New Steam in Hot Water Music

Thursday, 24 May 2012

While he doesn't come right out and say it in conversation (he doesn't seem the type), Hot Water Music bassist Jason Black is finding it difficult to hide his excitement. For the first time eight years, Hot Water Music is back on track with a new record label behind them (Rise Records) and a new album, Exister; the band's first offering of new music since they put out The New What Next in 2004. That's part of what has the bassist excited but, not only that, Exister is clearly something special; it's new music that the bassist has remained excited about even months after the recording process. “I don't want to run the risk of overstating this, but we're really happy with what we've done on Exister,” says Black warmly, and with a sense of achievement. “Don't get me wrong, it's not the first time we've ever been really happy with one of our records, but it's definitely the first one we've still felt really good about two or three months after we finished it. That's a pretty good feeling, and it really compliments what we were hoping for when we first started even entertaining the idea of recording: once we started writing, we felt like we had a pretty good and very direct record – either fans were going to get it or they wouldn't – and that was exactly the sort of confrontation we wanted.”

With such powerful words, it's easy to understand why the bassist is excited but, the way he explains it makes that excitement becomes catching – but the proof is always in the listening and it can only be said that Exister delivers on that too; while Hot Water Music may have mothballed its studio savvy eight years ago, here they come back screaming harder, louder and hotter than they were even when they left. From moment one, “Mainline” just explodes to open Exister and the sound is instantly infectious; the members of Hot Water Music seem to relish in the return as they play loud, hard, fast and like they have something to prove. All four members of the band play like their lives depend on it with the volume cranked right back up to where it should be – at eleven – and singer Chuck Ragan sounding as though he went so far as to gargle with battery acid before the tapes rolled to make sure his bark was just authoritative enough. The results are the most vivid and captivating performance put forward by Hot Water Music since even before The New What Next; it is hard, real, raw and ambitious – and it's only the first track and, with the standard set and listeners' attention held, Hot Water Music just dives nose-first into “Boy You're Gonna Hurt Someone” and “State Of Grace” with the same kind of reckless abandon that was expressed in “Mainline,” just to prove it wasn't a fluke. In each case, drummer George Rebelo sets a frenetic tempo which Ragan, guitarist Chris Wollard and Black chase and match; locked in solid with each other and in better than their finest previous form, without question.

We really ended up working these songs a lot, until they were hammered flat and flawless,” remembers the bassist of the amount of time that went into making Exister. “We started working on some of the songs while we were touring in Europe last year and, you know, some of them really did come together right away; some of the songs which ended up making the record started out pretty much as people will hear them now.

“After that tour, after we got home and especially after we got studio time lined up and everything – things started happening a lot quicker; we were traveling to each other's homes to work and tape trading and so on,” continues the bassist. “After that, we started really locking the songs and structures of them down in pre-production to record; the plan was really just to write and record an album and hopefully like it when we were done with it but, after we did that and we got ourselves warmed up, we really just wanted to put together a record that was representative of who we are and what we had been doing live at that time, which we all agreed was really strong, solid and good. Working with the guys at The Blasting Room really ended up focusing that sound and energy because, for all the production, it wasn't a lot of 'Try this or try that,' it was just, 'You can do that better' and I think that really helped us because it left everything in our court as far as coming up with ways to improve a given song if it wasn't living up to the rest of them. It was nice to get pushed that way; the guidelines Bill Stevenson would give were really open-ended and would make us resolve it to make ourselves happy with the result, and it worked; although we did leave a lot on the cutting room floor. I think when we got to the studio, we had  twenty or twenty-one songs and one of the first orders of business was knocking that down to about sixteen, and then knocking it down a little bit more. When all was said and done, we didn't record anything more than the thirteen that are on the album; we sort of decided, 'These are the thirteen we're going to record, but we don't know how many are going to be on the record when we're done.' As it turned out though, for every reason there was to take one off, there was an equally good reason to leave it on so we just said, 'Fuck it – it's been eight years, we can give people an extra song or two' and just included them all on the record.”

With the record out now and getting glowing reviews in such reputable digital rags as Spin (who claims Hot Water Music didn't outgrow anxiety, they simply gave it hooks in their review of Exister), Consequence Of Sound (who cheered the band for both remembering their roots after eight years and also exceeding all expectations) and Alternative Press (who see the band as being revitalized on Exister), the band will clearly play before a lot of open ears now as their promotional tour begins to heat up and the band looks overseas to where they'll be headed next but, according to Black, a few things will likely change this time, now that the band is back up and running. “We've got a couple of North American record release shows and then we're headed to Europe again through June, then we'll be doing a full North American run in September and October, but I don't think we're going to be out on the road for ten months out of the year anytime soon,” explains the bassist pensively, before brightening. “By the same token though, I don't think we're just going to do one tour and then go away for however long it takes us to decide we want to make another record again either [chuckling]. I mean, there are a lot of scheduling situations which have to align themselves for us to be able to do anything more than a couple of shows here and there but, luckily, we've been able to get some of that stuff worked out in the middle and later portions of this year which will let us really take it out on the road properly. After that, all signs seem to be pointing toward continuing to tour through the first part of next year and doing a full cycle so we can comfortably say, 'Okay, now let's do another one' and start the whole thing over again.  

“I hate saying things like that because anything could happen between then and now, and any number of things might come up which would turn us in a different direction whether we like it or not. As it stands right now though, doing Hot Water Music again is feeling pretty good and I think everybody's on the same page with that, so we're going to run it for a while and see how it goes.”

Further Reading:
Ground Control – Hot Water MusicExister[Review]


Hot Water Music is currently on tour in support of their new album, Exister. Click here for an updated list of shows.

Exister is out now. Buy it here on Amazon .

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