fIREHOSE's Ed Crawford: "It Was Our Job. We F**kin' Showed Up Every Day."
It's always a questionable thing when a long-gone band suddenly reappears on the musical landscape. Too often the motive is obvious--money--and the performances laughable. Yet, there are those bands with the integrity to come back and do it right. More often than not, these are punk bands. (Remember how awesome the Buzzcocks were when they came out of retirement?) These bands left it all on stage night after night in their youth and wouldn't think of doing anything less in the reformation stage.
Vintage fIREHOSE press photo
One such band with high personal expectations is fIREHOSE, taking another crack at it some 18 years after calling it quits. The seminal band thrived on the DIY ethos, from endless touring (more than 1,000 shows in seven-plus years) to making its own T-shirts to sell from the stage at the end of each performance. Few artists, James Brown aside, worked as hard.
Musically, no band compared; even came close. Rising out of the ashes of fabled punk band the MINUTEMEN, fIREHOSE--bassist Mike Watt, guitarist Ed Crawford and drummer George Hurley--fused driving punk, free jazz, classic rock, funk and soul into a tightly woven musical melee that wasn't exactly danceable, but caused inexplicable bodily movement.
"Nobody played like us, no one has since. Nobody's got those kind of balls," Crawford said during a recent phone interview from the band's Long Beach, California rehearsal space.
He's right, of course.
Unlike many reformed bands, fIREHOSE 2012 arrives with nothing more than back catalog. Crawford says the original music is strong enough to stand on its own, plus Watt's been too busy with his solo career, composing rock operas, and playing in the Stooges. That concept itself is a refreshing change; a true time trip to the land of what was, but a tip-toe down nostalgia lane.
Up on the Sun: I heard somewhere that the guys in Camper Van Beethoven convinced you that Mike Watt and George Hurley were auditioning guitarists after d. Boon died in the auto accident. True story?
Ed Crawford: Yeah, that's it. Victor Krummenacher, the bassist for Camper, I happened to ask him after a gig what was happening with the remaining MINUTEMEN and he said he heard they were auditioning guitar players. I don't know if he was making that up just to get rid of me, but that's what he told me. That got the ball rolling. The next thing you know, here I am.
Jumping ahead then to 1994, it's unclear why fIREHOSE initially disbanded. You'd play almost 1,000 shows in 7.5 years, which is crazy. Was it burn out or just time to move on?
It was a lot of different things. I couldn't point to one thing and say this was the reason. It was a perfect storm, a lot of different things. Definitely there was a lot to do with burnout, no doubt about it, but you can't point to one thing and say that's why we broke up. One day we just kinda threw in the towel. It wasn't a big blowout fight or anything like that, it was just, 'fuck this shit.' We didn't talk about it. But seven years just doing it, doing it, doing it that intensely, it started to take a toll is some ways. Plus, you're talking about Mike Watt. He's an artist. He's not just a bass player, and he needed to grow. Look at what he's done now and he couldn't have done that if he'd been in fIREHOSE these last 18 years. We could have been making terrible records for all I know. Sometimes shit like this happens for a reason. I didn't know we were going to get back together, I didn't know we were going to breakup. I have respect for an entity. It's not just me and George and Mike. When the three of us are together it's like a force of nature. I have respect for that.
You said you didn't know you were going to get back together, so how did it actually come about?
Very organically. I kept in touch with Michael and anytime he came through--I lived in North Carolina for 13 years, then Pittsburg for four years now--and anytime he'd come through town I'd go see him, get up and jam with him, play "The Red and The Black" with him. I was a friend. We'd talk once or twice a year. Then a couple years ago we had a really long conversation. We talked for two or three hours and got to know each other on a different level, not just being band guys, but we got to talking like friends talk. It just seemed natural. 'If you've got some time off, let's do some fIREHOSE shit?' 'Yeah, I've been thinking about that too." The Coachella offer came last year, but he'd already booked a tour for the Hyphenated Man record and some Stooges stuff, so we couldn't do it last year, but this year he had some time, so we're doing it. Here we are.