J MASCIS – Dinosaur Jr.’s Set Up and Guitars

Posted: March 27, 2016 in Guitar Pedals, Guitars
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J Mascis’ Dinosaur Jr. broke onto the burgeoning indie music scene just before Nirvana set off a seismic shift in the music industry in the early ’90s. And in many respects Dinosaur Jr.—along with bands like Sonic Youth, the Minutemen, and Mission of Burma—set the stage for Nirvana and the rest the alternative music movement.

While the rise of indie felt like nothing short of a musical revolution, the party didn’t last. And somewhat ironically, indie artists became the new mainstream. But while success changed other band’s agendas, Dinosaur Jr. stuck to their original sensibilities—making albums riddled with hooks and polluted with thick layers of sonic chaos.

Mascis (born Joseph Donald Mascis) formed the band with bassist Lou Barlow and drummer Emmett Jefferson “Murph” Murphy III more than 25 years ago in Amherst, Massachusetts. His droning vocals and controlled-noise guitar work were the backbone of the band’s sound, and his style—a fusion of punk and classic-rock moves—was revelatory at the time. He often included fierce guitar solos in Dinosaur Jr songs at a time when solos bordered on passé in indie circles. They also reflected Mascis’ uncommon compositional chops—they were integral to the song while being lyrical, rabid, and punctuated with wild, out-of-control bends.

In the late ’90s, Dinosaur Jr. disbanded and Mascis went on to form J Mascis + the Fog. But Dinosaur reunited in 2005 for a short tour, and their early records were also reissued that year. In 2007 and 2009, the band also recorded new material for the critically acclaimed albums Beyond and Farm. But recent years have also brought out a different side of Mascis’ musical persona. In 2008, he released J + Friends Sing + Chant for Amma, a folk-influenced album featuring devotional songs dedicated to Indian saint Lady Amma (Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi).

Mascis is a quirky, one-of-a-kind character. He’s also a massive gear fiend. Although his instrument of choice is a Fender Jazzmaster—in 2007 Fender honored Mascis with his own purple-sparkle signature Jazzmaster—he’s a big collector of vintage guitars. And he finds them the same way we all do—by obsessively scouring internet listings.

Dinosaur Jr. frontman J Mascis’ rig. he shows us his arsenal of modified Jazzmasters, a powerful four-amp setup, and then demonstrates some of the tones in his pedalboard.

J Mascis‘ main guitar is a sunburst ’63 Fender Jazzmaster with original neck and pickups (left). He replaced the pickup covers, knobs, and added a Tune-o-matic-style bridge. His main backup is a sunburst ’65 Jazzmaster with original neck and pickups, also with the bridge replaced. Other Jazzmasters in his arsenal include a refinished ’58 with vintage pickups and gold hardware, a refinished ’63 body with ’59 neck and vintage Jazzmaster pickups, and the second prototype of his signature Squier Jazzmaster with Seymour Duncan Antiquities. Mascis disengages the top toggle switch and installs jumbo frets into most of his guitars.

Mascis’ four-amp setup includes two late-’60s Marshall Super Bass full-stacks, a vintage Hiwatt DR-103 head driving two Marshall 4x12s, and a Victoria 80212 tweed Twin clone. The head shown here sits atop an ancient and battle-scarred 4×12 that he proudly says he bought for $40, minus the speakers.

Mascis’ pedalboard is built around a Bob Bradshaw-built Custom Audio Electronics switcher that gives him a multitude of effect combinations. Among the notable boxes on the board are a ToneBender Mk I-clone/Rangemaster-clone combo pedal built by Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch (bottom right corner), Mascis’ first Electro-Harmonix “Ram’s Head” Big Muff (top right), an MC-FX clone of a Univox Super-Fuzz, a CAE Twin Tremolo (upper left), a Z.Vex Double Rock (two Box of Rocks in one, bottom left), and an Electro-Harmonix POG2 that he’s using to mimic Mellotron and organ sounds from Dino Jr.’s latest album.



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