One of the most prolific names in punk rock, San Pedro resident Mike Watt has been playing bass since age 13, when he and his childhood friend D. Boon would play Creedence in Boon’s bedroom. Discovering the late 70s LA punk scene, they joined forces with drummer George Hurley in 1979 to form the Reactionaries, and later The Minutemen.
From 1980-1985, The Minutemen recorded albums and EPs with SST Records, formed by Greg Ginn of Black Flag, including Double Nickels on the Dime. The trio drew on eclectic influences from the Funkadelic to Captain Beefheart, playing a form of punk rock that refused to conform to a single style. In 1984, Watt, Boon, and Hurley joined with Black Flag in a tour of the US and Europe. During that time, Mike became involved with Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler, who would collaborate with him on many future projects.
In 1985, D. Boon was tragically killed in a van accident. Heavily affected by the death of his best friend, Watt was prevented from leaving the music scene by Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore, who invited him to play bass for a few tracks on their Ciccone Youth EP. Soon afterward, a Minutemen fan named Ed Crawford convinced Mike and George to join him to form another band, Firehose, in which Watt played until 1993.
Mike’s marriage to Kira ran concurrently to Firehose’s lifespan, from 1987 to their divorce around the time of the band’s breakup. The two kept playing together, and have a bass duo, Dos, to this day.
After Firehose disbanded, Watt embarked on an epic solo career that included numerous collaborations. His first solo album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, included the contributions of 48 different artists. Watt went on to create three different sets of song cycles, or “operas”, including Contemplating the Engine Room, The Secondman’s Middle Stand, and Hyphenated-man.
The Secondman’s Middle Stand explored Watt’s experience with a serious illness, using Dante’s “The Divine Comedy” as a metaphor for his journey. He suffered from a severe infection that relegated him to bed rest for nine weeks, after which he struggled to regain his musculature to play bass. After his recovery, he returned to music by backing J Mascis and the Fog on tour and combining the set with Stooges songs. The band was eventually joined by Iggy Pop and morphed into Iggy and the Stooges, playing Coachella in 2003.
A perfect addition to our series on Los Angeles musicians, Mike Watt has lived in San Pedro since age ten and has no interest in living anywhere else. He continues to play with multiple bands, touring and laying down bass tracks in the studio for artists from Dave Grohl to Kelly Clarkson. He continues to create new, innovative solo projects, and always has about a dozen or so gigs or projects on his calendar. We’re happy he took the time to sit down with us to talk about his vast experience and his thoughts on the Los Angeles music scene and sound.
- The Punch Line
- What Makes a Man Start Fires?
- Double Nickels on the Dime
- 3-Way Tie (For Last)
- Ballot Result (Live) – Released: December 1986
- Paranoid Time
- Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat
- Project: Mersh
- Minutemen/Saccharine Trust split 7″
- Ragin’, Full On (1986, SST)
- If’n (1987, SST)
- Fromohio (1989, SST)
- Flyin’ the Flannel (1991, Columbia)
- Mr. Machinery Operator (1993, Columbia)
EPs and singles
- Sometimes (EP, 1988, SST)
- “Time With You” (promo single, 1989, SST) No. 26 Billboard Modern Rock Tracks
- Live Totem Pole (EP, 1992, Columbia)
- “Big Bottom Pow Wow” (promo single, 1993, Columbia)
- “Red & Black” (live, single, 1995, Sony)
- 1986 Dos (New Alliance)
- 1989 Numero Dos (12″ EP) (New Alliance)
- 1989 Uno Con Dos (CD) (New Alliance)
- 1996 Justamente Tres (CD) (Kill Rock Stars)
- 2011 Dos y Dos (CD, LP) (Clenchedwrench)
- 1988 The Crimony EP (New Alliance)
- 2004 Live In Detroit (DVD) (Creem/MVD)
- 2005 “You Better Run” on The Songs Of Junior Kimbrough (Fat Possum)
- 2005 Telluric Chaos (Skydog)
- 2007 The Weirdness (Virgin)
- 2013 Ready to Die (Fat Possum)
Off With Their Heads
- 2011 Off With Their Heads/Discharge Split 7″ (Drunken Sailor Records)
- 2011 Sometimes Like This I Talk
- 2011 North Beach Jazz
The Hand to Man Band
- 2012 You Are Always on Our Minds (Post-Consumer)
- 2012 Anywhere (ATP Recordings)
Il Sogno Del Marinaio
- 2013 La Busta Gialla
- 2014 Canto Secondo
2014 CUZ – Tamatebako
- 1995 Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
- 1997 Contemplating the Engine Room
- 2004 The Secondman’s Middle Stand
- 2010/2011 Hyphenated-man (Parabolica Records [Japan])/(clenchedwrench [elsewhere])
- The clenchwrench release uses a different cover artwork than the Japanese issue.