Last week, the phenomenally multi-talented Mike Watt released – for the first time ever – the live recordings from his Ring Spiel Tour ’95. The music had been recorded and locked away, only to resurface at a pretty stellar time in music. While other bands from the 90’s are touring and re-releasing music, Watt’s got an entire collection of live recordings that have never seen the light of day. And it’s phenomenal. (Seriously, you need to hear it.) With all of that in mind, we were able to speak with Watt himself about what inspires him, how the release of Ring Spiel Tour ’95 came to be, and what’s up next. Check it out.
What is the first album or song you remember listening to, and who introduced it to you?
I can tell you the first forty five I bought – it was “American Woman” by the guess who. Soon after I got Best of Cream by Cream eight-track tape. I heard all kinds of stuff on am radio but can’t remember what was
Was there a specific moment when you knew you wanted to pursue music?
I got into music to be with D Boon. His ma put me on bass. She wanted us in the house after school to keep us out of trouble. I did music to be with D Boon. Then we found the movement and they let us be part. I lost D Boon in 1985 but kept going w/music after briefly saying fuck it – I think there were two points in my life when realized I wanted to pursue music, does that make sense?
What – after all this time – made you decide to release the live
recordings from that show in May of 1996?
A man named Tim Smith at Legacy/Sony/Columbia last April told me he
had this recording of the Chicago “Ring Spiel” tour gig and asked me
about maybe wanting to put it out. I told him to get word from the
other cats who played that gig and when they all came back with “ok” then I said “ok” because, though I knew it was out there all this time, I never really listened to it. Now in terms of my music journey, it makes big sense because you can see where my music life takes a BIG sea change at that point, I get brave enough to play with different people, do many different projects, even write operas!
That’s the context I see it in, not as part of some kind of “nostalgia” or shit like that. Pat Smear wrote me, “About time you’re putting this out, Watt!” which blew my mind but at the same time you gotta realize it’s connections of random stuff that actually brought this into being now. I think this is best time though in a way because it’s got the perspective of time to help purge the hype that was around that gig in those days. It is really raw too, no remix no altering of anything – it’s very accurate, including my clams!
Can you remember the feelings you experienced during that tour, as you were setting out on your own?
Yeah, I remember those times because it was a total pants-shitter for me, I was completely afraid. Those guys helped me much with playing together as a band, they were beautiful. Watt needed the confidence help, totally!
Did you have a favorite song to perform at that time?
They were all amazing to me at the time – the way that those guys
reinvented them in their way, I really dug their personal interpretations of them. Remember, we only had a couple of days to get this stuff together for a tour… I think back about what fucking happening cats they were to learn strange music with a strange man, they really blew my mind so all them tunes seemed to be both made brand new again and at the same time familiar and coming from me. It was a trip, never before or after that tour have I had that kind of experience.
Do you remember anything from your rider list during that tour?
Yeah, I wanted salsa for the chips hot enough to make you shit fire.
None of that “ketchup and sugar” shit.
What are your feelings leading up to the live recordings’ November 11th release, or are you kind of jaded at this point?
Not at all because like I said, I never hear any recordings from that tour. I went straight after that to helping Porno for Pyros and then my own crew of The Flying Saucer Band. My feelings about it are like I said: not a version of Happy Days with that Fonzie and Potsy crap but more of place in my music journey when you look back where there was huge sea change in what I was doing, learning to take more chances (yeah, even though I was a Minuteman!) and be less scared to let the freak flag fly in different ways.
Has your opinion of the music industry or the recording process changed over the years at all?
Well, now it’s more in our hands so I think it’s better to have
autonomy. I have to say though that both SST and Columbia never tried to control what either me or back with The Minutemen recorded. They gave us good amounts of autonomy. I have much respect for those folks respecting us.
You’ve basically collaborated with everyone under the sun. Is there anyone you haven’t collaborated with yet that you’d like to?
Bob Mould. I’d like to do something with Bob Mould if he was into it. Also Mark E Smith maybe but only if he was into it. I wish I could’ve played at least one gig with Johnny Thunders, that would’ve been a mindblow!
The Watt from Pedro Show has been around for a number of years now. Do you have any personal anecdotes or favorite stories from any episodes?
Everyone’s journey through music is different and that’s why I like
doing the show and hearing people talk about it, I dig all my guests
though I gotta say the show with Richard Hell was a pants-shitter, I
didn’t mean to upset him asking about the clothes stuff! he was first punk rock hero, I put a picture of him on my bass in 1977 so it was a little award for me… I just love the man and his work.
Who’s your favorite superhero?
I guess that would have to be Kato on the “Green Hornet” tv show. Even though he was a helperman, I just always wanted to be like him. Like he was the main guy’s drive, I wanted to be like that being d boon’s bassman.
Anything else you’d like to add?
I thank you most kindly for having me aboard.
Ring Spiel Tour ’95 is out now.