Photo by Joey Lin
JPG: Speaking of health, just out of curiosity, how is his knee? (Watt was dealing with an injured knee last year.)
EC: He’s still a little hobbled. Not too bad. He’s up and around. He can walk and everything. He just has to take it easier. We’re all getting older. (laughs)
JPG: I understand that.
EC: The body only takes so much.
JPG: As I like to say it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.
EC: That’s the damn truth, man. I’m 48 and I still feel like I’m in my late 20s, early 30s. Mentally, I’m still in that time frame. I got to realize I’m 48. I can’t do shit I used to. I just have to dial it back a little bit. You make little concessions to the age war.
JPG: The reunion coincides with fIREHOSE’s Coachella appearances on April 14 and 20. Did the dates come first followed by the idea for the lowFLOWs compilation from Legacy or the other way around?
EC: Frankly, I haven’t asked Mike about that ‘cause I didn’t even know that Columbia was doing this until like about a week before I came out here. I was talking to Watt and giving him the setlist and he goes, ‘Oh, by the way, Edward. Columbia’s putting out our catalog again.’ And I was like, ‘Really?’ I don’t know that it was coincidental or they caught wind of it that we were going to do it. They can put shit out in a month’s time. It doesn’t take them long. It’s already recorded. All they had to do was remix it and repackage it. I don’t know the answer to that question.
JPG: I know that besides the two albums there’s the “Live Totem Pole” EP on the set plus a promo EP and some unreleased, out-of-print stuff. One of the cool things on there is the unreleased instrumental version of “Down with the Bass.”
EC: It doesn’t really need lyrics. Thing is by itself.
JPG: Going through the songs, “Flyin’ the Flannel” sounds different than the follow up, “Mr. Machinery Operator,” especially your guitars. Is that because J Mascis (of Dinosaur Jr.) was involved on “Operator” and your guitar had more of a loud roar heard on his records?
EC: Yeah, J had a lot to do with that. Absolutely, because when he showed up to produce in the studio, he showed up and I brought all my gear. I had a good bit of gear — nice old Fender Tweed amps and vintage guitars, some pretty nice stuff. I get there and J shows up with this amazing ’58 Fender Tweed Bandmaster, which is like one of the rarer models, maybe 22 watts, just a screaming amplifier. I was like, ‘Oh my goodness. We’ll be using this.’ ‘That’s why I brought it.’ He had a big influence. He brought that amplifier, which we used almost exclusively. He’s like, ‘Man, you need to turn up the guitars.’ (laughs) ‘Okay. I’m with you J.’
JPG: That’s a lively J Mascis. He usually doesn’t sound that lively.
EC: Exactly. It’s usually more like, (said slowly) ‘You should turn up the guitar.’
JPG: Yeah, that’s about right, which is funny because his music is the total opposite of his personality.
EC: Yep. Weird when he’s producing. He’d be sitting there. At the time, he was wearing prescription glasses, but they were sunglasses, prescription sunglasses. He’d be sitting there with his baseball cap on. You’d think he was asleep, staring at the board. You weren’t sure if he was listening at all, and then all of a sudden, he’d be like, ‘Let’s turn up the kick drum.’ Out of the blue! You turn up the kick drum and suddenly the song is perfect. He’d just sit there and listen, listen, didn’t talk, didn’t say much. But when he did say something it was exactly right. It was really great working with him, man. Loved it.
JPG: Before you moved to Columbia Records, fIREHOSE recorded three albums for SST (label for Black Flag, the minutemen, Meat Puppets, Husker Du). What is your view of the indie label because some bands loved SST, but then others had problems, whether it was accounting or other matters? Then again, some feel that those problems are possible on any label. Did you notice a difference or was it just you guys did what you did, it didn’t matter who put it out?
EC: Well, you’ve got to realize that minutemen, Mike Watt, George, they go back with SST to the very, very beginning. So they had a long relationship with Greg Ginn (owner of SST, leader of Black Flag) and Greg’s been nothing but straight up with us. It did get to a point where there were too many bands and not enough label to go around. You know what I mean? That was just growing pains. It went from a little tiny, punk rock label that was very much a family where everybody knew each other on the label and half the dudes worked there. It was that kind of operation. Then it got bigger, a lot bigger, real fast. Outgrew itself a little bit.
It wasn’t, ‘We have this problem with SST, so we’re…’ It was more, ‘There’s this opportunity [to go to a major label].’ Sonic Youth had done it. Husker Du had done it. Dinosaur Jr. had done it. They all made the leap. There was precedence for it. We didn’t see that it was a whole lot different ‘cause they were doing as good as they possibly could. There were some limitations and with the Columbia deal it was like the biggest label there is. ‘Let’s just try it out and see.’ We were very careful when it came to the contracts. Basically, not give away the house, which is what most bands do when they sign to a major. Careful they wouldn’t spend us into a hole. So, we never went into the red with them. Always in the black, the books. We had a pretty positive experience, actually.
JPG: That’s good. Last thing. At the time fIREHOSE was around there was the hair metal band Firehouse. Were you amused or pissed and frustrated that there was a band so similar to your name around at the time? There’s even a Youtube video taken from MTV where they screwed up and typed in the wrong name.
EC: Yeah, of course we were very aware of it. Oddly enough, I remember one gig, we were in Philly at the Trocadero and we’re sitting in the van in the parking lot, a couple hours before the gig, just chilling out. I see these obvious big hair people, leather head-to-toe, walking back to their cars, cussing up, ‘Goddamnnit! Fuckin’ fIREHOSE!’ They thought it was Firehouse playing at the Trocadero, and they apparently had a little problem with their education and didn’t know how to read. (laughs) They were pissed off walking back to their cars. We were amused by it. What are you gonna do?
JPG: I’m just surprised that bands with such similar names would be on labels owned by same the same company. You were on Columbia, they were on Epic and both owned by Sony. You would think somebody there would have bothered to mentioned that at the time.
EC: It’s a big label. Certain sections of it don’t talk to other sections of it apparently.
JPG: Well, too bad those guys didn’t bother to go inside.
EC: Yeah, right. They might have liked it. Who knows?