J Mascis: “I still use the Marshall and Hiwatt stacks... I just like the feeling of the guitar kind of hitting you in the back”

J Mascis
(Image credit: Olly Curtis / Future)

While Sweep It Into Space, Dinosaur Jr.’s first album in five years, ticks all the boxes fans could hope for, it might just surprise a few longtime listeners, due to its upbeat feel. 

Frontman J Mascis agrees: “I suppose it was a fairly positive feeling doing the record, although the pandemic hasn’t agreed with me – and I haven’t been too happy myself. 

"We started before lockdown but had to finish it once it kicked in, which was pretty weird as I had to learn how to do a lot of things, engineering-wise, at home. I’m very happy with the record – although it will take me some time before I can really decide how it stands in relation to the rest of my work.” 

Although Mascis’ guitar parts sound enormous, his guitar is actually not that loud in the studio. 

“We always use smaller amps when we’re recording, like a [Vox] AC15 or a Tweed Deluxe. I like a lot of effects that really change the sound of the guitar; they often tend to be vintage units or newer models designed to sound like old pedals.

"Live, I still use the Marshall and Hiwatt stacks. I’ve not had my hearing tested lately, but I definitely have tinnitus; I’ve always worn earplugs, though. I just like the feeling of the guitar kind of hitting you in the back.” [Laughs] 

Guitar-wise, there’ve been a few recent additions to J’s arsenal. “I used a Les Paul Junior TV model, and Ernie Ball gave me a St. Vincent guitar, which I hadn’t played before. I use a capo a lot, and a lot of my old guitars don’t play very well with a capo on them. 

"Live, I’m going to be using one of my signature Jazzmasters, which I’ve modified by installing a humbucker in the neck position. I’ll be tuning that down to C# and using a capo for four songs on the album. It’s really just to find the best key to sing with.”

Going forward, Mascis plans to continue releasing solo records as well as work with Dinosaur Jr. 

“I’ve started working on a solo album already, and I’m in the middle of mixing a Heavy Blanket album, an ongoing side project that’s all instrumental with a lot of solos. We’ll also be celebrating the 40th anniversary of [Dinosaur Jr.] getting together in a couple of years, which is a bit surreal. I think we’ll do something special to celebrate that.”

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Mark McStea

Mark is a freelance writer with particular expertise in the fields of ‘70s glam, punk, rockabilly and classic ‘50s rock and roll. He sings and plays guitar in his own musical project, Star Studded Sham, which has been described as sounding like the hits of T. Rex and Slade as played by Johnny Thunders. He had several indie hits with his band, Private Sector and has worked with a host of UK punk luminaries. Mark also presents themed radio shows for Generating Steam Heat. He has just completed his first novel, The Bulletproof Truth, and is currently working on the sequel.