J Mascis Retires Dino Jr Name; Keeps Rockin' Solo

Though band has called it quits, fans and colleagues expect songwriter to carry the torch.

Dinosaur Jr may have called it quits, but if you ask Bob Lawton of the band's New York booking agency, the band will carry on in many ways.

"J Mascis made most of the records anyway," he said, referring to the seminal grunge-noise outfit's original member and songwriter. "So for him, I don't think it will make much of a difference anyway."

Lawton of the Twin Towers agency, who've worked with Mascis since his SST days, added of the break-up, "It sort-of speaks for itself. Like anything, it ran its course. Whether he'll do anything radically different, who knows? The guy plays it pretty close to the vest, his music is his music, it'll go on."

Mascis decided Wednesday to end Dinosaur Jr after more than 13 years and seven albums of hard music and blown eardrums. The decision to fold the band, which has more or less been Mascis' project since the beginning, came in the wake of years of critical acclaim, but increasingly declining record sales. Mascis' last album with the group was this year's Hand It Over.

"There were no problems between the guys, J just decided it was the right time ... ," said band publicist Julie Underwood. "Their record tour was winding down, and they were released from their contract with Warner Brothers."

Gabriella Traub, the band's manager, said Friday morning that Mascis, currently taking time off, has been thinking about breaking up the band since earlier this year. "As things were going for the band this year and with their label, J just felt it was the right time to do it," said Traub. "I'm sure he'll go back to his music next year with a fresh mind and try to experiment and work with other musicians." Traub said that bassist Mike Johnson is working on another solo album for Up Records and that Mascis is planning to collaborate with filmmaker Alison Anders (Grace Of My Heart) on her next film. Dinosaur Jr played their last live show on Nov. 9 at Boston's Middle East club. Traub said Mascis has not yet started looking for a new recording contract.

The louder-than-average trio formed in 1984 in Amherst, Mass., from the ashes of the hard-core group Deep Wound, which featured J (Joseph) Mascis on drums and bassist Lou Barlow, who left the group in 1991.

Dinosaur Jr (originally called Dinosaur) first came onto the scene in 1985, sporting an eclectic lineup of Mascis on guitar, bassist Lou Barlow and Patrick "Murph" Murphy behind the drums. To avoid legal hassles with the '60s-survivor band the Dinosaurs, the band added the "Jr" to their name and went on to record two albums for Greg Ginn's SST records (1987's You're Living All Over Me and 1988's Bug) following their 1985 debut, Dinosaur.

Dinosaur Jr quickly became known for their incredibly loud touring act that drifted in and out between the chord-heavy guitar explosion of the soft-spoken Mascis and the steady drone of Barlow's bass. It was the perfect rock 'n' roll odd-couple and, for awhile, at least , it worked. Barlow's acrimonious departure in '91 and the formation of his new outfit, Sebadoh, did little to slow down Mascis.

He and his virtual one-man band then recorded its major-label debut, 1991's Green Mind, with Mascis playing almost every instrument. Then, with newfound bassist Johnson, he released a new album Where You Been, the first CD on which Mascis sacrificed stun-gun guitar explosions for a more melodic fare, including the nearly radio-friendly track

"What Else is New." (RealAudio excerpt)

In 1994, drummer Murph decided to leave as well, and George Berz was recruited for the new album, Without A Sound. Both Mascis and bassist Johnson kept busy in the studio, recording solo albums (1996'sMartin + Me from Mascis and 1994's Where Am I? and 1996's Year of Mondays from Johnson), as well as working on select soundtracks, including Alison Anders' 1992 film Gas Food Lodging and 1996's Grace Of My Heart, in which Mascis and his ever-present face-shrouding head of hair had minor cameos. In 1994, the band released Without A Sound and Mascis' other obsession, golf, became a consuming passion, leading to a video for the song "Feel The Pain" in which Mascis was seen chipping balls off the tops of skyscrapers.

"We're trying to get in a few holes before the show," Mascis said last spring while in Seattle. The mind-drain of touring was not evident in Mascis at the time, but he later said in an interview with Addicted To Noise that constant touring was "a gratuitous avoidance of life."

Longtime fans of the band were dismayed at the news of the break-up, but said they felt it coming.

While 28-year-old New York fan Randy Page said Dinosaur Jr's live performances were still energetic, powerful and loud, the tedium of constant touring probably had to have its effect on the overall decision of the band to break up.

"I thought it would have happened a few years ago," he said. "But Mascis isn't just going to disappear. I'm sure he'll pop-up somewhere, doing something new real soon."[Thurs., Dec. 4, 1997, 6:30 p.m. PST]