Best known as the singer, guitarist and main songwriter for the alternative rock band Dinosaur Jr, the American musician, J Mascis (Joseph Donald Mascis Jr) was born December 10, 1965 in Amherst, Massachusetts, the son of a dentist. and grew up in the same area together with his sister Patty and an older brother. His family name is Italian, from the province of Foggia, in the region of Apulia in the south of Italy.His mother, Theresa (an avid golfer), died in 1985 while his father, Joseph Sr., died in 1993.
Mascis became a music and drumming fan at the age of 9. He joined the jazz ensemble in school as a drummer, because there was not one of rock or punk. At 17, Mascis joined the short-lived hardcore group Deep Wound with Lou Barlow, Scott Helland, and Charlie Nakajima in the early 1980s. He went on to found Dinosaur Jr. with bassist Barlow and drummer Emmett Jefferson “Patrick” Murphy (aka “Murph”) in 1984, switching to guitar in the process, and they achieved national success. His vocals have been described as “Neil Young-like” and his guitar riffs as “monolithic” Mascis dismissed Barlow from Dinosaur Jr. in 1989 and over the next eight years recorded several more Dinosaur Jr. albums, as well as the 1996 acoustic solo album Martin + Me. In 1989 Kurt Cobain suggested that Mascis join Nirvana.
The manager for Deep Wound was Gerard Cosloy, who then went on to found Homestead Records. Homestead released Dinosaur Jr.’s first record. Mascis says that the reason why Dinosaur Jr.’s sound is not fully formed on that record is that they were more or less automatically signed to Homestead. Megan Jasper, vice president at Sub Pop Records characterises this period as “J had some anger, like any punk rock kid. Usually, though, when a young person is angry, they tend to be really loud. And J wasn’t. He was only loud when he played music”.
As a side project, he was the drummer in Boston doom metal group Upsidedown Cross, who released a self-titled album on Taang! Records in 1991. He wrote songs for the film Gas, Food, Lodging, in which he made a cameo appearance. In 1996, he had a small part in the movie Grace of my Heart and provided a ballad and a Beach Boys-like song for the soundtrack. In 1998, he retired the Dinosaur Jr. name. In April 2005 Mascis, Barlow, and Murph reformed the band for a tour celebrating the re-release of the group’s first three albums. The reunited line-up has since released four new albums: Beyond in 2007, Farm in 2009, I Bet on Sky in 2012, and Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not in 2016.
In 2000 he began producing albums with his new band, J Mascis + The Fog. In 2003, the house and studio he owned burned down. In August 2005 Mascis released J and Friends Sing and Chant For Amma, a solo album under the J Mascis and Friends banner. The album consists of devotional songs dedicated to Hindu religious leader Mata Amritanandamayi, or Ammachi, about whom he had written “Ammaring” on the first J Mascis + The Fog album More Light. The proceeds from the album are being donated to tsunami relief efforts Ammachi’s organization is spearheading. In 2008 the six-track album was made available digitally on his own Baked Goods label.
In 2006 Mascis returned to drumming with his newly formed heavy metal band Witch for their self-titled debut album. Also that year, he collaborated with Evan Dando on a new Lemonheads album. The Lemonheads was released that September, featuring Mascis playing lead guitar. In 2010 Mascis joined with John Petkovic and Tim Parnin of Cobra Verde and Dave Sweetapple of Witch to form Sweet Apple. The self-titled debut album was released on Tee Pee Records. Mascis plays drums, guitar, and sings on the album. Mascis released a mostly acoustic album in March 2011 titled Several Shades of Why on Sub Pop Records. He was joined in the studio by several guest musicians, including Kurt Vile, Ben Bridwell and Sophie Trudeau. Mascis toured North America with Vile as support act to promote the album. In 2013 Richard Ayoade cast J Mascis in a small role, a caretaker, in his film The Double. Mascis’s electric guitar work is featured on the 2014 Strand of Oaks album Heal. In April 2014 he played with reunited Nirvana on a secret gig after the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductions. He sang the songs School, Pennyroyal Tea and Drain You. In August 2014 he released the solo album Tied to a Star on Sub Pop and toured in support of it. He was ranked number 86 in a Rolling Stone list of the “100 Greatest Guitarists”, and number 5 in a similar list for Spin magazine in 2012