Up until the dawn of the digital music revolution within the last couple of decades, generations of kids found out about new music in three real main ways: by stumbling into music videos on the actual television, by scouring the new releases put out by known and trusted record labels (see: Epitaph, Fat Wreck, Blue Note, Apple Records, etc), and by finding out who your favorite artists liked and respected and toured with and diving headlong into that rabbit hole. I was twelve years old when first saw Pearl Jam’s video for “Even Flow” and was so captivated by it that…well…that I’ve continued to buy into whatever they’ve been selling for more than a quarter-century since. Because they’ve been more than vocal about their influences over the years, this meant exploring the catalogs of artists as varied as The Who and Daniel Johnston and Bad Religion and Cypress Hill and Fugazi and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and, thanks to the 1995 release Ball-Hog or Tugboat?, Mike Watt.
Ball-Hog or Tugboat? marked the first “solo” release for the founding bassist from both Minutemen and fIREHOSE, the latter of whom I only knew from having seen a poster for what would become their final full-length, Mr. Machinery Operator, hanging in the front window at Strawberries Music & Video at the Nashua Mall and not realizing that fIREHOSE and FireHouse were two different bands. Ball-Hog featured Watt supported by a diverse cast of characters that obviously included Eddie Vedder but also Dave Grohl and Pat Smear and Krist Novoselic and J Mascis and Frank Black and the Kirkwood brothers from Meat Puppets and Henry Rollins and Mark Lanegan and Flea and Kathleen Hanna and most of Sonic Youth and a bunch of others. It was ground-breaking and genre-bending and was really a perfect look into the future of what was to come for Watt’s career going forward.
If you haven’t been able to keep track of the sheer number of projects – or proj’s, as Watt refers to him in his trademark San Pedro patois – that Watt has been involved with in the years since, that’s no slight on you; it’s overwhelming. There’s Dos, a duo that featured Watt and ex-Blag Flag bassist (and eventually Watt’s ex-wife) Kira Roessler. There’s Unknown Instructors, which had Watt and his Minutemen/fIREHOSE drummer George Hurley joined by Joe Baiza, Jack Brewer and Dan McGuire. There was Big Walnuts Yonder, and Il Sogno del Marinaio, and The Hand To Man Band, and a bunch of years with The Stooges, and another proj with Novoselic and friends called Anywhere. There was obviously The Secondmen, followed obviously by the Missingmen. And honestly, there were a bunch more that I’m not going to pretend to have committed to memory right now.
Next up out of the chute from the iconic Watt is a proj known as Jumpstarted Plowhards. It’s a unique endeavor that found Watt team up with Todd Congelliere (Toys That Kill, FYP, founder of Recess Records). Watt wrote a handful of tracks on bass and sent a fifteen-song CD-R to “Todd Cong,” who not only wrote guitar lines and lyrics, but recruited a different drummer to play on every track. The first eight of those tracks now appear as a release called Round One that’s due out October 4th on Recess Records. Joining Watt and Congelliere are Hurley, Jimmy Felix from Toys That Kill, Patty Schemel of Hole fame, Brian Brunuk from Fartbarf, Trevor Rounseville from Clown Sounds, Jerry Trebotic from Watt’s Secondmen band, Raul Morales from Watt’s Missingmen project, and Neighborhood Brats‘ Nick Aguilar, who’s not only joining Watt on drums for his solo tour that kicked off last week, but who is also the son of a high school classmate of all three Minutemen (Watt, Hurley and, of course, the inimitable D. Boon).
You can pre-order Round One right here, though jump on it because some options are already gone. But you can also head below to read our Q&A with the iconic Watt. It’s one of the more enjoyable conversations I’ve ever conducted for this here website, due entirely to Watt’s jovial nature and his willingness to talk about all portions of the long, strange trip its been since he and D. Boon met as thirteen-year-olds, picked up a couple of cheap guitars, and started jamming out to Creedence Clearwater Revival songs before even knowing how to tune their instruments. Also, head here to see where you can catch Watt’s current Missingmen incarnation out on the road, including an October 11th date here in the Boston area; it’s Watt’s sixty-seventh tour of more than a month! Thanks for being you, Watt!
Photo credit: Steve Linsley.