Interview: Dinosaur Jr.

by - maio 24, 2021

Photo Credit: Cara Totman 

Entrevista com o baterista do Dinosaur Jr., Murph, publicada originalmente no Scream & Yell, em português. Confira abaixo a conversa em inglês. Espero que gostem! 

Interview with Dinosaur Jr.'s drummer, Murph, originally published on Scream & Yell. Below you can read it in English. Enjoy! 

How are you doing? 

Good. It's getting really nice and warm, it's spring turning into summer here, so people are really excited, especially because, you know, the Covid thing. Things are opening up here a little more, especially where we live, in Massachusetts, and so there's these two things: spring and also people wanting to get out. So, people are excited. 

Nice. I'd like to start by asking you to tell me a little about the new album, “Sweep It Into Space”. I'm curious about the recording process, I mean, was there anything different or unusual about making this one, when you compare it to your previous work? 

Well, the formula was the same, you know? J. does demos, really stripped down demos, with just drums and guitar. Sometimes he'll kind of hum along some lyric ideas and then give those to me and Lou. That was the same. What changed is the pandemic completely affected the record, because the drums are done first, and it usually takes about two months to get all the tracks together. Sometimes we keep some of the loose bass tracks, but he usually overdubs, and then, of course, the guitar and vocals come next. The timing was so perfect, because, literally, when I finished all the drum tracks, everything closed down and we weren't together. I didn't see those guys for months and months and months, so J. had to finish the record basically by himself, at home, in his studio. So I'm really amazed that he pulled it off, that it sounds cool, because usually we have an engineer and a producer. I mean, we still had the producer and we had some people working remotely, but it's a totally different thing when you're just by yourself. 

And the recordings took place right there where you live, in Amherst, right? I heard you always make your albums in the same studio, is that true? 

The studio is in J.’s house, yeah. It's on the third story of his house. That's how he is, now that he has a studio, he doesn't ever wanna...  We're always asking, like, ‘oh, maybe we should go to LA, maybe we should go, you know…’ Like, one time we were talking with Dave Grohl. He’s got his amazing studio in California, and he was joking, ‘yeah, you guys should come out and do a record’, and we got really excited. Like, me and Lou, we were like, yeah! But then J. says it will cost too much, I'd rather just do it at my house, it's cheaper.... [laughs]

This time you also had some help from Kurt Vile. Why did you choose him as a producer and what contributions did he bring to the album? 

Well, we had worked with him before. When Kurt started out, he supported us for a bunch of shows, and he started getting bigger and bigger... It's that old story, he got kind of bigger than us, and started doing his own stuff. For some reason, we just wanted a change. Maybe to inject a little new life, make things a little fresher. And we just thought it would be good to have Kurt to kind of produce and sit in for some stuff. And then, you know, that was cut short. He came in for, maybe, three different days, and then the pandemic started and we all had to go our separate ways. But he did have some input. I think we're such a private band, so I think for us, just having someone like Kurt just sitting there, even if he's not doing much, just his presence is such a big deal. Just to have someone else in the studio with us when we're doing that, just made enough of a difference that, I think,  it was a positive thing and it made it kind of lighter and poppier.

The album sounds like you guys are really having fun playing together. I mean, it doesn't sound like a band that's been around for over 30 years. We can hear the years taking a toll when we listen to some of the bands from your generation. What would you say is your secret? 

I've said this in every interview, and I'll keep saying it, because it's really the right answer. That's just how J. views songwriting and each record. He has said this in interviews, that for him, the album is a snapshot. It's like a big photo album and each record is a page and he just kind of writes whatever's going on at that time of his life. And I think that's why it seems fresh, because he's not thinking of the past or the future. He's just thinking about what's been going on the last few months of his life and then he'll draw upon that stuff. We'll also take older songs, like a B-side, that didn't really work, and we'll rework them. We'll put one part from one song to another part, and create a new song, and then we'll be like, ‘oh, that sounds pretty good’. There's a little of that, but I think the main thing is J. just kind of looks at what's going on. He's not really thinking about the history or, ‘oh, does this song sound too much like this other song?’. He just kind of writes in the moment, and I think that's why there's a certain freshness to the room. 

Do you have a favorite track on the record?

I like the first track, “I Ain't”. It's starting to sound really good live. There's a couple, I mean, I'm still listening to the record, actually. We're still kind of learning the record, because, you have to understand that when Lou... We're kind of an odd band, because when we record the drums and bass, Lou and I have not heard the songs. J.'s not singing, he's not playing guitar, all we're listening to are drums and bass, without any guitar, no vocals... So we don't really know what the songs are going to sound like, till we literally hear the record when it's done, and we're like, ‘oh yeah, so this is how it sounds’. It's kind of a bizarre process, we kind of have to learn them when we hear the finished product, and then we have to revisit that and go, ‘oh, okay, so this is how it's really supposed to sound’. Today we rehearsed and our tour manager came by and he had a box of CDs, and I grabbed three, so I'm just getting it now. 

It's almost like you're making a movie, like an actor doing a movie, and he's doing the scenes and only later on he gets to see the finished product. 

Well, the weirdest thing is when you hear actors when they’re asked, ‘what did you think of your last movie?’, and they're, like, ‘oh, I don't watch my movies. I do my scenes and leave’. [laughs] And they're like, ‘oh, god, I would never watch my movies’. And I thought that was so wild when I heard that.

Recently J. said in an interview that you guys are all living in the same area, as it used to be in the early years, since Lou came back from California. I assume it makes it easier for you guys to get together to rehearse and play, but would you say that it also influences the sound? I mean, the kind of music that you're playing? 

No, it's weird... This is the weird thing. We're all back in the same area, but I think we spent more time together, and I definitely spent way more time with Lou when he lived in California. On the other side, now I never see him. He's always just with his family, because he's remarried, and he got his new set up here in Massachusetts, and he's always just doing family stuff. Before, he was always like, ‘oh, yeah, come on over’. There was always stuff going on, and now it's totally different, so I actually never see Lou, unless we're either rehearsing or going on tour. And it's so bizarre. I thought we would be like jamming more and hanging out, and I thought ‘oh, this will be great, maybe we'll come up with all these ideas’, and it turns out it's just the opposite. [laughs] 

That's kind of funny. So, Murph, how do you feel about the whole music business situation now with the streaming services thing and the new ways of putting out your music in the world? Does it have any creative impact on how you decide to do things as a band? And financially, does it impact the band, as a business? 

Not really. It doesn't really affect us. I mean, we're still really old school. I mean, J. and Lou listen to a ton of records. J. still mainly prefers records. I think that if you had asked me that question years ago, when things were kind of making a shift, I probably would have been more like, ‘I don't like it, what's going on’, you know? But now it's, like, you get used to it. It's not really, to me, that much different. I was really sad to see vinyl go, I really enjoyed records, but I'm not one of those people who's, like, I've made the shift to digital and CDs, and I don't really think about it. I have a very small record collection that I still keep around, but I'm not a big vinyl person anymore. So, again, I just kind of go with the new way. I think we all have, we've just kind of done the shift and we don't really think about it.

I saw that you have plans for this year, you’re starting out a tour in September with a few festival dates on the bill as well. Are you excited to get back to playing live?

I mean, I think we're excited, as a band. Personally, I’m a little apprehensive. I would rather see the virus gone and the whole world totally vaccinated before we go back on tour, but it seems like it'll be okay. It's exciting to think about it, I just hope it's safe. It's hard because you have to understand, in our country, there's such a divide. It's so crazy how there's just so many people into kooky conspiracy theories and all this stuff, and it doesn't give you confidence to want to go out and do stuff. When there's all this kind of crazy imbalance going on, for me personally, I'd rather wait until things are a little more settled. But I understand people are really anxious and really want to get back to music. Not just us, I mean, there's already a ton of bands advertising doing all kinds of stuff, so...

I wanted to ask you about the documentary “Freak Scene — The Story of Dinosaur Jr.”. Have you watched it yet?

I think you're referring to the one J's brother-in-law did. I've seen a lot of it and I thought it was really good. It was many years in the making, like 10 years or something.

So just to wrap it up, any memories from your shows in Brazil?

I've played with The Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr. there a bunch of times. It's always exciting. I mean, Brazil it's just always really fun and super exciting. There's no specifics about the shows, it's more just the energy. You get the energy of each country, it kind of leaves an imprint on you. I think a lot of the South American countries, they're just more fun to play gigs. It's just more loose, it's not as uptight. It's more festive and fun. I think that's the main difference.

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