talkin' the opera




   here's a spiel between jay babcock (his words are in caps) and mike watt regarding watt's punk opera, "contemplating the engine room" in which he explains things about it. the spiel was done in the boat (van) on august 12, 1999. many thanks to jay for also transcribing this.


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the tape recorder turns on...


watt: It's like a whole piece and a whole thing and I lived through it every time I played it. It was werid too cuz it always seemed like it was five minutes. The whole gig was over in five minutes. All those tunes. I'd get caught up in it and then it's over! I'm in "Shore Leave"! It was so weird--I'd never had a gigs like that, that would go by so quick, like that opera. But I never had a gig where I memorized ... that was one of my terrors, as a boy, younger, in bands. I used to have nightmares of getting on stage and not have a setlist. The Minutemen had little tiny fucking songs, and we would just panic if we didn't know what song we were gonna play next, and then next and then next and next. ... And then here I do a year of playing with no setlists, it's just the piece. In some ways there was a lot of serenity in that! [laughs] I could go with the gig, go drive to the town and not worry about what we gonna play first? What's gonna come second, what's third, what's fourth. That's what I did last night. See, this thing it didn't matter.

If you didn't play it in order, it's stupid, cuz it's tied to the day. 14 songs are really pieces of the 24-hour day and it starts at 5:30 in the morning. And the way I kinda got that goin', on tour was, well, I wake up early in real life, and on tour you gotta play at midnight, you got ot bed at 3 in the morning, so it's impossible to get good sleep at once. So I got into naps. I kinda had to do that as I got older anyway....

JAY: THAT'S WHEN YOU WERE SLEEPING IN THE VAN--

This is what I'd do, yeah! To make it like it's 5:30 in the morning, like I'm just waking up. I would literally just wake up; I'd tell Steve Reed, Just let me konk til you guys have that stage set up and you guys are on the stage ready to play and I'm gonna come right out there with my bag of shirts and my bass and go right into the first song without even talking. That's another tricky thing. I didn't explain any of the opera. Not at the beginning, not at the middle, nothin'. I wanted it just to speak for itself. So, of course, [chuckling] after four tours a lot of people didn't know ...That's why you're writing this--

THAT'S WHY WE'RE GONNA DO THIS--

Right! Cuz I thought that if I woulda came down and talked it out, people would have not listened to what you're saying...put the dots together...those who wanted to...the ones who didn't would think they'd already got it figured out and they wouldn't even need to listen to it. So I thought, Fuck it, I'm just gonna play.

So I come out all bleary-ass-eyed, throw the shirts down and start doin' the tunes, and it WAS like I was wakin' up. Get your adrenaline goin' you know how it is, early in the mornin', slow-startin', then you get that coffee in you and you know by noontime you're whalin' and then you're worn out again by late afternoon. You start slowin' down a little bit, then you're off work, you gonna go to a gig, or like the sailors do, they're gonna go to a port in a town they never been. So it's all lit up again' neon green' orange, yellow...and then' sheeeew, drunk, fall asleep, pass out, start dreamin'. D. dreamed. And that's his life, crossing the equator... When you cross the equator it's very abstract and sleep-ass... Besides the songs, I'm just talking about the pace of the gig, okay? That's after "Liberty Calls," that's a big disco jam, and Nels has his big old whaler, or Joe Baiza, whichever sailor was on board at the time, and then I'm out ...and this was kinda hard for the crowd, like What the FUCK is goin' on here? Then we start bringing in parts of the early day, in Crossing the Equator, cuz he starts to remember, and it's gathering again for him. Gets into the early morning, you know, and like playin', all stretched out, but NOT like the gig --decay and dissolve-- Most gigs, Nuremeberg rallies, you get more intense and intense. This was more like a real day, where you find, if you're trying to watch yourself go to sleep, you're gonna fall asleep, finally.

Anyways. So it was really easy in a way, it was a real natural, it wasn't like rock gigs, which are not natural. Rock gigs start really hard, then run out of gas because they've been doin' the first same songs for three or four times, goes into some big lull, that's when you drag in the drum solo so the rest of the guys can run off the stage and do the cho-cho and get up there for the last songs, which are kinda like the first songs, they [rave?] you up and foam it and everybody comin' on each other cuz we all like the same thing. Which is so unnatural!

So in a way, this opera for me, just being my own story and stuff, making it by gettin' the tip from Jim Joyce, you know, puttin' his thing around the day, me putting mine aroudn the day, it ended up really easy to execute and showed to my cats, the different crews, remember there's three different crews, actually four crews, because it's Hodges-Joe Baiza, Joe Baiza-Bob Lee, Bob Lee-Nels...Four tours, three crews. But all these different cats and I had to could still [fit] them in... I had people come up to me and say they saw all gigs. And yeah they were all different, they all kinda came together too. So. No, I'm not gonna make it like I was really smart, by like I said, got on the Jim Joyce tip, I think it was really lucky. Because it was kind of a philosophy thing from the Joyce: Maybe a life is made of a lot of days. Maybe that's the fundamental deal. And everything else, weeks, months, is really just bunches of days. Maybe the day is --

THE DAY IS THE BASIC UNIT.

The basic unit, yeah, the demarcation. You can't really say it's the day. Cuz life is about night, too. You can't really say it's just the night. But after that... So that's the way I was kinda looking at it, I'm trying to look at the life of a band, the life of a man...

SO THE TRIGGERS ARE....YOU'D READ ULYSSES FOR YEARS, AND THEN WHEN YOU WERE GOING THROUGH YOUR FATHER'S BELONGINGS--

I found the Blue Jacket Manual. It's another book, but it's a much different book. It's a manual they give you when you join' it gives you all the rules, how to tie knots, how to march, and all this. It was kinda intense to get it. He got it when he was 17, he joined, he ran away, and there was flower in it from my mother, when he met my mother. See I think I'm born right around there. So his beginning in the navy is kinda my beginning. And so that got me thinking about stories, in a way. The other way was Perry. Playing with the Pornos. Perry, you know, when he shows you songs, he never tells you the chords or.. , you know what I mean... He'd tell you about the songs! "This one's about Pete's dad, he's got cancer and Pete says he's willing to give up his life so that his dad'll live." And ... Oh, alright! [laughs] But to me, that was really important. Cuz you know, there's a danger about playing a long time, you just get into notes and shit and that's all it means. Who knows if you're just copying shit you heard as a kid. So the stories are very important. And also I thought I should tell my fuckin' story! I was out on tour with them...

Besides Ulysses, another heavy book about this piece was Sand Pebbles. Incredible, weird kind of coincidences. I didn't even know a book existed. I knew about the movie, because when we were boys, this is between me and D. Boon' not my father really, but kind of with my father because the protagonist is an engine room guy. In some ways, like my father: joined the Navy to get away from a hell, couldn't really handle the way hierarchy and bureaucracy is, you know. It's weird. One time my pop took me up on the boat when he got stationed on the Enterprise. He had a little desk. But it was like in this compartment. There's compartments on boats where nothing's even done, just in case there's a leak, [inaud] it can be cut off. This one had nothing to do, just big pipes going through it, I mean big ones, four-footers, you had to crawl under FOUR of these fuckers to get to my pop's desk. All by himself. Cuz he couldn't handle... Just a 500-man...all the little games they're always playing. The bullshit. Like The Sand Pebbles. Like Holman. Holman LIKES the engine room.

Anyway, I didn't even know a book existed. How I knew it, when me and D. Boon were boys, it was our favorite movie! It was one of those movies that was over two nights, like Tuesday and Wednesday nights, one of the big ones. I mean' you know, you're talkin' about econo guys, when we were little we didn't [inaud] ...horror movies like The Exorcist. But we didn't really see the big movies...what was at that time...I didn't know they were cutting all that shit cuz of the commericals. But that movie, we couldn't really figure out what it was about, either! We didn't understand the politics, we didn't understand the context, we didn't understand anything that was goin' on. But it was about... D. Boon's pop was in the Navy too for six years, radio man. My father did 20--a lifer. But I think it was that. Something about our fathers both doin' Navy and us seeing Navy guys in these funny-ass clothes. Nobody dressed like sailors. They were kinda weird, even for bein' robots, squarejohns. They had the funniest clothes. Maybe that's what it was, seeing Steve McQueen ...

[interruption]

Also, I think there was a vibe of Viet Nam about it. Cuz you're dealin' with Asian people... The movie's out in '66. We saw it on TV in the early '70s. So there's the Viet Nam thing, they're dealing with Asians, and I think there was a vibe there too. Cuz me and D. Boon are too young to articulate that, we're 12 years old in 1970, so we're not '60s people. But '60s people were all SOAKING into us. So I think that's also a vibe. I think that's why they made the movie. The movie comes out in '66, and they change the ending! They have everyone get killed, which is a bullshit! In the book, only Holman dies. He's the lamb. He's the one who really truly believes. He's the true believer.

And that's the whole story of punk rock, making a punk rock band. You're a true believer, you wanna get beyond somethin' else, and whatever that else, you end up fuckin' dying. D. Boon ends up dying for it. Holman dies. All the fuckers who give him shit on that boat, that whole boat, and how does he save their asses? By calling out their names! He fools the revolutionaries into thinking the place is full of Navy men. It's only him, yelling their names! Assholes!

Yeah, great metaphor. Well, I find out the the guy who wrote the book was a fuckin' sailor! [laughs] In fact, engine room. In fact it's the only book he writes. [laughs] This is his story, doin' 23 years of Navy.

[interruption]

There's all these duplicit things, they're all dopplegangers on each other. It's like whoa, it's too close to me. Happening at the same moment. So I said, I'm gonna write my story.

NOW, YOU STARTED WRITING THE SONGS WHILE YOU WERE RIDING YOUR BIKE...

Ah yeah, the music. See in a way, Jay, I already had the thing written cuz I knew how the Minutemen ended, I knew how it began' I knew the middle part. I knew my daddy got in the Navy, I knew how my Daddy..uh..you know...got killed. I knew the story. Now I had to flesh it out with music. And, I was lucky because I had the day and the nighttime to guide me, and I used the bike ride as a way to get music. Because I had to pedal my legs. I had to get rhythms that way, and not so much... Usually when I write the song I have the bass in my hand and you kow I'm just doin' the neck math, workin' the notes together. When I'm riding, I got the handlebars in my hands. Also the bike thing's new for me, I'd only been riding about a year. I got a car when I was 16...

[interruption]

I wish I woulda KEPT ridin', not stopped at 16, you know? But you know how it is. The car and all that...

BIKE RIDING'S GOOD FOR YOU, IT--

Yeah, for mental health! Fuck yeah. And learning to listen and the whole thing, you know, cuz they'll run you over. You get way more attentive, way more... And I'm lucky too, where I live, in the harbor, what a sight show every morning. I get a fuckin' huge show. For just living there!

YOU'VE TOLD ME, ALSO , THAT WHEN YOU'RE RIDIN' YOU HEAR ALL THE BIRDS, AND PERRY TALKED TO YOU A LOT ABOUT BIRDS AS SPIRITS--

Yeah...I never really heard birds until I took the bike ride because, in the car noise and all this, you don't hear their songs. On the bike you have to listen cuz the fuckers want to run you over and stuff, so you're listening for them. But by that, you start hearing all the other stuff, like boat whistles and all that shit. But the birds were intense, cuz the birds, uh, there's several different types, and they all have their songs. And the birds that really got me were the loud men' these parrots. Parrots are like me! And like D. Boon! And like George ...

You've got to understand the myth of Pedro for us. None of us are from Pedro! I came there when I was 10, D. Boon came when he was 6, Georgie came when he was 6. It's all our adopted home. That's what all fuckin' sentimentalism is, anyway: it's adopted. You pick memories you like and you latch onto 'em. And Pedro... And the more we toured, the more Pedro became a bigger myth. We wanted a home. We were shiftless.

[Fourth?] song is my bike ride, and you an hear the loud man' him chirpin. What I did one day is take...gave me a stat and I took it with me on the bike ride. I recorded shit down from under the bridge, I'm at the water, all those waves you hear, that's Pedro water. Okay so in a lot of ways, what I'm trying to do...I'm trying too hard to fill the hole, cuz we didn't have a hometown' man' we were shiftless. All of us, all three of us. That's weird. We never planned that but it just so happened that none of us were really from Pedro. [chuckles] So we beacme more Pedro than Pedro-ites. It's weird, a lot of people around the country know about Pedro because we made it part of our myth. So that HAD to be part, so if I was gonna talk about the Minutemen' that had to be part of the story.

Now I'm dealin' with my father. You understand? A lot of people DID get this wrong. They thought this whole record's for my father. My father, what I did, I took a parallel. You know, I think in some ways, we're like our father, we've got 23, half of the chromosomes are from them, right? But we're more like SHADOWS, I don't know if so much continuations, sometimes. We're like little shadows. Cuz there's a lot of free will involved. In fact I put this in one of the songs, I talk about my father's father. This fucker beat the shit out of my pop. My pop had cat-of-nine-tails scars on his back. That's why he joined the Navy! My father never did that to me. I mean' you know, I got some ass paddles, but no fuckin' cat of nine tails shit. So, that's what I'm saying, we're not...And this was a big fear of me too, of putting a picture of a military man on the cover. Eewyuck. You know? But it was my father, and I wanted to show like...This was one of the really trippy things. Another werid coincidence. A phenomena that happened during this time, when I was fermenting ideas. Thinking about my father, you know my father never ... My father never knew what the fuck I was doing with music. He just thought that was stuff I did with D. Boon. And it's true. [chuckles] But! I kept doin' it after D. Boon had got killed. I don't think he understood why. I don't think he knew I was makin' a living. So what I did was kept sending him postcards. From the tour.

THE SAME WAY THAT HE HAD SENT--

His letters. From overseas, doing the...tours. They call 'em tours too in the Navy. And that's where I go, Whoa. He goes, You know, you're like a sailor. That's why I put together the hull--the boat--the van. And this comes become the BIG metaphor, besides the DAY. The boat/the van becomes the other metaphor!

Cuz I AM like my father. BUT I'm not like the negative things. I'm not even the positive things. I'm just kind of, uh, ended up doin' almost the same line of work, but very different.

I remember me and D. Boon having this teacher in high school and him tellin' us about adventure, about goin' out and exploring. And it's weird how tour life brought that to us. You know how you hear about tour life bein' this 'Aw I gotta wait til the gig, I have nothing to do, so I do the hard drug scene at the hotel room'? It was never like that for us Minutemen. It was this journey fuckin' thing. And I wanted to get that in the story. And that's why I liked my dad's story as part of our story. Now, I didn't want everybody to be sailors. But I'll tell you, some people different. [pulls out pendant] Right here I got a fish from a submariner. That's his fish from when he graduated, USS Miami, he uh, his name is Corey. You've got it all figured out for him, them enlisted men in the engine room in Miami, ...which is a wonderful fuckin' thing, but I didn't really look at it from a military man's point of view. I really looked at trying to tell the story of the Minutemen the best way I could.

YOU WERE SAYING IT WAS HOW YOUR DAD GOT TO SEE THE WORLD, AND FOR YOU THE BAND--

Was the way I saw the world! See? And this is the way I relate to my father. "See, I'm not such an alien to you, Pop. I'm not such a Martian. I'm kinda like you! This is kinda like your work, except we don't kill people." [chuckles] He just pushed the boat close enough so they could kill people. Well, we're all accessories, but...

I was just gonna be turning 40. When my father was 40, I was already out of high school! It was a whole 'nother experience. In some ways I felt SO alien to him. And in other ways I felt, you know what, "Understand what we're doing, Pop." And I think he kind of did at the end, especially at the very end, right before he died. The last times I saw him on my birthday... Bringing this van up, nine years ago, brand new. He died nine years ago. And I just parked it outside the hospice and him seein' that van might have made him understand. Cuz I never really took the van up to visit him up at Fresno. I'd take a little car. But I took the van this time. Brand new. And it kinda blew him away! Kinda looked at it as a boat, too. But! This was one of the reasons he resented the Navy and he never told me to join: He was NOT captain of that boat. He was one of 6500 motherfuckers. Really...marginalized. Even though all the skills he learned, he really couldn't bring it all to bear. But my gig--

YEAH.

And my ma told me after he died that my father was gonna start a business for himself. You know after the Navy he did air conditioning. That's still workin for someone. But he was gonna try his own business! And he was gonna ask me...but he never had the nerve to ask me.

Yeah, see that? I always thought I was the chicken and my pop was the brave, brave dude but WRONG! He was scared to ask his own boy, because he was AFRAID of his boy. A thing you gotta understand, when punk rock first started, he had this talk with me like in '76, right after high school, '77: "What is this punk rock?" He was so threatened by it. He never thought it was a way that me and D. Boon was gonna go on tour and be a sailor. [laughter] No idea. Cuz the way they make it, it's so unnatural. Rock star and royalty and having fame and all this; it's not about gettin' in the boat and travelin' around and getting together with your guys and coming up with tunes and... It even got a little bigger with the Black Flags and the Huskers, even bigger than your band. That was a neat kind of a thing. He was oblivious to that! And that's why punk was invented! Cuz yeah, rock n roll doesn't have room for any of that shit. Blast it all out and "those are all losers," not the most popular...

So, I saw all these things coming together, Jay, and I wanted to put it in one piece. And it's weird how Perry fit in' and The Sand Pebbles, and my pop, and all that shit, but I just thought it was the best way to talk about the Minutemen when I was almost 40 years old.

AND ULYSSES.

Of course! Because that's storytelling. The Irish learned how to speak English better than the English.

Which is another thing that goes to tell you: Look, we're in the time of tribalism of nationalism now... Some of those stories.. The Jew, the schoolteacher in Ireland, he writes the book in Trieste... This is very important. Yugoslavia? This shit, this provincialism is gonna get us all killed! I understand about goin' for the roots. I went for the roots, I wanted to talk about my past a little bit. But you CAN'T romanticize it into the level where it gets into this jingoism, all this nightmare we're in now with the tribe thing. Balkanized minds, balkanized communities. This man goes off, he wants other people to kill Jews. This man wants to kill Filipinos. Pretty soon we should go after white fat guys with glasses!

This is a scary kind of thing. So I want to tell people: your past is really a quilt, and you are kinda selective about your memories, you get sentimental and stuff like that, an dyou know what? It's not all about, "The day is done, and all the work's done." It's like "Whoa, that's where I came from. Now look at all I got to do." Cuz there's a danger of lookin' back, it's like "Whoa, it's over! The good old days!" And I didn't want this record to be like this. I wanted this record for me to be a springboard. And now my next record is gonna be called The Second Man's Middle Stand. Not my LAST stand, it's my middle stand. And now I'm a secondman' I ain't a minuteman. I'm a secondman: I'm in the moment. Cuz I had to reach in...[inaud] Remember? It was gonna be about Man. Man's in the past, now.

WHAT?

Man died. Brain cancer. So I had to re-think my whole next project, cuz it's gotta be in the moment.

I GUESS WE'LL JUST GO THROUGH IT SONG BY SONG.



"IN THE ENGINE ROOM."

Did that at 5:30 in the morning. And I think it's navy blue. I gave each song a color too. It's a weird thing. It's the beginning of the day, but it's also peaceful. The way I was thinking of it is like cranking over a motor. You start the motor, you gotta crank it over. Rrrrrrr. Rrrrrr. But on the other hand, I wanted it to be real ROOTED. So I de-tuned my bass, the top string down to D, so the whole guitar, the whole bass was tuned in D. And the whole piece is in D. Uhrroo. Uhrroo. Uhrooo. Cuz that's one thing I felt when my pop took me in the engine room was the feeling of DEPTH...uhroooo....something's DRIVING way deep down. [unintellig: the motor coming through the propellor ...] That's why I wanted to make it like cranking the motor...rrrrr...and then I wanted to kind of tell about what it is. What it is: It's about us in the boat. It's almost like me at the doorway looking back, ready to tell you about it at all.

If you notice the riff I play, doo doo doo doo-doo-doo-bom. See, the bingidy-de-bom, that's D. Boon. I'm the doo-doo-doo, that's me calling out "D. Boon" and it's D. Boon answering me back. And at the end of the piece, I only have the first part.



"RED BLUFF."

Yeah. It ends with water. And it doesn't really start with "Red Bluff," it starts with this little farm scene, and then a train comes in. "Next stop, Red Bluff." THIS is the song where I really talk about my father, you know, talk about his childhood. And WHY I talk about his childhood is I'm trying to explain why he had to leave, why he wanted to get out. And...I was trying to talk about us, too, being boys and why we had to make our own band and be punk rockers, cuz we just...couldn't fit in. Could not fit in. I mean' EVERYBODY somewhere does not fit in and has to get the fuck out.

And that's what "Red Bluff" is about.

And always the best moves are made in the morning. Right at the crack of dawn' you know. Make it. Bolt.

And my father joins the Navy.

SO RED BLUFF IS HIS HOMETOWN.

Yeah, that's where he grew up.

RED BLUFF, CALIFORNIA?

Yeah. His father's from the South but there was nothin for them, so he came out west. My father grew up in this little town on the Sacramento River, south of Redding, north of Sacramento. Very hot in the summer but cold in the winter. A little town where everybody knows everybody. [chuckles] My pop got in a lot of trouble as a kid. It was just horrible for him. And he had to get out.

SAME FOR YOU GUYS--

With us it was a little different. It was more like Arena Rock. And out writing our own songs.

Not suffocating in a fucking redneck town--that's what it's all about. My father had some hard times as a kid. He was lied to and treated pretty bad by his father, like I said. In fact my father used to say I want to kill the motherfucker. My mother said he'd just wake up, "I want to kill him" Yeah... My grandfather ends up getting all crippled up. [chuckles] My father's the only one who will take care of him out of the seven kids. Ha!

But that's not in the story, that's not in the opera. I just use the boy part, up to 17. Why would someone join the fuckin' Navy? You know. I thought it was important to talk about, because you know, it's a BIG decision' you're gonna let someone take over and run your fuckin' life. But you know what? It was so [harsh] for him, I guess he thought it was worth it.

And he met my mother (while he was) in boot camp. 18 years old in Chicago, and I think I'm concieved there. But! I felt the same way about, really, where music was for me in the '70s: I felt marginalized, couldn't be a part of it, [unintelig] giving me shit, I wanted to get the FUCK out. And I was lucky D. Boon felt the same way. So we got into punk rock.



"THE BLUEJACKETS' MANUAL"

"The Bluejackets' Manual" of course, I told you what that is, that's the manual they give you when you join. They send you to boot camp. [Musically] It's big belligerant fuckin' heavy-ass shit. It's about 9, 9:30 in the morning. And the sun is glintin' on you, big long shadows.

I used fast music because, on the other side, it was more like the punk rock shows we first went to with a lotta stupidness, maybe. [Greg Ginn?] gettin' on D. Boon and stuff, a little aggression. Sorta like boot camp, probably, [chuckles] but a lot more free, obviously. My father's side was not free, and the punk side of the metaphor, very free, compared to his life. So sometimes the [inaud] is off, but it's just showing you parallels.

So Bluejacket Manual... Gettin' into it! To break free, to break through, sometimes you have to do that shit, to be born you have to break the water, you have to burst. And you gotta do that heavy-ass shit, you know, nightmare, that fucker beatin' your ass, to go do the boat thing. And we went and saw this kinda aggressive music, and so what if it wasn't pretty, and everybody just kept trying to scare each other? Not just music--looks, everything. We needed it. To get OUT of that shit. To get us to write our own fuckin' songs and be our own band! Be our own men. Not just robots, clones, whatever. I dunno what it was, just something creative.

That's the Bluejacket Manual, you know. Really, I don't know why I got into it so much, but man' I really felt like this is where I needed to be. And not even knowing all the punk rockers that much! It was just something about it, man. Just being able to say, "FUCK YOU." [chuckles] It was a weird feeling. But it was like my father: "Fuck you, I'm on my own now, I don't have to put up with any of this shit." And that's how it felt.



"PEDRO BOUND"

The thing about the Navy, I already told you this, but their orders are everything. They tell you where to go. Getting the orders was the scariest thing. I'm born in Virginia. I lived up in Schenechtedy, New York, and Black Foot, Idaho and all kinds of weird little places cuz there was trouble at the reactors-why he was being trained in all this. Finally we get to Pedro. Cuz of Vietnam War. It's closer. My mother says, Fuck this shit, we ain't moving anymore. So Pedro ends up my home.

So "Pedro Bound" is a heavy song. "Pedro Bound" is one of the biggest changes in my life. That changed my life more than anything. Brining me to San Pedro and San Pedro is where I'm gonna meet D. Boon and get into music. This is what changed my whole life! This move. This orders. Not Vallejo, not Schenechtety, not all them other towns. Pedro. Pedro's gonna be a HUGE change in my life.

And in fact such a change in my life that I still live there. So I give you a tour of it--and it's my bike ride. "Pedro Bound" is my bike ride. I tell you where I start, where I go to all the things, show you all the things. But I'm also telling you about how it's my new home. How it changed my life and made me a bass player.

It's hard for me to relate that to some other guy living in Pedro. [in boorish voice] "Hey Pedro, bro, dawg..." No! Pedro's important because I meet D. Boon and Georgie and I become a Minuteman. That's why Pedro is important to me.

But, you know, I can't speak for everyone. HIstory maybe comes down.... This is the point of [Pynchon's] Mason & Dixon' I think, is it gets down to some Joyce questions. Like when [Thomas??] goes to the library to talk about Hamlet, remember that part? What's he talk about. He's asking, What the FUCK is history? And what are stories. [inaud] And they get that too-not just in the Mason-Dixon narrative, but with Cherrycoke and Tannenbaum and those people. What is history? What is spiel? What is stories? How can you know the truth? This is what happens, I think, one of the guys, Sparks I think his name is, he's trying to say like, "History is a search for truth." The guy says, "If you're not aiming for the truth, you're pissing in the wind, you're a bullshitter, you're like those women romance writers," the guy says. But maybe ALL history...what happens is...in Ulysses, Daedalus proves that Hamlet is Shakespeare's SON!

What he's trying to say that there's a POINT to spiels. That what they're really saying, I believe, is all history is just little narratives...people's little fucking stories. How can you get the big picture?! You're gonna leave something out so you can have an understanding. You can't include everything or how are you ever gonna understand?! And how do you know everything that belongs? You know? And who you gonna ask, and who you gonna leave out?! Yeah, so maybe it DOES get down to little narrative. It's quite an argument in both of em.

There's a lot of parallels between Ulysses and that Mason-Dixon. I mean' yeah it's about friends and guys being together, but it's also about history. Why do you think it's a pseudo 19th-century novel? Right? He's writing in Olde English. He's making fun of the whole idea of telling, of recounting shit. If you really want to recount something, you do that, you start talking like em, you even believing in the shit they were believing in. Right? There's alchemy and shit in there and stuff.

THE FLYING INVISIBLE MECHANICAL DUCK--

You're reading it and going, aww aw, what's with this book, but you gotta remember he's trying to make a faux 19th-century book. He's making fun of self-important historians and people who ... especially to settle a political act, will manufacture history to support their fucking... You know, today we call it "spin." Spin doctors. He would argue that anyone who took pen to paper is a spinster, because he's gonna tell it from his point of view. You know, his little narrative.

So that's what I'm talking about. Pedro's gonna have a HUGE effect on my life, and what's the best way I can celebrate it? By getting on my bike and riding around. Because it's really kind of a geography. The guy that really changed my life is GONE.

RED BLUFF IS ABOUT BEING RESTRICTED. BUT PEDRO IS --

Yeah. "Pedro Bound" is a funny saying. It's saying you're part of the town' but you're always headed towards the town.

IT'S A DOUBLE THING.

[chuckles] Yeah. I was talkin' to these Europeans about English, the way we do that, we'll stick five-six meanings to one word. Or they're spelled different but still sound the same. Like "that red book" and "hey I read the book." Europeans are like, "Why didn't you come up with two words?!" But when it comes to poetry and shit, it works really well. [chuckles] They got their own kind of things too but we have lots of em cuz we're [inaud] language.

But that's what I was talking about. Pedro is not Red Bluff, because Red Bluff is total reality and the Pedro I'm talking about isn't all reality! Only the bike part is. Pedro is a myth! We invented the myth. We're more Pedro than the guys born there! [laughs] We created it because we wanted to have a home. We over-compensated for it. Pedro's bigger than any of the guys who live in Pedro. They think "It's just my town'" they'll fight over it like idiots but they won't make songs and things about it like we did. Minutemen GLORIFIED Pedro. [chuckles] It became our town. We CHOSE--that's the difference, Jay--we picked the town. My pop never picked Red Bluff. THAT'S the big difference there. My pop never even picked the Navy. That's why he quits. I never quit my thing. I picked this. I was with D. Boon' I was lucky.

Bottom line of that fuckin' record, the opera, at the end I say, "I'm a lucky man." I was MUCH luckier than my father, cuz he got in a situation where there's hardly any choices. That one choice was [enlisting?]. He did make some other choices, though... He got skindiving tapes, he got to dive in all the oceans, where a lot of guys just got drunk at every bar, right? See, my pop did make some [choices]--but they're so miniature compared to that one big one. And man I tell you, he didn't dig it. Told me not to do it. He just hated Red Bluff worse. [laughs]

So, "Pedro Bound": heavy thing.



"THE BOILERMAN"

And after..."forever bound..." and then "Boilerman"! Cuz that's where I meet D. Boon. D. Boon is the boiler man. I'm the machinist mate, like my father. George is the fireman. These are the three basic guys you need to run a engine room. This is from Sand Pebbles, but my father also told me...But in Sand Pebbles, you're talking about the '20s, so you really needed a fireman. In my father's day, they're doin' diesel and turbines and then nukes! They just had hot rocks and boilin' water. But the Sand Pebbles, they're actually...[laughs]...

In fact, the Sand Pebble motor that was used in the movie, the actual boat, it was on [inaud] here in Pedro for a little while! I got to see the Sand Pebble motor! Some Hollywood fuckers brought it down. It's only this big... You know it's called Sand Pebbles, but it's really the San Pablo! You know about the military--you fuck with every word, you know. And it's really a Spanish boat we took from them in the war! Yeah, so, la dee da...You gotta read that book, though. Which is one good thing that the guys who played with me in the Black Gangs, all read the book. They all had it, they had a big understanding of the opera from that book.

DID YOU HAVE THEM READ IT BEFORE YOU ALL RECORDED THE OPERA?

During. First day of the recording I bring it, one was for Hodges, one for Nels. They read it. You gotta read the book. It's something else, about Holman. Hole Man' like he's got a hole. Or maybe it's the "Whole Man" with the "W." He's the learner, I'll tell you this. He's the student of the book. He learns, and he's also like Buddha said, if you really wanna learn' you teach. There's a guy he finds, his Asian double, Po-han. Holman' Po-Han. He ends up getting killed and shit. But what people do, they're afraid the Chinese will get real knowledge. Just like rock n rollers, you know, they don't want ya getting into the thing. They won't tell you how to make your own records. You just payin' the guy [iat the plant?]

What they do is this thing called "monkey see": just show them how to do it, don't ever tell them what it's FOR. Now Holman, he shows Po-Han and tells him about steam and the motors. It's great! The horses! They die, then they come down here, then they get brought back to life with the heat. Po-han actually learns! This is HEAVY! This is empowering! This is enabling, man! This is the whole fuckin' thing for punk, for us! We did not have to be just sitting at the Long Beach Arena. [chuckles] We can get in D. Boon's bedroom and start doin' "American Woman" for ten hours!

That's "Boiler Man."

WHAT DOES THE BOILER MAN ACTUALLY DO?

He tends the boiler. The boiler-- You need steam. The way you get steam is fire. The fireman shovels coal. We're talking Sand Pebbles. You need a fire, you need water to boil, and then you need a machinist mate cuz the ship's gotta all fit together, work all the plumbing, the boiler isn't just attached to the firebox, there's all this mechanical stuff in between. And then once you got the steam, it goes to the turbines, and in those days, a reciprocating motor had three cylinders, three different sizes. They're a trip to look at. There's your high-pressure one, a little cylinder. A low-presure one, a big cylinder. And they're always in odd numbers. To see these little motors is something else.

And this is the first thing Holman gets shit for, is for going under the bilge plates. He goes, Look only 'coolies' go down there. What do they say? "Whose rice bowl are you trying to break?" You're fucking with the system, see? This is our whole thing with arena rock! It's a PERFECT metaphor for us against arena rock, and Holman against that 'coolie' shit. Cuz in the end, it really hurts them--when the Revolution comes, coolies jump the boat and these fuckers can't even runt their own boat anymore!

Also it's totally anti-Navy. Remember he has two sets of books: one to pay off Lop-eye, the corrupt... Remember, the coolies aren't even making all the money! The fuckin' WARLORD is! Lop-eye. Fuckin' corrupt fucker. Well to me that corruption I was readin' about in that book and what my father was telling me, about the Navy--in any kind of bureaucracy!--I saw it in my own Arena Rock ...

[tape ends; a little bit of talk went untaped: PART ABOUT HOW D. BOON WAS LIKE A BOILER, GETTIN' ALL SWEATY AND RED, GENERATING HEAT]



"BLACK GANG COFFEE"

You put a coffee pot on it, the fucking coffee right on the motor, and that's what he does. But if you do that, it pours all the oils and cleaning solvents get into the coffee cup... BUT it's a binder: It gets them all together. And it does get over the bellig with the fuckers who are rednecks. You know, because, well, you know how coffee is in the workplace sometimes. It just gets things racin' for a little while, everybody buzzin', doin' their little thing and that's what the "Black Gang Coffee" is about.

I used a story too about my father gettin' his eyeballs frozen. Just the whole idea of being with your guys, man' gettin' your Minuteman thing down' getting' our little thing down. Georgie had the drums, I had the bass, D. Boon had the guitar. We had our little fiefdoms and we put it together, made an economy out of it. That was an ENGINE ROOM. We had thing hummin'! We had it goin'.

And that's why I asked Nels, "Put a cowboy thing to some funk thing. Watch, listen to this bassline, Nels. Hear that? You hear that cowboy thing? Don't you hear that funk thing?" Minutemen was a weird kinda fuckin' mix but it WAS a machine. We got that especially from doing gigs and makin' records. It was HUMMIN'.

So, that's "Black Gang Coffee."

WHAT DOES "BLACK GANG" MEAN?

Oh yeah. "Black Gang" is slang for engine room guys, I think cuz they got dirty. It is kinda weird because most of the country don't know that, book is written in '23, so I'm touring around in a band called the Black Gang. People thought we were a rap act! [chuckles] If I'm in a rap act, I'm gonna call it "Black Gang"?!? Whatever. Anyway...Fuck it.



"TOPSIDERS"

"Topsiders" is about the other guys that aren't in the band but are on the boat. The big boat. The SST boat. It was weird the way we were all kind of together but all kind of different. The Huskers, the Meat Puppets, Flag, Minuteman. You dealt with your own little universe but then we were little planetoids ... We were from different states, even. Well us and Flag were in the same, but those other guys... but somehow we were still on the same mission in a way. Just all of those ...even outside SST, the punk scene was intense! It was great.

WHAT DOES 'TOPSIDERS' MEAN IN NAVY LINGO?

On top. The guys who aren't in with us down in the engine room, that aren't Minutemen' but are still with us. So I say all the names of the guys who, we rode in the van with these motherfuckers. Very close, but not as close as your band was. There's always another level of difference.

There's a weird thing with bands, always different. And I mean' it's not always positive. A lot of time bands get too used to each other. The familiarity. So they'll like outsiders way more than they'll like each other. It's just different, living on the inside than it is living on the outside. It just is.

INNER CIRCLES...

Well, there's circles within circles, wheels within wheels. That's the way humans are. We pick up people, we don't pick other people... You can't be with EVERYBODY, ALL THE TIME. So that's the dilemma.

But I wanted to look at Minuteman' very affected by the bands we played with, even though we were very... That's why we were trying to get our own sound and everything! Because all these other guys had interesting ideas. Even "Double Nickles" would never came about without the Huskers doing "Zen Arcade."

There's a reason why we didn't have that band in 1975, you know? It wasn't just me and D. Boon. It was Georgie--it was an outsider. I wouldn't call it a movement, but it kinda WAS a movement.

AN ACCIDENTAL MOVEMENT.

Little minorities. I flowed a thing on Bofus written up by Emma Goldman about "inspired little minorities" and how HARD it is to try to get one big mass. You have to go for so much lowest common denominator, you can't get anything happening through! So why not have "little inspired minorities"? And they will meet up with each other at different points, issues, where occur to both of them, soit's in their interest to work together. But then maybe their own trajectories will fall apart again. And maybe they'll move together. But to have one blob mass all the time is ...only coercion' control, can keep that. It's not natural, that's what she was trying to talk about. She went to the Soviet Union' they kicked her out of this country, she went to the Soviet Union and she got both sides. Both sides, she said... That shit's 90 years ago, and we still haven't learned half of it. So. That's the "Topsiders."

And if you listen to the music, the music at the end--- Bom dit dit di doo dit dit -- it's "[inaud]" [off "What Makes a Man Start Fires?"], an old Minutemen song. And I do this through the whole piece. All these songs, a lot of em have little parts of other songs in em.

QUOTES.

Quotes! Cuz I wanted to do that for all the people that have been with us all these years. "Here's something, and I'm thinking of you too. You'll know about this, you'll know what this means. It'll make sense to you." And yeah it's kinda elitist in a lotta ways, like "D. Boon came in on five [inaud]" and shit, they won't know what I'm talking about. But. Well, there's just a simultaneous thing, there's the familiar and unfamiliar, always traveling with each other, like me when I walk into a museum and I don't know Cy Twombly that well. They all look like scribbling! But some connoissur could tell which scribbling was when he was in Italy, what scribbling.... [chuckles] You know what I mean? It's like filo dough. Baclava. All those layers! That's what I was trying to do with that there!

Cuz there is a lot of level of relationships between us all. All us guys. It was a special time! I wouldn't've been who I am now, and for sure, who even knows if there woulda been a Minuteman' I mean we made Minuteman before, well we were called the Ashtrays, before we met Black Flag. We did. But I still think it was very close. A special time.



"NO ONE SAYS OLD MAN (TO THE OLD MAN)"

Okay. This is where the coffee's kickin‚ in...Now it wears off, and it's the afternoon. It's the boat. You're waiting for the ship to get over. and stuff. That period in the afternoon where you're watching the clock, no matter what gig it is... And uh, No one says "Old Man" to the Old Man. You gotta understand on the ship, that's what you call the captain: "Old Man." And obviously HE called somebody "the old Man" when he wasn't the captain' right? But no one will say it to him. This is what blew my mind when I ...[inaud] bring families on the boat...[whispering] I asked my father, why didn't you call him the old man' cuz that's what my pop always called him. You always heard him saying "The old man on the boat..." There's this whole two-faced thing of society and hierarchy, which is very very much different from the punk rock autonomy that we had with the topsiders--all of us with our little bands and stuff. The Navy's not like that! The Navy's a PYRAMID.

I worked for an old lawyer named Mr. Handley in the early "80s, and he's the first Freemason I met. He figures heavily in that song. He IS an old man! He's in his 90s! But, the whole idea of "the boss." And the idea of a boat [inaud] back then. Originally it was so hilarious--you make the boat go, but you don't even know where it's going! You're so far down. You're relying on these motherfuckers, hopin‚ they know what's up. The whole thing is like a lot of society is--you're COUNTING on other people counting on other people. That's your food! You hope no one took a piss on it. You know? You make a lot of assumptions. But here, you‚ve got a boat all to yourself, you want to take an art form in your hands, start your own' get rid of all the middlemen'. But you know that all life is not like that. Especially the fuckin‚ Navy, heh. There's a lot of life like that: there's hierarchies. There's a freedom/crazy side, but there's hierarchy and shit. There's shit you can learn from it. There is. If I didn't work for Mr. Handley, I wouldn't‚ve learned a lot of things. He was so much different from me, you know? From the Freemasons to the Jonathon Club to all that... He [inaud] mustard for World War I, he lived in a whole nother time. So, that shit Dylan said about now nobody's good over 30, I was stupid. I'd bet you [inaud] there's people over 30 that are good, and 60, and 90, and all like that. And there shouldn't be such generations and fuckin‚ things, you know. Everyone gets old--that's not their fault.

That's one kind of old man. The other kind of old man is the Boss. He seems like he's only the boss cuz he's old! Cuz he knows somebody, you know, or something, right? Some corruption. And this is always gonna make the young man kinda uppity, right?

THAT'S WHY YOU HAVE THE MASONS IN THIS SONG., RIGHT? THE OLD BOYS NETWORK...

Well, the Masons are a hierarchy. The Navy has a hierarchy. They're all insular societies, there's some kind of boss and he has cardinals and bishops [laughs], you know the way it goes. We kinda had it too, but not as intense. We had it more down in the van situation... Greg ran SST. There was kind of... But it was NOTHING like the US Navy! Or the Freemasons! [laughs]

I was just having a little fun with this because this is an old tradition. This has been driving mankind for a long-ass time. Probably more than the urge to start bands! Or who knows? Maybe that urge is always there, and on the other side was the hierarchy urge, you know what I mean?

That's what I wanted to talk about. I wanted to talk about people that are so different from you, but you gotta [inaud] them, and you can learn from them. And in fact, somebody might look at what you're doing as hierarchy, and they're gonna have to break out of it! Right? If you're Trotsky, you get permanent revolution going on somehow, I don't know how...But somehow, you are going to become the Old Oedipus, the next guy to be chipped. That's what I'm talking about there.

And the whole thing about... When you have societies, you hand down the truth, you know. And I had Mr. Handley, those are actual things he said to me... And those are very wise things he said. I asked him, Would you defend a guilty man? He stood up, and he answered it very well, he said "How guilty? How innocent? That's the lawyer's job." Which is just the total rationalist... what do they call it nowadays? Relativism. And that's en "evil" word and stuff. But come on. Justice is meted out. You don't cut off people's heads for stealing candy. There is "how much guilty." Okay. He also said other things. "For every thing revealed, something's concealed."

See, the way the mind is, to understand something, you have to un-understand other things. You cut out other things to make this revealed. It's weird. Well, there were cats that take apart to understand. You can't see things in their whole.

IT'S LIKE WHEN I DO A FEATURE, WHAT DO YOU KEEP IN, WHAT DO YOU KEEP OUT...

You can't put em all in' but you also can't know that you put in the right ones! [laughter] You have a story, you have a narrative, you have a life, and this is your work. Your piece. This is the thing, this is what's important: Yeah you should go for the truth, but the truth in the end is a bizarre thing... People would have a harder time saying what it is if they really thought about it. You can say "Truth as I know it." Then other cats say truth is only what you believe, you can't even know it. You CAN‚T know. So that's what I'm talkin‚ about here! I asked Hodges, make it sound like it's coming out of bowels of the boat here, you know. Bowels of the boat. Whooom. wrrrrr. This is an old, old, OLDDDDD, old,old thing I'm on about in this song. That's how that song ends.



"FIREMAN HURLEY"

Then we're gonna get ready for shore duty, you know, so we're all excited, we go to the mirror, we're primping up ...[inaud]..and it's Georgie's song. Fireman Hurley. Georgie liked Latin' he loved to play drums to Latin tapes, Latin music. [inaud] the wind, get the hair poo-poo‚ed up. Boat's finally gonna come in after six weeks. You gotta go out on the town. About six o‚clock, seven o‚clock. That song's totally for Georgie.

WHY DID YOU WAIT TIL TRACK 9 TO INTRODUCE HIM?

We didn't meet Georgie til we learned music. We knew him in high school... [inaud] And Georgie--I _had_ to write him a song, okay? But I wanted to get it in there before all the damage is done. But I couldn't have him in the early parts either, so this was like the perfect spot. And also I could see George getting oil in the hair, and the mirror, playing his drums, throwing in all those little hits. I have all these things he calls me in the songs. He had nicknames for me and stuff. Like "Chowderpuff,‚ that was one of his names for me. It's my song for George. You know, like I had one for D. Boon. I meet Georgie in music, though, I don't meet him before that. But, believe me, I'm still very good friends with him, which is always gonna be there. Then we go into--



"LIBERTY CALLS"

Yeah it's the halfway of the record. It's the next half. Boat comes in. Liberty is a navy word for getting some time off. They used to give you six to eight hours to do something, where you go out and have to get back before midnight. So they're out carousing. Yeah, I wanted, I told Nels, Pretend we're in the cab, driving by, and you're seein‚ all those lights and all those sounds going by, and they have nothing to do with what's on the radio. That's what I want you to play like. It's just sensory overload on these young sailors. First time they're in the town and it's... like our first tours, it was like Whoa! What the FUCK is this?

Cuz it was a mindblow to start touring, dude. You know, we didn't tour right away. First couple years we were just gettin‚ Minutemen together--our sound and all that. Once we got into tour mode, pshew. What happens is, the sailors get drunk. They come back and they fall asleep and they start dreaming. And it goes into [inaud]...



"IN THE BUNK ROOM / NAVY WIFE"

Now "In the Bunk Room" and "Navy Wife" are like the same song, combined together. They fall asleep and they start to dream. My mother said, "You know, your father never really married me. He married the Navy." I mean' they're moving you all the time, they got you on tours--you're with the Navy way more than you're with your family. It's _fucked_. And that's kind of how tour starts gettin‚. Tour's like that. You marry your mission' your endeavor. And that's why I never had kids. I didn't want what happened to me--dad never be there... A lot like Ice Cube says, "Any fool can have a baby/it takes a man to raise it." You can't have the baby and then bail! Even if you're sending the money, it's...still... That was always a heavy deal. A heavy deal for me. But, hey: It's the line of work I got in. Peter Pan. You never have to grow up and be a father. Dudes do it in bands, I know. I went through it. Not having a pop around is _fucked_.

So they're in the bunk room, drunk, asleep, and all they can really hear in the real world is the pumping of the propeller, turning and turning. The propeller becomes a heavy thing. So that's the sound of me on bass--aaawrrrrwrrr awwrrrrwwww. I'm trying to make that propeller sound. Cuz you know when you're drunk sometimes, one sound will be real out of all those nightmare dreams. Or the one light just buggin‚ you and you can't get it... So that's what that propeller is. Rrrrr rrrrr.

And I think the color is black there. [inaud] And if you notice, it's the biggest slice. It's six hours. It's a big song, time-wise. Bunk Room is black and Navy Wife is purple... They're pretty much the same song, it's becoming all this chaos.

A weird thing about Navy housing and Navy and Sand Pebbles and all this shit is it's ALL GUYS. If you notice, in the opera I say "man‚ about a hundred thousand times. It's such a guy world. [INAUD: the girls are there in pictures?] when the guys are passed out, drunk and dreamin‚. That's my take on a lot of the...the way it is. It started, especially with punk to get more integrated but music, bands and stuff, is pretty much a guy thing. I hope it will change. It slowly is... People even _act_ different because it's a guy thing. It'd be a lot different... Things will change. But this is my reality.

They're passed out and they're dreamin'. They're thinkin‚ of the wife. But the reality of it is, they're married to the fuckin‚ deal. They're not married to any women. They're in it for life.

And the boiler man wakes up. This goes into



"CROSSING THE EQUATOR"

Crossing the Equator is the heavy song. In a way. It's a heavy thing for a Navy guy--crossing that equator for the first time he goes through this nightmare thing. Licking the olive out of the tummy of the fattest-ass sailor. It's mainly an enlisted man thing. But you go from a pollywog to the shellback, it's a heavy deal. You pass your initiation. We had em too, though, in our scene. Everybody's got em. Little genre or cultural subdivision has some kind of rite of passage. But. I don't use it [the title] just for that. I use it for death. Because what happens is the boiler man gets up. D. Boon sleptwalk. It's weird. D. Boon would get up and start walkin‚ around, asleep. He'd say some things. And that's what the boilerman does. He sleepwalks and falls off the boat. Drowns.

See how there's little sections of how the day goes, all the little boundaries, and the borders and demarcation lines. That's kind of what a lot of the piece is about. But it's also about, the closer you get to the lines, the more you see they're blurry. They're not really sharp! And I had a weird dream: I didn't think D. Boon knew he was dead, at first. A couple days after he died, I was dreaming and I was in this bank, all orange carpet on the wall and the floor was pink, like a Peter Max painting the 5-6-8 Lincoln heads with the hats and the wild colors. And D. Boon's studying this painting. [whispers] And I'm like, What do I do? D. Boon doesn't know he's dead. [inaud] I don't remember telling him, cuz I think I woke up. But I remember having to go up to him and do that. I don't know if I actually did it. It was so FUCKED that I had to tell him that he was _gone_.

And I think the same thing. You don't know at first that you're dead. You don't know you're crossing the equator til someone tells you. [chuckles] There's no line! There's no dotted line. Between punk and new wave. Poseur and ... All these things. It was so heavy. Still is heavy. "Where are you on this issue? Where are you on this and that?‚ As a species, you know, we're very concerned with _where_ you stand. The title company, with the real estate... Do you really know, though? Cuz if you get close enough, [laughing] you learn there's more space than there's matter! And there's more we don't know than we do know. All this stuff is arbitrary so we can have faith in the solidity of the universe. Cuz it's empty!

That's heavy. That's heavy. Cuz what happens is I have this lick -- boop boop doo doo doo. That was a lick I thought up when I was down touring with Perry in Australia and Tricky had me come up and play a jam with him. I'd crossed the equator! I'd come across. And that's the first lick I'd ever made on the other side! Where the toilet bowl goes different, where the stars are different. So that was MY crossing the equator. So I used that music...and then I bring it back in different parts of the day. That's what night's about, in a way. Even though I think you're knocked out and dreaming, dreams at nighttime is some way of reconciling the day. Somehow making enough sense out of it that you'll wanna wake up for the next one! There's so many contradictions and paradoxes and dilemmas, that if you really chased em down you'd drive yourself insane. So the brain uses dreams to work things out through symbols and whatever that you'll be alright...It'll be good enough so you'll wake up and you will not drive yourself insane, or commit suicide or something. Dreams are used for working out problems. Even though there's no solution' you work them out in these plays, in these psychodramas, nightmares. Obviously, why do I always get them the first week of touring every time? All the insecurities. All that stuff, bubbling, and the brain trying to deal with it.

That's why Net people are having problems. They don't go to sleep for six or seven days, they don't DREAM. They don't take care of... This is maintenance, to have the dream.

To get that kind of across, I start playing parts of the day songs... You start hearing em. The way I recorded that was, I recorded those parts as all little nimble developmental embryo things... Then I brought em back. Cuz if you listen to em, they're not exact copies. They're not even demos. They're just little blasts... You can't do that on purpose. Well you can' but the sounds aren't right. So what I wanted to do is--when you remember, you never really remember _correctly_. It's always snatches and shit. That's why I have them coming in and out. One comes in' its transitioning, it's change.

And then the next song is...



"BREAKING THE CHOKE HOLD"

I found this passage in the Bluejackets Manual about how to get motherfuckers to let go of you if they're drowning, cuz they'll kill you. They'll drown you and them. They're panicking, they're out of their minds. They never say to you that you're gonna drown somebody, they're just telling you how to break this hold. But you know... It's a very technical manual. They're not gonna take sides... [chuckles] But the way they talked about it was a perfect metaphor, because I had to let go of him. Take it! I had to. Everybody's gotta let go sometimes, even though it's hard. Hard, hard lesson. That's why "Chokehold" is like a dirge.

That was a heavy song to get through. I mean' Shore Duty obviously is the heaviest. But that one's really hard, Breaking the Chokehold.

IT TOOK YOU A LONG TIME TO BREAK IT...

Months. It was Ed fromohio who got me. I did Sonic Youth first, and then Ed came and got me to do fIREHOSE. I did Ciccone Youth and then I did fIREHOSE. Besides those things, at first I just stayed in the house. It was a horrible fuckin time. I could never have planned... I never thought it. It never even came up in my mind that that was a possibility. He was built so _strong_, you know? We're all just fragile as eggshells, but... It's just youth, being know-it-alls. We're gonna live forever. You know how we are when we're younger. You just don't realize that shit.

That was a hard song. It's not really about D. Boon the person' you know? It was more about myself.



"WRAPPED AROUND THE SCREW"

That song comes from a story my father told me about a guy who committed suicide on a boat. An aircraft carrier is so high up you can jump from the deck and die in the water. It's just so high up. And that's what he did. They were anchored up. They sent divers in and they couldn't find his fuckin‚ body. After a while, [the boat was] stopped, "we gotta go." Turn it over, start up the motors, start going...[chuckles] He's wrapped around the screw. He's wrapped around one of the propellers. And for me, this was like Ahab. Moby Dick. And how he gets tied to the whale, and his arm's wavin‚ to the guys, "come on!" He's dead, drowned, his arm's swingin‚. He's so obsessed with the whale, he's goin‚ down with the whale!

And D. Boon in a way, the engine room--the band--the music--you know, was like D. Boon' yeah--well, a part of me, too--goin‚ down with that ship. So wrapped around it. The whole boat--the screw--the propeller--the engine--OUR gig. Our gig. Minutemen. That's the place he ended up. He needed to be. He still couldn't let go, even being killed. For me, a very powerful symbol. Especially remembering D. Boon. D. Boon was a man who did not give up easy. Not even in death, maybe. He was an INTENSE man' that way. He's a very GENTLE man. He wasn't a belligerant stubborn man. D. Boon was a fighter man. He liked to hang in there.

HE‚D GET ALL RED--

Yeah. Sweat. Stench. Pogo.

When my father told me that story, it just related to me. So intense... Even though that was a suicide. I hooked it up to this one, which is not a suicide or anything. D. Boon's [death] was a total accident. But he did not want to let go. Because this is where his gig is. This is where his [INAUD: calling? fire? heart?] is. This is what was AUTHENTIC for him. It felt right for him. I just felt about D. Boon...



"SHORE DUTY"

And Shore Duty is the last one. And it's [INAUD: down' like the same?]. And "shore": No more water. My life has changed again. It's changed by Pedro, I was changed by D. Boon' now it's changed by D. Boon being killed. I can't sail with the Minutemen anymore. Changed. Changed. I'm lucky that I'm still here. And if I've got duty to do, I'm lucky. And I can't take it for granted. Thank you, D. Boon. Thank you, Georgie. And it comes all the way around again.

THE CENTRAL RIFF COMES BACK, BUT ONLY HALF OF IT--

Only half of it.

Well at least--it's a riff! You know what I mean? I can't, really, that's why I say I'm a lucky man in there. I can't get so down on it like "poor, pitiful me." Because yeah, life teaches you some fuckin' hard lessons. But you still got to work! You're a lucky man. And DON'T take it for granted. Make the most of it. Give it your best shot. If I could hand down anything to people -- "do that thing‚ -- that's what I'd hand down to em: Add to the vocab, add to the palatte. We ALL can enrich it, bring something to the party. I was lucky D. Boon brought that, the punk people brought that, the Huskers, the Flag, they all brought their best shit to the table. No clonin', no copying. That's why I'm here today, makin' an opera! THAT'S how I got here.

This is how I got here.

And everybody, thank you to them cats. Cuz I never really got to say thank you to D. Boon or Georgie. I always thought it'd be like vampiring and dick-leaching, you know: Ozzy doin' another Randy Rhoades tour, you know what I mean? So I was always afraid of it. But Per(ry) and all those things that all came together at that time, gave me enough confidence to spark it. I'm gonna talk about this! I'm not gonna be afraid. Fear has always been my hardest thing. Not enough confidence. And that's the opera. Now I'm back to baby blue.



**THE COVER**

NOW, WHAT'S THE COVER? ITS A PICTURE OF YOUR FATHER--

"68. Down in the engine room. They got yearbooks, like high school. They even have a little photo shop, take incognito shots of you. Somebody got a shot, I don't know who the photographer is, it's like high school, they got him spacin‚ out. My father used to catch me spacing out. He'd say, "What are you doin"? Contemplatin‚ your navel, boy?‚ So see, I'm kinda gettin' back at him in the "Engine Room.‚ [laughs] Cuz I caught HIM spacin‚ out! Or that guy caught him spacin‚ out. That's why I used it, even though he's in the uniform...he's got his eyes, you can tell, if you look in the mirror you can see his back. It's already over 100 degrees...and they're in the reactor area, it's like 115-118 degrees. And you can just see his back's just sweatin‚. But that's how I am at my gigs! Sweatin‚ to death, you know?

I just wanted to show, "Pop, we weren't Martians. We were a lot closer to you."

My father started to change at the end, too. Believe it or not. Maybe not music-wise, but... My father voted for Nixon. My father voted for Reagan the first time. Til that Ollie North thing. My father hated Oliver North. Hated him. My father was gonna protest him. My father'd never protested anything ever! Like I said: Nixon man. Hated him. "Man never works in a uniform while he's doin‚ all that shit! Then he comes into court in a uniform!" My pop says, "Look they got the fuckin‚ guns. If they don't believe in the fuckin‚ game, it's over! They got the weapons." Know what I mean? And so he's got no respect for that, and hated him. That blew me away. My father never talked like that. So my father wasn't all solid either. We're all changelings. That was something else.

In some ways, I know he kind of wrote me off, maybe when I was younger, in my teens, early 20s. But I think when he got to know his boy a little better, it kind of surprised him. This guy that grew up that he didn't really know. Hey, and HE surprised me. Cuz I didn't get to know him either. So in that way, it IS kinda about my pop. But it's not the story of my pop in the Navy, the way some critics just tried to do an easy job on it and say, "Watt's gonna tell you about his dad and the Navy."

ABOUT THE PICTURE--

I asked the Navy, they were way into it. [chuckles] They didn't know what it was about! I didn't explain any of it. I just said it was about three guys on the boat.

I NEVER SAW THE ACTUAL ALBUM. WHAT‚S ON THE SLEEVES?

You need the album, though, cuz it's got the color key on it. It's got a book with the words. Then the tray card, where you put the CD, it's the WHEEL--it looks like a pod. This has got the colors, the icon for each song, the time, there's little times written. I didn't even tell anybody what it was. But you can see this is the key to the album. One's at 5:30, one's at 9, one's at midnight. Each color is the slice of the day that that song represents. Like I said, Liberty Calls! is a big quarter: six hours. It's bright green.

There's multimedia on the CD where I give folks a tour of Pedro... It's not really about the opera. You can get insights into the opera. I'm riding around on the bike, I'm showing the people different things. "Here's where the Minutemen took their first shot. Here's where we'd do our practice."



VIDEO FOR "LIBERTY CALLS"

Yeah I wasn't even gonna do that but then Spike asked me. I thought it was great. It was a good idea. The whole idea, I saw another level. I'm [always/older/INAUD] punk rocker...punk rock... And this is important. Yeah I don't have a lot to do with metal hanging on my face or Kid Rock, but I'm not that alien from a young punk rocker. I went to the Warped gig, and I felt kinda alien in some ways, but in another way I thought, man people are a little too regular. I felt a little more rowdy than them. For them being that young and so conformist! So I don't think they should write me off. I can still get in the ring with these cats. In fact I'll do every Warped gig I can' just to show them that, look, you want to sell punk rock? Not so much the promoters and all that, but the kids. If you really want to get into it, GET INTO IT. Okay.


[end]









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this page created 23 aug 00