Mike Watt is the Dale Carnegie of rock & roll. He has made more friends and influenced more people than any living bass man, collaborating with everyone from Iggy Pop and J. Mascis to Kathleen Hanna and the late Daniel Johnston (RIP). But he still has a special place in his heart for the band with which he launched his career, The Minutemen. His latest band is called the Missingmen and, as usual, the only way to catch up with Watt is on the road. Amanda Sheppard caught up with him, and bandmates Tom Watson and Nick Aguilar, in Portland, Oregon
Best known as co-founder of The Minutemen and fIREHOSE, influential bass player Mike Watt helped blaze a trail for indie punk across America with mentors Black Flag and SST pals, Hüsker Dü. Watt also helped to usher in the sounds of the early 1990s with fIREHOSE and his mammoth solo debut, Ballhog or Tugboat, featuring 48 of alternative rock’s most notable names, among them Dave Grohl, Eddie Vedder, Evan Dando, and even Bikini Kill’s Kathleen Hanna. After a year on bass with Porno for Pyros and work with numerous side projects, Watt closed out the 1990s with Contemplating the Engine Room, the first of three punk operas inspired by his life and musical journey. Over the years, Watt has performed with countless side projects and played bass for such acts as J. Mascis & the Fog, the late Daniel Johnston, and The Stooges. With new albums from three of his latest side projects, Watt continues to collaborate with artists from around the world and is presently flyin’ the flannel with his band, the Missingmen, in preparation for work on their new album, next Spring.
“Liberty Calls!” from Contemplating The Engine Room by Mike Watt:
After a European tour with Flipper, this past summer, Watt is back on the road with the Missingmen for their 2019 Dick Watt tour along with three new albums, including one from his Pedro-punk side project, Jumpstarted Plowhards, with Toys That Kill’s Todd Congelliere.
Watt formed the Missingmen in 2006 with Slovenly guitarist and longtime pal, Tom Watson, along with friend and one-time F.Y.P. drummer Raul Morales for work on his third opera, Hyphenated-Man. Inspired by the creatures in Hieronymus Bosch paintings and The Wizard of Oz, Hyphenated-Man ponders the idea of how man’s identity, as well as his legacy, are the net sum of lots of little things. Watt also drew inspiration from his reflections on his legacy and musical journey with The Minutemen and D. Boon.
“Hyphenated-Man”-Mike Watt + Missingmen, live at Beyond Baroque in 2012:
PKM: Can you talk a little bit about the Dick Watt tour?
Mike Watt: This tour is named after my pop, me and the Missingmen (Tom Watson, Raul Morales) will make an album with the same name (Dick Watt) next year. I’m doing twenty songs I wrote for The Minutemen 35 to 38 years ago – some were never recorded, some never even played live. D. Boon and Georgie wrote the better songs but I thought it would be interesting for people interested in my journey in music. We’re also doing eleven tunes by other people who had an incredible influence on me.
Tom Watson: It’s going really well and Nick’s our new guy, and onstage it’s a whole different feel from practice. We’re working out whatever we’re working out and it’s definitely coming clearer. I had some issues at the beginning because we’re doing a few songs I haven’t played before or sung before. It takes a couple gigs to get into pocket with that stuff, either missed parts or missed words, but it’s been really fun. Really good-attended gigs and so far, our nights have been pretty nice, too. We found some cool people to stay with and enjoyed some of the local flavor and here we are in Portland and I love it here, good music thing and a very beautiful place.
PKM: And you came back to Portland with Toys That Kill back in 2017.
Mike Watt + the Missingmen, live with Toys That Kill, at Old Ironsides in Sacramento, 2017:
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Tom Watson: Yeah, that was fun. It was like a short West Coast thing to get ready for this Chinese tour. On the Toys That Kill tour, they were like some of the funnest guys to go on tour with and their music makes people happy and it was like a fun Pedro gig, y’know, Pedro band connection. But for us it was really to prepare for the China thing. We were in China for 7 days…An interesting place, I’d never been there before, it’s nothing like Japan, but our friend Chachi from the band Round Eye set up this tour, as he does for a lot of other groups from L.A. and from the U.S. He showed us around and we went to the Great Wall and it was intense. I suggest anyone who’s in China to go see that, it’s like the Grand Canyon or something! Yeah, just like “How did they build that!” It’s like the Pyramids.
So, China was fun, Beijing and some out of the city gigs which were the most fun, I think, because we were playing for people who really had no idea who we were and probably no idea of what kind of music was in the genre. They didn’t have any idea, they are very conservative in certain places. And it was all Chinese people, except for us, which is great, but there was still kind of a question mark over their heads before they heard us and then even while we were playing it took a while for them to – I don’t know! Understand it a bit? By the end, we really had a good time, we warmed them up and won some people over. I don’t think they’ll keep coming to gigs or buy our records or anything, who knows? It was really fun to peek into this little world. These kind of tours like with the Round Eye guys, it’s just kind of peek into places that normally we wouldn’t go and normally that kind of thing wouldn’t happen there. So, it’s kind of breaking the ice, but it was really fun and the food is amazing. We kind of slummed it a bit, which is totally normal, but the street food at night is amazing! They just pop up everywhere! Huge grills with a huge amount of vegetables, fresh stuff and they grill it up for you at like two in the morning (Laughs)
Nick Aguilar, from the Neighborhood Brats and Slaughterhouse, is filling in for the Missingmen’s drummer Raul Morales on the “Dick Watt” Tour.
Mike Watt: Last year, my Missingmen drummer, Raul and his lady, Paloma, had a baby daughter and so now he can’t tour (my pop was a sailor in the Navy and always gone, so I told Raul he’s gotta be home) so Nick is helping us out with this tour.
PKM: Both you guys have been knowing Watt for a long time.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, considering my age, I guess you can say the same thing. I mean, he (Tom Watson) has been playing with Mike for twenty years now. And I guess you can technically say that I’ve sorta been playing with him since I was 12, so sorta ten (years).
Tom Watson: He’d come and sit in.
Nick Aguilar: I would sit in like when I was younger and I don’t even really remember how it happened because my dad works as a longshoreman down in San Pedro. Like a lot of people do in San Pedro.
Tom Watson: Good gig!
Nick Aguilar: Yeah and Pete Mazich who plays organ in Mike’s other band, Mike Watt and The Secondmen, works with my dad sometimes and when Pete found out that I was a drummer, he was like “You know what would be something fun, Nick should come in and sit in on a song with us.” And, mind you, I didn’t even know who the fuck Mike Watt was or what The Minutemen was or what really punk was even for that matter at the time, but Pete gives my dad Double Nickels on the Dime on CD to give to me and for me to listen and I just start unpacking all these things and I’m like “Look Dad, these guys are from San Pedro!” Then my dad’s like, “Wait a second, I think I went to high school with these guys!”
Mike Watt: Me, D. Boon and Georgie [Hurley] went to high school with Nick Aguilar’s pop, Rudy (class of 1976, San Pedro High).
Nick Aguilar: And they ended up rekindling a relationship where they obviously remembered each other.
Mike Watt: When Nick was 12, his pop took him to Harold’s Place (an older bar in our Pedro town) and asked if he could play a Minutemen tune with us and I said OK.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah and I got up and played “This Ain’t No Picnic” and Watt kind of expected like “Oh God! What the fuck is this gonna be?” It was this show in Long Beach at DiPiazza’s and I ended up doing pretty good for a 12-year-old and he dug it so much that he invited me to a gig two months later with The Missingmen when Tom was playing. Tom didn’t even know who I was and two months later, he (Mike Watt) was like “Can you learn two more?” So I learned “Little Man with a Gun In His Hand” and “Glory of Man,” two more Minutemen songs and they sneak me into a bar in San Pedro at Harold’s Place and I sit in for two songs at the beginning of the set. Raul gets up and that was kind of like my little kid moment, man and it was really great!
Mike Watt+Missingmen “Little Man With a Gun in his Hand” and “The Glory of Man” at Harold’s Place, with 12-year-old Nick Aguilar on drums:
Mike Watt: This would happen for the next bunch of years and then a couple of years ago, my Secondmen drummer, Jerry Trebotic, broke his arm so he filled in for a couple of gigs.
Watt formed The Secondmen in 2002 with organist Pete Mazich and drummer Jerry Trebotic for work on his Divine Comedy-themed 2004 opera, The Secondman’s Middle Stand. In it, Watt recounts his fight for life against a misdiagnosed perineum infection in January of 2000 and his three months of recovery. Pete Mazich and Jerry Trebotic had played together previously with Watt throughout the 1990s as part of his interpretative Madonna tribute band, The Madonnabees.
Mike Watt + The Secondmen “Burstedman,” from the album The Secondman’s Middle Stand:
Nick Aguilar: And until I turned about 15-16, I would continue to be the special guest that would come in at Watt shows and I was a huge fan of him and all that and when I turned 19, he actually needed me to fill in full-time for a couple gigs because Jerry broke his arm and Raul was having surgery and he knew I could hold it down. So, when the time for this tour was happening, Raul has a baby, now. Her name is Sophia and runs a screen printing business full-time––
Tom Watson: And we don’t wanna take him away from that stuff.
Nick Aguilar: So, when Watt was planning to tour, again, and everything, you know, he reached out to me and he reached out to my dad to see if I would be down to do it and I, of course, said yes.
Tom formed his first band, Toxic Shock, with drummer Bruce Lossen and future Slovenly bandmates, Steve Anderson and Tim Plowman as teens and landed their first gig opening for The Minutemen and Saccharine Trust at a bar in San Pedro. Before making their New Alliance debut as Slovenly, L.A. punks, The Urinals, invited Toxic Shock to share a track (“Sensationalism”) on the compilation, Keats Rides a Harley for their label, Happy Squid Records.
Tom Watson: We played our first gig with The Minutemen and Sacchrine Trust in a bar and we were like 17, so we had to wait outside in the alley. We’d run in and play and then run out again. It was trippy but then we started playing with The Minutemen when we were Slovenly and we were invited to play certain gigs down there that were happening, at the time. A lot of crazy music and weird ass people and that’s just great! And it was fun!
After gaining valuable hands-on record label experience working at Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn’s SST Records, Watt and D. Boon started their own label, New Alliance, in 1980 with their friend and former Reactionaries vocalist, Martin Tamburovich. New Alliance put out early releases from The Descendants including Milo Goes To College and Hüsker Dü’s debut EP Land Speed Record along with The Minutemen’s Joy 7″ and the Mighty Feeble compilation which featured a track from Mark Arm’s early new wave band, Mr. Epp and the Calculations. Watt sold New Alliance to Greg Ginn in 1986.
Tom Watson: We’ve both been playing in other groups but I’ve been playing with Mike for over twenty years in different versions of this trio but I’ve known Mike since 1980 or 1979 when we played that first show with him and The Minutemen. They put out our first three records as Slovenly and then we jumped to SST and that was amazing for us because we started recording a lot of records and going out on tour with fIREHOSE, later on because we all lived in the South Bay and that’s where Black Flag had their headquarters. We knew them, of course. Our drummer, Rob Holzman was the drummer with Saccharine Trust on the record Paganicons which is kind of like a legendary record in a way.
Footage from the SST tour (Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Saccharine Trust, SWA):
Tom Watson: Like a local sound kinda thing. Home grown, but it’s all DIY, there’s no glamour really, no forced glamour. And now we’re touring, which is great because Missingmen had did one other record and it came out quite a few years, six years, something like that called Hyphenated-Man with Raul on drums and we’ve toured five or six times together and we really have a good feel with each other and we’re planning to record another record, coming in spring.
Mike Watt and the Jom and Terry show “Eyegifts From Minnesota” (Trailer):
Before he became one of the Missingmen, Tom played in Watt side project Pair of Pliers with The Crew of the Flying Saucer drummer Vince Meghrouni. Tom also filled in for Secondmen organist Pete Mazich in 2002, completing the tour with Jerry Trebotic as The Jom & Terry Show. Incidentally, Raul filled in for Jerry on the European leg of The Secondmen’s El Mar Cura Todo tour in 2005. Tom’s link to the old days as well Raul’s connection to the present as part of Pedro punk’s more recent generation playing in F.Y.P. and his early band the Jag-Offs and Killer Dreamer inspired Watt’s choice as much as their playing styles.
MIKE WATT & THE MISSINGMEN Live @ L’Astrolabe – Orléans:
Nick Aguilar: In a way, it is a little bit nerve-racking for me because, you know, I’m already kind of a nervous person and kinda insecure as it is, already, so, I always kinda feel like I’m being a nuisance even when I’m not. Something I’ve learned is that only talk if it’s necessary, because, y’know, you’re gonna be with the same people that isn’t your immediate family for weeks and I’ve toured, before, but this is like my third real tour ever and it’s also my longest one. So, it’s kinda like throwing me in with the wolves. It’s scary and it’s a little intimidating but I like to think that I’m doing an alright job.
Tom Watson: Definitely growing, quick learner!
Nick Aguilar: Watt is like the guy, y’know – I dunno! Like, he’s the main mentor!
Tom Watson: It’s his deal.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, it’s his deal and if he’s like explaining something to me that I don’t really get or kind of a deal that I don’t understand, Tom’s there.
Tom Watson: I mediate, I’m like Middle Child.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, and I know Tom misses Raul and I’m sure Mike misses Raul, too, and that’s a weird thing, but, this is only our sixth? Fifth?
Tom Watson: Fifth?
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, this is only gonna be our fifth show together. No – sixth! Sixth! So, we really gotta give ourselves some credit, here, and Watt, last night (in Eugene), he said like, “I think that’s the best we’ve played, so far.” And I totally agree, we were really in lock with each other, it was really good synergy going on. There’s not a better feeling like that! You can’t really explain that feeling to somebody that doesn’t play music. Mike Watt + the Missingmen – “TV Eye (Stooges cover)”:
Tom Watson: Well, you just know it because the other times you know when it’s just not gelling or jiving. It takes a few gigs, I mean, practice in front of an audience is the real practice, right. I mean, practice in a little room?
Mike Watt + the Missingmen began practicing the tour’s setlist in early July and even practicing without Watt while he was on tour, this past August, with Flipper.
Tom Watson: Which is weird.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, it’s really weird not having him at prac.
Tom Watson: But it might be good psychologically.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, because some of those songs are so bass-heavy and like (bass-)led.
PKM: Do you try to like hear it in your mind while you’re playing?
Tom Watson: Yeah, exactly.
Nick Aguilar: He really has made me, well, not made me, yet, but he’s making me a better player and not even a better player but a better man, too!
Tom Watson: Well, also partly, you know, maybe, you’re listening to it in a more clearer way.
Nick Aguilar: It’s kind of like having a second dad because he’s the exact same age as my dad, you know. I’m kind of more reluctant to listen, well, not more reluctant, but I’m kind of more willing to take the word of somebody who’s literally a veteran in doing this shit for years and does it for a living than someone who’s closer to my age who doesn’t know fuckin’ jack. So, whenever he says something to me, good or bad, I really take it to heart.
Watt’s approach to practice and tireless work ethic date back to his youth when he and Minutemen co-founder D. Boon began playing music together as kids after school under the watchful eye of D. Boon’s mother, Margie, as a way to hang out with his best friend. It was even Margie who decided that Watt would play the bass. Watt’s determination to learn bass and play music with D. Boon were one and the same and saw him through to his Minutemen days, as well as early attempts to play along with D. Boon’s beat-up Creedence Clearwater Revival records. As Watt recalls in a 2011 interview with Extra TV’s Adam Weissler, “D. Boon would say, ‘People work all week to see the gig! We’re not gonna waste their time!’” Incidentally, John Fogerty’s flannel shirts were also an early inspiration to Watt.
Tom Watson: Yeah, I mean it does cause some tension because he’s very particular and he’ll hear every wrong note I’ll play while we’re playing live. Like, we’ll talk about it, later.
Nick Aguilar: He’ll let you know on stage, too. People see it, it’s pretty great.
Tom Watson: So, we’re gonna get better and better. And we’ve got a routine down, like how we pack.
Nick Aguilar: Almost down.
Tom Watson: And how we’re moving the gear and all that stuff and setting up. We have a way that we set up on stage that we do every night, now, and we’re having a good time.
Nick Aguilar: I dig the stage setup.
Tom Watson: It’s working much better.
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, when I first saw Mike play, the first show I did see of a Mike Watt show was The Missingmen it was at DiPiazza’s. Do you remember Pete’s other band, the Angry… Johnny Angry?
Tom Watson: Vaguely
Nick Aguilar: Yeah, they opened for you guys at DiPiazza’s back in 2009 and Pete was just a friend of my dad’s from work, so, we really went to go see him and not Mike Watt, but I stuck around. I remember I walked in the middle of “The Big Bang Theory” and I think that…
Tom Watson: And now you’re playing!
Mike Watt + the Missingmen – Glory of Man (Minutemen)
Nick Aguilar: I know, I know! And I remember you guys went right into “Glory of Man” seeing Watt like stand up behind Raul and he got like really close to him and it was just so trippy, I see a drum set right in front of the stage and it’s tilted all weird!
Tom Watson: Like crawlin’ around behind it!
Nick Aguilar: And like Watt’s just like doing his thing and you’re doing your thing and jumping around and I’m like “What the fuck is this?” I was like, “Man, this guy can’t even really like sing, like!” and I was just like, “What the hell is this?” and shit. And then I started going down the rabbit hole with punk rock in general. If it wasn’t for seeing him and if it wasn’t for my dad knowing Pete (Mazich), and if it wasn’t for shit like SST Records, I wouldn’t know so many of my favorite bands. Not just favorite bands, but like my favorite people who I know in my life. Like, I couldn’t imagine what the hell I would be doing, right now if I didn’t know Mike Watt or punk rock, in general, I guess.
I must pause here for a moment to wax nostalgically about how punk rock phantom, Mike Watt, first entered my consciousness. I was thirteen and a big Red Hot Chili Peppers fan when I spotted, in the liner notes of their big breakthrough album, Blood Sugar Sex Magick, a single dedication to a guy named Mike Watt. Eventually, I learned that Mike Watt was not a fallen musician but alive and well and also the co-founder of the two bands The Peppers name-dropped on “Good Time Boys” from their album Mother’s Milk, however, I didn’t actually hear Mike Watt until I nabbed a copy of Sonic Youth’s Madonna-themed album Ciccone Youth: The Whitey Album, four years later.
Nick Aguilar: I think that was the first album that Mike did after Minutemen.
Tom Watson: Yeah, (Sonic Youth) kinda coaxed him back into playing music because he was not into playing music without D. Boon.
Mike Watt: Trippy I just wrote about this in my tour diary, here’s what I wrote:
“Opening tonight is Martin Bisi from Brooklyn… I first met martin right after D. Boon died and I was coming home from taking K. (Kira Roessler) to New Haven to do an internship at Yale – I stopped in NYC and Sonic Youth was recording Evol (Sonic Youth album) – Thurst asked me to play Kim’s bass and improvise w/drummerman Steve Shelley… Lee had a poem about a car wreck he wanted over it. Thurst also had me record w/Steve to a song from Kim Fowley’s “outrageous” album called ‘Bubble Gum’ – I mean really play to it which means Martin put the recording from the record in me and Steve’s headphones w/us playing to it. Trippy. Anyway, it was a big deal for me cuz I thought no one wanted to hear me play bass w/out D. Boon. It was after this recording w/Sonic Youth that I asked Thurst to collab on a seven inch (which turned out to be ‘Burnin’ up’/’Tuff Titty Rap’/’Into The Groovy’ )and he came up w/the idea for Ciccone Youth – understand I ain’t on that album except for the demo for the seven inch which Thurst put on w/out asking (ok w/me though, no prob) – I had nothing to do w/any of that other stuff on that album, how many cats have I had to explain that to them? Buttloads. The Ciccone Youth seven inch had much to do w/me getting back on the horse but the Ciccone Youth album I actually had zero to do w/as far as being involved… yes, my “Burnin’ Up” demo (made on a four track cassette recorder) is on it but I only found that out when it was released. Thurst used to surprise me w/all kinds of stuff, like him using parts of two phone messages I left at him and Kim’s Eldridge Street pad for “Providence” (the video is even funnier), love that man.”
“Providence” – Sonic Youth:
So technically I am not part of ‘The Whitey Album’ except for Thurst putting my demo for the seven inch on it. Thurst helped me get back on the saddle and do music again after D. Boon was killed. I owe so much. Raymond (Pettibon) helped me too. Of course Ed fROMOHIO and Georgie did w/fIREHOSE not too long after.”
Nick Aguilar: Because he was not in a good place after losing his best friend D. Boon
Tom Watson: Well, it changed everything. That’s one of the losses in my life that had the most profound effect on me. I always looked at D. Boon as being like the preacher for punk rock, in a way. He has very liberal angles and has a lot to say and was fun to be around and a good vibe, y’know! I mean, kinda like Jerry Garcia or something like that. Of course, not like Jerry but that buzz.
Nick Aguilar: I don’t think D. was super into acid.
Tom Watson: Yeah. A little bit.
Nick Aguilar: Maybe he was, I dunno.
Tom Watson: Also, they were touring with R.E.M. after they came back from touring with R.E.M. building this certain widespread knowledge. That’s when D. Boon died.
Rising college radio stars R.E.M. were big fans of The Minutemen and fought hard to have the band on their tour but according to Watt in Michael Azerrad’s book, Our Band Could Be Your Life, ” The whole crew hated us, didn’t want us on the tour, the record company – I.R.S.– wouldn’t put us on the posters.” But despite Watt’s bout with food poisoning and douchey pranks from R.E.M.’s road crew, The Minutemen completed a successful tour and on December 13, 1985, joined R.E.M. on stage for an encore of Television’s “See No Evil” on what was to be the band’s last show. Things were looking up for The Minutemen who were gearing up to write new material with Blue Öyster Cult songwriter Richard Meltzer for the band’s next album, when tragedy struck. On December 22, 1985, while traveling in The Minutemen’s tour van overnight to Phoenix, D. Boon’s girlfriend, who had been driving while D. Boon slept off his cold in the back, had fallen asleep and lost control of the steering wheel and flipped the van off the side of the road. D. Boon died instantly.
Tom Watson: So, it’s like weird going from there to them and so I’m sure Mike had a tough time, I had a tough time, a lot of people had a tough time with it. (Watt) goes on and he’s really good at that stuff, y’know. It’s good to play with him ‘cause it’s good practice just to be able to control things better. It makes me work hard.
A short time after recording with Sonic Youth, Watt received a call from Ed Crawford, a young student at OSU who was following up on a dubious tip from Camper Van Beethoven that Watt and George were looking for a new guitarist. They weren’t. Unable to send Watt a tape, Ed opted to fly to L.A. to play for Watt in person. Watt and George agreed to play with Ed, who impressed the guys with his enthusiasm and keenness to learn. And fIREHOSE was born!
fIREHOSE – Walking the Cow (Daniel Johnston cover):
Tom Watson: We see George around.
Corona Minutemen Storytime (w/ George Hurley)
Nick Aguilar: Of course, George Hurley, one of my very favorite drummers and a couple weeks ago before we left for tour, we did kind of a warm-up show in Santa Monica and that was the first time George saw me play like a full set ‘cause his newer band (The Wrinkling Brothers) played earlier in the day. It didn’t make me nervous that he was there, it kinda gave me, if anything, more confidence because I was like, “I get to play in front of one of my favorite drummers, right now!”
Tom Watson: And he didn’t walk out!
Nick Aguilar: Yeah! He didn’t walk out the whole time! Y’know, granted, he was with a pretty lady, but you never know. Nah, I’m just kidding.
mike watt + the missingmen // punk rock bbq, 9.15.19:
Tom Watson: George is a sweetheart, he really is. I played with him in The Red Krayola for a while, just touring. We recorded, too. George, he has, like a switch on his back and you just switch it and he goes. It doesn’t matter, he doesn’t need to learn the part, you just turn him on and he does his thing. It’s kinda trippy. Amazing. Weird. Very original. (laughs)
A self-taught drummer, George Hurley got his first drum kit at age 19 and recalled in a recent interview with The Trap Set that began playing along to records and songs he heard on the radio in the shed behind his house for 10 hours a day. Nick Aguilar: Oh yeah, you listen to those Minutemen records, there’s so much drumming on there that’s like, “Man, I would never even think to do this!”
Tom Watson: It’s hard to compare it to other people, I mean, the only one that comes to my mind is Jesse Chamberlain who was a drummer with The Red Krayola on one record, Soldier Talk and it’s the one that’s comparable to it. And I know George has heard the record. It’s really great, it’s almost like free jazz punk.
Trailer for The Minutemen – We Jam Econo:
Nick Aguilar: That record came out in 1979, I think and I like what George says about his playing in We Jam Econo, (The Minutemen) documentary, he says something along the lines of “It’s like you try so hard, like when you’re learning drums and teaching yourself. You try so hard not to suck, that you might come up with something cool in the process.” He said something like that and you know, that’s why you get weird shit, like y’know, like on that song “Beacon Sighted Through Fog”.
For more with Tom and Nick, check out Mike Watt + the Missingmen’s 2019 Dick Watt tour diaries on Watt’s Hoot Page!
Remaining Dick Watt tour 2019 show dates: Valley Bar • Phoenix, AZ • Oct. 29th
Bunkhouse Saloon• Las Vegas, NV • Oct. 30th
La Santa • Santa Ana, CA • Oct. 31h
Casbah • San Diego, CA • Nov. 1st
Echo • Echo Park, CA • Nov. 2nd
Mike Watt: The Jumpstarted Plowhards is a project I asked Todd to be part of after an I-5 tour we did together two and a half years ago.
Todd Congelliere: I kept thinking he was talking about an album and I think, at first, he was talking about a single and then he said, “Oh wow! That would be great to do an album!” And then he gave me fifteen songs and then I feel like it was, y’know, to do a 15-song album is pretty crazy, nowadays. Especially like this. It was kind of a daunting task. I was like, “What if we split ‘em up?”
Mike Watt: I wrote him 15 tunes on bass and then asked him to compose guitar and singing to go with it including lyrics. The only stipulation I made was for him to use a different drummer for each tune. For the first release (“Round One”) he used four drummers I have/had worked with which includes Nick, Georgie, Jerry Trebotic, and Raul Morales. His plan is to have these “rounds” to be twelve inch forty-five rpm vinyls that each have eight tunes. The plan is to do a live gig after we do five of them (forty tunes total) so that way the proj will have, hopefully, by then, its own identity.
Toys That Kill drummer Jimmy Felix, Fartbarf’s Brian Brunac, Clown Sounds’ drummer Trevor Rounseville, and Hole drummer Patty Schemel also appear on Round One, chosen for the way their individual styles fit each track.
Todd Congelliere: It’s always fun to try something new. It was challenging ‘cause I’ve never written to another persons bass line before. After a few listens there was a natural approach to em. Some were really tough to come up with a melody or structure at first but once it clicked it felt good. I needed to come up with something new for all of em except for “On The Counter”. That was actually a previous demo of mine that fit nicely with his bass line. It felt cosmic. Of course, I had to rearrange it to fit ‘cause I didn’t fuck with Watts bass track at all. The track you hear is what he gave me. There’s something tingly about that to me. I wanted to try to stay within these walls so it should’ve been constricting but it wasn’t. It was like going to jail and finding freedom. I’m much more excited to work on the future ones after the first round. Watt just handed over the bass and click and that was it. But then I asked for mixing advice at the end. Those mixes weren’t happening and that’s where we really worked with each other. Nothing was sugar coated. It never got too frustrating though. It was all about the song! Plus I learned a lot. I think we both work very unorthodox but somehow I feel that it made it easier to find what we were looking for. If that makes sense.
Mike Watt: Just before I left on tour, Todd and his partner, Isaac, filmed stuff for eight videos for this Round One release. You’ll have to wait for Round Five before any gigs for the Jumpstarted Plowhards, however, me + my missingmen, this tour, play our version of “On The Counter” every night.
Mike Watt + the Missingmen – “On The Counter”(Jumpstarted Plowhards):
Round One from Jumpstarted Plowhards is out now on Todd’s label, Recess Records. Recess Records is also set to put out Mike Watt’s side project, Wish Granters, on November 15th, featuring members of Pale Angels, Toys That Kill and The Crew of the Flying Saucer. Follow Recess Records for updates on new music from The Arrivals and Toys That Kill, as well.