It seemed like someone's idea of a joke at Harlow's in Sacramento in late December 2011 when this announcement was made: fIREHOSE would be playing the club next April.
Whaaat? fIREHOSE? The hugely influential power trio of the '80s and '90s that alternative, indie and grunge fans could all agree upon? Would it be the actual lineup of Ed Crawford (vocals/guitar), mike watt (bass), and George Hurley (drums), or somebody's sad hijacking of the oddly capitalized band's name?
Well, as it turns out, in this case the news wasn't too good to be true. The reunited trio -- together for the first time since their 1994 -- is opening a 14-date reunion tour there, which ends at the Coachella Music Festival.
Of equally good news for fans is the release of the double CD anthology, "lowFLOWs", which collects all of the band's recorded output for second label Columbia (full lengths Flyin' the Flannel and Mr. Machinery Operator and the EP Live Totem Pole), along with rarities, demos, singles, and unreleased cuts.
fIREHOSE came out of the ashes of hardcore punk legends the Minutemen after the 1985 accidental van wreck death of singer/guitarist D. Boon. watt and Hurley thought about giving up music, but a persistent young fan (Crawford), convinced them to give it another shot. The trio formed fIREHOSE, taking their name from a card that Bob Dylan shows in the video for "Subterranean Homesick Blues," in 1987.
Rocks Off spoke with Crawford from (where else?) the band's home base of San Pedro, Calif., just hours before the trio was to start their very first rehearsal.
Rocks Off: So, how did the reunion happen?
Ed Crawford: mike has stayed pretty busy with Iggy and the Stooges, but I saw him when he came through with mike watt + the missing men, and we started talking about it a couple of years ago doing a couple of shows. There was an offer from Coachella last year, and it wasn't going to work schedule-wise. But then he carved out some time and we took it. And then we decided to do some other shows.
RO: How are rehearsals going?
EC: We actually start today! (laughs) I got here a couple of days ago, and I'm staying with George. I think it'll be pretty good. Pretty happening.
RO: How do you think the records on this Columbia compilation differed from your first three on the SST label?
EC: As far as music recording...not much. We did get more money and were in a better studio. We'd done about all we could do with [previous label] SST, and that label was overrun with bands. It was the next step. It is what it is.
RO: Of all the "stray tracks" on the anthology, is there a favorite?
EC: Not really. I'm just happy that those records are back in print! (laughs) That's pretty good. I haven't even seen the packaging for it yet.
RO: What was the hardest part about trying to convince mike and George to start a new band with you after the Minutemen?
EC: It wasn't so much I had to convince them. I came out here sort of uninvited and pestered them a lot for a week. I finally ran out of money and was about to head back home when [mike] called me back and said. "Well, when's your flight? You came all the way down here. I'll pick you up, we'll practice, then I'll take you to the airport."
I thought it was gonna be just that, and he'd say, "Well kid, we'll see you." But I think that he was intrigued that this 22-year-old kid had the cojones to step up and say, "I can do this." Because you can't replace D. Boon. We didn't make a new Minutemen, but we did make a fIREHOSE.
RO: Because you weren't trying to be just a continuation of that band.
EC: Yeah. We brought along most of the Minutemen fans. But I think we pissed some of them off (laughs)! But I'm pretty proud looking back at it. I mean, I hadn't listened to a lot of fIREHOSE in 18 years! So I went out and bought all the records.
RO: You didn't even own your own records?
EC: Yeah, that's exactly what I'm saying! It's weird. I never really listened to them. When you're in the studio, you listen to it hundreds of times. And then you're just tired of hearing it!
RO: Both bands were so closely identified with the city of San Pedro. Did the geography influence the music?
EC: Well, Pedro is really kind of... technically, it's part of L.A., but not really. It's an old harbor town, lots of fishermen, that sort of history. But it's sort of isolated from L.A., 20 or 30 miles down the freeway from Hollywood and all that nonsense.
It's got a small-town feel. I don't know how it influenced [the music]. It's very laid-back here. It's got a different feel. George and Mike lived here pretty much their whole lives. I only lived here seven years, but I enjoyed it. I live in Pittsburgh now.
RO: Any memories of Houston?
EC: Sure, we toured there a bunch of times. Houston was always good. We had some friend who lived in La Plata, and we'd go down and see them after the Houston shows. We'd cook out and drink some beer and have a good time.
RO: And you also have a new band, Food.
EC: Yeah! We have a record coming out April 24, an EP called Four Pieces from Candyland. It's another three-piece with Eric Vermillion on bass and Mike Quinlan and drums. I'm pretty excited about it.
Really [it's] the first band I've been happy with since fIREHOSE. I worked with Whiskeytown for about six months and then had a band called Grand National, and then I was with Southern Culture on the Skids for about seven years.
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RO: And, of course, I have to ask. Could there be a new fIREHOSE record?
EC: Yeah, I mean, there's... we haven't really sat down and said anything, and it depends what Mike has time for. But it's possible. It would be a blast!