What’s an aging punker to do? In the case of bassist Mike Watt, co-founder of seminal South Bay trio the Minutemen (and later, fIREHOSE), get pissed and play harder. Or at least more.
While many of his contemporaries are satisfied to swap stories about where they got tattooed in their salad days, Watt’s busy thumping out the "low flow" with at least four local bands of his own: Los Punkinhedz, Hellride with Porno for Pyro pals, Banyan with guitarist Nels Cline, and DOS with ex-Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler – the two-bass duo with whom he’s appearing at Buccaneer Lounge on Sunday – plus he’s scheduled to tour Down Under with Iggy Pop & the Stooges at month’s end. He’s also hosting an online radio show: "The Watt from Pedro Show," a bracingly eclectic mash of free jazz, funk, punk, experimental rock, interviews and gruff discourses on music, cops, "pedaling" (his bike) and whatever else happens to be grabbing his interest.
Not bad for a stick-to-the-basics blue-collar dude from San Pedro who narrowly escaped an appointment with the Grim Reaper a few years ago – courtesy of an internal abscess that went undetected for a dangerously long time. That experience inspired last year’s critically applauded "The Secondman’s Middle Stand," but more importantly it seems to have renewed Watt’s already vigorous embrace of life and music.
A walking embodiment of the DIY ethic before it even became a named movement, Watt’s stuck to his own path regardless of politics or fashion since forming the prolific Minutemen in 1980 with hyper frontman D. Boon and drummer George Hurley. A scene-shaking spark of energy and innovation, their influence was widely felt in the rock world until Boon’s tragic death in a car accident in 1985. Those days are recounted in director Tim Irwin’s documentary, "We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen," released in 2005; a companion book is due out this year.
Watt continues to pledge loyalty to band bro Boon by dedicating albums and his Web site to him. His own stubborn dedication to his art and creed has earned him the loyalty of high-profile rockers like Iggy, Dave Grohl, J Mascis, Thurston Moore, Henry Rollins and Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder. Twenty-five years after jumping feet-first into the punk fray, Watt commands the kind of personal and artistic respect that’s downright inspiring. There weren’t enough homegrown heroes like that back then, when Reaganomics was deepening the divide between haves and have-nots; with new public figures and illusions crashing around us damn near every day, we could sure use some more of them now.