Mike Watt, on Bass: Tour, LP News

 

 

Insanely busy multitasker hits the road in earnest in April…
he’s not such a bad early morning photographer of pelicans and sunrises,
either.

 

 

By Blurt Staff

 

 

Mike Watt + Missingmen will be
undertaking their first extensive national tour of 2009, commencing April 17 in
Tucson, AZ and
ending May 24 in George, WA. The tour is titled “Prac’n The 3rd
Opera” as they’ll be premiering and honing the repertoire of Watt’s next
studio album “Ten And Tweny
Don’t Make Fifty
,” which they will record May 5, in Brooklyn,
in the thick of the tour. The touring line-up is Tom Watson on guitar, Raul Morales
on drums and Watt on bass and spiel.

 

 

 

    From his earliest years performing
with D. Boon and the Minutemen while helping to establish the American indie
rock scene through the then-fledgling SST scene, Mike Watt has had a deep sense
of purpose although, as he admits, “It’s hard to describe the mission,
what makes me put almost everything else secondary. When I tour, I conk at
people’s pads. I play every day. I’m not using it as a means to a lifestyle. I
don’t really know what the mission is exactly
except to do this as intense as I can. It’s like being a sailor or something.
Sometimes, it does feel as if I’ve been given orders, a bizarre spin on the
minstrel or troubadour scenario, the town crier, the guy that goes between the
towns to let the other towns know about each other.”

 

 

 
  His upcoming recording plans include an opera called “Ten And Tweny Don’t Make Fifty” to
be done by his “Missingmen” line-up and a separate project to be done
with “the Black Gang” (Nels Cline from Wilco and Bob Bee), about what
he calls “my autumn.” Much of his time in recent years had been
occupied touring and recording with the reformed Stooges.

 

    An inveterate road dog (not unlike Saint Bernard in the
Paradise section of the “Divine
Comedy”), Watt has spent an incalculable percentage of the past quarter
century touring in numerous ensembles and configurations. Beginning with the Minutemen
in the early 1980s, Watt helped define the “econo-tour,” a road
warrior-style approach to touring that involved performing the most gigs
possible in the fewest days with the lowest possible overhead. Sharing a van
with SST labelmates Black Flag, the Minutemen unknowingly created the roadmap
of national club routes that the budding Punk Rock Nation would later adopt as
its own. Finally, after four years of watching the tour van odometer flip over
to zeros, the Minutemen came to an end on December 23, 1985 when a tragic van
accident took D. Boon’s life.

 

    Watt retreated from music after the loss, though not
for long. An avid Ohio-based minutemen fan named Ed “fROMOHIO”
Crawford found Watt’s number in the phone book and announced that he was moving
to San Pedro to start a new band with Watt and drummer George Hurley. Ever the
enthusiast of the path-less-traveled, Watt conceded, and the trio launched
fIREHOSE in June 1986 going on to create five studio albums and a live EP,
indulging in seven-and-a-half years of non-stop econo-touring (without ever
taking label tour support). fIREHOSE signed to Columbia Records, who released
the group’s final three records before they dissolved in January 1994.

 

    In the spring of 1995, he released his first solo
album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat? The album enlisted no less than 48
different participants including members of Nirvana, Pearl Jam, the Beastie
Boys, Soul Asylum, the Lemonheads, and the Screaming Trees. In fact, the tour
line-up for Watt’s first solo outing included Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder on
vocals, the Germ’s Pat Smear on guitar, and Nirvana’s David Grohl on drums,
with Grohl’s then-new group, the Foo Fighters, delivering their very first live
performances in the support slot. After this tour, he did two more with Nels
Cline and two drummers as the Crew Of The Flying Saucer. He then toured for a
year as a sideman on bass for Perry Farrell’s Porno for Pyros and recorded two
songs for their second album. Then Watt trimmed his caravan back to a three-man
team and recorded his 1997 follow-up, the punk opera Contemplating The
Engine Room
. The thematic effort revolved around three seamen in the engine
room of a naval vessel, in sum creating a powerful metaphor for the Minutemen
and their road lives in “the boat” (Watt’s name for the van he tours
in). He brought this around the towns for fourteen months with the Black Gang,
a trio that had the album’s Nels Cline and Stephen Hodges at different times
along with Bob Lee and Joe Baiza.

 

 

The Secondman’s Middle Stand was Watt’s third solo album and the first to be
recorded in San Pedro, California, Watt’s home-base since childhood (he was
born in Portsmouth, Virginia, on December 20, 1957), and first to be recorded
with a bass (Watt), organ (Pete Mazich), and drums (Jerry Trebotic) line-up.
(Mazich and Petra Haden both contribute back-up singing to Watt’s salty growl).
There are nine (three times three) songs on The
Secondman’s Middle Stand
and, like the “Divine Comedy,” Watt’s
new album is the saga of a pilgrim going through his own inferno (“boilin’
blazes,” “puked to high heaven,” “burstedman”) and
purgatory (“tied a reed ’round my waist,” “pissbags and
tubing,” “beltsandedman”) before experiencing a reconnect to
paradise (“the angels gate,” “pluckin’, pedalin’ and
paddlin’,” “pelicanman”).

 

 

This project stemmed from a critical illness in 2000
with a fever lasting 38 days, its climax an abscess bursting in his perineum.
During his recuperation, Watt poured over all kinds of books ranging from Manly
P. Hall’s “Twelve World Teachers” to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark,
Luke, and John to Margaret Cheney’s “Tesla: Man Out of Time,” a
biography of the eccentric enigmatic 19th century inventor, probably best-known
for discovering the rotating magnetic field that gives rise to alternating
currents, who favored numbers divisible by three. Watt also used his
recovery period to re-read Dante Alighieri’s “Divine Comedy,” (he
first read it as a teenager) which is divided into three sections:
“Inferno,” “Purgatorio,” and “Paradiso.” Both
“Purgatorio” and “Paradiso” are divided into 33 cantos
(“Inferno” has 34) with each section divided into groups of 3 lines
called tercets.

 

    “That sickness hellride was definitely memorable –
it was profound on me,” Watt confesses. “It took so much from me, I
figured I could take a record from it. It’s a journey, like being on the raft
with Jim (from “Huckleberry Finn”), going down the river, or Leopold
Bloom and Stephen Dedalus walking through Dublin
(from James Joyce’s “Ulysses”) or being with Virgil (author of ‘The
Aeneid’) and Beatrice (Dante’s dead love) and going through those crazy things.
There’s something to be said for being a pilgrim, you keep moving. I’m in the
middle of my life. I’m definitely not a beginner and, hopefully, I’m not at the
end of the road. The cliché is ‘last stand,’ but I just couldn’t see it being
my ‘last stand.’ Another reason I took to paralleling Dante’s ‘Comedy,’ he
wrote that in the middle of his life too. When I read it again, after the sickness,
in my 40s, I saw it as a kind of vehicle for him to talk about the intense
stuff in his life.”

 

    In addition to his primary efforts, Watt’s yearnings
for creative output have resulted in numerous side projects beginning with the
double bass duo Dos with ex-Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler. In the time since
…Engine Room,” Watt has
played bass and toured with J Mascis + the Fog and recorded three albums with
Banyan, an experimental alt-jazz project with Pyro/Jane’s Addiction member
Stephen Perkins. Watt also was part of the Wylde Rattz with the late Ron
Asheton, Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Steve Shelley to
cover the Stooges’ classic “TV Eye” for the soundtrack to the Todd
Haynes film “Velvet Goldmine.”

 

 

In 2003, Watt was invited by Iggy Pop to fill in on
bass for the late Dave Alexander on a series of Stooges reunion concert dates
with the other two original members, Ron and Scott Asheton, throughout North
America, Asia and Europe in which he continued until recently as the youngest
member of the band both on stage and in the studio, handling bass duties on
their 2007 comeback album, The Sickness.

 

    Watt’s list of side bands includes Watts’ Material Girl
tribute band the Madonnabes, Hellride, Li’l Pit, Pair Of Pliers, the Jom &
Terry Show, Crimony, Bootstrappers and the original Punk Rock Karaoke with Eric
Melvin of NOFX and Greg Hetson of Bad Religion. He’s recently even done some
gigs with old friend drummer George Hurley as a duet doing songs they did
together in the early Minutemen days. He has gone on to record a number of
albums with Hurley, Joe Baiza on guitar and various lead vocalists under the
name “Unknown Instructors.” Watt also stays busy with a weekly web
radio program, The Watt From Pedro Show (www.twfps.com , and his own site, www.hootpage.com, both of which provide
outlets for his many political interests, including the fight against FFC
regulations on low power FM stations and web radio channels. He also loves
pedaling his bike around his town four days a week while paddling his kayak the
other three – all at the crack of dawn.

 

    But there is a thread that connects all of Watt’s
concerns. “Art and music mirrors nature in a lot of ways,” Watt says.
“Nature’s a lot about resonances and cycles and rhythms. Nature has no
ethics or morality. Neither does music. It operates on a level where words
aren’t. There’s always going to be a hankering to get connections on a non-word
level. Can we have ideas that don’t have words for them? You can’t know
anything, you can only believe. The way you describe what you believe is a
prison. Music is a way to get around that. In the comedy, Dante is talking
about free will and all these things, bizarre things, big big questions. The
mind’s going to float, the mind’s going to wander. The whole idea of journeys
and stuff is such a metaphor for the way the mind is in life. The whole dilemma
of what is the mind and what is the brain. One is conscious of the other, a
total mystery in total flux.

 

 

“Good art touches on that stuff. I think that the
brain/mind connect is every heavier than life/death. Free will, behavior,
culture, memory, hopes, all based on this big crux on the connection of the
brain and the mind. And music plays on this too…”

 

 

“PRAC’N THE 3RD OPERA” tour

 

Fri, April 17: Tucson, Az – Plush
Sat, April 18: Albuquerque, Nm –  Launchpad
Mon, April 20: Dallas, Tx –  Granada Theater
Tue, April 21: Houston, Tx –  Rudyard’s
Wed, April 22: Baton Rouge, La –  Spanish Moon
Thu, April 23: Tallahassee, Fl –  The Moon *
Fri, April 24: Jacksonville Beach, Fl –  Freebird Live *
Sat, April 25: Charleston, Sc – The Music Farm *
Sun, April 26: Asheville, Sc –  The Orange Peel *
Mon, April 27: Carrboro, Nc –  Cat’s Cradle *
Wed, April 29: Charlotte, Nc –  Neighborhood Theatre *
Thu, April 30: Richmond, Va –  The National *
Fri, May 1: Lancaster, Pa –  Chameleon Club *
Sat, May 2: Baltimore, Md –  Ottobar *
Sun, May 3 To Tue, May 5: Record Watt’s Third Opera In Brooklyn, Ny
Wed, May 6: Cambridge, Ma –  T.T. The Bear’s
Thu, May 7: Hoboken, Nj –  Maxwell’s
Fri, May 8: New York, Ny –  The Mercury Lounge
Sat, May 9: Philadelphia, Pa –  North Star Bar
Sun, May 10: Pittsburgh, Pa –  Club
Mon, May 11: Cleveland Heights, Oh –  Grog Shop
Tue, May 12: Detroit, Mi –  Shelter
Wed, May 13: Holland, Mi –  Park Theatre
Thu, May 14: Chicago, Il –  Schubas Tavern
Fri, May 15: Minneapolis, Mn –  7th Street Entry
Sat, May 16: Omaha, Ne –  The Waiting Room
Mon, May 18: Denver, Co –  Larimer Lounge
Tue, May 19: Salt Lake City, Ut –  <Tba>
Wed, May 20: Boise, Az –  Neurolux
Thu, May 21: Portland, Or –  Doug Fir Lounge
Fri, May 22: Seattle, Wa –  Crocodile Cafe
Sat, May 23: Bellingham, Wa –  The Nightlight
Sun, May 24: George, Wa –  Sasquatch! Music Festival

 

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