|Indie rock giants seem to revel in the shadows rather than directly in the spotlight. Perhaps that's why J Mascis has titled his latest release J Mascis and the Fog and appears on its cover in silhouette. Whatever the reason, this appearance of shrouded anonymity has not escaped his legion of fans that started with him during his Dinosaur Jr, tenure and follow just as faithfully today. Recently, J sat down with Guitar Center to discuss, among other things, his recording techniques and his affinity for Deep Purple kick drum tones.
GC: On your most recent release, what guitar do you play and with what pickups?
Mascis: I think it's a '58 Tele. I don't remember the pickup, but I think it was from another guitar from the '50s, maybe '54 through a tweed 310 Bandmaster.
GC: What's your mic-ing set-up? Do you use one mic?
Mascis: [Producer] John Agnello used a Shure SM57, Sennheiser MD-421 and a Shure SM87 on one track, just bound together. They're all close, all right on line.
GC: What pedals do you use?
Mascis: On that it was an old Big Muff.
GC: The leads for "Alone" off of Hand It Over sounded a little bit different. Can you describe the tone you got for that and how you got it?
Mascis: "Alone" had a lot of effects. I think a lot of it is the LoveTone Meatball and the Ibanez AD9 delay from the same era as the Tube Screamers everybody liked.
GC: Was there any direct recording on that?
Mascis: The first solo at the beginning is out of the back of the Fender Super Champ amp direct.
GC: Is there any general overall different approach to J. Mascis and The Fog as opposed to Hand It Over?
Mascis: I wrote some songs on keyboard. That was different. I wrote on electric piano and regular piano.
GC: Any advice for people that want to make it in the music business?
Mascis: They just have to play and just keep playing. Music doesn't go up and down so if you just want to make money, it's going to be tough. I think you have to want to play and you will be playing no matter what happens.
GC: Back to the music, "Without a Sound" off of Out of Hand has a great acoustic sound. Can you describe what acoustics you used for that?
Mascis: I think it's this Martin I have. I don't know if they still make a 12-fret Martin with a slotted headstock, like Willie Nelson's guitar.
GC: How close do you set the mics to the acoustic?
Mascis: Pretty close, maybe six inches from where the neck meets the body.
GC: Do you have any direct line with the acoustics?
GC: Do you compress the acoustics after you record them?
Mascis: Yeah, during recording and after, but on that album I'm not sure. I might have used a Universal Audio LA-2A.
GC: What type of drums do you use?
Mascis: I've got a DW set that I only record with. It's dimensions are 16 x 28, 12 x 14 and 16 x 18. It's a Tama Imperial snare that I got with my graduation money from high school and a Tama Camco pedal.
GC: Do you have a cymbal preference?
Mascis: Yeah, Zildjian. They all sound different even though they're the same model, so I just try them out and find one I like. They always change the names of them, too. They'll discontinue some model names but they always seem like the same cymbal. They say, "Oh, we don't make that anymore." But then they'll look around and find what new name they've given the same cymbal. Now it's the "pre-aged dry light ride" or something. I have the feeling we break so many cymbals that they change the names just so we can't find anymore of the good ones.
GC: What kind of heads do you use?
Mascis: Usually coated Emperor.
GC: Do you have a skin with a hole on the kick?
Mascis: Sometimes. On the last album it had a hole, but before that it didn't.
GC: What mics do you use on the kick?
Mascis: On the kick I've gone through a lot of different ones, but now I've just been using a Diamond Jet 47. I also like the Beyer M88. I'm always least happy with bass drums.
GC: Why's that? I think it sounds pretty tight.
Mascis: I don't know. They're just the hardest one to get. The only one I can think of that I like is on the live Deep Purple album Made in Japan. I like a kind of weird sound, not a thud.
GC: What mic do you prefer for the vocals?
Mascis: An old AKG D12.
GC: Do you compress and bounce that?
Mascis: Oh yeah!
GC: Can you give me some advice to do that?
Mascis: No. Try to do a few tracks. It's really impossible to bounce. I have a friend who's trying to decide between 24 tracks of vocals and it's insane. I try to keep it to four and make one out of four. If I don't like it, then I'll just sing it again.
GC: Do you use ADATs, analog or hard disk for recording?
Mascis: I use analog 24-track 2-inch. I also have some Tascam DA-88s I use occasionally. I limit myself to 31 tracks.
GC: How about your songwriting strategy?
Mascis: I just kind of jam around until I get something I like and then play that for a while. When I get enough parts for it, then I try to arrange it somehow so it makes sense. After I record it, I do the drums, guitar or something. I never really have the lyrics until the last minute.
GC: Do you use anything to capture it while you're just jamming around?
Mascis: Yeah, I have a $3 Panasonic cassette player.
GC: Do you do jam in a band context?
GC: Do you use anything like a Pocket Rock-it?
GC: Just acoustic or electric?
Mascis: Both, if it's really quiet. Sometimes I'll just play the electric acoustically.
GC: How many guitars do you have and do you have a preference for new or vintage?
Mascis: I'm more of a vintage kind of guy. I don't know how many guitars. Over 30. I like the new little Baby Taylor guitar. I've got three Jazzmasters and a Tele and two Esquires. I have a bunch of Gibsons with P90s. I've got a Les Paul and four Les Paul Jr.s. The P90 is my favorite pickup.
GC: Where do you find your vintage guitars?
Mascis: Usually I got them at stores across the country touring. A lot of the acoustics I found in Amherst where I live. It's kind of a hippy town, kind of folky.
GC: Do you try to educate yourself on the newest stuff?
Mascis: Guitar stuff is usually word of mouth. I read Guitar World occasionally. I like equipment a lot so I tend to go into music stores wherever I am just to look at stuff.
GC: What do you think about the Guitar Center?
Mascis: I think it's pretty cool. I like the one in Hollywood with all the vintage guitars. They seem to be popping out everywhere except there isn't one in Amherst. You have to open up one in Western Massachusetts!