During their recent headlining stint supporting Caution, I had the chance of having a one-on-one interview with Chris Wollard, singer and guitaris of Hot Water Music. I'd like to thank Hector at Epitaph for setting this up, and to Chris for doing this before the show. This interview took place on October 13, 2002 at the Palladium in Worcester, MA.
Sev: How's the tour with Thrice and Coheed and Cambria going so far?
Chris: Awesome. It's our second tour with Thrice, so we all know each other really well. We did the Plea for Peace last year with them, and some more tour shows too. We just met Coheed on this tour. I don't know if you've ever seen them, but they're really really good. They just go off, so that's really cool that we can watch them every night.
Sev: I've never seen them, but I hear they're getting pretty big.
Chris: Yea, definitely. That's what it seems like.
Sev: I think it's such an awesome lineup. Is The Start on the whole tour as well?
Chris: No, this is their last day. The first week was this band Against Me, this week was with The Start.
Sev: How's The Start like?
Chris: It's really hard to explain. I think they're about to sound check so you can hear that. It's kind of new wave, kind of poppy. Lots of different strange sounds going on - really cool, really original, girl singer, really pop.
Sev: What have been some of the tour's highlights?
Chris: For me, playing the 40 Watt in Athens was really cool. It's this kind of famous underground rock place, so that was really neat. Also, playing in the 9:30 in DC, just because we had never played there before. Pretty much anything new is usually my highlight. The show in Gainesville was crazy. It was at this club that used to be a rock club. It's now this dance club, but they let us have the show there. There hasn't been a show there in years, we played, and it was just crazy. It was really packed, awesome show.
Sev: How have the kids been reacting to the new songs live?
Chris: Great, really great, which is good because I'm really excited about the new stuff. I'm glad that it's been good because I feel like playing it a lot.
Sev: I think Caution is a great record. It just came out a few days ago. I think that's it's even better than A Flight and a Crash.
Chris: Yea, I think it's our best. I think it's the best thing we've ever done.
Sev: At the same time, I think it's even more accessible than Flight. The songs are more straightforward this time around. How was the whole approach to writing this album, and what was different than what you had done in Flight?
Chris: We took more time writing. Even though we've been touring nonstop we're usually writing all the time on the road. Downstairs we have a room full of acoustics and everybody jams all day. We're actually already demo-ing for the next record, and we're working on stuff constantly. For us it's easier to just keep going than to try and set aside time to write. Whenever you feel like writing something you should just do it right then.
Sev: On the new album there are a couple of songs that you have almost metal sounding guitar solos.
Chris: Haha, kind of. There's some really really rock stuff on there. Brian Baker did a solo on the last song, like the very end of it on the last chorus. There's this really crazy metal solo underneath the vocal.
Sev: Did that idea come about while you were on tour with Bad Religion?
Chris: Yea, we were on tour with them, and he lives in DC, so he was like, "If you want any metal solos, give me a call." He was really just joking around. So we finished the whole album, totally done, and we're like, "Fuck, we have to get a place for him." So he just showed up the next day and we added that solo at the end of that song. We just told him, "Here's a guitar, we're playing in B, do a solo." He's a really good guitar player. It's ridiculous.
Sev: Both of your last two records have been produced by Brian McTernan. I know a lot of people have problems getting along with him.
Chris: With him? Haha, yea. He's tough.
Sev: But you obviously brought him along for a second time because you liked what he did the first time.
Chris: Yea. The first time with him was tough because we weren't ready. I had it pretty easy, but there were some issues because he pushes people to work really hard. It's all because he wants it to be as good as he can, and that's the reason why we went back. We knew he was going to infest himself into it as well. It was a fucking blast. This album was so much more fun. It was a lot of work, but it was pretty easy; I mean, it was pretty smooth. The last album was just painful to make; it was just like, "Fuck, goddamn!" Everything was going wrong; everybody was all pissed off. In this one everyone was in a good mood, everyone was agreeing, everybody was totally working as a really good unit. It was all really cool.
Sev: Did you record this after the Bad Religion tour?
Chris: Yea, we did it right before Warped Tour. We only had a couple of days off.
Sev: Last year I interviewed Chuck for my older 'zine, and he mentioned how happy and satisfied he was working with the people at Epitaph. A year now later, how has that relationship further developed?
Chris: Better, it's definitely better. It was great at the beginning and now it's even better. Distribution was the main reason we signed to them. Their attitude is great and they have great distro, but honestly, when we signed with them we knew a couple of people at the label, and those were the people that made us feel safe. Now it's just everybody at that fucking label - we've gotten to be friends with just everybody there, you know what I mean. When we go out there we all hang out. We'll all go out to eat together and hang out. They're all great fucking people. We talk to each other all the time. It's a really cool label. They run it really well, just the way it should be. And they back us up. They're like, "What do you want to do"? And we're like, "This is what we want to do," and it's all OK. It's like the best of both worlds for us.
Sev: I wanted to talk a little bit about your lyrics. Unlike other bands, you're always able to convey emotions and sentiments that sound both urgent and genuine. What's the typical songwriting process for a Hot Water Music song?
Chris: There really isn't any formula at all. Sometimes we'll write music together, like the whole band. Other times just a couple of us will write music together. Sometimes one person will write a whole song. Lyrically we used to write together a lot. On this one we barely did at all. It was mostly just on our own working stuff out. We always sing on the songs we write. We write our own parts. Musically we all write. We work together, but we were doing a lot of solo writing on this one.
Sev: Tell us about the Warped Tour this year. You played in 2000 as well, but this was the first time you played main stage, right?
Chris: Actually we played part of 2000 on the main stage. This one we were on the main stage the whole time. On the last time we were all over the place. I was definitely happier this year. 2 years ago it was really exhausting, probably because we were moved all over the place. We were in an RV that us and our friends were having to drive, and that's like 10 hours every night, and then load in the morning. This time we had a bus so it was a lot easier. That's the only time we've ever done that, but we needed a bus for that tour. It's just too hard. We're back in the van for this tour. It was cool to have a bus, but most of the time it just seems kind of a waste of money. Even when labels provide the buses, at the end of the day, it all comes out of your pocket.
Sev: Did you get along with most of the bands on the tour?
Chris: Well, there were some days like in San Diego, there were like 90 bands playing. We had a lot of different bands that we were friends with already, and we met a lot of friends on that tour. The Trio, Bad Religion, Flogging Molly, Anti-Flag, a lot of bands that we were already friends with.
Sev: I actually heard that they're going to try and make Warped Tour a little smaller next year, at least not have as many bands. At the shows I went to they had something like 9 or 10 stages, which was a little bit overboard.
Chris: Yea, it's like a mind fuck. You go in and you're like, "What?!" That was my biggest problem with it. You'd be standing here watching one band, and you see another one from your left, right, and behind you. And you don't know what to do.
Sev: Aside from the Warped Tour, you also opened for Bad Religion earlier in the spring. What did you take away from that?
Chris: A lot, because those guys have been doing this forever, so we were asking them lots of questions. Like, "What do you think about this; what do you think about that." You know what I mean? We had met some of them before, but not all of them. You learn a lot just watching a band like that. Just watching how they make their harmonies - they have like 3-part harmonies on almost every song.
Sev: I think the best part about that tour was that each band was different sounding but each band was like a headliner in their own right.
Chris: Haha, I don't know about that. 2 headliners and an opener.
Sev: Yea, but you guys go on your own national headlining tours and pull in a nice number of people.
Chris: Yea, we're doing well. And on this tour especially because of all the bands on it, it's a really good package. This tour has been going really well for sure.
Sev: Can you tell us a crazy tour story?
Chris: Hahaha. Nah. What happens on the road stays on the road. I'll get in trouble. Haha.
Sev: This is kind of like a long question. Each of your albums has a different feel to it, and you haven't really recorded similar albums. Each album has a distinct sound, and I was just wondering if you could give your thoughts on this.
Chris: Well, every album is like a bunch of stories from a particular time. That's why they sound differently. When you're 20 you write songs that have to do with what's going on in your head then, you know what I mean? I see it completely differently than you see it. I don't look at it as "album, album, album." I look at it as "that year, that year, that year." Like "Oh, I was really bummed out that year," or "I was really happy that year." That's what it is to me. You get dark sounding things with dark feeling days. That's the way I look at it. Like I said, we're always working on something else. So it's just a continuous story; you just have to flip the page.
Sev: Another thing is that I don't think you've really alienated any of your fans. Even when you moved to Epitaph people were saying that you were going to change your sound, and your sound did change, but it was also changing before.
Chris: Exactly. It changes in every record. Your sound should change because you're learning new things about sounds and how to make records. When we recorded Fuel for the Hate Game, we didn't know shit. I didn't know anything. I knew that I guitar and an amp, but I didn't know anything about it. I didn't know how to make it sound good, and I didn't know what sounding good was. You go make an album, and you don't have any opinion because you've never been in a studio before. And then the next record you want to do everything you didn't do on the record before. Your songs should change. It changes from Flight to the new one also. Flight had really clean guitars, and Caution has really distorted guitars. Flight was really experimental with sounds and instruments; Caution is pretty much just 2 guitars. It has one piano part on it but it's really short. It's very straightforward and direct.
Sev: What are 3 underrated bands that people should watch out for?
Chris: Lately I've been listening to Guided by Voices a lot. They actually get a lot of credit, but I never gave them enough credit until recently. Now I'm just knocked off my ass by them. Great band. Against Me from Florida. They're a No Idea band. They're definitely punk rock, but I can't really explain it. There are definitely punk rockers in the band, but it isn't traditional punk rock. It's pretty groovy - they used to be an acoustic band and now they're an electric band. They have really smart lyrics, and they're a really cool band. Who else? The Beatsteaks from Germany, just because I know they can't get a tour over here because nobody knows who they are, but they've got 2 really good records. Their second album just came out here. Cool rock and roll band. They came over on Warped Tour in 2000, and they were so awesome.
Sev: You're now touring for another month. What else are you guys doing after that?
Chris: Then we're taking 3 months off. We have one show in Chicago, like a cancer benefit. We're taking a few months off, travel a little bit. I have some writing projects. I want to start writing again a little bit more. Starting maybe February we're going to start going overseas: back to Europe, Australia, Japan, Hawaii, New Zealand, Brazil, maybe Puerto Rico. And then when we get back from that it'll be almost summer. In the summer we're going to do probably a really big package tour. A lot of cool bands that we're talking to about doing it. We're not sure exactly who's going to be on it. It'll probably be 4 or 5 bands, all headliners. That's so far away that it's kind of hard to tell, but there's definitely a lot of bands are that sitting around waiting for it to start coming together.
Sev: Well that's all I have. Do you have any closing comments?
Chris: No man. Just thanks a lot for doing this.
href='http://www.punk-it.net' target='_blank'>Visit Punk-It.net