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Interview with Hot Water Music|
New Introduction by Kristen K. Originally ran in Flipside #120
By Todd Taylor
Tuesday, December 11 2012
To download this interview as an ebook, right click one of the two links below depending on your device
Epub | Mobi
Have any questions or comments? We can always be contacted here.
Hot Water Music released two albums in 2001, two years after this interview. The band signed with Epitaph and A Flight and a Crash was released to a lukewarm fan base that feared the new, polished studio sound would be the death knell for HWM. Meanwhile, across the pond, No Idea pressed Never Ender, a collection of material on rare splits and 7”s. Like a machine, these Gainesville boys blazed through the next three years cutting two more albums, Caution (2002) and The New What Next (2004), dispelling any doubts of them winding down. In 2005, Rumbleseat, an acoustic side project of Chuck and Chris featuring Samantha Jones, finally released their debut, Rumbleseat Is Dead, following a number of hiccups that included a flood that wiped out a majority of their recordings. Meanwhile, a backbreaking string of HWM tours had the outfit globe-trotting faster than Superman. The pressure cooker of touring and prolonged isolation from friends and family proved an explosive formula. In late 2005, Chuck Ragan announced he was taking a break from the band. Only months later, in May 2006, Ragan publicized his decision to not return to HWM.
The split was amicable and did not put a flat in the remaining members’ tour bus. Within four months, Jason, George, and Chris dug up Todd Rockhill, a fellow Gainesville rocker of Discount and Black Cougar Shock Unit to strum guitar. Under the new, shiny moniker, The Draft, they released their debut album, In a Million Pieces, in September 2006.
Chuck booked solo gigs alongside Flogging Molly and The Lawrence Arms, reveling in his newfound freedom. Going back to his acoustic roots, Chuck struck out with harmonica and guitar to cut two albums in 2007: Feast or Famine and Los Feliz. The former cannibalized tracks from the latter’s embryonic live recordings and set the stage for Ragan’s Dylan-meets-Cash repertoire, while The Draft released a self-titled EP and a 7”, “We’ll Never Know/Had to Be Around It.”
During the fall of 2007, rumors in various punk rags were confirmed when Jason Black announced HWM had booked a handful of gigs set for early ’08. In their hometown of Gainesville, FL, Hot Water played a surprise show to kick off their reunion, which reignited their dedication to each other and the band.
In the meantime, Jason lent his bass to post-hardcore band, Senses Fail, and has since been declared a permanent fixture. After pulling many a string, Chuck saw his Revival Tour materialize—a traveling band of folkers, pulling names from Avail, Lucero, and Against Me! Also in ‘08, Chris formed his own solo act, Chris Wollard + The Ship Thieves. With George on drums and Chris at the helm, The Thieves comprised an organic, acoustic amalgamation of Florida rock with foot stomps, plus a track recorded in Wollard’s kitchen. Their self-titled debut dropped in ’09 to a celebrated reception.
That same year, Chuck released another solo album, Gold Country, and George Rebelo opted out of HWM for a stint with Against Me!, leaving the door open for Lagwagon’s Dave Raun to pick up the sticks. Rebelo would later return to tour in the onslaught of gigs Hot Water was propositioned for, including tours with Naked Raygun and Bouncing Souls plus a swath of international festival spots.
In 2010 and into 2011, No Idea started releasing a limited series of HWM 7”s, Live in Chicago, which documented their momentous reunion tour in ‘08. Further in 2010, Wollard’s Ship Thieves released a 7”, “Anybody Else/Left to Lose”. Meanwhile, between ’09 and 2011, Chuck Ragan released four live albums, a team of material on splits, and Covering Ground, which some say is his best solo work.
Before spearheading a European tour, in 2011, Hot Water threw their emaciated fans a bone with some new tunes: a 7”, “The Fire, The Steel, The Tread/Up to Nothing.” Due to everybody’s tight schedule and disparate locales, the two tracks were pieced together by the guys sending each other tracks, laying down material over them, and mailing them back.
On pins and needles, Exister, Hot Water’s first full length in eight years, was released in mid-2012 to rabid fans and rave reviews calling out tracks like “Mainline” and “Drag My Body” to become surefire bets for another Best Of comp. Sparking a new beginning, the cover art takes another direction from Scott Sinclair’s cubism, to Richard Manino’s stencil prints. Ragan has said the idea behind Exister was “to exist… to be” and was recorded at a methodical, break neck speed during a small window in the musicians’ schedule. HWM plans on touring in support of Exister. According to Jason, Hot Water won’t keep fans waiting another eight years for another studio album. He went on to say the foursome are kicking around the idea of a new live album(s) coming out soon in the vein of the Live in Chicago 7” series, tentatively set for release on limited vinyl. –Kristen K., 2012
Controlled burn fires. The forest service sets them at the perimeter where an out-of-control fire is heading. The expertly placed and timed rings or ridges of smaller fires contain the larger one, scorching the earth in the right direction to limit total destruction, sacrificing the small distance in hopes of extinguishing possible annihilation. It’s a calculated risk, dangerous nonetheless. Hot Water Music is a controlled burn fire. They’ve got the agony, the rage, the pounding, the tools to clear-cut—but it’s in the right direction.
Too often, bands set their fires wrong. Some, under themselves, burning out too quickly. Some place them directly under their audience and the show erupts into a slaughterhouse, and they wonder why forces beyond their scope extinguish or attempt to smother them. Without compromising the friction of great rock’n’roll that emits showers of sparks on the audience, HWM set their fire so it battles and maintains a circle around them—pushing against the institutional monoliths of flames that are trying to extinguish them, me, and upon listening— you. Some call them emotional hardcore or just emo. Those people are idiots. This is fire, pure and simple. Any record you find of theirs is a good bet and their newest, No Division is so good that listening to it, makes my head feel aflame.
Jason - Bass
George - Drums
Chuck - Guitar, Vocals
Chris - Guitar, Vocals
Interview and pictures by Todd.
Interview conducted May, 1999
Originally ran in Flipside #120
Todd: Do you guys know anything neat about water?
Jason: Aside from hydrogen bombing, no.
Todd: Have you guys ever been sued or asked to cease and desist by Black Sparrow Press (Bukowski’s publisher. Bukowski wrote a book titled Hot Water Music.)
Jason: No, really. No contact from them at all. As far as I know, none of the other bands have either, which is something we were wondering about when the other cease and desist thing went through. We were like, “How do you saying anything without being from Black Sparrow?” They’ve never even gotten close to talking to us. (Another band claimed the name Hot Water Music also.)
Todd: I was under the impression there had been a talk because on Forever and Counting, you call yourself The Hot Water Music Band. I didn’t know if that was a concession.
Chuck: That was more or less just a safe call just in case we had any more trouble with whoever it was who actually got a copyright on the name Hot Water Music.
Jason: Doghouse’s (label at the time) lawyer was really sketchy about putting it out. And he’s like, “We can wait awhile and find out because we’re having a really hard time tracking this down. The copyright’s registered to someone in New York and it’s not the band there and we could not get ahold of the person who had it. We had a phone number for him and everything. It was totally not the right address or anything.” He was like, “I don’t want to put it out without changing it.” And we agreed to just do that because we were going to have to wait two or three more months for it to come out.
Chuck: It was either delay the record or throw caution into the wind.
Jason: I would imagine at this point in time, with as many records as we’ve put out up to now, and doing well and everything, I think we’re basically in the free in clear—not to curse us.
Todd: Do many people get the Bukowski reference?
George: Not many, but we do get asked about it every once in awhile.
Todd: Why that name and not Chuck’s Gopher Squad? Is it thematically important?
Chuck: Not necessarily. It’s not like we represent the book or even Bukowski. At the time, we were all fans and, at the time, Chris was reading it and we had gone through name after name after name and nothing ever stuck and we weren’t happy with anything and we just settled on it.
George: We needed the name for a flyer. We had a show but we had no name and Chris was looking through the book. He was looking at the titles of the short stories and me and him were discussing it.
Chris: We went through a lot of books. Hunter S. Thompson. Everything I could find.
George: He was looking through that particular book at the time and we needed it the next day.
Chris: I was looking at it on the inside and he saw the front cover and he’s like, “How about Hot Water Music?”
George: He just stopped. “I can live with that.”
Todd: So you were potentially close to becoming The Roominghouse Madrigals.
Todd: Why do people call you The Florida Weird Beards?
All: We’ve never heard that.
Todd: I guess it’s a West Coast thing. About five people who don’t know one another call you guys that.
Chris: The Tiltwheel guys were saying that. I couldn’t quite figure that one out.
Todd: Do your shoes wear out before you throw them out?
Jason: I throw mine out before they wear out.
Chris: There you go. (A heavily duct-taped black Chuck Taylor Converse is pulled up over the seat.)
Todd: What’s the longest wearing pair of shoes you’ve ever had?
Chris: Here you go. (Chucks again.)
George: About a year, maybe.
Chuck: Wear ‘em until they practically fall off.
Jason: I save the ones. I don’t really throw them out, I just switch on to a new pair.
Todd: What’s the best or worst bribe you’ve received for playing a specific song? Has anybody given you monetary persuasion, favors of physical nature?
Jason: Have we ever had a bribe before?
Chuck: Not that I know of.
Jason: Not that we’ve taken, anyway. If we’re not going to play it, we’re not going to play it.
George: Someone offered us a dollar to play “Incisions” the other day but it didn’t happen. Then he upped it to $3.50 and it still didn’t happen.
Jason: That’s going to have to get much closer to fifty on the dollar amount.
Chris: There are a lot of songs that we can’t just play any more, so it’s just not going to work for us.
Todd: Would you take a bribe if you were going to play a song anyway?
Chuck: No. [laughter]
Chris: Make it five bucks and I’ll play it.
Todd: This one’s for Jason. INXS? Why?
Jason: I love ‘em. They’re great.
Jason: Well, not unabashedly. Kick is the pinnacle for me. Listen like Thieves. There are three or four that I’m okay with.
Chuck: What is Listen like Thieves?
Jason: The one with “What You Need” on it.
George: I think Joshua Tree was their best... that was a joke. I’m not into INXS at all.
Jason: I know. That’ why that one was for me.
Chuck: I think Hold Me Up was a good album.
Todd: By sheer hourage—I’m not necessarily talking about you favorite album of all time—what album have you listened to the most in your life?
Chris: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Second Helping. The Crew. I got a lot of hours in with that one. But I go way back to before I can remember it with Second Helping.
Chuck: Probably either Chronicles, Credence Clearwater Revival or Mush, Leatherface.
Jason: Start Today, Gorilla Biscuits. I still can’t stop listening to that.
George: Iron Maiden, Peace of Mind. When I was nine, I listened to it constantly.
Todd: Has a complete stranger come up to you and provided you with insight that people who know you really well haven’t been able to give you?
Chris: Oh yeah. That’s kind of like one of the really cool things about tour. I’m sure everybody in this band has left for tour and left with a problem and known that they’re going to have it figured out by the time they got back. A lot of times that was just a matter of talking to somebody who seems really on the level and you just get in a conversation. For me, that happens a lot because that’s totally un-jaded advice. I think that’s great.
George: I don’t need help. I figure out my own shit. [laughter]
Todd: What’s the stupidest cut-down you’ve ever heard.
Chuck: I think, “I farted in your personal space.”
Todd: If you could line up your broken drum sticks, guitar, or bass strings, how far would that stretch?
Chuck: We wouldn’t have to fly to Japan. We could probably build a boat.
Chris: Since when? C’mon. You have to give us a timeframe.
Todd: How about we give it a week and I’ll do the multiplication.
Chris: Does it have to be broken strings? I restring all the time.
Jason: Go back to when you didn’t use to.
Chuck: Two or three every night.
Chris: Remember that one show at The Hardback where I told everybody that I wasn’t going to restring until we couldn’t play anymore and I ended up with two strings that show.
Jason: I’ve ended up with two or three strings before.
Chris: And that was one show.
George: I’ve gone through five sticks a night sometimes. Sometimes it’s one or two, sometimes it’s none.
Todd: So how many shows do you do a year? Average.
Chuck: Last year, we toured close to ten months.
Chris: No, we canceled the last...
Jason: If you added up all the days we were on tour and divided by thirty, it would not come out to ten.
Chuck: I think we toured eight, eight-and-a-half months, because we took two months off to write songs and it was going to be ten months but we canceled that last one.
Jason: I would say that an average year is a 150 to two hundred.
Chris: 150 to two hundred. Definitely more than hundred.
Jason: We’re trying to slow it down a little bit.
Todd: How long have you guys been a band?
Jason: It’ll be five years in October.
Todd: Why did you guys almost break up? Because when I talked with Tim from Avail, he was bummed.
Chris: No, we did break up.
Todd: When I talked to him, you were on the cusp of that.
Jason: We definitely broke up.
Chris: We didn’t talk to each other for three months. I locked my guitar in the closet for three months.
Chuck: We just saw our friendships falling apart, so we just broke.
George: Just from being in the band too much.
Jason: Too much touring and no time for personal lives.
Chris: I think that that’s really a big part of it because we all pretty much quit our personal lives and when you’re in a band that’s trying to tour for ten months—even though we didn’t quite make it—I know that I quit thinking of myself as a person and was only in this band. We all just started arguing and hating each other and it got really, really bad.
Jason: A lot of it was making the band the be-all, end-all of our lives. Now we’ve got it down to two U.S. tours between now and the end of the year.
Todd: So do you feel stronger as a band?
George: It was the best thing that ever happened to us.
Chuck: We wouldn’t be playing now.
Chris: That was the thing. We decided to break up because we were singing songs about brotherhood and working together with each other and other people. We were miserable and it just didn’t feel right anymore so we broke up and were like, “We’ll see each other at the end of the summer when we have to play this last show and we’ll just deal with it then.” We went out to shoot pool to talk about it and we all missed playing with each other. We all had three months to be our own people and figure our lives out. It just so happened that we all came back together and it worked.
Jason: A lot of that is making it easier for us now, too. As long as we keep working like the band, we make enough money that we don’t have to get a job every single time we come home. If we take a long time off, there’s a good chance we’ll wind up working again. But, usually, if we’re not on tour, we’re not going to work every day. We can actually have a personal life and do things that most people do when they get home from work at night. For me, it’s made it a lot easier that I know I’m going to home for two weeks and I’m just going to be home.
George: It’s really unstable every time you go on tour and you don’t know if you’ll have a job when you get back or if you have enough money to pay rent.
Jason: When you’re back and there’s five dollars in the bank.
Chuck: Going to your boss and begging him...
Jason: For the fifth time...
Chuck: That sucks.
Chris: It’s totally stressful. The whole time you’re on tour, you don’t know if you’re going to get your job back and also you don’t know if you’re going to make any money on tour. So, you’re coming home to your girlfriend, “I don’t know if I can pay my fucking rent.”
Jason: “Hey, I have to go to work tomorrow. Sorry, I haven’t seen you in six weeks.”
Chris: It’s been a lot easier now. We’ve grown as individuals and grown as a band. We’re having a lot more fun and trying to take it easy now.
Todd: Can you give me an inherent paradox in the music scene you’re in. For Flipside, for example, some people want us to cover L.A. heavily to support it. Yet, we constantly get criticism that we’re too regional.
Jason: I think there’s towns—Gainesville’s an example and some experiences we’ve had in San Diego—there are specific towns that, to an extent, only support their own, which I think is self-defeating to the whole thing. That was the cool thing about punk rock when it started. Anybody could go on tour and play and kids would go because it was a punk rock band. Now, we’re definitely inundated with a lot of poor quality bands as opposed to back then, so I can understand that. I don’t go to shows that much just because I do this all year, unless it’s somebody I really want to see. But as far as people who complain about how punk rock—I don’t complain about it, how it’s going, because I know I’m part of the problem as far as that goes. People are too narrow-minded about what they’re going to support in punk rock.
Chris: Also, there’s definitely a faction of our scene that spends a lot of time bitching about the scene and the community, blah, blah, blah, and then we’re at the show with them together and all they do is point fingers at people.
Chuck: Rather than change and do something about it.
Chris: I know a lot of people like that and you see that everywhere, you really do. People love to point fingers. You’ve got kids with mohawks pointing fingers at the people who have the Romulan haircuts. The skinheads are pointing at everybody. Everybody’s bitching about the scene. Everybody wants to point fingers because the other people aren’t supporting the scene. It just doesn’t make any sense.
Todd: What’s the last song you’ve sung in karaoke?
Chris: The last song I remember doing was “Easy Like Sunday Morning,” with Chuck and Big Shirley.
Todd: Who’s Big Shirley?
Chris: He’s the drummer of Alabama Thunder Pussy.
Jason: I did “That’s the Way You Like It,” that uh huh, uh huh thing with Joe.
George: I did “1999” on New Years with Aldo and Amy.
Chris: We don’t really do karaoke except for in Richmond.
George: I did a Journey song also.
Chuck: We’ve got a little bit of karaoke in Gainesville.
George: Every Wednesday.
Jason: It’s not that much fun, though.
Chuck: We do it more in Richmond, hanging out with the (Ann) Berettas and Avail and Alabama Thunder Pussy.
Chuck: Richmond is cool because everybody that does it there, the locals, are completely fucking serious about it. There are people who record their songs and put out CDs and go to karaoke: “All right, I’ve got a new CD coming out next week, check it out. I’m going to do Bob Seger now.”
Todd: Any ideas why Pegboy isn’t more popular?
Chuck: I don’t fucking know.
George: Nobody knows that.
Jason: Lack of touring, maybe. They broke up now.
Chris: See, nobody even knows if they broke up.
Jason: They broke up on the way to their last show. They didn’t even play their last show. (I talked to Pegboy’s label, Touch And Go, and found out that this wasn’t true. –Todd)
Todd: Do people ever get pissed off at you for jumping around too much—like club owners who were expecting, say, a mellow emo show? I mean, you’re well behaved, you’re just moving around a lot.
Jason: The microphone into the crowd doesn’t make the club owners happy. But we’ve solved that problem. One of our roadies started duct taping them to the stands because we’ve had them get lost before and it’s a $100 down the drain for every microphone that goes.
Chuck: We had to pay for a mic not too long ago.
Jason: The Ditch. We’re friends with the guy that owns it, a club in Gainesville.
George: One time, Chuck knocked over the entire PA. He kind of tripped over his feet.
Chuck: It was in The Flood Zone in Richmond.
Todd: How did you guys come around to playing as aggressively as you play? It seems like the bolts are snapping off a machine. It looks like you’re stepping on land mines.
Chuck: That’s just what happened.
Jason: It’s been that way since the first show we played.
Chuck: Ever since the first practice.
George: I think that any bands any of the four of us have been in, we’ve always done that.
Jason: I’ve always jumped around like a jackass.
George: I’ve always just gone off. I know Chuck has and I know Chris has. It just happened that the four of us got together.
Todd: Have you ever had a hard time getting down from the aggression of the show? Have you ever had too much of a supply of energy that you didn’t know what to do with it after the show?
Chris: Usually, after a show, I can’t even talk a lot of times. I get complete heat spells.
Chuck: Usually, it seems like we have our minds set—that’s our time, that’s our space, that’s our outlet to release, so we do everything we can to get it all out at the time. By the end you’re fucking spent.
Chris: A lot of times, I’m just puking in the backyard or wherever we’re playing, and it’s not because I’m drunk. Sometimes you’re just so worked up, all of a sudden it’s over and your body can’t even handle that. You’re just sitting there, and sometimes it’s really hard to wind down.
Todd: How do you guys know so many painters to do your album art?
Chuck: In Sarasota, the RinglingArtSchool.
Chris: We’ve only used one guy so far.
Todd: One guy? Really? He’s fucking talented.
Chuck: Scott Sinclair.
Todd: He’s got a lot of different styles.
Chuck: Our first tour was with his band.
Todd: What’s his band?
Chuck: It was called Vent.
George: He’s not in the band anymore.
Chris: But the singer in that band is the guy who did the Snapcase artwork.
Jason: We’re kind of spoiled. We know a lot of amazing artists. They all happen to be in the same town we’re in and happen to like hardcore, and we just started hanging out with them.
Todd: At the level that you guys carry off your music, I suspect there has to be a true passion for it. And I also think that for a lot of people, there’s a precipitous moment in their life that helps them direct and focus their energies on what they want to do. I’m not asking for you to cry, but what crisis or epiphany steered you to the music you’re playing now?
Chuck: My grandfather. Even nowadays, my parents agree with what I’m doing. My dad’s a pro golfer and my mom’s an evangelistic ventriloquist.
Todd: What type of ventriloquist dummy?
Chuck: As far as the Christian scene, she’s world renown. Geraldine Ragan. Geraldine and Rickie is her stage name or whatever you want to call it. Anyway, in a sense, I’m doing exactly what my father and my mother have done. My mom still tours, my dad has been all over the world playing golf. He’s done tours as well. Neither of them supported me. They’ve always backed me up, but they’ve never been down with what I’m doing.
Jason: They don’t understand hardcore.
Chuck: Yeah, they have no idea. They don’t think of a community. They don’t think about bonds or family.
Jason: They think what the outside world thinks of.
George: Skinheads and fights and all sorts of things.
Chuck: My grandfather, years ago, I never even knew he played guitar, and I was sitting down for him and he started playing a little bit, and I was blown a way. And he told me, “You like to play that thing?” I told him that I loved it. And he told me, “Never put it down.” He told me that I was fool if I ever put it down if I loved it and I never have since.
George: I just see my family busting their ass twenty-four hours a day and doing something they’re not too happy with just to put food on the table.
Jason: I just happen to be good at it. I played string bass in orchestra in seventh grade, figured out there was an electric bass, bought one. I was good at it. So I just started doing it and it was fun. I was always doing art before that and I stopped doing art soon as I started playing.
George: I liked Animal a whole lot when I was a kid.
Jason: My dad’s a science teacher and he loves science, but now he hates it because he’s a science teacher. If I’m going to do music at all, I’m going to do it in a band where I’m writing everything, where it’s our own music. I’m not going to be a studio musician. I don’t think I’ll necessarily do music my whole life, I mean I’ll always be playing.
George: It’s a hell of a lot more fun than anything else.
Chris: I can’t remember not playing. My dad, like I said, liked Lynyrd Skynyrd. He used to sit me down in front of the player when I was one, put headphones on me, and they told me I’d sit there for album after album and just listen and smile and love it. Before I got a guitar, we lived on this lake in Michigan, and my dad had a friend who was playing square-necked dobro on the side of the tree. He was taking a work break from my dad’s shop, and I just sat there and listened to him. I couldn’t believe it. He was terrible, terrible, but it’s a dobro—it was vibrating through everything. Middle of nowhere on this lake. Right after that they bought me an acoustic. I was eight when I got my first actual, real guitar. I don’t remember not having a guitar, even if it was just a toy guitar. Actually, my parents told me they bought me a plastic toy guitar and I guess I’d seen it on TV and it was Christmas morning and the second I unwrapped it, I pulled it over my head and smashed it on the ground because that’s what I thought you were supposed to do. I didn’t even get a chance to strum it.
George: My parents bought me a toy drum set on a Christmas. I was five or six, hit it about three times and broke the whole thing, and that was the last time I got a drum set until I was thirteen.
Todd: No disrespect—why is Leatherface opening?
George: That is a very uncomfortable thing for us, too. We don’t want it to be that way.
Jason: The main reason that we pretty much came up with that, as weird as that is, the reality is a lot of the shows, the majority of the kids are going to be there to see us.
Chris: Well, they’ve never been here before. Yesterday was their first show ever in the United States.
George: We would rather us play last, and if people leave, they leave, but for Leatherface to come over here, if we play before them, and half the crowd leaves, that sucks for them. I’m not saying that they will.
Chris: We all know—you included—we’re all big Leatherface fans. I can barely find anybody that has a record that I know that I can tape.
Todd: Right. How many people have Fill Your Boots?
Chuck: Not a lot of people have that stuff at all. Most of the people who we’ve talked to and told them who we’re touring with, they say, “Who?” To us, that’s absurd.
Chris: And on the other hand, there’s a bunch of people asking “Why in the fuck are they opening up for you guys?”
George: And I totally understand why they’re saying that, but we want them to have the best possible shows.
Chuck: We feel like shit enough as it is.
Jason: I think they’d be totally fine by themselves in places like L.A., Chicago, New York, but all the little places on a five-week national tour, where we can still pull three or four hundred kids out who don’t know who the hell they are because they’re fifteen years old.
Chris: We can barely even do a show in Boise, Idaho.
Jason: I just think it’s going to work out best for everybody this way. That way, if anybody’s going to take it in the ass, it’s us.
Todd: Name the first thing that pops in your mind when I say “name one pure thing.”
George: Water. No, that’s not even pure now. Fuck.
Chuck: Family. Marriage.
Chris: Family. My girlfriend and my son and my dog.
Jason: My girlfriend. Definitely not punk rock.
Chris: My guitar. I love my guitar.
Todd: Can you identify one another by their smell? Describe wistfully, like you were talking about wine bouquets.
Jason: I wish one of us smelled like wine.
George: Bad, old wine. Jason never really smells.
Todd: So he just glistens, is that what you’re telling me?
Jason: I get dirty but I wear cologne so it covers it up. Chuck smells like there’s something wrong with him in the nether regions.
George: Not all the time.
Chris: A lot, though.
Chris: Chuck has the worst farts I’ve ever smelled in my life.
George: If there’s six people in the van and somebody farts, you know if it’s him. If it’s anybody else, it’s “Who did that?”
Chris: And it happens enough that we can describe his smell by his farts.
Chuck: I drink a bunch of juice.
George: Wollard (Chris), bad armpits every once in awhile, feet.
Chris: Ohh, I wear Chuck Taylors. I have Chuck foot.
Chris: George, he just gets weird aromas.
Chuck: He’s got serious fucking morning breath that has an eight foot span.
Chris: It’s not just that.
Chuck: He smells like cereal sometimes.
Chris: Captain Crunch.
Jason: George, every bathroom that you’ve ever had, smells like a thirty-five or forty-year-old dad’s bathroom.
George: I’m a hairy dude. I use aftershave.
Todd: How would you say you’re songwriting’s improved?
Chris: Here’s the thing, Finding the Rhythms was a lot of individuals coming with songs that were done and now, on the new record (No Division) and the Leatherface split, for the last few years, I can come to practice—anybody could come to practice—and have written the most amazing song ever, but there’s no way in the world it’s going to get played out like that. Everybody has such an active part in the songwriting and everything gets screwed with. That’s how we’ve developed what we do.
Jason: We all try to put our own thing into it. The record that’s coming out in September of ‘99 is the first record that I think all four of us have been one hundred percent excited about. I think we finally figured out something that worked for us really well. And it’s a little different than everything else. It’s more fun. It’s catchier. The songs are put together a lot better. There’s a clinker on every record we put out, but there’s no clinker on the new record, for us anyway. I’m sure there’ll be a clinker for someone.
Todd: What’s the largest thing that you’ve given up to be where you are right now and was it a gamble?
Jason: Getting a job after college.
Chuck: Ice hockey scholarship.
George: Ever since I was five I wanted to play music. It’s not really a gamble for me. It’s what I know that I’ve always wanted to do. It’s something that if I stick with the path that I’m going, it only leads to good. Regardless of how much money I ever make, I know that my being will be happy.
Chuck: I had no idea I’d be doing exactly this... I’ve been playing music since I was twelve. Everything else has been completely secondary. Like hockey. I could have played well and gotten really good, but I just liked to play for the hell of it. I didn’t want to go to school for it.
Jason: I figure I can always get a job. I’ve got my degree so if I get tired of this, my degree’s still good... maybe a little piece of mind. It gets to you after a while—being on the road.
Chuck: It definitely takes its toll.
Jason: The older I get, and now that I’m actually happy in a relationship, it takes more of a toll, too. At the same time, I’m really glad—no matter how much longer it lasts—that I’ve been able to do it because we’ve been to Europe once. We’re going back. We’re going to Japan. We’ve been all over the States. And that’s been playing. And now I actually get to pay my rent when I go home to go see all this stuff. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
George: I can’t hold a relationship. I’m just a weirdo like that, I guess. That’s kind of a bummer to me.
Jason: That could have something to do with us touring all the time.
George: That has everything to do with it but, like I said, I play music so I’m going to stick that way. Somewhere down the road it’s going to work.
Todd: Which have you had more of—broken hearts or broken bones?
George: Broken heart, definitely. Only broke my arm once.
Jason: [pointing to Chuck] This guy’s had more broken bones, I can guarantee that.
Chuck: Where’s a piece of wood?... because I’ve never broken a bone.
Chuck: Find me a piece of wood. [He finds it and taps it.]
Todd: When’s the last time you were in abject fear?
Chuck: I thought I broke my hand last month. That was pretty scary.
Jason: Leaving for this tour. We haven’t done a tour since we broke up. We did nine shows in December.
Chuck: We’ve never done a tour this long and made it.
Jason: And it’s not that long. It’s only about five weeks. That, and it’s a combination of leaving everything else behind at home.
Todd: Is there a question in the back of your mind that you wished an interviewer asked but never has?
Jason: Nobody ever asks, for some weird reason, which I’m sure will happen soon, nobody ever talks to us in interviews about sellout issues or anything like that, which I’m kind of surprised about. We’ve always been driving around in a nice van and we have nice equipment. People know that we don’t work and nobody gives us a lot of grief about that.
George: Now we will. Thank you. It’s because we’ll bust their ass. We work hard for everything we’ve have.
Jason: People are jumping on Avail left and right for being on Fat now.
Chuck: Fuck that.
Jason: It that’s what they want to do, go for it.
Chris: I wish people would interview more—I’m sure it’s really hard to be someone interviewing and have anything but questions about the band—but I would be more interested on every level, if it was more questions about the people in the band and their personal lives because, personally, I don’t give a fuck about all this band stuff. A lot of questions people ask are “When did the band get together,” and a lot of it you do need to know to give a representation of the band, but I would rather read an interview where, if you’re going to take the time, to go into it and learn about those people.
There’s a lot of stuff that I love reading about musicians, like sitting down and reading about Bruce Springsteen or Lynyrd Skynyrd and about what was going on during this album, what inspired all this stuff. Something had to get this guy to write all these songs. And it’s not just the fact that he wants to play guitar. There’s a lot going on. I don’t think that people think of band members as individuals and I told you earlier that I don’t like doing interviews. I really don’t and that’s why—because I don’t like thinking of people in bands as someone in a band. I want to know them as a person.
Jason: There are plenty of people in bands who I like, like two out of the four people, and I think that two are assholes or something. It is pretty bad when people group bands as a whole.
George: But at the same time, for an interviewer, you don’t know who you’re going to step on. A personal issue is a personal issue.
Chris: But I also think that if it’s something, that is what an interview is. You’re trying to get personal with somebody.
Jason: If you present the question right, with “Listen, if this bothers you, don’t answer it...”
George: I understand that’s why people don’t really get into it because they don’t want to offend anybody.
Chris: I think that’s what crosses the line. The best interviews—not even the ones I’ve enjoyed the most—but the best ones that I thought were really great, were the ones where I kind of felt uncomfortable.
George: I agree with you. I don’t really have any bones in my closet that I’m not willing to talk about.
Chris: Some of my favorites that I’ve read, I want to know this person because these are the people that are writing...
Chuck: The people behind the music.
Todd: What’s the last thing that made you feel powerful?
Jason: To be able to escape my everyday life back home by coming on tour. That makes me feel real powerful. I’m very excited about that. I get to leave all of my troubles behind.
Chris: I don’t think “powerful” is a good word.
Todd: How about “empowered”?
Todd: Not necessarily exerting power over somebody else... maybe “radiant” would be a better word.
Jason: The fact that we can get Leatherface over here and go on tour with us and we can now go on tour and call the shots as far as the shows go, making sure they’re all ages, getting the bands that we want to play, that type of stuff. Everything we’ve been able to do with the band lately has been good because it’s finally come over to our terms where we run the show as close to the way we want to as possible.
Chris: This last year for me has been just tremendous. I’ve never been anybody that’s ever felt radiant. I’ve never really been happy until this last year.
Chuck: Same here.
Jason: Me too.
Chris: When I brought my son up to my house with my fiancé, I just had the best feeling. My son was there. My fiancé was there and they love each other so much, and I actually felt complete because I’m doing all this shit. I’ve got a beautiful son and this beautiful woman and they’re right here with me and they love me and I just kind of sat back and I was just like, “This is too cool.” My dog was running around, super stoked. And what am I doing with my life? I’m not like this rich man but I’m doing what I want to do. I’m playing my guitar and I have this amazing life and it just blows my mind because I never ever thought it would ever be this good. It just kills me.
Chuck: I sit back and look what I’ve been through. Last January, the beginning of the year, I got married. All throughout my life, I’ve had just turning points here and there and the last major turning point that I’ve had that’s really changed my life was the beginning of this band. That happened. Then I met my future wife. Then we just got married in January and since then everything’s been just going up and up and up. Like he was saying, we’re not sitting back at home living like kings; we still struggle. We do everything we can to get by, and sometimes it’s scraping the bottom of the barrel. But man, I’m fucking happy. I could not ask for anything more.
Jason: This is the first time in my whole life that I’ve been happy with, for lack of a better terminology, both my “professional” and personal life. I don’t have any complaints that aren’t going to go away. Anything I’ve got to complain about is going to be there for the rest of my life.
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This Razorcake ebook is made possible in part by grants from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs and is supported by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors through the Los Angeles Arts Commission.
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