12 QUESTIONS WITH CHUCK RAGAN

Can you give us a brief history of your playing career?
I received my first guitar close to 30 years ago around the age of 8-9. It was more or less a prop or a toy around the house for years, though. I was into everything else under the sun that boys were into, so I never put too much time in early on until I was 11 or 12 years old. Around that time I also found skateboarding, which lead me to punk rock & more aggressive simple rock and roll. That’s also when I learned a barre chord and joined my first band. My folks fought against me playing electric guitar, and eventually took it and replaced it with an acoustic. So I initially learned and began on acoustic guitar, learning and playing standard chords along with simple folk and country songs taught to me by friends. I enjoyed it, but wanted to play loud at the time and ended up saving up dough for some pawn shop guitars that I hid at friends houses or in trash bags under concrete rubble down the street where my parents couldn’t find them – or trash them. I was drawn to it surely, but even then I was off and on with the playing due to frequent trouble making and the repercussions, as well as lack of a choice due to minor incarcerations until I was about 16 or 17 years old. Once I had it in my hands at that age (17), sports, girls, trouble making, cars and even skateboarding became secondary. I was in and out of a few bands of all sorts until I met up with some guys that I would later form Hot Water Music with. That was around 20 years ago, and when music more or less became full-time for me whether I was making a living at it or not. (It was mostly not!) Since, I’ve been blessed and honored to be invited into countless communities on countless tours throughout mainland Europe, The United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, North America, Australia, Asia and New Zealand. Recorded and released a ton of records for a ton of labels worldwide and have always jumped back into the saddle to keep trucking and repeat the process. In recent years I’ve focused more on building my own individual career as a songwriter and recording artist as well as building the annual and international collaborative tour with my wife and partner known as The Revival Tour. While at the same time, continuing the existence, writing and recording of Hot Water Music along with the original members.

What inspired you to start playing?
The magic of it. I remember watching folks play when I was very young and would always be simply enamored by their ability to make these sounds come out of a wooden box outfitted with steel strings. I grew up around Cajun music, bluegrass, country and folk before I found the rock and some of those pickers and players are beyond talented. Especially when it comes to speed and precision. Those are some early memories. When I found punk and rock and roll, I just wanted to take that energy and the same energy I had in skateboarding and apply it to music. That’s what I saw around me. It was aggressive, raw and simply cool.

What was your first electric guitar?
The first was a Kramer, I believe. Tobacco burst. Kind of a Strat shape if I can remember right. I tied a white shoe string on it for a strap and jumped on my bed with it when my parents were out. Years around 11/12 yrs old when that “toy” was beat up and gone, I begged my folks for an electric guitar. They finally caved and took me to the shop where I picked up a generic package of a black electric guitar, practice amp, chord book, etc… I took it home, cranked it up and started banging on it. My dad gave me a few minutes of fun before he busted in the room and snatched it all up, never to be seen again! We fought like hell for a bit and I thought they hated me and everything I wanted to do, but when I came home from school the next day, I found an acoustic guitar laying up against my bed

What are your top 5 favorite records?
I could answer that question a hundred times, but here’s some!
Midnight Oil- “Scream In Blue”
Willie Nelson- “Teatro”
Leatherface- “Mush”
Fugazi- “13 Songs”
Bruce Springsteen- “Nebraska”

What was the proudest moment and/or performance of your playing career?
The Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee on May 20, 2011. I had been on tour with Social Distortion across the U.S. and the Ryman was the last gig. I grew up in an old Southern Baptist household where punk rock and religion was like oil and water. At the same time, our family grew up watching Hee Haw and shows at The Grand Ole Opry once hosted in The Ryman. Here I was playing my own music to a sold out crowd supporting one of my childhood favorite bands (that my parents despised) within the walls of a sacred establishment that was familiar and wonderful for my family. Two worlds collided and I then looked at my life in music in two parts: Everything that happened up until the Ryman gig and everything that has happened after. It was a true turning point and to me personally the greatest I’ve felt on stage at a show so far to date. I only wish my folks were there to see it.

How did you hear about Reverend?
Through my good friend Gary Strack. He’s familiar with my playing style and what I put into my gigs and far as the energy goes and was the one who suggested that I try out some Reverend Guitars.

What Reverend guitar(s) are you using?
Right now I’m a big fan of the Charger HB in which I’ve been playing
regularly as well as the Sensei RT.

What do you like about your Reverend guitar?
I love the weight and the weight distribution as to how they sit and swing on my body. I love the stability of them in the bolt-on as well as the set neck series. I come from a place where we put a lot of blood, sweat, tears and raw energy into our gigs. We move fast on the road, we travel worldwide and are in and out of planes, trains and automobiles amidst all sorts of weather. That combination tends to leave our tools “rode hard and put away wet” even when we do our best to take good care. In that type of rock and roll life of running hard, it’s simply the nature of the beast. So it’s crucial that we have guitars and tools that stand up to that constant abuse and are still able to perform like they did when they came out of the shop and only get better with age. I must say also that the bass contour knob is right on time as well!

What amps and pedals do you currently use?
I mostly play through the Orange Rockerverb 100 MKII through an Orange Closed Back Cab w/Celestians. I also have a Tiny Terror Combo which is one of the greatest things since poly urethane skateboard wheels! In the home studio I also have a 78 100 watt Hiwatt head and Cab, 77 Fender Super Reverb, an old late 70’s JMP and old airline amp and some other toys. Live on stage I mostly stay true to the Rockerverb set on the Dirty Channel as so: reverb 1.5, Volume- 6, treble- 4.5, mid- 5, bass- 9, gain- 5.5 with a couple pedals from left to right, Boss tuner, MXR Classic Overdrive and a Holy Grail pedal.

Do you have any unusual hobbies, skills, or pastimes you’d like to share with us?
To me they aren’t unusual, but I love the woods and water. I fish, I hunt, I love woodwork, I dig, I cook, I’m a devoted husband and some of my best friends are chocolate labs.

Do you have any advice for up and coming players?
Absolutely. No matter what or no matter how stagnant you may feel or no matter how big a wall you hit in playing, keep playing… Pick it up even if it’s for 5-10 min a day. If you’re beyond that, great. If not, don’t get frustrated. If you stay on it, one day you’ll be able to do something you weren’t able to do yesterday! Write. Don’t be afraid to write a song or a 100 songs! Even if you aren’t the songwriter in your group. It’s only going to make your mind work overtime in a good way and make you a better player all around.

Please tell us about any of your current projects, tours, cds, etc. we should know about?
I just released a new record in Sept. called ‘Covering Ground’ Hot Water Music just released a new record called ‘Exister’ last month. The Revival Tour is in its 5th year and about to head overseas again as well as HWM for summer festivals. The train is rolling and we’re alive and kicking hard! Thanks for the support! Follow me on twitter for all updates, tour news and recording news to come! @ChuckRagan @HotWaterMusic