Mike Watt on Life, Death and Art

16 05 2012
Mike Watt – The man in the van with a bass in his hand.  For quite awhile now, Watt has been a lighthouse in the midst of my creative ocean – not steering me to the safety of the shore, but steering me away from it to untapped regions of the unknown where beautiful things can be born if you are brave enough to plant and water the seeds.  I’ve spoken about him in other posts so I won’t beat the same old stories to death here.  Suffice to say, he’s one very creative individual who has a beautiful mind and I’ve considered myself extremely fortunate to be able to interact with him now and again.  The world would benefit from more Mike Watts…I’ll leave it at that and move on to this recent interview with him:
Pic I took from the most recent missingmen 3rd opera tour in Philly
JS: Back in September I came down with a serious infection that took me about 5 months to fight off.  It changed my outlook on a lot of things and really spurred  me to make some long overdue lifestyle changes.  You had your own experience with a seriousness illness back in 2000.  Can you talk a little about that and how that experience spurred change in you?
WATT:  yes, the experience twelve years ago with that illness provided both the inspiration for my second opera and helped make me even more earnest to make as much work as I can with the time I’ve got left.  it was very profound feelings of mortality that shook me to my core. I was only fortytwo and still had so much more I wanted to do.  it was intense for me, big time.
JS:  I’ve come to realize from being sick that I’ve been terrified of pain all of my life and will go to great lengths to avoid it.  What do you think pain teaches us?
WATT:  I was born with bad knees and had much much pain there, surgeries in my twenties.  I think it even helped make me feel more paranoid, waiting for the next “incident” hell and shit like that.  pain can mold us into trippy shapes if we let it dominate us.  it is a tough struggle but seems like a part of the journey.   damn.   probably being born without pain is a challenge also, believe or not.   life is not easy but can be interesting if you put your heart into it.   the physical hells are struggles though, that’s for sure.
JS: We all have our own insecurities and fears.  I often am afraid of opening myself up to strangers in such a public way (as I’ve been doing on this website).  When you have pushed through your own fears in the past what have you found waiting for you on the other side?
WATT:  I got into music to be with my buddy d. boon and he definitely was not so fearful.  this helped me much and I borrowed from him on this, he inspired me to try and be brave but not conceited – he was like that: a very humble man who would try his hardest with expression.  I find when I push some fears away, there’s others waiting so the “fear problem” is never “solved” but rather constantly wrestled.  that’s a trip.
JS:  One of my favorite lyrics from your third opera “hyphenated-man” comes from the song  pinned-to-the-table-man.  “Loss and liberation, forever the connection, forever the question”.  There is so much in that one little sentence.  Can you expand upon the relationship between loss and liberation?  What is the connection and what is the question as you see it?
WATT:  I wrote that in saint petersburg (russia) way after all the other stuff.  in fact I recorded the spiel at my pedro pad when I got back cuz everything had done been done at tony maimone’s studio g in brooklyn already.  the problem was I was “ending” (I say that cuz in theory it’s supposed to be circular and unending) with the “man-shitting-man” part and I realized that folks might take that as the bottom line or some kind of summation/summary of the whole piece.  so what I did was the move the middle (hub) song to the end and instead of having one instrumental as originally planned, I wrote that spiel you refer to and put that part in the middle.  the spiel itself refers to middle years and the idea of reconciliation.  of course not everything can be reconciled and I had to acknowledge that w/a part like that “man-shitting-man” one but in other places, that can happen – even it can be very painful and be a tough lesson to learn.  man treating fellow man inhumanely can’t ever be reconciled in my thinking though, it is huge problem.
angels gate lightouse – April 22, 2008
 Mike Watt 

JS: I’ve really enjoyed your photography over the years.  Some of my favorites like the angels gate lighthouse pics can be found in your new book: mike watt  on and off bass (published by Three Rooms Press).   Have you found any intrinsic similarities between snapping pictures and making music?
WATT:  snapping pictures means trying to capture something you can’t really set up, the way I do it at the crack of dawn on the bicycle or in the kayak.  with composition, you’re more in charge of preparing the situation. there’s more chance involved I think with the pictures and more personal effort with the song stuff.  there are similarities with the idea of refining an expression in a way though, I agree with you there.
JS:  There are also excerpts from your tour diaries as well as some of your poetry in the book.  You have been exploring many different forms of art.  Is there a common thread or underlying drive that spurs you into these seemingly different artistic directions?
WATT:  laurie steelink at track 16 gallery picked the first thirtyfive shots, the three rooms people kat and peter picked the diary entries and the rest of the included images so I think in a way the book is a collaboration.  as for diary writing, I do that on tour to help keep focus and never reread them, so embarrassing to me! that’s the practical side to it.  I guess it is some sort of extension of some of the same stuff in the picture taking and bass plucking too.  I guess the common thread is fucking watt.
JS:  It sometimes appears that for many of us the act of “creating” is encoded into our DNA.  I don’t necessarily mean this in a religious way, but it just seems that we are wired to want to create.  Why do you think human beings find the act of creating, especially art, so important?
Watt:  john coltrane said something about musicians being after a truth and I’m thinking that could apply to the other arts as well.  it’s a search…

JS:  If your vast body of artistic work could only accomplish one thing, what would you want it to be?
Watt: to make folks feel safe to take risks with arts and expression in each of our journeys to find our inside voice and not just flop around in the very shallow pan of marsh, finding ourselves bound up in puppet strings.

~~~~~~~~~

Pic of Watt and me.  I’m over 400 pounds in this pic.  I never posted it before because I have always been ashamed at how out of whack I let my weight get around this time.  Now that I’ve lost some of this weight, it feels a little bit safer.

Mike’s book (it’s awesome, buy yourself a copy) can be purchased here: http://threeroomspress.com/

Mike’s music can be found at itunes, fine music purveyors everywhere and here at his new label: http://clenchedwrench.com/

Info on all things Mike can be found here: http://hootpage.com/

Watt’s podcast of interesting music and ideas here:  http://twfps.com/

(Thanks again Mike!)


Actions

Information

4 responses

20 05 2012
Dan

Great interview! You asked some great questions and in turn got great answers.

22 05 2012
johnnygee77

Thank you very much. It’s always fascinating to speak with Mike.

25 05 2012
Ivan

Nice work, man! Watt is such an inspiring person in every way; he is THE embodiment of punk rock to me. To this day I feel so fortunate to have been able to speak with him last year for a few minutes and witness him working the shit outta his SG bass onstage, right in front of me. Still the #1 gig I’ve ever attended in my young life.

26 05 2012
johnnygee77

Thanks for weighing in Ivan. Watt is an absolute classic. I’ve been very fortunate to watch him play over the years, photograph him, communicate with him and even have him play bass on one of my band’s tracks. He is rare breed and the world is in dire need of more of him….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




%d bloggers like this: