JPG: Was your playing style based on d. boon or because you had a school background and a punk background that you were able to travel in a lot of different places and Mike appreciated that?
EC: I think when it comes to my guitar style…I played acoustic guitar up until about a year before I moved out to California. I didn’t even own an amplifier, tell you the truth. I had just bought an electric guitar. I was playing along with minutemen records and R.E.M. or the Clash, the Who.
The minutemen, they were so stylistically diverse. They would come at you from so many different influences and angles. I was like, ‘Yeah, you know music should be like that!’ You shouldn’t have to do one style. Take some chances! Do a little experimenting! Challenge yourself! That’s what I really got from their approach to music. That’s what I hooked into, not playing like d. boon. I’m sure I had some influence from him, for sure. It wasn’t like playing like someone, like finding your influences and making them into your style. It wasn’t so much, ‘I don’t want to play like this guy. I want to play like a lot of different guys.’
JPG: Not meaning to get negative but I remember when fIREHOSE broke up, it was sudden and I don’t recall an announcement. After two albums on Columbia Records it was announced that Mike’s doing a solo album with just about everybody in alternative rock. Was it just a matter that you guys got sick of being in the boat (Mike Watt Pedro slang for ‘tour van’) together or Mike didn’t like the idea of being in a threesome anymore? What was it that separated you at that point in 1994?
EC: I tell you, it’s just not that simple. It was just a perfect storm of a lot of different things in what was going on in the three of our lives at the time. Plus, we had really worked it for seven years. We didn’t take any time off. There were no vacations. It was really intense. We didn’t take days off. When we toured, crap, the only time we took a day off was if we couldn’t get from one gig to the other in less than 12 hours. That’s when you had a day off and that’s not a day off. You’re driving, all day.
There was that and a lot of different things. And I couldn’t really point to one of ‘em and say, ‘This is why,’ or ‘That’s why.’ There were a lot of different things going on.
It turns out I think we stopped at just about the right time ‘cause I think the music has stood the test of time. I don’t know what we would have been doing for the last 18 years, tell you the truth. Honestly. We could have made some more records. Would have been good? Maybe, I don’t know. Maybe not. Watt also needed to grow as an artist. He’s not just a freakin’ bass player. He’s a real cat. He’s a real deal artist. Artists need to grow. They can’t do the same thing all the time. Have you heard (his 2011 album) Hyphenated-Man ?”
JPG: Oh, yeah. (Watt discussed the album with me during a Jambands interview that ran last April)
EC: To me that is in the league of the minutemen’s Double Nickels on the Dime. It’s that good. And Watt would have never got to do that if he was doing fIREHOSE. He made something like, maybe, his life’s journey led him to make that record. Sometimes, that’s just the way it’s supposed to be. You know what I mean? I don’t look at it negative. There was never any hard feelings or anything. It’s like we needed to stop. Didn’t know for how long. There wasn’t any plan. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s take a year off.’ There wasn’t any talk of that. It was, ‘We’re done. See ya.’
JPG: It’s kind of beautiful hearing that from you because you took it as an artist as well as a fan. Usually when a band breaks up there’s animosity; so-and-so hated this person and now they’re friends, so the band reunited. It’s nice to hear that support towards Mike’s artistic ambitions.
EC: And that’s not to say that there wasn’t any ‘cause it was really out of the blue. George and I didn’t have any idea that Mike was going to just walk away from it. It was out of the blue, really. There was some, initially, ‘What the fuck?!?!’ ‘cause you’re family at this point. You’re living together for seven freakin’ years. You’re family and you let your family know what’s going on. That’s just where he was at the time. There was a lot of shit going on in our personal lives and whatnot. We got over that shit years ago. We’ve been friends. I go see him whenever he’s in town. Never been any belligerence. We’re still brothers. Always will be.
JPG: Was the idea of having a reunion something that came up every so often or was it just that matters came into place so you’re doing it now?
EC: I don’t know. Like I said, I would go see Watt every time he came through town but you only get to spend maybe an hour or two after the gig and talk, and then he’s gone. We really had a long phone conversation. I called him up one night, probably had a couple of beers. We just sat there and we talked two to three hours. We just talked out everything. Got to know each other again on a different level. It was getting to know each other on a more personal level like, ‘What have you been through? What am I up to?’ Stuff like that. And then it started and we were like, ‘We should probably think about it.’
So, we were talking about it and then these people that put on Coachella heard somewhere through the grapevine we were thinking about maybe doing something. They literally, out of the blue, offered us a show. Not this year, but last year. But Watt already had a tour booked for the missingmen and the Hyphenated-Man tour. And he had Stooges stuff. He really didn’t have time to do it last year. This year was different. He called me up and said, ‘Are you up for this?’ and I said, ‘Fuck yeah! I’m up for that and I’ll do it.’ George’s up for it and here we are.
JPG: From interviewing Mike last year and knowing of him going through his health problems years ago and rethinking about things in life, I would think he would have a deeper conversation with you more so recently than in the past.
EC: Absolutely. It’s weird. All three of us, within about a week of each other had near death experience, and I think it mellowed all of us in a lot of different ways, Michael especially. He’s a different man than I knew 18 years ago. Completely. He’s like Mr. Fuckin’ Mellow. Still intense, don’t get me wrong. As intense, if not more than ever. He’s just got a much more philosophical way of looking at life and what’s important and what’s not. Picking your battles. He’s definitely mellowed from that experience. No question about it in a very positive way. He is a lot easier to be around.