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Best known as the remote frontman of the influential indie trio Dinosaur Jr., J Mascis has also been an occasional producer and film composer.
Born December 10, 1965 in Amherst, Massachusetts, he first emerged as a member of the hardcore unit Deep Wound, founding Dinosaur in 1984. Over the course of acclaimed LPs like 1987's You're Living All Over Me and 1988's Bug, the group emerged among the most highly regarded in alternative rock, with Mascis' creaky, Neil Young-like vocals and monolithic guitar leads becoming primary influences on the burgeoning grunge movement. The group temporarily disbanded in 1989, largely to allow the legendarily non-communicative singer the opportunity to dismiss bassist Lou Barlow, who went on to form Sebadoh; in the meantime, Mascis sat in on drums with a series of bands, among them the Velvet Monkeys and GobbleHoof, even producing the latter's eponymous 1990 LP. Upon re-forming Dinosaur Jr. in 1991, he scored Allison Anders' independent film Gas Food Lodging a year later, making a cameo appearance in the picture itself; he and Anders became regular collaborators in the years to follow, most notably on her feature Grace of My Heart. Mascis also produced records for pals including fIREHOSE (Mr. Machinery Operator) and Tad (Inhaler), and in 1996 issued his solo debut, Martin + Me.
After 1997's Hand It Over, Dinosaur Jr. disbanded. Keeping on with his personal musical eclecticism, J Mascis and his new outfit, the Fog, issued More Light in fall 2000. Featuring appearances from avant-garde guitarist Kevin Shields and Guided by Voices vocalist Bob Pollard, the record was a fine return to form that excited Dinosaur Jr. fans who had been disappointed with his acoustic record. A tour with Elf Power followed, featuring longtime friend Mike Watt on bass and Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton at several tour dates. It was his riff-heavy jams with Asheton and Watt, as well as several skydiving experiences, that inspired much of the music he started writing for his follow-up. When he stepped back into the studio, he kept the guest appearances down to a minimum and recorded Feel So Free for a 2002 release. Over the course of the next ten years, Mascis devoted a good share of his time to drums, performing in Witch, Sweet Apple, and Upsidedown Cross, and in 2005, after Merge Records reissued the first three Dinosaur Jr. albums, the original lineup of Mascis, Lou Barlow, and Murph reunited for a tour. The tour went well enough that Dinosaur Jr. became a going concern again, returning to the studio to record a new album, 2007's Beyond. Meanwhile, Mascis also continued his solo career, releasing three solo acoustic-based albums: 2005's J + Friends Sing + Chant for Amma, 2011's Several Shades of Why, and 2014's Tied to a Star. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi