Mike Watt has gone missing in the past but never for very long.
The best place to find him is usually in a new band project.
The legendary bassist and bandleader has used his progressive punk-rock musings to take on a near-fatal infection, Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” and the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch, over the course of album after album crafted with a rotating cast of players.
Watt, who co-founded the seminal hardcore punk band Minutemen in 1980, has released more than two dozen albums spread among nine bands in addition to his several solo albums and one-off collaborations.
Most recently Watt was pulled into a project called Anywhere, which featured a heavyweight lineup that included Christian Eric Beaulieu (formerly of Triclops!), Cedric Bixler-Zavala (At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta), Rachel Fannan (formerly of Sleepy Sun) and Big Business guitarist Toshi Kasai. Highlighted by its odd mix of Indian raga music, and employing a sound Beaulieu described as “Eastern acoustic punk,” Anywhere released its eponymous debut full-length album on Record Store Day in April.
Also in the spring, Watt released “You Are Always On Our Minds” as a part of The Hand To Man Band. THTMB was the result of Watts’ 2010 retreat to Austin, Texas. While seeking a reprieve from his nightmarishly nonstop schedule, he found relief in this new musical union with a quartet of cohorts, among them Deerhoof, and Natural Dreamers guitarist John Dieterich. Watt recorded with THTMB between shows with the reformed Stooges.
Taking a look back at his 2011 résumé, two albums in one year could be considered a light load by Watt’s standards.
Last year Watt performed on four different albums with three different bands, including Dos’ “Dos y Dos”; “Off with Their Heads,” by band of the same name; and two albums with Steve Mackay, “Sometimes Like This I Talk” and “North Beach Jazz.”
In addition to those 2011 group albums, Watt released his own fourth solo album (and third punk-rock opera), “Hyphenated-Man” – his first solo studio album since 2005. “Hyphenated-Man” is a concept album inspired by creatures contained in Hieronymus Bosch paintings, in a way similar to how his 2004 record, “Secondman’s Middle Stand,” likened his experience with a life-threatening illness to “The Divine Comedy.”
Now Watt is out of the studio and back on the road, leading The Missingmen, which derived its name as a humorous reference to the 2005 Watt solo tour of Europe where neither of the original players on “Secondman’s Middle Stand” (guitarist Tom Watson and drummer Raul Morales) was able to participate with Watt.
Incidentally, in 2009 Watson and Morales toured without Watt, appearing under the name Lou Barlow + The Missingmen, fronted by Dinosaur Jr. bassist and frontman Lou Barlow, performing material from Barlow’s solo work.