Mike Watt

From Academic Kids

Michael David Watt (b. December 20, 1957 in Portsmouth, Virginia) is a bass guitarist, singer and songwriter, probably best-known for co-founding punk rock bands The Minutemen and fIREHOSE. He's been praised throughout his career for his inventive, melodic playing; his basslines are often quite distinctive.



Introduction to music, meeting D. Boon

When he was young, Watt's family moved to San Pedro, California, where he became good friends with D. Boon. Watt and Boon picked up bass and guitar, respectively. Watt and Boon were initially rather ignorant of music; they didn't know bass guitars were different from guitars, and Watt simply removed two strings from a guitar to emulate a bass. When he acquired a bass guitar, he lamented that the instrument was rarely prominent in rock music, but has cited John Entwistle, Geezer Butler, Gene Simmons, and Richard Hell as influences. Years later, Watt would view the dearth of prominent bassists differently, saying that the lack of role-models left him free to develop his own approach to playing bass guitar.

The Minutemen

By the mid-1970s, Watt and Boon formed a band called The Reactionaries. The band later became The Minutemen (named after the 1960s radical group), and drummer George Hurley was added to the lineup. After signing with SST Records in 1980, The Minutemen began touring constantly, releasing a number of albums along the way. Their music was based on the speed, brevity and intensity of punk, but included elements of jazz, folk, and funk.

In 1984, Watt met Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler during a Black Flag/Minutemen tour. They soon became romantically involved, and subsequently began collaborating on songs. They formed a two-bass duo, Dos, and have since recorded and released three records so far.

The Minutemen ended tragically in December 1985, when Boon was killed in a traffic accident. Their fifth full length album, 3-Way Tie (For Last) had already been scheduled for release at the time of the accident.


After Boon's death, Watt and Hurley initially intended to quit music altogether. Sonic Youth invited Watt to hang out with them in New York in 1986; he ended up playing bass on two songs on their album EVOL. Subsequently, one Ed Crawford, a Minutemen fan who drove to San Pedro from Ohio, persuaded the Watt/Hurley rhythm section to continue playing music. fIREHOSE was formed soon after. After three releases on SST, fIREHOSE signed with major label Columbia Records. Their music often sounded much like that of The Minutemen, though the songs became longer and more traditionally structured (generally, verse-chorus-verse). Shortly after the release of 1993's Mr. Machinery Operator, the band decided to call it quits.

Watt and Kira married in 1989, but their marriage fell apart not long after fIREHOSE's break-up. However, both their friendship and Dos have remained intact; they even recorded their third album "Justamente Tres" not long after their divorce.

Solo career

Though always a prolific songwriter, Watt was long uncomfortable singing onstage; he credits J Mascis—who produced Mr Machinery Operator—with encouraging him to sing more often.

After fIREHOSE, Watt began a solo career. His first album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, featured appearances from Henry Rollins, J Mascis, and members of Sonic Youth, Nirvana (in their first and only recording together since Kurt Cobain's death), Soul Asylum, Jane's Addiction, the Beastie Boys, and Screaming Trees. Though he was already revered by many musicians and fans as a founding father of alternative rock, the album and its supporting tour were Watt's first taste of mainstream attention, when Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam and Dave Grohl of Nirvana were part of his touring group. After Vedder returned to his Pearl Jam commitments and Grohl began working with his new band Foo Fighters, Watt formed his only four-piece touring group to date, The Crew Of The Flying Saucer, featuring guitarist Nels Cline and two drummers.

In 1996, Watt contributed bass lines to two songs on Porno For Pyros' second album Good God's Urge. He subsequently ended up being the bassist for the tour that followed the release of the album, sparking a friendship with lead singer Perry Farrell in the process. (Porno's drummer, Stephen Perkins, had already worked with and befriended Watt during the Ball-Hog Or Tugboat? sessions.) In November of that year, he created and established his own official homepage, Mike Watt's Hoot Page (http://www.hootpage.com), initially using his personal Internet Service Provider's free web space until bandwidth demands spurred him to move the site to its own domain name and server.

In 1997, Watt released Contemplating the Engine Room, a sort of punk rock song cycle using naval life as an extended metaphor for both Watt's family history (the album has a picture of his father in his Navy uniform on the cover) and the Minutemen. The album, which was critically well received, features a trio of musicians including Nels Cline on guitar, and Watt as the only singer.

Watt went on to play in such groups as Banyan (with Stephen Perkins and Nels Cline) and Hellride, a sometime live outfit that plays cover versions of Stooges songs. He also played in The Wylde Rattz, recording a song for the film Velvet Goldmine.

In January of 2000, Watt fell ill with an infection in his purenium, forcing the punk legend into emergency surgery and nine weeks of bedrest in his San Pedro apartment. Initially unable to play his bass right away, he rebuilt his strength with intense woodshedding and practice as well as live club gigs where he performed sets of Stooges covers with Hellride in California and with J Mascis and Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph in New York under the name Hellride East.

In 2000, Watt was asked by J Mascis to participate in a world tour behind Mascis' first post-Dinosaur Jr. release, J Mascis and the Fog's More Light. At several of the shows, Mascis and Watt were joined onstage by Stooges guitarist Ron Asheton, wherein the group would play entire sets of Stooges classics. Watt and Mascis later joined Asheton and his brother, Stooges drummer Scott Asheton, for a one-time-only performance of Stooges classics at a Belgian festival under the name Asheton, Asheton, Mascis & Watt.

In 2001, Watt was one of several bassists invited to participate in the sessions for Gov't Mule's The Deep End album, partly on the recommendation of Primus' Les Claypool. Watt and Gov't Mule recorded a cover version of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Effigy" for the album. The sessions were immortalized in the documentary feature film Rising Low.

In 2002 Watt, along with Pete Yorn and members of The Hives, backed Iggy Pop for a short set of Stooges classics at that year's Shortlist Awards ceremony. The performance, along with Watt's past performance history with the Asheton brothers and a successful recording session Iggy and the Ashetons had partaken in for Iggy's Skull Ring album, led to Watt's being enlisted to fill the bass slot in the reunited Stooges lineup in 2003. The reunited Stooges played their first show in almost 20 years at the Coachella Festival in May of 2003.

Also in 2002, Watt was invited by pop-punk band Good Charlotte to make a cameo appearance in their music video for "Lifestyles Of The Rich And Famous". He portrays a jury foreman in the video and even has a short speaking part.

In 2003 Watt's first book, Spiels Of A Minutemen, was released by the Quebec, Canada book publisher L'ole De Cravan. The book, printed in both English and French, contains all of Watt's song lyrics from the Minutemen era as well as the tour journal he wrote during the Minutemen's only European tour with Black Flag, essays by former SST co-owner Joe Carducci, Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore, and Blue Öyster Cult lyricist and longtime Watt hero Richard Meltzer, and illustrations by Raymond Pettibon that had been used in all of the Minutemen's album artwork.

Watt's third solo album The Secondman's Middle Stand, inspired by both his 2000 illness and one of his favorite books, Dante's The Divine Comedy, was released in 2004; one reviewer writes that the album is a "harrowing, funny, and genuinely moving stuff from a true American original." [1] (http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=10:b1ua6j5471w0~T1). For the first time since the Minutemen, Watt recorded the album with an "all-Pedro band", Mike Watt & The Secondmen, consisting of organist Pete Mazich and drummer Jerry Trebotic, along with former That Dog vocalist Petra Haden.

While promoting and touring behind The Secondman's Middle Stand, Watt announced plans for his next two albums, stating that he intended to record as frequently as he did in the Minutemen days for as long as he could. The first album, set to begin recording in the fall of 2005, will contain about 36 short songs. The second album will be similar in execution to Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, only with Watt recording with unknown and lesser-known musicians in various locales.

At some point along the way, he is also set to participate on the first full-length studio album by the Stooges since Raw Power in 1973; Rick Rubin is reportedly the producer of choice for that album..

The Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated their hugely successful Blood Sugar Sex Magic to Watt.

Watt's Post-fIREHOSE Bands

In all of these groups, Watt is the band leader and handles vocals and bass.

Watt's Most Frequent Collaborators

These individuals have collaborated with Watt the most, both live and in the studio.


with The Minutemen

See the Wikipedia entry: The Minutemen


See the Wikipedia entry: fIREHOSE

with Dos

Solo albums

All released on Columbia.

Non-solo recorded appearances

with The Stooges

with J Mascis and the Fog

with Gov't Mule

with Sonic Youth

with Porno for Pyros

with Saccharine Trust

with The Black Gang

with Lil' Pit

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