City Slang: Mike Watt on and off bass

Apr 29, 2012 at 8:17 am

Mike Watt of the Stooges, plus the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, has just put out a book of his photographs, enhanced by some punk and travel related anecdotes, called On and Off Bass, via Three Rooms Press.

Now, we wouldn’t blame you if that immediately set your warning alarms off. A rock ‘n’ roller with a photography book? Isn’t that a little self-indulgent? What do they know about that, completely different, art?

Actually, Watt has enjoyed photography for years, and he’s gotten pretty damned good at it. Anybody who is on his email mailing list can attest to the fact that he enjoys sending pictures taken at his hometown of Pedro out at every available opportunity. I’m no photography expert, but he can capture a good sunset, bird shot or wave.

It is the little snippets of prose that make the book fascinating though. On the surface, they have nothing to do with the shot that they sit alongside. But once you spend a little time with the book, you realize that it is all about feelings. The pictures inspired the writing, and vice versa. Memories are stirred. That sort of thing.

There’s a great bit written while in Detroit on April 13 2007. Watt writes, “I’ve always wondered how Dave Alexander fingered those songs – I’ve asked Ronnie if there’s footage of him where you can see his hands working the neck but he said there’s only some Super 8 and not much of that. Man, it makes me curious.” That sits next to a picture of birds on icy rock.

Earlier, while in France in 2005, Watt says of the Stooges, “Me and all the other punk rockers owe these cats so much

to get to play with them is such a total mindblow for me.” That sits next to seals on a buoy.

Different people will get different things out of this book, but it offers a unique insight into Watt’s mind.

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