On June 27th, punk legend and bassist Mike Watt, known for his work with Minuteman and fIREHOSE, will unveil his latest project titled “Boring Out.” This exciting venture sees Watt teaming up with Iowa City singer/songwriter/illustrator Samuel Locke Ward for a 24-track record that channels the spirit of T. Rex. Titled “Purple Plow Pie,” the album is set to release on July 21st via Kill Rock Stars. The collaboration also features saxophonist Bob Bucko Jr, drummer Dean Clean, and guitarist Joe Jack Talcum from the renowned punk band The Dead Milkmen.
Samuel Locke Ward, a talented artist hailing from Iowa, has an impressive discography, having written and recorded over 1,000 songs and released 60 albums since the early 2000s. His music spans multiple genres, including rock, folk, country, and world music, all infused with his inventive DIY approach. Earlier this year, Locke Ward garnered critical acclaim for his collaboration with Jad Fair (Half Japanese) on the album “Happy Hearts,” released under Kill Rock Stars. Additionally, Locke Ward has contributed his artistic talents to create the artwork for the new SLW cc Watt album, as he has done for their previous releases.
Mike Watt, a prominent figure in the indie and punk scene, co-founded the influential San Pedro band Minuteman in 1980. After the tragic death of his bandmate D. Boon in 1985, Watt went on to form fIREHOSE, as well as Secondmen and Missingmen. Throughout his career, Watt has released three punk operas, collaborated with notable artists such as the Stooges, Sonic Youth, and Juliana Hatfield, and recorded albums with his long-term project DOS, featuring ex-Black Flag bassist Kira.
“Purple Pie Plow,” clocking in at 24 tracks in just 40 minutes, showcases a unique blend of poetic spiels delivered by Watt himself and charming short songs sung by Locke Ward, backed by Watt, Bucko, Talcum, and Clean. The collaboration took place through the internet, with Locke Ward sending lyrics to Watt and demo tracks for everyone to layer their parts upon.
The album draws inspiration from T. Rex’s fusion of glam and psychedelia, offering stylized interpretations of weighty subjects. Listeners are taken on a captivating journey through themes of mob rule, frightening fascism, and ecological horrors, all presented through a diverse range of musical styles. From haunting ’50s-style ballads like “A Face in the Crowd” and the infectious catchiness of “Help Me,” to the Motown swing of “Pray” and the New Orleans-flavored “Boring Out,” “Purple Pie Plow” explores a rich sonic landscape. The album also features standout tracks like the doo-wop-inspired “Boots March,” the cow-punk-infused “Lost To Time,” and the free jazz freakout of “Flowers Scream.”
Despite delving into darker subject matter, the album offers moments of hope and resilience. Tracks such as the acoustic/psych ballad “Children of the Stars,” the lonesome folk tune “Dragon Steed,” and the noir jazz-infused “Weeds of Your Dreams” rise above the doom, providing glimpses of light amidst the chaos.
The collaboration between Samuel Locke Ward and Mike Watt has proven to be an incredible artistic match, resulting in a fruitful partnership that has yielded three albums so far. The chemistry between the two musicians is palpable, and their ongoing collaboration hints at even more exciting projects to come. With the release of “Purple Pie Plow,” listeners are given a taste of their musical synergy and a glimpse into the boundless creativity they bring to the table. As you listen to “Purple Pie Plow,” it becomes evident why Locke Ward and Watt have chosen to continue working together, leaving us eagerly anticipating what they will create next.
With its poetic lyrics, dynamic compositions, and the seamless fusion of their individual talents, “Purple Pie Plow” stands as a testament to the enduring spirit of punk and the power of collaboration. It is a sonic journey that showcases the vast range of both artists, as they effortlessly navigate through different genres and emotions. From introspective ballads to energetic punk-infused tracks, the album is a captivating exploration of sound and storytelling.
As we eagerly await their fourth album and the next chapter of their musical journey, we sat down with Samuel Locke Ward and Mike Watt to discuss their collaborative project, SLW cc Watt, and their upcoming album “Purple Pie Plow.”
Samuel shared how he kept finding new ideas and maintained creativity by constantly being inspired and writing music, regardless of whether it was heard by others. He expressed his excitement about working with Watt and how it brought him joy to play music together.
Mike reflected on the evolution of punk music, emphasizing that it was a state of mind rather than a specific style. He talked about his approach to collaboration and how he strived to bring his best to aid and enhance the tunes.
They also discussed the unique process of creating the album remotely, with each member adding their parts from different locations. The decision to pack 24 tracks into just 40 minutes was a deliberate choice to fit within the time limits of vinyl.
They delved into the themes explored in the album, such as mob rule, fascism, and ecological horrors, and how they balanced these serious subjects with the musical styles on the album.
Mike reflected on his past collaborations and the joy of working with new artists, while Samuel discussed the influence of visual art on his music and vice versa.
Check out the full interview below.
With over 1,000 songs under your belt, Samuel, how do you keep finding new ideas and maintaining creativity?
SLW: I love making songs up and making music. I do it whether people hear it or not. I am always hearing music and ideas that inspire me. Playing with Watt is big time inspiring. For this band I write everything I write with Watt in mind.
Collaborating is energizing in general and this collab with Watt really makes me feel connected to the joy that made me play music in the first place. There’s always joy in creating my part and joy in hearing what Watt does in return.
Mike, having played a seminal role in the punk scene since the 80s, how have you seen the genre evolve and change over the years, and how does it reflect in your recent projects?
WATT: you mentioned that “g word” and I ‘pert-near had to puke… haven’t grown out of that stupid shit yet? for me, punk was a movement about a state of mind and not a style of music. for me, my understanding is that music is music and that “g word” just gets in the way of trying to actually experience it. let me answer your question: me doing a collab w/sam is the same as when d boon showed a tune he just wrote and I wanted to try my best to aid and abet the delivery of that tune into people’s ear holes. I think I trust sam enough to give him what I got on bass for his tunes. I also tried to read his words he wrote for me to do as spiels w/as much feeling as I could bring. I thought about both these things much but actually, for me the REAL knowing was in the doing.
What led to the decision to pack 24 tracks into just 40 minutes for “Purple Pie Plow”?
WATT: I asked sam not to make more than twenty minutes a side cuz w/vinly, if you go over that time limit much the bass (and bottom) end gets scissored and I didn’t want us to bring the listeners any shorts.
SLW: I had to do a lot of editing to get it to fit tight. I was really trying to make everything as symmetrical as humanly possible and fit in the time as well as it can.
Could you discuss how you manage the collaborative process, especially given that it was conducted over the internet? How did it affect the spontaneity and energy usually found in a room during Collaborations?
SLW: This album was made a little different from our first 2 records. Everything was done like an assembly line.
The songs I sang start with me and my acoustic guitar, then I’d send them down the road to Dean Clean in Philly to do drums, then to Watt in Pedro (he always plays after drums so he can lock in tight), then back to Philly for Joe Jack Talcum to do electric guitar and keys, and finally Bob Bucko Jr would do sax and flute in Dubuque.
The spiels start with Watt doing the poems I wrote. Then he sends that back to me and I compose the tune to the cadence of his voice. Then back to Watt for bass. Sometimes more.
I’ve learned a lot from doing this collab. It’s really changed how I think about playing music. What it means to be a generous player. How to set other people up. Because that’s the wild thing about Watt’s playing, he’s a super generous player, he plays great and always sets up everybody else to shine.
The album has a mix of short poetic ‘spiels’ and songs. What led to this unique decision in the structuring of the album?
WATT: that was sam’s idea but be me being a Minuteman myself, I’m way into short bursts of expression. me and d boon actually got the idea from the band from england wire and their “pink flag” album. so yeah, I was way into this idea of sam’s, helps trip the album out more too.
What have been some of the most unexpected or surprising moments during the creation of “Purple Pie Plow”?
WATT: every time I got a tune from sam (him in iowa city, me in pedro – about eighteen hundred miles by car) via the internet, I would have my bass ready to go so I could record the first fucking thing I felt I could do to aid and abet the tune. that fucking sitch can happen only once, you know? like why a judge has to run his court regarding that – it’s said you “can’t unring the bell,” capito? so I take that initial “experience” w/his tune to get a handle on what I can bring w/the bass. his tune’s have their own essence so that’s the feel I try to get and manifest it bass-wise, his stuff is not wandering and w/out a point which with the approach I’m taking might end up a total clown car ride. there’s something about a “real” tune, it’s not just a pose. ha, maybe this sounds ridiculous. maybe your question is about this album in particular where maybe I’m spieling about all three we’ve done and even the fourth we’re about to do. from all three records I was surprised he did all the singing cuz I thought his wife grace maybe was doing some of the high parts. watt was wrong. but that’s ok! remember frank morgan in “the wizard of oz” saying “pay no attention to that man behind curtain” maybe? HE WAS that motherfucker behind the curtain!
SLW: I don’t think anybody did what I expected or what I would have done left to my own devices. I had the unique perspective of hearing everything come in one track at a time. So every time something came in it completely changed everything. It was wild and fun to behold.
The album also tackles heavy subject matters like mob rule, fascism, and ecological horrors. How do you balance these serious themes with the musical styles on the album?
WATT: being a Minuteman I’m used to this also and into it. see my answer above, focusing on the “expression” part.
SLW: Whatever you’re thinking about and feeling at the time you are making music is just what’s gonna come out. Maybe if there were less loud ass fascists we’d do less songs about loud ass fascism.
Given the breadth of your discography, Mike, how does working on the SLW cc Watt project compare to your past collaborations, such as with Sonic Youth and Porno for Pyros?
WATT: “worldbroken” in 1985 was a saccharine trust live/edited album I was on and the first time mainly I helped out another band. that’s cuz the original bass man had to drop out at the last minute. pornos for pyros in 1996 was the second time but I did three little tours w/them besides recording a few songs. I learned a lot from this – it was more than one night (that’s all the sacch collab was, that one gig the album’s from w/no prac cuz it was improvised in the moment we did it)! I got the confidence up to do my first opera a year later (“contemplating the engine room”). third time was helping j mascis + the fog in 2000 right when an illness ‘pert-killed me, j really help me get back on the horse and for him, it was the first I played w/a pick again in seventeen years. crimony. well, cuz of that tour (actually three tours, huh?), trippy enough, the stooges got back together in 2003 (j took ronnie asheton on tour w/us in 2000) and I helped them for 125 months. then I helped tav falco w/a u.s. tour in 2015 (love that man!) and flipper w/a europe tour in 2019 – all these sitches were where I was taking direction, taking the place of the gone person, capito? now I’m helping mike baggetta w/his mssv proj and he writes bass parts for me – first time in my life, not even d boon wrote bass parts for me. anyway, slw cc watt ain’t like any of this stuff I’ve just told you. his is more like d boon showing me a tune – or ed fROMOHIO and I just trying to aid and abet the tune the best I can w/bass.
I just did a whole fifteen part opera w/petra haden where I sent her a part at a time and then at her pad in hollywood. she’d put on mandolin and violin and then sing words (charley plymell did the libretto). she’s someone I’ve known a long long time but lots of these cats I know ONLY through the collab we’re doing. now I started this actually before internet days – me and k traded cassettes for our four-track recorders while she was at yale doing an internship in 1986, that’s how we got the first dos album together, though the finished baby was done at radio tokyo, all the working out of the tunes was via the u.s. mail. I started w/internet “file trading” around 2007 and have collaborated on all kinds of stuff – singles, eps, comp tracks, album – w/people I ain’t even met in person! you can look here to see some of it.
Samuel, in addition to being a musician, you’re also an illustrator and did the artwork for this album. How does your visual art influence your music, and vice versa?
SLW: They are kind of the same thing. Just make whatever occurs to you and go wherever that moment takes you to. But shot composition, cycles, repetition, symmetry … The things I think about while crafting something, it all comes up in whatever I do.
I can’t build a table to save my life but I’m sure I’d use those same ideas if I did.
As this collaboration has been so fruitful, resulting in three albums already, could you give us any hints about what to expect from the fourth album?
WATT: whenever you play, I think you invest in the next time you play so nothing that way I feel is “wasted” and so I’m most grateful for the opportunity. I’d rather use that “o word” and not that “b word” burden, you know. music’s a fucking lifeline for me, I don’t take it for granted. I got into music to be w/my friend and I lost him a long time ago but somehow I kept going. I can imagine doubt being a real shit-stopper maybe. “keep on keepin on” john fogerty wrote on a napkin to me – it’s on the label of the fIREHOSE “if’n” vinyl. thank you, mr fogerty, thank you sam, thank you kill rock stars.
How do you see the future of punk music, particularly in light of recent political and ecological issues?
WATT: “punk movement” reminds me of some riff on hermetic thinking and that’s got a long tradition that I think’s got a long trajectory as long as it’s kind of like a “clay” for people to work w/and not a captured/imprisoned halloween costume to be xeroxed… yeah, maybe for me that’s the best way to put it. I divided your “punk music” into parts on purpose cuz for me music is music.
Given your long and diverse career in music, what advice would you give to aspiring punk artists looking to make their mark on the scene?
WATT: everyone’s born w/a different finger/thumb print but at the same we got buttloads in common. for me and sam, I think music is a way of being a fabric between both us and any listeners, it’s both private and public at the same time. the main reason I have my watt from pedro show (twentytwo years two months now) is to play music that let’s the freak flag fly. I’m way into aspiring punk artists for a very good reason… cuz I am one!