What made Watt drop the pick?

Discussion in 'Ask Mike Watt [Archived]' started by apollo, Apr 27, 2002.

  1. apollo


    Apr 23, 2002
    east coast, usa

    You commented that on your tour with the Fog, J.Mascis asked you to play with a pick, which you hadn't done in something like 17 years.
    Would this would mean you played pick on the early Minutemen records (My First Bells era) ? Those records had some fine bass playing - very clear sounding and rhythmic in a way that you don't often hear from bass players that just use their hands (similar to Chris Squire who used a pick on those classic Yes records). Did this sound come from using a pick, and what made you completely stop using one? Are there any of those Minutmen songs you wouldn't be able to play without a pick? Do you view playing with a pick on bass as "cheating" or less expressive?
  2. manrevrsal


    May 17, 2002
    although im not MIKE WATT (the man with a bass in his hand),i know he didnt use his fingers to play until recording the minutemens 1984 album"double nickels on the dime"

    ive read an interview where watt says this.

    so all the records before this (paranoid time,punchline,joy,what makes aman start fires,and buzz or howl....) he was using a PICK

    i have some minutemen videos as well and whenever they play older stuff Mr Watt takes out a pick and uses it .

    Then he switches to fingers when he is playing later material(double nickelss,project merch,three way tie..)
  3. apollo


    Apr 23, 2002
    east coast, usa
    The fingers playing IS stylistically different from the pick playing. I am really curious as to WHY he completely stopped writing for the pick, instead of still using it for some songs.

    I find that the bass is loud and clear in the early stuff, which is unique for the bass, playing it like a guitar like that. It kind of reverses the normal band situation, to carry the song with the bass (the Dead Milkmen 'Big Lizard' album makes wonnerful use of pick bass).

    On Double Nickels sometimes I have to crank up the bass to hear it, it's a little TOO subtle. Not that this is bad - I know a lot of people believe the bass should be FELT and not heard. It's a different animal.

    But other approaches are often refreshing, and that crazy Watt pick playing is something I really miss after all these yars. I saw the band Golden a few years back and the bassist had this approach, it was really intense.
  4. i remember hearing cris kirkwood mention on the firehose 'big bottom pow wow' cd something to watt like, "remember when you used to play with a pick and you'd bloody your hands?" that may have had something to do with watt dropping the pick in favor of fingers. as most of us know watt went back to the pick when he was touring with mascis and supposedly said he was gonna try some picking with his new material, but when i saw him a few weeks back there was no pick in site. it's all just a means to an end really... if the pick fits, use it! not that anyone probably even cares or anything but i'm usually a finger-style player myself but with my band more and more lately i find myself using a pick more often. it's all in the heart and the hands, not what's in the hands. watt would still sound like watt whether he uses a pick, his fingers or a dead trout to slam his bass!

    peace and much bass,

  5. watt

    watt TalkBass Pro Supporting Member


    I do not think using a pick is "cheating or being less expressive" - not at all. it's just another way of doing things and has its own set of advantages and disadvantes. I think a more versatile bassist can use both (and more!).

    the last song I recorded w/the minutemen using a pick was "s h i t from an old notepad" off of "double nickels on the dime" back in early 1984. it's the only song on that album where I used a pick. all the records done before that had me using the pick. I never recorded w/fIREHOSE using a pick. j mascis got me to try it again after seventeen years and I felt foolish for having lost the ability by not doing it. took a while to get back w/it and it's still tough for me!

    my advice is to nurture all your techniques unless they're physically hurting you.

    on bass, watt