DINOSAUR JR.: I’M REALLY TIRED OF ELECTRICITY
Rather than interview J Mascis ourselves, we thought it would be more fun to continue our tradition of getting famous people to interview famous people for nothing more than the thrill of schmoozing with each other and taking work off our hands. This interview was conducted by director Allison Anders, who cast Mascis in films such as Grace of My Heart, and Tiffany Anders, the musician/singer/co-curator of Don’t Knock the Rock and also Allison’s daughter. Though the transcript below may make Mascis seem like a lively, free-spirited music buff, rest assured that on tape he sounded like Benicio Del Toro in The Usual Suspects as interpreted by Cookie Monster on lithium. This interview was curated and painfully transcribed by Dan Collins, with much-needed help by the Anders.
Allison Anders: We want to talk about the fact that you were never in Mi Vida Loca when you were supposed to be, so you’ll have to be in it this time!
Tiffany Anders: He does need you to make another movie. His acting career is starting to slip.
Allison Anders: Well, I’m going to do Mi Vida Loca II. Tiffany, remember? You, Jason and Spike ended up buying drugs, but it was supposed to be you, J and Mike.
J Mascis (guitar/vocals): What happened?
Tiffany Anders: I think it was your schedule. You guys were recording, and they showed up to the set the day that the other girl shoots Ernesto, so you didn’t have time to shoot the scene.
J Mascis: I don’t want to buy drugs.
Allison Anders: It would have been really interesting twenty years ago, but it would be a little inappropriate now that you’re a father.
Tiffany Anders: What’s up with the Dino movie?
J Mascis: He’s just filmed a lot of interviews with different people, a lot of shows and … I dunno. I don’t know if he’ll ever finish it. Give him a date that he has to finish it by and maybe he’ll finish it.
Allison Anders: Actually, you know what? Krakow!
J Mascis: Krakow? Auschwitz!
Allison Anders: How did you know? Have you been there? To Krakow? It was kind of surprising when we were over [in Europe]. There are so many young people with babies! And they were not stressed out! Young people who didn’t look totally broke and that were really in love with their babies. And then Tiffany’s friend said that they get quite a nice subsidy from the government.
Tiffany Anders: For babies. And dogs.
J Mascis: I think that’s why the punk rockers have dogs. I don’t know if they do that anymore, though.
Allison Anders: Has fatherhood changed your records? Do you think you would have made the same record if you hadn’t become a father?
J Mascis: Possibly no.
Allison Anders: I think sometimes I know if I hadn’t had a big experience, the work may have gone in a different direction.
J Mascis: I have no idea. But there seems to be a lot less time. So we did it in less time. Three or four months. The last album was probably over nine months.
Tiffany Anders: Lou’s a dad too?
J Mascis: And another one on the way.
Allison Anders: Dinosaur Jr. juniors!
Tiffany Anders: So I am supposed to ask about Witch? What’s up with Witch? What are the plans? I saw they were playing All Tomorrow’s Parties.
J Mascis: Yeah, we had one gig! Woo hoo!
Allison Anders: I love that song ‘Isadora.’ That’s my favorite. I’m a big Isadora Duncan fan. It reminds me of—I don’t even know what. I would say Quicksilver Messenger Service, but that wouldn’t be right. But it reminds me of a San Francisco band.
J Mascis: Flipper? Are there any good bands from San Francisco? We were having a discussion the other day in the van.
Allison Anders: I don’t like things that people are jumping around with their fists to. You know, just kind of doing a little hoedown. I’m not into hoedown kind of things.
J Mascis: What’s a hoedown band?
Allison Anders: The Grateful Dead! I don’t mind the psychedelic kind of dancing that’s like, ‘Ooh, I’m on acid, and I’m floating through air!’ But I don’t like the jug band-y kind of thing.
J Mascis: Thigh slappin’?
Allison Anders: I’m not into that! It bothers me a little bit. And somehow—I may be wrong—but it seems like the Flying Burrito Brothers never inspired that kind of hoedown dancin’. But who knows?
J Mascis: Well, it’s because they didn’t have any fans.
Allison Anders: Ha! There were just people standing around going, ‘I want to party with these guys when the set is over.’
J Mascis: They were all backstage, maybe.
Allison Anders: Who are some people that you are listening to now that we should know about? Because you are the first person who alerted us to Scott Walker. All those many years ago—in the ’90s.
Tiffany Anders: He was the first person who alerted me to Sandy Denny!
Tiffany Anders: But I have a feeling that you turned him on to Nick Drake!
J Mascis: I’m sick of Nick Drake since he’s on the cover of MOJO every week.
Allison Anders: Well, that’s kind of the problem. We have to wait a while before we can get close to him again. It’s hard when the whole world finally discovers somebody. But back then, nobody knew! I tried to tell her about Rodriguez and she already has his records! I can’t tell her anything anymore. I thought I was really going to be onto something! I buy a lot of tunes. If I go into a record store, I get too overwhelmed. You should be doing ‘What’s in your bag?’ at Amoeba. You shop, and then you open your bag. They just videotape you saying what you bought. They want me to do one, and I haven’t gone and done it yet. Maybe I’ll do it this weekend.
J Mascis: It’ll be like one single. For a hundred dollars!
Allison Anders: For a while, the only Bags single was there for a hundred bucks, for the longest time. But it’s not there anymore! Somebody bought it.
J Mascis: What do they have back there, behind those doors?
Tiffany Anders: Oh, tons! And apparently there’s another warehouse off-site.
J Mascis: I found a record there I’d been looking for since I was 15. And it was there on the wall for 30 bucks. I know a lot of record nerds and none of them knew about it. This band called the Mirrors. ‘Cure for Cancer.’ I guess they’re English, but there’s some Detroit band same name. I had to have it.
Allison Anders: I love that there are still some records that people don’t know anything about. Except Tiffany!
J Mascis: It’s weird what people know about, like kids. They know really obscure things about certain things, but there are these big holes where they don’t know things. It’s really odd.
Allison Anders: I found out with my students because often I make them do a mix CD as part of their assignment. It’s supposed to be like the songs of their life—it’s supposed to have a kind of narrative. I’m always amazed at the vast knowledge they have, but yet if you mention a certain band in the class, somebody really obvious, they don’t know anything about that band. But they’ll know something super-obscure. Needless to say, they know that funk stuff so well. I’ll never catch up to their knowledge of that. I didn’t grow up with anybody aspiring to be a DJ, you know? They’ve actually grown up thinking, when they were 14 years old, I want to be a DJ some day!
J Mascis: I need to go to Amoeba to get out of some crappy interviews. They’re filling up my schedule with crap. It’s so weird, because Al Gore’s TV channel—
Allison Anders: Current TV?
J Mascis: Yeah. They wanted to go with me where I would go in L.A., but then they wouldn’t let me go where I would go! ‘No Amoeba. Too many bands have gone there.’ I wanted to go to Erewhon. They’re like ‘That’s a grocery store.’ So what if it’s a grocery store? That’s so weird.
Allison Anders: Like, ‘Where do you want to go? Go here!’ After you’ve been coming here for like twenty years.
J Mascis: Black Market Music is closed. I used to go there.
Allison Anders: I do have a record store for you out in the valley. Freakbeat!
J Mascis: That already sounds like somewhere I’ll never go!
Tiffany Anders: Apparently Jimmy Page was in Freakbeat. He likes to go to record stores.
J Mascis: He used to go to Black Market.
Allison Anders: In fact, this Sunday, I just got a coupon for Freakbeat! Ten percent off! Because it’s a vinyl record day. So I’m gonna buy some vinyl.
J Mascis: Ten percent isn’t much of an incentive. How about like 87 percent off?
Allison Anders: They have a documentary this year about the death of the independent record store, which is a sad thing. Thurston’s in it. Which is a sad thing. I don’t like that—I need a place to go and listen.
J Mascis: And some nerd to talk to you to tell you what records to buy.
Tiffany Anders: If those nerds are nice and not jerks!
Allison Anders: You really need that! That’s in the documentary. This guy is saying, ‘When I was a kid in the ’70s, everything on the radio was just this crap, classic rock shit! And then I went to a record store and learned about Gun Club. That record saved my life!’ It’s like countless people saying how they were steered in the right direction by somebody in the record store. Because you can’t rely on radio to do that.
J Mascis: And guitar stores are similarly closing.
Tiffany Anders: Why is that, do you think?
J Mascis: The Internet! The people who make it still have stores, just somewhere where people can come in. But if they don’t also sell stuff on the Internet, they can’t make it.
Allison Anders: Seems to be like that guitar we sold, that we sold on eBay with you playing it! It was like a bright yellow guitar, a really terrible color. But you were playing it—I used that picture on eBay, ha ha! Played only once by this guy! But there are a lot of people who collect these guitars. Guys who were in bands when they were teenagers, and now they have made a fortune in real estate or something, and then they collect guitars and just buy them.
J Mascis: As an investment it’s kind of weird. But it seems to have done better than the stock market. It’s hard. I can’t really think in that way. ‘Investment-grade guitars.’
Allison Anders: I just think about which ones are pretty. Jesse Ed Davis’ guitar was really pretty, and had all the flowers painted on it and stuff. Where do these guitars go? When somebody like that is dead, where’s the guitar? Or do you think maybe they get rid of it beforehand?
J Mascis: Probably.
Tiffany Anders: Or it goes in a museum, like J’s guitar.
J Mascis: A Jazzmaster. I don’t know if it’s in a warehouse somewhere that the museum has. What’s it called? The one in Seattle? The Paul Allen Experience Music Project. But they always rotate stuff and store it.
Allison Anders: So you just donated it.
J Mascis: No, they paid me. They paid a lot of money. I wonder how much he’s got left. Still, if you have 40 billion and now you only have 20 billion, I wonder if you feel it. I saw somewhere how Bill Gates went from 58 billion to 40 billion, but somehow he had gone up in Richest Guys, because all the other guys had all gone down and he was still the richest guy. He’d only lost like a third.
Tiffany Anders: I’m also supposed to ask about the Witch album cover of [Dave] Sweetapple’s dog and your dog. But I haven’t seen it!
Allison Anders: I like how she keeps saying, ‘I’m supposed to ask you …’
J Mascis: I dunno. I’m just the drummer.
Allison Anders: Is playing drums like a break for you? Do you have as much pressure? Is it a little more fun?
J Mascis: Yeah, I’m really tired of electricity. I need a break from having to rely on electricity, of things breaking all the time. I like that. I really don’t do much! I’m waiting for it to become bigger. I’m waiting for our legend to build.
Allison Anders: Maybe it will happen at ATP.
Tiffany Anders: Maybe! Maybe you should get up to some shenanigans. Fistfight with Kevin!
Allison Anders: That would definitely make NME. That’s all you gotta do over there. Get some scandal in NME and then Witch is like, everybody knows.
Tiffany Anders: ‘Didya hear about the fight between Kevin Shields and Witch?’
J Mascis: The kung fu master.
Allison Anders: I’m tellin’ ya, that’s some good advice there! Look at these punch-ups. Look at what that did for Oasis!
J Mascis: I know! I like when that guy pushed the guitar player over. That was funny. Some guy knocked over Noel … I mean, you’re just standing there and he just pushes you over—you’re not really ready. And then the brother, you know—I read somewhere he was like, ‘Yeah, it was just like a pub fight.’ He waits for all these other people to go run after the guy and then he takes a little fake swing like, ‘Noel’s gotta get in there.’ We have an open guitar spot. Maybe we need a wild man.
Allison Anders: Not hard to find in Britain. Harder to find in American rock ‘n’ roll.
Tiffany Anders: Like the Primal Scream guitar player worked in a guitar shop. J was saying that the Primal Scream guitar player was working at a guitar shop.
J Mascis: He was like the nice guy. Everybody liked him.
Allison Anders: What happens when Dinosaur Jr. plays in Japan? You played that crazy festival a couple years ago, right? It was on a mountaintop.
J Mascis: Kind of on a lame ski area. That’s weird—that festival—because everyone there is there for the show, and they’re all music fans. So it’s hard to like go anywhere. We played at another one, Summer Sonic, which is a bit more commercial. I saw Fergie at catering!
Allison Anders: Nice! What was she eating? She’s got quite a body.
J Mascis: It seems like a lot of girls hate Fergie.
Tiffany Anders: She’s kind of repulsive.
J Mascis: See?
Allison Anders: How does it work technically playing in a place that big? How do you hear everything?
J Mascis: They have in-ear monitors, and maybe they have little amps next to their guitar tech. So if you’re on the side of the stage, all you hear is like wimpy drums, that’s about all you can hear. Because they all have monitors in their ear, and it’s eerily quiet!
Allison Anders: That’s really weird. I’d probably want to keep everything a bit more organic and not get in that direction.
J Mascis: Yeah, I’ve always been more in a Woodstock frame of mind. ‘Oh, it worked at Woodstock, having all these amps and just playing loud!’
Tiffany Anders: I interviewed Nancy Nevins from Sweetwater and she was talking about how there were no monitors onstage at Woodstock. They were the first band. She was like, ‘You couldn’t hear anything at all!’ She thought it probably sounded horrible, being up there.
J Mascis: But monitors are the downfall of society! All these bands who rely on them now, especially English bands or something … ‘Where’s my monitor?’ If you have them, that’s fine, but you should be able to play without a monitor.
Allison Anders: All this second-guessing technology! We have the same thing in film. We have the video feed and people can’t seem to make movies without it now. It used to be that you looked into the camera. You could see the light! You can’t even see the light through a monitor. It’s a nightmare! Everybody’s crowding around. As a director, you’ll be sitting there and some makeup person is looking over your shoulder to make sure the makeup’s okay. Everybody’s hyper-reacting. I’m going to do this show ‘Southland,’ and he doesn’t allow any monitors, which I love. You have to rely on your own instincts and your own abilities to know what’s going on in the scene.
Tiffany Anders: Nancy said the sound system was just completely inadequate! She said that basically they were the soundcheck band because they were the first real band.
J Mascis: Did someone play before them?
Tiffany Anders: Richie Havens. They were supposed to be first, but it was so disorganized that they got to the Holiday Inn, and of course they didn’t know it was going to be as huge as it was. Traffic was a nightmare and they had to take a helicopter, so they were late. And Richie Havens was basically playing forever until they got there.
J Mascis: He comes off pretty good in that movie. It only got three stars in MOJO.
Allison Anders: I heard that the Grateful Dead started quite a set-up with their amps onstage, right? I always thought it was Blue Cheer that started the tower of amps.
J Mascis: All the Dead had was a PA, so they had the whole PA behind them so they could mix it themselves, and it was spilling out into the audience. It’s interesting. I had some Jerry Garcia skis! Somehow they were painted with some Jerry artwork or something. Like he had ties. He had glasses made.
Allison Anders: I can’t imagine Jerry Garcia on skis! I can’t imagine him wearing a tie either! J’s seen it though, I can tell!
J Mascis: I can see him skiing off into the woods and smoking a bowl with some other hippies.
Allison Anders: When is your son learning to ski?
Tiffany Anders: You put him on a snowboard, then you put him on a skateboard. There are Dinosaur Jr. skateboards.
Allison Anders: I’m sure you’ve seen the YouTube videos of the skating bulldogs, right?
J Mascis: In the video they say, ‘He just did it!’ Like they didn’t teach him. They’re lazy-ass fucking dogs! But he’s amazing. He can push and turn …
Allison Anders: It’s not you putting him on the board? He gets on the board himself!
Tiffany Anders: If I could teach my kitty to do that, it would be great.
J Mascis: Tell us about the knee?
Allison Anders: I fell down in Elysian Park! I went running to take a picture of these people in their low rider, and I tripped over a log and just went flying! If I keep it straight, it helps. It’s not feeling very well.
J Mascis: I had poison ivy and someone was like, ‘Why don’t you put bleach on it?’ And I did and it really helped. It dried out the oil.
Allison Anders: I don’t like the direction this conversation is going! L.A. RECORD doesn’t need to put that in there. Any last words?
J Mascis: Message to Japanese fans? They always ask me in Japan, ‘Can we have a message for the Japanese fans?’
DINOSAUR JR. WITH LOU BARLOW ON THUR., NOV. 5, AT THE HOUSE OF BLUES, 8430 SUNSET BLVD., WEST HOLLYWOOD. 8 PM / $25.50-$27.50 / ALL AGES. HOB.COM. DINOSAUR JR.’S FARM IS OUT NOW ON JAGJAGUWAR. VISIT DINOSAUR JR. AT DINOSAURJR.COM OR MYSPACE.COM/DINOSAURJR.