By: Stephanie Stevens
DITCHWATER has been a huge factor in the Chicago rock scene for some time now. Us at the East Coast Romper are very happy to say we have covered this band on multiple occassions with help in promoting the bands new releases, live shows and so forth. The band has endured the music industry shifts, weathered the storm on band members and the highs and lows of being a family forged in music.
NEVER SAY NEVER is the bands 7th studio album that just got released and the band concentrating on creating a unique but true sense of what DITCHWATER will always be known for, the heavy grooves, heart pumping melodies and the key to it all is the ambition and energy you feel when turning on songs like THIS PAIN, MY LAST BREATH and HOW MANY TIMES.
I had the pleasure of connecting with guitarist Mark Anderson about the creation of the new album, the cover of a Motorhead song and what the band meant to them, being connected to Pavement Entertainment and much more.
Q: Being in the scene since 93 what has been the biggest positive thing you seen happen to the scene and the biggest downfall of the music scene?
Mark: Positives are that it is easier to make music and just about anyone can do it from home now. Set up your own studio cheaply, release your own music online. When I started, everyone was at the whim of “getting signed” to get anything at all done. This is also part of the negative I think as there is just so much music out there that even though it’s out there to be heard, getting someone to pay attention is almost harder than ever before. There is just a vast amount of choices that people skip over it and go with what they know anyway. We’re all music slaves to the mighty algorithm and playlists of YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music…
Q: How have you guys as a band stuck together so long? And where do you see bands failing that dont stay together? What would be your advice to them?
Mark: We haven’t really lol. I mean, I been here most of the time and Mike (vocals) has been with me since 2002 (outside of a year or two mixed in). We tend to get going, release some music then things dissolve, and we quietly go away then come back a year later. That was our pattern for a while. Getting people to hang around a small DIY band for any length of time is very hard so we tended to re-emerge with new line ups often. What is different this time is me and Mike decided back in 2018 to really stop shooting ourselves in the foot. Often with nonsense fights over stupid things that in the end didn’t matter. Ever since then we’ve been on the same page. We focused on making the best album we could and beyond that put no pressure on ourselves, and here we are. My best advice is to work as a team, have a common goal. You’ll likely go through some variations before achieving this but why stop your dream because someone else packed up their stuff and ran home?
Your 7th album NEVER SAY NEVER just got released. What was the biggest focul point when you started the songwriting process for this one? And with that focul point how did it help you with personal growth as a musician/artist?
Mark: The vision was to finally create an album from top to bottom that was solid and represented who we are. We didn’t write anything on this record with specific influences in mind nor to try and fit in with any current trend or musical genre. Our past albums tended to be more batches of songs put together to create an album and not really recorded at the same time with the same energy and mindset. I and Mike wrote the album in April of 2018 and we recorded it from August of 2018 to May of 2019. Personally, I really wanted to show off more of what I can do on guitar and this album has probably the most solos we’ve ever done. Mike was going through some throat issues during the recording and it is amazing he was able to do what he did considering.
HANDS HELD OUT one of the new songs in my opinion gives a different approach vocally from verse to chorus. Was this something you wanted to experminent to pull out new abilities and techniques vocally?
Mark: I started out writing this song by really wanting to deviate from the other songs in how it was structured. I started out with the chorus riff, which normally I’d use something like that for a bridge but making it the chorus really shifted how it came together. The acoustics were added last in the studio and really made the song stand out in my view. We’ve done the soft verse and heavy chorus on quite a few songs in the past, but I did not want it coming out like a ballad, the goal was something more epic sounding and a little old school in that regard. I think we achieved a good feeling with this one.
A cover from Motorhead IRON FIST made the disc also, why did you choose this classic song? What is one thing Lemmy and the band embedded into the scene in your opinion?
Mark: This song always stuck with me because I remember seeing the video as a kid and it obviously made a lasting impression. I think sometimes our music doesn’t always express the grit and looseness of a band like Motorhead, but it is definitely in our nature. It really came out great I thought, we were a little unsure how it would sound until Mike laid the vocals down and it just really felt awesome after that. It’s one of the most fun songs to play for me right now. Lemmy and Motorhead had that persistence that we prescribe to, they were a constant and always there when he was alive. They’d put out an album every 2 years and tour like clockwork. I think that is missed in todays age where bigger bands put out 1 or 2 albums a decade.
You also have a new album in 2020 with Pavement Entertainment how did they find you was it hearing new demos of this album or had that know about you from the years?
Mark: It’s a few things. We’ve known Tim (who works with Pavement) from his band SOiL since around 2000. We used to open of them at places like Metro and House of Blues in Chicago often. They know how much we’ve worked and what we’ve achieved in all the years we been out working it. Our drummer Mike Tignino, who joined in June of 2019, did some shows for SOiL over the years and is long time friends with their camp. We already had the album ready and they picked it up and have been running with it so far. Hopefully people latch on and buy it so we can make another one!
With you being a very DIY independent band for so many years how is it now having Pavement taking over some aspects? And are you struggling with letting anything go since you always had done everything?
Mark: There is still a lot of things you can’t reach as a DIY band so we’re glad to have the extra push. We all work normal jobs outside of playing music so being able to be a little more hand’s off on certain things is good thing right now. We still go about pretty much everything how we always have. No one is going to like your music as much as you, so I’ll always work on it regardless. Plus, the pandemic has stopped any aspects of touring, which with a national release behind us would have been where we perhaps got the biggest benefit, but we shall see when and if things return to normal.
With 2020 the way it is touring seems out. Are you guys doing any livestreams or staying active in some capacity?
Mark: We are working on setting up a Live Stream concert as we speak. Maybe do them monthly or something. The limited capacity shows don’t seem worth it to me personally right now as you can’t make enough of those to formulate a tour from it plus different states have different quarantine rules it just makes a potential mess.
If touring does take back up will you guys do a full fledge tour and in your opinion how do you feel life the way it was on the road will change for anyone involved?
Mark: I’m reading that some musicians are now saying they don’t expect to be back touring until 2022. It’s crazy to think that. I think we have to wait and see if there is a new wave of infections this October and if any media coverage remains depending on who wins the election. I’d like to think things will be “normal” again one day but some say it’ll never be normal again and who knows if that is intentional or not.
The thing that have also kept you guys alive is the fan support. How can you describe your connections to the DITCHWATER fan family?
Mark: it used to be very vibrant online interacting with fans. Social media has really shut down a bands reach unless you pay for ads these days. And even paying for an ad you have no idea if you are reaching the right people. We have like 7000 followers on say Instagram but how many are actually paying attention? Numbers are so hard to read these days for me to actually know how we are affecting people. The worse place is being in the middle with no reaction. I’d rather see both positive and negative reactions then nothing on a comment section of a video.
Q: If you could give people struggling with finding a passion they love to do, what advice would you tell them?
Mark: Having something you’re passionate about is such a blessing and curse at the same time. Is it better to just sit on the couch watching tv and waiting for the next paycheck? For me the highs and lows of trying to launch a band can be frustrating and exhilarating because it is something that I can’t do by myself and I have to rely on others. Other people tend to let you down more often than not. My moods go from 0 to 10 in an instant. I don’t know I have truly good advice for anyone lol
Q: Empower another artist by telling us someone u admire and why you admire them?
Mark: A pizza maker because it is my favorite food and to be able to master a most excellent pie is a trait I’d like to acquire.
DITCHWATER CONSISTS OF:
Mike Meadows – Vocals
Mark Anderson – Guitar
Chris Sampey – Guitar
Greg Heavey – Bass
Mike Tignino – Drums
Contact the band: