Q&A with Jared ‘Dirty J’ Watson of the Dirty Heads
September 26, 2012
In support of its new album, “Cabin By The Sea,” the Dirty Heads near the finish line of a summerlong tour as it hits Lake Tahoe for a show Thursday, Sept. 27, in the MontBleu Theatre. The album includes collaborations with Rome, KyMani Marley, Del the Funky Homosapien and Matisyahu, who headlines the Tahoe concert. We spoke with Jared “Dirty J” Watson during the band’s off day, somewhere between Iowa and Colorado.
Q: You are on a three-month tour, which is ambitious. Do you even know what town you are in today?
Watson: I could not tell you the name of the town I’m in right now. I know we have the day off and we’re coming from Iowa to Denver and we have the day off and I just went to the hotel room and I couldn’t tell you where we’re at.
Q: Do you like this type of lifestyle?
Watson: It’s kind of addicting. I’ve been doing it so long and it is enjoyable to me. I never get bored. It’s always interesting. I could never keep a job back at home. I would just get bored and quit. I would just do the same thing every day. You never do the same thing every day with a band for three months. Then when you’re burned out you can come home and sit in the studio. You miss your friends and family and you come home and say, “What did I miss?” And they say “nothing.” I love my job. These are my dreams coming true. We’re ready to be on tour for the rest of our lives.
Q: The Dirty Heads are putting out hits. It there pressure to continue to do so?
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Watson: If you start to put pressure on you, you’re not going to get a hit song. It doesn’t put pressure on me. It makes me motivated. … I do feel if you just sit around and try to get a bunch of hits, you’re not going to get it. That’s why I don’t feel there’s any pressure. We’re just going to keep writing the music we’ve always written and have fun and do what we’ve always done.
Q: “Lay Me Down” with Rome was your first big hit. How did you get together with him?
Watson: He was just this kid who kept coming into the studio down in Newport (Beach). He played a similar style of music and we became friends. We wrote the song at a barbecue. I thought there was no way that song would have been the song that did so much for us.
Q: Dirty Heads are called California reggae. How do you describe it?
Watson: I’d like to think that we have made our own genre of music, our own sound. There is the reggae rock scene, which I think we came out of, which Sublime kind of started. But we don’t have a lot of rock. We don’t have a lot of punk. We have just mainly a lot of reggae and hip-hop. … We were very conscious about being very original and taking things from other genres of music. … Taking ideas and doing it our own way.
Q: The song “Disguise” on the new album marries mariachi and hip-hop. That’s original.
Watson: We were recording in El Paso on the border and we had some horn players come over from Mexico. … We grew up in Huntington, only four hours away from Mexico. We went to Mexico every summer in high school.
Q: This is off topic, but since you are a world traveler, where’s the best Mexican food?
Watson: I would stick to San Diego and the Orange County area. Those are the best Mexican restaurants I’ve ever been to. There’s some great places in Mexico, too. But you are taking the chance you might pee out of your ass later.
Q: The song “Smoke Rings” starts with what sounds like a movie excerpt – “You’re right. I am a rotten bastard, I admit it. But even though I’ve got a lot of hate inside, I got friends who ain’t got hate inside, and filled with nothing but love. Their only crime is growing their hair long, smoking a little grass and getting high and looking at the stars at night.” Is that from an old James Dean movie?
Watson: That was from a movie called “Satan’s Sadists” It was some ’60s biker movie that Mario Caldato, the producer, he had all these really old movies because he knew there was downtime at night. We were sitting all stoned watching the intro. We said, “Oh my God. We have to sample that.”
Q: You are touring with Matisyahu. How’s it been?
Watson: He’s a great guy and he comes out and does a song with us every night. The first national tour we ever did may years ago, we did with Matisyahu and 311. We’ve known him for a long time, so it’s like summer camp. It’s just one fun, long thing. This is one of the longest tours we’ve done, but it feels like one of the fastest. It’s just really enjoyable.
Q: Did you collaborate with Matisyahu because you knew you’d tour together?
Watson: We wrote “Dance All Night” almost 90 percent complete and there was a verse left and I couldn’t get Matis out of my head. (Afterward) we asked him, “What are you doing for tour this summer? We haven’t got anything yet, and he said he hadn’t gotten anything either.” So the tour came from the writing session, not the other way around. … It’s always better when you do it artist to artist rather than have the manager call. It’s better do things organically and personally.
Q: “Cabin by the Sea” is an uplifting album.
Watson: That’s one of our main messages. That’s one of our main goals in our music, it’s to uplift people and make people feel good.
Q: I read the first time you did any rapping you were in Dustin Bushnell’s garage just messing around.
Watson: It was OK that I was doing these drunken raps in his soundproof garage over Casio beats about like (boobs) and weed and whatever a 16-year-old raps about. Then we started writing actual songs. He was really pushing me into it. I’m glad he did, but it took me a little while to get used to it. He was in a punk band and he had already been on stage a bunch. It was all new to me but he pushed me and made me feel comfortable about it and we started playing shows and now we’re here.
Q: On the intro to “Cabin by the Sea” I can hear the fingers on guitar strings. Is that what gave you the idea with the gulls? It sounds like gulls, or am I thinking too hard about it?
Watson: I think it’s a really cool coincidence and I’d never thought about that and I think it’s genius. It was that guitar part that made me think of – maybe I did it subsconsiously – but I would give the credit to you for that. That’s what I pictured in my head when I heard that. It’s just in my head, my comfortable place by the beach, a cabin by the sea. It’s Northern California, not tropical, just this really cool hippie spot in the forest by the beach. We wanted to try to portray that in the open song. We were not trying to overdo it with the seagulls but I think it works great.
Q: You recorded with Billy Preston. How cool is that?
Watson: That was insane. That was the coolest highlight of our career to meet him and get him to play on our stuff and actually enjoy it. He said, “I really enjoy your songs, I would love to play on it.” Just for him to say that was like, “What the (blank).” That was an honor. … He played on The Beatles.
Q: When you play Tahoe the tour will be just about finished. How does that affect the show?
Watson: Two months into your set, we’re tight. We feel good. The more you play, the better it is. We try and go out and play our best every night but there’s no helping just knowing your going to be home soon and it does put more fire under your ass and we might just pull out the stops and do something special.
Q: What will you do when you get home?
Watson: I’m gonna sleep and I’ve got a lot of video games I’ve got to catch up on. I missed a lot of beach time, so hopefully, it’s still warm and I’m just going to go home and relax. We won’t work much in October, and then we go to South America.