There were the dinosaurs and then there was Dinosaur Jr. Although Indie rock legend J. Mascis is a bit of a well-seasoned dinosaur himself, he continues to turn heads wherever he goes.
One of the most prolific musicians of his time, Mascis’ resume must be a mile long, citing everything from his creation of several alternative rock bands to his talents as singer, guitarist, drummer, songwriter, music producer and film composer. As a solo artist Mascis has put out three studio albums, the latest of which is scheduled to drop on Mar. 15, but he has also had a hand in the recording and production of over two dozen records and has countless other guest appearances to his name.
The world first took notice of Mascis’ Neil Young-esque vocals, lithe fingers and colossal guitar skills, when he — along with bassist Lou Barlow and Scott Helland — formed Deep Wound. Although the morbidly named, 80s hardcore rock unit quickly disbanded, Mascis snagged Barlow, added drummer Emmett Jefferson Murphy (who quickly dropped all those syllables to become simply “Murph”) and created the trio known as Dinosaur Jr. in ’84. Barlow was kicked to the curb five years later, but Mascis continued to record under the Dinosaur Jr. franchise, to fully stake his claim in the burgeoning grunge movement of the late 80s and early 90s.
Over the past three decades Mascis has had a near impossible number of side projects: taking up the drums and rocking out with the Boston-based doom and gloom metal group Upsidedown Cross, dipping into the film industry with a few cameo appearances and film soundtrack composition. He was enlisted to compose a few songs for Allison Anders’ 1992 Gas Food Lodging as well as her later film Grace of My Heart, to which Mascis added a bluesy ballad a la The Beach Boys to the soundtrack.
The Hollywood lifestyle didn’t seem to curb Mascis’ ambition much. In April of 2005 he joined up with the old team — Barlow and Murph — to promote the re-release of Dinosaur Jr.’s first three albums, a reunion that was met with great excitement from aging Indie hipsters, prompting the recording of two new Dinosaur albums, Beyond and Farm in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
At the same time that Mascis was jamming with the old crew, he also released J and Friends Sing and Chant for Amma, an album dedicated to the Hindu religious leader Mata Amritanandamayi, which raised funds for the Tsunami relief victims. Since that time, Mascis has returned to the drum set to record with heavy metal rock band Witch and formed Sweet Apple, a new group made up of John Petkovic, Tim Parnin and Dave Sweetapple.
And as if Mascis hadn’t already carved his name into rock and roll history, Fender released a signature guitar — the J Mascis Jazzmaster — to celebrate Dinosaur’s legendary frontman and his “monolithic” guitar-playing skills. Decked out in a not-so-subtle purple sparkle finish, the Jazzmaster features several Mascis-approved customizations, such as its vintage-style pickups, huge frets and a satiny finished neck. Now everyone can claim to rock out like J. Between production, composition, film scores and his own personalized Fender guitar it seems that there isn’t a part of the music industry that Mascis hasn’t influenced in some way.
Mascis and his band mates raised some hell at Castaways about a year or so ago. Now Mascis is back and better than ever with a new solo acoustic record, Several Shades of Why, under Sub Pop Records. A great addition to the show will be Kurt Vile, a former member of the alternative Philly rock element, The War on Drugs.
The J. Mascis show is today (Thursday) at 8 p.m. at Castaways.
Original Author: Heather McAdams