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Mascis and his trademark triple-stack array—in this case, a Marshall JCM 2000 TSL 100 head and two
Hiwatt Custom 100 DR103 heads—playing live with Dinosaur Jr. at the Bukta Festival in Tromsø,
Norway, July 16, 2010. The amps are mic'd with Sennheiser e609s. Photo by Simon McKenzie
How did Several Shades of Why come about?
I used to play a lot of acoustic solo shows, and a friend of mine—Megan Jasper, who works at Sub Pop records—had always wanted me to do a record like that, because she was into the shows. It just took a long time before it seemed like the right time. It was recorded at my house, although some guests on the album recorded at other places.
Who are some of the guests?
A longtime friend of mine named Kurt Fedora, Kurt Vile, Matt Valentine, Sophie Trudeau from Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Silver Mount Zion, Ben Bridwell from Band of Horses, Kevin Drew from Broken Social Scene, Paul Jenkins from Black Heart Procession, and Suzanne Thorpe from Mercury Rev and Wounded Knees.
What was the writing process like for this album—and did you have to make any stylistic adjustments to accommodate the acoustic?
No. It was probably the same as usual—I just kind of write on the guitar, and then write lyrics more toward the end, before I have to sing them. I use my iPhone to record ideas and then send it to my email.
I heard that you also write songs while watching TV.
Yeah, it just passes the time. Maybe it helps that I’m not thinking too much about what I’m playing. I just hope that something might come through.
Did you write all the parts—including the string melodies— yourself, or was it a collaborative effort?
For the strings, I wrote one section and Sophie did the other parts. A lot of the guitar people on the album are just playing whatever—they’d play a lot of stuff and I’d just pick out things that I liked. So, yeah, we were just jamming.
What changes—lyrically and musically—do you notice in your songwriting since the inception of Dinosaur Jr.?
At the beginning, I put a lot more parts in the songs—we just had tons of different parts all the time. That’s the main difference, I guess. Now, I feel comfortable to just sometimes have two parts, instead of, like, 20 parts to the song.
In the past, you’ve cited some classic-rock influences, although your music doesn’t always reflect that. What influences have remained with you throughout our career?
The Stones, the Stooges, the Wipers . . . they all still influence me. I collect new ones, but the old ones are still there. I always bought a lot of records. What do I have that’s new? Let’s see . . . I just heard this band Soft Moon that I liked. They sounded pretty cool, kind of like a Joy Division and Cabaret Voltaire kind of vibe.