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Mike Watt Riffs on Ron Asheton and the Stooges


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Mike Watt, bassist for punk groups the Minutemen and Firehose, was invited in 2003 by Iggy Pop to join the Stooges when the seminal Michigan band reunited for its first performance in nearly 30 years at the Coachella Valley Arts & Music Festival.

He continued to perform and record as a Stooge for the next 5 1/2 years alongside founding members Ron Asheton, the guitarist who was found dead this week at age 60; his brother, drummer Scott Asheton; and saxophonist Steve Mackay. Watt spoke Tuesday to The Times' Randy Lewis about being in the band with Ron Asheton. What follows is Watt's remembrance of his close friend and colleague.

As a musician, he was a pioneer -- very singular, very unique. To get to be onstage with him was incredible for me. We all looked up to Ronnie with that guitar sound. Man, it was a sound, but especially in those days in the early '70s. Most people at my high school, they didn't like that sound. They were like, “You like them?" We took a lot of [flak] for liking them in a way.

Then the punk scene comes, and the Stooges was the common ground. That scene, which was not very popular here in Southern California, was just all these different weirdos from different places. The one thing in common was the Stooges. It was kind of anti-arena rock -- more like Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard than what was happening in the '70s. I can't even imagine our scene without that band.

And then I get to play with these cats. So much stuff comes third-, fourth- and fifth-hand, but I got to go right to the source. I was born in '57, so I was 10 years behind them. I'd never been in the little brother role before, but especially being around these guys, my ears grew to the size of elephants' and became like sponges -- I just wanted to absorb everything.

In 1997, I got to make an album with him in a group called the Wylde Rattz, which had a song on the soundtrack for “Velvet Goldmine." We did a whole album, but then London Records folded and it never came out. The song came out in the movie, but that's when I actually got to spend a bunch of time with him in the studio.

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