Richard Ayoade And J Mascis Of Dinosaur Jr Talk TV, Nirvana And Ear-Splitting Noise

Richard Ayoade has made the awkward interview into an art form, as Channel 4 News presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy discovered when trying to probe him last October. J Mascis, founder member and front man of Dinosaur Jr, is himself famed for being reticent and unresponsive to the press. Put them in a room together, and it turns out they get along famously. NME listened in as Mascis and superfan Ayoade chatted about Dinosaur Jr, the early days of Nirvana, filming ‘The Double’ together and visiting Portland, as if their reputations didn’t precede them…

Richard Ayoade: “I think Dinosaur Jr’s first album (1985’s ‘Dinosaur’) was the first album I bought. I liked the cover. I also liked The Jesus And Mary Chain and I read that they were doing a tour with Dinosaur Jr, My Bloody Valentine and Blur.”

J Mascis: “The Rollercoaster Tour?”

R: “Yeah, it was the first show I ever went to. I went to see them at Brixton Academy [April 5, 1992] and I didn’t know people would jump up and down. So I got to the front and thought, “this is great”. Then everyone started jumping and someone’s shoulder went into the bottom of my jaw and I spat out a tooth.”

J: “I guess you didn’t need that one anyway…”

R: “Yeah, well it was in the middle of my mouth. I remember it being so loud that my trousers were flapping round my legs.”

NME: What is it about Dinosaur Jr that is so special?

R: “They’re my favourite band, every part of it is great, there’s nothing that isn’t. You just feel everything is very carefully thought about and then when you see them live there is so much improvisation. You know the way you see cats on a ledge and you think, ‘I don’t know if they’re going to make it,’ That’s how I feel with most bands. I’m not sure if they’re going to make it through the show. I never have that feeling watching Dinosaur Jr though. You’re just completely unaware that the song is even happening sometimes. It feels like someone who’s able to talk without ever saying the word ‘er’, it feels impossible. Every decision he [Mascis] makes seems to be the only good one and yet one that you could never have thought of yourself.”

J: “Where were you living at the time you became a fan?”

R: “I was in Ipswich. Well, outside of Ipswich in a place called Martlesham Heath. Later on I really liked [1991 album] ‘Green Mind’ and I was in France on a French exchange and I remember just listening to that, particularly the song ‘Water’, which is still my favourite song. I was quite anti-social and so I didn’t go out so much. I stayed in my room, which slightly defeated the object of going on a French exchange. That was around the time Nirvana became huge. What was that period like?”

J: “It felt like it should happen and it did happen, so the world made sense for a moment. It all kind of went wrong, but for that moment it was cool.”

R: “Was it true that you were going to drum with Nirvana?”

J: “Maybe on a seven-inch [‘Sliver’] but then Dan Peters from Mudhoney did it. I think he [Kurt Cobain] wanted me to play guitar more. They had two guitar players at the time and I think he didn’t like the other guitar player [Jason Everman] much.”

NME: “Richard, when did you first meet J?”

R: “I’d seen them at Alexandra Palace [supporting Flaming Lips in 2011], and I met J briefly then. My wife always jokes that it’s the happiest I’ve ever looked, because I’m normally incredibly inexpressive. After that I asked if he’d be in my film The Double [Mascis plays the role of ‘Janitor’ in Ayoade’s 2013 film]. It was a very specific character who would be very memorable, the two main moments when you see him, right at the start and at the end, really needed to stick out. I thought there’s no way he’ll do it, but he did. And out of everyone he had the fewest takes. How it was for you?”

J: “I liked seeing how movies work. I think everyone wants to be in a movie or on TV. It’s just funny to say you’ve been in a movie. I didn’t even realise you were Saboo in The Mighty Boosh, you didn’t have your glasses on [in the show] so I didn’t realise it was you.”

R: “How is it with everyone in the band now? I heard you’re recording again…”

J: “Yeah well Lou [Barlow] moved back to this area [Portland, Oregon] so now we’re a local band again, which is weird. We’ve had a few practices, which is cool.”

R: “Does it feel it becomes less dramatic as you get older?”

J: “It started with Lou getting less angry. He seemed to be angry for a long time and then he apologised and then someone convinced me it was a good idea to play with him again.”

R: “Are you able to get as excited by music as you were when you were younger?”

J: “No. Well I can get excited, just not as excited.”

R: “There are still bands that I can hear and go, “Oh yeah music can be quite good, can’t it?” and sometimes it’s unexpected. Bill Ryder-Jones sent me some of his stuff and I think Neon Waltz are great. I really like The Horrors, too. Do you think you’re going to be doing a new record maybe?”

J: “Yeah it could happen, we’re trying to plan for it but it’s hard to plan things. Hopefully it will come together. What have you been doing?”

R: “A good word for it is drifting. I’m trying to not leave the house too much but I’m writing. It always seems like nothing when you’re writing, people just say, “Oh so you went shopping?” You have to say here’s the thing, here’s the proof I wasn’t just staring into space.”

J: “When I’m writing I watch TV, which helps. I’m just programmed from school to do the least amount possible and at the last minute. I’m running out of things to watch, any suggestions?”

R: “The Prisoner?”

J: “That sounds old. I bought the whole series of Batman, I’m just trying to get my kid to get into it.”

NME: “Would you like to work together again in the future perhaps? Maybe an episode of [Ayoade’s C4 travel show] Travel Man?”

J: “I’m ready.”

R: “We’ll do it. Let’s do it in Portland.”