In each city Mike plays where there’s an affiliated TVD, we’ve got an opportunity for one of you to win the aforementioned “hyphenated-man” on vinyl in exchange for your comment to the contest posting. Let us know why you deserve to win Watt’s latest vinyl opera and the most convincing of the bunch will find the LP in his or her mailbox.
For the ninth of ten opportunities to win the new LP, Mike Watt + The Missingmen play Portland’s Doug Fir Lounge on Monday, 4/25. You have one week from today to be sufficiently convincing in the comments to be awarded the record. Comments from a previous hyphenated-man giveaway will still be considered for future ones. Winners must have a mailing address in the continental US or Canada.
Mark Fagan of TVD Austin spoke with Mike in advance of the tour:
Mike Watt’s rock & roll résumé is as impressive as they come. His legendary career began with the Minutemen in 1980 alongside guitarist D Boon and drummer George Hurley which ran until the tragic car accident in December 1985 that took D Boon’s life. He then started fIREHOSE with Hurley and Ed Crawford which existed from 1986 to 1994, and has played bass for the legendary Stooges fronted by Iggy Pop for the last eight years. And those are just a few highlights from his storied career.
He’s back in support of his newest solo album and third opera, hyphenated-man, which features Watt on lead vocals and, of course, holding down the low end on electric bass with his signature flowing style that has inspired and influenced fellow bassists for decades. Interestingly, he actually composed hyphenated-man on D Boon’s Telecaster instead of the bass as per his usual practice.
Due to the growing backlog of projects, Watt decided to start his own label—clenchedwrench—and hyphenated-man has the honor of being the first release from this new imprint. The Vinyl District had a chance to chat with Mike before he hit the road.
A BUNCH OF LITTLE THINGS MAKE ONE
TVD: I read that hyphenated-man is inspired by the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch. Can you go into further detail on this?
Watt: … [The documentary film on the Minutemen] We Jam Econo, have you heard of this?
TVD: Oh, certainly.
Watt: Ok, [hyphenated-man] was being made about the same time these cats Keith [Scheiron] and Tim [Irwin] asked me to help them. So I hadn’t listened to Minutemen in a long time because of sadness – with D Boon – but I had to hear it, ya know, for this thing. They wanted me to do a spiel and drive ’em around town. But hearing it was it was like, “Wow, I kinda like this little thing.” [Watt laughs] Ya know, no filler. I wanna work again with this kind of thing. I mean we got the idea from the English band called Wire, Pink Flag. But I still like the way ya know George [Hurley], Boon, and myself went and did this. I wanted to do it again. It struck a chord in me, a resonance in me. Mr. Bosch used all these little things to make one big thing.
Minutemen kinda did that with a record or a gig ya know, a bunch of little things make one. That’s where I kinda found a little parallel. So, in a way I went back to my old days, but then in the opera form. … I was also thinking of this other angle, as far as the middle-aged thing goes. Dorothy and The Wizard of Oz. I don’t know the intention of the writer, it was a man, L. Frank Baum. I don’t know his intentions. But my take is like, you notice that that tin man and scarecrow and lion, they’re the farm hands.
TVD: Uh huh.
Watt: Remember at the end she goes, “You were there, and you there.” What I think she’s doing, it’s a coming of age story for her, but not romantic. I think the only romantic interest is her dog. She’s tripping on what men do to be men. What they think they do. Remember that big thing with the man behind the curtain? Where I come from if you’re smart you get a diploma. Oh, if you’re brave you get a medal. If you’ve got a heart you get a clock. The tin man got a lame one. [laughter] But what he’s trying to say in this, we’re always expecting society to validate us.
I think in middle years you just say fuck that shit. Maybe. And not a freak out. Just, ya know, a sober kind of refection. Like, I gotta make some of these decisions for myself. I think a younger man does that too. And in between that area we get caught up in the paradigms. The para-dig-ems ya know. That’s what I was trying to roll up into this piece.
Mike Watt | Arrow Pierced Egg Man
GIGS AND FLIERS
TVD: It seems as though there was a lot of thought put into the packaging of this album, with the gatefold jacket CD and the artwork and the high quality [vinyl pressing] …
Watt: Oh, Raymond [Pettibon].
Watt: He’s my best friend. I wanted people to read the words because I don’t think I made ’em too clear when I was doing the spiel.
TVD: So the lyrics are included? Because I only have a download.
Watt: When you open it up, yeah. All the spiel is there. Yeah, they made it, these good people at Org Music made it, this is on my new label [clenchedwrench]. I got so many projects in the pipeline I had to start my own fucking label. [laughter] This is the first one and the Org people I partnered with to make the physical things said, “Wow, we can make a CD thing that’s like a little album.” Instead of that jewel box plastic thing, they’re just like an old gatefold. Ya know, like Double Nickels on the Dime.
But little, ya know, to fit the CD. So that’s what it does, it opens up and there’s all the spiel on the back and I got a picture of me, Raul [Morales], and Tom [Watson]. The way things are nowadays you can do a lot yourself, actually it’s what I did in the old days with New Alliance [Records]. But we used to paste stuff right on the poster board. [laughter] A little different now, now you use this InDesign, by Adobe.
Watt: Those days you went to the Save On and you got a poster board and just glued this shit onto the thing, and made like a picture of it. You literally cut the pictures out with a scissor …
TVD: A little X-acto blade …
Watt: Yeah, that’s how we did it. If you look at Double Nickel you can see it’s not the straightest line. I tried to be straight ya know.
TVD: I’ll take a look at it again…
Watt: OK, if you open it up, that’s just the poster board with shit glued on it.
TVD: Well, it’s certainly stood the test of time.
Watt: [laughing] Yeah, it’s probably the best record I ever played on. I paid for that thing ya know, it was the most we ever spent on a record, $1,100 dollars.
Watt: We mixed all 45 songs in one night; well Ethan James did. We were too scared so we let him do it all. That was pretty amazing, it was all ’cause of the Huskers ya know, we had an album done and then they came and did a double one, so we thought “fuck,” we should write some songs so we can have more songs so we can have a double one. So we went back and recorded another album.
TVD: So it’s kind of your response to Zen Arcade?
Watt: Well, inspiration. They made theirs all together so it had a good concept and ours was made half-half. We would have never had the idea if they didn’t do it. So, kind of a response to their effort but not literally answering the questions that they put in that album. The great album that they did, we just wanted to have one too. We didn’t want to copy, but kind of the format.
TVD: With clenchedwrench, is it mainly for your own projects or have you thought about …
Watt: Yeah, just for Watt stuff. I got like 12-15 things in the pipeline [laughter] and I don’t want to have to like do the dance. I just want them to come out. These things are like my babies, ya know. I never had children so they’re gonna be here after I’m gone. Whole different thinking than earlier. Old days of me and D Boon, we divided the world into two categories – there’s gigs and fliers. We thought the gig was everything, so everything that wasn’t the gig was the flier to get people to the gig. So that’s how we looked at records, now I look at them as works.
They are still kind of a flier, but they do stand on their own too. Gigs still are very important to me but you can’t be here forever. That’s another thing you kind of realize in the middle years. Not to bum out on it, ya know, it’s part of the journey.
‘WHEN YOU AIN’T PLAYING YOU’RE PAYING’
TVD: You mentioned playing live, I see that you have something like 51 dates in 52 days.
Watt: Yeah, but that’s an old tradition with me, this is gonna be my 65th tour.
TVD: That’s just the way you book tours?
Watt: You can say a lot about the U.S. and Canada but they are big.
TVD: They are, well …I live in Texas.
Watt: I’m still going to miss towns! Ain’t gonna play Cincinnati, ain’t gonna play Memphis. No Bozeman. Even with that many gigs there’s still – the most I ever did was 71 gigs in 73 days, 56 in a row. Also you know the old vaudeville thing, “When you ain’t playing you’re paying.” So I do a big counter-clockwise thing in the springtime and in the fall I do a clockwise one to go with the weather. I want California weather or as good a chance as I can get [laughter]. I’m a spoiled motherfucker. Everybody’s got a little window and that’s where I’m trying to hit it. I just want to, ya know, No. 1‚—I promise myself I’m going to keep my guys safe and, No. 2—I want to play good for the people with my guys … It seems a little tough, yeah, but think about having five starving kids and working in a salt mine, a little tougher.
FIRST RECORD AND CONCERT EXPERIENCE
TVD: Do you remember the first record you ever bought?
Watt: Oh yeah, it was a single by Guess Who, “American Woman.”
TVD: OK …
Watt: [laughter] Had a big hole. The first gig I went to was T-Rex.
TVD: Oh wow.
Watt: The guy was young, you know, he didn’t even make 30. I went to the tree where he was killed in London. … His gigs were trippy. He’d play like two minutes of the song and then about 15-minute guitar solos on his knees. Like he had a Hendrix thing or something. That was my first gig. Long Beach Auditorium, actually only 3,000 people but compared to a punk gig it’s way big. Sitting in the dark, far away…
Mike Watt’s “hyphenated-man” is on store shelves now and can be ordered directly by visiting Org Music.