Ball-Hog or Tugboat? is the debut solo album by former Minutemen and fIREHOSE bassist, songwriter and vocalist Mike Watt. 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 former Black Flag bassist Kira Roessler had ended in divorce (although both their friendship and their dual-bass project Dos continued; 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. 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, Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis, and former SST house producer Spot, as well as members of bands who had either toured with and/or been influenced by the Minutemen and fIREHOSE, including Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder, Nirvana's Pat Smear, 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, Soul Asylum's Dave Pirner, former Germs and Nirvana guitarist Pat Smear, former Pixies singer Frank Black, former Screamers and Twisted Roots keyboardist Paul Roessler (who was also Watt's brother-in-law), The Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando, The Circle Jerks's Zander Schloss, jazz/punk guitar wizard Nels Cline and his drummer Michael Preussner, That dog's Petra and Rachel Haden and Anna Waronker and Mike D and Adam Horowitz of the Beastie Boys. Also participating on the album were Parliament/Funkadelic organist Bernie Worrell, Carla Bozulich of the Geraldine Fibbers 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 of his.) Watt's longtime best 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. All three of the singles were airplay hits on both modern rock and college radio. 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"
Watt toured behind the album with two different ensembles, the first being an all-star trio with Eddie Vedder on guitar and vocals and Dave Grohl on drums, and the second being a four-piece nicknamed The Crew Of The Flying Saucer with guitarist Nels Cline and two drummers, Michael Preussner and Vince Meghrouni.
To date, Ball-Hog... is the biggest selling album of Mike Watt's career other than the Minutemen's Double Nickels On The Dime.