Emerging from the hardcore era with renewed eclecticism, J Mascis proved that the white heat of punk could absorb other influences.
Fusing all manner of styles into one unholy mess, the guitarist led Dinosaur Jr. to cult success, virtually laying down the blueprint for grunge while Seattle was still asleep.
Recently resurfacing with new solo album 'Tied To A Star' – the follow up to 2011's acclaimed 'Several Shades Of Why' full-length – Mascis has opted to swap his trusty Jazzmaster for an acoustic guitar.
A subtle, at times introverted album, it nonetheless wears its influences on its sleeve. Intrigued, Clash sat down with Mascis for a new instalment of Foundations, focussing on the guitar heroes who inspire him.
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'Every Morning', from 'Tied To A Star'
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Wipers – 'Over The Edge' (1983)
"That’s a record I got turned onto when I started Dinosaur [Jr.], started to play guitar. I really liked it and tried to copy stuff for my own guitar style. I couldn’t do it very well, but it was an inspiration in learning to play guitar. I didn’t really try to copy [Wipers' Greg Sage] much because I couldn’t play very well, guitar wise, so I was just trying to write songs."
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The Stooges – 'The Stooges' (1969)
"That’s like my ultimate guitar sound that I always try to chase. It’s the best, my favourite guitar sound. The sound, mostly, and the playing. But I love the sound of the guitar on that record. I played with (Stooges guitarist) Ron Asheton a lot. When I was playing with Mike Watt in the early 2000s we started inviting him around to play with us, and he came more and more. Then we played some gigs with Scott [Asheton] and Ron and Mike Watt – Asheton, Asheton, Mascis, Watt, it was called. We played in England at some festivals and I think Iggy [Pop] heard about it and I think that’s what helped him want to get The Stooges back together, because people were saying that we were better than his band, which was a lot of metal guys at the time who were uninspired. People seeing Ron play again made them realise The Stooges was more than Iggy. I feel like I was trained in Stooges guitar playing. He was the master and I was the student. I learned a few tricks from him."
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Black Sabbath – 'Vol. 4' (1972)
"I saw Sabbath for the first time recently and that’s what made me want to write that down. I saw them last week in Berlin. It was actually awesome. I think Tony Iommi is one of the best guitar players I ever saw. I was really impressed. Live, he was really awesome – the sound, his whole playing.
"I got into them, I guess, towards the end of Deep Wound or hardcore. When I was into hardcore I was pretty much just into that. So I sold some of my old records. But then I just started widening out again toward the end of Deep Wound, getting into The Birthday Party and back to Sabbath and stuff like New Order, Joy Division, The Dream Syndicate. Just different bands. Whatever I was hearing, I just moved into Dinosaur.
"I like metal. Iron Maiden. I saw them and there was only like 100 people there or something. Near where I live, the shows are a bit hit and miss, in this civic center. Nobody was there and it was so loud and just bouncing around, it was like white noise. So if you didn’t know any of the songs you wouldn’t know what was happening. I was probably in Dinosaur then, maybe 19. The same place I saw David Lee Roth on his first tour with Steve Vai… and there was still like 100 people there too."
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The Rolling Stones – 'Exile On Main St.' (1972)
"I think it’s the best album they’ve had. Mick Taylor and Keith Richards are big influences on my guitar playing. I just saw them the other day, too, in Berlin. It was like Sabbath, Aerosmith, Stones – three days in a row. Mick Taylor played ‘Midnight Rambler’ which was great. They sounded great with all three of them playing. I think they should just leave them all there, y’know.
"I like the melodic playing of Mick Taylor. I think he’s one of the only people I can listen to play slide. Somehow slide irritates me a little. But when Mick Taylor plays it, I like it.
"I played drums first so… I’ve noticed when playing with other guitarists, sometimes they’re not as rhythmic. I think I’m more inherently rhythmic. I get annoyed sometimes if people are too, y’know, washy in the way that they play. It’s not precise enough."
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Richard Thompson – 'Small Town Romance' (1984)
"I came to him later. I guess I had a girlfriend when I was 22 or something, who was really into him. I had never really listened to him before then. But yeah, every time I see him he’s always awesome. That’s an acoustic live album and that’s, I think, where he’s at his best. Playing acoustic, live. I’ve seen him with a band but I like it better when he’s alone and doesn’t have to sit back for other people.
"I guess I admire how workmanlike he is. He’ll really going somewhere to write songs, working eight hours a day. He’s pretty… hardworking (laughs). I’m more, like, I watch TV and play the guitar. It’s kind of like I’m waiting for something to come. When I’m writing a song it is more like fishing: you’re just sitting around, hoping something will happen. So I can watch TV and just pass the time while I’m waiting for something to happen."
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'Tied To A Star' is released on August 25th via Sub Pop. Find J Mascis online here.
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