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J Mascis: Unplugged and Unfazed - But Not Unfuzzed

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J Mascis: Unplugged and Unfazed – But Not Unfuzzed

Where is that one now—do you still have it, or did you sell it along the way?

I sold it to the Experience Music Project, this museum in Seattle.

If you had gotten the Strat you originally wanted, would that have changed your career at all?

Yeah, probably. For one thing, I probably wouldn’t have a signature model Strat.

You favor a high action on your guitars, right? I heard your motto is that action can never be too high, only too low.

Whenever I get the guitars set up, the [repair] guys are always like, “We can fix the action,” but I always like the action super high—just so I can bend the strings, I guess. Jumbo frets also seem easier for me. I always use new strings and they’re pretty slippery. If I didn’t use new strings, they’d break a lot. So I change them every day.

Live, how many backup guitars do you have waiting in case of a string break?

I’ve done a lot of shows with just two guitars. I’ve been breaking the B string lately, so after half an hour I switch to the other guitar, and the guy will change the B string before it breaks. That’s worked out. I use .010s for strings.

What’s the origin of the purple sparkle?

It’s just two things that I like together. I like sparkly things from playing drums—they always had blue sparkles or silver sparkles, and I had painted some of my guitars with sparkles. Purple is my favorite color. So it’s a combination I guess.

What does the rest of your electric-guitar rig consist of, and how has it evolved over the years?

I’ve tried to get it smaller. At one point, I had a suitcase with stuff in it, and then one day I got this giant rack that was like a refrigerator. From then on, I’ve been trying to scale it down from there. Now I’ve just got a big pedalboard, and everything’s just on the board.

What pedals do you have on there?


Mascis with two late-'60s plexi Marshalls and a Hiwatt mic'd with a Sennheiser e609 at the Fillmore in San Francisco in 2009. Photo by James De Leon
Z. Vex made me a pedal with two Box of Rocks in it, and Dr. Scientist made me a pedal with a Woofer Wailer and a Frazz Dazzler. I also have an old Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, an RMC wah, an Electro- Harmonix Electric Mistress, a Megavibe Uni-Vibe copy, and an Eventide TimeFactor delay—the pedal one. I also use a Boss reverb, the RV-5. That was something Bob Bradshaw recommended, and I like it. I still have an old rack Roland reverb that I like for snare drum and studio stuff. I knew they had some good ideas on reverb anyway. But I don’t really have any rack stuff anymore.

And what amps are you using?

I use two old, 100-watt plexi Marshalls and then two 100- watt Hiwatts. They all have EL34 tubes.

Which pieces of gear have stayed with you since the beginning?

The Big Muff and the Electric Mistress, I guess, are the two things I first had and still use.

Tell us about some of your vintage guitars. Which are your favorites?

A ’58 Telecaster is my favorite one, I guess. I’ve had it for a long time. I used to take it out on the road but, yeah, then I stopped.

Yeah, it’s too risky. You had some valuable stuff stolen in 2006 after a gig in Brooklyn, right?

Yeah, luckily I didn’t have it there. For simplicity, I just have Jazzmasters. At one point, I had, like, three Jazzmasters and two Teles, and it got too confusing.

Where do you find your vintage instruments?

Wherever. I guess now the internet a lot. But it’s kind of hard to buy a guitar without playing it.

If you find something on, say, Craigslist, do you go buy it in person?

Yeah, but anything that seems to be good on Craigslist seems to be too far away. I wanted to look at a guitar recently, but it was like an hour and half away. It’s just like, “Eh . . . .” It would also be uncomfortable if it’s just some guy and not a store, and I was like “Uh, no, I don’t like your guitar. See ya later.”

Even if the deal didn’t go through, he’d get a good story out of it . . .

Yeah, I don’t know . . . in certain circles. I drove to Vermont and bought a Jazzmaster from a guy who lived in a trailer, and that was pretty cool [laughs].


Mascis onstage at the Brooklyn Bowl in Brooklyn, New York, on
January 18, 2010. Photo by A Horse With No Name Photography

Mascis’ Gearbox
Guitars
Sunburst 1963 and ’65 Fender Jazzmasters, Fender J Mascis Jazzmaster, 1950s Martin 000-18, Gibson CF-100 and Martin D-28 F acoustics with Sunrise pickups

Amps
Late-’60s Marshall plexi Super Bass head, late-’60s Marshall plexi Super PA head, early-’70s Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103 head, Marshall 4x12 cabs, late-’70s or early-’80s Hiwatt Custom 100 1x12 combo used as a wedge monitor

Effects
Bob Bradshaw pedalboard controlling Custom Z. Vex pedal containing two Box of Rocks units, custom Dr. Scientist pedal containing a Woofer Wailer and a Frazz Dazzler, Electro-Harmonix Big Muff, RMC wah, Electro-Harmonix Electric Mistress, Megavibe Uni-Vibe copy, Eventide TimeFactor delay pedal, Boss RV-5 reverb

Miscellaneous
Dunlop 1.14 mm Tortex picks, DR Tite-Fit MT-10 (.010–.046) strings, Monster speaker and pedalboard cables, Mogami instrument cable
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