One quality that shines above the rest in Hot Water Music is sincerity. Music and otherwise, your audience seems to recognize how genuine you are. Do feel that this attribute is what has stood the test of time and allowed you to be so widely accepted for all these years?
Chuck: I do. We've never tried to be anything other than who we truly are, or pull any wool over anyone's eyes. And since we've based our band around the bond and the friendship that drew us together to begin with, it has stayed honest. We also found that what stays honest, stays real. And reality is something that most everyone can relate to at one time or the other.
Jason: Out of all the decisions we've made over the years---good and bad---the one thing we've always done is act ourselves. Who we are as people and as a band has definitely changed drastically over the years, which has undeniably caused some growing pains and has brought about some serious re-examinations of ourselves. That said, through all the changes in our personal and musical lives, we've always maintained our honesty, which I personally feel is one of the main characteristics of our band that people attach themselves to. If you aren't doing your own unique thing, people will almost undoubtedly find another source of what you're doing that's better, cheaper, or easier to understand. The only way we've been able to find to endure a career this long is our own unmistakable identity.
When you signed with Epitaph I know a few people found it odd since the misconception is that Epitaph is some large corporate machine. But in reality they work for a band rather then having a band work for them. They only sign bands that they all genuinely love. But what qualities is it that Epitaph possesses that makes them stand above the rest?
Chuck: That's true, but I think that the only people that found it odd were folks who never really knew us as people or as a band to begin with. I think we have always been a group who has focused mainly on the basics of progression. From creating music with each other, to learning the ropes of the road, to the whole business aspect of conducting our lives inside and outside of the van. More so than anything else we have always chosen our freedom above all when it came down to working with different friends or labels. As well as the fact that we have met so many amazing people along the way over the past decade, that we usually wanted to work with them all! But what we found in Epitaph and No Idea who are both our home base labels, is what we have always looked for in any label. Simply put, incredible distribution by a team of heavy hitters who are down to earth, and actually give a shit about their bands. We have found that in some labels that we've worked with, but sometimes the hospitality leaved a bit to be desired. But as far as helping us progress overall, Epitaph and No Idea have been extremely strong allies beyond explanation.
Jason: Epitaph has, as you mentioned, a love for music. Most labels have a love for money. That's one place they outshine many other labels. They also do have the capacity to run like a smaller version of the massive corporate machine you describe, which is very advantageous to a band. You basically get all the perks of being on a major without any of the bullshit.
And more importantly what quality makes them home to Hot Water Music rather than Doghouse, Some or No Idea Records?
Jason: The above qualities make them a more suitable home for us, at least at this point in time. Since the outset of the band, we've always had the desire to work with as many different labels as possible. Our thoughts were that this idea would not only expose us to a larger audience, but we would also be able to learn how different labels operate, which is extremely useful knowledge in selecting a home base when you're talking about multi-record, multi-year agreements.
Chris: I also really like the fact that Brett at Epitaph and Var at No Idea have actively written music and toured and know what we do and what it's like to be in a band, and know what we need in order to keep it together.
After three albums under the Epitaph banner, do you think fans have finally given up on criticizing the label since these great albums and countless strong tours have proven they are not out to manipulate the band but to generate positive interest and allow you guys to make the music you love? Or does it even matter? Is having a fan base respect the label you're on mean anything to the band?
Jason: We've been dealing with---as any band does---criticism from our fans for quite some time now. We hope that by now our fans have come to trust us in our decision-making efforts. Honestly, if you sit around worrying about how other people perceive you all of the time, I think you not only end up making dishonest decisions, but you'll make yourself fucking nuts, too.
Chuck: Just as well, it can go both ways. I believe that when anyone gets too wrapped up in the politics that lie within or worries more about labels rather than digging a little deeper into the music, words, art or what have you, things can become very distorted. I've suffered that before to later realize that I was just being blind and naive. All part of growing up I guess. All and all, no matter what the choice or directions, sacrifices will always have to be made to do what one loves. And in the meantime, not everyone will always be pleased.
When it comes down to it, would you rather Hot Water Music be known more lyrically for musically? I'm not necessarily asking which you think is more important, because obviously both have a purpose. But more, which ingredient do you take a little more pride in?
Jason: In my eyes, our music and our lyrics have a very mutually exclusive relationship. Neither would be as good without the other.
Chuck: They both go hand in hand. Jason could not have put it in better words.
Hot Water Music has always been known for it's complex time changes. In many ways they resemble old jazz songs. Being as how Hot Water Music has been influenced by nearly every musical style how much emphasis do you recommend young artists to explore other styles of music?
George: I think it's very important to keep an open mind to all types of music. I remember being in jazz band at the age of about sixteen having to play with brushes. At that time all I wanted to do was rock out and Mr. Nielsen, our band director, insisted on me working with these ridiculous things. So after fighting him on it I decided to do some research and check out some old Charlie Parker, Brubeck and, Miles Davis. What I found were these guys could drive a groove with nothing but a snare drum hi hat and kick drum. Talk about rocking out They didn't need anything to drive a band accept for a little creativity and the ability to listen to there band mates. From there it was all open game- Fugazi, The Police, Iron Maiden, Devo, Duran Duran, Allison Kruass just to name a few. Lets take it one step further try creating a song or rhythm out of the engine roaring or your heart beat when you climb some steps. Think out side the box and there are no limits on what you can do as long as it makes sense with the rest of the music.
After the short breakup it seemed as though Hot Water Music's mentality changed. I know the hiatus was brief and not an overly dramatic thing, but do you think that the time spent apart helped give you a new outlook on your music?
Jason: It gave us a new outlook on a lot of things, one of the most important being that people need time off from anything this intense. Yes, being in a band and touring and making records for a living is the best job in the world, but how many other jobs last 24 hours a day for six weeks straight? That break also helped us realize a lot of the breaking points of the different personalities in this band. We are four very different people with different wants and needs, and balancing that all is very tricky.
Chuck: I think that we learned fairly quickly that no matter how much you love something, anything could become monotonous or tiring if you don't have diversity within your life. We learned a tough way, but in the long run it drew us closer as friends as well as a tighter, musical unit. Realizing that our friendship is what made HWM, and seeing it slip, and choosing to sacrifice the band for our bond, kept us honest as well as helping us grow up a little from kids to young men. Not saying that we're any more mature!
The New What Next reminds me of Forever and Counting because it has elements that draw first time listeners in allowing them to gain a richer experience when they listen to No Division. Is there a need or desire to gain a new fan base with your new albums although your fans are so diverse and largely distributed?
George: I think there is a bit of desire to reach out to more people why else would we sacrifice our lives for the road. Don't get me wrong tour can be fun but eight months a year is tough on anybody. The whole reason we started to tour was to turn people on to what we were doing. Why would that change after ten years? Now with that said we didn't write this record to appeal to a specific audience. I feel we have progressed naturally as a band and will continue to do so until we feel there is nothing left for us to do. I still feel the same as I did ten years ago as far as having something different to offer the world.
No Division is regarded as one of the blueprints for modern punk rock. Many feel it is your best work to date. Is there a tinge of atomicity because some people haven't given your other records the same respect and dues they deserve?
Chuck: Definitely. When you put as much time, energy, blood, sweat, and beers into something as we do, it's hard when it gets shunned sometimes. But, most of the time we could care less since we're playing for ourselves before anyone else. It's just strange to us since everything that is new to us is the absolute best work we have ever done. Maybe we're just old and jaded. Or maybe some people wouldn't know a great song if it came up and bit them in the ass....
Jason: Yeah, it can be frustrating to have one record receive more praise than any of your other work, but you can't expect to put out more than one record and not have your fans prefer one more than the other(s). Chalk it up to occupational hazard.
Chris: I am stoked that anyone can get attached to any of our records, but I think any one of them is just another chapter of the band, the stories over lap, and to me it would be hard to really understand our band without looking at them all and how they connect to each other.
Why was No Division released via Some Records when you had recorded and released with No Idea Records immediately before and after that album?
Jason: We had a one-record deal with Some Records, which accounts for why we only released one record through them. As for the No Idea releases, one was a singles collection of songs released mostly through No Idea and the other was our live record, which was entirely Var over at No Idea's brainchild, which is why he oversaw both of those releases. And we love No Idea. They were the first people to show us support and are a very important part of the HWM family.
Hot Water Music's management company, World Audience, headed by Berko Pearce and Larry Jacobson has been mentioned by various news sources as "being ahead of the curve" with artist relations and management. What qualities do you seek in a management company and how has World Audience treated you?
Jason: Well, we've been looking for management for quite some time and have just never felt we could find anyone with the dedication and passion that would equal ours. I met Larry a couple of years ago on the Thrice/HWM tour and we've kept in touch and I've grown very comfortable with his dedication and commitment to us and to our growth. It's kind of like when we were looking at new labels and Epitaph came into play---we wanted a label that would make good on a promise to work as hard as we do. They've come through on that and---at this point---so has World Audience. Being in a self-managed band is extremely difficult at times and it really started to get in the way of a lot of things for me, in particular. To not ever be able to stop thinking about HWM business can be very taxing when you also can't stop thinking about HWM writing and touring and everything else that goes along with merely being a part of the band, let alone doing that and managing it. We're really grateful to have them aboard and are really fired up about taking things to the next level with them.
The intimate connection you have with your fans at shows is so rare. No matter what crowd you play in front of you still seem to pour your guts out on stage. When all is said and done with Hot Water Music, is this one quality you hope to be remembered for? Would you say this has been the greatest attribute HWM possesses?
Chuck: If we could give back a fraction of energy and joy that the people who come see us and support us give to us, we have done our deed. I don't think I could ever really find the words to pay tribute to the good people who love HWM. It is beyond honor and appreciation. We wouldn't ever want it any other way, and we wouldn't ever have it any other way. Remember that.
One of my favorite articles about you guys read- "In the purest sense, it [Hot Water Music] is a rock band. It swaggers and screams. It's as testosterone-soaked as the Dallas Cowboys; why most fraternities play girly dance music and not Hot Water Music may always remain a mystery." Who do you envision as your fan base? Are there certain qualities you envision in your fans?
Chuck: Well, I wouldn't have said The Cowboys or any fraternity, but we would never exclude anyone. What I envision in our fans is more so how they think, before anything else. When I think of who comes to see our shows, I envision a group of random people from all walks of life coming together to share one particular moment. In a place where is doesn't matter where you work, what you earn, how old or what color you are, who you sleep with, or what you worship. I believe this world is too small and life is too damn short to draw lines dividing, segregating, or ruling out anyone. I truly feel that the majority of our friends, fans or whatever you want to label them as believe along those terms. The ones who don't, or the ones who are not sure. We welcome. We just want people to find power within them to be able to make their own decisions and find the confidence they need to overcome the trials that we all face everyday. We know that it can found, mainly because we have all found it ourselves. We also know that it can definitely be found through music.
The Hot Water Music/Discount split was suppose to be released in '99, but never saw the light of day? Will it ever be released and what material was on the split?
Jason: That was a remix by some DJ guy of a couple of each of our songs. I doubt we'll ever let that thing slide out anywhere. It was kind of shitty, to be honest.
Chris: I think I might have a copy, but I know their won't be any more made.
Is playing live shows the greatest marketing tool a band can access? How important is it to you to have you band publicized in magazines, web pages or television ads? Or is word of mouth more important?
Jason: All three are completely indispensable; although I would have to say the web is fast becoming the most effective and efficient form of marketing. It can even be more helpful than an amazing tour or televisions ads if it is used correctly.
I can't thank you guys enough for introducing me to Small Brown Bike and Leatherface. You brought them on tour with you and gave them proper national exposure. Do you look at them with pride, sort of like brothers that you helped along the way?
Chris: Leatherface has been around a lot longer than us, and it would be a crime not to acknowledge how big of an influence they have been on our band since the first time we ever heard them. Frankie is probably my favorite lyricist of all time in punk rock. And I'm just grateful that I got to watch the evolution of Small Brown Bike from when I saw them at the Hardback in Gainesville, up to "The River Bed". That is an amazing record. I don't think either one of these bands have ever really gotten proper credit for what they have done, what they have written, or how amazing they are as people.
It's been awhile since Live at The Hardback. And your live shows are a more powerful medium then most albums. Is there a desire or chance that another live album may be in the works?
Jason: We have talked about it, but we like writing new songs more. I'm sure we'll do some crazy project in the next year or two that may very well involve a live recording being released.
Chuck: I like live records a lot, if the energy comes through. It is just rare that it does. Either it sounds like garbage musically or you just never are able to decipher a set enough to get the full impact of the show. I'd rather do a DVD of the live shows and other antics since we're more of a live band anyway. Though I'm not opposed to another live rec. if it comes out right.
Chris: I love live albums. I really hope we get the chance to do another one.
To fans that aren't necessarily familiar with how a tour is formed could you explain how it is that you end up on the road with bands that are so different from you, like Alexisonfire (which begins October 13th, 2004)? Do you get a say in which you tour with?
Jason: Putting together a line up for a tour is one of the hardest things to do as a band. There are so many people that have to agree on so many different thing, such as the bands and their music, label marketing commitments, money (evil, evil that it is), and routing...the list really goes on and on. Think of it this way, we have 4 band members, a 30-person label, a 3-person management, and a booking agent that all have to agree on certain aspects of a tour. Multiply that by how many bands are on the tour and you see what I'm getting at.
It seems as though with each passing year the music business becomes more business and less music. Is it possible for this to change back? Punk rock use to be the way to rebel from said trends. But punk rock seems to be exploited as well. How can young artist with talent and passion not be manipulated by these trends?
Chuck: Follow their heart to begin with. First and foremost, I don't think any thing can be true if you don't have every bit of your head, heart and soul into it. Most of the time, it is there that you will find what is right or wrong. As far as young kids not being manipulated early on, I think that a lot of that is up to the older generations. Whatever examples are set comes offspring that follow. There will always be trends, and there will always be rebellions. And so is the cycle of society. So to all the young kids with passion and talent to boot, forget the trends, start your own! We are all completely unique in our own way. Whether people around you think it is cool or not, forget it all and do what you think is cool! Find your own rebellion!
Chris: Punk rock has always been exploited, now more for sure than in the past, but I don't think it was ever as pure as we would like to think the good old days were. But the underground will always be the underground, and I think my favorite music has and always will be made by people who are willing to do their own thing; regardless of what genre people end up putting it in.
And finally one ridiculous question in remembrance of all those word association webzine interviews- Who was a better television dad, Danny Tanner of Full House or Carl Winslow of Family Matters?
Jason: Definitely Danny Tanner.
George: Bill Cosby
Chris: John Madden, or the Barbarians Marathon on the History Channel.
Thanks you guys. Your music has had such a lasting affect on my life. I appreciate you guys pouring your hearts out for over a decade. I look forward to seeing you on your upcoming tour with Alexisonfire, Silverstein and Moments in Grace. Thanks again.
By Kazy Brown