Guitar hero, TV star.
J Mascis is synonymous with the monstrous, fuzzed-out guitar jams of Dinosaur Jr., a band known for their pounding wall of rock 'n' roll sound. But if you ever get a chance to talk to Mascis, you might find him rather quiet. The contrast makes him even more intriguing.
This may be one reason Mascis has made so many friends in the entertainment business, including frequent collaborator Fred Armisen. Mascis appeared on Armisen's sketch-comedy TV show Portlandia, and Armisen appeared in Mascis' new Funny or Die video for the song "Every Morning." The guitarist also had a memorable bit part in The Double, a 2013 movie starring Jesse Eisenberg.
But Mascis' most memorable work is still his music. With the release of his last two solo albums -- 2011's Several Shades of Why and the new Tied to a Star -- he's challenged the notion that he has only one speed and volume. Tied to a Star shows his ability to explore quieter sounds and acoustic textures in powerful ways.
Isthmus: Several Shades of Why is pretty acoustic, while Tied to a Star has a fuller, more varied sound. Why do you think the new album went that direction?
Mascis: I'm always fighting the urge to put drums and loud guitars on songs. On this album, I gave in sometimes and put drums on some things. I was playing acoustic guitar, but I did use some fuzz boxes with it.
Last time I was letting other people come up with stuff more than this time. Last time I sent [the album] out to a bunch of people, and they recorded on their ideas. This time I didn't feel the need for as much outside input.
What was one of the biggest surprises during the recording of this album?
The end of the third song, "Heal the Star." I ended up jamming on the guitar live at the end. I liked how it sounded and filled it out with other stuff.... It's interesting to play drums along with the guitar that's already there.