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Monday, February 28, 2011

Mike Watt, Aging, and the Art of Hieronymus Bosch

Posted by Andrew R Tonry on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 9:26 PM

Hieronymus Boschs The Garden of Earthly Delights - Heaven on the left, the garden, center, and hell on the right
  • Hieronymus Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" - Heaven on the left, the garden, center, and hell on the right. Click to enlarge.

If you don't like Mike Watt I don't like you. It's that simple. Watt is a man of the people, earnest and giving.

I remember catching him in 2009 and it felt like a gift. It was the first time I'd seen him since some serious health problems threatened to shut the door. Between the thudding shred of his classic blue-color set Watt barked and mumbled a few singular lessons on music, like on the intricacies and interplay between the bass and kick drum. Watt then beckoned everyone in the audience to start their own band.

Indeed it was inspiring, to see a yeoman living the dream.

More recently, Watt had entered a new phase of his career, as explored in this terrific New York Times feature:

(Watt) has given middle age much thought. “I had this need to write about this period in my life,” he said. “You know, punk-rock guy confronting himself. But I didn’t have the talent to put it in one song.”

So he wrote 30 short ones. The subtext of the resulting album, “Hyphenated-Man,” is a fragmented self-portrait: “a mirror busted up in 30 pieces,” as he put it. But on the surface it’s a detailed description of 30 different characters painted by Hieronymus Bosch. “You know,” he said, “the midlife thing, the nightmare thing.”


Mr. Watt decided to return to the way he wrote songs in the Minutemen: title first, then music, then words. (He wrote all the songs on D. Boon’s Fender Telecaster guitar.) He based each song on a different Bosch character, drawing from six paintings.

Bosch's works are wild, evocative, often painful orgies—certainly worth spending some time on in their own right. The Times piece features a breakdown of the Bosch characters that inspired Watt's songs.

Hyphenated-Man comes out March 1st, or basically this very moment. More info can be found at Watt's terrific site/blog Hoot Page. A preview track, "Hollowed-out-man" is up on his Myspace. It sounds fucking great.


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