Mike Watt is two hours early and sounds ever-so slightly irritated, which is alarming since he’s universally regarded as one of the nicest, coolest cats to ever walk the Earth. And it’s not my fault but Watt is totally within his rights. If he was beefing, it was completely justified. Fresh off a 23-date European tour with one of his many projects, il Sogno del Marinaio, Watt has just barely returned to his beloved home of San Pedro, California, only to find that his internet doesn’t work.
Therefore, he’s had to “borrow” a Skype connection from a friend in order to do our interview, and to make things even worse, reschedule his plans in order to accommodate me. We were originally scheduled to chat at 9:00 a.m. PST—when he called—but a few days later, Watt’s p.r. dude sent a message saying that Watt wanted to change it to 11:00 a.m. Seems he wanted to shoot a video in his kayak.
San Pedro is a harbor town and Watt lives about a mile from the ocean; therefore, it’s paradise for a kayak enthusiast and all-around Aquaman like Watt. The ocean and the seas have long been an integral part of Watt’s work. “OK,” I wrote back. “No prob.” Well, no internet means no email and apparently, Watt didn’t get the message that I agreed to the schedule change.
So that just acts as a perfect example of Mike Watt’s character. There’s no bullshit with him. If he says he’s gonna talk to you at 9:00, unless he hears otherwise, that’s what he’s going to do. Guys like Mike Watt are hard to come by.
Fortunately, I had signed on to Skype at 6:00 a.m. PST, just in case. Honestly, I was really anxious about the interview. It’d been 10 years since I’d seen or talked to Watt. A lot of things had changed. He joined Iggy Pop and the Stooges, that’s a pretty big deal. He toured the world many times over in one of his countless projects. He has his own bobblehead. I think that’s how you know you’ve made it in punk rock. In the meantime, I’d always tracked his movements via Mike Watt’s Hoot Page; his diaries (aka tour spiels) have always been some of my favorite reading materials.
For those of you who read Petrology 202: Carol Kaye, you’ll remember that I said my biggest fear in doing interviews with my heroes was being so star-struck that it turns into the Chris Farley-Paul McCartney skit on Saturday Night Live. The point of doing an interview is to get something out of the interviewee that nobody knows, and that’s a tricky thing to achieve. I can do it with friends and acquaintances because they don’t know I’m doing it. But people like Paul McCartney and Mike Watt have been doing interviews as long as I’ve been alive; so they’re completely aware of the journalist trick bag.
Meanwhile, before the call came in, my inner question was: “Do I have the ability to engage him on a personal level, rather than have a standard journalist-versus-musician dialogue?” But I wanted to talk to Watt as a friend; not because I’m a journalist—actually, I’m not a true journalist; I’m more of an active observer. In the end, what I am is just another schlub in a long line of people who are huge fans of Watt’s work, and at one time, I was vaguely what you might call a “peer”.
In fact, the last time I saw him was when Henry Miller Sextet (my band) played Bottom of the Hill (S.F.), opening for Mike Watt + the Secondmen. Plus, he’s one of my Heroes. Seriously, think about that. Mike Watt is Bob Dylan to me—he’s my Paul McCartney. Meanwhile, I was taking in as much of his work as possible; reading and re-reading the spiels, watching the videos, listening to the jams. I don’t want to talk to one of my heroes like some jackass from the New York Times who is completely unfamiliar with his work and what he’s all about.
Anyway, I was cramming my notes with last minute research when out of nowhere, his call came in. Shaken up pretty good, I forgot to press record for the first 30 seconds or so.