Mike Watt: Avant-Garde Rocker Stays Real Busy
"Watt!" he bellows, and within a moment he's off, sharing details of his creative process, and detailing his multitude of projects.
His bass playing is legendary, known for his work with the Minutemen, the reformed Stooges, and his combo The Missingmen, the trio that recorded his opera, hyphenated-man, comprising 30 short songs inspired by the fantastical creatures of Dutch painter Hieronymus Bosch.
"Yeah, I've got a lot of things going," says the prolific post-punk multitasker. We chatted in advance of tonight's show at Crescent Ballroom.
Up on the Sun: I caught the fIREHOSE show at Crescent Ballroom earlier this year. You guys sounded great.
Mike Watt: It was difficult. I hadn't played those songs in a long time, with Ed [Crawford, drums] and [George] Hurley [guitar]. It was difficult, but that changed the way I played those songs. It was a good mission.
We talked with George about the reunion shows. He seemed excited and not all that nervous about doing fIREHOSE shows again. But it was a challenge for you in some ways?
I don't really play bass like that anymore. But it's always good to go back -- it was a little while ago -- but it's good to re-learn you own stuff, to try and play it again with the old bandmates. Yeah, that's good training. When you get ready to play a gig, you're actually getting ready to play the next gig.
You guys seemed to be having a lot of fun. You played with M.Ward, which some folks found a surprising pairing, but you got up and played with him, and I thought it sounded great.
Yeah, he told me he was into fIREHOSE when he was growing up and learning to play. He's a great musician, and a really nice guy. I think we did 3 or 4 shows with him. We did Flagstaff up in your state, and Southern California also. I liked playing with him. I had a lot of eye contact with Georgie. I was trying to play tight with him. I hadn't played with him in forever. He picked the songs, and he kinda went in order.
Did you guys discuss the idea of doing more work?
We got together two weeks before, which was kind of tough, because when he sang those two weeks, by the time we got to the gigs, he was kind of hoarse. It was the toughest on Edward -- me, some, but Edward, physically, because we had to do all that practice.
[But] I've got many different projects. I'm getting songs ready for this thing I'm going to do with Nels Cline [Wilco] and Greg [Saunier] from Deerhoof, along with this guitar guy from a Sacktown [Sacramento] band called Tera Melos, Nick [Reinhart]. Nick just wanted to play with Nels Cline, you know? Guy's an amazing musician. So we just gotta organize that. There's an album I have to mix that's recorded with Nels, the new Black Gang record. That will be out soon. I've got one last tour with this third opera, with the Missingmen, and then I'm going to start on a band with my second band, the band I put together for my second opera, two Pedro guys. They're longshoremen, it's going to be an album about work.
I got a lot of things. I'm going to make a second Hand to Man album. One came out a few months ago, here in December.
You keep incredibly busy. There's the Stooges stuff, too.
You've got to be pretty sharp on the bass. Practice a lot of songs. I've recorded on nine James Williamson songs, James is writing songs for Iggy, so I'm going to put some more bass on other ones he wrote. Those aren't my songs, but I'm kind of part of it. That's what I've been doing all summer: touring in Europe with the Stooges.Yeah, I've got a lot of things going. I've been trying to juggle as much as I can. I put my bass in different places, and maybe I keep growing, and keep learning, you know? That's the whole idea.