J. Mascis: A Double Life

J. MascisThere’s J. Mascis, singer, speaker-shredding guitarist, and chief architect of Dinosaur Jr.’s very loud and deceptively tuneful sound. Then there’s J. Mascis, balls-to-the-wall hard rock drummer for Witch, and hoarder of 28″ kick drums.

“My first was a marching drum I ordered from Ludwig,” Mascis says of his love for drumming’s equivalent to the Marshall stack. “Then I ordered a whole kit from DW in the ’90s with a 28″ kick. Later I found a Ludwig Vistalite kit on eBay with two 28s. That was a pretty wild find.”

A 28″ kick from another DW kit Mascis owns can be heard on Witch’s most recent album, Paralyzed. Said drum provides a mammoth heartbeat that, with the help of four strategically placed microphones (two in front, one inside, one behind the throne), cuts through the haze and sludge of songs like “Sweet Sue” and the aptly titled “Psychotic Rock.” Advertisement

All signs–from the atmospheric sound of J’s kit to his slow-to-uncoil fills–point to Black Sabbath’s Bill Ward as a main inspiration. Right era, wrong drummer, or drummers, actually. “My big three were Ian Paice, John Bonham, and Charlie Watts,” Mascis says of his drumming influences. “I was trying to somehow get my style to be in between those three. Sabbath was a sound to me; no one player stood out, really. With Zeppelin, I would totally focus on the drums.”

Mascis says that drumming for Witch, a band on a small indie label that doesn’t rehearse and doesn’t really tour, is a different animal compared to his days drumming on Dinosaur Jr.’s Warner Bros. releases in the ’90s, when label executives would question tempo surges on singles like “Feel The Pain.”

“I would hear from some record company guys, ‘If it’s not on a click, the tempo variations disturb people.’ I’d be like, ‘What are you talking about?’ I don’t know how that became the standard. I’ve never been into the click thing. I don’t understand what’s so great about having songs be the same speed all the way through.” Advertisement

Patrick Berkery