Mike Watt on What’s Watt

Mike Watt on What’s Watt
Mike Watt is not simply a musician’s musician; he is a legend’s legend. While he has never quite cracked the mainstream, the influence of his entirely unique way of playing the bass and his dedication to the purest ideals of the ideology of punk rock can be felt in even the most saturated parts of music culture. As one-third of the Minutemen, Watt helped to redefine what punk meant, and has spent every endeavour since further expanding the limitations of genre and style. Ever modest, Watt’s self-effacing manner of describing his own abilities still holds a kernel of truth. "I’m not really a musician,” he says. "I got into this to be with my friend.”

1957 to 1970
Michael David Watt is born in Portsmouth, Virginia on December 20, 1957. His father, Dick Watt, who is 19 when Mike is born, is a "nuclear engine room guy” in the United States Navy. Mike’s mother, Jean, is from a small coal-mining town in Wyoming, and meets Dick when her family moves to Peoria, Illinois, near where the new naval recruit is attending boot camp. Because of the elder Watt’s military commitments, the family moves frequently, briefly settling in locales such as Schenectady, New York, and Blackfoot, Idaho, before being relocated to the Pacific coast due to the escalating crisis in Vietnam in 1967. The family, which also includes sisters Melinda and Marilyn, settles in San Pedro, a working class community within greater Los Angeles. Young Mike appreciates the uniformity of military housing, where people of all different backgrounds are viewed as equal. Jean tires of having to move, and decides to stay put in Pedro; she and Dick divorce when he is given orders to relocate once again. Mike is 12.

A 13-year-old Dennes Dale Boone falls out of a tree in front of Watt. Boon has been playing army with his friends, and is confused that Watt is "not Eskimo.” Since the rest of his friends appear to have gone, Boon and Watt walk home together while Boon recites lengthy rants from George Carlin’s comedy records; unfamiliar with the material, Watt simply thinks that Boon is some kind of genius. The two quickly become best friends, and since Boon lives in something of a rough neighbourhood, his mother convinces the boys to start a band in order to stay out of trouble. Watt has no idea what a bass is, but as all bands seem to have one, he is encouraged by Boon’s mom to play it. Initially, they assume the bass is a four-string guitar, and simply remove the top two strings of an electric guitar. Jamming with Boon’s brother Joe on drums, the pair also have no idea about tuning their instruments; they simply assume that some like their strings tight, some loose. Watt writes his first-ever song called "Mr. Bass King From Outer Space,” a little ditty about playing bass so low that it blows everyone off the stage. Watt and Boon attend a T. Rex gig, their first time seeing a band live. In a pre-punk era, Watt recalls in Michael Azerrad’s book Our Band Could Be Your Life, that it seemed like, "being famous was for other people. They were like a different class of people or something. Like Martians.”

While shopping at San Pedro’s only music store, Truck Sound and Music, Watt sees a bass for the first time. He is shocked to learn that it is entirely different from the guitar, thinking it looks more like a bridge with cables. He and Boon start the covers-only Bright Orange Band, an attempted homage to their favourite band, Blue Öyster Cult. Boon’s mom makes Watt a "BOB” T-shirt, which simply leads to people assuming his name is Bob.

Boon’s mom dies, a colossal loss for both Boon and Watt. Bright Orange Band breaks up, and the pair begin to discover punk rock through magazines like Creem. It still doesn’t occur to Watt or Boon that they could be writing and performing their own material, so as the two are graduating from high school, they form Starstruck, another cover band.

1978 to 1979
Starstruck break up, and Boon and Watt form the Reactionaries, their first band to perform original material. The band includes vocalist Martin Tamburovich and drummer George Hurley, a "jock with a practice space.” Despite having attended the same high school, this is the first meeting of Hurley, Watt, and Boon. The band’s first show is at a Teen Post in San Pedro with a fledging hardcore band named Black Flag, who had only performed live once prior. Although the band fails to elicit much of a reaction from the Los Angeles punk and hardcore community, Black Flag remain a staunch supporter. The band is broken up by the end of 1979. Their only commercially available recording is a demo of "Tony Gets Wasted in Pedro,” included on the Minutemen’s The Politics of Time; unreleased material can be found, courtesy of Watt, at www.corndogs.org.

Along with Polish Eagle Polka Band welder-cum-drummer Frank Tonche, Boon and Watt form the Minutemen. The band takes their name from their minute stature as compared the big rock stars of the day, and not, as is often assumed, from their incredibly short (often less than a minute in length) songs. In the 2003 Minutemen documentary We Jam Econo, Watt also notes that Boon was likely aware of the right-wing association of the word, and hoped to take some of the power away from such groups. Debuting in May at a Black Flag gig, the band play one more show with Tonche before, "scared of punk rock,” he quits the group. Watt and Boon manage to bring Reactionaries drummer George Hurley back into the fold after a stint with Hey Taxi!, a new wave band, cementing the line-up that would remain until the band’s dissolution in 1986. The only recordings of the band with Tonche were released by Forced Exposure in 1993 as the Georgeless seven-inch; though currently out of print, the demos have been made available at www.corndogs.org/minutemen_georgeless.html. The group enters Media Art Studio in Hermosa Beach to record with Black Flag’s Greg Ginn, finishing seven songs in one night. Songs are recorded in the order they are to appear on the record, and overdubs are kept to a minimum. The band even uses erased tape rather than purchasing their own, a standard they would continue throughout their career as part of an infamously "econo” lifestyle. Paranoid Time becomes the second release on Ginn’s SST Records, immediately casting the band in front of a national audience. The reaction is one of shock; the band sound nothing like Black Flag. In fact, they don’t sound like anyone. With seven songs in six-and-a-half minutes, Paranoid Time demonstrates the arrival of a brand-new sound in punk rock and hardcore. Inspired and encouraged by Ginn, Boon, Watt, and former Reactionaries vocalist Martin Tamburovich form New Alliance Records at the end of the year, going on to release early recording by bands like Hüsker Dü and the Descendents.

The band release the three-song Joy on New Alliance, and three months later, release their first full-length record, The Punch Line, on SST. Clocking in at 15 minutes, the 18-song collection marks the beginning of the band’s more serious historical and political obsessions; the title references Custer’s last stand, while "Song For El Salvador,” though instrumental, is meant to show support for the country’s Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front. The recording is done as econo as possible, with Hurley’s vocals in the song "Ruins” done while recording bed tracks through the drum mics. A bare-bones mixture of punk rock and free-jazz sensibility, the record draws the attention of such notables as Rodney Bingenheimer, and allows the band their first chance to tour outside of California. Making it out of Los Angeles once with Black Flag, the Minutemen continue to borrow the band’s van for their own treks, clocking innumerable miles on the road.

More prolific than any of their peers, the Minutemen write more songs than they are able to release, and as a result, become a staple of cassette fanzines, to whom they frequently donate original, unreleased songs. Joe Carducci, an SST employee, feels that the band is being used, and agrees to release the EP Bean Spill on his own label, Thermidor. This remains the only Minutemen release on which Watt sings the majority of the material.

What Makes A Man Start Fires? is released in January, and is the first Minutemen recording to truly capture the sound that would prove such a colossal influence in the realm of punk and hardcore. Held down by the unstoppable rhythm section of Hurley and Watt, the band’s funk-influenced rhythmic style jarred with Boon’s buzzing treble guitar tone. At nearly 27 minutes, the record is almost twice as long as The Punch Line, and, appropriately, takes almost twice as long to make. The band head to Europe for the first time with Black Flag, and increase their own touring schedule, playing as much as they can while balancing day jobs; Hurley works as a machinist, Boon studies teaching, and Watt works as a paralegal. Later in the year, the band releases Buzz or Howl Under the Influence of Heat, an eight-song EP that costs $50 to produce. The record’s first three songs are the only ones to incorporate any overdubs, and represent band’s first interaction with producer Ethan James, who would remain a vital part of the band, and Watt’s career, until his death in 2003. The band enter the studio in November to work with James on the follow-up to What Makes a Man Start Fires?

Though technically a full-length, The Politics of Time is a collection of various odds and ends, including remnants of an abandoned studio album, live tracks, and a Reactionaries demo. "Frantic,” one of the album’s live cuts, ends with Boon leaping into the crowd to a fight a gang of skinheads. Having already recorded a full-length album with James the past November, the band are ready to mix and master the songs when they receive word that SST label-mates Hüsker Dü have produced a double album (Zen Arcade). Not wanting to be outdone, the band write and record a whole new album of material in less than a month, proceeding to mix the entire double album in a single night. The result is Double Nickels on the Dime, easily the band’s strongest singular effort of their career, and arguably one of the greatest records of the era. The effect of the record can still be felt to this day, from "Corona” doing duty as the Jackass theme to Michael Azerrad’s comprehensive chronicle of the post-punk era, Our Band Could Be Your Life, which cribs its title from the lyrics of "History Lesson - Part II.” The title and cover art are both part of a clever jokes that no one seems to get at the time; mocking Sammy Hagar’s "I Can’t Drive 55,” "Double Nickels” references trucker slang for the 55 miles-per-hour speed limit on most highways, and, combined with a shot of Watt doing exactly 55 in the band’s van, shows a group interested in taking chances with their music, not their driving. Lampooning Pink Floyd’s Ummagumma, the record’s four sides are each devoted to a member of the band, with the final side simply labelled "Chaff.” Combining all of the band’s influences and channelling them through their distinct style, Double Nickels created a new high-water mark in punk rock and hardcore.

In Pedro slang, the opposite of econo is "mersh,” meaning anything done for crass, commercial reasons. When the band releases the hook-heavy, chorus-filled Project: Mersh in February, it is clear that the band’s newfound interest in producing more accessible music is being done, at least in part, with tongue in cheek. Complete with fade-outs and songs that last longer than 90 seconds, the record expands the Minutemen sound and proves the band’s capability as songwriters. While it seems unlikely that the style will stick around for long, it stands as an interesting sonic diversion. While working on the EP, the band begins jamming with Black Flag, and all seven members spend a night in the studio together, producing the four-song rarity Minuteflag. The session properly introduces Watt to Black Flag bassist Kira Roeseller, and the two begin jamming together, eventually dating. The experience remains a unique one for Watt. "I come from playing with one guy. I only knew music in one situation. Dos is the first time I started to bring it into other situations.” The Minutemen’s next proper full-length album is the far more Minutemen-sounding 3-Way Tie (For Last), which includes several Watt-Roeseller compositions. The record is a return to form for the band, and while it lacks the genre-redefining capabilities of some of their past work, it is generally well-received. Watt and Roeseller officially form a bass duo, dubbing themselves Dos. As Roeseller has taken up an internship at Yale, the band initially consists of tapes traded back and forth between the pair. Notes Watt, "She had already started making tapes for her little nephews to conk to. Her reading stories with bass in the background.” On the final date of a tour with R.E.M., the band perform an encore of Television’s "See No Evil” with both bands; it is the last time that Watt, Hurley, and Boon share a stage together. On December 22, Boon, sick with a fever, is thrown from the back of his girlfriend’s van and killed instantly.

Watt doesn’t pick up the bass for more than six months. Devastated by the loss of his friend, it takes the support of Roeseller, Sonic Youth, and an unknown kid from Columbus, Ohio, to convince him to begin playing music again. Thurston Moore befriends Watt and convinces him to participate in their Madonna-themed tribute project, Ciccone Youth, for which Watt records an interpretation of "Burning Up.” The collaboration leads to Watt’s involvement in the band’s 1986 full-length release, EVOL. In September, Roeseller returns to California and Dos is able to make their official debut, performing live for the first time with Greg Ginn’s side project Gone in September. That same week, the band enters the studio with Ethan James and records their self-titled debut, released later in the year on New Alliance. Around the same time, a young man named Ed Crawford drives from his home in Ohio to San Pedro in order to convince Watt and Hurley to form another band. Having looked up Watt’s phone number and address in the phone book, Crawford spends a few weeks sleeping under Watt’s desk while Watt and Hurley debate the possibility of starting a brand-new power trio with someone they don’t know and who has never played in a band before. The result is fIREHOSE, named after a Bob Dylan lyric from "Subterranean Homesick Blues” that struck Watt as humorous in the song’s infamous video: "Better stay away from those that carry around a fire hose.” The band records their debut Ragin’, Full On at the end of the year on SST, with many songs originating as Dos compositions. By injecting a new melodic approach into Hurley and Watt’s mutated-funk rhythmic drive, fIREHOSE impresses fans of the Minutemen by not trying to replicate the fiery intensity of Boon, but instead evolving from their earlier style into something new. Crawford is an unsure performer and musician, and this only adds to the band’s appeal; his earnestness is audible, and his dedication to Watt and Hurley is obvious.

Gathering a following that draws more from college rock than punk rock, fIREHOSE becomes increasingly busy as they amass a sizable fanbase. Releasing their second record, If’n, the band further hones their mix of Minutemen pedigree and Crawford’s folk roots. Touring makes the band infinitely tighter, and the record benefits greatly from this growth. Unable to keep New Alliance running without Boon and with an increasingly demanding schedule, Watt and Tamburovich sell the label to SST, who continue to keep their back catalogue in print under the SST name. New Alliance morphs into a jazz and spoken word subsidiary, but since punks aren’t buying jazz from other punks and jazz fans certainly aren’t buying records from punks, the label slowly edges out of existence. Watt and Roeseller tie the knot.

fIREHOSE release fROMOHIO, named after Crawford’s affectionate nickname, Ed fROMOHIO. The record has been described by Watt as "Ed’s record,” and includes an even greater number of folk-influenced numbers, including an interpretation of the traditional "Vastopol.” Dos releases the EP Numero Dos, and Watt makes his cinematic debut in artist and original Black Flag bassist Raymond Pettibon’s Weatherman ’69, starring alongside Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon.

Flyin’ the Flannel is released by Columbia, marking the first time Watt has worked with a major label. Said to be more "Watt’s album,” any concerns over Columbia’s influence on the band’s sound are assuaged when the record proves to be one of their finest to date, containing such gems as "Epoxy, by Example” and an inspired cover of Daniel Johnston’s surreal "Walking the Cow.” Long-time fans Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicate their commercial breakthrough Blood Sugar Sex Magik to Watt.

The band releases the J. Mascis-produced Mr. Machinery Operator, on which Watt sings lead on several tracks. Despite some interestingly rough production and a few great songs, the album is poorly received, receiving low marks from the likes of Rolling Stone, who calls it "an indulgent hodgepodge.” As a way of keeping in shape musically, Watt joins San Pedro Madonna cover band the Madonnabes, which includes organ player Pete Mazich, whose musical experience stems playing in a Croatian wedding band.

Watt decides to break up fIREHOSE in January, stating that the band had become "used to each other in a bad way.” Around the same time, Watt’s marriage to Roeseller begins to dissolve, and the two agree to divorce. Dos, however, soldiers on. "We played before, during, after the whole thing,” Watt says. "Punk rock is a lot different than being a rock star in the music business. My friends in Pedro, they’re working people. They go through divorce, and they have way more serious things, like children. A lot of people go through what we do. Dos is like our child.” Watt begins work on his first solo album.

In February, Ball-hog or Tugboat? is released, the result of four months of collaborative work by Watt and an all-star guest list. Watt refers to it as his "wrestling” album, describing each song as different musicians "getting into the ring” with him. The record includes the first recorded appearance of Dave Grohl and Krist Noveselic following Kurt Cobain’s death, as well as Eddie Vedder, Evan Dando, Pat Smear, Mike D and Adrock of the Beastie Boys, Frank Black, Henry Rollins, and many others. The record’s title, and most of its lyrical subject matter, is in reference to Watt and the very nature of bass playing. The song "Heartbeat” includes an answering machine message from Kathleen Hanna in which she turns down Watt’s offer to be on the record because she rejects the all-male, all-white indie rock club it represents. Hanna would later admit that the message was staged. Watt tours the album with a jaw-dropping backing band of Grohl, Vedder, and former Sunny Day Real Estate drummer (and new Foo Fighters recruit) William Goldsmith. In keeping with Watt’s Madonna obsession, Pat Smear would join Watt on stage every night for a cover of "Secret Garden.” Spike Jonze shoots a video for the song "Big Train,” and is subsequently sued by Pacific Union for the appearance of a model train. For the second tour supporting the album, Watt assembles a new band, consisting of noted guitarist Nels Cline, who would join Wilco in 2004, and two drummers, Michael Preussner and Vince Meghrouni. Dubbed the Crew of the Flying Saucer, the two-drummers experiment works sonically, but by the band’s second tour, tensions between the two reach a breaking point. Thankfully, this marked the end of their touring cycle.

Watt finds himself working as a "deck hand” in someone else’s band for the first time, subbing in for Porno For Pyros bassist Martyn LeNoble when he quits mid-recording. Watt contributes bass tracks to a few songs on Good God’s Urge and tours the record for the following year. Working with Perry Ferrell proves to be a unique musical experience, as Watt notes to Jason Gross, "It's not really a D minor seventh, it's more like, ‘The ocean has white caps and you're a bird.’” Overcoming the difficulties of divorce, Watt and Roeller’s child, Dos, releases its third record, Justamente Tres. The Madonnabes make their live debut, with Watt performing in a very sweaty, plush mouse costume. The band now has a crew of dancers, although Watt seems unsure where they came from. "I don’t know how they got involved,” he says. "I think they were coming from high school, or something.” Watt also makes an appearance in the Sublime video for "Wrong Way.”

Contemplating the Engine Room is released, marking the debut of Watt’s new project-band, the Black Gang. Named for sailors who work on ships’ engines, the band consists of Nels Cline and future Tom Waits drummer Stephen Hodges. Arguably more consistent than the star-stuffed Ball-hog, the record is an homage to D. Boon, although many initially speculate that it is about Watt’s father. An appropriately contemplative record, its production would find Watt returning home every day in tears. Banyan, an experimental rock-fusion group founded by Porno for Pyros’ Stephen Perkins and producer David Turin and featuring Watt on bass, make their recording debut with the self-titled Banyan. Watt also makes his recorded debut on the stand-up bass with ‘Lil Pit, recording two Carmen McRae covers.

For the first time since the demise of fIREHOSE in 1994, Hurley and Watt reunite to record a song with Petra Hayden for a NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) benefit album. Along with Perkins and keyboardist Money Mark, Watt forms Broke Dick Dog to record "Shhhhhhh! (For a Little While)” for a James Brown tribute record.

When Watt’s cat "the Man” dies, he forms Pair of Pliers with former Slovenly guitarist Tom Watson and drummer/saxophonist/harpist Vince Meghrouni to play the Searchin’ the Shed for Pliers tour. There is no album to promote, but Watt simply wants to get out of the house.

Watt gets sick in January, but keeps playing gigs with Stephen Perkins, assuming he has the flu and will feel better soon. After numerous hospital visits that prove inconclusive, it is discovered that he has an infection of perineum, where an abscess has developed between his legs and continues to grow until it pops. Doctors are still unsure what is causing Watt’s illness, and he is given anti-syphilis medication, which in turn causes his "balls to grow to the size of grapefruits.” Things get so bad he has to give permission for doctors to cut off his genitals, should the need arise. Watt drops to 120 pounds and is bedridden for nine weeks, but manages to survive, incurring medical costs of roughly $35,000. Doctors remain unsure what caused the sickness, although it is speculated that it could have been an ingrown hair from riding his bike every morning. Watt is forced to begin wearing socks and underwear for the first time since he was 15. Unable to play bass for first time since he began in Boon’s apartment, he begins to learn to again by playing Stooges songs. Once he is able to get out and gig again, Watt forms Hellride in order to play Stooges covers all over L.A. In New York, Watt performs the same set with J. Mascis, dubbing the project Hellride East. Mascis asks Watt to join his touring band in promoting his first post-Dinosaur Jr. record, J. Mascis and the Fog’s More Light. Many nights, the band is joined on stage by Ron Asheton, and sets dissolve into Stooges cover-fests. At a Belgian festival, Scott Asheton is convinced to join the group, resulting in the billing of Asheton, Asheton, Mascis, and Watt. Watt is criticized when the Minutemen’s "Love Dance” appears in a Volvo commercial, but defends the decision, stating that all money accrued from the sale of the song has gone to Boon’s father, who suffers from emphysema. Watt is also asked to contribute bass tracks, along with the likes of Flea, John Entwhistle, and Bootsy Collins, to Government Mule’s Deep End, a tribute to their recently deceased bassist, Allen Woody. Back in full musical form, Watt embarks on his own solo tour, Enough With the Pissbag.

Hurley and Watt begin to play shows around San Pedro, performing guitar-less Minutemen songs and going under the clever name George Hurley and Mike Watt. Watt forms the Jom and Terry show with Tom Watson and drummer Jerry Trebotic for a North American tour. The first scheduled date is on September 11; Watt is on his way out the door to perform in San Francisco when a friend calls to inform him of the terrorist attacks in New York. Watt cancels the night’s show, but continues with the rest of the tour, performing with sunglasses on as a symbol of remembrance. At a stop in Detroit, the band is stuck performing on the first floor of a venue while Megadeth performs above them. Despite the punishing, massive sonic attack from upstairs, Megadeth roadies still forcefully ask Watt and crew to turn down. The tour’s final stop is a rescheduled date in San Francisco, at which Watt finally removes his sunglasses.

Along with Pete Yorn and members of the Hives, Watt backs Iggy Pop in a performance of several Stooges songs at the Shortlist Music Prize ceremony. In a somewhat surprising appearance, Watt is seen in the video for Good Charlotte’s "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.” "They were really nice guys,” recalls Watt, "but I think it was the director’s idea.”

Ron and Scott Asheton reunite with Iggy Pop for the first Stooges performance in almost 30 years at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Watt is enlisted as the replacement for the deceased Dave Alexander, and wears a T-shirt bearing the influential bassist’s resemblance in tribute. Building a studio in his own house named Studio Thunderpants, Watt’s work on a new solo record is pushed back a minor bike accident.

Fully recovered, Watt releases The Secondman’s Middle Stand, a concept record dealing with his illness and near-death experience. Though originally conceived as a tribute to the passing of the Man, the record is an unflinching attempt to deal with Watt’s mortality. Paralleling Dante’s The Divine Comedy, the record features drummer Jerry Trebotic and Madonnabes keyboardist Pete Mazich, performing under the moniker of the Secondmen. Explains Watt of the name, "There’s that saying, ‘live in the moment.’ Well, in sickness, all you have is the moment. The second.” The record marks the first time Watt has recorded entirely digitally, and received a mixed response from fans and critics. Ultimately, it is both praised and panned for its uncompromising and uncomfortable look at the severity of sickness.

Following his experience with Banyan, Watt continues to explore improvised music, forming Los Pumpkinheads with Money Mark and releasing The Way Things Work with the Unknown Instructors, a band consisting of George Hurley, guitarist Joe Baiza, vocalist/saxophonist Dan McGuire, and vocalist Jack Brewer. The album is recorded with each member listening to Stravinsky through headphones, though this is not included in the final mix. We Jam Econo, a comprehensive documentary about the history of the Minutemen, is released, forcing Watt to go back and visit many Minutemen recordings and videos he had long forgotten about.

When the Secondmen are unable to tour due to work (as longshoremen) and family commitments, Watt forms the Missingmen, comprised of Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales. In March, Watt takes part in a performance of avant-garde composer Glenn Branca's "Hallucination City Symphony #13” at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles. Before entering the studio with the Stooges in October with producer Steve Albini, Watt is spotted in the studio with none other than American Idol Kelly Clarkson. According to an email sent to Pitchfork Media, "I knew nothing of Kelly Clarkson before this but can tell you, in my opinion, that she can sing her ass off. Man, she's got pipes and goes for it. She also didn't have any airs or a big posse of sycophants and was just plain up-front people, which to me is very happening 'cause I ain't so used to all the fronting that can go [on] in some scenes.”

Stooges commitments keep Watt busy, although he currently has 39 songs written for his next solo record and a Dos album in the can. On March 20, The Weirdness is released, marking the first Stooges album of new material since 1973’s Raw Power. Although he turns 50 this year, Mike Watt remains as relevant as ever to the alternative music scene, equally excited to share the stage with Iggy Pop and his longshoreman buddies in Pedro.

The Essential Mike Watt

Double Nickels on the Dime (SST, 1984)
It can be difficult to listen to this record today and understand what about it even remotely fits into the definition of what most people consider punk or hardcore. In some ways, that’s what makes the record so fucking punk. Even non-Minutemen fans will be familiar with the opening twang of "Corona” thanks to the boys in Jackass, but this record has much more to offer than late-‘90s MTV theme songs. A mind-melting mix of acoustic interludes, abrasive funk-hardcore, and thought-provoking spoken word, Double Nickels remains one of the most crucial documents of ‘80s punk rock.

Flyin’ the Flannel (Columbia, 1991)
The most Watt-centric of any fIREHOSE release, this major-label debut for the band is easily their finest hour, showing substantial promise as they evolved into their own unique musical venture, removed from Watt and Hurley’s notorious musical histories. The fact that it was followed by the lackluster Mr. Machinery Operator makes is even more poignant, suggesting this may have been the band at their very creative peak.

Ball-hog or Tugboat? (Columbia, 1995)
While it is not necessarily the single strongest of Watt’s solo efforts, it is, second only to Double Nickels, the best-selling record of his career, and for good reason. The astounding list of creative personal involved in its production reads like a who’s who of ‘80s hardcore and ‘90s alternative, and proves beyond a shadow of a doubt the strength of Watt’s influence over several generations of groundbreaking musicians. It speaks to the strength of Watt’s songwriting that such a diverse and impressive roster of musicians fails of outshine his unique, personal style.