Interview with Jason Black from HOT WATER MUSIC; Hitting the road Jan/Feb 2013 @hotwatermusic @riserecords
Gainesville, Florida is one of the reigning champion locations of modern punk rock. In addition to being a popular college town, Gainesville has birthed some of the most popular and influential acts of our day, including Against Me!, Less Than Jake, and the topic of this write up, Hot Water Music.
Hot Water Music’s storied legacy, beginning in 1993, has found the quartet performing numerous shows to ravenous and growing fan bases across the globe. Consisting of Chuck Ragan, Jason Black, George Rebelo, and Chris Wollard, Hot Water Music’s super tight delivery and impassioned lyrics are what make punk rock great, and you can bet they’ll be bringing their A-game with them when they take the stage.
With tour date sellouts in the midst, I recommend grabbing your tickets for their upcoming Jan/Feb 2013 headlining tour, featuring The Menzingers and La Dispute, now while you still have the opportunity to do so. I caught up with bassist Jason Black prior to the tour to discuss their signing to Rise Records, the new record Exister, their approach to touring, and what 20 years of being in a band together is like, hiatuses aside.
And for all of you awesome physical format music buyers still out there, get ready: HWM just announced a 3xlp 2cd/dvd album titled Live in Chicago to be released on No Idea Records on January 15th!
G- Hello and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today. Hot Water Music is gearing up for an early 2013 tour to support your latest release, and first in 8 years, Exister… How has everything been going with the tour prep and rehearsals?
J- Um, pretty well. There haven’t been rehearsals yet, though. (laughing)
G- No rehearsals yet?
J- No. We live all over the place, so that takes a little bit of work. That’ll happen. Surprisingly, rehearsing is not really our strong suit, to be totally honest.
G- Well, it’s punk rock (laughing)
J- (laughing) Yea exactly. It’s kind of on a need-to-do basis. Over the course of the years, we haven’t been that much of a rehearse-to-tour band, more of a rehearse-to-write band. If you don’t have the songs after 15 years or whatever, you probably don’t have much business playing them anymore. (laughing)
G- (laughing) Very good.
G- So, it’s cool that I’m speaking with you today because I just got a press release stating that you’ll be releasing a live album with No Idea… Tell us about it!
J- Well, we recorded that about 4 years ago at one of these “reunion shows” or whatever, and we did two nights at The Metro in Chicago, and these are the recordings from those shows. They’ve kinda taken a long time to get out, as is usually the case with No Idea and us, but No Idea has done a series of quarterly 7”, and we said let’s just do a full collection of the stuff at some point in time, and… I honestly kinda spaced that it was happening. A few months ago it was ‘Oh… That’s ready?! Cool! We’re going on tour. That works out really well!’ (laughing)
So, yea that’s about it. It’s pretty inclusive, actually. At least for me, I think we’ve kind of done a litany of live material at this point, so we’re not really treating it like a big deal, for lack of a better term. It’s more of a like ‘Hey, here’s this thing if you’re a superfan.’ And then, at that point, try to make it kinda cool with the vinyl triple lp and all that stuff. So basically making it worthwhile for people who want to hear another live version of the songs they may already have a live version of. Let’s be real about it. (laughing)
G- I think it’s going to sell like wildfire. It’s a limited pressing, you’ve got a few different colors, and you’re only doing 500 of each color. I know several people who are probably going to start saving now to buy all of the variants and everything, so that’s good, dude!
J- Oh yea. We’re lucky to have such rad fans!
G- They love you for sure. Now, its been covered by other outlets, but I wanted to ask you about signing to Rise Records.
J- Uh huh.
G- Rise has been picking up legacy bands and, you know, how has it been working with the label thus far into your new release?
J- It’s been good so far. They’re good dudes. We’ve all known or worked with them on some level in the past, and it hasn’t been too uncomfortable of a transition.
We’ve been on a lot of labels, so it’s not that hard for us to wrap our head around working with a new group of people. But yea, so far, so good. I mean, I’m a band guy, not a label guy, so it’s kind of a loaded question when you ask the band dude ‘How is it working on whatever label? It’s great!’ (laughs)
And it actually is. Those guys have been super supportive and real cool to work with. I’m glad they came around when they did, because it was nice for us to do something different when we were putting out our new record. That was a lot of the impetus to working with them as well. We’ve done it with this label and that label, and repetition of the same thing can get tiring after a while, so it was really an opportune thing for both of us.
G- Right on. Fresh blood… Nothing wrong with that. Now, to get a little more depthy, do you have a favorite song of the new record at this point, and do you have a personal favorite song that Hot Water Music has ever written?
J- Oh wow. All time, I don’t know. Probably “Trusty Chords” I would say, all time. That was one of those ones that just kind of happened in ten seconds, and I wouldn’t change anything about it.
New record? I don’t know. I mean, it hasn’t quite sunk in yet because we’ve only done one actual tour on it. And for me, a lot of times my favorite songs involve a lot of moments, like, not only staying power, but… I tend to like the same songs that the people who come to the shows like because they’re the most fun to play.
G- Right on.
J- If that makes any sense. You know, playing songs nobody wants to hear kinda not makes you like them as much.
G- That is a very true statement. A going a little bit further, you’re going to make a lot of new fans on this upcoming tour, and you’ve got a bevy of fans already, but if you were to give one song to someone who’d never heard HWM before to make a new fan, what song would you offer them, and why?
J- Wow. I would probably want to pick something off of the new record and at that point, I think I would have to go with “Drag My Body” because it’s kind of like a quintessential HWM song, because it has some hooks but it’s not super basic. It has a little bit of a kind of rhythm section play between me and George, and it’s a little bit more interesting of a song structure than the others.
So, I always try to lean towards those if I was going to have someone hear one song, one of the ones that sort of attempts to encapsulate everything that were supposedly good at.
G- Right on right on. So, HWM has done lots, and lots, and lots or touring, and as a band that has as many extensive performance credits all over the world, can you describe for us how your reception in the states compares with your performances abroad, both in terms of how you play, audience reaction, and general hospitality?
J- It’s gotten better would be the easiest way to put that (laughing). You know, the states were kind of lagging behind a lot of other places for a while. It started to pick up pretty well lately. I don’t know if that’s because we try to stay out of people’s faces as much as possible. But, at this point, I feel like anywhere we go, with the exception of when you go to Europe and play ten different countries, not all ten of them are going to be great, no matter how small they are. So, it’s always a little bit of a weird… Like, we’re in the Netherlands today and it won’t be as good as Germany, that’s twenty minutes from here.
I guess you can treat Europe like the states, because there are definitely cities that we don’t bother playing in the states. Bit, overall, I feel like most of the world is kind of on an even playing field at this point.
J- Which is kinda nice for us. We know where we do well at, and as long as we stick to those places, we have a really good time.
G- That sounds good to me, man. Now, suffice to say HWM can probably get gigs with anyone they want at this point, but are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future? If you could have a feasible 3-band dream lineup you would like to see HWM on in the future, who would you pick?
J- Wow. That’d be an absolute different answer depending on who you ask in the band.
G- I’m asking Jason Black.
J- (Laughs) I mean, right now, I would have absolutely no problem doing shows with Quicksand. I’m glad they’re playing again! That’d be un for us, too.
G- Me too!
J- And for us, it always comes down to a good hang. Like ‘Oh, we really like those guys. Let’s go on tour with them.’ You know, like the Rise Against tour thing. We’ve been friends with those guys for forever, we can finally go out… it’s gonna be rad!
Um, you know, it’s hard because that kind of stuff always come down to business in the end, but I really like the new Deftones record, too. I would have no problem going out with Deftones and Quicksand. We would definitely be the light rock band of the evening, but that’s ok!
G- Oh man… That would be one of my dream lineup shows, so if you can make that happen, that’d be a good one. Are you going to be around to go to any of the Quicksand shows?
J- I am actually going to make it to the Chicago show before tour. I was gonna miss all of them, but some things have opened up recently and I’m going to be able to make that, so I’m pretty excited, to say the least.
G- I bet! I bought tickets for both NYC shows. I had a mini-stroke and opened my wallet, pulled out my credit card, and there’s that!
J- Yea. I’m kind of over Christmas and New Years at this point. I’m like ‘Can I just go to the show?!” (laughs)
G- I’m with it! Lastly, the music dream will never die, and there are a lot of kids out here who look up to HWM for inspiration, and they want to do what you do. What advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
J- You definitely have to be totally willing to be… I mean, it is not easy for most people. And I think that for the people that it is easy for, they don’t last very long, at least from my experience. You have to be willing to give up a lot more than you think.
And you need to do your own thing. I think if you don’t have your own identity at the end of the day, you’re also going to kind of fall by the wayside. I mean, I think that’s sort of how it goes in any type of music, punk or whatever. There’re the torchbearers and the people that come after them, you know, generally are the ones left standing at the end of the day.
You have to have your own identity, you have to give up a lot, and other than that, it’s all luck. It really is! There’s a lot of bands that I’m friends with that work their asses off and have nothing to show for it. So, it’s a lot of luck, and always understand that you’re lucky to have anything like your band!
G- That’s awesome! Very good advice! I really want to thank you again for the time to speak with me today.
J- No problem, man. Thank you very much!
G- Have a safe trip and looking forward to seeing you and hopefully meeting up on the road!
J- Alright man. Take care!
G- You too now.