Bassist Mike Watt was the living embodiment of the punk rock spirit. As a founding member of the highly influential Minutemen, he created one of the most important bodies of work in the American underground canon, delivering adventurous, fiercely polemical music informed by such disparate traditions as funk, folk, and free jazz. Although his subsequent material -- most notably his records with the trio fIREHOSE, as well as his latter-day solo efforts -- lacked the sheer impact of his earliest outings, Watt remained true to the D.I.Y. ethos that originally inspired him, emerging as one of the most highly respected figures in contemporary music.
Born December 20, 1957, in Portsmouth, Virginia, the young Watt and his family relocated to San Pedro, California, which was to remain his home base throughout the years to follow; there he became close friends with D. Boon, with whom he formed the Reactionaries during the mid-'70s. Inspired by the burgeoning punk movement, he and Boon founded the Minutemen in 1979, adding George Hurley on drums. So named in honor of the brevity of their initial songs, in 1980 the Minutemen debuted with the EP Paranoid Time, becoming just the second act to record for the legendary SST label. In the years to follow, seminal releases, including 1981's The Punch Line and 1984's two-LP set Double Nickels on the Dime, established the trio as one of the American indie scene's brightest hopes -- but on December 23, 1985, Boon was killed in a van accident following one of the band's live dates.
Devastated, Watt and Hurley planned to retire from music but were coerced into returning to action by Ohio-born Ed Crawford, a fervent Minutemen fan inspired to learn guitar by the band's records. Dubbing themselves fIREHOSE, the new group debuted in 1986 with Ragin', Full-On, which was dedicated -- as were all of the trio's future releases -- to the memory of D. Boon. That same year, Watt also teamed with his then-wife (and former Black Flag bassist), Kira Roessler, in the group Dos, a two-bass duo. fIREHOSE carried on the Minutemen's spirit admirably, and after three indie releases, they were signed to major label Columbia, where they debuted in 1991 with Flyin' the Flannel. fIREHOSE's tenure on Columbia was largely disappointing, and after 1993's album, the J Mascis-produced Mr. Machinery Operator, failed to launch them toward mainstream success, they quietly disbanded in early 1994.