Friday, December 29, 2006

Mike Watt Spiel
If you can thread through the microscopic font size, Mike Watt's tour diaries make for great reading. Watt was the bassist for the Minutemen and firehose, and goddamn if "Jesus and Tequila" off Double Nickels on the Dime didn't change my life. He's since released several solo albums, none of which I've heard, and plays bass with Iggy and the Asheton brothers in the rejuvenated Stooges.

(Apparently Steve Albini has produced their new album, too, all of the above guaranteeing I'll give it a listen. Thank you, Bittorrent.)

Watts hammered out his own San Pedro, California-based punk-rock patois, which is charming and self-effacing. He doesn't have conversations, he spiels; he doesn't play the bass guitar, he "works the thud staff." His home page,, is also filled with daily journal entries from his various tours.

The headache-inducing microdot font size is abetted by the fact that the long entries are all crammed on the page in long, single paragraphs, but there's a realness to be found and treasured in his words. The Minutemen straddled the worlds of punk rock and hardcore, but were neither nihilistic like the former nor as strident as the latter, and after reading Watt's journals, you understand why. He is genuinely excited and interested in the world.

If you can find them, his descriptions of the Stooges live gigs are revelatory, beyond the fact that Iggy Pop still sounds like an absolute madman on stage. With the Stooges, Watt oscillates between two extremes: the first, more common, extreme has him fighting a self-conscious and anxiety-ridden battle to keep time with the band, keep his bass in tune, and stay on top of the sound equipment. The second extreme are those moments when the band locks into a thunderous groove, and Watt falls to his knees and bows his head in worship in front of his bass amp, the better to somatically absorb the thunder pouring forth. He writes of "disappearing" into and "taking off" with the music.

Sarvikalpa samadhi? Call it the yoga of the thud staff.