Chuck Ragan

Interviews | Aug 13th, 2007

What are you up to?
I’m doing a job in Venice beach. Windows, door, siding, all kinds of craziness.

How’s the weather?
It’s beautiful actually; we’re pretty much on the beach.

What’s new with you and your projects?
As of late, just working and stuff. Playing just a few shows here and there. Saving some money to do a tour, to do a show with Muff Potter over in Europe. Muff Potter’s a great band from Germany, Hot Water Music used to tour with all of the time.

My wife and I’ll be flying over there in mid-September. We will be there doing Germany, Austria, Switzerland, then a few shows on my own, then going to the UK to do a few shows on my own there also. That’s mid September to mid October.

But after that, Feast or Famine comes out. [It’s out now], Matt Skiba and I are going to go to Chicago and play a show with Chris from Lawrence Arms at The Metro. After the European tour, we’re probably going to play the US in support of Feast or Famine.

Any east coast dates?
For sure, we’re figuring it out now, but we’re most definitely going to be coming your way. Where should we play?

There aren’t many intimate, small venues now in Jersey, but Maxwell’s always works.
Yeah I remember that place, I haven’t been there in years.

Or the Lower East Side of Manhattan and of course the Knitting Factory still is amazing.
That will be sometime in November, I’ll think.

What are your top five bands of all time?
CCR, Leatherface, Naked Raygun, Pegboy, Bueno Vista Social Club, that’s right right?

The Leatherface tour, when the Melody Bar caught on fire, was my favorite show of all time! The show was moved to 331 Somerset in the basement.
Actually; we were just talking about that last night… did Lifetime play? Who else played?

No, it was Kid Dynamite, Ex Number Five, Thursday, The Radar Mercury, I think also Nora, Ensign. It was just crazy how many bands were playing.
Did Endeavor play??

They may have, I don’t remember, there were way too many.
That was truly insane. I remember Chris Wollard and I got to the club, walked down the road to grab a bite and a beer and we’re walking back and we saw fire engines, joking around saying, show’s canceled, clubs on fire.

Then we got closer and the club was actually on fire.

We were walking down to the street to the Melody and we said the same thing. New Brunswick’s not the same anymore.

Mac or Windows
Mac.

Good answer… burrito or taco?
Taco, especially fish tacos.

Can, bottle or draft?
Ohhh man, That all depends on the beer.

That’s for sure, how about your favorite drink?
Probably limeade.

Your favorite thing to eat?
My wife’s risotto.

Who’s your favorite Gainesville band beside the Indigo Girls?
[Laughter] Grain, was probably one of my favorites. But that always changes.

Do you have any other projects beside your construction and your music? Is there anything else you’re working on, any collaborations, or anything like that?
I’m planning on doing a record with a friend of mine, Austin Lucas. A very strict traditional bluegrass record. I’m planning on collaborating with the old players and just do it for real. I love and grew up listening to a lot of bluegrass and I love that sound and styling. I’m far from up to par with some of these guys, but I’ve always wanted to play along with some of those guys. We’re planning on doing a record that’s half original and the other half just old traditional.

That’s coming up and always doing little seven inches, comps and what not. Other than music and my work, that pretty much takes up most of my time. My wife and I just bought a home back in February in the foothills of the Sierra. We have a lot of work to do there so we’re planning some additions, all kinds of work on my own home.

You played with Austin and it was great. I never heard of him before, but it was awesome, he blew me away.
He’s a great guy, I’m looking forward to it.

Did he just come out of nowhere, or was he in bands before?
He’s been in all types of bands, he’s been around for quite a while. He lives in Prague now. He keeps busy, that’s for sure.

The Seven Inch collection was awesome, how did that start?
It started with all these songs being played around the house and my wife Jill just encouraged me to lay something down and record it. So I did, I hooked up with a friend Mitch Townsend in Huntington Beach and recorded a few sessions. Later after that, I had 10 or 15 songs recorded. From there, I decided, well, if I have them recorded, I’ll have to put them out somehow

I wanted to do stuff and the seven inches felt like I was starting over in a sense. Starting at a grassroots level is nothing less than putting out a seven inch, at least where I came from. That’s where the idea came from, starting barebones and get back to the basics. I talked to Var at No Idea Records and he was way into it. It started as one seven inch and then a couple, so we decided to do a series. I think it was a great idea, but we had a lot of hangups with the pressing plant, time just kept stacking up.

What originally was supposed to be a seven inch every month turned out to be this long, drawn out process. Everyone’s been super cool about and I can’t begin to express my appreciation. It definitely took a hell of lot longer to complete then I or anyone else wanted it to, but that’s the way it was and it just ended up that way.

What’s your favorite venue or city to play?
I’d have to say, by far, one of my most favorite places to tour is Australia. And over there, in Melbourne, there’s a venue called the Art House. It’s just run by some amazing people, a family. It’s kind of run as a hostel/venue. I don’t know, the vibe over there and the feeling over there is like nothing else. I’ve had great experiences everywhere and have played in incredible places, but that’s a great one for sure.

When you started playing again around the house, you were just playing around the house and your wife encouraged you to go on the road, how did you think it would be as successful as it has been so far?
Not at all, No. I had no idea. I’m kind beside my self with everything that’s going on. We were both planning on moving out of LA and both kind told each other we weren’t going to move out of LA until I finished a record and she finished her screen play. That was our personal goals and we did it. I started doing the seven inches and then SideOneDummy started showing some interest. It all just kinda started rolling. I feel very blessed. It definitely wasn’t expected. We worked hard doing it, I just feel lucky and blessed.

Feast or Famine coming out, you had friends and family helping out, how do you think it came out and how do you think it’s going to go. Did you hear any feedback from anyone, what do you think?
To be honest, that’s not how I’ve ever been. I’m not concerned with how a record is perceived or taken. It’s not for everybody and if people like it, I appreciate it. I write for myself and put stuff out and lay stuff down when I feel comfortable with it. As long as it’s fun and comfortable for me, I feel solid about it. If people like it, then I feel great about it and I really appreciate it.

I never really been concerned with trying to appease any taste or genre or whatever. If it makes sense, it makes sense, ya know?

The songs are very down to earth, very personal, and it’s great to hear that. A lot of music now, is very impersonal and generic. The stuff you’re putting out now is very heartfelt. This new genre that’s starting to emerge, this country-punk-bluegrass stuff is very back to basics and it’s very meaningful and soulful.

Who helped you with the record?
I had Ted Hutt (producer) and Ryan Mall (engineer) and we started digging into it. I felt like I was more prepared then ever before when I went into the studio. All the songs were pretty much done, there were a few kinks to work out, but all in all, I had pretty good idea or the instrumentation and even had some ideas of who I would like to play on it. But since the record was done on a very low budget and on a very short time frame I wasn’t sure how anything was going to work out. Pretty much, day 1, I was scheduled to go into the studio around noon and the night before Drag The River and Tim Barry were in town and staying next door. We just sat on the porch with Tim and Josh Small and his sister Caitlin and were showing them some stuff, so I invited them down and that worked out.

The first day, I went in and just started hammering out as much as we could do, bass tracks, harmonica and whatnot. From there it just started building. I was just calling friends, seeing if people wanted to come down, have a bite, drink a beer, play or sing on the record. In the end, Matt Skiba was able to come down and sing on it, Jolie Holland, who I never met before was able to come down, James Fearnley from The Pogues played some accordion, Nathan Maxwell, from Flogging Molly, Matt Hensely, it was great. We were in Mad Dog Studios in Burbank, it was just loaded with vintage instruments, a nice baby grand piano, a Hammond B3, so I got to toy around with old instruments and just kinda build on it. All and all, I think we were only tracking for a week and a half total. The timing and everything just worked out. Some people weren’t able to make it, some people were like, I’ll be down in an hour. They just showed up, had no idea what they were going to do and just come in and just give them a couple of ideas. Go and have fun and do whatever you want. It just worked out.

I’m excited to hear the full record. It’s out now on SideOneDummy. Check out Chuck Ragan’s official site, his SideOneDummy site, or his myspace.

Thank you to Chuck and we’ll see you soon on the road.

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