May Backlist Feature: Mike Watt: On and Off Bass
This May marks the five-year anniversary of the publication of Mike Watt: On and Off Bass, a collection of photography and memoir by punk rock bassist Mike Watt (Minutemen, fIREHOSE, The Stooges). The book received national attention and was instrumental in putting Three Rooms Press on the map. To celebrate, we’re naming On and Off Bass our May Backlist Feature, which means that for the entire month, this gorgeous collection will be on sale on our website, at a discounted price of $20 through May 31, 2017.
The New Yorker calls it “unusual and beautiful.” The LA Weekly raves, “the photos are strikingly inventive, revealing yet another side of this modern-day Renaissance man.” MTV calls it “a charming, well-shot document of a the legendary punk rocker’s photographic dabbling.” Detroit Metrotimes: “A unique insight into Watt’s mind.” Rick Moody writes for the Rumpus: “As with everything that Watt has turned his attention to since he began making art in 1980, On and Off Bass is sincere, funny, handmade, beautiful, totally idiosyncratic, and entirely original.”
Mike Watt: On and Off Bass received a lot of buzz. And for good reason, considering the author and photographer is the legendary punk bassist himself. Mike Watt got his musical start thumping the bass with legendary San Pedro punk trio, The Minutemen in 1980 and he has been at it ever since. Over the years, he’s toured with Dos, fIREHOSE, his own The Black Gang, The Secondmen, The Missingmen, and others, and he has worked bass as a sideman for Porno for Pyros, J Mascis and the Fog, as well as punk godfathers The Stooges.
Off the road, at his beloved San Pedro, CA home base, Watt developed a deep interest in photography. In Spring 2010, Track 16 Gallery in Santa Monica, CA hosted an exhibit of his photos: “Mike Watt: Eye-Gifts from Pedro.” According to Track 16 executive director Laurie Steelink, who curated the exhibit, “He has this knack for finding the early morning sweet spots when venturing out alone on his bike or kayak. The resulting photographs never seem to dry: light, flight, salt, rust, and tide commingle in fiery sunrises, endless heavens, roiling waves and fog.” The photos offer another side of Watt that fans of his punk rock music may not be familiar with: While seemingly serene, many have an underlying tension and that often shows the sharp contrast between industry and nature. In Mike Watt: On and Off Bass, photographs that appeared in the exhibit are punctuated by Watt’s poetry and snippets selected from 10 years of his diaries. Watt’s writing is insightful, funny, intimate and honest, as he explores topics like John Coltrane, long hauls and overcoming performance fears. Mike Watt: On and Off Bass exposes Watt’s vision as a photographer, diarist and poet, taking its readers on a trip. And when you stop turning the pages of Watt’s story, you start turning the pages of yours, re-ignited.
“Mike Watt’s photos are the poetry of San Pedro . . . These gorgeous images paired with the raw reflections of three decades on the road are sure to blow the minds of all who love punk rock and our beloved vision questing troubadour.” —Jack Black
“Mike Watt is poetry. He’s like one half of a metaphor. Watt can only be matched in poetry. When you mix pirate, Pedro pix, music, d. boon forever, hard work, weird sincerity, good will, curiosity, love, and an adult moustache, what do you have? Poetry is the answer. Poetry poetry poetry. Watt Watt Watt!” —Richard Hell
“Here is the last stand of the fruited earth and the ship-freighted sea. How lovely America was. God bless San Pedro and Mike Watt.” —Iggy Pop
Mike Watt: On and Off Bass
Photography & Memoir; 112 pages; $25.00
ISBN 978-0983581307 (trade paper)
Publication date: May 2, 2012