Mike Watt: On and Off Bass

Mike Watt: On and Off Bass

Mike Watt: On and Off Bass

by Mike Watt

Three Rooms Press

Bass legend Mike Watt has been pushing artistic boundaries for over 30 years. Co-founder of the genre-confounding punk bands Minutemen and fIREHOSE, and member of dozens of other bands throughout the years, including a stint in The Stooges, Watt is constantly producing works of soul and spirit, always trying to push his music further.

Along with all that, he somehow has the time to update his webpage, appear as an interview subject in just about every music documentary ever filmed, and write a few books. His latest book, Mike Watt: On and Off Bass, showcases another of Watt’s means of artistic expression, photography.

Watt has been taking photographs since high school, “longer than some young folks have been alive,” when he took an elective class in photography. The expense and bother of developing film kept it from being anything more than an occasional hobby until he received a digital camera in the ’90s. The ease and economy of the new technology inspired Watt to take up photography again. This was also around the time he started biking around his hometown of San Pedro.

“When I was 38 a cat was moving to Atlanta so I bought a 10-speed bike off him for five bucks,” Watt said. “I started riding around Pedro early in the morning and I’d see a lot of stuff I never noticed, just driving around. I called ’em eye gifts, you know? You don’t set these up, you just capture them.”

Soon Watt was taking photographs from the road, and started carrying a waterproof camera on his kayak rides in the San Pedro Harbor when he was home, as well as taking photographs on his bike rides. Because the harbor faces east, he managed to take some rather spectacular sunrise shots.

These photos were compiled, along with selections from Watt’s hoot page, into a gallery exhibit, which led to the publication of Mike Watt: On and Off Bass. Pedro is a working harbor, so many of the shots reflect the contrast between modern, man-made industry and the natural world. These photos seem reflective, yet searching, while others displaying the harbor wildlife are more playful. While wildlife and machinery abound, there is only one shot displaying a person. The overall effect is a reflection of an early morning solitary walk, and the focus on one area makes the viewer appreciate the small “eye gifts” that abound everywhere, in every community or area, if we only take the time to observe.

“People asked me ‘can we do this,'” Watt said. “I had thousands of pictures… from going around on my bike and kayak. I thought it might be too precious, too self-important (to display them), but it really made me feel grateful. They took 65 and picked some spiels and poems to go with them. I think it worked really well, especially since the choice came from outside me. I think it really reflects my parts.”

Watt’s spiels, ranging from thoughts on tour, to his constant searching to connect through music, to his lying on John Coltrane’s grave seeking for a sort of communion to poetry, complement the photographs, again bringing out his willingness to push boundaries throughout his art.

“The next years for Watt are all about just trying to stay busy,” Watt said. While it is hard to see how he can cram anything else into his intense schedule, works like Mike Watt: On and Off Bass show how much we need artists like him: humble, down to earth, yet insanely gifted, and always trying to expand and learn and share the results of his findings with others.

Mike Watt: hootpage.comthreeroomspress.com

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Recently on Ink 19...

  • Bully
    Bully

    Bully greets Orlando with apathy and anger toward one of its theme parks. Jen Cray smiles and thinks, “Man, this band would have fit in well in the nineties!”

  • Luther Dickinson
    Luther Dickinson

    Blues & Ballads: A Folksinger’s Songbook: Volumes I & II (New West Records). Review by James Mann.

  • Conway
    Conway

    Big Talk EP (Self-Released). Review by Jen Cray.

  • Freakwater
    Freakwater

    Scheherazade (Bloodshot Records). Review by James Mann.

  • The Haymarket Squares
    The Haymarket Squares

    Light It Up. Review by Carl F Gauze.

  • Ani DiFranco
    Ani DiFranco

    Years pass, and so do our legends, but one constant remains: there are always artists living and breathing that are worth your time and attention. Ani DiFranco is a major one, according to Jen Cray and a whole legion of fans.

  • Javier Escovedo
    Javier Escovedo

    Kicked Out Of Eden (Saustex Media). Review by James Mann.

  • Eszter Balint
    Eszter Balint

    Airless Midnight (Red Herring). Review by Bob Pomeroy.

  • Arthur Lee and Love
    Arthur Lee and Love

    Real to Reel (High Moon Records). Review by Al Pergande.

  • The Rentiers
    The Rentiers

    Here is a List of Things That Exist EP / Black Metal Yoga 7″ (Square of Opposition Records/Death to False Hope Records). Review by Jen Cray.

From the Archives