Our buddy Ricky from Wrong Way Round recently sat down and talked to Chuck Ragan. We of course immediately leeched it from him. No thanks necessary. There's even some talk about a new Hot Water Music album... consider me psyched!
PRT : So we are here with the man himself Mr. Chuck Ragan. How are you today sir?
Chuck: Very well, thanks for having me!
PRT : I’ll crack straight into the questions...
Chuck: Sure fire away
PRT : So right now you’re on tour with The Gaslight Anthem and a few months ago you were here with Frank Turner. Do you find these short tours beneficial as you’re playing to a different crowd every night compared to your own shows in America?
Chuck : Sure, always. I think that's the case for any artist or band doing support slots. That's the key, that's what your trying to do, to have a chance and opportunity to share your music with an audience who have no idea who you are, don't care who you are and just to get out there and have that chance to put your music out there.
Whether they like it or not that is a whole other story. Some people care about that, some people don't. For me, I respect the fact that my music is not for everybody and I have always felt that way. If people get something from it that's wonderful, if they don't that's fine also. There's plenty of other artists out there!
We feel really blessed to have the opportunities we have over here. The UK has always been wonderful for us. From Hot Water Music to the solo stuff, we've got a lot of really great friends over here. Nowadays we come to different towns and see friends and feel comfortable and familiar, we feel really lucky you know.
PRT : Is this your first time in Southampton? I know you played with Hot Water Music years ago in a youth centre. Do you remember that at all?
Chuck : Ha! yea vaguely, I thought I had played at this venue at some point, it looks really familiar, but I’m not sure when.
PRT: Would you say it’s fair to say that you as Chuck Ragan is the next step for you after Rumbleseat when that became defunct?
Chuck: Yea sure, somewhat. But I was playing that sort of music before Chris and I ever started Rumbleseat. The stuff that I’m doing now isn't that far of a stretch from music I’ve been writing and playing for the past 17, 18 years. I just never put as much focus on it as Hot Water Music was always the main focus and not as many people cared (laughs).
So this music for me has been something ever since we (HWM) took our indefinite hiatus some years back. I never stopped writing and one day my wife said ‘hey, you should be recording some of this stuff’ and I said alright! Then Side One Dummy wanted to put some records out and so I stopped building houses and put more attention into writing and playing music. But yea, Rumbleseat is somewhat similar. I've somewhat progressed or least I hope so! Ha, if not I’m doing something wrong ( laughs )
PRT : So you’re doing this split with Brian from The Gaslight Anthem. Is it going to be full band or is it back to bare bones for you?
Chuck: Yea, it’s not even much of a split. We are doing a full length record. So far we've just been writing songs on our own and sending them back and forth and singing on each other’s songs and playing on each other’s songs. The game plan is to try and record some stuff on this tour. We will see what happens and if we are able and have time, we will write together which will be wonderful. He is a brilliant songwriter. I love his fire and his energy and he's a good fella all round.
PRT : Do you feel you have some years more experience when it comes to writing?
Chuck: To be honest I don't look at it that way at all, it’s all relative in time. These boys have been trucking so hard in the past 5, 6 years especially... you know? They've seen and done more than most bands will ever do in a lifetime.
PRT : Do you think the revival tour will ever come to the UK?
Chuck: Absolutely! Yeah, we attempted to put one together last year, but we got sidetracked because of all our other schedules. It’s been tough because my wife and I basically coordinate that whole tour and we have a little help from some friends here and there. For the most part my wife and I make the schedule and the decisions but just doing that and the solo stuff and balancing simple everyday home life and now hot water music is doing more stuff, it’s quite a juggling act.
We've been really excited to bring it over here. I’m not sure exactly when we’re going to be doing it but we are planning it for 2011. As far as what month I’m not sure right now, we are getting ready to lock in the US dates and the Australian dates and once that's locked in we will have a idea, we will do the UK, Europe then Canada then just repeat the cycle
PRT : With Ben Nichols and Tim Barry as well?
Chuck: Possibly ( smiles ) we will see what happens! I can tell you , you won’t be disappointed. A lot of the people that are good friends and artists i've never played with have shown interest in the tour, I mean if it’s half the tour that it seems like it’s going to be it will be amazing.
PRT: When you first sat down to record the 'blueprint sessions' did you ever plan to tour worldwide and release as much as you have?
Chuck: No I didn't, I wasn't thinking about touring at the time. I didn't want to tour at all. I was actually trying to get away from touring and my wife and I were actually planning on starting a custom home building business just on my own as a independent contractor & builder and then the music started doing better and we were able to get out.
Before I was making more money at home with my trade and then I would have to lose money to go play some music which was always fine and then it started getting a little better where we could make ends meet but the last thing I wanted to do was to get back into the machine of it all , the only thing that kind of rectified it for me you could say was that I was doing it solo and my wife and I could make the schedule and we were making our own rules and dictating our life.
It was a completely different feeling than being in a band because hot water music just got to this point where it was wonderful, we had great times and great shows and everything but definitely after a while we had the label and managers and all these people on payroll and all this going on, then you don't dictate your own schedule any more your just a piece of the puzzle.
There's pros and cons to it, its wonderful because you have this big family kind of thing but at the same time personal space disappears, personal agenda disappears, you miss birthdays and funerals and births and anniversary's you name it, its just extremely taxing.
So it was different then when I kicked it off again in my own way, but I had no idea we would have done as much as we have.
PRT: I remember the first time you came over you played by yourself, was there a point you decided to go full band?
Chuck: No not necessarily I still play by myself quite a bit, tonight its just Jon Gaunt and I. The Cool thing about it in a non selfish way but kind of a selfish way (laughs) is having the control of being able to say I'm going to do this show by myself or get just John or get a whole bunch of people and just go for it. Its just nice to be able to have those options to me it feels more creative and free all round.
PRT: A lot of the older bands I talk to such as yourself, lagwagon, NUFAN etc, I always pose the question do you still actively follow the punk rock scene? And where do you think its gone in the last 5 years since its died down a lot in England especially!
Chuck: Yea I always feel like i'm completely saturated with music and sometimes a little over saturated to me I feel punk rock to me has always been more of an ethic rather than a style or a fad or even a genre, punk rock to me when I learnt about it 24 years ago was a completely different thing to what it is nowadays, it has some of the same elements but it was more frowned upon more than anything else.
You weren't accepted at school, we just weren't you know the punks , the skateboarders we were the ones that were always hassled, it was cool to us but it wasn't cool to anybody else ha!
Over the years as i've grown older i've believed a lot of those ethics are still there with some people, and some of those people who I believe still hold those ethics may not be considered from a outside perspective punk rock people at all! Some of the most punk rock people I know are more farmers and ranchers, its more about this DIY ethic of knowing how to grow their own food and knowing how to hunt and fish and live off of the land and be completely self sufficient. Growing up when I learnt about punk rock it was more about rebelling against the norm, rebelling against society, church and school and all the rules, and I was this 12/13 year old kid that happened to know everything in the world! So for me the best part about it one way or another there will always be an underground and they'll always be that undeniable ethic of doing things yourself and maintaining and sustaining on your own.
PRT: When you play live you tend to have a lot of stories behind your songs, I love this because its educational and its not just a song, where do these tend to come from? Books? Family? Friends?
Chuck: All of the above really, i've just always felt like song writing for me is something that I always more or less have to do rather than a choice, I say that meaning its like therapy to me its more or less like someone keeping a journal or a diary its something I need to do to get it off my chest, I do it for that first and foremost and I love releasing records.
I love to make these journals and diary's into a song and get them out and I feel like when I put them on a record and I them 'out' away from me its almost like i'm able to step forward with my own life and choice.
PRT: So essentially your records are history books?
Chuck: Absolutely , as far as where the stories come from think about what effects you everyday from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to bed, all these people that you see, the positive things, the negative things just everything you've faced throughout the day just like day to day life.
With your family, job and society to me i've always felt that if something, anything effects you in an extremely positive or negative way most likely for me its worth getting it off my chest and telling a story about it.
PRT: Last question... what's going on with Hot Water Music at the moment? I know you've done random shows, but George is playing for Against Me etc. Are there plans to record?
Chuck: yea we are actually writing a new record, so that's kind of new and it’s fun and the best part about it for us is that it’s like the beginning again.
We don't have any contracts, no label, we have no managers, so no one telling us when and where, even though we have always done a good job in doing what the hell we want to, ha! But still it feels like we are not expected to do anything and it definitely got to that point when you’re this band and you’re going and you put out a record and you tour on it and you let everybody know yea we are going back in the studio, everybody's waiting for the next record and the next tour and there's that pressure there and for us.
The main focus now is just to write new songs and when it feels right and ready to record we will do it , and when we feel like getting a label we will do it.
PRT: Do you feel records come out better without the pressure and having no time limits?
Chuck: yea, if we just relax and we do exactly what we want to do it'll come out great. And if it doesn't, at least it will sound good to us aha! No one else may like it but as long as you’re happy that's fine! Ha ha!
PRT: Ha! OK Chuck... huge thanks for your time and we shall see you soon
Chuck : My pleasure! I appreciate it!