A month later, in late August, the Mascis family has just returned home after a two-week vacation on Cape Cod. Rory was allowed to bring along his friend Zach, who's over today for a play date, wearing a green felt hat with eyes and teeth adhered to either side. He is, explains Luisa, a dinosaur. But due to a rash of great white attacks near Provincetown this summer, Rory and Zach are focused solely on sharks.
"Dad," Rory asks his father at the kitchen table, "what do you do to sharks when they bite you? How will you kill them and stuff?"
"I don't think you can, really.”
For the past 15 years, Mascis has become a devoted follower of Hindu humanitarian Mata Amritanandamayi, or AMMA, traveling with her around the world and even lending his musical talents to her hugging meditations at home and abroad. When Mascis and Luisa, who met in New York in the '90s, decided to marry eight years ago, AMMA officiated at their marriage ceremony in Providence, Rhode Island. Portraits of AMMA from over the years are in every room of the house, as visible and numerous as the guitars and effects pedals that crowd most spaces and surfaces. There she is smiling in the studio and in Mascis' study, looking down from windowsills in the kitchen and dining room. On the sunporch that extends into their spacious back yard, Mascis has hung a stained-glass painting of her name in the window.
"I was at my lowest," Mascis says of the mid-'90s moment when he first discovered her teachings at an event in Boston. "As the band got bigger, I got more depressed. I was looking for anyone to help, to feel better. Doing anything else, I'm never sure if I'm wasting my time or not. But with [AMMA], I had a feeling I wasn't." Depressive since birth, Mascis says he was hit particularly hard by the death of his father in 1993 and the pressure to fill the void created by Nirvana, a band his friend Kurt Cobain once asked him to join.
"I think my voice is the main thing," he says of the whine that's distinguished Dinosaur's music just as much as his guitar tones. "Kurt's voice had that sound you'd heard on the radio when you were a kid: it was like Paul Rodgers [of Free and Bad Company] or Cheap Trick, that radio-friendly sound, that good rock voice. I didn't have a voice like that. I sang out of necessity. But when you're on a major label, then it becomes glaringly obvious. I even had our record-company guy say to me, 'You should have the Oasis guy sing your songs.'" Mascis nods. "Another guy with a great voice."
And as AMMA’s teachings helped him find peace creatively, they also helped him relate to those who cared for him. "At some point," he says. "You decide, 'Okay, I'm not going to kill myself. I guess I should try to feel better somehow.’" He stops talking and begins to drum the edge of the table with his fingers, humming. "I think I was in the womb, already trying to kill myself,” he continues. “I had the umbilical cord around my neck and I was upside down. I didn't want to come out. I feel like that must be from a past life. I've always felt like a crotchety old guy yelling, 'Get off my lawn.' I've had that disposition, just walking around, my posture, my demeanor. But I don't want to dwell as much. I don't want to bring Rory down."