„That’s a hard question for me to answer…“- Interview with Chuck Ragan & Joe Ginsberg.

IMG_20130816_195647John Allen about Joe Ginsberg: “They sound like they’re just one man playing all the instruments, that’s how tight they are.” This is a quote by Bob Dylan on one of my favorite bands, the Dire Straits. Why am I writing this? I am writing this because I firmly believe that a musician (in the case Dire Straits frontman and guitar-guru Mark Knopfler) is only as good as the weakest instrumentalist in his band. A good frontman who tours with a band needs backing musicians who at least equal his talents, otherwise the whole performance will simply sound like a run-down top-40 cover band somewhere in the sparsely populated regions of eastern Russia (sorry my Russian friends, no offense!). When you take a look at some rockstars, you’ll find they travel with a huge entourage of musicians, guitarists, lead guitarists, drummers, percussionists, bass player, backing vocalists, keyboarders, brass players. Sometimes it works (E-Street Band or Paul Simon’s touring band), sometimes it doesn’t (not gonna name anyone here), but when it works, it usually sounds rich and full and generally great. Other artists, however, don’t feel the need to travel big and somehow miraculously still manage to implement the feeling that nothing really is missing.

Chuck Ragan is one of these musicians. The first two times I saw him, his backing band consisted only of Jon Gaunt, a magician on the violin, and Joe Ginsberg on stand-up bass. It’s right, Joe Ginsberg is an extremely nice and humble person and his mustache was the stuff legends are made of, but first and foremost he impressed me as an outstanding bass player, who adds the appropriate background groove to Chuck Ragan’s performances. He simply had that feeling for which notes and which riffs to play at which time. I got to know Joe as I got to know Chuck Ragan, as an extremely friendly, laid-back and funny bloke, but also as an extremely hard worker on stage. This year, however, I am extremely pleased to say that I witnessed what I would like to call the emancipation of Joe Ginsberg. He wasn’t only Chuck Ragan’s tour bass player, he also stepped out of the shades, right into the spotlight and opened up for The Drowning Men, before returning to the four strings later on. And while he seemed really nervous in Bremen (he was still good, mind), his opening set at the Fabrik in Hamburg was a triumph. I am almost ashamed to say that I had no idea of his songwriting talents (Sorry, Joe!). To me he was always bound to be Chuck Ragan’s bass player only. Well… lesson learned.

There is so much more to this man. His EP “You Are Guarded By the Daylight, We Are Losing in the Nighttime” gives proof of Joe’s undeniable talent as a songwriter and his potential as a frontman of his own. Well, I still cannot (and don’t wish to) imagine Chuck Ragan touring with another man on bass, but I would also like to wish Joe his best of luck that he can attract the same sizes of audience that Chuck has found. He will certainly make them very happy. May your compass always be pointing west, Joe, and may you find your success down the road. John Allen, Hamburg.

P.S.: He also taught me the value of “D’oh”, which I for some reason now use at any time – both, appropriate and inappropriate. Thanks for that, buddy!

Joe! Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You’re a part of it – what is it about the social networks. What makes them special? What are, in your opinion, the advantages and disadvantages of social networks?

PJ Bond about Chuck Ragan, Joe Ginsberg, Jon Gaunt, Todd Beene & the crew:   I recently had the pleasure of opening a show for Chuck Ragan and his band, and the evening could not have turned out better. Chuck and I have met a couple of times in the past, and always spoken about singing together, but it never came to fruition. For those who don’t know, Chuck often opens his shows to other singers, bands, really anyone who he feels could be part of the experience, which I think is great, and speaks highly of his character. For years I’d heard from many people how welcoming Chuck and his crew are, but of course it is totally different to experience first hand.

A couple of weeks before the show, I was asked if I wanted to come join Chuck and the boys on stage, and sing a song or two with them at their Munster show. I thought this was a great idea, but had to reroute some tour dates, so to make it even more worthwhile for me, they also let me open the show. That definitely made things all the more exciting.

When I showed up at Skater’s Palace I was greeted by the promoter and then saw some old friends of mine. While we were talking, Jon Gaunt came outside and came over to introduce himself. He was friendly and asked if I’d been upstairs to see the rest of the boys yet. I hadn’t, so Jon showed me where everyone was, and introduced me to the crew. As always, Chuck was kind and welcoming, and it was nice to meet Joe Ginsberg, after having traded emails with him. It was also cool to finally meet Todd Beene, having heard so many great things about him from Austin Lucas. We were offered hot tea, cold drinks, food, whatever we could want. It is not so often that you are made to feel so comfortable in someone else’s backstage area.

During soundcheck I was invited on stage to work through some songs with the band, and they were patient and helpful, and we had fun figuring out the parts together. Throughout the night everyone made sure we had what we needed, and after my set Chuck made it a point to come find me and say some very nice things.

When the time came for Chuck and the boys to get up, they put on a great performance, and when I was invited to sing their songs with them in front of 800 people, I felt supported and wanted. The band pushed through the evening with pure passion, and it was a great feeling to get to join them for a couple of songs.

Afterwards I packed up my things, was given a hearty send off by the boys, and we all said we’d do it again. I look forward to that. („Where were you?“- Click!)

Josh (Paper Arms) about Chuck Ragan: Chuck’s music has had a huge impact on me. There are so few people in the world who can combine the energy of punk rock with the sincerity of soul music. He’s got the voice of a monster and the heart of a saint. („Tanks Of Dust“- Click!)

Frank Turner about Chuck Ragan: Chuck can take the credit for introducing me to the USA, basically. He invited me to do a handful of shows on the first Revival tour in 2008, and while I had done a bunch of DIY touring in the States before that, there weren’t ever really all that many people at the shows. That was the first time I played to a decent-sized crowd over there, and everything, including my deal with Epitaph, flowed from there. It was all down to Chuck. No doubt he’d deny that or try and shrug it off, because he’s a lovely guy, but it’s true. („Try this at home“- Click!)

Joe, what do you think: how many „Selfies“ do you have on Instagram?

Kris (Solitary Hearts) about Hot Water Music: What I think about Hot Water Music? It’s passion and honesty in every chord they play! They love what they are doing and it just feels so good to listen to their music! (Fallstring & Solitary Hearts- Click!)

Dave Hause (The Loved Ones) about Chuck Ragan & Joe Ginsberg: Joe Ginsberg has a wonderful commitment to his body, both by physically tending to it with exercise, but also by clothing it in today’s finest fashions. Thankful to be the only other member of Revival Tour’s stage right wine club with him too. Oh he plays and sings and writes incredibly well. If Joe was a woman, I’d…

Chuck’s the guy on the left when you watch Hot Water Music, right? And the guy in the center at the Revival Tour? Yeah, I like that guy. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? I continue to learn so much from him and I owe him so much already. Forever indebted to him and eternally inspired. As much love as my crooked Philadelphia heart can muster towards him, I’m sending now. („We could be kings“- Click!)

Chuck, what makes a Chuck Ragan concert special? What do you think people like about you that they come again and again?

Tim Vantol about Chuck Ragan: I see Chuck as one of the friendliest and honest people around.

Chuck opened my eyes about 5 years ago, He showed me that only a guitar and a voice can let you travel the world. And also to be thankfull every single moment that we are here and doing what we love to do.
(„Caged Birds“- Click!)

Emily Barker about Chuck Ragan & Joe Ginsberg: I have had the pleasure of touring with Chuck and Joe on The Revival Tour in Autumn 2012. We did about a 5 1/2 week tour across the UK and Europe. I was blown away by their spirit and passion for music and people. Two very inspiring people who I’m proud to call mates. („Little deaths“- Click!)

Joe, going for a run is a part of your daily routine – why?
What makes it so special to you? Could you tell one funny situation you’ve experienced during a run?

Dave Hause, PJ Bond, Tim Vantol, Josh, Emily Barker, John Allen, Kris, Frank Turner- thank you from the bottom of my heart for your words!

Chuck Ragan- Thank you for the great interview, for your shows & your songs! You’re an amazing human being and it was a pleasure for me!IMG_20130901_180006

Joe Ginsberg- Thank you for the great interview, too! You’re an incredible musician with a lot of talent & I hope to see you soon back in Germany!

Now you have the chance to win one of the EPs from Joe Ginsberg: „You are guarded by the daylight, we are losing in the nighttime.“! Great, isn’t it? All you have to do is to write an E-mail to:

jasmin[dot]lybe[at]googlemail[dot]com

(deadline: 10th September)

Good luck (and big thanks to Joe)!

John Allen about Chuck Ragan: This is a story full of clichés, a conversation in a kitchen and of how I got hit by a steam-train.

I first met Chuck Ragan about two and a half years ago in Wiesbaden. I had purchased tickets to see the Revival Tour for one simply reason: Brian Fallon was playing. A friend had introduced me to The Gaslight Anthem a couple of months earlier and had cured me from my previous opinion, namely that there was no good modern music anymore. I had fallen in love with Gaslight Anthem like a child falls in love with a new toy. They touched me somewhere I thought music couldn’t touch me anymore. So naturally I went to see Brian.

The venue, an old church, was completely sold out. No barriers, no security, just some guitars set up on the altar floor. To be honest, I didn’t really care for anyone but Brian. I had never heard of the other names. Some guy called Dave, another one called Dan and some Chuck person who apparently also sang in band named after a tub. Well… There was Brian, that was all that counted for me.

When the band entered the stage and started with “Nomad by Fate” (a song I didn’t know yet, but that I would later learn to adore) I felt like I was hit by a freight train. Chuck Ragan belted out the words with an intensity unlike anything I had ever experienced before. The show was brilliant. I got to love Dave Hause and Dan Andriano and Brian was equally brilliant. After the show had ended, I was not only completely swept off my feet musically, I was also delighted to see that Chuck, just like Dave, Dan, Brian, Joe and Jon were incredibly humble and nice persons. When I walked back to my car that very night, I had now idea that there was more to come…

I moved to Hamburg about a year later. Last November I accidentally stumbled across an internet advert saying that Chuck Ragan was about to perform a show in a kitchen in Hamburg. Needless to say I sent in a photograph of my kitchen and – to cut a long story short – I won. The three weeks (and many anxiety attacks) later, the doorbell rang and there he was. Chuck Ragan. He had brought Jon Gaunt and Joe Ginsberg with him and they set off to shake the walls of my living room (the kitchen had turned out to be too small) for a full a 45 minute set. All three of them were as nice as one could possibly imagine. They came up to every guest we had invited, introduced themselves and thanked them for showing up. Also, he invited me and my girlfriend backstage to the Revival Tour Show the same night so we could have dinner with the band and party with them afterwards. By the time we left the venue it was well after 2am and both of us, my girlfriend and I couldn’t really believe what we had just experienced. I still have the photo of me and Chuck backstage pinned to the wall right next to my desk.

I am a musician myself. I write songs, I sing them and I hope people come out to listen. For a long time, they didn’t. Chuck and I had found the time to talk about this that very winter night in Hamburg and he told me what his granddad had told him. “If you love playing, don’t let anyone stop you and don’t let anyone tell you to put that guitar down.” It sounds like a worn out cliché but that night I decided to give it one last and mighty go. I started writing new songs and I set out to perform again as often as I could. Meanwhile, Chuck and I loosely stayed in contact and he even occasionally advertised my shows via his Facebook and Twitter Account. This also says a lot about Chuck Ragan. He is not only a very nice person, he is also genuinely interested in music and in other people. He is not a “star” who is just happy to perform to make money. 

Life can sometimes be weird. Last November, I was also introduced to the music of Frank Turner. I got to meet him after a show and now I’m setting off to support him for nine shows in Germany in September. When I first heard, I was blown away and again, Chuck Ragan, was one of the first to congratulate me.

I met Chuck again, a couple of weeks ago in Bremen and in Hamburg. When he walked on  stage in Bremen and he saw me, he called me up to sing “Nomad by Fate” with him and afterwards we got to talk again. It was like talking to an old friend. We don’t know what the future brings. The road ahead is too twisted to see. Maybe I will end up playing with Chuck Ragan on the Revival Tour, maybe I will simply blend back into the mass of his ever growing fan-base. To me, it does not really matter. Chuck Ragan has not only enriched my life with his own songs and the huge number of staggering artists he has introduced me to (Dave Hause, Cory Branan, Emily Barker, Rocky Votolato, Jay Malinowsky, Dan Andriano, The Drowning Men), but he has also taught me that if you love what you are doing, you should keep on doing it no matter what. And I will be forever thankful for that.

Part one: Click!

Part two: Click!

„Some words about…“ with Joe Ginsberg: Click!

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