For the past decade HOT WATER MUSIC has been one of the hardest working bands in music. The release of The New What Next in September marked the 9th full-length by the band, and third on Epitaph Records. On the release, the band continues to push the boundaries of a sound that they have defined for themselves. I had the privilege to see the band in October, 2004, and to sit down and interview bassist Jason Black.
Pastepunk: What I wanted to start with is about Chuck's injury. It happened back in June right?
Pastepunk: What I have heard is really vague, something that he would be recovering from anywhere from three months to three years, could you talk about this to clear things up?
Jason: He's playing again but he doesn't have any feeling in his third and fourth fingers so it's pretty painful for him to play. He severed four tendons, a bunch of arteries and a bunch of nerve endings. Luckily he had good reconstructive surgery and a good physical therapist so he's off and running.
Pastepunk: Was there ever a time where you thought he might not be playing again?
Jason: We definitely didn't know. We weren't sure that he was going to be authorized or playing the start of our tour. We might have had to have someone else playing right now. But he got it together in time.
Pastepunk: Did you ever worry about what you would do with the band if he couldn't play again?
Jason: Yeah, definitely. It was a little scary for a while. We didn't really get into it though because we were hoping day by day to see how it goes.
Pastepunk: Changing topics, what I've noticed in the last three albums that have come out on Epitaph is that there has been a lot of progression. There seems to have been a step forward on each one, but The New What Next seems to especially show this. Was there a conscious effort to do that on this release; what changed your writing style?
Jason: We always want to do something different for every record we do. We have never been the kind of band that keeps on the same cycle or even writes the same kind of song over and over. We are always trying to challenge ourselves in some way. So, it definitely is a conscious effort but we never really have a destination in mind. If we start writing a bunch of songs and they start to sound like the last record it's kind of like "meh", let's push it a little bit more we know we can do better. Usually when we are writing we just stumble on to something that works and we go from there.
Pastepunk: For this album did you write, as a group, in the same way?
Jason: This one we wrote a lot more with all four of us together instead of individual people coming in with a separate song. It was much more collected. We all write on every record so it is definitely a collected effort but this one is all that way. This probably shows the result of how varied it is.
Pastepunk: How is it to work with Brian Mcternan, does he help a lot in the writing effort? Is he considered to be a "hands-on" producer?
Jason: Oh definitely. In these few records he has been very instrumental.
Pastepunk: At this point do you foresee yourselves working with him indefinitely?
Jason: Sure, it's one of those things where it's like, I could just as easily see us recording with someone else, but it wouldn't be for any reason other than to try something different.
Pastepunk: Even though The New What Next just came out, do you have any thoughts on what you are going to write for the next album?
Jason: No, we're trying not to get too far ahead of ourselves. The only thing we have planned now is this tour. Of course we are going to do more but this the only thing we have in the works at this time.
Pastepunk: I know you guys have a song on the latest Rock Against Bush compilation. Other than obviously wanting to get Bush out of the office, what else inspires you? Musically, politically, what events bring about your passion in songwriting?
Jason: It really is just kind of every day life sort of things. Whatever happens, every day, every tour, every friendship, whatever. For me I can't put my finger on it. I'll write a bunch of songs and then won't write anything for a few months because I'm not trying to overdo it. Then I'll start back up going again. Whereas Chris is a monster of writing and never really stops. It varies from band member to band member for sure, if there is one big thing that does affect us, it is every day life.
Pastepunk: What do you think right now of the musical climate, where bands that may have even opened for you are going out and selling gold records, and jumping on or becoming the latest trend?
Jason: We kind of try not to, I just think that envy and jealous are bad vibes to have, especially with your friends. There is a reason, and certain bands are lucky, but there are so many different things that factor. And even being able to do as well as we do, we're lucky to be where we are at. I kind of would rather look at how honorable we have it versus what someone else might. It is not that we don't aspire to do better all the time, of course, but it definitely is not a motivating factor to catch up to "fill in the blank" band.
Pastepunk: It does not seem like you are the kind of band that will most likely do that unless there is a big change in things that happen. How long do you think you can keep that up?
Jason: I don't know, I think we got a long time left in us. We are pretty happy doing what we do. I'm sure at some point in time we will not tour as much as now or whatever, but I don't think we will ever be a band that breaks up. I would say if anything we will be a band that is more actively involved in other things but I don't see that happening either.
Pastepunk: What are you guys into right now, what bands are you stoked on just listening to or playing with or watching?
Jason: I really love MOMENTS IN GRACE live, the band that is opening the show tonight. They are good friends from back home. I'm actually excited about all the bands we have on tour. Other than that it's different every day, it is whatever you wake up and put on your Ipod [he points and laughs at my Ipod sitting on the table recording]. You click around, you find stuff, there it is.
Pastepunk: Is there anything that has been released this year that you just can't stop listening to?
Jason: Umm [almost falls out of chair], that would have been bad. I'm always bad at remembering this until right afterwards. I gotta hear the new JIMMY EAT WORLD, I'm really excited about that. They are definitely one of the best, one of my favs. I really haven't gotten that much stuff this year that I'm really fired up on now that I think about it.
Pastepunk: Changing to a different kind of question, I saw you on Halloween 2001 with Thrice, Coheed and Cambria and Curl Up and Die when you guys dressed in baby doll cut off shirts and diapers...
Jason: Oh yeah of course.
Pastepunk: .. and you were drinking beer out of a baby bottle, I noticed you guys are going home to Gainesville this year for Halloween, do you have any big plans for that?
Jason: Yeah we're trying to figure out what it is going to be. It is the last day of the fest so it is going to be pretty awesome playing in Gainesville on that day, we've never done that ever. So we are really excited about that and we are definitely going to come up with something. It is one of those things where the last outfit was so good so we definitely are trying to raise the bar; we've been brainstorming.
Pastepunk: This is my last question it comes from a fellow Pastepunk friend, [Jon Ledford] but maybe you are not the best one to answer it. He wants some facial hair tips, but it looks like you're the clean shaven one...
Jason: Genetics for Chuck man, and George too, those guys can grow a beard in a day.
Pastepunk: Alright that is it man, thanks a lot.
Jason: Thanks a lot, not a problem. I appreciate it!
By Chad Mitchell