Michael T. Fournier interviewed Mike Watt in front of the Sacred Grounds coffee house in San Pedro, CA on January 3, 2006 regarding the book he's writing on the Minutemen's "Double Nickels On The Dime" album
Mike Watt: ...No matter how long it is, it's got to have a beginning, a middle and an end. It's going to have an economy. We're at the point in our lives, too....what you're talking about. Life's got to be connected. It's too schitzophrenic, too shattered into all these different things. These punk rockers are living a life, to make art from it. Well, why can't it be with working people too, you know? So you notice that a lot of Minutemen songs are about parents and stuff. We're trying to connect it What we liked about it....you could see a band play and a few minutes later the guy could be standing right next to you. You could talk to him and kinda get to know a little...something about the tunage, you know? So that was something we were trying to do. Little pieces of ourselves. If we was wondering about something, something's on our minds, it's going to come out in a song. Feelin a certain' way. I have a lot of respect for a lot of the norms. Also, we were real narrow. We didn't know a lot about music. You know? Arena rock. I didn't know anything about jazz. I remember Pettibon playing me Coltrane and I thought he was doing punk, too! He was just older. I didn't know he was dead, I didn't know shit. I never heard it in navy housing, I knew nothing about it. So, it was all open for us. Not only did we willfully want to split with our past, hold everything up, the thought, the decision, but we began being turned on by these people that were artistic and knew about a bunch a shit that we didn't. You know, here we are in Pedro, talking and stuff. A lot of good people, a lot of plain - spoken people. Not a lot of phoniness. It's different driving up to Hollywood and meeting those people, meeting other people. It had a profound effect on us. I'm telling you this because I don't think the Minutemen were isolated, you know? I think we were part of a whole thing. And it was a movement! A strange movement, not so hierarchical. It definitely was. I can't imagine us doing anything that we did without the punk movement happening. What happened to us even back then - "you guys don't sound like a punk band." Well, I thought that was the idea! Punk wasn't a style of music, it was a state of mind, and the style of music was up to each band doing it. One of the first bands to sell out the Whiskey was the Screamers, and they didn't even have a guitar. And this is before hardcore. Although hardcore had it's own dynamic, too. It was a little bit more social, I think. Not social in the interaction sense, but......more like with the hippies...whatever. Mersh. We were more...we were reactionary. We were really fighting with the old rock n' roll whereas the young people's hardcore, they didn't have a rock n' roll before. They had to go to high school dressed weird and take shit for that. We were just out of high school, so we didn't have to worry about that. Although people gave us shit on the street at first - we ripped up our clothes, painted on them....
Michael T. Fournier: Everyone thought your name was Bob, right? Bright Orange Band?
MW: That was before punk. That's when we were Bright Orange Band. I had my mom sew on them letters, some army coat I found in the trash. She didn't put on dots, so it looked like Bob. Another funny thing - with punk, when I went up to Hollywood....a lot of people....L.A.'s so vulcanized most people don't know the other parts of the town. Nobody really knew about Pedro. Since I came here when I was ten, from Virginia, my whole world was Pedro and no one knew about it, so I spraypainted 'Pedro' on my bass and people thought my name was Pedro. (laughs). You know, some people would see it on the freeway signs, or they went to Marineland when they were a kid. To be honest, we didn't know about a lot of the other towns. All of these weirdoes - SoCal is really like a hundred and fifty towns, really split up. So like weirdoes from all these towns came and gathered in Hollywood. It was a very interesting group of people. So we were fighting with our old past, in a way. The biggest difference - although we are much in the hardcore scene because we start the Minutemen in January '80 and by this time Hollywood people are kinda burning out on it. The only people coming to gigs was young hardcore so a lot of our gigs we're playing with Black Flag and in front of hardcore kids - One reason we got faster and faster. The old punk is not that fast, really - Sex Pistols not that fast.
MTF: Yeah, they're like midtempo now.
MW: A lot of bands were different - Suicide was a little weird. It was all up for grabs. I'm glad that was our experience. It was very iconoclastic. It wasn't like "we're going to be different the same way," it was "we're going to be different our way, somehow" You know? We were convinced it was inherent in everyone. You look at your thumbprint, you know? It's unique. Why can't that manifest itself in expression? At that time there was plenty of common ground, you know? It's not like we were all special and conceited. There's a difference, there's a differentness, and it should come out in the music. Yeah. I mean, myself - D. Boon and me, between us....I'm not really a musician, I got into music to be with my friend and there's something there. Georgie playin' drums....a lot of this stuff's gotta come out in our sound so we liked punk because there's no rules. I remember the word punk, man, when we heard it....a punk in this town is someone who got fucked in jail for cigarettes. To hear somebody call their music this is so hilarious. So angry. One reason I was telling you about the clothes, ripped 'em all up, pinned 'em together like the pictures in England....people would go out of their way to give you shit, blocks away. So we went back to our high school and we thought 'we're going to keep the punk in our heads because if we wear it out here people will give us so much grief we'll be squandering too much energy on trying to deal with their shit.' Those young hardcore kids - I never looked down on them, just a little different in their dynamic, you know? Now you look back at it - five or six years younger, that's not really a lot, but when you're that age, it's a big time.
MTF: So I was doing some research about the record and I found out some stuff I didn't know prior to the other day - I guess I knew that the record was kind of a reaction a little bit to Zen Arcade 'cuz you guys were in a friendly competition....
MW: Let's see. November of '83 we went in to do an album...
MTF: That was right after Buzz Or Howl, right?
MW: It wasn't right after. Well, in terms of everything else it seemed pretty quick but Minutemen pacing is pretty average, we were doing records every six, seven months. What happened was in the old Minutemen days, when we first started, we (mumble) on everything. Like, we won't use tuners, they're bourgeois. We're not going to take pictures or do interviews, that's bourgeois. Then we decided, well, not taking pictures and not doing interviews is even more bourgeois. We came up with this idea - in the entire world, there was two categories of things, gigs and flyers. Anything that wasn't a gig was a flyer because this was really intense to us - the act of performance. Punk gigs. It also makes sense to us - what do you do that you're the most in control of in this whole process? Everything we do is to try and get people to the gig and watch us do what hopefully we do the best, so speil, records, pictures, later on, video - all these things are flyers. So you're always making records so you're putting flyers out so people know about you, don't forget about you.
"Buzz Or Howl" is a strange record, just came about, not even planned. Ethan James, cat, he was the keyboard player for Blue Cheer when they added one, not the first album, but after, and he had a studio in a Venice, just south of Santa Monica, called Radio Tokyo and he was putting together a compilation called Radio Tokyo Tapes. He asked us, we were doing a lot of gigs down south......he said I want you to have a song on Radio Tokyo Tapes, and if you give me a song, I'll record one for you. What we did, we took three songs and threw them together, they were so little. So we did three songs, him thinking it was one. And that was one side - just trying 'em out - and the other side we did live to two - track with Spot. All the other records were done with Spot. D. Boon wanted to shake things up so we do live to two - track with Spot for fifty dollars. We're going to make the album for fifty dollars. Well, we liked how it was with Ethan and that's when we decided to do an album with him at Radio Tokyo. We were writing songs during the fall, see, earlier that year we had done our first big tour with Black Flag, U.S. and Europe, February, came back, and then that Buzz Or Howl thing came on us, right, then in the summer and the fall we're writing songs for a real album. We had one - that was only an EP, eh? We only had one real album before that, um....Bean Spill, Punch Line, Paranoid Time, Joy...What Makes A Man Start fires was our only real album, but that's a weird album - that's the only one where I wrote all the music. Not too representative. Although, you know, a quarter of the words were Georgie's, a quarter of the words were D. Boon's, I wrote like half the words. All the tunes were coming from me. That was a weird time for D. Boon - the only time he didn't live in Pedro for a few weeks. So we're going to do a real Minutemen album. So we come up, write songs, we're going to go in the studio with Ethan in November of '83 - liked the way. I just got a Telecaster bass for that. Started with a Peavy three - actually, the kind of bass I play now - on that first Minutemen record, but it fell down and the headstock snapped. I got this Fender from - I got this Telecaster from a Jesus freak who was giving up music in Koreatown. It was going to be a proper album. Though we loved Spot - Spot wasn't the thing that was going to make it a proper album. All of his things were great. He had a good..... But Ethan, although not knowing us much, he tapped right in. He's a very open guy, not a lot of prejudice. You've gotta understand, in the old days, millers (?) and Squarejohns were the motherfuckin' other rock and rollers. Or, rock and rollers. They hated punk! That why a lot of gigs were in ethnics halls, bars and stuff 'cuz clubs..same thing with the studios, there was a lot of stuck up attitude about punk, you know? It's hard to explain now, just like that culture of not writing your own song. It seems so fuckin'....what word, naive? No, it just wasn't there. Why wasn't punk accepted? The other thing besides punk that was quote challenging unquote rock and roll was disco, and they hated that, too. I think both scenes, disco and punk came from like you guys are just holding Nuremberg rallies, and it all falls into the same thing and maybe we wanna look our ourselves and you're pretty and we're ugly. 'Til you come up with something more interesting, we're going to look at each other.
So getting' this album out. Now, Huskers...you already know about them, right? Punk scene....you your guys like Black Flag, they actually meet us handing out flyers for their second gig which was in Pedro, not too far from here. We couldn't believe there was a punk gig in Pedro and they couldn't believe there was a punk band from Pedro, so they put us on the bill and we became friends. Greg saw our first two gigs and asked us to be SST 002. He had this ham radio magazine when he was young, you know - SST stands for Solid State Transmitters and he just extended that. And that's where he got the idea of touring, too - he knew about networking and all this. I think the Dils were the only band with a van - they never thought of touring, but Greg's whole thing - that what I was saying before. It wasn't like trying to be unmersh or keep it from people - we did put it out there and just because they didn't get it, it wasn't failure, it was just new. So Huskers was a band that opened for 'em. For a long time, Black Flag was the only band touring the whole country, not just New York, San Fransisco, Los Angeles. They were playing everywhere - Shreveport, Boise, Morgantown, the whole dealy - o. Righteous. They had huge influence on us - the idea of making your own label. Punk wasn't just a band, it was the whole thing. And then the way you found out about the other towns, the fanzines - Dukowski had that book with all the numbers, the cat who ran the fanzine was probably putting on the gig, his band was gonna open, you were gonna konk at his pad. You know, it was all about people, punk. A lot about people. Wheels within wheels. Some fuckers don't let you in theie reindeer game, so you make your own. Parralel universe. So Huskers opened for Flag, and we loved the SST thing and see how punk experience is, all this creating and shit, and we make a label, too, New Alliance. And they didn't have the wherewithal to put out this tape that they gave them called Land Speed Record and we thought it was like methamphetamine Blue Oyster Cult. We really liked it, so we put it out. We put out their first album. So we're already buddies with these cats and then they did a single and then they then they went on and connected with SST Records. SST could have more people onboard. They came to town in December of '83 to what we later found out was to make this double album. Zen Arcade. And we were like "whoah, man! Wow! We should make a double album!" They had a whole concept with theirs, obviously we already invented a batch of songs, recorded 'em, so we had to stretch and make a concept to put this together to be like them. It wasn't really a competition, even. When I wrote "take that, Huskers!" in there it was acknowledging that they gave us the idea to make a double album. So what we did to cheat after the fact, quarterback the fuckin' thing is we came up with a dual - since it was a dual album we should have dual concepts.
One concept was there was this guy going around, Sammy Hagar, very talented man, he was the red rocker and he had this song said he couldn't drive 55. And all this kinda thing - see, we were so enamored, again, with the punk scene, and what we thought was true - self - realization or whatever - that all these other things were just shills to sell pablum. So to wear red leather and say that you can't drive 55 like that's the big rebellion thing - to us, the big rebellion thing was writing your own fuckin' songs and trying to come up with your own story, your own picture, your own book, whatever. So he can't drive 55, because that was the national speed limit? Okay, we'll drive 55, but we'll make crazy music. Not to put him down - I saw Montross, I never saw Van Halen but I saw Montross, talented man. He was kind of a target for us. No one got it! The title, Double Nickels On The Dime, we're going to go exactly the speed limit - very hard to take a picture, I had to get the fuckin' speedometer right on there and be lookin' in the mirror and have Pedro in the sign. Dirk Vandenberg, my buddy, rode in the back seat. Made three loops, tried three loops, this is downtown L.A. by the Bonna Venture (?). And, you know, film, not digital, so we didn't know what we had, you know? And then we got the picture, but when it got printed it kinda cut out the L...that was a cropping thing, that wasn't us. We got it, the shot. But, still, it's in there, Pedro. Remember, like I was telling you before, a lot of cats in the clubs up there, that was their big familiarity with Pedro, the name on the sign. We even wrote songs about Pedro....Tony Gets Wasted In Pedro.
The other, um...It's a double album, it's got the duality, the so - called concept thing..is Ummagumma. Which is another older band, Pink Floyd, eh? They made this double album where each dude had a solo song. Whose idea of a punk rock double album is going like that? It's sorta like when I wore a beard. That was like "what?" Each guy on Ummagumma, half of it was live and each guy got like a quarter of a side for his solo expression. So we come up with the sound of our cars, each guy's car sounds, and each dude had a solo song, but we didn't do a quarter of an album, but it, actually, it worked out that a quarter of the record did get to each of us. Or a third, and the leftover was on the fourth. When we had all the forty - five songs, we mixed it in one night, mixed the fucking thing in one night, recorded to an eight - track (?) Tari machine - I paid for it, eleven hundred dollars to make that record - mixed it in one night. So eight tracks - kick, snare, toms in stereo, guitar and singin', overdub of the guitar - pretty econo that way. But we liked the sound, like I said, from the Buzz or Howl, like we did with Cut, Self - Referenced, Dream Told By Moto. Those were the three. Who cares if it ain't sixteen, thirty - two? Minutemen, those days, never recorded on new tape, it was always used tape, never recorded during the daytime, always midnight to six - econo, you know? Recorded in order, even! To save money on the edit. And here we've got 45 songs, cuz when we come back to the studio, it's April of '84, four months, almost five months time difference, we have to put this together. How am I going to put forty - five fuckin' songs into an order? So I went, shit, the way a record works - you put the needle on on the outside, eh? So the shitty ones you want huggin' label. Good, strong ones on the outside. So how are we going to do this? I thought we'd draw straws and we could pick. If each dude had a side, nobody'd want the shitty songs up front so they'll get spread out over the record, you know? They won't glob up and that'll also reflect, again, this underlying philosophy punk puts on us - not keepin' it real so much because John Fogerty wasn't born on the bayou. Still a good song - reflected a hankering. That's where I get the idea of flannel. I didn't even know they were lumberjack shirts - I grew up in navy housing. You know, Marc Bolan wears a boa, and John Fogerty has these plaid flannel. I thought that was his kind of rock and roll shirt. I only found out later it was lumberjack. The idea was to make it personal. This'll reflect some of this persona, this expression. No gatekeeper, no middleman - it just comes out. So Georgie gets first pick, and what's he pick? He picks his solo song! Called You Need The Glory.
MTF: That one with the scat solo.
MW: Yeah, beating on oil cans. He picks his own song! I got second, I picked Mike Jackson, D. Boon got Mofo. That's a good song - I would have picked that one next, too. In fact, my solo's way near the end. Mine was ridiculous, even though it was my concept, I thought, man, what the fuck am I without D. Boon, you know? So I had these other three guys - John Rocknowski, Joe Baiza, and Dirk Vandenburg play guitar.
MTF: That's the song where you're reading some note?
MW: Take 5, D. Well, the whole thing about that tune is - well, D. Boon was sayin' "Your lyric get a little spacy, man. People don't know what you're talkin' about." For me, you know, they seemed kinda clear. So I thought, well, I gotta be real, huh? I'll make 'em real real. It was the landlady's note! About Dirk's tub leaking, and came through the ceiling, so the landlady put a note on the door. I just read the fuckin' note. I called it Take 5, D. that was my solo song. D. Boon, beautiful guitarist, when he was a boy, started with acoustic, this hippie guy Roy Mendez Lopez had an incredible effect on us. This guy lived in his car. Talk about econo. He's from hippie. Took clothes, shoe polished 'em white, built his own guitars, get books of Vivaldi, totally self - motivated man and put this on us. He showed us how to copy records, kinda, but the main emphasis was on trying to get something out of it ourselves, put our persona into it, you know? We had that block in our way. The seventies, you know? He's the one who tipped us off. Roy Mendez Lopez - I don't know where he is these days. Gave lessons to people, incredible virtuoso. Very econo. Never bought into mersh. Great cat. Even told us to learn how to play with fingers because "you'll lose picks!" Practiced like John Coltrane practiced. Great cat, man. He showed us flamenco and stuff. So when D. Boon does his song, Cohesion, it's kind of a takeoff on Lolinda (?), which the Doors ripped off, too - Caravan. Beautiful song.
So those are our three solo songs, with the car noises - now we're doing a good on Pink Floyd's Ummagumma and a goof on Sammy Hagar. No one got it. No one! Zero! Stuff that was so obvious. In a way, the Minutemen...we were in our own world so much, it never.....a lot of shit didn't dawn on them. How you could see that, not being us?We never thought about that, you know? A lot of things just didn't get over. I don't care, you know? Whatever. What is getting over? When you think about the big picture, fuck it. But I mean, I remember somebody asking us to move to Hollywood when we first getting going. Which is one thing I like best about Hollywood, 'cuz Pedro.....it was very hard to play your own town. We'd play Croatia Hall, about two songs, they threw shit at us, hit the power. Here we get a gig with X at Roxy, first time we got Roxy, 'cuz we were an SST band we couldn't really play clubs at first.
MTF: Because of Black Flag and all that?
MW: Yeah. Thinkin' we're violent, cops. Kira gets us into the Whiskey. Perception is always going to be 9/10ths of the law. X gets us into Roxy, this beautiful man, Rick (who?) passed away last year. Guy put on - started selling shirts for the Screamers. Tell you, there was a lot of examples of people around us. It wasn't just the Minutemen, this was our way of doing it, but there was all these cats takin' shit for their own bands. So yeah, we get to open for X, but since there's a Pedro gig available, we played the gig really fast, rushed down to Pedro to get booted off at Croatia Hall, after two songs. They put on "Turning Japanese," some new wave shit. In some ways, Pedro was a thermos bottle for us. It was good. Didn't have to worry about copying other people - there was no one hardly doing it. But a lot of our references, speils and stuff, were influenced. Fellow Pedroites, the Black Flag guys, let alone the other squarejonhs, the other punks. The Flag guys, though, SSt guys, Carducci, they probably understood us better than everyone else. They were big...they were brothers. They were brothers. Of course, we were very confrontational, always. Maybe that's what you mean by competition a little bit. You know? The punk conspiracy. God it's what exactly do you mean, you know? Get this down, right there! Be specific! Like D. Boon told me, don't be so spacey. Let 'em know what you mean! (laughs)
So this where the concept of the record came out. It was really an accident. But, you know, after the tangent, the accident got going and we put all kinds of thought into it. That's what...from Pettibon I heard about this thing called Dada. What, seventy years before us, the years before the First War in Switzerland, those people met. It was this weird thing of chaos and thinking put together. Punk wasn't new. A lot of these things we invented for ourselves but a lot of art, too - we're part of these traditions, so like there's a song on there called History Lesson, Part II. The first one I wrote, there's History Lesson on The Punch Line. I made another one for these hardcore kids who think we're Martians from planet jazz or something. So hilarious, because the jazz thing is only like a couple of years in the whole thing. It had an incredible effect on us, but we didn't know nothing about it. But to them, they're like 'oh, weird.' I think I used the lick from the Velvet Underground's "Here She Comes Now." There stuff, sometimes, like Sunday Morning, seems real...there's this weirdo Lou Reed, Cale. It's pretty gentle in a weird way. I'm trying to tell 'em look, we just have our own weirdness to deal with, see? We have problems just like you. But it can't be the same way, it's punk! We've gotta find our own way! We've got lots of common ground, don't worry! It's just me and D. Boon - I mean, the bassline was too hard so I asked him to sing it. I looked up to people, I will, I have them in mind. One thing punk taught us, too, was that if you look down at people, or look up at 'em too much you get a kink in your neck. Don't be looking up or looking down. I'm just like you, in a certain way, but in an intrinsic way I'm different than you and you're different than everyone else. You know? The hand we got dealt! Let's play it! Don't worry about that, about us judging you. We wrote that for the younger people in the scene, you know. I hardly did that - my stuff was more about personal feelings, but I guess that was a personal feeling because I really wanted them to know there was common ground. Other songs, when I think about them, I played with a pick! Like there's this one song on there, Shit From An Old Notebook, the last song I played with a pick. Yeah! Punk was just fast at first. So I started using my fingers again, and by Double Nickels, plus for some reason, I found it....I got this Telecaster bass and I wanted to play with my fingers. I was just saying, punk wasn't that fast. Hardcore got it way faster. It was like I was playing rhythm guitar by the time we got to 'Fires' - Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs. But D. Boon, you know, a lot of times I would write songs to D. Boon's lyrics. They weren't lyrics! He would just write shit down.
MTF: It seemed like these little haikus or something.
MW: Yeah! Doing the work, the van, he'd write something while he was driving. And I'd see the papers. It was all shit from an old notebook. And I thought since the title's like this. And Georgie.....especially in the older days, working on machines! He had a mill job, start at like five in the morning, half awake. Unique abstracts. The black sheep in these songs. They're so intense. I love 'em. He was barely unique, having to do this thing. He never titled 'em, so I was in charge of titling Georgie's songs. D. Boon's songs, I would title them, too, because they were never songs, really. He would never be upset. I fall into ruts, write the same things that I called tract houses - now we're going to put the garage on this side, the porch over here - growing up in Navy Housing. The first ones, I know that military stuff in Long Island, he had one in Lakeland, McDonald Douglas, the Douglas guy, the McDonald's guy, whichever. So I thought by using their words it'd pull me out of these ruts, you know? And it did. Especially with little songs, you had to keep coming up with ideas. The whole point was we were never going to waste people's time. So much stuff to say and perform, we're going to merge all that. Do what we have to do, and we're out! You know? And so, when you guys can't work a groove, go on to the next one. To keep me from getting in the ruts, I'd ask those guys to give me words. So that was actually an old notepad. Not even haiku, just thinking out loud, not rhyming or anything.
MTF: I can't remember the name of that one song, but, like the one that got cut off the CD? The pull toy song.
MW: I'm going to make a CD with everything on it. Yeah, that's Mr. Robot's Holy Orders. That's Georgie's.
MTF: I don't know what the hell he's singing about on that.
MW: He's actually writing songs. Look: he's on the job early in the morning! That's what he's writing about! Okay, maybe not specifics, but if you know the situation, you know the environment that bred it. The only he time he ever explained a song to us was our first song that was over two minutes. On Fires, it was called The Anchor. He said 'this one's about a dream.' Okay, but all the rest are about work. I know 'cuz that's when he's writing 'em. But that's when they're really loose, too, because you can't concentrate on songwriting in this big horizontal mill, running in needles for needle valves. Can't give too much - he'll hurt himself! (laughs) Minutemen, we're always servicing expression, not really trying to pay tribute to a form, in a way. Not at all, because we didn't really know about songwriting. We'd never done it. Reactionaries first, and I wrote all the Reactionaries songs except for two lyrics. They're the shittiest songs. Those are my first. Only wrote one song my whole teen years. We were twenty when we started Reactionaries. Teen years I wrote this song called "Mr. Bass King Outer Space" about blowing everybody away with a bass solo. I never wrote a song, you know? We had no thing in it - no craft. You know? It's just words. Words were like - Bob Dylan was some weirdo showed up at Thanksgiving muttering. All the other words, T. Rex, Alice Cooper. Alice Cooper, you didn't think twice with Alice! You know, he's in a band - "Be my lover." What does that mean? Well, you don't even think twice about what anything means. It's like lead guitar. They're just sounds. Smoke off water - what is that? Smoking the bong? What I found out later, it was literally about a fire or something, but that didn't help. I liked it better when we thought it was bongwater, bong smoke. We didn't know what any of them - what words were for. Words come on us. Sorta like a Lenin pamphlet, you know? What is to be done. What is to be done? But then the Trotsky thing, with the pen knife, all the art. He murdered a lot of people - the pen knife. The art uses the pen knife, it is what is to be carved, eh? We know this - it's like a bicycle, after a while you don't fall down, but is it really about riding with no hands, upside down, on one wheel? No. Where are you going to fucking take the bike? I told those kids at the bass seminar - there's granddaddy fusion at the end of the hallway - "more notes, more notes!" - luckily, physics punishes, because the more notes you play, the littler we get. Same thing with writing.
So this is the whole thing, you know? And I'll tell you - here we are. How old are we? 25? Gotta understand Minutemen worked the whole time. Even though we lived very econo, still wasn't enough. There's three pictures in there on the right when you open it up, eh? Starwood, our first paid gig. It was about a hundred dollars. Tons of gigs before that, but the point I'm making is that we didn't make enough to live on even living econo so we're always working the whole time. So we never had lack of stuff to write about. Also, let's go back a little bit, me and D. Boon, we're growing up in the sixties, eh? Our teen years was in the seventies. We're going to go to college. As boys, we're seeing college as all this kind of people who are acting on things. Like, in our minds, Tom Jefferson, Tom Paine, taking it in their hands, at least they're trying to live up to ideas. Meanwhile, there's some kind of whitewash pseudo - reality going on. The country was really rich after the second war and stuff, invented the teenager and their rock and roll. We're in this cold war with these people who want to keep people froze out but here we are freezing out a lot of our voters. Civil rights. The country's having to face itself. So people are very energized. But by the time we got outta high school, mid seventies - Manson, Woodstock. We're out of that. Going to college - you had friends with the foreigners, foreign students, because well, they get judged, too. They weren't judging on me, but everyone else, we were in this set felt apart from the public. Very attractive thing to us. This is on our minds. This is honest. We were almost - maybe on the hippie side or whatever. A lot of stuff with humor. The main thing at punk is to laugh at yourself. The Minutemen were always making fun of ourselves. We had a lot to write about. We had a lot to write about. There's no problem with topics. And like, we were part Pop Group, part Funkadelic.....we can put anything with anything! Anything goes! Take pictures, don't take pictures, gigs, flyers, all these things! All up to us! World of possibilities! So looking back on it, it seems almost like we planned a double album. It would have been a natural expression out of us. See, the Huskers were doing that, like a lot of people in the punk scene, got us to realize stuff maybe we should have known all along. That's what humans are, that's why we need more than just ourself, social animals. So I think it's the best one. I think it's our best one. Totally without trying. Just all the collection of the things. And in fact, this is when D. Boon's still alive. We looked back at it then, Minutemen made fun of ourselves really heavy with the next record, Mersh, Project Mersh, and then Three Way Tie was strange because Georgie don't write songs - he stopped, really with Mersh.
MTF: Why did he stop?
MW: I don't know. I don't know. That was a change. That was a change. And anyway, the Minutemen were changing, anyway, in certain ways. We were in a cycle. So much was happening with the fuckin' Double Nickels - wanna be a good farmer, you have to use a lot of manure. But we were playing on the one after - Three Way tie was getting a little steam back. Psyched, a little bit. But the next one, we were planning a triple album. Someone had bootlegged us, so the next one was going to be half live, have people vote for it - we thought that was the best way to fight a bootleg. And then the other side was going to be each guy with a side - we had big plans. In fact, I was already writing for it, because when you hear the first fIREHOSE album and then also I brought it to dos - dos is the first side project I had that happened near the end of the Minutemen. So you can hear these songs in the early fIREHOSE/dos that we gonna be for the next Minutemen. I think it was - we were looking at that record as coming back. We weren't looking - all the rest, there's something about that record that hit on us, big time. So that's my unsolicited thoughts on the matter, and now I will answer your questions.
MTF: Right on. I also found out that you remixed the first press of the CD whenever CD's came around, 87, and then, 'cuz I know you can only fit 74 minutes worth of songs on -
MW: That don't really have anything to do - D. Boon was killed by then. That's all after the fact. It was even a bigger nightmare, I remixed it. Totally worse than the Ethan James mix. There's only like 800 of them, went back to the other. In fact now we can get all the songs, so I'm going to talk to Greg, try and get the whole thing on CD, just like the double album.
MTF: You still have a good relationship with Greg?
MW: There's one song on there that's not part of the sessions.
MTF: What song is that?
MW: Don't Look Now. Carducci had it on a tape from the Lingerie show.
MTF: The Lingerie show?
MW: That was his idea. Yeah, Club Lingerie was this Hollywood club. We thought it would - we did a lot of Creedence songs, changed 'em up a little bit. We thought we'd show you how we did that. I think once, on Ballot Results, we did Fortunate Son or something. That's the only one that really ain't part. But yeah, it had to be cut. I thought some songs had to be cut, the covers - but you see that fourth side is called chaff, you separate the wheat from the chaff, cuz that was the side, that had the songs that nobody picked. So we went down, you know? Came up with a half hour, whatever. Twenty minutes a side. Great that it worked out, because it did. That final eighteen minutes was side chaff, the stuff that nobody takes. Like some of those - I took a lot of the songs of that, Dr. Wu is on there and stuff. They ended up being songs that people really liked - The World According To Nouns and all. We were in the moment, you know? I like 'em, too. Love Dance, I remember we wrote that on tour with Black Flag, we were in D.C., we did it in Ian Mackaye, Dischord's basement. We had to stand between the beams, real short. Used that in a Volvo commercial. D. Boon's daddy had emphysema real bad, thought that this was a way D. Boon could help his pop without being here. His pop passed away a few years ago. Couple years before that, some guy wanted to use that song and I thought, well, to help his pop, okay. Kinda weird, a car commercial, because he was killed in a wreck. Everything's weird. The way he could help, D. Boon. His pop and his mom - they're big....his mom was the fact the Minutemen were big important. D. Boon lived with me and my mom when we were having knee surgery, came back to the house, D. Boon lived with us for about eight months, that's when I wrote songs for Fires. He moved up to Culver City for a while. I was laid up, leg in a cast. I had the time I had some of the cassette things, no him, just singing the lyrics. Some of the songs are on Politics of Time, like what became '99 on Fires, but it was called Times at first. Sometimes that would happen, Minutemen songs would evolve. Some part, some music - we heard Blue Oyster Cult do that, so we thought it was okay. There's that one The Red And The Black, song on the one before it called I'm On This Planet But I Ain't No Sheep. Same words, different lick.
MTF: I like the record so much partially because the lyrics are so open - ended. I'm a writer, so I pay attention to all the words. They're not open - ended in that way that Henry is - you know, where Henry's all mad and he says "I hate the world that I think hates me" - so you can plug your world into it. I was talking about the haiku thing a couple minutes ago. They're like really dense, and specific to you guys who wrote them, but to me, I can apply them to certain specific parts of my life, as well, even though I'm not working in the factory. I've always liked that.
MW: We thought that was really intense about punk. We heard this from other punk bands, too. Yeah. "Serious as a heart attack, makes you feel this way." There's kind of an anger there, you know? You're not really claiming any one, but you're full of these sensations. What device can I measure? Obviously, Georgie's got a fuckin' device there doin' the measurin'. You know what I mean? The real world is bearing in on imagination, coming on each other. My words on that album, a big influence - "Ulysses." I had just read Jim Joyce, "Ulysses," so - in fact, when we're on that tour with Flag, we stay at Hank's ma's - Hank's ma had a fucking concordance to it, of "Ulysses." She gave it to me when I found it. It's always weird to read the concordance, almost like a record review, eh? Instead of the real thing, you read about it. I remember reading it after, it was strange about this idea, it was sorta like the idea of the first Minutemen album with the Raymond painting, then making the words like it was a description. See, the way Minutemen lyrics were, it's supposed be like the thing that you're looking at, and the hilarity to that. Experiences, like the speil. So it seemed like Joyce - my take on it was, obviously this man, woman, whoever the writer was, was allowed access to resources, Aristotle and Aquinas, there were all these references - I re - read it again a couple of years ago. Last year I went to Bloomsday, the hundredth anniversary, June 16th, heavy day, it's a heavy book coverage. It seemed to me then, and still does now, that he was trying to write about everything. And in a way the Minutemen were trying to do the same. Never sat down and agreed to do this or anything, but it seems like we're trying to write about everything. The whole world, the history, the future, what can be, could be, would be, what might have been. So, we're overreaching, and this is the thing we get out of it - basically, the things about one fuckin' day! Guy goes to a funeral, takes a bath, beats off on the beach. You know, so like Minutemen, we were writing things, and therefore trying to like.....we were obviously overreaching, so I felt a sympathetic chord, for some reason, these cats, whether we're talking about Joyce or talking about Pettibon, of course!
MTF: Is that why it's June 16th? That song?
MW: The instrumental in there! Yeah! It's totally for Bloomsday. And his birthday. Raymond was an incredible person. Next to D. Boon, biggest influence in my life. Guy was very subtle in some ways, but his art is totally bold - ass! His mind, huge leaps. He can retain incredible amounts of information, very humble, very funny guy in a dry way. Incredible guy. Incredible guy.
(punk kids come and get 'Paranoid Time' autographed - Watt signs it "Mike Watt Loves D. Boon".)
MW: So the Joyce thing is heavy, "Ulysses." Bloom goes through the hell and we love that, too. Leopold Bloom. I used to love Blue Oyster Cult and the singer was Eric Bloom.
MW: Well, D. Boon was a painter, you know, and made this painting of a horror movie host, guy named Seymour. Signed it 'D. Boon.' So then Eric Bloom, on the record, said 'E. Bloom on guitar'. So, D. Boon. That's where he gets his name - it was Dennes. I'll ever hear people, they'll make a point - 'Dennes! I know him! I knew him! I really knew him.' I'll take D. Boon, because he liked being called D. Boon. He liked it. A lot of people - Thurston, he thought we had fake names. Mike Watt. D. Boon was obviously Daniel Boon.
MTF: That's what I thought.
MW: That's where he got the name. Back to my words - I don't know. I go "live sweat but I dream light years" - you know? Because we were thinkers even though we were working people, situations. Stuff like that. So what? You know? The hell with that stuff. Figure things out, get our own take on it, might be wrong, might have to figure it out again, keep figuring it out. But you can't dismiss us, you can't put us away. We're not more important than you, but, for what it's worth, this is us, here's a band, here's a tune. So we kinda celebrated this thing about being a little cerebral, but we knew there's something kinetic about it. We couldn't stand in front of people. It was almost like skateboarding. You can't stand, you gotta, like, bring your body into it. Very aggressive. Georgie, you know, his drums are already that way, cool. He doesn't have to worry. All his limbs are flying. Whipping around. Me and D., too, D.Boon, too, we kinda took it from - dervishes, you get started, you know, you get into that state. We're popular, social people, you know? So you had to get in the state to get the nerve to do it, we'd whip ourselves up and get really, really sweaty - we had to change our pickups to this kind called EMG because they were sealed in epoxy. The sweat would choke out all the high end, shut out the high end. Yeah. Very physical thing. So we're not all in the clouds. There is clouds in there, but at the same time there's this very physicalness - we're kind of - we're not fancy in our looks, our clothes. Never talked about uniform or outfit or anything - it was just the way we were. So there's this other thing that's still there, we're still thinkers. You know? And kinda from the sixties a little bit. Inspired a little bit from it. We'd take shit into our own hands. We weren't hippies, not like that.
But to say that all that didn't exist, totally a reaction against that part, we were more reacting against rock n' roll. Quite the Nuremberg Rally. We were more into this idea of like the Ginsberg 'Howl'. See how that is? It's kind of - it's a lot in the head. Maybe those people, too, before the hippies. Even that stuff's political in some ways. Changed us kinda thing. But it's still - we gotta go with feeling. We're hammering in on this.
D. Boon had songs about Vietnam and one about West Germany. D. Boon was really into history. When I met him, you know, my ma got this world book, it went from a to z, read it for kicks, for excitement. D. Boon was into history, I wanted to be with him so I learned about history and stuff. He really liked it - put it in a lot of different songs.
You sat with him, or you sat around - like a lot of times on tour, man, we fought about historical shit. We'd have to find a library to settle it. We'd be on tour - "Who's Henry the Second?" "He was excommunicated, had to walk in the snow to get back.." "That was Henry the Fourth! Where's the fuckin' library?" Really insane stuff sometimes. I can imagine, Henry and that book, seeing us on the outside. Everybody would laugh at us. That was our dynamic. We weren't even conscious of it, it was so second nature. People would ride up with us to San Fransisco, and after thethird day, fifth day, totally worn out and wrung out! Not on purpose, it was just the dynamic we had with each other. So that shit got reflected in the music. It'd be a sketch, no what I mean?
MTF: I'm going to grab a cup of coffee. Do you want something?
MW: No, I don't need it.
MTF: You were talking about Vietnam and West Germany. The first time I heard your record, without looking at the title tracks, I was just listening to it, and Vietnam came on and I was like "this song is hilarious!" Because of the whole bit at the beginning, ten percent of five hundred thousand.
MW: The Pop Group had a song called Blind Faith and it's kinda disco like that, and in some weird way it had some influence on us. You know, our way of doing it.
The West Germany one - especially the music - might have been the Meat Puppets. We got really into Curt Kirkwood's guitar playing. So I tried to put a Cris Kirkwood bassline behind it. We had just been to West Germany, yeah? ADR. ADR was the other side. It was real on us. Not like Vietnam, a concept, West Germany we actually went there, we played there. Went through Checkpoint Charlie and all this. I know that had an impression on us. Went to the wall. They had spraypainted on the wall, there was all kids of pictures, but this one that we really liked said "I laugh at you yankee." You know, for us - we had read so many stories when we were young of tour being a big hell and rock n' rollers dreading all the touring and for us it seemed like the greatest side benefit in the world. That's why I still keep touring. You get to see all this shit. We grew up in a sailor's sons - they didn't see this shit! D. Boon, his daddy put radios in Buicks. A lot. For us to see these things, not just get them from TV or even books or this guy telling you, to just go and make up your own mind, that's what's the song was about. D. Boon was impressionable. Obviously, he never got to go again - but I think it changed because of The Pop Group, Blind Faith.
Again, looking at Tom Jefferson, Tommy Paine, these guys.
MTF: There was also Untitled Song For Latin America on that record, too.
MW: He didn't pick it. It's on chaff, right?
MW: See, D. Boon didn't pick his song. If you look at Georgie's side, it's all his own fuckin' songs! Nothin bad about Georgie - he's beautiful. Georgie's political in a way, too. If you were in a situation, acute situation, Georgie could size shit up. What we came up with was - the best politics was power. It's always with humans, you'll always have this problem with how power is dealt with. How's the power going to be dealt with. So that's politics. Elections, first Tuesday, first Monday in November every four years. Contest shit. That's stuff that's always with you because it's power struggles. Like here in our own band, in the cubicle. There's always going to be Hunter S. Thompson with the bikers, when they finally beat him up. You have to deal with this stuff. There's no way of abstracting it out. You can change the terms of it and stuff like that. But look at D. Boon - just because he wrote it don't mean he picked the song. Ain't that a trip. He picked some of mine. He picked One Reporter's Opinion. One of the only Minutemen songs I still do. I did a couple a few tours back - in fact, I did a couple duets with Georgie last year. In fact, on the next record, I did short songs for the next record.
MTF: Oh yeah?
MW: I like this 'no filler' idea. Back to it!
MTF: So who was the reporter who was talking shit about you?
MW: Nobody. There would just be some guy - I think George Putnam was the anchor here - and he had this segment called "One Reporter's Opinion" and he'd come up with his little, what do you call it, op - ed? That was mine! On me!
MTF: That was your editorial about yourself?
MW: My editorial on me. Not really all - encompassing or anything. A takeoff on the June 16th, Joyce kinda thing, it's all me. It's all about - the way it got me was the way he wrote. As the book changes, it's all based on the day. So it's travelling through the day, the writing styles change. At the end it got skeletal, he's doing question/answers. Again, D. Boon was telling me to get concrete so people knew what I was talking about so we'll get this down to the technical, skeletal paper, so I figured it was something on that. So I used my own name - I was starting to do that more and more. It was kinda weird because I was thinking people might have suffered the same thing I did before punk, you know - stop relating expression to a personal experience, so you write your own name, you put your own name in your own play. It's okay. It's okay to do it. And maybe that sounds a little self - aggrandizing, conceited about it, puff yourself all up, but it's just a way of dealing the spiel out, anyway. You have something to do with it. Of course, art is transcendent, too. You know, the Born on the Bayou. It's very important. You know, when the first caveman, not the first caveman, but a caveman, did the first cave painting, and he asked his buddy 'hey, what is that?' Did his buddy go 'that's chromium zinc oxide?' No! It's a buffalo! Can't you see it? Of course it's wasn't a buffalo, it's a representation! The thing is that art - by putting my name in it, I'm not trying to make it more real, obviously it pictures my insecurities. Another 'Mr. Bass, King of Outer Space!' Yeah, that horseshit, how embarrassing. And then D. Boon, again, being generous, he knew that. "Okay, I'll sing that. No problem." Most people would have said 'what the fuck is this?' Reminds me of something about D. Boon. Words are trying to be more real - it's just device, it's just a device. Impression, hang out in some weird way, have an economy, make it stand up. See, an engineer, he builds a bridge, no matter how aesthetically beautiful, if it falls down it didn't work. Well, that was our idea. We had to do these things, work the gig with 'em. We had to have this kind of functionality. We had to believe in it. You just gotta go through motions, you know? Put some oak in 'em. We also recognized the swastika was an art symbol. Art is a fabric. Good art's a good flannel, interesting threads and all this. It's also been used for horrible things. Took the idea and got anthemic - it's a weird thing. I'm not trying to get all responsible, shit like that, but you do have to whip out your things. We were trying to sell slogans. You had to have enough of us invested in the songs to sing our fuckin' hearts out. But it's kinda reductionist. Life's always going to be bigger than anything human made. Don't let us squeeze it down, like where you say you can not be workin' where we are but still relate to the tune. Somehow. It's hard for us, in some way. Not hard to find things to write about, to be writing, but to find nerve, in a way. To make fun of ourselves a lot. Stop sign. Chalk - chalk don't break easy, smooth, it crumbles, stuff like that. So I'm trying to make fun with myself, stuff like that.
Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing, I actually wrote that song for him. Wrote a letter to him, with the lyrics, never got an answer back. But actually, that's why it's called that, I actually thought of him to sing that song. I thought 'man, if he would sing this song people would think about sending people off to war.' I don't know. But I actually think that.
MTF: The whole Boy Scout thing is different now than when you wrote it.
MW: Yeah, but I saw the danger in it because I had a weird experience with the Boy Scouts. At first it was really intense - hiking up the mountains a lot, lot of nature, learned a lot about the Indians - it's weird. They loved the Indians. They were teaching us about the nature, the traditions, all that. Then the old guy, his name was Riley, he retired, and the new guy took over and was about uniform and marching. I was so fucking unhappy with the whole thing. I grew up with the military, too, during the Vietnam war, Navy housing, seen a lot of military stuff but nothing, none of it had as much effect on me as how the Scout thing went from going out there on big ass hikes, really strenuous, learning stuff about Indians, which the only other way to learn about was the movies, which the guys making those movies knew nothing about them - Tonto, Tonto means idiot. This guy says no, this is the way you drill, everybody's uniform, you can't wear your special little patches, my Order Of The Arrow thing, conformity, conformity - we're going to make it the military. It was all my reaction to that.
So we're thinkin' if he sings this, it'll get to people. Course, a lot of the interview people don't know what the fuck I'm singin'. I was trying to write about our band, in essence. Trying to impart righteousness without being stupid. Just get rid of the wrong people. "All we have to do is get rid of the wrong people!" Like we haven't already tried that a million times. It never works. But you forget. "It'll work this time. Just get rid of the wrong people. It'll be perfect." I wrote that for him, but it came out of this experience. I remember first going in, navy housing, all of our daddies are gone. So my mom puts me into the den, father figures and stuff, that guy was great, Riley! He was pretty loose, too - - he taught us this stuff. Although we're finding about Lord Baden - Powell now - - he was a Nazi and probably....
MTF: He was a kid toucher, too.
MW: Yeah. So what do I know? All I know was that it was a great experience and it got all tarnished by this stupid shit that I'm already growing up with. Also, all the revisionists started coming - you know, people talking about spitting on soliders. I remember going to the pier to meet my pop after his tour. Nobody was spitting on anybody. All these people trying to re - fight the sixties. Let it go! Let it go. You're not going to - they're making the Nike shoes, Vietnam, all that killing for what? What's wrong with you? Now with the enemy, Limbaugh, O'Reilly. None of 'em went, none of 'em went but they're all going to re - fight it. Agh! Stupid shit, stupid shit. But that's what the Mike Jackson song was about. Anixous - Mofo was a Georgie song.
MTF: There's that lyric "How can I express, let alone possess" that sounds like what you were talking about in the van - Robert Anton Wilson. Like, trying to assign names to things.
MW: Well, I have a song specific to that called The World According To Nouns. I had stumbled onto Wittgenstein - Pettibon, of course - stumbled onto Wittgenstein and this idea of semantics. The world according to nouns - are there any thoughts left in the head that don't have a word assigned to it? He had this argument, I think it was with Moore. Moore says "I know that's a tree." Well, no, you can only believe it's a tree because a tree's a word. Eco, Umberto Eco, later with semiotics, signs. Some people think it's kinda corny and cheesy, having to talk about it in the first place with the language and that shit. I think you've got to be aware of this stuff, it's not like you - although sometimes you come up with devices to try and override it. You should be aware of this, especially when you're a young person. To find out where a wall is, you push. You've heard so many people talk about where it is. You're like "I wonder if it really is there." So you're pushing. And that wound up on the fourth side. I liked it later.
MTF: It's a good one.
MW: We used to do it live, too. But for some reason, in the moment no one picked it. Toadies I wrote after reading the memoirs of Dmitri Shostakovic.
MTF: I don't know who that is.
MW: He was a composer in Soviet. Stalin liked him, eh? It's a very creepy thing. And the cat surrounds himself with toadies. No experience I had. The ideas of toadies is all around. Any scene. It's human - this dick is not the boss, but he's a little bit above you. That's all he needs. Like my pop says to me, I have yet to see shit roll uphill. The whole C.Y.A. - cover your ass - it's just the way humans organize. Then, humans are funny. They'll organize against it, maybe.
MTF: How about this whole thing with Jackass and Corona?
MW: Yeah, I let them do that. Spike Jonze had the pilot. I only saw the pilot. And he showed it to me - put 'em in the shitter and turn it upside down, ran into the hardware store with the Orange County jail things looking for a hacksaw, had handcuffs on, shit like this. I thought "you know what? This might be the one reason to put - " See that theater there?
MW: That's where me and D. Boon saw The Exorcist in '73. That's where we saw all the movies when we were boys. That's also where they premiered We Jam Econo. Fifteen hundred people, sold out. We never sold out with the Minutemen in this town in all the years. The reason I let those kids - they were too young to even see us. But it was tricky. They were finding out about the Minutemen with each of the tellers of the story so it was authentic that way. I don' want t people to forget him. So Spike has this on the TV show, and then you hear D. Boon play guitar. Strong intro and stuff. Interesting thing about that song, how it was written, we did it actually the song before - we go to Mexico. Year and a half. It wasn't the summer that just came, it was the one before. So we go to Mexico and it was 4th of July, it was Sunday, happened to be an election day, which is very strange if you've never seen a Mexican election, on our big day. Ain't our land. We'd cut our hair off, playing with Joanna Wing. Georgie'd come up with this joke, she's this performance artist, very provocative. We're going to cut our hair off and paint our heads black like burnt - out match heads. Me and D. Boon had never been bald, we didn't know about it, we didn't know you clip it first, so we so took a Bic. We were bloody messes. So we get up to the Whiskey and Georgie's meeting us there. He couldn't believe it. It's on the cover of that Flipside, we're all crouching down - me and D. Boon are baldheaded. In fact D. Boon tried to rub grease from under a car on his eye, make it look like a black eye. Me and D. Boon, we can't go for that, we'll get (what?) the size of oranges, fuck that shit. We did it three times altogether - once for the tour, Meat Puppets, it was called The Tour -
MTF: There was that video.
MW: The tour for Double Nickels, album comes out, right at the end of the tour, the summer, doesn't really come out until the end of summer, '84.
Okay, so we're in Mexico and it's really profound to us, just as things - the election, 4th of July, outside symbols. We're fuckin' baldheaded and we're out swimming, Rosaria beach. You're gonna drown if you don't have your head out. We're out there seven, eight hours, Georgie took a dump out there. Buttsnickers! Georgie will fucking shit in the ocean! Yeah, ocean man! Sidebar. Anyway, you have your head out that much, you'll burn like a motherfucker! Then we go to the cantina. D. Boon wrote "Corona." We woke up, there's a lady picking up the bottles, she's gonna make money from the kids and the partying! I wrote "I Felt Like A Gringo," which had already come out on Buzz or Howl. We tried another one - Little Man With A Gun In His Hand was so new, we had just written it in Europe with Black Flag. We wrote it with Dukowski. We didn't have an ending, so we faded it out. We recorded it again. It was really shitty. Terrible! We liked the Buzz or Howl one way better. Spot recorded it better, too. They're two sides of the same coin, the Mexico trip. Corona/I Felt Like A Gringo. They're impressionistic works. Events were happening around us and we were dealing with 'em. It's not like we had answers or anything, you know? I only had a Corona, you know? He was in the moment, that's what he did, he wrote a tune. Also, we went to the cantina, fuckin' Mariachis played for us, they're laughing at us. "Aaaaah! Burnt heads!" I remember I went to the bartender the next morning, this truck comes in, army men. Fifteen, sixteen year old boys! They're handing out bread! I asked "who are you going to vote for?" and the guy started laughing. We didn't know! Very impressionistic, those songs.
How does it relate to Jackass? Well, I don't want people to forget D. Boon. If you can play his guitar for people, I think it's success. It's not fascist. It's kind of a wigged out take on skateboarding kinda thing. If you're grinding on a fuckin' rail, if you're getting tasered, it's pretty over the top. I don't know if the song has much to do with that, but people get to hear D. Boon play. That's why he told Spike - Spike's a gentle, sweet guy. He knows about - he did that Malkovich. He understood. This way, we're going to let everybody hear. He can't do gigs. He can't be here to tell you about this stuff, and I can't do a good enough job for him. Thank god the music is here. We recorded that, you can hear him play. So that's why I put that in there. The Volvo and the Jackass - all the money went to his pop.
MTF: I found out about the Minutemen and fIREHOSE from skate videos. From Santa Cruz videos. Did you ever see those?
MW: Sure. I like the way, with skateboarding, if you fall down, you can't talk your way out of it, you've gotta get back up. You don't need a lot of equipment. You can totally open it up, make your own styles. It's populist, you know? Come on! Try me! Your way! I like this idea, the world of possibilities. The child's eye, doesn't talk about being naive. There's a sense of wonder, not being all figured out and jaded and cynical. That's really about a millimeter away from arrogance. We gotta stay fuckin' humble. The minute men! The tiny men! It's okay!
What's the order of the first one? Mofo?
MTF: Yep. And then Theater Is The Life Of You.
MW: Ah, right. That's a D. Boon song. It's just a speil. I think he was driving the van from here down to Oceanside, lookin' out the window, writing impressions down of what he sees. On Maybe Partying Will Help, the bassline, I put a funky kinda thing to it, and so it seems like a party song and it was contrastin' pretty fuckin' heavy to with this almost little critique of the impression, even. There's a lot of tension to that tune. That was one he never wrote. He liked it when I did that. He was never embarrassed, never ashamed or anything, never changed it. You know, I wrote those words. When D. Boon did a D. Boon song, I never got them, I never got those song titles, like Vietnam, West Germany, I never got those. You knew I was reading the Joyce. The big thing, the epiphanies, you just find things, they were never conscious fuckin' things. It was like "Here, Bones, here's some..." My nickname at SST was Bones. They called money that. D. Boon used to call me posk. P - o - s - k.
He wouldn't say "here's some little scraps of paper that I've had and I've been writing things, why don't you make something of it." Fuck no! I would find them. I would go and find them, you know? And he would never make a beef, like "aaaah! You're not supposed to use those!" No! Here we go. And I'd make tunage of 'em 'cuz he understood the thing with epiphanies, but also thing about getting out of tract houses. I wrote songs maybe a little more easier, maybe be a bass player, too, don't have to flesh out the chords and stuff. Then, D. Boon, we played since boys, I never had to teach him the song. I'd just play and he'd play right to it. Right to it. Same thing, he'd show me a song I'd just play because we'd been playing so long. The most time would be to show Georgie. We worked really hard with Georgie because we didn't want him to be just the backbeat shit. That's the whole idea of the band, not just economy in the material sense, but makin' it like conversation. Making this an interesting conversation. We're going to have Georgie in here, man. We're going to make space for him, he's going to come in here and speak, spell his name with his fuckin' fills, so that would take a little of the time. That wasn't really that traditional, but luckily, Georgie didn't have reverence for what was tradition - muso, musician. "Sure, all right, I'll get out there, I'll play, I'll whoop it up!" He did it! We'd put spaces open, he's fly into it. See, that took a little more time. When me and D. Boon did it, we'd be like that. Once the guy got his full form, showed the other dudes.
What's after that? 'Nam?
MTF: Cohesion is after that. Then It's Expected I'm Gone.
MW: Expected I'm Gone! Yeah!
MTF: That's another one that I love.
MW: That one's been sampled a bunch.
MTF: Yeah! The drumming has. Got that in my notes right here.
MW: Sublime, in fact, Bonnie Prince - Palace Brother?
MW: He just covered that with Tortoise.
MTF: No shit!
MW: Way different version.
MTF: And Jawbox covered that.
MW: Jawbox.....lot of people did it. I think it's the lick, the drum lick. Which is different, because a lot of Minutemen don't come with the drums. That one didn't, either. I told him to lay down a beat - I played something for him first (Watt sings the bass riff) - and said you start it off, though. And that's how it came in. It was kinda a slower song for us. Yeah. That's one of those self - referenced songs, like the song Self - Referenced. A lot of times, when I wrote songs like that, I wanted a dynamic shift. So we chaged gears a lot because that's how it seems the mind would work, from here to there to there to there, so that tune's got some introspection, and there's one part that has nothing to do with the rest of the fuckin' song. I just wanted to - I would do this - I just wanted to hear D. Boon yell "big fucking shit". It had nothing to do with the rest of the song, I just said this is the place where he's gotta do it. Sometimes D. Boon and me played - understand it was not conceit, he was not arrogant. He had this weird kind of confidence. He's a painter, so from a boy he knew some expression. And fuckin' school, people calling him names and shit - I know this one guy used to call him fat man, and D. with his ma there! So D. Boon, it's time to play, I'm gonna fuckin' play! Not conceited, but like, I'm gonna fuckin' play! So he would get so into it, man, I just wanted him to say that, just the feeling - no meaning or sense of the word. I just wrote it out there. I never really told him that until later. It had nothing to do with the rest of the song! Aaaaahhhh!
Some songs like this. Because it was also things I was getting from the Joyce books - things beyond being analyzed. Dream sequences, unconscious things. Sensations, you feel 'em and stuff. I was trying to get those into songs. Retreat - that's on my side. What's after this one?
MTF: #1 Hit Song.
MW: That's Georgie. That's hits parody of on mersh. He loved to parody mersh, but we all - D. Boon set up this one part, smooth, caricature of being smooth, twinkle twinkle Making fun. Great overdub. D. Boon only used an effect on records. He would overdub with his green Tube Screamer, 909. Worth a lot of money now, econo shit. He used this hollow body Gibson ES 120 that had to have to cord soldered right into it. He used that to overdub leads. Never played it live, hardly. It had a really good ring - I remember the tone of it when he plays it. Then, uh - oh yeah! Two Beads At The End!
MTF: I have no idea what that one's about.
MW: That's a Georgie tune. Yeah, we used to key at him like he was fuckin' hangin' out for gas. "Pretend you're starting a lawnmower, Georgie!" Yeah! That one - I remember us asking his about that one. "Yeah, I don't know what it's about." So he never let on, never told us about feel like a poker in someone's fireplace.
MTF: That's always been a good image that's stuck with me.
MW: One of those work songs, early in the morning. But I kinda wanted to make - it was kinda my version, except I didn't have the lyric content, as Hit Song. I think that's why D. Boon picked it. It's kind of the other side, or part of the same thing. I think its kind of a pop norm. D. Boon hardly used barre chords, heavy things on purpose. His chords were thirds, or ninths, thirteenths. Hardly used the heavy shit, the barre chord thing. So it's a little mocking, a little bit. The strange thing about Georgie's words, maybe it's just Georgie's words, but D. Boon's delivery! D. Boon would sing them like "they're very important! You have to hear this!" He had no idea. Georgie said a lot of times he'd write them and then right away forget what they were about. So never had any inkling to that one. So the songs would sometimes be little babies, little creatures of their own. It came from us, but now it's gone. That one was like that.
MTF: Then it's Do You Want New Wave (Or Do You Want The Truth)? after that.
MW: Yeah. That's kinda like Nouns. Here's another thing, too - I would write songs that seemed to me life was about this kind of methamphetamine thing, uh, like sleeping with the enemy and shit. I had to live a life to understand, sincerely, that there's hills and valleys, natural harmonics, breathing. Couldn't have all loud songs. I would write - I would always think of the albums as big landscapes. Just like when we started the Minutemen, we'd write these songs as one big song with different parts. I purposely wrote 'New Wave' to be a calmer one, to take us down a little bit. But it really ain't a ballad - in some ways, it's one of the most angry songs. "For all the shit to run down in." It's a really angry song, but it's really calm and subdued in the way we do it. I'm using the droning strings, D. Boon's playing really quiet, Georgie on guitar. That was some weird kind of thing for anger at the way language is used against us. I don't know what's going on with that (what?) thing, semantic war of words shit, cover up all kinds of nasty shit. In fact, it had a big effect on my father. My father voted for Nixon both times and Regan the first time but not the second time. Didn't vote for him in '84 because of this Oliver North guy. Hated him! North was going to come talk in Fresno, that's where he retired. He was going to go to where he talked and protest.
MTF: Your dad was?
MW: Yeah! Blew my mind! My pop was having some changes - he died in 1991 of cancer, 62 years old, he was a nuclear engineer. This guy really made him upset. He was in a uniform, all that. Stuff like that. New wave. And then?
MTF: So then it's Don't Look Now, Shit From An Old Notebook, and Nature Without Man is in there, too.
MW: Wow, that's a lot of songs! Don't Look Now I told you about. It's a happy song - it's about responsibility. All stuff you take for granted. Like when I did the polar bear swim - The guy, he said "three words, count your blessings!" And he made us - well, I didn't sing 'em - but God Bless America, Pledge of Allegience. Why you make us do them at the polar bear swim? Kinda bizarre. If they need to do it, that's fine. I hope they're not trying to make me feel any less, more, whatever. So that's what that song's about. Fogerty had to deal with that a lot. A lot of those sixties people had to do that. There was a thing on the website where you could see why he wrote the songs, he talked about them and stuff. He's like, who's going to grow the food, who's going to do this or that, you know? You talk the fuckin' talk, but what's real? So I'm glad Carducci asked us to do that - Joe Carducci's idea to put that in there. Also, it was like balls out. Cassette recording.
MTF: Fogerty - he didn't get any royalties from CCR. So I guess that song Centerfield gets played thirty times a day during baseball season.
MW: And then it got used - Fortunate Son got used in some commercial and he was really angry. Another nail in the coffin of the values that we held up. It's really funny, because when we were boys we knew he was pissed. We didn't fathom his words, then we found out what they were about. Different than T. Rex.
MTF: Nature Without Man
MW: That's a Dukowski song!
MTF: No shit!
MW: Yeah, that's a weird song. That one and Little Man, eh? D. Boon starts doing what I'm doing a little bit - "whoah! I might be writing the same songs! I'm going to use other people's words." He didn't do it that much, he only did it a couple of times.
MTF: Yeah, he did it with Henry later on in the record.
MW: With Henry, right. He did it with Carducci on Jesus And Tequilla. That's Carducci's words. He did a little bit, but I did it a lot. But D. Boon had a lot of good songs, so he didn't have to do it so much. But that's - and then we used this kind of mechanical - I mean, it's very passionate playing, Georgie's wailing on the toms. It's kinda mechanical, you know? Yeah? B.F. Skinner or something, Walden Two, Carducci, social engineering, Darwinism kinda things. That was on his mind. We used to have arguments, discussions - it's be all of ten of us in one boat on that tour. And it'd be - we'd play other people's towns, it was wild. Interesting discussions. We'd think the biological imperatives versus, you know, everything else was a big camoflague. Nature without man, denying these kinds of things. Dukowski.
MTF: I don't know what happened to him.
MW: He lives here. With is family, he's got kids now. Against the war and stuff. Yeah, he could tell you about it. He was a cool dude then, too. But he was the propaganda minister - that's why it was so bizarre when he was out of the band. Still kept bookin' em. That's what that's tune's about.
MTF: Then Retreat is the next one we haven't talked about.
MW: Yeah. Retreat is kinda like Expected I'm Gone. Same thing. The turned in thing, with all the dynamic outbursts. The toilet. A lot of this stuff is about sensory stuff - I hear the toilet flushing, reactions of people. It's all a perception kind of thing. A lot of this shit, you turn on your own values of yourself, especially insecurities, stuff like this. Voice is a tape recorded, thunder - my head is a tape recorded, your voice is a thunderclap.
MTF: It's got that big dynamic shift - it's all quiet, then it freaks out.
MW: About insecurity. Things people go through. About me being a little too sensitive, not just being aware. I stopped doing L by this period. I had done L earlier. I'm really glad I did because I was so tense. I'd do it by myself and do ten, twelve hour thinkouts. Confront a lot of things, and I'm glad I did it. You have to - that shit don't let you (what?). That might be a little reverbation from my L trials. Okay. Again, I was also thinking of the bigger picture of the sounds and stuff - it had a classical sense to it (sings bassline). I thought it did kinda contrast. Like Michael Jackson. Kinda military.
MTF: Big Foist is after that. Is that another song where you wrote "I'm fucking overwhelmed!" to have him yell? I've always like that bit.
MW: I like that. Obviously written in Europe because those are Big Ben - "bing bong bong bong, bing bong bong bong."
MTF: Wow! Yeah!
MW: Yeah, we were on tour with Flag. I was kinda roleplaying - this is a guy I like. Jello, the DK's singer. I was having fun being him. I even asked D. Boon to sing like Jello. "What is already understood." I know it come out that way.
MTF: But now that you said it, I can hear it.
MW: Like I said, with the Sammy Hagar, Pink Floyd, a lot of shit got lost! No one knew it! So that's very obvious, but it never reached beyond us! I asked him to do it like Jello. It's no break on Jello, I just like his delivery and it's something I could imagine him saying. It's this idea of art. It's not just panathea - it's flat. Swastika's an art symbol. What is to be done? I'm fucking overwhelmed! Because the big foist, when you lay something on someone, you've got good intentions, what if they're fuckin' dickheads, and the guy's all fuckin' vulnerable, is gonna put on a brownshirt and march behind you?
MTF: You ever tell Jello about that?
MW: I wonder. I asked D. Boon - I thought he sounded like him.
MTF: I hear the cadence. That totally makes sense.
MW: "A deeper understanding." We were having fun. The music - yeah. It's not a satire of Jello, but it's satirical. Especially the drum breaks. Like in Retreat. I think that's why D. Boon put 'em next to each other. Because they've got the same kind of bridges. One's classical, the other's this corny - ass prog rock 'cuz I was being satirical. I was actually laughing at us, because when we made a song it was kinda a big foist. I like that song. What's after that?
MTF: God Bows To Math.
MW: Ah, God Bows To Math! That's Jack Brewer, Saccharine Trust singer. Jack Brewer or Joe Brewer? It's one of the Brewers, either him or his cousing. I think it's Jack Brewer. It's about some Bible shit, like Gene Scott (?) would talk about. Remember him? This guy and the holy cube - "You take the pyramid and the circumference of the Earth," some stuff like that. I gave him the title, but I didn't write the words. I think the music, like, we were taking a trip through a tomb, like a pyramid. D. Boon - that solo on that one and Mofo, they're so econo! There's hardly any notes. Just the right notes, they're beautiful. The words are so far out, it's like you're sourcing them, you know? I really concentrated on the music, and that's another song where there's a nice groove. Yeah. Jack has a lot of that in all of his records - I produced the first Saccharine Trust album and I produced another, like the fourth one, and I actually played on the third one because the guy got scared, the improvisation one. So I've been connected, and I told you about Joe Baiza, we've always been connected. Wilmington's the next town over. In some ways we're like universes apart.
MTF: It's a really creepy song.
MW: And again, it took us out - like askin' someone to come to the party at the house. So when we write the song, how many Big Foists, Retreats, you know? That really helped. I don't know how many outside lyric writers there are on this. Maybe eight? Maybe eight, nine? Almost a fourth are outside writers. Carducci, Dukowski, Brewers, Dirk wrote one, I think it's on Georgie's side, The Roar Of The Masses Could Be Farts. That's my title because the words were like 'oh, my God' but D. Boon really wanted to sing it. I remember showing his the bassline and handing him the paper and it was like "alright!" Jack's at least has a little logic to it - the Bible and this whole shit. Dirk's, he's out to lunch! It's like vox populi, Everyone's got an opinion, all right. We'll get the player piano. A lot of people actually liked it - maybe it has a good beat, maybe it's the way D. Boon sang it, maybe the words do have something.
(side two 3/23 - 4/1)
About Dirk....he's actually from the hill. He's not way up on the hill, but hill people. Most of 'em, it's not old money, self - made. Doctor, lawyer, dentist, architect. Sons who have Corvettes and Porsches at 16. So it kills the work ethic, so the sons end up as.....they all burn out on Redondo Beach, on the other side of the hill. But Dirk, actually, early on. He's been in Pedro 25 years. Interesting guy. He took pictures, he toured with us, he had a band called Tragicomedy, he was on the Mersh Live tour with us. Loved D. Boon. He had a buddy named Crane, played trumpet. He had a band called Tragicomedy and Crane was the bass player. D. Boon had Crane - he's on almost every song on Project: Mersh. And the guitarist was John Rocknowski, who I had play on Take 5, D. Good guys who came to Pedro. I always liked 'em. We don't get to know many of those. There's actually some more, like that guy who came over here, has the tattoo shop. He's from the hill. Still. I don't think Pedro has a stigma any more. This was a really rough town. In the 40's it was the murder capitol - a murder every night. This whole, down here, was all whorehouses and bars. When I came here in '68, they just razed it, it was all empty there for years, except for a copule blocks by the water. Very rough sailor town. Italians, Slavs, they brought their families in, they calmed the town down. Just changed. There's still some very rough parts. There's a project called (truck drives by). Down here, Manhattan Beach - it's funny, all those Hollywood people think Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Torrence, Pedro, we're all the same. We share a little bit with Long Beach, but they're even differet. They're like a mini - L.A. We're vulcanized in SoCal.
MTF: The Glory Of Man.
MW: The Glory of Man, that's the most overt of the Joyceans, except for June 16th. The kinda optimism that Bloom has, you know? Despite all the lame shit, there's still a goodness about us. Somehow we'll redeem, come up, and help each other out. That's kinda what the tune's about. I can put it with a real trippy fuckin' disco beat. The best kind of disco. I wanted to dance, but I wanted Georgie to work the shit out of the kick drum. Sorta like a dare. D. Boon, he counters with this totally econo one note guitar part. Well, two parts. He would do that. Elegant, you know? Econo! Totally econo! Do a two note verse that stays like that because if he bogarts there you wouldn't hear that drum, you wouldn't hear that bass. D. Boon was - people talk about Georgie, especially about myself, they've gotta understand the context for him. We're with this guy who has a very big picture of little music, tiny music. Well, me and Georgie did, too, but the way the roles were defined, we were always fighting stereotypes and stuff. D. Boon, he's really out to shake things up. Who knows, there might be a little Georgie and Watt in all the bass and drummers, but we're playing with this guy who almost surrenders, who's almost like a Christ figure - you know what? I'm going to lay this down or subdue it to let you in. There's enough room on this wagon! There's enough room! Got something to say? D. Boon was like that with me and Georgie. That was a big part of the Minutemen. That's a song that most ruined by the remix. When the chorus comes up, the guitar is too big! D. Boon knew where to put it, man! When the chorus comes in, he fills it out, the dynamic changes, but not enough to get - the high hat starts. Total disco and shit, but because of the context we put it in, it don't have that. Again, props to the Pop Group for showing us. Music is just music, rhythms. Try and teach these machines how to laugh and cry, you know? Everything else is just this bullshit arrogant conceited shit. Good stories, get the story out, whatever. That one's got really good dynamic, we're really using econo elements to play together to make this whole sound. D. Boon really had a good sense of the big picture there. The bassline, you can tell that came first. I wrote it and showed the dudes. I tried to sing it. See, this is the one where I moved to the fingers - only Shit From An Old Notebook is with a pick. I couldn't sing any of these. I think I end up with Politics Of Time and Take 5, D. Take 5 D, I wasn't even playing - I was playing 12 string. Politics of Time, I could barely even get it out, couldn't really sing, so I had D. Boon sing. A lot of these, some of these, you can tell he's learning how to phrase 'em! "Organizing the Boy Scouts!" That one, he doesn't know how to fit in! "Organizing the Boy Scouts For Murder Is Wrong!" Spitting all these fuckin' syllables. I didn't have a knack for singing and playing yet. So in this one, too - "the Space May - surer." How would you say it - measurer?
MTF: Measurer, yeah.
MW: He goes MAY - surer. The Space MAY - surer. He's literally reading it off the page for the second or third time! That's one of the second batch songs where we had to wail 'em out. He got good, Georgie. The time monitor, the last child. All these kinda things. Trying to humanize. You know, you're up there, and you're in this fuckin' total stereotype, whatever, goon, goombah, everyone's all set up. And no, you know? You wanna meet people in the moment, and this is a funny Pedro band! Look at how tense they are! Serious as a heart attack! I really wanted to mix things up, and I thought in some way it was working for us, these stereotypes, Nurermerg rally idiots, and us, without even being like Devo, you know? Not overt goofy, but very goofy in a weird way, and in a strange way, telling people to open up their heart! We're trying to, we're a little afraid of the moment, so we're dervish spin, but that to me was the essence, you know? One of the many, the last child. The space MAYsurer, you know? With our rulers and our numbers and gags, we're a funny species. But there can be some neat things out of it. Like when I talk about Black Flag or Wire or Pop Group, Blue Oyster Cult. Black Flag, I actually got to meet them, but music, Huskers, Meat Puppets, their music comes on you, the Sonics later, it's trippy. Inspiring! Sometimes I didn't have anything to inspire me, I'd be surely at a loss what to fuckin' write about. It helped turn on the thing without just wallowing, corkscrew into belly button.
MTF: You're talking lyrics. "More likely coarse and guttural one syllable Anglo - Saxon." That's fucking crazy. Spittin' that out. That's a great line, and it's sunny at the same time.
MW: Oh, that's My Heart And The Real World. That's what I was getting at from the Joyce, like I said, moving through styles, through the journey, through the time of the day, through the whole thing. Even the developments of organs in the body - he sent out a scheme to a friend in the 20's and laid it all out. Of course, he's paralleling Homer, too. The Odyssey.
The idea of language being cathartic itself - just like the fuckin' Freemason stuff, incantations of the Pope speaking Latin. Magic words, you know? There's something neat about words. They have this heavy weight about them, and getting people who are full of shit - to con people. I'm not talking about con - there's a liberating thing, a magic in them. They're weird inventions. Just by saying the sounds. But then, you know, there's things that don't have words attached to them. So what? That's the way it is. You're born, you die. Tough. There's contradictions. Paradox. Some infinities are bigger than others. That's just the way it is. I'm trying to take something really concrete and...bleak, something bleak, like Eraserhead , you know that movie? He's looking at little lint in the radiator, whatever that is, moss, abortions. Like the most smooth, round sphere, you get close enough, you can see all the fuckin' pits in it. Language is like that.
I used...Cars. They're Boston, right?
MW: I used that (sings bassline). Fuckin' wind - up toy shit. I was obviously being a little aggressive. I was crammin' in there, I had D. Boon - again, that was one I was going to sing, but I couldn't do it, even with that fuckin' easy bassline - it was just the fingers I had to get a hang on. Five years ago J. asked me to play with a pick for The Fog, and that was hard as hell. Hadn't done it in seventeen years.
MTF: The song itself is pretty upbeat, pretty poppy.
MW: Yeah, like the Jam. I told George to play drums like the first album of The Jam. (sings 'In the City'). It's a little bit of a mock, in a way, but the words, I'm trying to talk about something very bleak, a little bit. But how dare you get so carried away with youself, with declaring things so bleak, see? In a way, it's an indictment on that, on myself a little bit. Words serve as an example, kinda. I don't know why I felt a need for that, but again, I was looking at the big picture, all these chapters of the book, in some ways they are supposed to be intrinsic to themselves, by this time in the band we're away from the one big thing, so they are supposed to be in these little lives unto themselves. Huskers got the concept first, and they fitted it all in, you know? I was trying to. It's more like on tour - on tour the tour is the beat, so all the journey, all the, uh - spacewalk, excursions. Those are them, the dealy - o's.
MTF: Politics of Time.
MW: It's about the band. That's where I say we jam econo.
MTF: You guys make references to yourself, or somebody, as Hitlers in there.
MW: I wrote it, it's all about the band. We're time Nazis. Like this song is going to be this long. Not like songs need to be as long as they are - no they ain't! Make it this long. Putting our flip - flop jackboot down. It's going to be this long! It's going to have this many words! Watches clocks! You know, in some ways, we were pretty hard - nosed about that. I don't know, it's just focus. We were very definite about it. D. Boon said no matter what style we're playing, I want 'em to know it's Minutemen. I thought maybe that was one of the ways. I don't know, but that's the one song on the record that I was writing about the band. The politics of time - we made time a political issue. This is how the power's going to be distributed in this band, put the clocks on us. Complicated basslines. It's like Chaplin, dictator of the world, that movie where he talked. Like that.
MTF: After that is Themselves.
MW: D. Boon. Always reminded me of a whaling song. It's a waltz, in three. 1 - 2 - 3, 1 - 2 - 3. Didn't do a lot of waltzes. In fact, there's not a lot of waltzes in punk. But totally dirgey. D. Boon did a version of it on Feeble Efforts....he beat on a machine with a wrench, no guitar. "All these men who work the land..." Yeah. That's the D. Boon song from the get - go. His chords, his words, his vision. Me and Georgie come in to aid and abet the big vision. It's a good song. It's a sad song. And all the men who came to hate them. You push people. Me and D. Boon's favorite movie as a boy was "The Sand Pebbles." Great book, Richard McKenna, only book he wrote. Gotta read it.
Man, the movie's good, too, but the book's even better. The movie's got Steve McQueen, '66, it's kinda got Vietnam sentiments, but it's really talking about humanity. The guy wants to blow off - he don't want to settle for bullshit, but there's a lot of bullshit. There's a lot of bullshit, lot of corruption in that situation.
MTF: I just got through a big phase where I saw as many Steve McQueen films as I could.
MW: So did you see "The Sand Pebbles?"
MTF: I haven't seen that one.
MW: It was one of those that was like two nights - in the old days it was Tuesday and Thursday nights.
MTF: Gotta write that one down.
MW: Yeah. "The Sand Pebbles." Richard McKenna. Is he a whole man, or is he a man with a hole? He ends up on the lam. Everyone's talking the talk, but he walks it. He's the one called the Jonah. Bringers of bad luck.
MTF: After that is Please Don't Be Gentle With Me.
MW: That's Jack Brewer's cousin, Joe Brewer. That's the outsourced lyrics. I made them listen to it, he had a bassline, funky bassline kinda like 'Partying Will Help' before it, snappin'. Georgie snappin' the snare. I thought it would be so funny for D. Boon to write lyrics about please don't be gentle with me. You know, just the idea of a rock n' roller, then D. Boon, singing something like that felt hilarious, in a way. People might think about - we wanted to pass on the same thing that happened to us. What are the words about? Maybe people heard this - "what's it about?" "I don't know - just picture it." That's what that was. That was a provocation. When Joe wrote it, I don't know what he wrote it about or anything, Joe Brewer. He's romantic. D. Boon, just like 'big fucking shit,' although you'd probably be more inclined to hear him say that that 'please don't be gentle with me'. (laughs)
MTF: Nothing Indeed is one of those songs I was talking about -
MTF: I can plug in my own situation even though it's specific to something else - it's open ended enough.
MW: We didn't do many shuffles. I got the lick, kinda, from Birthday Party. Tracy Pew (?), the bass player. He's dead now. Yeah, we liked them. I know it doesn't sound that close to it, but it's kinda the Minutemen riffing on the blues, the blues shuffle. It musta been fun for Georgie to play on the drums. He did write the words - I don't really know what it was about. I think we asked him, but he had no answer. "I don't know, I just write 'em." D. Boon has this knack of putting the diction. It's so trippy, he could make 'em. Very generous name, didn't put a lot of pretense. "Okay, this is what we have to sing? Okay, I'm going to sing my fuckin' heart out." The bottom line, whatever the particulars involved, is that it's about our band, it's about us playing for you. So I'm going to sing my fuckin' heart out even though it's about nothing indeed. Nothing? Indeed nothing! Yes, nothing! Indeed! Like Dickens or something, something from England. But I was having fun with motifs. Again, I was looking at the landscape, the big picture and said there's room for a blues shuffle. We barely hang on to the groove - it's hard for the Minutemen to hold onto a groove.
MTF: After that is No Exchange.
MW: Oh, yeah. That's kinda symphonic. I was usin' dynamic almost like cellos and strings. And Georgie, like symphony. Again, D. Boon singin' his heart out about Georgie words that are pretty...obtuse. "No cash and no exchange." Couldn't really tell you what it's about except, again, it's the Minutemen playing for you and here's one from the drummer! He channels eternities and goes into punk. It is, it's almost like that, it's really passionate, but the musicwise, I wanted to get symphonic for a minute and a half. We used to like to play that one live a lot. It had a weird tension it would build.
MTF: It has that little false ending in there where it tapers off.
MW: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Kinda leaving the rock and roll. And even Wire - I remember the second Wire album sounded so different from the first. That song Mercy, I think that's what I thinking of. We didn't do a lot of that, so that might've had something on us. God, Wire and Pop Group had so much influence on us as punk rockers. Of course, Creedence. Whenever I hear D. Boon's guitar I'm always thinking about Dharma. I mean, he would tell you that, too. Loved that. Weird, stuff that forms you. But that one, maybe a little Wire. The second album.
MTF: 154? Is that what it was?
MW: No, Chairs Missing. 154 is the third one. Those are the three I like - I don't like 'em after that. The third one has more synthesizers.
MTF: There Ain't Shit On TV Tonight.
MW: There Ain't Shit On TV Tonight. I called that, I titled that one, too. Like I said, Georgie's didn't have titles because I didn't know what the fuck it was about. "There ain't shit on TV!" You know how people say that but still watch TV? It was that kind of ennui. Ennui - use a word that isn't used in Pedro much. It's a real gentle one, almost like a bossanova - again, we're having fun with forms. You know? D. Boon plays pretty mellow, not so trebly, and maybe it was an introspective one for Georgie. The way we deliver it, it totally is - maybe it's a retreat song. It gave itself a good dynamic to the set. "Whoa, are these guys playing this?" and then they didn't last too long, so it didn't bring people down - it was just a weird segue for them. We had a sense - we were big enough to see outside ourselves and look down at the thing, and it wanted the gig to be a journey. Wanted the album to be a journey, although I told you how we picked the order - isn't it weird? It musta been a personification of the sense that we had of the band as individuals without coming together as a committee. "Okay, Georgie, pick that one." "No, I'm going to pick this one now." It's weird how it came to make these textures. Of course, it's so funny how he picks almost all the songs he writes for his side. But I also think they were fun songs to play on the drums, too. Although it seemed like Georgie had fun playing all of 'em. He threw himself into them so much, like I'm not gonna do just de rigeur - I'm going to make each one of these its own little baby, its own identity. That one he has these good tom moves. In fact, D. Boon don't even take a solo at the end, just play it out. Restrained - uncharacteristic restraint shown by the Minutemen! There ain't shit on T.V.
MTF: I just heard a podcast of you guys playing that the night you opened for Public Image. I just found that online the other day.
MW: Yeah, I remember that gig. Sacramento, San Fransisco? With played with them twice.
MTF: It was December 1st, '84. Don't know if that helps.
MW: I remember Johnny Rotten......one of 'em we played in Sacramento and had to go play in San Fransisco, not with them, but with another band. They were amazed at how quick we set up. So they asked us to go on a tour. But when we played with them in San Fransisco I remember looking over at Johnny Rotten and we're in the second or third song and he's like this (points to wrist). We didn't have long songs, he's going like this. I'm like 'motherfucker!' I laughed. Big, golden PiL ring on. Oh yeah, we're a whole four minutes into the gig here! Really nice guy on drums, Martin Atkins. I remember after the PiL gig, the Sacramento gig, hurry up, get off, and then we found their chow table or something, D. Boon eating, the dudes found out and got all mad, we're running out!
MTF: This Ain't No Picnic is after that.
MW: You know that one! I know the story behind this one. D. Boon was working the parts department at a auto thing, his boss, he was listening to the soul station, KAEY (?). Racist boss said "I don't want to hear that nigger shit." That's how he was. You don't hear any references to it, but that's This Ain't No Picnic. Motherfuckers! Putting their bootheels on your throat. That's where the song came from. Can't hear soul music. At work. We made our first video. A flyer. This new telephone pole is up, called MTV. Four hundred forty dollars. Guy Anthony Johnson made it, UCLA guy, pretty funny. We used training film where you can't tell Japanese from U.S. airplanes in the second war. Public domain.
MTF: Then there was a video for King Of The Hill, as well.
MW: He made that one, too. Project Mersh. I think that one cost two thousand. Not as good, not half as good. And there was a great one after that made by John Fratelli - Jones (?) of the Urinals. Urinals was a huge band to us, very inspirational, we used to cover Ack Ack Ack. And, uh, he made this one where actually the beginning and the ending were longer that the fuckin' song. We're sent in to clean this record executive's office, and of course, Three Stooges style, we destroy it. That was great. That'll be in We Jam Econo. The DVD's will be twice as long. It's coming out in the spring. Have you seen the movie?
MTF: Yeah. I met the filmmaker in Coolidge Corner in Boston. I'm glad I got to see it on the big screen.
MW: I haven't really seen it all - it's too heavy for me. I've read reviews that say 'why doesn't this film tell you why you should like this band?' I'm glad it didn't. Fuck that! You shouldn't have to like the Minutemen! We never set out to do that! There's two reasons: I don't want people to forget D. Boon. I already told you that. The second one is like, if people saw three corndogs like us do it, it's just bands, it's painting, writing, the whole deal. Empowerment! It happened to us by other dudes, we're just trying to hand down the same thing. The story of the Minutemen, you could see, get with your buddy or do it on your own, you just go for it. People think we're the best band? We never set out to do that, we never tried to put ourselves above other people, never tried to tell people why you should like us, and I'm glad Tim and Keith didn't do that. When those people that talk about us, I wanted them there because they were there, in the moment, and if they can't give you reasons why you should like this, it's okay. It's totally okay. They're just doing personal reflection anyway. No fuckin' agenda.
MTF: My favorite bit was Ian talking about how George played.
MW: Or Joe Baiza demonstrating D. Boon technique! So, see, those are personal impressions of Minutemen. We had buddies and made impressions on them. Are they universals? If you decide so, okay! But you shouldn't be beat over the head. I didn't want it to be didactic. Could we have talked about the lyrics more? What about just having us playinglike we do? I think that's good enough. You can make sense of it if you want. I'm giving you insights here because you're a man who's going to write a book of this record and I'm just a source. I was there, I helped do it, but I'm not the definitive fuckin' dealy - o. History. Joyce said history's a nightmare we try and wake up from. I try and wake up from. You know, impressionistic painting, they got accused of using the wrong colors. Why's that lady's painting all purple and yellow? Well, that's the way he feels, you know? Not quantitative - empirical. I think Tim and Keith did okay. I should watch the whole thing. It's just so heavy on me. I mean, it's been hard for me to look at the Minutemen period over the years because I always think of D. Boon. (silence.) Damn. What's after that?
MTF: Spillage is after that. It's a pot smoking song, I think.
MW: Spillage! Yeah, mota. Yeah, it probably is about something like that in a way. In another way, I was just thinking of the Descendents. They had songs like Myage, Tonyage....
MW: Coolidge, yeah! Spillage!
MW: It was my take on that, and I wanted to have Georgie have fun with the flam thing. The one with kick drum and the flam. So there's fun with motifs and musical forms on that one. Obviously, you think that....when you're overtly trying to talk about feelings, it's kinda corny, no matter how you dress it up. It's kinda corny. Trying to sing about that a little bit. They're all feelings, but look at that song, Feelings. It's a little bit of satire, yeah, maybe some mota. I wouldn't wanna call it a throwaway tune, but I wouldn't want to have my whole life defined by it.
MTF: It was what it was.
MW: Glad that the Minutemen did it, because it's part of the canon. It had to be written and stuff. It's ain't no Mike Jackson.
MTF: We were talking about Untitled Song For Latin America before, and it's pretty obvious, but the whole thing with Cheney and Haliburton and colonialism - it's the same themes.
MW: Domino theory in Central America. D. Boon was a member of CISPES.
MW: Yeah, Committee In Solidarity with People in El Salvador. I went to a couple of meetings and I asked the dude 'Where do they get the guns?' That was kinda strange. But I really agree with the sentiments. "Where'd they get the gus? Who's giving it to 'em? Is it China? Is it Russia?" I didn't have to be convinced, the Contras, that shit, was illegal and disgusting, okay, so I didn't have to be convinced of that, but I had other kinds of questions. It wasn't like I was the brave guy to ask 'em, I was just blurting out what was on my mind. Discuss everything! Ha! I'm not trying to belittle D. Boon's song or anything. Beautiful song. Always went shoulder to shoulder with D. Boon. When he did the painting for 3 Way Tie, my head on the plaque is 'anti - war sympathizer.' D. Boon is 'singer/activist'. George is 'dude local'. That was actually my idea, the heads on the wall. Once we were talking about, you know, and we put on the other side of Cracks In The Sidewalk, 'We're All Equal Now' on our gravestones. 3 - Way Tie For Last, we're all equal. Wasn't supposed to be D. Boon getting killed, I would have never even thought of that. Music's very dynamic. D. Boon played so intense. Live, too. Georgie. (sings riff) I liked it even though no one picked it, it's chaff. Played that a lot of gigs.
MTF: Jesus And Tequilla is after that.
MW: Yeah, that's one Carducci wrote. I was trying to write - musically, D. Boon showed me that song, and I thought, right away, Crazy Horse, Neil Young. Maybe a little more notes than he'd play, but something with that kind of feel. That's what I was thinking of. I just played it for the first time in 20 years with Calexico. Joey had me come and play that song with them. It was weird - I had hadn't played it in so long. How's this one go? But kind of a blues song. Not a shuffle, either. The way D. Boon sings it is like Muddy Waters. That's Caurducci. I wonder if he's workin' a form, in a way. Carducci's a strange guy. You ever read 'Rock And The Pop Narcotic'?
MTF: Yeah, I read that.
MW: I don't know what other people think of it, but when I read it I can see Carducci's lips moving, it's so much him. It's bizarre in theories - Black Flag is too heterosexual, the best band ever's Steppenwolf, Black Sabbath.
MTF: Every fifth page I'm like "this guy's a jerk" but then I'm like "why do I think that?"
(Dude with Swedish accent comes and talks to Watt for like ten minutes. Watt talks about how 'Contemplating The Engine Room' is about his bike route, the Minutemen and "Ulysses." "I got the beard in a bag in the freezer.")
MW: I don't remember where we were.
MTF: We were talking about -
MW: Jesus And Tequilla! Carducci. Yeah. June 16th, I told you about that one, "Ulysses" reference. But an instrumental. Funny thing about pelicans , they only have a song as bait. Quiet birds. Like my latest opera, the sickness one, I ended with 'Pelican Man'. 'Cuz that's what I got from - that was another book I re - read. I've been re - reading a lot of books, because obviously the words stay the same and I change. When I was younger I was trying to get ahold of the structure and where's this going and stuff, but I re - read 'em, when I'm older, I can actually read between the lines and hear the author's voice. You'd think they'd be all words! So I wanted to do that. But I was also thinking of the Urinals. They were such a fuckin' elegant band! Like Ack Ack Ack, it's only one chord, then the big change comes and it's only a half - step away! So econo! Much more econo! So I was kinda thinkin' about that. And D. Boon, beautiful lead guitar - just enough notes! So econo! Beautiful! And again, I only played it for him once.
MW: Oh yeah! You don't know, it was the easiest thing teachin' D. Boon a song. I grew up with him. I just play it. He'd fuckin' play right into it like osmosis, just soak right into it. Is it the only instrumental? Is there another one? Love Dance. There's two of 'em. Love Dance we end with. It was a really key song, after all those words, something about the instrumentals really appealed to us. In our sets we would do lttle jams sometimes, tiny little things like a minute long, freeform. Just as a release or just to reassert some kind of humility. Everything doesn't have an answer, everything can't be explained, everything can't even be put in the right question. You just gotta ponder, like in that way, way beyond state. Like the way before. You know, music's a link with the way before, before the verbal. I think that's why it's so popular with us, because it links us and then it's very obvious, with someone like John Coltrane, you know, there's a link. We found joy, we found meaning before we found language. Music was probably one of these ways, and that's why it's still with us and we hold it up as sacred. And also, it's Raymond's birthday.
MTF: We talked a little bit about Storm In My House, the Henry song.
MW: Henry. D. Boon and Henry were working on building Raymond's - and Greg's - pop's house that Regis Ginn was building. He passed away last February, very sad. Heart attack. He was such a great guy. He was building this house, and he had Henry and D. Boon working together. And I think that's whn D. Boon asked him, and Henry wrote that song. I like it. I like it - it reminds me of, in some ways, of Two Beads At The End musicwise, but the words, even though they're Henry words, the way we make 'em gives Henry a different perspective, I think. I think we could have made a good team - he coulda probably written us a lot of good words because it put a spin on 'em people weren't aware of. Probably why he's so successful with the spoken word, you know people didn't - My War! Great song, you know. So he helped us out there in a strange way, because it gives the record a new facet, a new shape, but it helps him, too, because it helps people see, because Henry has a lot of dimensions to him. And D. Boon was sensitive like that where he could pick up on people.
Yeah I tell you, the old days was a lot about people. Minutemen were very connected with their friends. He (Swedish guy) was talking about the opera, there's a song on there called Topsiders. What I'm talking about is like there are scenes on the boat, but we're each in our own rooms, you know? The guys you play with, they're in your department, but we're all on the same boat. At the end of "The Sand Pebbles," that's how he saves them all, he calls all their names, makes the revolutionaries think he's got a big gang of guys with him. All these guys, he's calling them the Johnnies, saying their names. Saves their lives. Same way, I know in a lot of music they do shoutouts to people. It's important. It gives Double Nickels a lot of strength, too. Like a flannel. It's in all the threads. Yeah! No 'I Love Lucy' re - runs.
MTF: Is Martin's Story about Martin Tambourovich?
MW: It's Martin's story because Martin gave me the words.
MTF: There we go.
MW: Sort of like a Dirk thing. (sings bassline) Takes time, I guess it sounds like how to bake a cake. (sings bassline) It's kinda classical, sorta like the bridge on Retreat. "What you makin', man?" Martin lived - we lived together in this apartment building we called the ManBoat, had all these old retired sailors. And one plug. Each apartment had only one plug, everything had to go through the one because it was built before electricity, when they put it in they just put in one each.
(Watt goes inside to pee, Shelly calls. "Shelly, I'm interviewing Mike Watt - can I call you back?")
MW: New Alliance was actually three partners.
MTF: It was you two, and.....
MW: Martin Tabourovich.
MTF: No shit!
MW: Yeah. Martin's....
(John LeBlanc calls to check on the ride situation.)
MW: Last year, flesh - eating bacteria got him, killed him in four days.
MTF: Flesh eating bacteria?
MW: Yeah. Necrotizing fasciitis, bullshit. He was living up in San Fransisco. Very sad. Maybe two years ago. Martin was great. So yeah, Martin's Story, the song, I think he wrote it for us, about us, all the work we did. It was kinda said because, you know, the Reactionaries, is the Minutemen with him. We were such a different band, just starting. I love Martin. Yeah, he was born and raised in Pedro. He's the only one. Georgie's Brockton, Mass.
MTF: He's from Brockton?
MW: Yeah. D. Boon, Napa, and myself, Portsmouth, Virginia.
MTF: Where does George live now?
MW: Here. Twenty-first and Cabrillo. He does construction. He doesn't do much music. I recorded with him a few months ago, with Joe Baiza, an improvisation thing, David Thomas. Martin was the only truly actual Pedro guy.
MTF: After that is......you've got your Van Halen cover and you've got your Steely Dan cover.
MW: We had been doing that a little bit, Van Halen.
MTF: It's on one of the other records, too.
MW: Tour Speil. Yeah, uh, we had a lot of fun doing that. A lot of people think we're mocking. It's not like that. I remember I was at Pink's once, a hot dog stand in Hollywood, and David Lee Roth was there. Merrill Ward was with him, an SST guy. "Hey, this is Mike Watt. You know, they do your song." I remember the back of his jacket, he had this jean jacket and on the back had some lady. He's like "yeah, hey." He wasn't mean or anything. I think that day he was hanging out at Zero One gallery, it was kind of a public art gallery, I don't know. We were having just as much fun with ourselves as with them because that song - there's a video to it! The same day we shot King Of The Hill we had to play that night - - Circle Jerks and Fear at the Olympic Auditorium. We did the song three times in a row. It'll be on the DVD. Hey hey hey! Solarized, all those weird colors.
MTF: I like how on Dr. Wu how you guys - you're speaking and D. Boon is singing.
MW: They're both me. Yeah, I don't know. That was another goof. Georgie was really into Steely Dan, we had to hear them out on tour. We had these cassettes with like two of their albums on cassette, so we musta heard 'em each five thousand times. What were their words about? Drugs? I don't know. We thought they were all about drugs. We're goofing on it almost as much as the Van Halen, although the Van Halen one actually - D.Boon did it with conviction. I don't know whose idea it was to have the two voices. We never really did that one live, just for the record. I remember I brought it to the band kinda for Georgie 'cuz I know he loved the Dan, just loved the Dan. So I don't think it goes any deeper than that.
MTF: Little Man With A Gun In His Hand we talked about a little bit.
MW: Yeah, terrible version. Much better on Buzz or Howl.
MTF: Is that why it got taken off the CD? You felt like it was better?
MW: Yeah, it should never have been on this one. We thought we could do it better because we had an ending for it - we didn't have an ending for it before. We just played it so lame. It was written during that tour with Flag in Europe - - Chuck Dukowski and D. Boon. And I think D. Boon said that Dukowski wrote it about Mugger. Mugger was the roadie.
MTF: He was in the Nig Heist.
MW: Yeah. Beautiful guy. Teacher, now.
MTF: Mugger's a teacher?
MW: Yep, he went and got his degree. This is a guy that ran away from home when he was 16.
MTF: Sort of as research I've been going back and buying all the back issues of Forced Exposure. I just got one, the Minutemen are in it, and the Nig Heist are in it. The Birthday Party is on the cover. I was reading that the other day.
MW: Byron Coley.
MTF: I've been trying to get in touch with that guy.
MW: I can give you his email. He's a great guy. Lives near Thurston in Western Mass, Amherst.
I don't know much more about what it's about, especially where the singing is, it's kinda like Urinals. Then it went into this jam that was kinda different for us. Once we got to do it with Charlie Haden, the bass player.
MTF: The Petra Haden record is crazy!
MW: I asked her to do that because me and D. Boon loved that album. She didn't even know what it was. I gave her the eight track, and I put it all on one track and said 'fill the other seven with you'.
That was a neat song to do, especially live. Kinda long for us, we had this big thing in the middle. For me, as obtuse as it was, it really had a direct feeling on people. You know, the could pull together and sing along, this sentiment. Obviously, it probably touches on a lot of people's feelings on what violence is. Or what something is. You know, even in "Ulysses," that whole trial scene. I heard Camille Paglia once talk about fragility of the male ego. That's what I think about.
MTF: World According To Nouns we talked about.
MW: Yeah, we kinda talked about that. I tried to make it kinda symphonic, in a way, I'm trying to make it like a scene in a movie, like a battlefield. We had a song in the early days of the Minutemen called...I can't remember what the title is.....it's about a soldier on a battlefield. I was trying to do the same thing there, but all on words! That's the way all these things get started. When I was a boy, there were so many war movies on TV. God! They were marketing so much towards that generation, the war. I was totally trying to make a battlefield scene.
MTF: It talks about words serving the truth, so we got all the semantic stuff you were talking about, but then it refers back to New Wave.
MW: Same thing. Same kinda theme. The other one is more like mantra, Eastern and this thing is kinda battlefield theme. Maybe that's why it wasn't picked, because it's almost repeating itself. That had a lot of power. We did it a lot live, it had a lot of dynamic, live. We were learning that more. I liked that. I always thought of our songs as little movies, in certain ways. You know? When you write a song, you write a little script. It's not just dialogue or musical parts, it's where the lights are going to shine, and yellow turns to blue. I always saw it like that, cinematic. Little vignettes.
MTF: Love Dance is the last one.
MW: Wrote it in Ian's basement. It's a happy song - D. Boon gets to wail on his guitar, Georgie's drumming it up. We thought it was a metaphor for infinity. For one thing, Minutemen songs did not fade out. That was really weird. They're all designed for live play - you can't fade out live. That's the big joke with Project Mersh, because we have all these fadeouts. But you can do it there, and we make it like infinity - supposed to be like infinity. There's only one part, but the chord just changes the key. But it's the same part, really. There's one song on Buzz Or Howl, the Product, it is all one part. I play the same thing, exact same thing, through the whole song. Georgie and D. Boon dance around it. It's kind of a Birthday Party thing. But that's what Love Dance was supposed to be - supposed to be infinity. Like Bloom and Molly sleeping in bed head to tail, like yin and yang. So I made sure it was last. No one picked it anyway.