J Mascis takes a break from Dinosaur Jr. to play a couple Alyeska shows with The Fog

Matt Sullivan

Joseph Mascis Jr., better known to indie-rock fans as J Mascis, embodied the Generation X slacker anti-hero in the late '80s and early '90s. Fronting the seminal, ear-splitting alternative-rock band Dinosaur Jr., Mascis pushed air through a wall of amplifiers, but when he stepped to the microphone, his nasal drawl sounded detached and unaffected by the cacophony surrounding it.

A million bands would later rip that off.

Over the phone from his home in Massachusetts, Mascis sounded like his mind was elsewhere, like maybe he had just woken up. When talking about his upcoming gig in Girdwood, he fielded most questions with short sentences that rolled out slowly and quietly. Watch a few interviews on YouTube and you'll find that's generally how interviews with the musician go. The closest Mascis ever came to sounding excited was when he talked about his plans to hit the slopes at Alyeska.

"I wish I had been able to ski more this year to get prepared for skiing in Alaska," he kinda-sorta enthused.

His bands haven't often reflected that unimposing part of his personality. He played drums in the hyper-fast hard-core punk group Deep Wound. He currently anchors the rhythm section in stoner-metal band Witch and plays both guitar and drums and occasionally sings in the power-pop group Sweet Apple. The list is a lot longer than that, but his name will always be synonymous with Dinosaur Jr.

At this point, Mascis' reputation as a non-communicative and distant bandleader has become a thing of legend. In Michael Azerrad's book "Our Band Could Be Your Life," which chronicles 13 influential underground rock bands of the '80s and '90s, the chapter devoted to Dinosaur Jr. details the inner-band friction that led to Mascis eventually becoming the group's sole consistent member. He eventually retired the Dinosaur moniker in the late '90s.

That's where The Fog comes in. Mascis started the band after shedding the Dino title, but the new band continued down the same alt-rock template he forged in the previous group. Dinosaur songs figured prominently in The Fog's set lists.

But the original version of Dinosaur Jr. has been back in action since 2005, so why is The Fog coming to Alaska instead? Mascis said that The Fog's shows are few and far between, but someone at Alyeska knows original Fog bassist Dave Schools (who also plays in Widespread Panic) and asked the band to play.

Schools won't be part of the lineup in Alaska. The current Fog incarnation includes Athens, Ga., musicians Kyle Spence of the sludgy metal band Harvey Milk and Kevin Sweeney of the garage-rock group Hayride.

"They were our road crew on our first go-round of the Dino reunion," Mascis said. "They'd set up the stuff and play and sounded a lot better than we did. We came on stage and all the local people were like 'What happened to the band? You guys suck.' "

And Dinosaur songs will still make up a portion of the Fog set list: "Those guys know a lot of songs of mine," Mascis said. "They sent me a list of like 40 songs."

Just don't expect anything from his latest solo album, "Several Shades of Why." Mascis said the mostly acoustic album was inspired by English folk and West Coast folk from the '60s, and he's been touring behind it off and on for the past year. At this point he'd rather play with a band.

"It's more fun to play electric, I guess," he offered.

The trip to Alaska also comes amid a flurry of activity. Dinosaur is putting the final touches on a new album set for release later this year ("I guess it sounds different -- not sure exactly how. It might be a little bit mellower or something."). Witch is playing a festival in the Netherlands next month. Sweet Apple has a new album on the way, and he resurrected a long-dormant band called Heavy Blanket that will release a full-length this year ("I don't know who it will appeal to or anything. I don't think girls seem to like it very much. I think it's guitar nerd kind of guys that like it. It's just like one long guitar solo.").

So does one of rock music's most accomplished slackers get stressed out by such a hefty to-do list?

"A little bit -- it's not too bad," he admitted. "I'm a little overbooked right now."

J Mascis and The Fog

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Where: Alyeska Daylodge, Girdwood

Tickets: $20 advance, $25 door, alyeskaresort.com


By Matt Sullivan
Anchorage Daily News