An Open Letter to J Mascis

Dear J Mascis:

First of all, I am a big fan. From the first time I heard Dinosaur Jr back in the late 1980s to this very day, I have been a little awestruck. Your career is one any diehard music aficionado can respect. The first time I drove down Interstate 91 in Massachusetts and saw the exit for Amherst, I immediately thought of you. Maybe you were there then. I'm not a stalker, but swinging through your town did cross my mind. You have to have been in a lot of cool places, Mr. Mascis, since you have played in a bunch of great bands and released a ridiculous amount of music in the past 32 years.

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Your work in your first band, Deep Wound, for example, which you played drums in, impacted the hardcore scene in the Northeast, showing how you could blend blazing speed, noise, and punk rock. When I first heard Dino Jr (as we fans like to shorten it sometimes), I didn't realize you were also such a great drummer. You would later work with Deep Wound singer Charles Nakijima again in Gobblehoof, which I loved, both as a drummer and producer, and also with Deep Wound bassist Lou Barlow, who joined you in forming Dinosaur.

I've always wondered why you initially split from Deep Wound and formed Dinosaur in 1984? I'm fairly sure you needed to get a guitar. Forgive me for this, but the early Dinosaur stuff always reminded me a bit of our local heroes the Meat Puppets in the way it shifted from genre to genre. I will say, though, that on 1985's Dinosaur, you weren't quite in the Puppets' league by then, as you hadn't yet found a real command of your musical blender. But it would definitely come to form by 1987's You're Living All Over Me. Was there anything more annoying than when the silly Bay Area super (side guy) group, the Dinosaurs, sued you guys in 1987 and forced you to add the "Jr"?

Mr. Mascis, I also have to know, are you really a super-controlling guy? A lot of what I have read in music magazines has alluded to there being tension between you and main Dino Jr drummer Murph (Emmett Patrick Murphy) in regard to how the drums in your songs should be played. And then there's the tension between you and Lou Barlow, who left the band in 1989, after the release of Bug. Did you always want to be a solo musician, at least deep down inside? Because it kind of seems like you do when it comes to a good portion of the Dinosaur Jr catalog. 1990's Green Mind, which I really, really love, is basically just you, isn't it?

As much as I love your music, I can't help wondering what it would be like to be in a band or play music with you on a regular basis? You're amazingly talented as a guitar player and drummer. Even your vocal work is pretty good, though sometimes I'm not sure if there is any real meaning behind your lyrics, since you kinda come off like you don't really give much of a shit about anything.

I got to shake your hand once, and sadly, you gave me the "dead fish" handshake, but it was cool to watch you and the Wipers' Greg Sage size each other up to see who was the more socially awkward alt-rock icon after a killer show you did at Nita's Hideaway with your band The Fog. I think you won that one, although it was close.

Please write back, J Mascis. I'd love to know what you think.

Correction: This blog originally published with an incorrect byline.

J Mascis is scheduled to perform Tuesday, November 11, at Crescent Ballroom.

Find any show in Metro Phoenix via our extensive online concert calendar.

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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon