Dinosaur Jr. loud in Aspen | AspenTimes.com

Dinosaur Jr. loud in Aspen

Stewart OksenhornAspen, CO Colorado
Published: Brantley Gutierrez
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ASPEN J Mascis wasnt looking to join the mainstream of the mid-80s. Guitar rock was out of vogue at the time: No one was playing loud guitar solos; that wasnt too hip at the time, he observed. But fashionable or not, Mascis was determined to play guitar solos about as long as his fingers would allow, and as loud as his eardrums would tolerate. He gathered Lou Barlow, a mate from their previous band, Deep Wound, and drummer Emmett Patrick Murphy, who went by the obvious nickname Murph, and formed Dinosaur Jr.The Amherst, Mass.-based trio played a prominent role in returning the extended, bone-rattling guitar solo to its place of prominence. With a garage-inspired sound akin to Neil Youngs Crazy Horse, Dinosaur Jr. eventually had a hit with its third record, 1988s Bug. Their next album, 1991s Green Mind recorded without Barlow, and with only scant participation by Murph was released on the major label, Sire, and was hailed as latter-day high-water mark for guitar rock. The next wave of popular music seemed to be paying attention; Nirvana, for one, admitted to being influenced by Dinosaur Jr.As it turns out, Mascis was not only uninterested in adjusting his musical style to fit the style of the time. He didnt even mind losing the small following he had already attracted in his pre-Dinosaur Jr. days.Prior to Dinosaur Jr., Mascis had been a member the drummer, in fact for Deep Wound. The group, with Barlow on guitar, was part of the hard-core punk scene. Punk, too, had little patience for the long-winded guitar solos that Mascis had in mind. (Deep Wounds one recording was a 45 that managed to squeeze in nine songs.) So when he formed Dinosaur Jr. and set the band on its path, not too many fans were anxious to follow.We were pretty unpopular when we started with that concept, said Mascis, in a slow, far-off drawl that could well be taken for deep indifference. Our concept was to play loud country music and we lost any fans wed had.Fans were not the point. Volume was achieving a decibel level that would satisfy Mascis enormous capacity for loudness. I was just trying to amuse myself, I guess, said Mascis, of his early appetite for volume. I enjoy playing solos really loud. I listen to all sorts of music; I always had lots of records. But playing with these guys, it just seemed like loud was what came out of us.A native of Amherst, Mass., and the son of a dentist, Mascis first played the instrument typically favored by the decibel junkie the drums. After Deep Wound, however, he wanted to try something new. Not knowing any guitarists he considered good, he took up the six-string himself. I figured I could teach someone else how to play drums, said Mascis, who still drums in the Black Sabbath-inspired band Witch, which is set to release an album in March.Dinosaur Jr.s time was limited. After the release of 1997s Hand It Over, the group disbanded. But Mascis was hardly done with shredding; a series of albums, several credited to J Mascis & the Fog, featured a similar approach to the guitar.In 2005, Mascis reunited with his original Dinosaur Jr. rhythm section to tour in support of the re-release of the bands first three CDs. The reunion went well enough that the band recorded 2007s Beyond the first Dinosaur Jr. record in a decade, the first with the original lineup since 1988s Bug, and an affirmation that Mascis, at 42, would still rather play crunchy guitar solos than probably anything else. The album also proves that his skills as a songwriter havent faded. This Is All I Came to Do wraps his guitar in a simple, catchy three-chord progression; the album opens with an inspired guitar solo which unfolds into the dense Almost Ready.The band made its Aspen debut last month at Belly Up Aspen. It returns with a free show Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at the base of Aspen Mountain, part of the Aspen Skiing Co.s Hi-Fi Concert Series.Mascis says he is not surprised that his fondness for volume hasnt faded. What surprised him in making Beyond was how long it took to get the songs and the old sound ironed out.In the old days, wed practice a lot, then record, he said. This time, we had to practice and record at the same time. It sounded bad at first. That was discouraging. Mascis says he is pleased with the final result, but uncertain whether Dinosaur Jr. will record a follow-up to Beyond. No matter how the Dinosaur Jr. story ends, it will have far surpassed Mascis original plans for the band.Our big goal was to be on SST Records, with Black Flag, he said. When we achieved that, we were pretty happy. We didnt have any other goals.stewart@aspentimes.com


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