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J Mascis: Unplugged and Unfazed - But Not Unfuzzed

J Mascis: Unplugged and Unfazed – But Not Unfuzzed

Mascis and a Sunrise-pickup-equipped Gibson CF-100 playing at the
2010 SXSW festival. Photo by Kelly Davidson |

What acoustic guitars did you use on the album?

Mostly a Martin 000-18. I can’t remember the exact year, but it’s from the ’50s. Then I have a Gibson CF–100 that I play live. I also have a Martin D-28 that I use sometimes.

Did you mic the guitars or use a piezo pickup?

Mostly mic’d, unless it’s through some effects. If it’s through a pickup, I usually use a Sunrise.

Songs like “Where Are You,” “Can I,” and “What Happened” feature distorted guitar parts. Were they recorded with acoustic or electric guitars?

It’s acoustic through a fuzz pedal.

All of it?


And which fuzz pedal did you use for those parts?

I think a lot of those parts were recorded when I was using a fuzz that Jim Roth, the guitarist in Built to Spill, made. I think it’s a copy of a Tone Bender, although I don’t know which one, MKI or MKII.

Was it hard to keep the fuzzed-out acoustic from feeding back and going nuts?

Nah. I’m used to that battle, so it doesn’t bother me.

Other than the tambourine on “Not Enough,” there’s no drums or percussion on the album. Why?

Just so it didn’t sound like all my other stuff. If I put drums on it, then I’ll start putting in other guitars. I just wanted to try and make it sound a little different somehow.

In addition to your Several Shades of Why tour and some Dinosaur Jr. shows, you have some Indian kirtan and devotional singing shows lined up. How did that come about?

Just through Lady Amma. She’s kind of like a Mother Teresa figure and has a lot of charities. She has a lot of music at her programs, and I wanted to contribute something—to play there and try to relate to the people who wouldn’t necessarily be into my music.

Are you going to continue to pursue this more acoustic sound in the future or are there no set plans?

I don’t have any plans, really.

Okay. Let’s switch gears a bit and talk about the guitar that you’ve been famous for over all these years. What’s the story behind your first Jazzmaster?

Mascis, a '60s Jazzmaster, and a decidedly pared-down amp rig (a Fender Twin) at a gig with Sweet Apple at the 2010 SXSW festival. Photo by Kynan Tait
I got it from a place called Slimy Bob’s Guitar Rip Off shop in Connecticut. He’d always advertise all the stuff he had in the local paper, The Valley Advocate. I wanted to get a Strat and I’d saved up money. There was one for $400 and the store was pretty far away for me—over an hour or an hour-and- a-half drive. When I finally got there, he was like, “Oh yeah, the Strat—that’s $450.” I didn’t have that much, but he had a Jaguar and a Jazzmaster that were cheaper. The Jaguar was $200 and the Jazzmaster was $300. I thought the Jaguar looked cooler, but the neck on the Jazzmaster felt better. It was longer, worn down, and it had the big Grover tuning pegs— which somehow impressed me from seeing them on, like, Peter Frampton’s Les Paul or something. They were all crammed in on one side of the Fender. So I went for that one.
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