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Chuck Ragan’s Righteous Revival

Chuck Ragan (center) with Kayleigh Goldsworth (left) and Dave Hause at the Revival Tour's stop at New York's Bowery Ballroom. Photo by John Figlesthaler

See page 14 of the current issue for Elmore’s review of Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour and part one of our conversation with Ragan

Just like Chuck Ragan’s Revival Tour, there is more to this story than can possibly fit within the pages of a magazine, so here is some more of the inspiration and insight from the man himself. Ragan breaks down the general motivation behind the tour by simply saying, “We’re there to share music in a simple, honest, grassroots fashion.”

Spawned out of the time-honored roots methodology, Ragan has his musical history down. “This is an age old idea, a traditional way that families and communities would share music.” From the beginnings of blues as orated field hymns and working-class European ballads that would lay the groundwork for modern music as we know it, it all starts at home. “Some of my earliest memories of music was just sitting Indian style on the floor in front of my mama and papa, my papa’s just a smoking accordion player, my mama dancing and banging on a tambourine.”

This sincere homage to the past comes together with Ragan’s hard-earned punk rock notoriety to give the Revival Tour such strength and vigor. “It’s a free way of sharing music and it’s just taking that same concept and putting it on stage, in the circuit that we’ve traveled in. In the circuit that I’ve traveled in, there hasn’t been that much of this going on.” Throughout his career, Ragan has been surrounded by this humble air of unity instead of competition, which becomes even more evident through the Revival. “When I got into rock and roll and coming from a whole scene where our music and the way we toured and the way we shared music was more about a therapy for us rather than who was cooler than the other band, or seeing your name in lights or making a ton of money or whatever, it was more about just the release, the outlet.”

On the subject of the physical, or digital, ways that music is shared these days, I had to ask Ragan his opinion on the duality between MP3s and vinyl. “Where I came from, we’ve never really stopped making vinyl. And lately I’ve seen more interest in vinyl in the past 8 or 9 years”—which, for any truly atavistic listener, is good to hear from someone who is at the helm of the industry. Ragan gets deeper into the reality of it by saying, “The digital age has made a massive impact, positive and negative. You still have a lot of people that just need and desire the experience of getting out to your local store, buying a record, coming home and opening that record, holding it, something tangible something real, where you can see the artwork and you an see the and feel the work that went into this thing and playing the record, the motion and the movement of it.”

Speaking of records, it must be noted that Ragan’s original outfit, punk rock powerhouse Hot Water Music has a new album, Exister, which will be hitting the streets on May 15th. Having been on hiatus since 2006, this will be their first offering of new music since 2004 and will undoubtedly be an amazingly powerful piece of driving melodic rock. On breathing life back into Hot Water Music, Ragan says, “I don’t know if I bit off more than I can chew, or not man, to be honest with you. I know I’m definitely playing with fire right now. My music and the revival tour has been my main focus for years now, and taking all this Hot Water stuff on…I’m not regretting it. I don’t have time for regret. It’s going to take some balance and care. Just taking care.”

Ragan’s slight ambivalence about the awakening of HWM along with the ongoing Revival Tour obviously doesn’t stem from a lack of interest in the projects, but from their consuming nature. He is a family man and speaks frankly about the strain that being on the road puts on his relationships with his wife, and dog. We talked about the beautiful country where he lives in northern California and how it is an important sanctuary for him and his family. “My wife and I will just go out to the river and walk the river. The Yuba River is definitely a very sacred place for us.” Also an outdoorsman, Ragan admits, “I consider myself kind of a rookie fly fisherman.”

Wrapping up the interview on the tour bus before Ragan had to go do sound check, I needed to ask about a hypothetical bar fight that I’ve always been curious about between Elvis and Johnny Cash: “[Laughs] Oh man, that’s kind of a tough call, because I think Johnny Cash would be burlier but Elvis would be just a little crazier. That might be a draw right there.”

John Figlesthaler

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