Chuck Ragan on the absence of a drummer in his current setup and touring with Social Distortion
Chuck Ragan (due at the Ogden Theatre with Social Distortion tonight and tomorrow night) first made his mark as the frontman of Hot Water Music, one of the more highly influential punk acts to emerge in the '90s. Toward the middle part of the last decade when that band went on hiatus, Ragan ventured off on his own and applied his gravelly baritone to songs with more of a country and folk flavor. We recently spoke with Ragan about the absence of a drummer in his current setup and how he ended up joining Social Distortion's latest tour.
Chuck Ragan flanked by Joe Ginsberg (left) and Jon Gaunt
Westword: How did the tour with Social Distortion come together?
Chuck Ragan: Well, they have a great team, they have a fella on board named Shane who manages them. He was a fan of mine, and now I'm proud to call him a friend, and he just reached out and asked me if I wanted to be involved. I've been a huge Social Distortion fan since I was a kid... I've been listening to that band for 24 years now. Needless to say, I was extremely honored to have been asked, and well, here we are!
How much longer are you on tour with Social Distortion?
We, uh, the last gig we have is December 5 in Denver. Yeah it ends in Denver and then my boys fly home. One of the guys actually lives in Denver, Joe Ginsberg, who plays in a band called Baywood, as well, and they're gonna be staying in Denver to do some gigs, and then I head home. So we're finishing the year there.
You've been playing as a trio with an upright bass player and fiddle player on this tour, is that correct?
Yeah, that's right. That's what we've been pretty much keeping consistent for quite some time. Yeah, Joe Ginsberg plays upright, and Jon Gaunt plays fiddle, and yeah, that's it!
How did it come together, playing with such a stripped down trio?
For starters, I love the these three instruments together -- I mean, there's something about it. They're very timeless and have been around for years, years and years. Sonically, the three of them together, to me, is just amazing, what you can get out of these things. These guys that I'm playing with are just top notch, super pro and probably make me sound a lot better. [laughs]
In a lot of ways, we're all, individually, we all play on our own extremely percussive, and we've kinda noticed that. We actually thought about taking on a drummer a long time ago early on; it was just more talking about it, though. It didn't take long until we all realized we don't need one. You never know what your gonna do down the road, but, I mean, right now, it makes total sense spotlighting these three instruments the way we enjoy playing them.
Have you gotten any flak from any drummer friends for not including drums on this tour?
[laughs] No, but there was definitely one night where we had a fella that came up to me and said, "Hey, man, if you ever need a drummer, you know, uh... I'd love to play drums with you." He was going on and on talking about where's he'd been playing drums and what he'd like to do with us.
And then, right at the same time, my bass player, Joe Ginsberg, walked up, and I said, "Hey, this is my buddy Joe Ginsberg; he plays bass." Then I said, "We were just talking about drums," and then Joe goes, "Oh, I hate drums." [laughs] There was definitely an awkward silence, but it was all understood, you know? (laughing). Other than that, we haven't gotten any flak; we do what we do.
The live video you guys did on tour with Social Distortion came out incredibly well. Where did the inspiration come to film this, especially since you're essentially the support act for the headliner, and the stage wasn't even really set up for you? And who do you give credit for pulling it off?
Yeah, that was Ryan Mackfall with Crash Burn Media Productions, a buddy of ours who was out on the road with the Sharks earlier on, when we were all touring with Social Distortion. Ryan is the gentlemen who did it. He's a great guy, a young fella, a brilliant photographer and cinematographer.
He was filming a whole documentary on The Sharks's tour [with Social Distortion]. So he was there, and it was kind of a spur of the moment thing. He was like, "Hey, I can shoot something, maybe shoot a few angles and then edit something down". We said, "Yeah, go for it man!" And that's what he [laughing] came back and showed us. It was incredible. Something else!