Mike Watt

By: Tor Aarestad
December 20, 2014


Rock music is a low form, and bassist MIKE WATT (born 1957) a low character (“econo,” he would say), in the most complimentary sense of that term; so why do I want to compare him to artists in the high art pantheon? A titan of the punk movement — but one for whom punk meant thinking, searching, experimenting, engaging — Watt has spent his career as a catalyst in the DIY music and art worlds. Beginning with the Minutemen, Watt and D. Boon were committed to the radical egalitarian notion that all band member’s musical contributions were equal; the guitar was not the star. Years later, when Watt composed the music for Hyphenated-Man on a guitar, he worked with his bandmates on their parts and had them record without hearing his bass, for fear that the legacy of the Minutemen would unduly influence them. After the death of D. Boon (hence the Minutemen) and the end of fIREHOSE, Watt has chosen to involve himself in manifold artistic collaborations, most notably with the Stooges, but most enduringly in Dos, with ex-wife and ex-Black Flagger Kira Roessler. Although he travels the world to perform and collaborate (in recent years to Japan and Italy), he is devoted to San Pedro, California. He has written rock operas on the subjects of his history with D. Boon and his father’s life, his near-death experience with a ruptured abscess (told through the lens of Dante’s Divine Comedy), and the nature of manhood (upon consideration of Hieronymous Bosch). I want to compare Watt to Picasso and Joyce, artists who disrupted their own disciplines, thanks to unexpected forms and perspectives, and also attempted to disrupt the larger world. Watt would reject that comparison, though. For over thirty years now, he has embodied the high-lowbrow idea that one can be both a singular artist and a mensch.

PUNK, POST-PUNK & ALTERNATIVE on HILOBROW: Joey Ramone | Dez Cadena | Jello Biafra | HR | Mike Watt | Vivienne Westwood | Iggy Pop | D. Boon | John Lydon | Henry Rollins | Palmolive | Plastic Bertrand | Kira Roessler | Lisa Carver | Frank Black | Ari Up | Gary Panter | Mike Watt | Ian Curtis | Paul Simonon | Darby Crash | Penelope Houston | Exene Cervenka | Sid Vicious | Andrew Eldritch | Kate Pierson | Richard Hell | Paul Westerberg | Lux Interior | Ian Dury | Stiv Bators | Tom Verlaine | Colin Newman | Johnny Thunders | Poison Ivy | Green Gartside | Lydia Lunch | Mark E. Smith | David Byrne | Debbie Harry | Captain Sensible | Mark Mothersbaugh | Kim Gordon | ALSO: The Original Generation X (1954–1963) and the birth of DIY | The Original Stooge | Origin of the Pogo | Shocking Blocking: Rock’n’Roll High School | Punk fanzines from the 1970s | Post-Punk and New Wave on HiLobrow


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: Sidney Hook, Judy Henske.

READ MORE about members of the Original Generation X (1954–1963).