This interview was conducted with Hot Water Music frontman Chuck Ragan via phone from his home in Northern California on 10/21/11. Chuck and I talk about the Revival Tour, his upcoming plans, and we focus on HWM's homecoming performance at The Fest in Gainesville, Fla., this year. The interview was used for this article.
You just got back from a leg of the Revival Tour in Europe with Brian Fallon, Dave Hause and Dan Andriano. How was this part of the Revival Tour and how great has it been for you to keep this sort of collaboration style going for quite a while now?
The tour couldn’t have been better. We had fantastic turnouts and a lot of great energy in all the rooms. They were the largest rooms that we’ve played on all the Revival Tours so far. Right now we’re in the fourth year that we’ve done it; my wife and I have been wanting to bring it there for quite some time it was a dream come true to get it done. We had a lot of good people supporting us.
Are there plans to bring the Revival Tour back to America?
Definitely. It’s been solidified it into an annual and international event. It’s definitely coming back into the States in Spring 2012, that’s what we’re aiming for right now. But the way it works, it’s so unique in trying to find the right folks and trying to get everyone’s schedule to line up, that sometimes we really have to cater to a lot of different schedules. It can be kind of crazy to organize, but yeah, we’re aiming for Spring 2012 in America.
Hot Water Music reformed officially in 2008, but just announced this summer that you were getting ready to record a new full-length for Rise Records. What has been going on with the band since the announcement? You guys all have your own projects going on.
Well, I released my own record in the beginning of September, but I’ve either been on tour or recording for months now. We’re all writing individually, but we’re setting our sights to record sometime this next year and really just taking it one step at a time. Chris is always busy writing and recording on different stuff, George is in Gainesville doing his thing and Jason lives up in Seattle now so we’re all spread out. Jason is also doing Senses Fail for a while. I’ve definitely been going in a different direction entirely, but we’ll get there. We’ll get there eventually. The best thing is that we don’t have anyone bearing down on us to get something done.
Hot Water Music put out a 7” called The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Up To Nothing in August before a European tour. Let’s talk about what the writing and recording was like for those two songs, since it was the first time you guys had recorded something in the studio in while.
It was really the first time we’ve done any recording like that at all. It all came together pretty quickly, we just wanted to get something released to support the August tour. Since it’s been so long since we put anything out, why better way than going back to basics and doing a 7”? The problem was, I’ve been out here [Chuck lives in California now] and on the road nonstop, that it’s been tough to get together. It’s just been brutal. I’m not home enough as it is. But we eventually decided to just send tracks back and forth and compile them as best we could. It was definitely different for us working that way, but they just came about how they did. “The Fire, The Steel, The Tread” was a song I wrote for a short film by my buddy named Scott Topher. The film is just about him and his friends going out on their motorcycles. But yeah, I just felt like I wanted to see what the guys could do with it, you know, if we could get George and Jason playing that rhythm so we traded stuff back and forth. It was a bit of the same with “Up To Nothing” – that was a song Chris had already formed and everyone just recorded bits and we traded them around, and I laid my stuff on top.
How did you guys gauge the fans’ response of the 7”? Do you think it gives people a pretty good taste of what to expect on the upcoming LP, or is the direction of the band really sort of an unknown right now considering you haven’t recorded together in so long?
I really think it’s an unknown right now, man. Already, for starters I can say the 7” isn’t shedding a whole lot of light on what the LP will be like. On the August tour [in Europe], we were doing a lot of songs, just sitting around and writing stuff in the bus, and a lot of them are completely different from the 7”. It’s been so long since the four of us were in a room recording and writing together – it’s been years – so there’s really no telling the direction that we’re going to go into. It’s exciting and we’re fired up on it. To get back to the other part of the question, I thought fan response for the 7” was absolutely incredible. It was just a very positive response from everyone we grew up with and our long-time supporters. Not that we do it for any sort of reaction – but it’s great to have people get into it.
Next week Hot Water Music is playing The Fest for the first time in years. What does it mean to be headlining your hometown’s biggest celebration of punk rock, especially when you’re on the verge of launching the band full-time again?
Um, well, to clear that end part up – we’re not really launching into Hot Water Music full-time again at all. [laughs] We’re definitely putting some energy into it, though. But I’m really looking forward to the Fest. It’s definitely going to be a crazy time and we’re going to have a lot of friends there from our past. I’ve heard that this is going to be the last Fest, but I’ve also heard they say that every year. [laughs] I’m really excited to be supporting it. I’ve lived in Gainesville for a long time, and Hot Water Music and people in Gainesville have a massive amount to do with who I am today. It’s everything I’ve learned and where I’ve come from. I’m just totally priveleged to have the opportunity to give back to that.
Let’s talk about Gainesville punk rock for a little while. You guys all lived here for a long time and I think embody the style of “Gainesville punk” more than perhaps any other locally grown band. What does this community mean to you and what are your thoughts on The Fest and how important that has become since it came around?
Wow. I mean, I’m overwhelmed and flattered that a lot of people think those things, but I really feel like we are just a piece of the puzzle. There are a ton of bands and people in Gainesville and sister cities that came around when we were; who were working just as hard as us but never got the same credit. For a lot of us who were running around back in those days, it’s awesome that people pay those respects but we can’t take credit for all that, man. We’re just a piece of the puzzle. I think the same maybe can be said The Fest – it’s been amazing for the Gainesville music scene and, really, I think now, the American punk rock scene. I’ve traveled all over the world for the past decade, and over the past decade you’ve noticed the rise in popularity of the Gainesville Fest. Our touring cycle is everywhere, really, everywhere except Asia I guess, and over the years, at least as far as Hot Water Music supporters go, a good 75-80 percent of people, if you mention the Fest at a show anywhere in the world, they’re going to know what it is and where it takes place. I think that’s an amazingly high number and it’s great that people everywhere know about it now.
Do you guys have anything special planned for the homecoming set? A lot of bands bring something big for Fest.
[laughs] Man, we’re just trying to stay alive this year.
Getting toward the last segment of the interview here, what are Hot Water Music’s plans after Fest? I know you’re doing some solo dates to promote your latest LP, Covering Ground – what’s on the horizon after that? Is there a plan to get into the studio with a band or are you guys just seeing what comes up?
Well, we’ve got some ideas but right now our main focus is just to solidify music and write songs and try to mainly focus on that. We obviously can’t record until everyone s fired up and ready to go with the songs, so that’s definitely the first step.
Okay, Chuck, thanks for taking the time to talk today. Is there anything else you’d sort of like to add here at the end?
I would juts like to thank everyone. The Fest is going to be something else. Like I said before, there is a massive amount of people coming from all over the world – from mainland Europe, even from Australia. They come from all over. I’m just honored to be a part of it and to have the opportunity to share music with friends and give back a little.