I feel really bad about this interview. Not because I think the interview is bad but because it took me more than four months to transcribe it and put it online. I did the interview at Michelle Records, a record store in the city centre of Hamburg where he played an in store show, shortly before I climbed on my plane to Chile. Where my thoughts were somehow turning around other thingsÖ I asked Chuck Ragan about Hot Water Music and I was pretty surprised by his very positive answers. Today the band is back together and playing reunion shows. Was this step already in consideration in September when we had our little chat? I donít knowÖ Anyway, I hope you can forgive me for being tardy and enjoy the interview anyway.
When I did an interview with Austin Lucas a few months ago he told me that he was about to fly over to the United States to do a record with you. What became of that and when will we be able to hear the results?
Hopefully soon. Heís a great guy, a good friend and an amazing musician. One year ago we met in New York City at about the time the split on Hometown Caravan came out and we hit it off great. We decided to do a full on record together and write songs together. What we are planning on doing is doing a very traditionally sounding record where half of the songs are originals and the other half are old standards. The plan is to record in late November and then weíll seeÖ
Youíve been in Hot Water Music which is basically a punk band. I read an interview with Ian MacKaye about his new project The Evens where he said that he really disliked the fact that Fugazi always had to play in big clubs, big halls with a huge p.a. where their intensity was basically created through volume. Do you think that the way you perform now is more centred around the contents of the music because it is easier for the people to understand what you say and there is no show to distract them?
Sure. I like that the way Iím doing it now. Iím more in control of things with just an acoustic guitar that is not blasting all the time. And I can pronounce my words more clearly because Iím a little more focussed and not falling all over the stage, you know. I enjoy that. I think it all depends on the artistsí choice. If you chose to play large halls or this record store you just do that. With Hot Water Music it was definitely different. We just came to bring the rock and just go for it the best we could. Most of the time it was very loud and it was hard to play quiet. We actually did some shows acoustic and we definitely enjoyed that because it had another dynamic.
Thatís another idea I like about this singer/songwriter thing. You could play a show almost everywhere: in my kitchen, in your garden, at the beach, in a subway. You just played in a shopís window. You couldnít do all that with a full on rock band. What do you think about this?
I love the freedom. Itís very liberating. Itís just my wife Jill and I who travel and itís worlds apart from being on tour with eight other people. Itís just the two of us. We go if we want to go and we stay if we want to stay. Iím with the woman that I love and I am doing something that I love to do. And it brought me here. It is cool.
When you and the other guys in Hot Water Music were parting ways there was a lot of shittalking in the magazines like thereíd be a lot of bad blood and bitterness. Now all the statements of yours about the other guys and their new band The Draft that I could find on the internet were very positive. How come everyone seems to have gotten it wrong in a way?
Who knows? Maybe it was a lot more interesting to them? Maybe a soap opera is more exiting for them. Itís probably better for the papersÖ
Another thing that has happened apart from the ďbig breakĒ you are taking from Hot Water Music is that you moved from Florida to California, which is about the biggest distance possible within the United States as long as you donít want to freeze half the year. Was that a conscious cut in your life, getting a new background, breaking away from old habits, start over?
Not reallyÖ The ironic thing is same idea and the same feeling that made me begin in Hot Water Music was the same thing that pulled me out. All it was is the idea of simply following my heart and doing what I believe was true and right and the most honest and real thing that I could do at the time. There was a time towards the end where I started to listen to our own lyrics about being true to yourself and following your heart. I am hearing this and playing this and start to realize I have to take a step back and re-evaluate my life and why Iím here.
But I moved out to California for Jill, my wife and Iíve been there for five years now, way before Hot Water Music stopped playing for a while. It was a wonderful change for me. At first we moved to the city but I donít care to much for the city, Iím a country person. So, now we livv up in the mountains in northern California.
Now that you live in California how does it feel to come back to Gainesville? Does it feel like coming home or more like being a guest, a visitor?
Well, Gainesville never really felt like home. I lived in Gainesville for probably ten years but Hot Water Music sometimes toured six to ten months of a year. So it was more like a pit stop for me. I have a lot of ties and relationships and friends and things that kept me there for ten years but looking from now doesnít feel like home although I might have at some points of time. When I come there now itís not like ďyeah, Iím home!Ē, you know.
Since itís a college town there is always new people coming in. Always. I go there now and play a show and I know maybe a quarter of the people when I used to know 100% of the people. Itís a cool place and itís a good place for young people to go to college or do something with their art or music because there is a lot of open minded people and a nice community for that. But itís not homeÖ
One thing I wondered about recently is back in the eighties when Reagan was president of the United States did the other kids make fun of you because your family name sounds so similar?
Well, I was born in 1974. So I was ten years in 1984. I probably rode my bike and didnít care. [laughs]
I read in an interview that you are quite a fan of Bruce Springsteen. For most people I know Springsteen is just that ďborn in the u.s.a.Ē-guy. If someone wants to know what iti is that you like about his music which songs or records would you recommend to him/her?
Tell them to go by ďnebraskaĒ!
That was my last question. Thank you for the interview
Thank you guys for caring. Thank you very much.
Chuck Ragan got some records out on side one dummy, no idea and hometown caravan.