1998/12/08, Café de la Danse, Paris (France)
- Pacific Sleep Patterns
- You Are the Sunshine of My (Dead Gone) Life
- Thin as Clouds
- I Love the Waiting
- Days of Nothing
- The Perfect Date
- The Sweetness
- Smaller Steps
- Comeback Thursday
- A Taste for Bitters
- Your Let Down
- It Could Ruin Your Day
- Popular Modern Themes
After Sophia finish their set, everybody is waiting for Chokebore. People carry amps and guitars on and off the stage, check the drums, then a guy steps up to the mic, mumbles "hello how you doin'?", and the lights go out. Three more guys come on stage, the tallest one grabs his bass guitar and starts a slow, monotonous, heavy bass line. The singer gently sings "All you've been... is a piece of blood... wrapped in skin...", drums and guitar break in, and the show starts off with Shine. These Chokebore guys really get on stage casually!
But when the music starts, they are elsewhere. Troy sways back and forth, up and down and side to side, not caring about the distance between his mouth and the microphone, while softly bashing his guitar. Frank hits his bass hard and treads heavily across the stage. His brother Jon folds his long and thin body over his guitar, letting little notes escape and feedback. Behind them, Mike beats up his drum kit while banging his head in time.
Every few songs, Troy speaks to the audience, always with humor and chuckles of excitement, introducing another song, either gentle and depressing or powerful and dizzying.
As usual. But tonight they are playing in the Café de la Danse, with its high ceiling and beautiful wall of stone in the background, where dark shadows cast by the musicians dance among bright lights. This eerie ballet added to Troy's melodic vocals and hypnotizing undulations left the crowd breathless, watching Chokebore living out its music, every four of them physically possessed by it, to the point of hitting oneself without notice (you could see a droplet of blood running down on Frank's forehead).
Of the seventeen songs played that night, I was especially pleased to hear Shine, a dark introduction bathed in red light, and the final, slow and tragic rendering of Your Let Down, two songs I had never heard live before. And, near the end of the set, a new song written a few weeks ago, with no title, but with the soft and gentle atmosphere of a lullaby and the intensity of a Chokebore song!
After the last song, the musicians left the stage, carrying away their instruments, only to come back a few minutes later and mix with the crowd inside the venue. It was the opportunity for me to have a little talk with them.
I first met Jon, sitting on the edge of the stage while Mike was packing up his drum kit. He told me that he liked playing in Europe, because he liked being in places where he didn't understand the language, although he said he was going to take French lessons, together with Frank's fiancee. Finally, he said he was going back to L.A. for Christmas holiday.
Later, I managed to get Troy and Jon together for a short interview... which turned out to be pretty funny:
You seem to like Europe a lot, we can see it in the lyrics ("Spanish", "Switzerland", "a European nightmare"...), and at the beginning of the show you said you practically live here...
Troy: Oh yeah it's great... We spend a lot of time here, so that's why it turns into the lyrics. I write about what we do and what we think about, and what we see, and we see a lot of Europe so...
Jon: I think that answer was incredible! :o)
You told me you liked France!
Jon (to Troy): I said I liked being in places where I don't understand things.
Troy: It could be anywhere right now! :o)
Jon: How dare thy! :o)
Are you going to learn French?
Jon: I think I'm going to sign up for classes...
Troy: That's cool, that's a good idea!
Are you going to?
Jon: You lie! :o)
Troy: I'll sign up!
OK, exam next time... How's your tour going?
Troy: Well, it's the first night! It was good...
How was it before you went on this tour?
Troy: That was cool, because we wrote a song and we recorded an acoustic song that we're going to put on a compilation with Girls Against Boys and Mogwai and a couple of other bands... And that was fun and we just hung out, rested, ate food...
Troy: Yeah, in L.A.
Jon: Ate food! :o)
Troy: ...played with my kitty cats...
Jon: I played with my kitty cats too.
Oh, you have cats too?
Jon: Oh, just one, he has two.
Jon: Oh, three!
I like cats!
Troy: Thank god! :o)
Jon: He just likes to say thank god! :o)
...I heard you're writing a book...
Troy: That's a long long story. I started to write but it got stolen, but I have lots of other things, I'm writing a lot now, so I'm trying to make it happen.
Is it going to be edited?
Troy: Yeah, I'm sure it will...
Do you know how you're going to do that?
Troy: I have some ideas, yeah... First I have to make it really good, it isn't really good yet...
(to Jon) Are you going to write a book?
Jon: I write different sorts of things, I don't know what I'm going to do with it...
You studied art... what kind?
Jon: Mostly painting and guitar, and sculpture...
Do you make expos?
Jon: Yeah, I've shown in L.A. and in a couple of places in Germany, I haven't shown anything in France...
Do you know if Black Black finally came out in the US?
Troy: No it didn't, but actually I just talked to AmRep on the phone, just now, half an hour ago. They said they want to put it out, but I said no, we have to wait, we have to talk about it before... We want to tour first and see what else exists, and then we decide...
It would be nice for you, I can imagine you like the US too... What's your favorite part?
Troy: We've been all over... I like Texas, Louisiana...
I stopped my tape recorder at that point, but we kept talking for a while, and Jon eventually told me that he made "performances": he didn't describe what they were, but he said that the photo on the left of the Taste for Bitters cover was a picture of a place where he had made one. "-So you're microinternational? -Yeah, it's me!" (in the CD liner, that photo is referred to as "documentation of a performance by microinternational").
Troy said he was going to Hawaii for Christmas, so I asked him how the weather was in winter and if it was OK to surf (Troy and Mike are surfers), and he answered something like "I remember one day, it was Christmas day, and I was on the beach all day, wearing just pants and a T-shirt, I was all sweaty... It was great!"
Finally, we took part, and Troy's last words were about music: I asked what he did aside from Chokebore, and he said "I play music, man... All sorts of music, by myself or with different people... It's very important!".