Published Oct 14, 2013Singer-songwriter Dave Hause is known well in punk rock circles as the hyped-up, super-posi sparkplug from Philly that plays hard and sings harder. His most noteworthy band, the Loved Ones, released a couple of stellar melodic punk albums before fading away before the 2010 release of Hause's first solo album, Resolutions. Now back with a second solo album, Devour, which features songs that were meant to be on the third Loved Ones full-length, Hause used the new album as way to battle through a tough time in his life. This is still the same Hause who routinely stole the show during Chuck Ragan's Revival Tour with his amazing showmanship and looking-on-the-bright-side energy, but the new album also shows that Hause is just like the rest of us: vulnerable, conflicted and, ultimately, coming out the other end of personal turmoil as a better person. Exclaim! recently chatted with Hause about the past two years of his life, how he got through it, the record he made as a result, and if urban legends really are true.
This new album sounds a lot more pensive, maybe even more mellow, than Resolutions?
I don't know if it's mellow, but it's definitely darker and more melancholy. But pensive is definitely a good word for it. It was coming out of a lot more dark stuff than Resolutions was and coming to grips with that mid-'30s adult crash and figuring out how you got here, and where you even are, and where you're trying to go. So that's the framework of the record. It came from that darker place and it's about the journey to figure it out and get out of there.
Well, it all works out, because some of us are older than you and still enjoying life, so…
I'm enjoying it too, man. It's actually kind of ironic because I'm stoked and living in a new place and I'm really excited about the record, so I'm really upbeat. It will be interesting to revisit this stuff for the next year-and-a-half on tour, so I'm glad I have both records to pull from because I rode my way out of that dark place.
I'd imagine that being on tour a lot, and out with the Revival Tour guys, and always around friends, is a way to keep yourself optimistic about the future?
I had some really great touring opportunities after Resolutions with a lot of friends of mine, and then a lot of new friends were pretty excited about that record and the songs on it, so one thing kind of led to another and I got really, really busy and it gave me a new chapter in life. The band was a little stalled out and a little burned out when I wrote Resolutions, so I just figured I would go out on tour and see what happened. It ended up being two years of my life and it rejuvenated my career in music. And Devour, the new record, is essentially what the third Loved Ones record was going to be. I just took the songs for myself and fully fleshed them out and went forward.
You mentioned you were struggling and going through a dark time. What was happening in your life at the time, without being too personal? Was it partially the band stuff?
Yeah, there was the band, there was a major relationship that was ending, you know, I was married, so there was this intense realization that most of my friends and my family, as much as I love them, that I had chosen a different path than them: the path of the musician, and the traveler, and all of that kind of jazz. The older you get, the more lonely you get, you know? A lot of your friends decide that they're going to stay home, and have kids, and work on their careers to keep them at home, so there was a lot of that going on. I also had a contracting business that got swallowed up in the economic crash. So there were three really major facets of my life that I still respect and love and have contact with… I still keep in touch with all of those people, and thankfully a lot of chips fell in a really positive and friendly way. But it was a really painful couple of years.
Well, I think it's great when people can find a balance.
That's the name of the game. The older you get, if you're trying to be a creative person or if you're life is related to the arts in any way, it's about steering that balance. You can't go too far in one direction without really wrecking another facet of your life, so I feel like I'm finding that balance by simplifying my life and being a solo performer and guy who doesn't really rely on a band. I can bring a band on the road if I want, but I don't really have to have that weight on my shoulders anymore.
So what would happen if you were writing your songs in some cottage in the country, and with a family all of the time, and you were never able to experience the kind of things that you do? How different would your music be?
It would be really different. I write a lot about myself and what has gone on in my life and I try to pull in other people in a way that they can relate to it, and I try to be honest that way. But now that the record has been recorded for six months I've been thinking about the next record already and how to approach that, and I think it's going to be a little bit different. I'm going to write more upbeat and outside of my own experience and see how that goes. Who knows, it might end up being an exercise in creative writing and not end up being on the next record, but for me it's important over time to grow as a writer. I'm looking at the long haul. I'm looking at doing this into my older age and I want to be committed to trying new things and having different types of writing come out.
You often have a lot of friends on your records helping you out. Did you have a lot of them on this one as well?
Well, yes and no. Some of them were friends and some of them were new additions that became friends through working on the record. A friend of mine, Mitchell Townsend, hooked me up with a group of people that made the record. He co-produced it with the engineer, Andrew Alekel, who's an amazing engineer that's worked on tons of giant records but never produced anything of acclaim on his own. So I kind of left it to them to put the musicians together. I knew Dave Hildago, who plays drums in Social Distortion, he's absolutely, hands-down the best drummer I've ever played with, he's unbelievable. His dad formed Los Lobos, so he comes from this intensely musical family. So we had this incredible bedrock for the rhythm. I didn't know Bob Thomson, he'd played in Big Drill Car and Matt Costa's band, so I knew he was obviously great, and Mitch had vouched for him. And then Mitch played guitar, and he's an incredible guitar player. So that was the basis of the band and then Mitch brought in the Watson Twins to sing and I'd been a fan, but didn't know them personally, which was really terrific to have them on board, because their work was incredible.
Everyone brought an enormous amount to the table, but the real secret ingredient, band-wise, was My Morning Jacket's keyboard player, Bo Koster, was a friend of Mitchell's as well, and he was someone I wanted to play on the record before even knowing that Mitch knew him. I'd just been such a huge fan of that band and his contribution to that band; I think he's their secret weapon as well. So Mitch says, "Oh, I know Bo… he'd probably do it, for nothing." So in came Bo and he couldn't have been more down to earth and excited about the songs, just really creative and his energy just added so much to the finishing touches. He was like the icing on the cake guy. And then some guest vocalists came in as well.
How important was it to have those people on board? Have you thought about doing an album just by yourself, or is having other people around essential to how you write your songs?
It wasn't essential to how I wrote at all. I was finished writing when we walked in the door of the studio. But it was critical to the way we structured that record, the recording of it. I view songwriting as one thing, recording as a totally different art, and then playing shows as a totally different thing. And you need different skills sets and different approaches to do each thing. So, for me, to really give over a lot of the control of the recording and the playing on the record was great, because I think we got a sum that was greater than its parts. I mean, those songs will translate directly with one instrument and a vocal, and I made sure I did good work in the writing — it was like bloodletting, writing this record. But to really get them to shine beyond just demo versions, everyone's added contributions made it something incredible that I couldn't have done on my own.
We've heard a lot of great stories about your live show, and I've witnessed it myself where you like to single out problematic people in the crowd and make sure everyone's having a good time. When I saw you in Vancouver you tricked a really drunk couple who were distracting the crowd into running up to the bar to buy you "birthday shots" so you could get rid of them for a few minutes. How did you get to the point where you seem so patient and you have a really fun way of dealing with bad apples in the crowd?
Well, a lot of it has to do with being around for a while. And I used to work for bands as a roadie, so I've seen some incredible frontmen handle situations in great ways, and then in not-so-great ways. And after doing it myself for a while you develop a rhythm for the show, you're able to pick up on what the audience is doing and what's working and what's not. It's a really specific skill set, but anyone can develop it if you do it long enough. There's a natural aptitude for performance. But a lot of it is just work, you know? You work at it and you figure it out. I've blown it before, I've said the wrong thing to the crowd and I've handled things the wrong way, and I've come off as a dick. You take those experiences, as harrowing as they may be [laughs], you apply them and figure out what works better. If you protect the vibe that everyone is just there to have fun, and if you're bold with those people who are fucking that up, and you also facilitate everyone having a great night together, that's the point of live music. That's the thing that you can't download for free.
That might be the whole message of the Revival Tour, too — sharing that experience together.
Yeah, I think so. [Tour founder and Hot Water Music member] Chuck [Ragan] has cultivated something really cool and I've glad to have been a part of it. It certainly launched my solo career, especially in Europe, and it's helped given me a home and a framework to work within. Let's face it: I'm not an acoustic musician at heart. I don't know much about fiddles and bluegrass and all of that kind of stuff, it's not my forte, but I do love songs and the tradition that runs through all of these genres, and punk is pretty much the same. So I just approached it as being in awe of the people I was there with, and they seemed to be the same with me, and I said, "Let's fucking do this!" The Revival Tour has been a great thing to be a part of it and it's a place I hope to always call home.
The other story we have to ask you about might be a bit of an urban legend. It involves you getting mugged in a hotel elevator and Chuck rescuing you.
No, let's clear that up! [laughs] I wrote a long blog about it, I don't know what happened to my blog, but I just wrote it up one day and it ended up catching fire because it is a pretty funny story. Chuck didn't save me! I had already basically dealt with the situation that had escalated to the point where…
Okay, let's back up, I'm at the North By Northeast music conference in Toronto playing a showcase for the Revival Tour, and it was the last day of the tour and Chuck was headed somewhere and I was headed back to Philly and we were sharing a hotel room. He'd already gone up to the room hours before, I was still out partying and had all of my stuff with me and walked into the hotel. This guy decided to try and befriend me at first, and I politely told him, "Hey, I'm going up to bed." He didn't like that, so he decided to follow me up in the next elevator, and by that time I was at our hotel room door, and here the guy comes charging out of the elevator towards me. I definitely said to him, "Hey, listen, you're going to make a big mistake and I guarantee you this is not going to end well," and I was banging on the door because my key didn't work.
His quote was, "Hey, this isn't Philadelphia, man. This is Canada," which is when I knew I wasn't going to part with any of my items. I said, "You have no idea what you're talking about. We have more murder and crime in a week than all of Canada does in a year," and that's certainly not a badge of honour, it's just a fact, and I added, "You're going to get hurt." So, he proceeded to attempt to rob me and by the time Chuck finally came out of the room, I had the guy by the throat, and the guy had me by the arm, and we were sort of wrestling back and forth. And Chuck came out in a towel. I was just trying to do the crazy dude thing, and I even told the guy at one point before Chuck came out, "You're going to get fucked like you were in jail, so get back in that elevator."
So now this guy is being held by the throat by the guy he was trying to rob and a guy in a towel bursts out of the door, who looks like Chuck does, and Chuck says, "What in god's name is going on out here?" and the guy kind of realizes he was outmatched, backed away, and I pushed him away and told Chuck, "This guy is trying to fucking rob me!" and the guy at that point is scattering and Chuck yells, "Let's get him!" So I slowed Chuck down, we got all of my stuff into the room, and that was the end of it. So, yeah, Chuck sort of did the final scaring off of the guy.
You know, that's not too far off from the story. I've heard this probably a half-dozen times and never from the source, so it's pretty close. You know that game where you go around the circle and by the time what you said gets back to you it's some crazy version of what you originally said? Well, no, that's pretty close to the story…
It is pretty close, but the prevailing byline is always "Chuck Ragan saved Dave Hause from a mugger."
Saved your life even!
Well… I can take care of my own.
But it was a team effort?
Yeah, it was a team effort [laughs] and the guy certainly left more shaken than either Chuck or I did.