Iggy Pop Taught Mike Watt How To Be A Better Bassist


By Katherine Turman

Mike Watt is a jack of all trades, and master of most. Since founding hardcore punk legends Minutemen in 1980 and contributing the phrase "We Jam Econo" to the cultural lexicon, the bassist and "spieler" has added much to America's left-of-center musical landscape. From the two-bass band dos to late 80s-early 90s alt-rock heroes fIREHOSE to solo albums featuring the likes of Eddie Vedder, Adam Horovitz, Dave Grohl and Thurston Moore, Watt is seemingly never without a new-fangled idea and the guts, talent and cool friends to wondrously implement it.

See Also:
- Q&A: Mike Watt
- Another Mike Watt Q&A

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A Father's Day Mix Of Songs With Mixed Feelings About Fathers

Every May, there's no shortage of mawkishly sentimental songs to play on Mother's Day, but a month later, there are comparatively few Father's Day equivalents. Sure, there are some treacly tracks like Bob Carlisle's 1997 adult-contempo hit "Butterfly Kisses," but fatherhood is more often than not invoked in pop music as a discomfiting sexual metaphor (see "Big Poppa," "Father Figure," and the countless songs that feature the phrase "who's your daddy?").

The best and most enduring songs about fatherhood tend to explore darker and more complex themes, or depict imperfect or absent dads, rather than provide sunny theme songs: "Cat's In The Cradle," "Papa Was A Rollin' Stone," even Everclear's "Father of Mine." This Sunday will be the third Father's Day I've celebrated since becoming one myself; I have a good relationship with my father and am deeply devoted to my son. But I'd rather listen to the songs on this Spotify playlist, and others that explore the complexities and unpredictable gray areas in the bond (or lack thereof) between a man and his son or daughter, than hear goddamn "Butterfly Kisses" again.

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Q&A: Mike Watt On Snapping Pics In San Pedro For on and off bass, The fIREHOSE Reunion, And Playing Stooges Covers

For the past three decades, the flannel-flyin' and econo-jamming godhead Mike Watt has staunchly adhered to his and late, great best friend and fellow Minuteman D Boon's credo "punk is whatever we made it to be while projecting an air of sincerity that is just plain righteous. And in all of Watt's projects—the Stooges, the recently reformed fIREHOSE, his outfit with Richard Meltzer spielgusher, dOS, Missingmen—the San Pedro bass king is always first to defer credit to his bandmates and collaborators.

The cover ofThe Secondman's Middle Stand, Watt's gut-wrenching opera from 2004, provided a glimpse into Watt's knack for snapping pics. But with the release of his photographic memoir on and off bass (Three Rooms Press), Watt may have to swallow his punk rock pride and accept the cred for being a damn good photographer. The dude who revolutionized bass playing in the Minutemen pops at the crack of dawn and heads out on his bike or kayak with econo digital camera in tow, taking shots of his beloved hometown as the sun rises over the glistening harbor, pelicans whoosh overhead and sea lions gather. on and off bass not only collects a stellar shitload of Watt's pictures, it plugs in sage snippets from his tour diaries. (The LA Weekly has photos from the book on its music blog.)

Sound of the City caught Watt at home in San Pedro to talk Pedro, his pics, fIREHOSE and how playing Stooges covers in Hellride made him well enough to play the bass again after an illness.

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Q&A: dos' Kira On The Physicality Of Bass Playing, Her Definition Of "Punk," And Why Duos Should Stay Duos

When the subject of women in punk and rock is broached, the usual suspects often come up: Kim Gordon, Kathleen Hanna, Patti Smith, Kim Deal and Debbie Harry. The injustice here is how punk-rock bassist Kira (born Kira Roessler) is rarely mentioned in the same breath—not that she cares much, or at all, for the accolades. After all, as Kira waxes ever so humbly, her job simply entailed being Black Flag's bass player and now (and for the last 25 years) serving as half of dos, the two-bass band she's in with her ex-husband, Minutemen/fIREHOSE/Stooges titan, Mike Watt.

Kira not only provided killer low-end groovage for one of the greatest punk bands (she joined Black Flag after bass god Chuck Dukowski's departure in 1984), she had to brave the testosterone-drenched environs of Cali's violence-thirsty punk scene and contend with the volatile, clashing personalities of guitarist Greg Ginn and mercurial loudmouth Henry Rollins—who, in his tour diary Get In the Van, once wrote of an intense hatred for Kira. (She wasn't fazed.)

Kira's melodic, booming licks held it down for BF scorch classics Slip It In, Loose Nut, Family Man and In My Head, along with Live '84, Who's Got The 10 1/2 ? and the hefty, all-instrumental experimentallic punk deconstruction The Process of Weeding Out.

After Kira got the boot from Black Flag, dos took shape. In '86, the twosome released their eponymous debut EP via Watt's New Alliance label; full-lengths in '89 (Numero Dos) and '96 (Justamente Tres) followed. Fifteen long years later, Kira and Watt have returned with the majestic bottom-end punk-jazz coil of dos y dos. We spoke to Kira by phone from California. There was a lot of catching up to do.

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Q&A: Mike Watt on Napping, Beards, the Neutral Milk Guy, and D Boon

Mike Watt (center) and his Missingmen

To dig up some remotely negative bluster thrown at flannel-flyin,' bass-pluckin' Minutemen/fIREHOSE/Stooges punk-rock guru and super-nice dude Mike Watt is no small feat. Enter Watt's ol' SST Records pal Henry Rollins for lighthearted jabs at Watt, found in Rollins's legendary memoir of Black Flag life on the road, Get In The Van. Besides bassist Chuck Dukowski wanting to "pull over and punch [Watt] out" for not shutting up driving across Italy in 1983, while both Black Flag and Minutemen were piled together in a vehicle, the hyperbole about Watt's infamous congeniality is, in fact, right on.

On his current tour with his Missingmen (Slovenly/Red Krayola/SST Recs vet guitarist Tom Watson and San Pedro punk drummer Raul Morales), in support of the awesomely Minutemen-esque, hook-obsessed Hyphenated-Man, he's made it a point to do an interview a day, even as he's trekked across the States and Canada doing 51 gigs in 52 days. When Watt pulled a no-show on the night of our phone interview, he hunted me down a couple days later, leaving me messages (it was no "Providence" but darn cool, nonetheless) and politely offered that it was an honor to talk to me.

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Mike Watt Releasing Third "Opera," Playing Mercury Lounge In April

The cover is a real problem
Econo icon Mike Watt's post-Minutemen career is a fascinating melange of major-label alt-rock coups (1995's Ball-Hog or Tug Boat, now available for the low low price of $0.96) and underground experiments, particularly his two prog-punk "operas," 1997's Contemplating the Engine Room and 2004's The Secondman's Middle Stand. He's got a new one, "Hyphenated-Man", coming out it in the U.S. in March, and he'd be happy to describe it for you in classic stream-of-Watt-consciousness fashion:

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Mike Watt Serenades the Time Out New York Offices: We Are Totally Jealous

Fresh off his Double Nickels on the Dime celebration last week, Mike Watt's new deal, Floored by Four (the other three are Nels Cline, Yuka Honda, and Dougie Bowne), hits Central Park SummerStage tomorrow opening for M. Ward. In a fit of promo pique, Mike apparently dropped by TONY's bizarrely furnished offices and jammed for awhile, making our own sensibly furnished offices seem drab and lifeless by comparison. We'll get him next time.

Live: 25th Anniversary of the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime at the Bowery Poetry Club

25th Anniversary of the Minutemen's Double Nickels on the Dime featuring Richard Hell, Mike Watt, Bass Player from Handjob, and More
Bowery Poetry Club
Saturday, July 25

"What is punk?!" squeals the mysterious Bass Player from Hand Job, as if reposing some remarkably stupid question. Anyone without an answer would have been out of place at the Bowery Poetry Club on Saturday, where erstwhile Minutemen bassist Mike Watt hosted the 25th anniversary celebration of his deceased band's crowning achievement, the double-album Double Nickels on the Dime. The show's brief allotted time was split evenly between cover bands, tributes from age-tamed icons (i.e. Richard Hell), and geeky, long-winded narratives covering the etymology of the title (it's a riff on Sammy Hagar's speed-limit-exceeding rebellion in "I Can't Drive 55") and how the young band simplified the formidable task of sequencing forty-four songs across two records. Michael Fournier, author of the 33 1/3 series' mini-book on the album, reported that each of the musicians had been assigned a side to fill with his favorite songs--which explains why the second disc opens with a drum solo, and why the d-side is such crap.

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