against, I was for (laughs). But really, I'm all for it.
Watt- I'm for it.
Me- What about the arguement that it takes away from record sales?
Watt- I don't make my money from album sales. I make my money from gigs. I think the songs on Napster are like flyers for the shows.
George- Yea, it's a no brainer, just think the opposite of Metallica. I'm all for Napster.
Me- You guys want to say anything in closing.
George- Just make us look cool man.
And that's how it. went. I stayed and hung for the show. Watt had some problems with his rig, but other than that it was a joy to be witness to. A mix between old Dino classics like "Fury little things", "The Wagon" and "Blowin' It" with new songs like "I'm Not Fine" and "Amma Ring". Watt stepped up to the mike to sing some Stogges classics like "I'm Loose" and the last song of the encore was the Iggy classic "I got A Right". When Watt screamed the line" I got a right, I got a right to move, anytime I want......" I thought to my self. Yes Sir, you do. And I hope you exercise that right every chance you get. Rock on boys. You're representin' Western Mass. just fine.