About Black Gang
The Black Gang was the trio Mike Watt formed in 1997 to record and tour behind his second solo album, Contemplating The Engine Room (Columbia Records, 1997). Of all of the "project" (semi-temporary) bands that he has formed since the disbanding of fIREHOSE in 1994, The Black Gang (named after Navy slang for sailors who work on a boat's or submarine's engine room) has gone through the most permutations of any of Watt's backing groups.
For the recording of the album in May 1997, Watt tapped guitarist Nels Cline (whom he had recorded and toured with on his previous solo album, Ball-Hog or Tugboat?) and sometime Tom Waits drummer Stephen Hodges. Commitments with the Geraldine Fibbers kept Cline from touring with Watt for most of the tour, forcing Watt to hire former Saccharine Trust guitarist Joe Baiza to replace him. Watt's longtime soundman since fIREHOSE, Steve Reed, was officially added to the touring lineup as well, singing backing vocals from behind the mixing board and playing sound effects for some of the songs (via a CD-R through the board) on cue in addition to his normal sound reinforement duties.
Hodges left the band for other commitments, and was replaced by Bob Lee in 1998, starting with a spring European tour. Joe Baiza then departed The Black Gang after some work-related conflicts with Watt; Nels Cline was by then able to rejoin the band for one last tour leg behind the album. To mark the occasion, Cline composed a new song, "This Is A Prayer", which was debuted during his tour stint, and later immortalized on a 7" EP released on the Kill Rock Stars label.
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