Monday, June 20, 2011
I turned 32 today. Not a real impressive age to become. Well, it's impressive to little kids, cause that's this many (flashes hands a bunch of times) and that means you're ancient. But in the grand scheme of things, 32 isn't really a land mark age. 30 has some significance because when you think back to when you were younger and you thought of 30, you thought, holy crap, that's damn old. And then you hit 30 and you take stock of things, your life, your hairline, your expanding waist, your bank account that constantly flirts with overdraft fees and you go "eh, it comes with the turf of your 30's" and you roll with the punches till the next mile marker age of significance, mine being 35.
To me though, it seems like you should take something from each year that passes. You know that reflectiveness that comes over people on New Years Eve when they're wearing hats made of paper and glasses spelling out the number of the approaching year (maybe not the attire for the deepest of thoughts). And you start thinking of the road behind you and the remaining portion ahead. And that's how I get on my birthday.
So what have I learned over the past year? Well, I learned that Nevada has a terrible health care system when my pregnant eye socket was put on the back burner via insurance companies. I learned the Pixies still have it, in all their quiet loud quiet glory. I learned that, try as you may, you will eventually no longer fit in size 32 pants and that the reason men's styles become more JC Penny/Home Depot and less Abercrombie and Fitch/American Eagle is heroin chic bodies don't normally belong in sweats and Dockers. So you adopt your father's fashion sensibilities not voluntarily per se, but out of necessity as that's all you can find in your super sized mature man pants size. I learned that eventually all the footwear you adored in your youth will fail you in terms of providing you the adequate support to carry you through your daily routine. Your Doc's and Chuck's will give way to Nike's and New Balance's. I learned that not all cops are pigs when a cop stopped traffic to let me cross in the crosswalk. I learned that it will take a mountain of some random oil barren's money to get the Afghan Whigs back together (per Greg Dulli).
But most importantly, I think the vital takeaway from 31-32 for me is the realization of the importance of the individual in the grand scheme of things. What choo talkin' bout Willis? Well, what I'm saying is don't discount the breadth of your presence in other people's lives. Know that you can impact other people's lives in positive ways and let that impact be your reward. So many people put the emphasis on the superficial be it money, booty....hmmm, there's a big drop off after those two things as it could be said that they both run the world. But you get what I'm saying, homes. You give just a little of yourself and that sliver balances out the depravity. It reminds you that mankind isn't a cancer. Sure mankind is responsible for a great deal of heinous things, like, you know, wars, state fair foods, country line dancing, stuff like that. But you start to realize that all people are redeemable and it makes your heart swell and your eyes well but it feels good because you know you're right and that this world is actually not that bad.
Has the Beard come across the Richard Simmons pills in the medicine cabinet and foolishly consumed the whole bottle? Not really. I just realized that I have a great deal of wonderful people in my life and what matters most in life. Nothing against booty and money, if either of them took offense, I apologize. Now get out there and do something meaningful and tell them the Beard sent you.
Your slightly older, not necessarily wiser friend, LMF
Sunday, June 19, 2011
It's Father's Day! If you're celebrating that means you got it together long enough to convince a woman that your stock is of top shelf quality and that all the other heathens pale in comparison to a man of your undeniable charisma. Your magnetic charm. And you, yes you sir, have been chosen to usher another human being into our crowded elevator world teetering on the brink of overpopulation. But you know what? You got clothes to remove, alcohol to drink quickly, and moody 80's records to trip the lights fantastic to first. And then, one ill-timed thrust later, yer a papa son. And that ain't so bad.
My Dad, Charlie, is a great Dad. A man's man who's only real flaw is his frugality or perhaps his blind acceptance of Wendy's dollar menu as an undeniable value. My Dad Charlie dabbles in staunch, Rosary heavy Catholicism, that leads him to routinely say things like "Fuck Satan" or "What can Satan do? Can Satan grow food? No!" I didn't know the words hypothetical, goateed nemesis ever even gave the notion of farming any thought what with war, cancer, premature ejaculation (yes, I blame the devil, it's just easier) all on the Dark Prince's eternally burning front burner.
Charlie has 10 children, which means he's all about the ladies and virile. Highly virile. When we lived in Northern Arizona, we had a house out in the country, with some acreage, and a farm. Charlie would raise and slaughter animals, one execution of which I got to witness. It was a random chicken I had no emotional attachment to outside of general sympathy for the soon to be headless fowl. As the ax was raised, I tried to initiate a stay of execution but my Dad said "this chicken's name is dinner" and chopped his head clean off. And you know, if you played the Benny Hill theme song while watching the decapitated chicken's body run around the yard, it'd be amusing in some strange way.
So big up's to the Father's of the world for, you know, chopping off chicken heads, staying the course, digging the heels in when the times get rough and the waters of life choppy, and ultimately for deciding that Jack Nicholson was right when he said that condoms are for those who dabble in deprivation.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
S: So Watt, how are you?
W: Well, I've been busy lately. I just was in Japan with the Stooges, and then I was in England with the Secondmen, my bass, organ, and drums trio. And for the first time I played the entire new album that will be out August 7th, it's called “The Secondman's Middle Stand.” And that was at the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival in England.
S: In the spring of 1996, I read a quote of yours in Rolling Stone that mentioned J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. being abducted by aliens. Do you remember that quote?
W: That's what he told me. He told me he had a mark on his leg too to show me, and that a light came down but he doesn’t remember a whole lot. But uh, he thinks he was abducted. He's a great guy, he's very serious too, and so I wouldn’t doubt him. He's a little shy too. He's going to come back out on the road; he's got a band with Dave Skools from Widespread Panic. I’m too busy for that now, but I was in the Fog for a couple of tours. It's very interesting playing with J. He's very loud.
S: You recently came thru Vegas with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who also dedicated "Blood Sugar Sex Magic" to you. Why can't those guys keep their pants on?
W: I go way back with those guys, you know their second gig was opening up for the Minutemen, but I think they just like getting wild.
S: You toured with both Eddie Vedder, and Dave Grohl on the 1995 Ball Hog tour, and they were in your backing band. Did you ever have to reach back and smack the ego out of anyone in that van?
W: That was a trippy tour for me, cause I rode by myself cause Ed was in Hovercraft and Dave was in the Foo Fighters, and so they would ride in their van. But it was cool. It was a trippy kind of situation, a little bit of hype because of celebrityitis, I guess. But that had nothing to do with those guys; it was just some people coming to the shows just to see them. But I never had to smack anyone.
S: You’ll be touring with Iggy and the Stooges through June. Is Iggy laying off the broken glass and peanut butter these days?
W: Yeah, I’m gonna play some some countries I’ve never played before like Greece, Serbia, and Portugal. Even though it’ll be my 52nd tour, there’s always new places to play. But Iggy isn’t cutting himself up, but he is doing stage dives and he’s 64 years old. That dude, man, he’s the bow of the boat. He is something else. Sings his heart out. He tells everybody you know, by the way he plays things, does his thing that yeah, time is gonna try and make you old but it doesn’t have to make your mind old. Yeah, he is incredible.
S: Are the Stooges doing U.S. dates?
W: Soon. Yeah, I mean you would dig it. It ain’t no fucking sleeper oldies act. And this is an intense band. And with the Stooges you go right to the source.
S: What are your thought’s on the nostalgia rock revival we’re seeing in music right now?
W: Well the Darkness is obviously having some fun. And you gotta understand when I was a kid they were pushing Happy Days and American Graffiti really hard. The idea of selling nostalgia is always gonna be around. But just because that’s going on now doesn’t mean it’s a new scam, or hype. It’s just a retread. And I guess the seventies are back far enough that you can be a little nostalgic, wear bellbottoms. A lot of it’s about fashion, and its funny about the word fashion. In the word fashion, the root word is fasha, which is face. And that’s about it. Its just surface. Shallow shit, you know? I think every era has things to teach people, but you got to kind of live in your own times too. So it’s a mixed bag like anything else. It’s always easier to try and reproduce the past though, then forge ahead and invent new stuff.
S: I caught one of your first shows after you were hospitalized for a burst abscess in the perineum, and I was amazed at the resilience of your playing skills. You also managed to shed a noticeable amount of weight as well.
W: Yeah, but I was weak. I definitely don’t recommend the program. That was a hell ride. That’s why I made an album out of it. It’s so intense. That’s what the new record is all about. But I thought the only real way to get back was to jump on the horse and ride. It was really strange. You know I started playing at thirteen, D.Boon and me, and had never really stopped until that sickness. You know I’m laying in bed with tubes and I couldn’t really play bass and when I went to play again I couldn’t do it. And it freaked me out big time. It really freaked me out. So what I started doing was playing Stooges songs, not a lot of chord changes, you know, it’s all about feel. And I couldn’t do scales. I couldn’t do rhythm. I couldn’t do anything. I was really atrophied. Lost all the muscles in my fingers. And so the Stooges actually helped me get better. I never imagined I’d be playing in the Stooges. I first heard them when I was sixteen and its weird how they came back in my life, and really helped me out. That music is timeless. I listen to Funhouse and can’t believe it was recorded in 1970.
S: I feel the same way about the first Clash record, I think it’s a classic.
W: Yeah, that’s the one I like, the green one.
S: The Minutemen never got the chance to tour with the Clash, did they?
W: No, I never toured with them. But I saw them play. D. Boon and me saw them play in Santa Monica with the Dills, and Bo Diddley. They were great. It was 1979. D. Boon and me grew up with arena rock, and what really tripped me out, I mean we were really close, that’s the great thing about punk gigs you know. You can get right up close, even at the Santa Monica Civic. And Joe Strummer’s eyes weren’t blood shot. It was the first rock and roller that I saw that didn’t have blood shot eyes. That was a trip. In fact, people were packed in so close I had to piss bad, and pissed right there between everybody’s legs, and no one could really look down. It was shoulder to shoulder, so I pissed right on the deck and no one noticed. But I was kinda drunk too.
S: It’s been said that some of your most notorious tours were in the early nineteen eighties where the Minutemen were paired up with Black Flag, who were being fronted by a then newly added Henry Rollins.
W: Oh yeah, the first time the Minutemen went to Europe and our first big U.S. tour was with Black Flag. Not only with them, but also in the van with them. All ten of us. So it was kind of cramped quarters, but a lot of fun. Wild adventures. It was Henry Rollins’ second tour with Black Flag. They were so good. Yeah, it was smoking. It was right when they were doing the “Slip It In” songs. Henry writes all about those days in the “Get In The Van” book. One time we were playing in Vienna, and the first note of the first song all the power goes out. And it comes right back on and I’m covered with used condoms. I had been hit in the face. And a couple of kids were throwing paper bags of shit and vomit up at us that would rip open when they hit the stage. It was pretty intense. But still, like I said it was an adventure. And for any hell there was, it was well worth it. Yeah, I was laughing. I couldn’t believe what they would throw, hanging on my bass, on my chest. It was gross.
S: I’ve read that you have an intense respect for skaters, and have integrated some of the spirituality of skateboarding into your own bass playing.
W: Well, I never got to skate. I had knee surgery in my early twenties. But skating really changed in the seventies. When I was a kid a lot of dudes had to ride these things sitting down, so you had to put so much weight, and lower the center of gravity, and stay on the sidewalk cause even the tinniest rock would flip you. But I have so much respect for skaters. In fact, when I’m playing my bass I’m pretending it’s a skateboard. I love the how when you’re riding a skateboard you don’t just stand there. You gotta put your whole body into it, and that’s what I try to do on the bass guitar. To me, skating is real individualistic expression. You know what I mean? It doesn’t take a lot of money. You can do it anywhere, on any part of the street. To me it’s so natural. So I look up to it. I’m inspired by it when I try to make music on the bass. Cause it’s all a human being and a machine. And some machines lend so much to the individual person. And I think the skateboard is one of them, and just as much as the bass guitar.
S: How did you go about assembling the roster of people on “Ball Hog or Tugboat”? The liner notes read like a who’s who of alternative music icons, with Eddie Vedder, Evan Dando, Flea, the Beasties, etc…. You should Ebay your Rolodex.
W: Well you know, a record you can do stuff like that. It’s hard to fit forty guys into a van, but in the studio what my plan was there was seventeen songs, so to have seventeen different bands. And it was a theory I had that if the bass player knew the songs then anyone could come in and play guitar, or sing, or play drums. So that’s what you had. A lot of those guys hadn’t even heard the song. They’d come in there, and then I’d show them the tune, go through it a few times, and then go to take. They’re all beautiful guys.
S: What’s the Watt view of the political climate right now?
W: It’s pretty creepy. But I think people in their gut can feel they’re being had. But you gotta remember the Minutemen were making music during Ronald Regan’s regime, so I'm kind of used to this. Things come in cycles. And any farmer would tell you if you want a good crop, use a lot of manure. So I say he’s piling it on.
S: So why aren’t you running for president this time around? You seem to be more in tune with the people, then our current commander in chief.
W: I’m probably better on bass; I mean we all got different gigs.
S: And finally, finish this Carpenter’s lyric: What the world needs now is…
W: More righteous tunes. But it also needs a little more humbleness and kindness towards each other, but that would probably come from some more interesting music. I don’t know how exactly it’s connected, but I think it would help. It worked for me. You know, like the Clash, some stuff just changes your life. Gives you different perspectives. But you see a lot of cats can’t choose cause they don’t know about all the choices. So when the choices get out there, then people can exercise their freedom a little more. It ain’t real freedom if you don’t know what’s out there.
S: Well Watt, it was great talking to you, thanks for the spiel.
W: Oh, much respect to you. You asked me some great things. Keep going. You know the knowing is in the doing.