Mike Watt comes straight out and says it, “rock and roll is a trip”, in this exclusive interview which covers everything from gravel parking lots to Iggy Pop and D. Boon.
Mike Watt has been dubbed the “patron saint of American punk rock” for his tireless exhortations to young people to start their own band. Towards this end he hosts a regular radio show (now a podcast), has authored one book, “Spiels of a Minuteman”, and tours with Iggy Pop and the Stooges, currently in Tromso, Norway: a location which Watt describes as very close to the North Pole.
Despite a busy schedule, Watt found time to provide this exclusive interview.
Q) What's it like playing behind Iggy? Is it still very much a band thing cuz i thought minutemen and fIREHOSE were all equal like a bunch of bros?
A) Please understand that I was not in the original stooges or even from that era - I'll be fifty in December and that's ten years younger than Iggy so I'm like the little brother in the band. I'm also part of the punk movement that is very indebted to the stooges but came after the trail they blazed for us. I'm here to help them and their legacy plus I get to learn a whole lot. I owe these guys my best notes. I first heard them when I was sixteen and to be able to be playing their music w/them is a total mindblow for me! the situation w/the minutemen and fIREHOSE was different... even the situation between the minutemen and fIREHOSE was different - that's just the way life is and it's ok.
Q) some have dubbed you the patron saint of American punk. how do you feel about this, would you want to share this title with anyone else?
A) I think it's is very kind of folks to say that. of course I was part of an entire movement and so myself in that context feel more than just one out of many that I was one among many, even though it was a small scene back in the old days. yes, I was and still am a true believer but punk to me is and always was a state of mind and not so much a style of music. the style of music is up to whoever's doing it. I'll share that w/anyone who wants to share it w/me. I hope that makes sense. the worse think I think is for me to get self-important about something like this. I am very indebted to the punk movement and all the folks who have contributed to make it an interesting and open/empowering trip.
Q) "We Jam Econo" was one of the best docs i have ever seen. I keep watching the "acoustic blowout" on disk two. Do you still miss D. Boon, the old minutemen songs, etc. Any chance Iggy would rattle one out?
A) I think about d. boon every day and it's the reason I got playing bass and am still working it today. I sometimes play a couple of minutemen songs w/my latest trio, the missingmen. I think the stooges are more about stooges music - I'm too afraid to ask!
Q) I saw Iggy on his lecture tour in 89 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. He spoke at length about politics, John Waters film "pink flamingos" and how rock and roll was knuckle down tough guy stuff, where you had to play hard, and then after the show go out in the gravel parking and take on all comers. Do you feel the same way? Even as you get older?
A) Rock and roll is a trip - I respect much about Iggy talking about politics, I think he was being knuckle down about that. of course I was a minutemen so you should maybe know what I think about speaking your mind in songs - I still feel exactly the same way, age has done nothing to make me change my mind about that. a song is your own gravel parking lot and you make what you want out of it, take on all comers - of course, that's what I think too.
Q) I heard iggy always turns it on when he goes to Japan. have you heard any chatter from him about the land of the rising sun.
A) Iggy works every gig hard, he has an incredible ethic in him that way that inspires me so much. he likes playing Japan, he likes playing everywhere and gives it everything he's got every time - I know cuz I'm there and my focus on him is like 'pert-near total. the man is incredible. he will blow it out for Japan, I just know it.
Q) are more people showing an interest in minutemen because of "We Jam Econo" or Michael Azzerad's book "Our Band Could Be Your Life" or Jackass using "Corona" as their theme song.
A) Young people wanna know about them older days and I give them much credit for being so open-minded and curious. it's a very generous thing. I feel very grateful to folks wanting to know about a music that was very personal to me. a thousand thank yous would still not be enough to express my thanks for people having respect like that. the idea that maybe others might start their own bands or do expression in their own way like writing, poems or painting, et cetera is exactly how we were encouraged to try to find our voice - that's what I was trying to say how I feel about being part of the punk movement. we were lit up by people trying to express themselves in unique ways too. it's kind of folks to think of us that way, much respect to them.
thank you so much for having me aboard, I'm in Norway right now - we're playing in Tromso tonight, the closest I've ever been to the north pole!
Mike Watt plays with Iggy Pop and the Stooges on the White Stage, Saturday at 7:20pm
Mike Watt's Official Website
photo provided by mike watt