HOT WATER MUSIC
interview by brian greenaway
How does an indie rock band from in the swamps of Florida turn enough heads to wind up on Epitaph Records, arguably the most well known punk label on the planet? How does this same band make enough noise to find itself on The Warped Tour, without question the most happening event under the Summer sun? After speaking with Jason Black, bassist for Gainesvilles own Hot Water Music, the answer becomes quite clear. Just as their unique brand of emo-punk has been lauded for its honesty and assertiveness, so too is Black. A refreshingly verbose and thoughtful individual, Black was kind enough to share his thoughts on everything from The Rolling Stones and AC/DC to insane Canadian interviewers with us at Modern Fix.
Brian Greenway: You watching any of The World Cup?
Jason Black: No. It just comes on too late out here.
And where are you right now?
Im in Gainesville right now. Just packing my stuff up. We leave for the Warped Tour tomorrow.
For real? You gonna make it out to California?
Yeah, well be on all the stops.
Ill come and catch you down in Ventura then.
How would you compare Gainesville, Florida with Southern California?
Wow. Not too similar. Gainesvilles a smaller college town and if you kind of get out of the college part you just end up in sort of an old Southern Florida town. So its like the real South, as opposed to Southern California.
Whats the worst question youve ever been asked during an interview?
Wow. I havent gotten a really terrible one thats stuck out in my mind.
Just wait til Im done.
Right. I think Chuck (Vocals, Guitar) was doing an interview with some woman from Canada who asked him what one of the most important things about the band was and he responded by saying, I dont know, just being honest or something like that and she goes, Well, dont you ever tell white lies? How can your band be honest if you tell white lies? She just ripped into him on that and it all came out in the interview. Were sitting there reading it and just going, Wow, whats the point of that?
Boyfriend issues, obviously. OK, time for some real questions. You guys have put out a bunch of material on a lot of different labels. Do you feel a little stability being on Epitaph right now?
Yeah, its getting there for sure, now that were on the second record. Working with the same people twice in a row is never a bad thing as long as it works out the first time around. I dont see why we would leave there at all at this point in time. Were getting to be really good friends with everyone and weve all learned a lot about getting things done as professionally as possible and maximizing our efforts.
How big of a role does the producer play in your studio sessions?
Well, when we first started off we were just working with engineers. At first we really only had ourselves to bounce ideas off of. Brian (McTiernan) has done the last two records and hes become a very good friend of the band and he helped us a lot in pre-production this time around. Hes our same age and he comes from the same place we do so its kind of easy for us to trust him as to his opinion of the songs. Plus he does great work, so weve kind of lightened up and let go of the reigns a little bit as far as trying different things here and there. Its definitely helped us grow as a band and its nice to get an outside perspective on our songs because its so easy to get attached to them after having worked on them for so long. Its easy to musically box yourself into a corner and not think of new ways to change things around.
Can you walk us through the song writing process? Does everyone contribute equally?
Its pretty random. On our past records wed pretty much develop a vocal part and a song part independently of each other. Usually wed just work from the ground up like that. Working with Brian and maturing as songwriters has shown us that its beneficial to have at least an idea of what the vocals are going to be doing from the get go.
Its the first thing that grabs most people. Its easier to shape the song into something that compliments the vocals rather than steps all over them. Overall, the music writing process is very democratic and everybody always contributes something to the record.
Whats your favorite song to play, both on the new record and from your entire library?
Off the new record, Id say Remedy, which is actually going to be the first single. At least its supposed to be. Its kind of hard to pick one since Im still really excited about all of the songs we just recorded. The record is called Caution and its set to be out on October 8th. Aside from that I like playing Alachua quite a bit. Thats always a good time. It comes and goes depending on how often weve been playing certain songs and how well weve been playing them, I guess.
I noticed Paper Thin is at the top of Audio Galaxys download list for Hot Water Music.
Yeah, thats a fun one. I enjoy it. Good crowd response from that one.
Whats your take on the whole mp3, free music thing?
I think its good to the extent to where its the same thing as copying a tape. Its kind of weird because for artists like ourselves its definitely more helpful than harmful because we dont necessarily make a lot of royalties anyway and the little bit that we would make from people buying stuff rather than downloading it wouldnt make much of a difference. Like, Metallica for example, who have such a big problem with itthey have so much money I dont even understand why they care really.
It’s kind of weird.
I mean they have a valid point because the record industry is not really geared toward the band making a dime, no matter what label youre on. At the same time, for us at this stage its more important to have the exposure. I definitely understand both sides of the argumentboth sides have valid points. I think its funny that the people who choose to not care about the free downloads are the poorer bands and the ones that makes a big deal about it are usually the rich bands.
Is there anything that really bothers you about the record industry right now?
Nothing more than usual. I think the main thing is there has become sort of a downfall of quality bands. Its been going around for a while. Definitely since the 90s with the whole boy-band, pop-invasion thing. And it went on in the 80s too. The industry is not really geared towards artists and their career anymore, its geared towards hits and singles. Thats why theres so many one hit wonders and flashes in the pans these days. Back in the 60s and 70swell, take a Led Zeppelin or a Jimi Hendrix or something like that. No one ever expected their first records to blow up. If it sold 50,000 copies record companies would have been like, Wow, thats better than none. Now, by major label standards, thats a complete failure.
Oh, youre getting dropped if something like that happens.
Yeah, totally. So I think if labels were more willing to help an artist develop from the ground up, rather than just blow them out of the water and then drop them on their face, I think a lot more bands that are worthwhile wouldnt fall through the cracks. I cant think of a band out there whose first record was their best one.
Well, sure. There are some bands whose first records were really good but probably not the best as far as song writing and development of the band and what theyre capable of doing.
Hows the evolution of Hot Water Music been? How would you describe your bands change of the years?
Its been good. The last record (A Flight and a Crash) was a bit of a growing pains record for us as far as trying to do some new stuff and working with some new people and I dont think they came off as well as they could have at that point in time. Now were at a point when were really comfortable with everything that we put on this new record. I know people always say stuff like that, but its the truth. I mean, Im kind of amazed that we made this record sometimes. This is a legitimate kind of rock n roll album that Id like no matter who put it out.
If I had twenty dollars in my pocket and I walk into a record store, why should I choose your record over Band XYZ? What makes you guys special?
Well, I think its kind of weird to give yourself props but for me I feel theres an immediacy and a directness to what we do thats not in a lot of bands. We dont have a marketing plan or an image or anything like that. A lot of bands dont, but at the same time there are a lot of bands out there that at some point and time in their existence are like, We wanna be a band thats kind of like this. And theres nothing wrong with that. Some of my favorite bands probably did that. Weve never thought that. We just do what comes out and I think thats definitely something thats common these days.
I agree. I think a lot of bands come out there with the idea of were gonna sell 100,000 units by catering to this sub-set of the population.
Absolutely. I mean, the more we learn about the business and the more we learn about the way things work we always do try to get ourselves out there as much as possible and make our audience grow as much as possible. At the same time weve never really written a song thinking Oh, we should change this to make it sound more like this.
Getting back to the immediacy issue you brought up earlier; are you influenced by current political or social events?
Yes and no. I mean, were definitely not a political band. The semi-political topics well touch on every once and a while are pretty broad, things like racism, bigotry, and social injustices as far as class structure. I wouldnt even consider those issues super political because theyre pretty much everywhere and I think most people would agree that theyre all bad things. For us, personal experiences are a much more important topic. We in the band are all pretty lucky that a lot of the stuff going on right now hasnt really directly impacted our everyday lives. A big part of that is probably because we live in a small town in Florida.
Still, everyones going to be affected in some way by whats going on and it seems like the more degrees of separation you have between yourself and a bunch of hairy shit, the better.
Yeah, thats how I feel. I dont want to brush anything under the rug or ignore it by any stretch of the imagination but as far as being influenced by it; its just not something that rubs on us every single day like a bunch of other things do.
Do you ever hear a song that you wish you’d written?
Oh, man. Theres a bunch. Just let me think of a minute. Damn, it shouldnt be this hard for me because I have a lot of favorite songs. Probably Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones. Thats a great one. Fascination Street by The Cure.
Is that the kind of music you listened to growing up?
Yeah, a lot of it. Ive been getting back into The Stones a lot lately. And The Cure are one of my favorite bands. I was way into them in middle school. Along with like Dead Kennedys and whatever else people were listening to on the bus.
Did you have that funny new-wave haircut?
Oh, yeah. I had the Tony Hawk.
I had that one, too.
With the hair all puffy and over one eye.
Yep, guilty. Speaking of Tony Hawk, do you ever make it over to the Tampa Pro Skateboard Contest?
Yeah, we actually just played the anniversary show in January.
Are you guys into skating then?
Chris and Chuck and I used to skate a lot. Chuck still skates all the time. Hes actually pretty good. I kind of dropped it halfway through high school. I wasnt very good at it.
I still do it all the time and Im still not good at it. If you werent the bass player in a punk band, what would you be doing?
Probably teaching school. Thats what I kind of figured Id be doing when I graduated college but I decided to give the band a couple of years and lucky for me, Im not teaching right now.
Have you ever been on the verge of quitting?
Yeah. Not so much anymore. I think now everythings pretty comfortable and were on cruise control to some extent. We know most of the problems that are going to happen both with the band on a business level and on a personal level between each other and I think it would take a lot for someone to quit at this point and time.
What should people expect from a live show?
Oh, Id say thats my favorite part of being in a band. I feel weve always had a really great live show. We might not always sound the best but at least the energys always there. Everybody has some off nights, you know? Playing live is the best because thats the time when you really get to connect with your audience.
Are you excited to be touring with Thrice?
Yeah, absolutely. Great guys. Great live band, too, speaking of live bands. Were huge fans of those guys.
Yeah, I saw them with Face to Face in Ventura a couple of weeks ago and I was blown away.
Yeah, theyve gotten it together. Theyre some pretty sick players for such a bunch of young guys.
What bands would you pay to see right now?
AC/DC for sure, cause Ive never seen them. Off the top of my head thats about all I can think of.
When do you think youll feel like you’ve made it? Do you ever think there will come a time when youll be like, Wow, thank God I didn’t become a teacher?
I think were pretty much there when we can take ourselves out of the work mode and just look at everything that weve accomplished. We play in a band for a living. How great is that? Maybe a few years from now it would be great to not have to tour quite as much so we could have a little more of a personal lifethat wouldnt be terrible. But right now I dont want to settle down by any stretch of the imagination.
Do you guys have girlfriends and stuff waiting for you at home?
No, were actually all single right now, pretty much because of the disruptive nature of just being gone all the time.
If you’re not practicing or playing music, what are you doing?
Probably planning on when the next time were going to be practicing or playing.
So it pretty much dominates your whole life then?
Yeah, it pretty much does. Especially lately because were only home for about a week at a time.
Any stories from the road you want to share with us?
You know, people always ask that and I can never think of any good answers. Were pretty tame most of the time. Were down to go grab a few beers, for sure, but its pretty rare that something crazy happens.
If youre on the Survivor Island and youre there representing punk rock and theres a bunch of other people there representing every other genre of music, who would you try to vote out at Tribal Counsel?
I pretty much enjoy all times of music. I guess country is my least favorite, honestly.
Even Johnny Cash?
Oh, I love Johnny Cash. Its that newer stuff that I cant stand at all.
When I called Epitaph the other day I swear to God they were playing Merle Haggard when I was on hold.
Yeah, theyve got Merle Haggard on Anti.
Are you kidding me?
No, his last two records came out on Epitaph.
Where the hell have I been?
Yeah, thats one of the things that really got me about Epitaph. When we were talking to them it was cool because they put out all kinds of music. They do well with all different types of bands. We werent trapped into feeling like, Well, theyve done well with Pennywise, which we sound nothing like, you know what I mean?
Anything else youd like to add?
No, just look for us on The Warped Tour. And the new record comes out in October. Its great.
One more question… how’d you get stuck being the mouthpiece for this interview?
I think because Im the only one who answers the phone. I have no idea what everybody else is doing right now. Probably just sitting around their houses packing.
Does that make you the responsible one?
Most of the time.
Thats too bad.
Yeah, it is.