A new series of reissues will unearth some of the earliest recordings made by J. Mascis and Lou Barlow as they made their way from the hardcore underground to the, er, indie underground. Among the releases is a CD containing material by Deep Wound and reissues of Dinosaur Jr.'s first recordings.
Deep Wound's roots go back to Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1981 when bassist Scott Helland and guitarist Lou Barlow began to play together. The duo searched for a drummer, eventually landing J. Mascis, who brought along a friend, Charles Nakajima, to sing.
The hardcore quartet's output was limited. The group recorded a seven-inch, an EP, and some odds and ends singles, two of which ended up on the 1984 compilation Bands That Could Be God before splitting that year. A bootlegged collection of Deep Wound tracks was released in Germany several years ago, but even that collection has gone out of print. Barlow says he recently stumbled on a bootlegged Deep Wound seven-inch that was recorded off of one of the band's very first recordings. "The packaging is done really well," he says. "The inside is really funny: 'Two of these guys went on to be in Dinosaur Jr. so they don't deserve any money. Fuck them.'"
Surefire Distribution head Dave Sweetapple, who is overseeing the project, says the Deep Wound collection will include the entirety of the material on the German bootleg, the songs from the seven-inch as well as some previously unreleased live material. Among Sweetapple's biggest challenges is finding artwork for the release. As sparse as the band's recorded output was, visual documentation of Deep Wound's existence is even more rare.
The year of the breakup, Mascis and Barlow formed Dinosaur, and in 1985 they recorded a self-titled debut. A lawsuit, a name change (to Dinosaur Jr.), several seven-inches and two LPs on SST followed. Though the SST records haven't gone completely out of print, Mascis bought back the rights to those recordings, and Surefire also plans to reissue those recordings with bonus tracks. In addition to Dinosaur (originally released on Homestead), 1987's You're Living All Over Me and 1988's Bug, the series will also include 1991's Fossils, which collected the eight tracks from the group's four singles. "We have much more new material with Dinosaur Jr. than Deep Wound," Sweetapple says. "I want to spread some new interest for the grandfathers of this scene among the indie kids who might not know who they were."
A timeframe hasn't been established, but Sweetapple hopes to begin issuing the albums starting in the summer, and releasing them one at a time, rather than saturate the market with a flurry. He's also discussed releasing various live bootlegged recordings with Mascis.
The reissues stop circa 1989. At that point, Mascis and Barlow weren't on speaking terms, and their mutual disdain boiled over with the oft-told tale of the former cracking the latter over the head with his guitar in the middle of a show. Despite the show's legendary status amongst indie rock fans, Barlow says he still hasn't tired of it. "If I was a fan of Dinosaur, I would think that was hilarious," he says. "I left that band when I was twenty-one. Now it's just funny how pathetic we were. The years following that it was a little painful and I was very angry. But after reading that book [Michael Azzerad's Our Band Could Be Your Life, and realizing how absurd and uptight we were and ultimately how sad the whole experience was, it's just much more entertaining to me now. And it's really rare that you get to read such an ugly, ugly story about a band. And I've always loved that, when you get to read just the real dirt on a band that you like. So I'm happy that I was able in some way to give that to Dinosaur fans."
Dinosaur Jr. called it quits in 1989, but two years later Mascis began recording under the name again, without Barlow. Barlow turned to dual pursuits, Sebadoh and the Folk Implosion. As for Helland, he formed the Outpatients in the mid-Eighties, a band that lasted more than a decade before he turned his attention to making albums of acoustic instrumentals. Nakajima last made ripples fronting GobbleHoof (along with Mascis), which released an LP and an EP during Dinosaur Jr.'s two-year hiatus.
"I'm feel really fortunate to have grown up as a hardcore kid," Barlow says. "I have so many fucking great old seven-inches. I still love them to this day. I still love pulling them out. It was a terrible time for me personally -- I was just a nervous kid -- but musically, it was a great influence and a great place to start."
Both have new winter albums with their respective ensembles. Barlow and the Folk Implosion will release The New Folk Implosion on March 4th, and Mascis and his new band, the Fog, recently released Free So Free.
Surefire Distribution is still looking for anyone with visual documentation of Deep Wound during their three-year run to complete packaging for the reissue, which will be released later this year. Fans with flyers or photographs are being asked to contact the label at firstname.lastname@example.org.