Fear, Emptiness, Decibel: Is Dinosaur Jr.’s J Mascis the Grandfather of Grindcore?
Before there were blogs there were these things called magazines, and the only metal magazine we still get excited about reading every month is Decibel. Here’s managing editor Andrew Bonazelli…
No. He most certainly is not. But the Dinosaur Jr shredder (and Witch founder, to bring things into the familiar realm of stoner doom), was part of seminal proto-grind band Deep Wound, and in that a critical historical figure in Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal and Grindcore. In this exclusive excerpt of Decibel editor-in-chief Albert Mudrian’s revised and expanded version of said authoritative history, Mascis discusses the formation of Deep Wound, a short-lived outfit that spearheaded a Boston hardcore and punk scene that spawned Siege, SS Decontrol and Negative FX, by far the fastest bands of the era.
A two-hour drive west of Boston, the picturesque college town [of Amherst] was also home to a young local named Joseph Mascis. In 1982, the 15-year-old Mascis—simply known as J to friends—wasn’t much different from the town’s other few proud punk rockers, often spending his free time roaming the racks of local record store Main Street Records in Northhampton.
“I met this kid in that store that looked kinda like Dee Dee Ramone,” Mascis recalls. “I talked to him a little bit and he seemed to be into some of the same hardcore stuff as me. The next week I saw a flyer up in the record store and I figured it had to be that kid because I didn’t know anybody else that was into stuff like Discharge and Minor Threat.”
That kid was Scott Helland, who, along with his friend Lou Barlow, sought a drummer to play “super fast beats”—as their flyer bluntly stated—for their fledgling hardcore band. The group was practicing for several months before the painfully shy Mascis answered the advertisement. After joining, Mascis insisted the group draft his friend Charlie Nakajima to sing. Days later, Mascis christened the group Deep Wound, and within a few short months, the band began playing sporadic gigs with local hardcore punk groups such as Helland’s other outfit, the Outpatients.
“We just wanted to play as fast as possible and, I think, sometimes it was to the detriment of our songs,” says Mascis. “All we were concerned with, really, was playing faster and faster.”
By the time Siege were making their own way in early 1984, however, their kindred spirits in Deep Wound were simply going away.
“The hardcore scene was kinda dead to us,” says Mascis. “I was more into the Birthday Party and the noisier types of bands after that. Scott, the bass player was really busy with his other band, the Outpatients, too. So, basically he went in the Outpatients full-time and the rest of us formed Dinosaur, but we were called Mogo then and we still had the same singer from Deep Wound, Charlie; but then, after one gig, we decided that Charlie was a no-go, and then we officially started Dinosaur [which later became Dinosaur Jr]. We had a totally different concept. We went for being a kinda really loud country band or something. Because hardcore had just died out for us.”
Before Deep Wound officially disbanded, however, the group managed to record a self-titled 7-inch EP and a few tracks for the Bands That Could Be God compilation with local producer Lou Giordano at Boston’s Radio Beat Studios. Giordano recorded Boston’s top punk and hardcore acts, such as SS Decontrol, Negative FX, the FU’s, Jerry’s Kids and Proletariat, in the tiny reconstructed AM radio station in the heart of Kenmore Square.
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