Mike Watt’s musical resume is about as cool as they come. He co-founded the influential San Pedro-based indie-punk band, The Minutemen, playing bass and composing many of the group’s songs. After Minutemen guitarist D. Boon died in a car accident, guitarist Ed “fROMOHIO” Crawford joined up with Watt and Minutemen drummer George Hurley to form the somewhat underappreciated late-1980s and early 90s band, fIREHOSE. And since 2003, he has been playing bass with re-formed (but perhaps not reformed) punk rock godfathers, The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop.
Watt and the band The Missingmen will be playing at the Mercury Lounge, 5871 Hollister Ave., on March 7. Tickets are available from Club Mercy. I recently had the pleasure of chatting with Watt by telephone. Here are some of his thoughts:
On The Missingmen:
It’s Tom Watson on guitar, Raul Morales on drums. Tom actually comes from the older days. He was in a band called Slovenly from the SST (Records) days. He actually knew D. Boon. Raul is more a younger guy, from the younger San Pedro. I put (the band) together for my third opera, hyphenated-man. You know, I come from a very short song tradition, I never saw myself writing operas. Life is weird.
The Missingmen tour just like I did with the Minutemen. Econo, you know? (Econo is slang for “economic”, in reference to The Minutemen’s frugal record making and touring.) Conking at people’s pads, playing every night. When you ain’t playing, you’re paying, that old Vaudeville saying. Because it worked for us in those days, it works for me now.
On The Minutemen:
D. Boon had a whole lot of other ideas of the bass guitar, and drummer, too. He didn’t like this idea of the hierarchy with the guitarist way on top. He wanted it more equal. He was very generous in making room for the bass and the drums. He played very trebly, and really let go a lot of the dominance that was in the thinking of how guitar should be in rock bands at that time.
Albums were strange for Minutemen. We never thought of them as things on their own. When we first started the band we divided the world into two categories. There were gigs and fliers. Everything that wasn’t a gig was a flier. So, in a way, albums were like fliers, to get people to the gigs. We’d do them every six, seven, eight months
no matter what. Like you need a new flier up on the telephone pole.
On what he brought to The Minutemen:
Most people go in the bathroom and they look at tile, you know? But I kind of look at the grout between the tile. I think maybe that’s what I was. I was kind of grout for the band. (Laughs) Like glue, you know? If glue’s got nothing to stick to it’s just a puddle. Maybe that’s what I was with The Minutemen.
On being from San Pedro:
I think it had a big effect on our music. We were 30 miles from Hollywood, so close enough to play but not really in with the social thing, or even artistic thing. We watched them play and stuff, but we didn’t practice with them.
We’re a working town, we come from working families. That’s kind of our sensibility. I think that had a big effect on how we were trying to find our own voice in music, and shape it.
On playing with The Stooges:
The mindblowing thing is I could have never guessed I was playing with these guys. You know what I mean? You’re listening to them as a kid. Our whole
punk scene grows around them, then all of the sudden, after a number of years, I’m playing with them. I still have not been able to figure that out.
On Iggy Pop:
You know, the guy works hard. He plays every gig like it might be the last. That guy never goes halfway.
On his audience:
The cats who come to the gig, the gig-goers, work hard all week. I just feel a big debt to everyone. People on the stage, people watching the stage. I do good for them on the bass.
Click here for the full interview from which these quotes are drawn.