Robert Malta of HUGElarge

At long last, I’m happy to share an interview with Robert from HUGElarge. I had a great time spending most of the day in the band’s studio up in Santa Rosa, CA. I can’t say enough good things about their recently released self-titled album.

CORDTANGLER: Tell me about your background.

Robert: First there were the surf bands—those were the first “garage bands.” Then there was the whole British explosion, and surf bands started adding singers, and that’s when I started. I was in a couple bands: The Little Kings, which had been a surf band, and then The Gates of Eden as things got more psychedelic. We played Pandora’s Box right when the Sunset Strip riots were starting. I wasn’t old enough to play that club; so they would say if the cops come in, this is where you need to hide. It was a big yard, and it was the start of the cops arresting kids for curfew. We opened for a bunch of bands that you’d see in the Nuggets box sets.

It’s funny, you made the same amount of money then that you do now (laughs)—but it was worth more back then. There were also more places to play that weren’t clubs. I think it was to keep kids out of trouble. The City of Hawthorne or the City of Inglewood, every area had a place. Really good bands played at those places. That’s where we played with the Seeds or Steppenwolf. It would be 600 kids on a Friday or Saturday night—we were playing to big crowds.

CT: I know your band opened for Love. Did you ever get to hang out with Arthur Lee?

R: No. I was pretty young, so I’d give people their space. Before we played with Love, I did hang out in front of Bido Lido’s and listen to him from outside. Love was the band at that point. At the time, I even remember one of the Doors saying in an article that they just wanted to be as good as Love.

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CT: So would you consider yourself more of a guitar player or a bass player?

R: I definitely consider myself more of a bass player, I feel confident playing bass. Guitar, I’m just winging it.

CT: How good are you at chording?

R: Primitive. I’ve always liked to play bottleneck slide. You know, it’s just one finger (laughs). I love the sound of it. I remember really liking Ry Cooder and the whole Performance soundtrack. “Memo from Turner” was a great song.

I also cheat a lot. I play guitar like a bass, and I use the top string as a guide. I’m sure there are songs on the record where the guitar player was originally playing an A minor diminished or something. Because I’m singing, people recognize the song. There are no rules, really.

I think the right hand is the most important. It’s the rhythm that counts. Hitting the one with the drummer or whatever one it is. You can even be low volume. If you are connecting, it sounds pretty good. I’m lucky I have a good right hand and an ear.

CT: When did you make the jump from singing to playing an instrument?

R: Well, I took a big break from music. I had just turned 30 and made the move up from LA to San Francisco. At that time, I was hanging out with Penn and Teller. They had a show on Broadway called the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society with another partner that was doing really well. I had a cheap guitar, I think a knockoff Les Paul. So, Penn was over and he said, “Hey, let’s form a band and you can play my bass.” He’s a really good bass player. We got together at their theater and formed a band called The Dummy Heads with Penn and Teller’s friend, Elliot Freeman, on uke. So I played Penn’s Rickenbacker 4001 bass and he played my guitar and we had a blast. I realized that I loved playing bass. It had always been the main thing I heard when I listened to music. Teller played the theatre pipe organ and, believe it or not, sang.

At the time, all the bands I was digging, like the Nuns, were really young. At 30, I thought I was too old to really pursue it. A couple years later, I moved up to Sonoma County. After a while I got bored, stopped caring, and finally decided to learn bass. I got this great little Musicmaster bass, it was like the one that Ko [Melina] plays. I ended up meeting Rob Turner, who started EMG. I was telling him about my bass and he was like, “Oh, I’ll make you a custom pickup for that.”

CT: Wow!

R: It made that bass sound really good. I got into a band pretty quickly, just with some friends goofing around. I ended up forming pawpawblowtorch with a guy who had just moved to San Francisco from Chicago.

CT: Pawpawblowtorch, isn’t that a song?

R: Eno had a song, “The Paw Paw Negro Blowtorch.” We found the name in a book on circus freaks. He was David Bowie’s favorite freak—a fire-eater from Paw Paw, Michigan.

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CT: What was the most memorable show you have ever played?

R: That’s hard! Back in the day, my band played with the Seeds, the Standells, and Iron Butterfly.

When I was in Bermuda Triangle Service, we played a show at Penn’s house that he put on called Slamstock. He calls his house “The Slammer.” The show went from noon one day to midnight the next. Kind of a Woodstock. They had all these bands, including Extreme Elvis. If you haven’t heard of him, he’d really push the audience and get them to be pretty fearful. In the end, he’d eventually be completely naked. Penn really loved him. Extreme Elvis had a really good review, a great band. He was extremely overweight. On top of that, he had a micro penis.

CT: Whaa?

R: And he’d still get naked. He showed a lot of bravery, I respected that. That was a great show.

With HUGElarge, Matt and I have played some great shows. We opened up for Blowfly. We had a great show opening for the Supersuckers.

Overall, though, I’d have to say Slamstock [was the most memorable]. They flew us in, we played, and then we flew home without ever sleeping.

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CT: Do you have a guitar or bass that you really regret selling?

R: I regret not having some of my old basses, but I’m the opposite of most people. I like to settle on one instrument and then bond and play the heck out of it.

As I mentioned, I had that Musicmaster that I traded for a Steinberger because I saw Devo playing one. Tina Weymouth was also playing one, but I never warmed to it. I traded that for a ’70s P-bass with a jazz neck. That was traded for a Gibson EBO that I used for a long time. I then moved to a ’62 reissue P-bass that I used for pawpawblowtorch and Bermuda Triangle Service.

CT: Is there another musician you were really excited to meet?

R: I’d have to say Pete Townsend.

CT: Wow!

R: I met him through a friend in Oakland. Pete ended up putting out a generous invite that if I was ever in England, I could stay at their studio. I ended up staying at their Eel Pie studios for a week. They were on tour, but it was really nice. I remember calling a cab from his office while staring at the original painting from Tommy on the wall.

Another one was Mike Watt. He is the real thing. He is someone I would want next to me when WWIII happens. He is the guy. I saw him standing around before an early Firehose show. I mentioned that I hadn’t started playing bass until I was 36 years old and that he had been a huge inspiration to me. He just grabbed my hand in a soul shake and said, “BASS!” (laughs) That was all he said. After the show, as I was walking out, I noticed he was getting mobbed by all these kids. As I got to the door, I thought I heard his voice so I turned around. Then I heard him yell out “BASS!” as his fist was rising up from behind the sea of kids. (laughs).

CT: What do you remember most about the early San Francisco scene when you first moved up?

R: The Mabuhay [Gardens] started up fresh when I was in San Francisco. I saw the Talking Heads there, I saw Blondie. I missed the Ramones but saw the Dead Kennedys. My band played with Klaus Flouride and his band Five Year Plan. He was playing a Fender VI. He is really funny and supersmart.

CT: What part of your experience has influenced you the most?

R: That’s hard—probably the big British change. I experienced that change from adult culture to youth culture in the ’60s. Everything went upside down. It’s tough being older, but I had prime time for all that stuff. The first time I saw the Kinks on TV, one of the guys had hair to his shoulders and I remember how freaky that was. I was a little kid with my mouth hanging open.

I also have to say the Ramones. With HUGElarge, I think you hear that a little bit when we take a doo-wop song and go four to the floor.

CT: Tell me about how you met Matt.

R: I met him in Santa Rosa. At the time, he hadn’t played drums in a while. He was pretty burned out on touring with AMC [American Music Club] and had left the band. When I told him that pawpawblowtorch needed a drummer, he agreed to join. We got signed to a label and put out a 7-inch. But when we started to talk about touring, he said he was out. Our last show ended up being at the Hotel Utah—we just fell apart after that and our singer Scott moved back to Chicago.

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CT: How did HUGElarge start?

R: Well, I wanted to play something a little harder and I hadn’t talked to Matt in while. He lives about a half hour away from me and has become a winemaker. So I called him up and asked about getting together just to play.

He said he didn’t feel like carrying a bunch of drums around, so I suggested a cocktail kit. I had seen Treat Her Right, which was Mark Sandman’s [Morphine] first band. They had a cocktail kit. I thought Mark was pretty innovative. I tried playing slide bass once but struggled with all the strings. When I saw him playing with two strings, I thought, “Oh, that makes sense.”

Before we started playing, Matt said, “We need a guitar player” and I said, “I’ll play guitar.” When he started to laugh I said, “I’ll just play it open tuned, who cares.” Then we started playing shows and it went from there. We only like to play about six shows a year. We can’t play from August through November, usually, due to the wine making.

CT: What led to the recording?

R: Karl Derfler [Tom Waits and Roky Erickson, to name a few] is one of my best friends. He has been in music since he was a kid living in Europe. He has the wildest stories. He liked HUGElarge a lot and said he wanted to record us. He said he’d be down at the studio on Sunday doing some beta testing for the new Pro Tools. We are pretty fast, and Karl and I like to work together. We usually don’t do more than two takes—we record live and then I do vocal overdubs. Most of the time, I double the vocals. When we mix, sometimes we’ll think, this needs bass—so I’ll add bass going direct.

First we did a little five-song EP we would hand out at shows. We ended up doing three different sessions and have now put out a full-length on Highway 61.

I also have a side project with Karl called Paleophone. I play everything, but he triggers drums and stuff. He is quite a good drummer on the computer. We have a blast hanging out at his house and we’ll just record something.

CT: How do you pick your songs?

R: First off, I have to be able to play it or at least fake it. Second, we both have to like it and see if it fits with the HUGElarge sound. We’ve tried playing things we never played live, because they didn’t quite translate.

Matt is from the East Coast, Johnny Thunders era, and being a drummer is also into Zeppelin. I’m earlier; I’m into the Nuggets stuff.

CT: Let’s talk about your HUGElarge gear.

R: I’m playing an old Teisco Rodeo I bought from Fat Dog at Subway Guitars. I got it for like 250 bucks. I was so thrilled to have a guitar again and use the open tuning. The pickup sounded great, it’s a gold foil. I also found a Silvertone amp at a garage sale.

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CT: What model is the Silvertone?

R: It’s a 1482. You can still find them around for about 400 bucks, but I think I got it for a couple hundred. I used that one on our first recording and then got another one. For pedals, I bought a Boss DS-1, the cheapest possible distortion I could get. I then scraped the paint off of it and Karl modified it for me. I don’t know what he did to it, but I can get a Marshall-on-fire sound out of it.

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CT: I noticed you’re also playing an SG?

R: I know I mentioned the one-guitar thing, but that thing happened where I always wanted an SG Junior and it was relatively cheap. I love the pickup. I put a Wolfetone in it. The guy from Wolfetone is a great guy. He makes three P-90 versions. I have the middle one (the Meaner) as far as hotness goes. It sounds really good. The Teisco pickups are kind of like it—a really hot single coil.

For our third session, I bought an Eastwood H44. It’s a reissue of an old thick-neck Harmony Stratone. Some friends introduced me to Charlie Musslewhite, and he told me that the Stratone was a great guitar. I ended up finding the H44 for a great price on eBay. I didn’t really bond with it though.

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CT: What about any bass on the recording? What did you use?

R: I used a Danelectro. I bought it when they did the first reissue out of Korea.

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CT: What about Matt?

R: For the first recording, Matt used a Slingerland cocktail kit and then started playing a Peace kit. It’s a pretty inexpensive Korean kit. Actually, Matt is building a new kit. He said it’s costing him so much that he has to use it. He cut a big kick drum in half. It’s going to be this gigantic cocktail kit.

CT: Can I ask about some of the specific gear and where you recorded? I love the production.

R: Karl actually put together a little list:

The first two sessions were at Bayview Studios in Richmond, CA. Recorded on a ’69 Trident A Range board, #1 or 13 made, it’s an analog class-A console. Same board used by the Beatles on I Want You (She’s So Heavy).

Mics: Room: Ghetto Blaster, no limiter, fed direct for ambient sound. Drums: Kick: Neuman U47 on top, AK8 D112 on bottom. Snare: SM56. Overhead/cymbals: KM84. Amps: SM56 (’60s) and Sony C37 (’50s). Vocals: SM7.

Amps: First session: Silvertone 1482. Second session: Two Silvertone 1482 amps (positioned on either side of the drums).

Cocktail drums: First session: ’50s Slingerland. Second and third sessions: Peace.

The third session was at Jackalope Studios in Santa Rosa, CA. Recorded through Karl’s portable unit, which includes: Two channel API 2020 preamps and four 1073s (secondary set with two 1083s).

Mics: Amps: Sony C37 and Royer 121.

Amps: Silvertone 1482 and Marshall solid-state combo.

Mixing: The Shack (Karl’s home studio) using a Melbourn Neve and Pro Tools.

CT: Thanks so much! It’s been great to meet you!



I’m excited to share a recent chat that I had with Mike Watt. As expected, I found him to be as funny as hell and really inspiring. 

CT: Really nice to speak with you. Tell me about the bass wrestlers who have influenced you.

W: I learned a lot from R & B records. Even with a shitty record player, you could hear the bass more. So, James Jamerson, Larry Graham, Bootsy Collins, and Jim Brown. As far as rock goes, there was Dennis Dunaway from Alice Cooper or Joe Bouchard from the Blue Oyster Cult. Where I could really hear rock ’n’ roll bass was overseas. There was the Scottish guy, Jack Bruce—I probably owe him the most. I remember I had an 8-track from the anthology Fresh Cream; I listened to that over and over. Eight-tracks were funny, they would loop but then they would cut off in the middle of tunes and shit. I think this later had an effect on my playing as a Minuteman. There were four spaces of music, so they would just clip off. I also liked John Entwistle, Geezer Butler, Andy Fraser, Trevor Bolder, Chas Chandler, and Pete Quaife. You could hear these guys. Most of those guys were not afraid to hide the bass. On the Beatles, you can hear Paul McCartney rocking out there. Those guys were huge influences on me.

Until there was punk, D. Boon and I had never been to clubs. We were 13 in 1970, and there was only arena rock. In those days, it was mainly vocals coming through the PA, and the place is built for sports and has bad acoustics. I didn’t really get to learn anything from live bass players until the [punk] movement. Then I could go to clubs and it was very easy to see and hear bass players up close. With the movement, you could see dudes starting for the first time, learning in front of people. Also, with everyone starting at the same time, it made things more equal. It’s not like, the best guy is on guitar—there was more of a level playing field. In a lot of those bands, the guitar was just a texture and the bass was really driving it. Also, Richard Hell. He was another real hero. In my first band, I put a picture of him on my bass. There were also a lot of ladies in the bands, like Lorna Doom or Dianne from the Alley Cats.

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CT: What is your approach to the bass?

W: The longer humans do stuff, the more stuff they want to do because of where our frequencies live. You get really teeny if you play too many notes. So it’s always the search for the right notes, not the most notes. That can give someone who has just started on the bass the chance to write a really good bass line. It’s got to be the feel—they still don’t know all the scales and all the shit yet. Bass players get punished if we try to do too much based on where our thing lives. Even the 5-, 6-, and 7-string thing gets ridiculous.

When I was asked by Bass Player magazine about where the future was, I said it was about composition—and someone that was really good with composition was Carol Kaye. She could read the changes, the chords, and the harmonies. She was incredible. Carol was balls out: She put a sponge under the bridge cover so there were no blurry notes or mysteries. If she clams, you’re going to hear it.

I’m also not into the fingers versus pick thing. I’ve seen finger, pick, and slapping all work in the same tune. Whatever it takes to get the job done. All that stuff is stupid and macho like sports. At the end of the day, it’s the sound and aiding and abetting of the tune. Bass is about feel. That’s why you hear good things coming from women bass players. I think they feel a little more than they overthink.  


CT: Tell me about your writing process.

W: I start with a title—I need the focus. It’s a device to help you get something across. It doesn’t mean the words are going to come first or the music is going to come first. It’s means this is what we are going to help realize. Then I try to find something that comes out naturally. They are like little plays, little lives. I usually start out with too much and then have to cut. Cut down, cut down.

On this last opera I wrote, Hyphenated-Man, I wrote on one of D. Boon’s guitars. I did that on purpose so I would have to write the bass second.

Usually, I like to write on the bass. I think for people who are playing with me, it serves as a springboard, a launchpad. I can put in the chord changes and the rhythm stuff but still leave enough room, as opposed to guitar or piano that have a bunch of harmonic content. Some people bum on it and think it’s not enough direction, but then there are people like Nels Cline who love it. Some people are like, what? You might as well write on the cymbals and the kick drum (laughs). A lot of people pick up on it even though it’s weird at first. I kind of leave it open for the people I’m playing with. I might give them thematic words, but I don’t want to give them so much direction that they lose their point of view. I’m also trying to say I’m grateful you’re playing, that you’re not a puppet with my hand up your fucking yang.

CT: How do you know when you have a good idea?

W: Good means something I can feel. Now, it doesn’t mean other people are going to feel it (laughs). In the early days of the movement, people would really let you know it and say fuck you. Like when I put a picture of Richard Hell on my bass, the Pedro dudes would say I figured you’d get into something like that, and I’d say “Fuck you.” This gave me a thick skin, so I don’t really worry about getting people’s permission. I just want to know when I play it I don’t feel jive. Or feel like I’m doing finger exercises or something cliché.

I ended up doing three operas, something I never thought I’d do. I just couldn’t get enough in by doing one smaller song, so I had to make a big one with lots of parts. I got the idea from “Happy Jack.” D. Boon and I liked that—we liked Sell Out as well but we didn’t like Tommy.

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CT: I have to agree! (laughs)

 W: Even the way they recorded Tommy was kind of tiny sounding. I don’t know if I have a fourth opera in me. There’s this one record I’m writing for Secondmen, the band I put together for my second opera. They are both Longshoremen, Pedro guys. I’m writing songs you can whistle to. I never tried to do that before. They are kind of like work songs. I picked up these books on sea shanties. I’m going to call it “Pick it up, put it over there.” It ain’t opera, it’s a collection of these work tunes. It’s a bass, drums, and an organ. The organ can go lower than my bass, and that’s the reason I picked it for my second opera. I’m using the songwriting to explore. The drummer just hits the floor tom and the kick drum, and the organ guy is way on the left hand on the bass key, which goes way to down to C. It’s a low-end, kidney punch kind of a thing. It’s the first time I’ve used this big holistic sound as part of my writing.

CT: What’s your home recording setup?

W: I have a setup where I can do everything but the drums. My organ man, Pete Mazich (The Secondmen), has a setup where we can do the drums. Casa Hanzo, in fact. I just recorded recently with Devin Hoff. He’s a stand-up bass player who played with the Nels Cline singers. Joe Berardi on drums, who is an incredible cat. I can now record with anybody, anytime. I can do the thing in my pad. I call it Thunder Pants, but it’s just me recording into Pro Tools. I use the Omni into Pro Tools HD 11. For hardware, I use a Burl ADC with an 1176 compressor and two LA-610 preamps. For recording, for basses, I use the big ones. I use little basses for gigs.


CT: Why did you move to short scale basses anyway?

W: I wonder why! My fucking hands hurt. I’m not going to use that “O” word, but I am less younger. You do 53 gigs in 53 days, you feel it! I made the switch to short scale in ’98 when I couldn’t hold the fucking steering wheel. I think it was the fucking Thunderbird.


CT: I feel like people know your EBs, but what about the big basses? That Moon bass looks cool.

W: I wanted to get a good recording bass and was pretty into Larry Graham, so I thought I’d check out the Moon. I first played one in Chicago and then I ordered it through the mail. It’s pretty much Jazz style and intonates really well. I really only use the front pickup. It had single coils that hummed, so I put in these four coil pickups. I don’t remember how I got it, but they had a coil for each string. I put a balance control in, too, instead of two volumes. I also put in a preamp, but I haven’t used it in a long time.  


I’ve got a ’56 Fender with Thunderbird pickups.

I also have a Thunderbird bass that I got a long time ago on tour. It said “Dee Dee Ramone” on the case. It’s a ’66 non-reverse that they only did a limited run on. I like it better than the reverse ones. It’s got a 9-inch headstock though. When I was using that bass for gigs, I remember my left hand got really big. The muscle under my little finger got really huge from holding that fucking headstock up. I had to move the bridge because the intonation was all out. Probably because back then, you weren’t supposed to go down beneath the fifth fret.

I just got a Chinese-made Hofner Beatle bass, and I put flat wounds on it. It was only 250 bucks. I bought it for the Tav Falco tour. I haven’t played flat wounds in years.

The first bass I owned was a Kay. It kind of looked like Jack Bruce’s, and it was a hundred dollars. Got it out of the LA Times. It had flat wounds. You could fit your head between the strings and the fret board. Terrible action but it built up my fingers. Before this Beatle bass that was the last time I played flats.

I also have a P-bass made in Mexico. It’s got a jazz neck with a P-body and a Dave Allen pickup.


CT: What were some of the most memorable shows of your career?

W: Every one of those fucking Stooges shows.

CT: I bet!

W: I remember one Stooges show where I was out of tune for three songs. I was relying on a tuner and I’d never used a tuner in the sun. I couldn’t read the readout right. I remember Ig [Iggy Pop] turning around looking at me like, “What the fuck, Watt?” You see him going wild but he listens to every note.

Oh, and another one: Ig said, “I want you to do a 16-bar bass solo.” So when I was playing it, Ig comes up behind me and starts beating me on the ass with the mic, with the beat, doing quarter notes. So I guess I could feel it? After the gig, I took off my pants and he had beaten the shit out of my ass with that mike! (laughs)

All the Minutemen gigs were incredible. You get on stage with D. Boon . . . he wasn’t conceited, but when he got on stage he was like “I’m going to play now.” He’d get dancing and bunny-hopping and he’d put his heart out.

In January I got a call from friend about coming up to West Hollywood. I was like, man, what’s it going to be—blues jamming in E minor? (laughs) I get up there and it’s Doug Wimbish, Blackbyrd McKnight, and Michael Hampton, and then George Clinton shows up and we do the whole fucking Maggot Brain album. It meant a lot to me. Maggot Brain with three of the Parliament/Funkadelic guys and the Sugarhill guy was a mindblow for me.

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CT: Speaking of the Stooges, I have to ask: I always wonder what it must have been like to be at the very first practice for the reunited Stooges?

W: That was a trip. I got a phone call in Tallahassee on tour with the Secondmen and it was Ig. He said, “Hey Mike, Ronnie says you’re the man.” I’m looking at the phone like I can’t believe this call. “Will you do me a favor and wear a T-shirt instead of flannel?” I said, “What about Levi’s and Converse?” And he said, “That’s strong.” Ig said he’d been having all these nightmares about the drummer wearing lime green and the bass player wearing all orange. He also said that when it gets to the end of the songs, however we end the songs, that’s how we are going to end them. I didn’t know what he was talking about. I then realized that on their first album there were lots of fade-outs.

So, I flew out to LA from the Secondmen tour and got sick on the flight. So I’m at the prac in Hollywood, before the gig, and it’s just me, the Asheton brothers, and Ig.

CT: Hold up, you guys did one practice before your first Stooges reunion show at Coachella!?

W: I had already played with Ronnie (Asheton) and J Mascis on a tour. I think J was a big part of those guys getting back together. He is just shy and doesn’t tell anybody.

Ig ran the practice like a gig, and you could tell how much he loved the Asheton brothers. I screwed up a few things in “Dirt.” I had gotten used to putting some Mike Watt parts into it. Iggy stopped the practice and told Ronnie to show me. I think I was adding an extra note.

It was the Stooges doing Stooges songs, and it was a mindblow for me. It was like talking to the cops. Don’t give up any information; don’t do anything embarrassing. Just hold the tunes and hold the course. The sickness just compounded it.

CT: Then the gig?

It was the next day. I remember the wind blew over Ronnie’s amps and I had a chill from a big fever. I was in another tent so the Stooges wouldn’t see me. I didn’t want them to know how sick I was, I felt like I was letting them down. Ian MacKaye and Flea put their arms around me to keep me warm.

I also remember playing “Dirt” and Ig came over and said, “Are we playing this in the right key?” I said yes, and he said, “Well, let’s start it again.” I was playing my Thunderbird and before the gig, I put “Minutemen,” in Letraset letters, on the bass.

Oh, and Steve (Mackay) didn’t even practice. He just came in and did it.

Ig and D. Boon were the same: Every gig is played like it’s their last one, and their work ethic is really strong. With Ig, it’s like he is playing for every single person in a huge gig.

CT: What was the transition like after the heartbreaking passing of Ronnie?

W: That was heavy. I still have a picture of him on my bass. James Williamson was always nice to me but it was different. When I played with James on Raw Power, the bass man was Ronnie. Ronnie was still with us. When they were mixing a Stooges live DVD, I remember Ig saying “Good job, Mike.” That meant a lot because those were Ronnie’s bass parts. He said I did them justice.

The Stooges were like big brothers to me. Who would have thought, in my late 40s, the brothers I never had. At the time, I didn’t realize it. But looking back, I can really see that. Being around them, my ears turned to elephant ears—I wanted to hear every word they had to say.

CT: I have to ask, what was it like doing a Stooges record?

W: That was hard on me. I felt like I could have done better. I took direction, the parts weren’t really mine, maybe one part in one tune. I want to be buried at sea, but I was having these nightmares that my tombstone said “The guy who fucked up the Stooges album.” (laughs)  

It was interesting being the sideman. I think musicians should experience all three roles—sidemouse, rudderman, and collaborator. All three experiences, in my case, have been important. If people ask me for advice, I would say do this too. If you go too far, you miss out on the big picture. To be a good leader, you’ve got to know how to take direction.

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CT: You do really work your ass off!

Check this out: I just did this tour with Tav Falco where I wore the pointy shoes and a shirt with cuff links. They were some pointy motherfuckers!

CT: That’s cool. I was going to say earlier that Tav Falco is awesome!

W: Yeah, that’s another one. Some of the people I’ve gotten calls from . . . it has been pretty cool.

CT: Best Mexican in the country?

W: La Cumbre in the city (San Francisco). Enchilada House in Pedro, it’s got the good taste. On Wednesdays, Guanajuato has carnitas burritos for $3.50 and those are righteous. Once you leave the West, there’s a lack of [burritos]. Wraps are like hippy burritos with no good taste.

CT: Do you believe in ghosts?

W: Sometimes. D. Boon’s brother gave me two of his guitars. One I kept closed for years; and when I opened it up, it had his smell on the leather and I saw him for a second. That smell hit me in the face and I saw him.

CT: Near death experience?

W: When I was 22, the weekend Darby [Crash] and John Lennon died, I got pneumonia and nearly died. I then gave it to D. Boon.

CT: Watt, I can’t thank you enough.

W: No, problem. You’re doing a good thing, keep it going.

Watt will be jumping around the West Coast this winter with the Missingmen and the Secondmen.  Show info:

il sogno del marinaio pc hiyori-minato