And there it was all of a sudden... a new album by Chris Wollard and the Ship Thieves called "Canyons". Hadn't heard a damn thing about it in advance. Anyway, it's a great album, one you should definitely check out. Just walk into the shadiest alley in your neighborhood, there might be some guy peddling it. Just don't ask him about it aloud, whisper...
PRT: Last year was obviously a pretty big year for you, with a lot of touring and releasing two incredible albums... Are you happy with how 2012 turned out?
Chris: yeah, for sure... i'm a pretty happy camper right now! my son turned 16 (and went on his 1st date!), my brother got engaged, my lady finished her doctoral classes, i got to be a part of 2 albums that were both super fun to work on, and i did some pretty incredible traveling both with the band and with my family... so... yeah, no complaints from me!
PRT: The release of the new Ship Thieves record seemd to have happened kind of low profile... Why? It made it into our top 10 of 2012 easily!
Chris: that's awesome! i'm glad you're digging it! but yeah, i don't know, i guess it is more low-profile than some would expect... but really, i'm pretty ok with it... i mean, i like where we are at right now. it's a new band. and i guess i feel like no one owes us anything... and in a lotta ways, i think it's probably good for us to be a lil under the radar right now...
PRT: Compared to the first record, "Canyons" seems a lot more focused, the songs seem more in unison. Did you learn or change anything after making that first album?
Chris: well... if you're not learning, then you are not doing it right... but yeah, it's a completely different record. everything about it really... different people, different process... i mean, the 1st record was almost an accident really. i was traveling around by myself a lot back then, just kinda wondering around a lot. like, a tour would end somewhere, and i just wouldn't go home for awhile. i mean, on tour, you are always moving. everyday. you get to see a lot of things, but you are never in one place long enough to really take it all in. so, at a certain point i just started to hang around after the tours would end, and i'd get into trouble on my own haha... but yeah, it was great then... i got to do things that i never had a chance to do before, and i got to hang out and play music with friends all over and just have fun. none of the typical stress associated with being in a band and releasing albums... we were just playing cause we wanted to, and not really thinking about it much... we definitely didn't think it would become an album until we were pretty deep into it... so yeah, really, it was just a bunch of random recordings with different friends, at different home studios, in different states, and it just slowly became an album kinda accidently... but towards the end of making that record, it started to become clear to me that if i was going to keep doing this, then i needed to put a real band together. so, me and addy and ben (both very key players in making the 1st album a reality) started to slowly get a band together... and it's been a process for sure... but we've been super lucky and now we got a really solid 4 piece rock band.
PRT: "Canyons" is also more of a rock album than The Ship Thieves' debut. How come?
Chris: yeah, it is for sure, and that was the goal the entire time... rocknroll is where i started, and i just wanted to get back to it... and it's not like i had strayed too far, but i just wanted to get back to my roots and explore a lil bit...
PRT: What's a zyzoutta?
Chris: it's a typo. either i sat on the keyboard, or the dog stepped on it... but anyway, when me and sabrina were writing the lyrics (it's a collaboration), we looked at it, and that's what it said, and we just decided that we'd leave it that way... actually, if i'm remembering right, it said "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzyzzzzzzzouttamyhands".
PRT: When we saw you at The Fest, back in 2011, you were already playing some of the songs that are on this album. What was the reason for the delay, except from maybe the new Hot Water Music record?
Chris: i don't know... the usually stuff i guess... i wasn't really in a rush though. i was more concerned with getting the right people in the band at that point. but yeah. had a few lineup changes. and i kept writing new songs. so it took a lil while. no biggee.
PRT: This might not be a fair question, but if you'd be offered the chance to make The Ship Thieves your main project and make it to "the big leagues"... What would you do?
Chris: don't really think about it at all honestly... i'm already incredibly lucky to be right here where i'm at...
PRT: You've written a whole bunch of amazing songs with all projects from Crows, to The Draft and The Ship Thieves,... What can you advise aspiring song writers? Any tips and tricks?
Chris: practice. a lot. haha. but, that's a pretty wide open question so... obviously having the right lineup in your band is probably the most important thing, and it's a tough one. when it comes to writing, you gotta have chemistry for sure. but you're gonna spent a lotta time with your band in shitty vans, shitty clubs, and shitty warehouses, so if you're not all good friends, it only makes it harder. so, take your time, and get it right!
PRT: What band - in your 20 odd years as a musician - was hardest to write good songs for?
Chris: geeeez... um, i don't really know. they all have different sets of challenges, and i think that's what makes it so fun. but i guess i'd have to say that writing with brett and brooks from bad religion was probably the most intimidated i've been... but, in a good way... those guys are so fuckin talented, and so nice to work with, and it was really one of my favorite writing sessions that i've been a part of in my life. but i did have a few moments where i'd just say to myself "how the fuck did i get here?!" but it really was awesome. so fuckin cool. and it still kinda blows my mind. i mean, i've been listening to that band most of my life. it was a total honor, it was super fun, and it was unbelievably intimidating hahaha... but it was a really great trip, and 2 of the tunes we did made it onto "the empire strikes first" and i think we were all pretty happy with em...
PRT: Apart the logical evolution as a musician, what would be your personal, most remarkable thing that has changed from when you started out as a musician?
Chris: some days i feel like everything has changed, and some days i feel like almost nothing has changed... but i think that's what happens when you start getting a little older, and you start looking back at where you've been... but i guess it would have to be the internet. nothing has ever had such a big impact on so many levels.
PRT: With all of your bands gaining a certain popularity, you've had quite an impact on a couple of younger bands, musicians and fans. Do you think it's strange to be somewhat of an icon?
Chris: i don't think about it at all. i'm just a VERY lucky guitar player.
PRT: With the release of "Exister", it looks like Hot Water Music has reached new heights in terms of popularity. How do you feel about that?
Chris: well, we worked really hard on that album, and we had a great time doing it. i mean, really, it probably was the most fun recording session that we've had with hwm... but i think you always try to do the best you can, and you never know if anybody is going to really "get it" once it's all done... so, i guess, after all these years, i'm just really thankful that our fans have stuck with us. and i'm very eager to start working on the next one...
PRT: Do you think there's a next step waiting for you guys?
Chris: always. forward.
PRT: With both you and Chuck toying around in other, more "traditional" musical genres, like Americana and acoustic folky thingies... Could you say that, in retrospect, both your solo projects have influenced you in writing "Exister"?
Chris: yeah, of course. and to me that's kinda the whole point. music is all about connecting. and the more you play different styles, with different people, the better you'll get (hopefully, haha)... technique, tone, approach, lyrical content, theory, communication... there is always room to grow and to get better at what you do... and there is always more to learn.
PRT: You've had a bunch of side projects already. What kind of band would you still like to be a part of?
Chris: i don't know... there's a bunch of really talented blues players locally... and i'd love to mix it up with them for sure... or maybe i'd relearn the trumpet and join a reggae band? hahaha dunno... it's all fun...
PRT: Hypothetically speaking, what rumour would you like to see spread about yourself?
Chris: "last seen in Negril, with no cell phone reception."