The Redwoods Bar and Grill in downtown Los Angeles hosted a bevy of great bands last Saturday night, capped by the magnetic, eclectic performance of the man with the van with the bass in his hand, Mike Watt, who did a set with his Missingmen, and which absolutely blew the roof off the place with its sheer and raw energy.
Downtown LA, mind you, is rather desolate, even during the peak hours of a Saturday night. Unlike New York City, which pulses to its own beat and snakelike charm 24/7, downtown Los Angeles is a still, solemn, quiet area at night, the atmosphere swirling around the eerie silence of the surrounding skyscrapers, which look dark and dormant. If you don’t have a car, and are caught walking its streets at night, there’s almost a sense of paranoia and emptiness abounding, as the more salacious nightcrawlers seem to be the denizens of the timeframes.
Amidst all the hype about the fact that Iggy and the Stooges have gotten together recently, pretty much as a live unit born from the death of original lead guitarist Ron Asheton, and containing the musical unearthing of guitarist James Williamson, another influential game player who helped carve certain niches in the pre and post punk sounds and circles, finally comes the album Ready to Die.
The album, whose members have a median age around 60-66, is the first with the Raw Power lineup for the most part since that jolting sonic aneurysm of a release was released 40 years ago this year. Now think about that for a second. A 40-year gap between musical sounds done by the same artists. Reunions of that type in 1973 when Raw Power first hit record bins would have been of the Glenn Miller, Cab Calloway and Sidney Bechet variety. In 1933, Frank Sinatra wasn’t even on the charts yet. The point of that is, that music of that ilk around in 1973, 40 years after their inceptions, were as antiquated as they come, as out of place as a man in a three piece suit in a steambath. That kind of music wasn’t dated, it was double, even triple dated, and mainly reserved for a small contingent of fans who grew up with those sounds who still harked for those “good ol’ days” which were in full manifest by physical flesh and blood actualities of those artists they grew up with.
You would be hard pressed to find a musician who has had a more expansive and eclectic career than the illustrious Mike Watt, who started during the last waves of the original punk scene in California during the late 1970s and gained his original prominence as the bassist in the post-punk trio The Minutemen, which became one of the more well known bands of that genre and helping SST records (along with Black Flag, Sonic Youth, and the Meat Puppets among others) become a major player in the DIY music scene that was crystallizing itself as the 1980s rolled on. With lead singer/guitarist D. Boon and drummer George Hurley, The Minutemen spanned genres within the post-punk genre, adding dashes of funk, jazz, classic swamp rock like Creedence Clearwater Revival and the hardest edged swords of punk proper and released scores of albums and EP’s which have become highly influential and spawned many other bands which followed in their wake.
D. Boon died tragically in December 1985 and it marked the end of an era for The Minutemen. The rhythm section of Watt and Hurley thundered on however, and a new band, Firehose, with Ed “From Ohio” Crawford” was born, which also had their own cult niche as they released three sonically challenging records as the 1980s winded down. Since then, Mike Watt has been on scores of projects, many of his own solo bands and bands with like-minded musicians and also on big league ensembles such as Porno For Pyros and his new gig, which has been doing for almost ten years now, being the bass player in the Detroit Rock City powerhouse The Stooges.
I had the golden opportunity to conduct a lengthy interview with the man via video Skype, in which he waxed incredible about all the aforementioned topics and projects, and plenty of others, including his propensity for analog and digital when it comes to recording, some of his favorite bands and genres, life as an “econo” musician (a term he coined and which in essence, the man refreshingly still is) and of course, the upcoming Stooges album, Ready to Die.
After Iggy Pop celebrated his birthday yesterday, he gives the fans back a present as his latest upcoming album with his Stooges, titled Ready To Die, is now available for a full listen for free over at NPR.
The album, which reunites him with James Williamson (the two haven’t played together on record since Pop’s 1979 solo effort New Values), clocks in at under 35 minutes and showcases the spirit and hard edge of the band’s glory years. The fact that the 66-year-old Iggy and the 63-year-old Williamson are even able to muster up sounds such as these, which range from the simplistic yet powerful yelps of pre-punk rock and roll to mellow ballads with iron bottom floors to them, is alone ear opening. In hearing the record, the men (along with original Stooges drummer Scott Asheton and bass by the post-punk legend Mike Watt) musically wax earnest, bouquets all around indeed for effort and attitude.
Today, April 20, marks Record Store Day 2013, where special vinyl releases will be available exclusively through brick and mortar independent record stores. Many artists are involved in the promotion and celebration of the day, including Mike Watt, bassist for some amazing bands over the years like The Minutemen, Firehose, and currently Iggy and The Stooges. (There’s even a special vinyl-sized Mike Watt Tote Bag available that you can fill up with all your records.)
Recently, Geeks of Doom’s Stoogeypedia had a chance to have a lengthy video Skype conversation with Watt about a plethora of topics, including his participation in Record Store Day — Watt will be performing today with The Secondmen at Fingerprints Record Store in Long Beach, CA. So, in honor of today’s celebration of vinyl, we asked Watt to reveal his Top 6 Favorite Records Of All Time (we asked for five, but apparently, he’s got six). Check out an excerpt from our conversation here below.