PropertyOfZack Interview : : Chuck Ragan
PropertyOfZack had the chance to sit down with Chuck Ragan just a few weeks ago and it turned out to be a fantastic interview! Chuck and I discussed his recent tour with Social Distortion and Sharks, upcoming music and shows for Hot Water Music, the details behind his new solo album, and more. Read up and enjoy!
You’ve been out on tour with Social Distortion and Sharks since later April. How have the dates been?
They’ve been incredible. This is the second run we’ve done with Social Distortion. We did one in January and February out west and couldn’t ask for a better gang. The whole crew, all of the workers, from the band to the truck drivers, everybody is just top-notch; it’s a top-notch team. Not only have I listened to Social Distortion for about 24 years now, but they’ve really taken us in and I’m honored for that, but what’s really incredible is their crowd. The response that we’ve been getting on the tour has been insane. The majority, I mean, it seems like about 75% of their crowd are my age or older. So, I mean I think the people at the shows get what we are doing and are very, very receptive. It’s been fantastic.
Has it been nice having Sharks out? They’re obviously a lot younger, but they’re picking up a lot of steam.
Absolutely, we did a tour with them over in the UK and Europe with The Gaslight Anthem and that was the first time we met those boys. They’re just super sweet kids and just a great band, and they’re firing right now. It’s exciting to see that happen. That was their first major tour over there, with Gaslight Anthem, and then the first time they come to the States they’re touring with Social Distortion, so they’re doing very well and they’ve got a great team behind them as well. But yeah, it’s been fantastic.
POZ: And you’ve done a few off night shows on off days, have they been fun to mix them up?
Chuck: Yeah I love the diversity of like playing a show for 3,000 people in these massive places to a wide range of folks, you know, a big audience that has no idea who we are. Just getting up there and giving it our all. And then the next day coming to a place like this, the Bell House, which a lot of the folks coming out tonight know the songs and words and it’s a completely different animal and a completely different honor all together. It’s nice to head out on the road and have that contrast.
In a way you’re still supporting 2009’s Gold Country. Are you happy with the reception it’s gotten a year and a half later?
Oh, absolutely. I mean we’ve been running so hard and doing so many tours on it and yeah I love it, but we’re all ready and geared up and ready to release this new record that we just recorded. That’s the only thing, making records and touring on them, is a lot of the time by the time people hear them they are already a year or two old.
POZ: Have you been playing any new songs live?
Chuck: Yeah, we’re going to throw a couple in there. It’s always fun, but at the same time we’d love to play all new songs.
When did you finish recording the new record?
Well, we finished right before this tour. I went down to LA, finished the record up with Chris Thorn. We went straight from LA to Vegas and started the tour right after, so we just haven’t stopped.
POZ: When are you looking to release it?
Chuck: We’re looking to release probably in early fall, early September. We may start releasing some songs. We’ll probably finish up mixing and getting it all together by the end of June.
POZ: How many tracks did you guys do?
Chuck: We started out with 20 songs. We just kept, you know, not that one yet, that one needs more work. We just kept narrowing it down, and we ended up tracking 14. Only ten of them will end up making it on the new record. Who knows what we’ll do with those other ones. Seven inches, comps, or something, you never know.
How would you compare the new record to Gold Country in terms of progression and writing?
I think the songs are a little bit better put together for me. A lot of the playing on it is just stepped up a notch in a lot of ways from Gold Country. In terms of how we did Gold Country and the aesthetics of the whole style of music, it’s pretty much the same, it has just progressed. We’ve got some great friends that have joined in on it. Christopher Thorn from Blind Melon produced it and engineered, and he played some dobro and some mandolin. Joe Ginsberg and John are on it of course, and I do my thing, Brian Fallon from Gaslight sang some songs on it, Frank Turner is going to sing some on it, Chris Phillips from the Squirrel Nut Zippers did all of the percussion, and it was just something else. I don’t even know where to begin. To say the least we’re extremely excited to started getting some music out there.
POZ: Do you guys have a name yet?
Chuck: Yeah. We’re calling it Covering Ground. The past couple years I came up with all these names for a record, some of them were really abstract and kind of deep and really this or that, and then I had this one song that had that lyric in it, “There ain’t no wasting time covering ground.” What it means is we’ve been out here just running hard and just wearing our hearts on our sleeves doing the best we can to stay right and stay self-sufficient and still make it home alive with everything we love and everything we hold sacred. In the meantime we’ve rolled backed some miles, a lot. When I started thinking about it I didn’t want to think to hard on it, and wanted to just call it what it is. The majority of these songs on this new record were written on the road or written about the road. It’s a record of road songs. Either the trials and sacrifices you go through to do what you want to do, but also the glories you find on the road as well, so it’s simple.
POZ: And that will be out on SideOne?
Chuck: Yeah, yeah.
This tour finishes up in just a few days and then you’ll be heading to Kentucky for Krazy Fest. Are you excited to get back up on that stage with Hot Water?
Yeah, for sure. In all honesty, it still feels like so far away. It’s such a big gearshift for me, you know, playing with my boys here, for this kind of music to completely switch. We’ve got the Sharks here tonight and they’ve been covering a Hot Water song, so it’s going to help me warm up a bit. I’m excited, I’m really excited to play Krazy Fest, a lot of great friends and bands are going to be there and it’s going to be something.
Following Krazy Fest, Hot Water will be doing a mini-run of dates with Fireworks, Make Do And Mend, and Hostage Calm; three bands that are really coming up in this scene of music in a big way. Was that the reason you guys picked them as support?
Different people submitted and at the end of the day we always end up making the calls and yeah, we’re excited about it. I’ve never seen any of the bands live so I’m really looking forward to checking that out. I think we’re going to do some more stuff with them in the future too.
Hot Water released a split with The Bouncing Souls in January. Were fans pretty into that?
I don’t know. I had a great time doing it. I haven’t talked to that many people about it. All of my friends said it was awesome, and I thought it was awesome so, yeah I mean I don’t think it would have mattered to us if it was or not. We just have a blast doing it together.
Are there any more plans to record smaller releases or do any more touring?
We’re working on some new stuff right now, some songs. In June I’m doing a tour with David Hause up in Canada, and at the end of that tour the Hot Water dudes are heading up to do a few shows. Then in August we’ll be doing something. We’re working on some new songs right now. Who knows, on a 7” or EP, we’ll see what happens.
In terms of your solo career, you’ll be heading to Canada with Dave Hause in June and then to the UK and Mainland Europe with Brian Fallon, Dan Andriano, and Dave Hause in September and October. How excited are you for both of those runs?
That’s been our main focus for a long time now, well since 2008. The Revival Tour has been our top focus and will probably stay that way for some time. We’re going to try and keep that tour going for as long as possible.
Will we see some new solo dates posted for the summer?
A little bit here and there. Let’s see, in June we do that Canada thing. We may be doing a run with Dropkick Murphy’s on the way back to California. After that, Hot Water is in August, September. Yeah, in September we have something pretty neat planned that we’ll probably be announcing down the road soon, but we’re doing all California dates. It’s a coastal tour where we are getting a lot of the communities involved, to get the state of California to do a lot of beach cleanups and take some kids fishing. We’re going to hold it at some campgrounds. It’s going to be fun for us, but at the same time try and give back to some of the local communities around there and do something good with music rather than just showing up, playing, getting paid, and leaving.
POZ: And you’ll just keep touring after that whenever you guys are?
Chuck: Yeah I mean we go straight from that to the Revival Tour over there, and then we are already working on the Revival Tour for Australia in December and then bringing it back to the States in the spring of 2012.
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