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 couldnít have been better. We had fantastic turnouts and a lot of great energy in all the rooms. They were the largest rooms that weíve played on all the Revival Tours so far. Right now weíre in the fourth year that weíve 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. Itís been solidified it into an annual and international event. Itís definitely coming back into the States in Spring 2012, thatís what weíre aiming for right now. But the way it works, itís so unique in trying to find the right folks and trying to get everyoneís 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, weíre 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 Iíve either been on tour or recording for months now. Weíre all writing individually, but weíre 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 weíre all spread out. Jason is also doing Senses Fail for a while. Iíve definitely been going in a different direction entirely, but weíll get there. Weíll get there eventually. The best thing is that we donít have anyone bearing down on us to get something done.
Hot Water Music put out a 7Ē called The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Up To Nothing in August before a European tour. Letís 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 weíve 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 itís been so long since we put anything out, why better way than going back to basics and doing a 7Ē? The problem was, Iíve been out here [Chuck lives in California now] and on the road nonstop, that itís been tough to get together. Itís just been brutal. Iím 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. ďThe Fire, The Steel, The TreadĒ 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 ďUp To NothingĒ Ė 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 fansí response of the 7Ē? 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 havenít recorded together in so long?
I really think itís an unknown right now, man. Already, for starters I can say the 7Ē isnít 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 7Ē. Itís been so long since the four of us were in a room recording and writing together Ė itís been years Ė so thereís really no telling the direction that weíre going to go into. Itís exciting and weíre fired up on it. To get back to the other part of the question, I thought fan response for the 7Ē 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 Ė but itís 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 hometownís biggest celebration of punk rock, especially when youíre on the verge of launching the band full-time again?
Um, well, to clear that end part up Ė weíre not really launching into Hot Water Music full-time again at all. [laughs] Weíre definitely putting some energy into it, though. But Iím really looking forward to the Fest. Itís definitely going to be a crazy time and weíre going to have a lot of friends there from our past. Iíve heard that this is going to be the last Fest, but Iíve also heard they say that every year. [laughs] Iím really excited to be supporting it. Iíve 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. Itís everything Iíve learned and where Iíve come from. Iím just totally priveleged to have the opportunity to give back to that.
Letís 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 ďGainesville punkĒ 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, Iím 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, itís awesome that people pay those respects but we canít take credit for all that, man. Weíre just a piece of the puzzle. I think the same maybe can be said The Fest Ė itís been amazing for the Gainesville music scene and, really, I think now, the American punk rock scene. Iíve traveled all over the world for the past decade, and over the past decade youíve 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, theyíre going to know what it is and where it takes place. I think thatís an amazingly high number and itís 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, weíre just trying to stay alive this year.
Getting toward the last segment of the interview here, what are Hot Water Musicís plans after Fest? I know youíre doing some solo dates to promote your latest LP, Covering Ground Ė whatís 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, weíve 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 canít record until everyone s fired up and ready to go with the songs, so thatís definitely the first step.
Okay, Chuck, thanks for taking the time to talk today. Is there anything else youíd 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 Ė from mainland Europe, even from Australia. They come from all over. Iím just honored to be a part of it and to have the opportunity to share music with friends and give back a little.