You can also hear the audio of the interview here at Sound Scene Revolution, where you can also hear clips from his set opening for Greg Graffin.
So I'm here with Chuck Ragan.
Hello, thanks for having me.
Thanks for taking the time. The first thing I want to ask is, how did you get hooked up with Dustin Kensru from Thrice for this tour?
We've been long time friends and fairly recently made contact with me. He had heard I was doing some acoustic stuff. He had this thing going on and he was kind enough to ask me to come out.
It's a good feeling to get up there, and to be scared, and just be frightened to stand in front of people and bleed yourself.
I'm glad you were able to make it. Have you had the chance to play a lot of acoustic shows on the west coast?
I think no. Not really. It's fairly new.
The big question, and I don't want to harp on it but people are going to want to know about is Hot Water Music.
Is there a general statement or explanation of what's going on?
Well, there wasn't any dramatic crazy break up or anything like that, just to set that record straight. It's more just kinda coming to terms with changes and where we're at. It's just a transition really, that's what it is. I think a lot of people…I mean Jason and I posted these letters on our site and it wasn't necessarily stating, "Hey everyone, we're out of here". It was more just kind of like, "We're not going to be the hardcore road warriors that everybody knows us to be". For a lot of different reasons, ya know. But honestly, when it comes down to it, it's all positive. Hot Water Music, to me, has just always been about searching and finding things that'll set you free, one way or the other. That's what it has always been. When it comes down to it, it's just another transition. I mean we've always…we're family and we have too much fun to not play.
Just don't expect it anytime in the immediate future.
Yeah. God willing it will most definitely happen. I love those guys more than anything and I would love to be standing on a stage, 60 years old trying to what we've been doing. So it's kind of one of those things where we're all family and it's just a transition period.
One of the other obvious questions is now that you're playing and writing new material are you recording for a solo album?
I've recorded quite a bit of stuff, ya know. And I'm not necessarily…I'm definitely gonna put stuff out. Actually, really soon. Been doing a bunch of stuff, probably just start with seven inch's and what not. Just for fun. I mean I have songs so, that's what I do. I'm going to record a song and if I record it I might as well put it out. I don't have any fine line agenda right now. My main focus right now is actually getting my contractors license, that's what I'm shooting for right now. But absolutely there will be stuff coming out.
Any talk with record labels or will you just be doing it by yourself for right now?
I going to do stuff with Var and No Idea. He's just a long time old friend and I'll just always work with him, as long as he doesn't get tired of me (laughs).
So the other point, that I was actually asked to ask you, is about Rumbleseat. Now that the other guys from Hot Water Music are working with The Draft and you've been doing your own thing is there any chance for more stuff from Rumbleseat or even just show of that music?
No. No, that just the past and it's done. It's a separate thing entirely.
Coming from a band where there's a bunch of different members is it more intimidating to be up on stage by yourself where all eyes seem to be on you?
(laughs) Absolutely. I mean sometimes. It's definitely intimidating and sometimes you can get quite a bit shaky. That to me is a big part of it. That's the big rush of it. It's a good feeling to get up there, and to be scared, and just be frightened to stand in front of people and bleed yourself. The just doing it and the feeling afterwards is awesome, you just climbed a mountain. That's kinda what it is. Yeah, I mean it scares the devil out of me all the time. I hope that never goes away, because that's a real part of it. I mean, I love to feel comfortable and I love to feel confident and I do. I don't want to get too comfortable. I want to be nervous and I want to be scared.
I don't know if I could get up there and do that every night.
Yeah ya could. (laughs)
So you recently, well I don't know if it was recently, but you now live in the L.A. area?
How long ago was that?
Uh, about four years ago.
Wow, I need to start stalking you better.
So what motivated that move?
Jill, who is now my wife…We've been married, October 10, will be two years. So we took off to Costa Rica a couple years ago. We had a big wedding planned, in Baja at the time and we were getting ready to send out a ton of invitations. I don't know. It just all made sense to drop it all, call the families and buy tickets to Costa Rica. So that's what we did.
Was anyone upset about that?
Well, you know a few family, but when it came down to it I think a lot of people were relieved because it was just such a crazy ordeal to get everyone to Mexico as it was and put that together. So, it just made all the sense in the world.
So, why originally Baja?
That's where we fell in love. We took a trip down there and we've done a couple other trips before then and that was just kinda where we really hit it off. We had done a couple other trips beforehand, went snowboarding, and that was one of our first, kinda where we hit it off. We did a couple other trips here and there but we did, I can't remember, maybe 10 or 12 days and that what is. We stayed at a little place called La Fonda down there and, ya know, I was done. (laughs) I knew, knew, knew it. This is the person I would be with for the rest of my life. It was amazing. Since then we go there all the time. That's kind of our little spot.
It's not too bad to get there from the L.A. area.
It's like three hours. It's great. It's great food and great people, great waves. (Jill ask what Chuck's talking about) Talking about La Fonda.
Now there's going to be people lined up to catch you on vacation.
No, I doubt that many people listen. (laughs) So how is life in L.A., is it different than growing up in the Florida area?
Absolutely. I mean, it's really cool, there's great things, especially in our neighborhood, we live in Silver Lake. It's kinda…It's 50/50. There's a lot of rough stuff that happens and at the same time some really good people. So right now work is great for us and music is a lot of fun. We love the culture around there and great food.
Mind if I ask what you do for a day job?
I'm a carpenter.
I know you said you were working on your contractor's license but I didn't know if you were just going to take the test or what.
I cut big sticks into little sticks (laughs).
That's a unique way to look at it.
Well it can be a little more complicated that but when it comes down to it that's what it is.
See you can say that, but I can't because I would cut my fingers off.
(laughs) Well, it can be. (Chuck get's up to get some water for everyone)
So Hot Water Music has varied a great deal over the years and what you're doing now is different from anything Hot Water Music has done. It's it part of a gradual progression or is it something you've always wanted to do?
Well, it's not really…When I think about it, at least thinking about what it's driven from and the energy of it to me and where it's coming from, honestly it's not really any different, other than it's just acoustic. So, it's kind of one in the same. It's quieter (laughs). Honestly, it's kind of the same energy, for me. Same concepts and everything.
It's just porch songs.
Funny you say that, my friend Joanna, who was sitting next to me, she's a huge Hot Water Music fan and after the show she said it felt just like a Hot Water Music show.
Oh wow. That's huge. I mean, I got to say I miss playing with the guys and I love them to death. It is, it's extremely liberating, going back to what we said before, just being extremely scared and getting up there just kinda busting through that. It is what it is. It's simple stuff, just simple songs. I don't think I'll ever be a very technical player or play anything that fancy. It's just porch songs.
So what are you listening to music wise?
Uhm…All kinds of stuff. Been listening to…Well, it changes. And it's changed a lot since the day of the iPod (laughs). We put it on "shuffle" quite a bit. Yeah, it moves around quite a bit. I've been listening to…I still love kinda a lot of Latin jazz. Love Afro-Cuban All-Stars, Buena Vista Social Club , different stuff like that, Abraham Ferrara (?). I mean like, I wish I could play like that (laughs) I wish I could do stuff like that.
That's sort of a "one day" type dream.
Or just one of those dream dreams. (laughs) But we listen to all kind of…(to Jill) What do we listen to? (Jill says some music that we can't decipher) Yeah, been listening to Ray Charles lately. Just good music.
So for the tour are you all in one van for this?
So who decides how the music goes, is it whoever's driving?
Usually, it's whoever's driving. That's usually the road rule, if you're driving you get to pick.
Do you have any future touring plans, I know you have a fest coming up that you're playing, anything other than that?
Yeah actually. We live in Silver Lake and this is kind of the extent of any touring that I'm going to be doing right now. With work and jobs. I mean I have jobs right now. I just kind of had to put my foot down and say, "Alright, I'm out. I'm leaving and I'll be back on this day" and just try and stay off the phone as much as possible. I mean, with work and school and everything else, this is about the extent. I'm totally game for doing shows and just traveling around a bit but, I mean, I don't want to go out and do any long term. That's kind of what drove me away from Hot Water, you know? Just that life. I was just feeling a little trapped and a little burnt on it and the whole point is feeling free, isn't it?
Does anyone at your work know about your music or do they just know you as the carpenter?
(laughs) I mean some of my guys will come out to shows and it's pretty cool and I've had a couple of clients come out to shows. It's just neat, it's different. To me it's just something else that I do but to them it totally comes out of left field. They're like, "What? You actually play an instrument or what do you do?" I say, "We're going to have to finish up this project on the ninth because I'm going out to play some shows". And they're like, "Play shows? A show? Are you like dancing?"
Are they amazed that people pay money to see you?
(laughs) Totally. They're just like, "What? Where are these people from?"
Before we wrap this up is there anything else you want to promote?
Well right now, just tonight we have, for gas money, some t-shirts that Jill and I made up and a live CD we recorded at the Troubadour. Just simple stuff like that. Not really that much. Jill set up a Myspace account and I think that's really neat. I never was involved in that and I'm just dumbfounded. I am so amazed at the response that has come from it. I can't believe it. I can not believe it. I think it's such a cool thing for musicians and I am so new to it so it could be a mess but she set it up and put four songs on it, so you can listen to those. Just something new.
Well I've checked it out and it doesn't look too messed up. It has a photo of you fishing so that's cool.
Oh, I'm all about it. Don't even get me started on that.
That's a whole 'nother interview?
That's a whole 'nother chapter. (laughs) That's a whole book.
The carpenter, the musician, the fisherman. Jack of all trades.
Jack of all trades. Master of…some. Well maybe not (laughs).
You seem to have done a lot better at a couple of them than most people. I saw the shark on your picture, that's a good sized shark.
They make great tacos.
I've always been so afraid of them. I was unaware they were also delicious.
Yeah, that one you saw was about an hour and a half away from the bar-b-q grill and being shark tacos. God rest his soul. (laughs)