“Mom, if you can hear me, I think I made it, 20,000 fans from the stage I’m standing on, I want you to know I appreciate it, one day I’ll come home, we can celebrate.” These heartfelt words come to us from Orange County’s own Dirty Heads and their incredible song “Celebrate.” What a great song as a backdrop for a chat.
In 2023, life has come full circle for the band as they are hitting all cylinders professionally and personally. Recently, we caught up with Jared Watson, aka Dirty J, to talk about life in general and all things in between.
Here’s the thing about the genre we try to put on Dirty Heads; it is in a constant state of development. Before we had bands like Dirty Heads, the Beasties turned the world of music on its ear with their sound. But before there was “Cookie Puss,” “Paul Revere,” and “Brass Monkey,” rock was rock. Thanks to the Beastie Boys, we had to re-evaluate that way of thinking. In 2023, Dirty Heads gives us a reason again to re-adjust.
Where does that put us? Well, professionally speaking, since Huntington Beach locals Dirty Heads released their debut album in 2008, they have captivated us with their style of music. With years of ear candy mega hits, we have sung along to “Stand Tall,” “Lay Me Down,” “Spread Too Thin,” “Cabin by the Sea,” “My Sweet Summer,” “Sound of Change,” “Vacation,” “Lift Me Up,” and “Rage.” The list of songs that make their fans cartoon crazy goes on and on.
For me, it wasn’t until the last few albums that I realized this band is on a path to be better than a “great” band; they are headed to music immortality with the way they have developed their sonic vision.
J is an interesting type of rock star. He is very down-to-earth and really doesn’t seem himself as a “rock star.” He is just another guy who has been blessed to make music on his own terms. With the help of Duddy and the rest of their band, Dirty Heads have put out a very impressive musical resume since 2008. With collaboration projects left and right, you just never know what’s next with this band.
My first question was simple; what bands is he listening to these days. J responded, “I like listening to The Elovaters, a deejay called Monster Rally, and Steve Lacy.” He went on to say, “I love listening to music of all types, you never know who will inspire you and who knows, you may find yourself working with one of these artists one day, that’s what we do.”
With music as his muse, he is also now a dad. We joked a little about how Jim Lindberg of Pennywise is the Gold Standard as a Punk Rock Dad. I asked how having children of his own has changed his life. He said it has definitely put things in perspective and he can’t see his life without his kids. What’s fascinating, in addition to being an excellent dad, J has not slowed down on the musical end of things. That is a balance we all strive for, but some way and somehow, J has tapped into that Holy Grail. Balance between family, work, and fame. J has a better grasp on it all than most of us.
Then again, circling back to “Celebrate,” a 2017 tune the Dirty Heads put out with The Unlikely Candidates, is a letter that almost every artist who goes on the road can pen. It outlines graphically how difficult life on the road can be, and how much of life you miss out on being a traveling musician.
“Celebrate” will give you a moment of reflection to appreciate what these artists go through to give us the music that speaks to us, and tell us the stories we grow to incorporate as part of our lives. I remember speaking with J when “Celebrate” was first released; it is a very emotional song, and despite its content, it was a prelude to where Dirty Heads are today.
They followed-up with “Lift Me Up,” which also is a theme we can all get behind. To some extent, it is a microcosm to where we all want to be at some point in our lives.
Then their latest album, “Midnight Control,” was released. Music from the album is not just a full circle theme for the band and their fans, but it serves as testament as to who the Dirty Heads are as people and musicians.
We discussed the migration and themed songs from “Celebrate” to “Lift Me Up” to “Life’s Been Good.” J answered the question directly: “The song and their titles are no coincidence.” It outlines the path they have been on; a trajectory so-to-speak.
We first discussed the re-making of the 1978 Joe Walsh classic. J explained the song was tongue-in-cheek and made fun of that rock star lifestyle. They didn’t want to lose that impact of the lyrics, but it had to be done in a manner their fans would be able to pick up what was being thrown down. The guys did the song justice, as it sounds like an original, while giving homage to Walsh.
I asked how fans were reacting to it, and he said it took a few shows, but before you knew it, everyone was singing along every word. When asked which song he is happy mainstream media has taken a liking to, he said hands down, “Vacation.” He said it took a minute, we loved the song, but it wasn’t until fans on TikTok let their voices be heard; and what do you know, mainstream media is now onboard.
As for “Midnight Control,” the song I absolutely loved as an original is “Heavy Water,” a collaboration with Common Kings. What I like most about this one is you can’t really tell what genre it is; hip-hop, reggae, alt rock… it has a little bit of multiple elements.
Like Fourth Wave Ska, “Heavy Water” celebrates (no pun intended) all the elements of music nature. It brings their music full circle, just like the journey of life has taken them. It is a fantastic song and you can’t define the sound, therefore it defines the band.
J is beyond stoked to get onstage and play at Cali Vibes this Saturday. The lineup is Looney Tunes crazy good too. Along with Dirty Heads, it features Slightly Stoopid, Rebelution, Stick Figure, 311, Stephen and Damian Marley. Then there are the artists and bands everyone knows: Snoop Dogg and Cypress Hill. The festival takes place February 17th through the 19th at Marina Green Park in Long Beach. Dirty Heads will then hit the road for a few more gigs before coming back to California where they are set to play Cali Roots in Monterey. Can anyone say Wu-Tang? That’s another epic show that features Dirty Heads.
In the grander scheme of things, Watson and the Dirty Heads have hit a balance we all strive for. No doubt “Life’s Been Good,” but things can only get better! Look out for more announcements coming soon from Dirty Heads.