Hot Water Music Interview with Chuck Ragan
Last Saturday night I got to interview Chuck Ragan, guitarist and singer for Hot Water Music, at the Troubadour. The night was filled with cameos and the fun stuff that comes along with Hot Water Music like Matt Skiba singing vocals on "Rooftops" (not known before the interview) and Lawrence Katz picking up the guitar on a pair of songs. Here is the transcript from the interview:
Greg Glenn: What are you listening to in your car right now?
Chuck Ragan: Gipsy Kings
GG: Which album?
GG: How has the hurricane affected you and your family?
CR: My family...not much at all. As far as my blood family, they are up in Alabama and they just kinda got the tail end of it. A lot of my good friends and family that are in Florida, well, all of Florida got nailed so it was rough. A lot of smashed cars...a good buddy had his car completely demolished by a large Live Oak.
GG: If you could name a hurricane, what would you name it?
CR: Helga, Horrible Helga.
GG: Rumor has it you guys learned over 70 songs for this tour. Was that something you guys have done before? Was it pretty challenging?
CR: No, we already knew them. Actually, we just had to get together and jam for a couple days. A lot of the stuff it was just that we hadn't played it in soooo long that you know how it goes, you just can't think of it. And once you start the song it all comes back to you but it was just kinda going through it...actually, we were in our practice space listening to old CDs, like old Hot Water Music CDs going "oh my God" and we would all crouch down and be like "Am I playing that part? Is he playing that part?" It was a lot of fun but it wasn't that much work, it was just all sitting around and getting together and listening to old stuff and relearning it.
GG: What's the wierdest place you've heard one of your CDs being played?
CR: I heard it up at a ski resort, June Mountain, which was really cool. I was up there randomly...my wife and I were up there snowboarding and Hot Water Music came on the intercom and I was like "WOW", randomly out in the middle of no where on top of a mountain.
GG: Has playing guitar meant a lot more to you ever since you've overcome your injury and gone through rehab for your hand?
CR: It is definitely a blessing to be able to play again because there wasn't a long time, but there was like a month and a half where I honestly had no idea. The doctors didn't know, no one knew. My hand just didn't work, period. And the doctors would tell me "Well, everyone heals differently...you may gain full mobility back, you may not." You know, my fingers all right here, all along my palm, feel completely numb. Probably about 90% numb; the nerves are still rejuvenating and they told me that will take anywhere from 6 months to 3 years. I'm just stoked to be able to bend my fingers because there was a month and a half where I couldn't use them at all. It was tough man.
GG: 2 weeks until the election...do you have any predications?
CR: I would love to say Kerry is going to take it. That is my prediction and my wish as well. Not that he is the best President we could ask for, just the lesser of two evils. It is at a point where it doesn't matter who we get as long as we get Bush out of office as far as I'm concerned. Anyone but him.
GG: You got a dream ticket for a tour?
CR: Bad Brains would be pretty cool.
GG: What's the meaning behind the "Giver" song on the new album?
CR: I wrote it thinking of my little brother, Paul. There are some Souls, Bouncing Souls, references in it, too. We had our good friend Pete, who plays guitar for the Bouncing Souls, come in and play guitar on it and it was cool to throw some Souls references in it but all in all, that song was just a little encouragement/pick-me-up for my brother Paul.
GG: I read an old interview of yours that talked about how you were trying to make an album that defined your band and at the time it was No Division. Do you think you guys succeeded in doing that and have your goals changed since then?
CR: Nah, I guess it's pretty much been the same outlook since then. We've always been a band with short-term goals. We've always appreciated what we have at that moment and truly embraced it, lived each day like it's our last one, played each show like it's our last one 'cause you never know. All this could be gone tomorrow. We have a good time and do what we can and enjoy the people around us while we have it 'cause you never know when it's going to end.
GG: You and Skiba got any tricks up your sleeve for tonight?
CR: I haven't seen him yet, I heard he broke his wrist skateboarding. I got my physical therapist's card in my pocket to give to him, I heard he's coming out tonight.
GG: TP...fold or scrunch?
GG: Toliet paper.
CR: I'm a folder...hahaha.
GG: Any last words?
CR: I just wanna thank everyone who has supported us in any way. It's been a long road and we appreciate every single person that is willing to come out and see us play and put their time, money, and energy towards supporting us because it if wasn't for those people and our family and our good friends and our loved ones around us, we wouldn't be here at all. I would also love to thank my physical therapist Robert Door who, if it wasn't for him, physically, I wouldn't be here. And my wife, Jill, who if it wasn't for her, I don't think I'd be sane right now. Thanks.