Yeah, well, still...
Watt: Using someone like him for militant street cred... Maybe he should have put a dog collar on him. I dunno... I mean, using him to fight for the old days of punk? What would they ask him? "And how much do you make, young man?" I can just imagine him on the stand.
I like hearing about old punk rockers who are still doing their thing. That's why it was sad hearing about Jello and those guys, 'cause I think it's intense that people from the old days are still around. I'm gonna do a song for Keith Morris from the Circle Jerks, who's been very sick himself. [morris discovered recently he has diabetes and has been coping with a number of other health ailments, including appendicitis and colon problems. like most musicians, morris cannot afford decent health insurance--which is rarely, if ever, offered to even those musicians on labels. --ed.]
I thought what you were doing with the whole Punk Rock Karaoke thing was fantastic. Giving kids--who weren't even born when that stuff was coming out--a chance to get up onstage and belt those tunes out while being backed by their punk heroes.
Watt: Yeah, I liked the ideology behind that band. Some of the kids...you could tell it was the first time they'd ever been in front of people. I thought it was really good, even though they didn't sing any of my songs. But it was great watching them get up there.
photo by craig young
Punk for me has always been about that: people getting up there and just letting it go. It's weird how punk got turned into a commodity; one way of playing the guitar fast and stuff. It's just not freaky, it's just not insane anymore.
That's what I always thought was great about the Minutemen. Even while being in the midst of the punk scene, you still defied it by doing your own thing, your own interpretation of the form.
Watt: But Minutemen was part of a punk scene that was happening--that's why we were around. I don't know if we'd exist today. Me and D. Boon played before punk...and we were lame. Ha! We thought Blue Öyster Cult was the best band. We didn't write our own songs, just copied Blue Öyster Cult and T. Rex, Alice Cooper.
Ahh, c'mon, don't be so self-deprecating. You guys were some of the original trailblazers. You certainly had your own sound that was both raw and intelligent, and you did things your own way.
Watt: We had some funny shit. In the beginning, we didn't know your E string had to be tuned to the other guy's E string, much less to an actual E. We thought it was a personal thing, you know...how tight you liked the strings.
Ha ha ha ha!
Watt: The first solo D. Boon learned was from "American Woman." And he played it for like four hours every day after school. The bands then were all arena rock, and then punk came and it was like anybody could go up there and do it! To me it was like the same thing as Punk Rock Karaoke, except you were in the karaoke band.
So it was like coming full circle then with Punk Rock Karaoke.
Watt: Yeah! In a lot of ways it was totally like playing for the first time again.
Tell me about how you and D. Boon wrote songs.
Watt: Minutemen songs were really little at first. Fifteen seconds, twenty seconds... We would hook them all together for one big song. Some songs didn't have music, D. Boon would just read off a speech with Hurley just hitting a kick drum. It was really artistic. No choruses, hardly any solos.
photo by cathy de grande
Minutemen "History Lesson Pt. 2"
96kbs, 57sec, 694kb
It was D. Boon's trebly guitar sound that gave you the sonic room to find your own voice as a bassist.
Watt: He had a whole plan for the band. Leave a lot of room for the bass, keep the drums rolling at an intense pace, have the guitar really cutting but have it not Bogart the whole sound, not use power chords much... Minutemen...we were into being funny. Not funny like ironic funny, we were serious but we had a fun time doing it. Sometimes it was so simple, like with "Working Men are Pissed."
Minutemen would win the award for Best Song Titles hands down! You had some classics: "Political Song for Michael Jackson to Sing," "Do You Want New Wave or Do You Want the Truth?" and "Jesus and Tequila." Classics one and all!
Watt: Yeah...that was from being funny! But serious funny, you know. Like asking yourself, "What's this issue about?" That was Minutemen; we were all about doing it and deciding it all on our own, and not being just another rock band. Everything could be decided: the titles of songs, the way you looked, all that. And the funny thing is that we didn't know that! We thought there was a certain way to do everything. It was funny! We wouldn't use tuners--we thought that was fascist. At first we wouldn't do interviews--we thought that was bourgeois. Then we thought it was bourgeois not to do interviews. It was funny, we would talk about stuff like it was intense, world-shaking stuff--and for us, it was.
That was trippy... We learned our own way of playing, and then it had to end with D. Boon getting killed in that crash. [long pause] And then this guy, Ed fROMOHIO [Ed Crawford] comes out and plays with George, and I knew only one way to play. It was real strange, fIREHOSE. Edward had really never been in a band...he'd played trumpet in high school.
But fIREHOSE put out some great albums.
Watt: Oh yeah, it was a great band. Ed had a bit of trebly sound to his guitar, but not as much as D. Boon.
Listening to the Live Totem Pole EP, Ed's guitar sounds really beefy.
Watt: Yeah, it got more so towards the end. I was thinking more of the Ragin', Full On album. His guitar is really tinny on that. It sounds kinda like D. Boon's, but they didn't play the same. Edward's singing reminds me of R.E.M.'s singer [Michael Stipe].
I love that song fIREHOSE did, "For the Singer of R.E.M." What a great song! You mocked R.E.M. by beating them at their own word game--fantastic!
Watt: That was a great record. We had a lot going on then. College radio really liked fIREHOSE. At heart we were Minutemen, but with this new young guy. Edward had such balls! He'd never be scared before those shows.
What's the story behind Ed hooking up with you? Is it true that he just came knocking on your door one day and said, "I'm a fan of the Minutemen and I want to play with you."
Watt: Yeah, he just showed up at my house and that was that. D. Boon was different, I met him when I was thirteen.
What's your first memory of D. Boon?
Watt: He jumped out of a tree on me! I thought he was a guy named Eskimo. "You're not Eskimo!" "No," he said. We started walking back through this park together. I was thirteen and at the time I'd never heard of George Carlin, but D. Boon had. And he starts reciting all these Carlin bits he heard from a record. I'm thinking that D. Boon had made it all up, and I'm thinking, "Jesus Christ! This is one smart guy!" Ha ha! The next day I go to his house and he plays the record and it's got all the bits he did the day before. I miss D. Boon...
He was the greatest; he was something else as a guy. He was a bigger man, but he had these really artistic hands. D. Boon was a painter, he was an artist...and he was just really nice to people. D. Boon was super, super gregarious...bubbly... He liked to help people. Fuck... I would've never played without him because it was his mother that made me play bass. He's such a big part of my life and my music. It's been fifteen years since he was killed...
What was your last memory of him?
fIREHOSE "Watt Gets Heard"
96kbs, 43sec, 526kb
Watt: [writer, music journalist] Richard Meltzer wrote us lyrics. Yeah... He wrote lyrics for Blue Öyster Cult and D. Boon met him. You know, as kids, we never thought we'd meet the guy who wrote those words. Meltzer wanted to do a record with us so he wrote us some lyrics. I brought 'em to D. Boon. It was a week after we got off tour with R.E.M.--we're home and all our gear's still out in the van. D. Boon was sick with fever, he's red as a lobster. He was going with his girlfriend to see a relative of hers in Arizona. I said, "D. Boon, don't go, you're sick." And he said, "Don't worry, I'm not gonna drive." And she fell asleep at the wheel. [long pause] The van rolled over, the door opened up and D. Boon was thrown out and killed. A lot of years together in that van... It was intense...
D. Boon went down swinging in a way. He didn't overdose or some stupid shit like that. He went down running. D. Boon had such confidence, had an attitude that was like, "Nobody's gonna make me fucking stop!"
Where were you at when you heard the news?
Watt: His dad called me, it was like four in the morning. He was crying... I started crying...
All the music you've written since then seems to have been in his honor. His spirit pervades everything you do.
Watt: Yeah, I put him in all my music. But the Opera [Watt's term for his punk rock opera, Contemplating the Engine Room] was about him. D. Boon was "The Boilerman" and Georgie was "Fireman Hurley." I really liked that record, but I was so scared when I was doing it. But man, I can look back at that and say, "I was a Minuteman!" And the Opera was for the Minutemen. I miss that band... In a way I'll always be a Minuteman, but in a way I'll never be one--never.
photo by marty lyon