Ball-Hog or Tugboat?

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Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 28, 1995
RecordedMay 29 – September 11, 1994
StudioCherokee Studios, Robert Lang Studios, Baby Monster Studios, Alpha Studios, The Clubhouse, Aire L.A. Studios
GenreAlternative rock
ProducerMike Watt
Mike Watt chronology
Ball-Hog or Tugboat?
Contemplating The Engine Room
Professional ratings
Review scores
Rolling Stone[2]

Ball-Hog or Tugboat? is the 1995 debut solo album by American musician Mike Watt, previously known for his work as the bass guitarist and songwriter for the punk rock groups Minutemen and fIREHOSE.

The title references the difference between being a team player or being a glory hog. Watt explained it as "Are you going to be the tugboat which helps boats dock in rough surf safely? Or are you going to be like some glory hound who shoots the fucking ball every time you get it?"[5] Watt recorded the album with a rotating cast of alternative rock all-stars.


It was recorded in 1994, and came at a personal and professional career crossroads for Watt. fIREHOSE had broken up after eight years and six releases earlier in 1994, and his marriage to Kira Roessler (former Black Flag bassist) had ended in divorce,[5] though they remained on good terms and worked as a duo in Dos; Kira also contributed some computer graphics to the album's artwork.

Without a full-time band, Watt recruited a wide variety of friends and fellow travelers to participate in the recording of the album.[5] These included fellow SST Records alumni like former Black Flag vocalist Henry Rollins, members of Sonic Youth, Curt and Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets, former Saccharine Trust guitarist Joe Baiza,[5] Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis,[5] and former SST house producer Spot. Other contributors included members of bands who had either toured with and/or been influenced by the Minutemen and Firehose, including Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder,[5] Nirvana's Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl (making their first recorded appearance on a record since Kurt Cobain's death), Jane's Addiction and Porno for Pyros drummer Stephen Perkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers's Flea, Bikini Kill's Kathleen Hanna,[5] Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner,[5] former Germs and Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear, former Pixies singer Frank Black, former The Screamers and Twisted Roots keyboardist Paul Roessler (who was Watt's brother-in-law),[5] The Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando,[5] The Circle Jerks' Zander Schloss, former Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan and guitarist Gary Lee Conner, jazz/punk guitarist Nels Cline[5] and his drummer Michael Preussner,[5] that dog's Petra and Rachel Haden and Anna Waronker, and Mike D and Ad-Rock[5] of the Beastie Boys. Also participating on the album were Parliament/Funkadelic organist Bernie Worrell, Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine Fibbers,[5] Vince Meghrouni and Tony Atherton from the jazz band Bazooka and Bruce Hornsby drummer John Molo.

In interviews and on his online tour journals, Watt has nicknamed Ball-Hog... "The Wrestling Album", as he considered the various lineups we worked with on the album as "people getting into the ring" with him. Watt has also mentioned in interviews that professional wrestling is one of the few things he regularly watches on television (He once named The Magnificent Muraco as a favorite wrestler.)[6] Watt's longtime friend, artist Raymond Pettibon (another wrestling fan), added to the wrestling theme by contributing to the artwork a panel cartoon with the caption "Sex with you is like watching scientific wrestling".


"Big Train" was the first single from the album and one of only two songs Watt sang lead vocal on (the other being the closing track, "Coincidence Is Either Hit Or Miss".) The album's other singles, "Against The 70's" and "Piss-Bottle Man", featured Eddie Vedder and Evan Dando on lead vocals respectively. The initial plan was for Vedder to sing on a cover of Captain Beefheart's "Dirty Blue Gene" but at the last minute they decided to record "Against the 70s" instead.[5] All three of the singles were airplay hits on both modern rock and college radio, with "Against The 70's" peaking at #21 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart.[7] Videos were also shot for "Big Train" and "Piss-Bottle Man"; the former video originally featured models of Union Pacific trains in the footage, which was blurred out in a subsequent version of the clip after the company raised a copyright objection.

As part of the label's push behind the album, Columbia released the album as a limited-run double-vinyl LP, pressed on deep blue vinyl, and in a limited edition cardboard 12-inch by 6-inch sleeve that included both the standard CD insert as well as a second CD booklet that contained a "glossary of Pedro slang".[8]


Watt assembled an all-star grouping for his initial tour for the album in early 1995, attracting a great deal of attention from the alternative music press. Watt was backed by Vedder on guitar and vocals, Smear on guitar, William Goldsmith on drums, and Dave Grohl alternating on guitar and drums. The tour also featured Vedder's band Hovercraft[5] and the Foo Fighters on their first national tour.[5] Watt's ensemble performed on The Jon Stewart Show during this tour. Special guests such as Carla Bozulich and Perry Farrell appeared at select shows.

A May 1995 tour date in Chicago was recorded and later released as "Ring Spiel" Tour ’95.[9]

Later in the year Watt toured with a four-piece nicknamed The Crew Of The Flying Saucer with guitarist Nels Cline and two drummers, Michael Preussner and Vince Meghrouni,[10] who served as an opening act for Primus on their 1995 US tour.

Track listing[edit]

All tracks composed by Mike Watt; except where indicated

  1. "Big Train" (Tony Kinman, Chip Kinman) – 3:21
  2. "Against the 70's" – 3:28
  3. "Drove Up from Pedro" – 4:32
  4. "Piss-Bottle Man" – 3:16
  5. "Chinese Firedrill" (Watt, Joe Carducci) – 3:25
  6. "Intense Song for Madonna to Sing" – 3:05
  7. "Tuff Gnarl" (Sonic Youth) – 3:10
  8. "Sexual Military Dynamics" (Watt, Henry Rollins) – 2:39
  9. "Max and Wells" – 3:11
  10. "E-Ticket Ride" – 4:27
  11. "Forever... One Reporter's Opinion" – 3:41
  12. "Song for Igor" – 2:46
  13. "Tell 'em Boy!" – 3:29
  14. "Sidemouse Advice" – 3:31
  15. "Heartbeat" – 5:34
  16. "Maggot Brain" (George Clinton, Eddie Hazel) – 12:05
  17. "Coincidence Is Either Hit or Miss" – 2:20


Track credits[edit]

The album liner notes list the following performers by track:

# Track Name Personnel Instrument
1 Big Train Mike Watt Bass, Singer
Dave Grohl Drums
Nels Cline Slide Guitar
Eddie Vedder Singer, guitar
J. Mascis Lead Guitar
Cris Kirkwood Banjo
Curt Kirkwood Lead guitar
2 Against the 70s Mike Watt Bass
Eddie Vedder Singer, guitar
Dave Grohl Drums
Gary Lee Conner Lead Guitar
Krist Novoselic Farfisa Organ
Carla Bozulich Backing Singer
3 Drove Up from Pedro Mike Watt Bass
Carla Bozulich Singer
Michael Preussner Drums
Nels Cline Guitar
Joe Baiza Guitar
Paul Roessler Piano
Petra Haden Backing Singer
Rachel Haden Backing Singer
4 Piss-Bottle Man Mike Watt Bass
Evan Dando Singer
Bob Lee Drums
Zander Schloss Guitar
John Strohm Guitar
Anna Waronker Backing Singer
Petra Haden Backing Singer
Rachel Haden Backing Singer
5 Chinese Firedrill Mike Watt Bass
Frank Black Singer
Michael Preussner Drums
Nels Cline Electric and nylon guitars
Keith McCaw Acoustic Guitar
Stephen Perkins Percussion
Joe Carducci Lyrics
6 Intense Song for Madonna to Sing Mike Watt Bass
Michael Preussner Drums
Nels Cline Lead Guitar
Joe Baiza Guitar
Paul Roessler Piano
Danny Frankel Percussion
7 Tuff Gnarl Mike Watt Bass
Carla Bozulich Singer
J. Mascis Drums (first part)
Thurston Moore Guitar, Lyrics
Lee Ranaldo Guitar
Nels Cline Guitar
Steve Shelley Drums (second part)
Epic Soundtracks Tambourine
Petra Haden Backing Singer
8 Sexual Military Dynamics Mike Watt Bass
Henry Rollins Singer, lyrics
Wayne Griffin Drums
Butler Guitar
9 Max and Wells Mike Watt Bass
Mark Lanegan Singer
Brock Avery Drums
J. Mascis Guitar
Todd Rigione Guitar
10 E-Ticket Ride Mike Watt Bass
Mike D Singer
Stephen Perkins Drums and Percussion (first part)
Tony Atherton Alto Sax
Coco Hayley Gordon Moore Wail
Flea Lead Bass
John Molo Drums (second part)
Vince Meghrouni Percussion (2nd part) and backup singer
11 Forever - One Reporter's Opinion Mike Watt Bass
Pat Smear Singer
Michael Preussner Drums
Nels Cline Guitar
12 Song for Igor Mike Watt Bass
Vince Meghrouni Singer, drums, tenor sax
Tony Atherton Alto Sax
13 Tell 'em, Boy! Mike Watt Bass
Dave Pirner Singer
John Molo Drums
Todd Rigione Guitar
14 Sidemouse Advice Mike Watt Bass
Carla Bozulich Singer
Stephen Perkins Drums
Paul Roessler Piano
Flea Trumpet
15 Heartbeat Mike Watt Bass
Tiffany Anders Singer
Richie West Drums
Kathleen Hanna Spiel
Spot Viola
16 Maggot Brain Mike Watt Bass
J. Mascis Guitar
Bernie Worrell B3 Organ
17 Coincidence Is Either Hit or Miss Mike Watt Bass and Singer
Adam Horovitz Drums, Guitar, Hollering
Ronda Rindone Bass Clarinet
Mario Caldato Hollering
Tony Maxwell Cello
Spot Viola

References and footnotes[edit]

  1. ^ Erlewine, Stephen Thomas. "Ball-Hog or Tugboat?". AllMusic. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  2. ^ Rolling Stone review[dead link]
  3. ^ "Mike Watt: Ball-Hog Or Tugboat". Q (102): 106. March 1995.
  4. ^ "Mike Watt: Ball-Hog Or Tugboat?". NME. 18 March 1995. p. 47.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Bullock, John Paul (March 4, 2020). "Mike Watt's Ball-Hog or Tugboat Turns 25: How a Bass Hero's Eclectic LP Defined the '90s". Spin. Retrieved March 5, 2020.
  6. ^ Watt, Mike (April 9, 2012). ""smokin' on the ol' pink pole" tour 2012". Mike Watt's Hoot Page. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  7. ^ "Mike Watt: Chart History". Billboard. Retrieved March 11, 2019.
  8. ^ "Pedro Speak". Archived from the original on February 20, 2008. Retrieved January 8, 2015.
  9. ^ "Audio of Mike Watt's "ring spiel" tour '95 to be Released for the First Time Commercially on November 11". Columbia/Legacy. September 30, 2016. Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  10. ^ Cline, Nels. "nels cline's tour spiel: mike watt and the crew of the flying saucer". Mike Watt's Hoot Page. Retrieved May 5, 2021.

External links[edit]