Mike Watt Rocks Brass Balls
April 6, 2006 12:20 AM   Subscribe

Thirty Straight Years Of Flailing What do you do when your favorite musician releases a confessional, personal, heartfelt, shitty record? You forgive him, of course, because he's Mike Watt, bassist of America's greatest band: The Minutemen. If you never heard them, you missed it, and if you liked them, then maybe you you started a band yourself.
posted by BitterOldPunk (52 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The shitty record to which I refer is The Second Man's Middle Stand, whi9ch really isn't that bad if you're a total fanboy. Plus he's playin' bass for the fuckin' Stooges. How cool is THAT!
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:24 AM on April 6, 2006

I've always been quite fond of fIREHOSE, also.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:41 AM on April 6, 2006

And, to answer your question, I reckon playing bass for the Stooges isn't quite as cool as it was, say, 35 years ago, but it's pretty OK.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:44 AM on April 6, 2006

OK. I'll beef it up with videos! Yeah! Like this.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:45 AM on April 6, 2006

Playing bass for the Stooges is SO MUCH COOLER than it was 35 years ago because...uh..because...35 years ago The Stooges were just some band, and now they're idols, and because "Death Trip" is now the new national anthem.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:48 AM on April 6, 2006

After 25 years, I' m still trying to work out my relationship to this band. I quoted them at my wedding. I tend to tear up when I listen to "History Lesson Part 2". Mike Watt himself has bought me a beer and told me to calm down on multiple occasions. Some bands get under your skin, and make music that infuses your life, and when tragedy strikes, you're left with only part of a picture and you don't know how to fill it in. Don't get me wrong, I've moved on, but no other group strikes me quite how The Minutemen did, and Mike Watt has a free pass to fart into a microphone and I'll buy the recording. Before I die, I want to see a Husker Du reunion, with all the old, jaded members, and a Minutemen reunion, with some 15-year-old prodigy jamming with Mike and George. This is Scientist Rock.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 1:08 AM on April 6, 2006

I still recall being completely floored when I first heard Double Nickels On The Dime around 1990 or so. Pissed off the friends I was staying with playing it too much. Own it on vinyl and CD now. Hope the GF is up for hearing it at 6:00 AM...
posted by zoinks at 3:16 AM on April 6, 2006

David Rees' What Would D. Boon Do? on the 20th anniversary of D.Boon's death (12.23.2005) poses the question "But how great were the Minutemen, really?"
posted by john m at 4:10 AM on April 6, 2006

I saw Watt play The Second Man's Middle Stand in its entirety last summer here in Dublin. I went up after the show (flyin' the flannel) to shake his hand; he grabbed mine enthusiastically and said 'That's a cool shirt!'

That's not the reason why I love Watt and the Minutemen, but it's a good example of why people just do.
posted by macdara at 5:14 AM on April 6, 2006

Christ, I miss the Minutemen. I still remember the shock of hearing that D. Boon had died. Thanks for the post, BOP.
posted by languagehat at 5:33 AM on April 6, 2006

Yes to The Minutemen, yes to fIREHOSE, yes to Mike Watt. He used to paint "This Machine Kills Fascists" on his base, which just about summed it up for me, even when I was a pup who didn't get the Guthrie reference. After I did, well it was much better.

I still think one of his best performances is the answering maching message on the Sonic Youth song "Providence" off of Daydream Nation:

"Thurston, thurston, it's WATT. I'm calling from Providence. Did you find your shit?...etc"
posted by OmieWise at 5:50 AM on April 6, 2006

I interviewed Watt a couple of years ago and he came across as one of the most sincere, caring individuals I've ever spoken to. He was just giddy to be playing in the Stooges. Double Nickels was and remains a truly seminal record for me -- the first cut came up on my iPod on the way to work this morning!

Take five, Mike.
posted by AJaffe at 6:03 AM on April 6, 2006

Has anyone seen We Jam Econo? I missed it the one night it played in Cleveland, and last time I checked netflix hadn't picked it up yet...
posted by sohcahtoa at 6:25 AM on April 6, 2006

If you're a Minutemen fan, the documentary doesn't really tell you anything you don't know, but the live footage is amazing.

I don't think my earlier post reflected it, but the Minutemen were one of the great American bands -- not punk bands, but bands. Wish there were more like them these days...
posted by AJaffe at 6:28 AM on April 6, 2006

You forgive him, of course [. . .]

Well, you answered your own question and, I think, correctly.

I don't have a fancy Mike Watt story, but I did see fIREHOSE twice and, as I am also a bassist and, therefore, a fan of Mike's playing, I went up after the show to meet him. He was as cool and down-to-earth as I assumed he would be. And for that (and his playing, of course) he gets a free pass from me to make a crappy album once in a while (if this is, indeed, a crappy album--I haven't heard it yet).

No wait, I do have a fancy Mike Watt story. The man plays very hard. And I saw him break a bass string (the E string--the thickest one: not an easy thing to do) in the middle of a song. He grabbed a string from a package on the top of his amp, changed the string, tuned it to pitch, and started back in on the song within, I'd say, fifteen seconds or so--all while still singing (except for the second when he turned to grab the new string). I still tell that story and it still amazes me.
posted by wheat at 6:46 AM on April 6, 2006

His gallery of himself is amazing.

33 years of him gigging in photos. Jaw dropping, really.
posted by sourwookie at 7:07 AM on April 6, 2006

One of the finest moments of my life was singing Johnny Thunders' "Born To Lose" at Punk Rock Karaoke in San Francisco a couple years back (of which tour Watt was bassist) and realizing that the shoulder I leaned against as we sung our choruses was None Other Than.

My friend Ian, watching from the crowd, sez he retains an indelible memory of the moment - us two snarling gleefully into the mic.

Mike Watt: America as it maybe was and should have been.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:08 AM on April 6, 2006

nice gallery. cat got old, then young, then old, then young!
posted by dydecker at 7:18 AM on April 6, 2006

Don't forget his band Dos. Not well known and not what he normally sounds like, but I like. He donated a Dos track to my blogathon a few years back.

Great guy; great musician.
posted by dobbs at 7:38 AM on April 6, 2006

I also just want to point out that, if there has ever been any mortal human likely to be buoyed into a benevolent hereafter on a tide of earned good will, that human is Mike Watt.

People love the cat...and well they might.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:42 AM on April 6, 2006

I saw that documentary at the Black Cat in Washington D.C. Watt is a living icon, a short Johnny Cash unknown to much of the country. I'm sure he'd have it no other way.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:51 AM on April 6, 2006

And don't forget Banyan. He plays with Stephen Perkens, Nils Cline and Memphis Willie while Nortom Wisdom paints. Also Contemplating the Engine Room is one of my favorite albums ever.
posted by princelyfox at 7:55 AM on April 6, 2006

Contemplating the Engine Room is way underappreciated.
posted by davebush at 8:05 AM on April 6, 2006

Just to join the reverence. I loved and love the Minutemen ("How great were they really?" is an easily answerable question: They were really, really fucking great, thanks) and I too can actually remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard about D. Boon.

Thanks for the post.
posted by jokeefe at 8:07 AM on April 6, 2006

The Minutemen are still the band I always return to. I can still listen to a song and multiple memories flood back. They were "worker rock". One of the best bands to ever come out of America. And unlike most rock-n-roll tragedies, this one wasn't self-inflicted. No OD, no suicide. Just an f'in stupid car crash. That defines tragedy.

Yes on Watt, yes on all of it. Yes on them being completely human people. During a Minutemen gig at the Concert Factory in Costa Mesa, CA (formerly the infamous Cuckoo's Nest), we tried to sit on the stage in a corner because it was packed. Not in the way, not trying to jump around like a yahoo, just sit off to the side and lose my hearing while watching them play. The bouncer kept shooing us off. After the gig, D Boon came up to us and apologized for that. How kind is that?

The documentary was awesome, mostly because SOMEBODY had to do it, collect all the material and stitch it all together. Thanks go to those guys.

Well, there's my iPod playlist for the day.
posted by billder at 8:29 AM on April 6, 2006

I used to confuse fIREHOSE with Firehouse. How fucked up is that?

I have a cassette tape called "My Favorite Bells" thats pretty well worn out. I still play it and still get blown away every time.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:45 AM on April 6, 2006

For reference: FireHOUSE.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 8:46 AM on April 6, 2006

Minutemen changed my life for the better. fIREHOSE was probably better technically, but I never felt had the same gutwrenching, soul-soaring human energy. But like the man says, "you can put it together, or you can take it apart".
posted by freebird at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2006

I don't have any great Mike Watt story, but I do have a very vivid memory of fIREHOSE opening for the Beastie Boys at The Concert Hall in Toronto on, I believe, the "Check Your Head" tour - Mike Watt, standing way out in front, almost leaning into the crowd, flailing at the four strings while the band ripped through their cover of the Butthole Surfer's then-brand-new song "Revolution". It was a glorious moment, and the rest of the night paled in comparison.

That gallery is really amazing, thanks for that.

Highly recommended: Watt's take on Madonna's "Burnin' Up" on the Ciccone Youth 7".
posted by stinkycheese at 8:58 AM on April 6, 2006

ha it makes me laff that Mike Watt is famous and bowed down to for being an ordinary nice dude. wtf the wrong with punk rock if that was the exception not the rule?
posted by dydecker at 9:03 AM on April 6, 2006

My life changed during the first 30 seconds of the first Minutemen song I ever heard. I didn't know that you could make a bass guitar, any instrument, sound that good.

I'm *just now* reading the Minutemen chapter of "Our Band Could Be Your Life" and falling in love with them all over again.
posted by freshwater_pr0n at 9:10 AM on April 6, 2006

My life changed during the first 30 seconds of the first Minutemen song I ever heard.

dude that 30 seconds was two songs and an intro.
posted by freebird at 9:53 AM on April 6, 2006

dydecker, you win. You're right. Watt is just an ordinary nice dude, and we're all sheeple for being impressed by his ordinarynicedudeness, and punkrock was just a wee boil on the pink ass of artistic endeavor.

Indeed, why stop there? You can go further: d. Boon was just some fat dude in a flannel shirt who got zotzed by a truck. Those moments that resonate in our memories like deep-plucked bass strings? Farty self-delusion on the part of nostalgic middle-aged hepcats. Why haven't I twigged to this before?

Thanks for the enlightenment, and reminding me that not merely does my favorite band suck, but the entire experiment in which it was embedded was corrupt and self-negating. I appreciate the correction. Now if I could only get these last twenty-three years or so back.
posted by adamgreenfield at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2006

One of the coolest moments on any album comes on Double Nickels's "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing" when d. stops in the middle and says "I must look like a dork."
posted by AJaffe at 11:13 AM on April 6, 2006

adamgreenfield, I don't know what you are on about at all! BUT i FEEL YOUR PAIN
posted by dydecker at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2006

but yeah I've met a lot of punk rock guys who were really nice. i guess i just don't like the whole Matt Watt Nice Guy cult of personality that swirls around and around as if Niceguyness was a powder that only media bullshit could sprinkle on the chosen few who would forever be lauded for that quality to the exclusion of the 1000's of others who made interesting music. Look at the links to all these blogs: it's like this IS THE GREATEST AMERICAN MUSIC. The Minutemen and Firehose were ok, I used to listen to 'em back in the day but there are 50 other bands just as good who haven't got the whole industry NiceGuyNess (tm) stamp of approval the media masses need, etc, etc.

Flame on!
posted by dydecker at 11:49 AM on April 6, 2006

ie: get another angle which is less cult of personality bullshit and let's talk about the music. i mean who gives a crap whether he said it was ok you could sit on the stage? no offense or anything but that's NOT INTERESTING!
posted by dydecker at 11:53 AM on April 6, 2006

Who said anything about sitting on stage?

Jesus, dude, relax. It's just some people sharing their fond memories of someone who touched them a lot, with his music and his actions. (For the record, George was sweet, too, but it's been much longer since I saw him.)

I'm sorry I fed the troll. It won't happen again.
posted by adamgreenfield at 12:24 PM on April 6, 2006

Who said anything about sitting on stage?

Bilder did upthread.

I ain't no troll.
posted by dydecker at 12:28 PM on April 6, 2006

and i am perfectly relaxed. punk rock nostalgia sucks ass though.
posted by dydecker at 12:31 PM on April 6, 2006

The Minutemen and Firehose were ok, I used to listen to 'em back in the day but there are 50 other bands just as good

Yeah theres no such thing as quality everybodys ok and all bands are ok and everything is just like everything else except for the media hype dude you are awsomely penetrating and see through all the crap!!!
posted by languagehat at 1:02 PM on April 6, 2006

you are awsomely penetrating and see through all the crap!!!

Exactomundo. And the Metafilter obsession with the pre-eminence of mid-eighties checkshirt Americana is secondhand media crap at its finest. Point me out the posts about The Gordons or Peter Laughner and I will eat my words.
posted by dydecker at 1:18 PM on April 6, 2006

Dydecker, many of the posts here concern personal encounters we've had with someone who's touched us in some way. Your crapping on the thread seems like a textbook example of trolling to me. What are you trying to prove?
posted by AJaffe at 1:35 PM on April 6, 2006

I'm tryiing to prove nothing. I've had a coupla beers and actually realize that I am probably sick of Metafilter and its narrow backward-looking taste in music.
posted by dydecker at 1:41 PM on April 6, 2006

And I am not "crapping" on the thread, to use an oft-worn Metafilter phrase. I am simply stating my POV. I have met Mike Watt, he was a nice guy, but jeez do we have to have a thread which is a bunch of i-met-Mike-Watt stories. it's embarrassing. The guy is not Paris Hilton.
posted by dydecker at 1:44 PM on April 6, 2006

dydecker, please don't turn this thread into another "I hate _______ and I'll use 37 comments to prove my point" Hicksian clusterfuck. Oh wait, you're drunk?

All is forgiven!
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 1:45 PM on April 6, 2006

it's okay I will be embarrassed about this in the morning. So who here has touched Mike Watt's hand?
posted by dydecker at 1:52 PM on April 6, 2006

Wait, I'm confused. The reason we're all so fond of Mike Watt is because of *media hype*?

This is the fershlugginer *Minutemen* we're talking about, duder! Just about the least media-friendly unit to come out of that whole scene - sweaty, stocky guys of significant heterodonture in hacked-off flannel shirts, much of whose private universe was encompassed at the time of their maximum influence by the bay of an Econoline.

You're also decisively barking up the wrong tree, with me, anyway, if you're imagining some kind of inherent love of "checkshirt Americana" as the root of the esteem. I'm the minimal/militant/modular modernist of the MeFimily - I *loathe* VFW/PBR sentimentality.

What I love Mike Watt for, beyond his personal integrity, is that he is a master craftsman of the English language. Is that enough of a justification?

And, uh, "Paris Hilton"?
posted by adamgreenfield at 2:06 PM on April 6, 2006

I, for one, enjoy the Mike Watt stories. More!
posted by acetonic at 2:21 PM on April 6, 2006

adam, i admit I do acknowledge the man's way with English. I like that he brought punk rock a beat sense of English; he is all cat this and groove that and jam the other without it being the worst thing in the world (which it was) I don't mind if people talk about that!

I do think that Metafilter is a little too Death Cab For Cutie/checkshirt/smug indie rock bullshit and good indie punk rock bands of the 80's are the deities of that scene and that's well and okay and I should just give up with the 'tude already and let the canonization process work its magic. I will. I left the vultures to pick over the bones a long time ago.

Whatever made it interesting I don't get from it now. I listening to minimal techno now so I should just leave it.
posted by dydecker at 2:36 PM on April 6, 2006

Yeh, dydecker, just leave it please.

I remember walking around Harvard Square in Boston just after D Boone died and seeing a girl with a homemade shirt that said "God, we'll start going to church, just give us D Boone back".

Never forgot that.

And, just to add fuel to the fire, the reason everyone talks about what a nice guy he is, is this: Most people from that scene arent'/weren't.

Of all my musical idols I've met, and I've met a bunch, he was the one I most wanted to buy a beer. That guy has been fucked over by this industry in every way a creative guy can get fucked, and on top of it has to be reminded of his dead best friend every time a fanboy like me comes up to him. But he's never lost his boundless energy and optimism. I actually wish I was more like him.
posted by lumpenprole at 3:46 PM on April 6, 2006

dydecker: "and i am perfectly relaxed. punk rock nostalgia sucks ass though."

Man, you are so punk rock to point out how un-punk rock the rest of us are for sharing a story or two about a really decent person who also plays bass really well and creates music that we like. I aspire to your level of cynicism, untinged by nostalgia or even legitimate admiration. Maybe, on day, we can all be so jaded and cold.

dydecker (again): "The guy is not Paris Hilton"

No. He's so much fucking cooler than Paris Hilton that mentioning the two of them in the same comment is completely inexcusable, unless you were to do it in order to say "I'd love to see Mike Watt beat Paris Hilton to death with his bass." Watt's actually created something called "art" that some people enjoy. If you don't care for it or think we've descended into idolatry, fine. But it doesn't take a dozen posts to get that sentiment across.
posted by wheat at 12:12 PM on April 7, 2006

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