Chokebore likes music
photos by K, Dieter Wuschanski, Pepete L'or, David Wolfe Patrick
This interview took place at Kristin's house. Unfortunately, the whole band could not make it to the interview, so Troy had to speak on behalf of Chokebore. Here's how it went.
Kristin: Maybe a good place to start would be naming the people in your band, and the instruments that they play.
Troy: John plays guitar, James plays the bass, Christian plays the drums, and I play guitar and sing. And I am Troy.
Kristin: You all are Chokebore.
Kristin: How long have you been a band?
Troy: How long have we been together as Chokebore? Well, we started, me John and James started playing together about ten years ago. A long ass time ago. And that was in Hawaii. We were all in different punk rock groups in Hawaii. We kind of met in that scene, the skating scene and stuff, and then we were in a hardcore band; the three of us were actually in the same band, but at different times. It was a really cool band out in Hawaii. A band called Mug. It was really, really cool. I think they are still going. I think the members just keep rotating for years and years. So that's how we kind of hooked up. And we realized we sort of had the same musical tastes.
Kristin: And you always sang?
Troy: No, I never sang.
Kristin: Oh really?
Troy: No, no, no, no, fuck that it sucks, it sucks. Well, we started a band, the three of us started a band together, and we went into James' room and played for a while, and then I guess we just sort of needed a vocalist. And I remember going "Hell no, not me man". And then I guess I could sing alright. Actually no, I couldn't sing, but I just kind of learned it. And I guess I liked it. I guess I liked it, yeah. I used to just sing in the car. I used to deliver pizzas. And I had no girlfriends. No one would date me because I was delivering pizzas. Yeah, it was great. But I used to sing old David Bowie stuff. I taught myself how to sing to try to hit the same notes as he did, but I still can't, and I never could. But I learned how to sing in the meantime.
Kristin: I think that one of the things about your band that makes it so powerful is your voice.
Kristin: I think that's a really good thing. So your band was in Hawaii first?
Troy: Yes sir.
Kristin: And how long have you been a band in LA?
Troy: Well, I think we moved here about seven years ago, maybe closer to eight years ago.
Kristin: Oh, OK, so a long time.
Troy: It's been a little while. The thing is that we only played here for the first year and then we started touring. So we've been touring for maybe the last... it's so hard to remember all this crap. But, we've been touring for about five years. We've toured constantly for five years. Yeah, so we only played LA in the beginning for about a year or something, which was cool. Touring is more fun than standing still.
Kristin: The name of your band used to be Dana Lynn. Why did you change the name to Chokebore?
Troy: Well, we changed it to Chokebore because we changed our music. Basically we... MY NAME IS TROY. MY NAME IS TROY. Why did we change our name? We were going to put out a single with an independent label, Amphetamine Reptile, and he was going "OK, we're gonna put it out next week. Your name is Dana Lynn? Who are the members?" So we had a second to think about it, and I said, "Is our name Dana Lynn? Are you guys sure, because right now we can switch it?" And so we said, "You know what, we always fucking hated that name Dana Lynn, and it doesn't matter anyway." So we just thought of a new one.
Kristin: Oh, that's cool.
Troy: Yeah. And actually we are thinking about switching it again.
Troy: Back to Dana Lynn one day.
Kristin: Oh really?
Troy: Yeah because we got some flack for switching it. People thought it was like, we changed our... I don't know. I changed my name when I was sixteen.
Kristin: What's your name?
Troy: Legally, I grew up Bruno. I changed it to Troy. I'm gonna change it again this year to my original last name.
Kristin: What is your full name right now?
Troy: Right now, well, OK, it's a long story. Jesus Christ.
Kristin: What is your full name as it appears legally, right now?
Troy: Troy Bruno Miller. Now, I was born Balthazar, but my mother and father split up, and I was brought up with a different father, whose name was Miller, so I took his name. My real father is Balthazar.
Troy: So that's my real name.
Kristin: Why did you change your name from Bruno to Troy?
Troy: Because I used to get teased in Hawaii.
Kristin: Oh really?
Troy: Yeah, they used to call me like a little dog, "Here Bruno, here Bruno." And also because I was really, really shy, and totally afraid of people, and girls. I couldn't even talk if there was a girl in the room. I didn't have any friends, I hung out by myself for, well, all my life, but back then I thought it was a problem, you know?
Troy: And I just wanted to change, move to a different place, and I thought I'd change my name, and my attitude, and I did.
Troy: Yeah. Then I started getting girlfriends and everything started working out.
Kristin: And your life started getting better.
Troy: AMEN BROTHER!
Kristin: Totally. What fascinates you most about having a band and making music?
Troy: Well, the band is a vehicle for the music. And I suppose it's... what fascinates me most is that nothing counts as much, you know?
Kristin: Even if it fascinates you?
Troy: Nothing else fascinates me.
Kristin: Oh, nothing else counts as much as music.
Troy: In my life, nothing is as strong, or affects me the same way that music does. So I stay home and play music every day. And I've tried so many times to just try to relate to the normal world, and I don't fucking like it!
Kristin: You are in the normal world.
Troy: No I'm not.
Kristin: Why aren't you?
Troy: I'm in it, but when you sit at home and you play music or you write or do something, that's...
Troy: I don't know if it's creative, but if it's something that is beautiful for you, then it's more... it seems more spectacular than anything around you.
Kristin: That's very true.
Troy: And so, that's what I like about it. That's all I like about it. I don't really get off on, on um... that's it, you know.
Kristin: Is there anything other than music that inspires you?
Troy: Uh, yeah...
Troy: Inspiration is from everything else... from looking at a world that you think is horrible most of the time, or a world that you think is beautiful sometimes. And then, hopefully, maybe getting something that you can translate somehow, you know, in words. I write...
Kristin: You write what?
Troy: I write a lot everyday.
Kristin: Yeah. Do you write the lyrics first? How do you write your songs?
Troy: I think it's probably just... OK, like the last song I wrote was yesterday. I had the melody and the guitar line, and I just put words that I thought were appropriate... words that sounded good. But you know, it's different every time. Sometimes other guys in the band would bring a piece of a song in and we'll work on it, or sometimes I'll bring the whole song in and we'll all get together on it. I've been starting... yeah, it's all different.
Kristin: You all contribute to the song, obviously. Some bands have one person that writes all the songs, all the music and everything. [Laughter]
Troy: Yes, it's equal! [Laughter] You know, it's different.
Kristin: So every song is different? Some people contribute more than others in every song?
Troy: Lately I've been writing a lot of songs, but that's just lately. We haven't really started working on the next album.
Kristin: Do you think everyone in the band seems equally as interested and as driven to participate?
Troy: Jesus man, are you insane? Why do you probe my soul like this?
Kristin: Alright I'm sorry, we can skip that question.
Troy: No, it's a good question.
Kristin: You know, that's what makes a strong band, when everyone is totally into it.
Troy: Everyone is totally into it, but I refuse everything else more than they do.
Kristin: Right. So music comes first for you, and it doesn't for the rest of the band.
Troy: No, I'm sure it does for the rest of the band, but they have first, second, third, fourth. I just have first. I only have one thing that's on my mind all day. Maybe they have three or four, which is cool, because people need to live and they are totally with it, you know? We've been suffering for fucking years, and we still have zero money, zero food... but that's OK. They are in for the long haul, and that's cool. They're really good musicians... Tic Tac?
Kristin: Yeah. Where do you tour mostly?
Troy: We mostly tour in Europe.
Troy: Like about three years ago we went out there... maybe three and a half years ago, we went out there to do a single tour, with a couple of AmRep bands, and it was just so much fun, and it went so great. But the second we got home I started calling the guy that booked our tour out there, "Hey Anthony, can you hook us up and get us back there? We'll play for no money, we'll stay there for as long as you want, you know, and we'll just do anything to play there more." [Makes a phone with his hand.] I even made the telephone. And so finally the guy said, "OK, these guys really wanna try it." And so he brought us over, and we just kept trying, and kept playing, because it's fun over there, it's great! You know, it's like you play on a Tuesday night, in Italy right? And you're going, "This is Italy! It doesn't matter what night it is." It doesn't matter what month, or what year, or what night, you're in Italy. It's fucking great! I always thought, would I rather be in Sacramento or in Spain, you know? I'd have to say Spain. So I have to try to do that. That's what we've been doing for years now.
Kristin: That's great!
Troy: We spend like seven or eight months of the year there.
Kristin: Do you think there's a different reaction to Chokebore in other countries when there's a language barrier?
Troy: That's actually hard for lyrics. I think lyrics are important to Chokebore music. But I don't think it matters that much. I think they can tell the feel, and most people can speak a bit of English.
Kristin: So people seem into it just as much as they are in the States?
Troy: Way more, because we've spent so much time there. We've only played in LA a handful of times in the last year and a half, two years or something, you know? That's because we are always over there. So basically it was bad for... I suppose it's bad for business, if there's business involved in it. It's life, it's not business, it's life.
Kristin: Yes, definitely. Travel.
Troy: Yeah. And we went to Sarajevo, and to the North Pole.
Kristin: What's the North Pole like?
Troy: Snowy. And there's Santa Claus' house. Then we went to arctic circle.
Kristin: You played music in the arctic circle?
Kristin: People showed up?
Troy: Yeah, yeah, it was cool.
Kristin: What were people wearing?
Troy: Big coats. We played in Greece. Greece was cool, and you know, all over.
Kristin: Wow, so where is your favorite place? Do you have a favorite place?
Troy: No. I like Scandinavia. And I like Greece a lot. I want to go back there badly. I'll probably go back. I think we're gonna do some shows this summer. I hope so, you know. It's so much fun.
Kristin: Are you guys on a label right now?
Kristin: Which label are you on?
Troy: Well, we're on the label that used to be Amphetamine Reptile, in Europe. He changed his name to Boomba Records. But we're actually switching right now, in Europe, so I don't really know where we're going. We're sort of in between labels. And here, in the States we're on Punk iN My Vitamins, for our next album.
Kristin: What do you think about the importance of modern music as opposed to always listening to old music? What do you think about music that has been made in the last five years?
Troy: I think that, if there are some good songs, that's great, and if not, then it's not as good as the older stuff.
Kristin: Really? Right now I think that there is a lot of music being made that combines so many different types of music; and through that combination, bands embark on totally unique, exciting sounds.
Troy: Well, if you've heard of it, then that's great, you know? I've seen some really, really great bands, but I don't think of it as new music, unless something is so wild and new that it just blows your mind out. It's all relatively the same. If it's good, it's good. If it isn't as good, then it's no good. I don't know, because I don't listen. I don't listen, to be totally honest with you. You know, we see a lot of bands when we play, and I can say, that's a great band, compared to other bands and everything, but I'm thinking about that song I was writing yesterday, you know?
Kristin: Right. You see music differently than I do. I go to see live music, and I also purchase different music to bring home to listen to.
Troy: I don't buy music.
Kristin: Maybe because you are at home making your own music.
Troy: I also don't have any money. Also, I wouldn't know what to buy. There's some great music.
Kristin: There's some amazing music being made now.
Troy: Yeah, there is, there is?
Kristin: I don't think totally new, but I think that it's not punk rock, it's not rock and roll, it's not jazz, it's not blues; it's just mixing it all together, and some of the sounds being created are so amazing, and I think that if you could listen to that, it would totally influence you. I just wondered if that had any impact on your songs, or your band, or the sounds that you make.
Troy: Electronic music does, some of it, you know? Because it's just pure ideas, you know? Sometimes they can be really good. It still depends on who the person with the ideas is, because a lot of people have bad ideas, or have someone else's ideas. There are people who can access these ideas a lot easier, because you have all your drums, everything on this board, you know? So, I think it's cool. I'm surprised that electronic music is so small in the States still. In Europe it's the biggest thing. Rock and roll is so small, it hardly even exists. It's something from the past or something. It's all electronic out there. Hey, that's cool with me, I mean it doesn't mean we are gonna do that, but if people are pushing forward then that's great. And also, that scene out there is really cool, because it's sex and drugs. It's lots of drugs and loud fucking music. People get really into it, and that's fine with me. But I don't want to put any of it in our music, because that's not who Chokebore is. I always said no to electronic stuff, no drum loops or anything.
Kristin: No keyboards?
Troy: No thank you.
Kristin: What do you see as a goal for your band?
Troy: As a band? OK, as a band. Let me think about that. I would say, as a band, I would like to keep playing in Europe, and keep making albums, and take more and more time to record albums, so we can explore more... take more and more time to write albums, so we can explore more, and eventually tour in different places in the world.
Kristin: So, just keep doing more of what you are doing?
Troy: Well, yeah, maybe, sure. It's not bad, you know... go to Australia, go to Japan, go to Brazil. That would be nice. Eventually, somehow, not let it close down on us, you know? Keep it open, keep writing music.
Kristin: Do you ever suffer from lyric boredom? Does it ever bother you that you have to keep saying the same words over and over? Do you ever change it or does it ever get...
Troy: When we play live?
Troy: Oh, shit. Sometimes I change it, but it only confuses me. Really, it's better to kind of know, for me, because then I don't have to think about them... then I just feel the song, you know? I don't mind... if I write it down, and that's the lyric, I don't mind singing it every single night, because the point is for me to understand that image, that second when I'm on stage. The point to be on stage is to feel the music, you know? I can't pick up on all those damn images that fast and still try to sing, and still try to play guitar, you know? I just want to feel the music. So if it's like two weeks into tour, it's so much easier and better than the first week, because two weeks in you can play without looking at your guitar. You just are totally relaxed, you know? It's the same with words, you know, I don't have to think about it, I already just know them, I can think... I can just feel the music.
Kristin: That's good. I always wondered about that.
Troy: But I am sure it's different for everybody.
Kristin: Yeah, well, maybe.
Troy: See, I don't have very meaningful... globally meaningful lyrics... they're very personal. [Pause] Well, I guess that's global.
Kristin: Has anything happened to the band that made you guys almost break up?
Troy: Well, we've had many, many, many, many, many, many, many shows. We've toured more than almost anybody. We played sixty shows straight. Actually, I think we did eighty shows straight, or something ridiculous like that. We just keep going. And I think sometimes, you know, you go bonkers on tour, and you go, "OK, I'm just gonna kill myself today, I don't feel anything anymore, I'll just jump off the damn bridge." But everyone pulls it together, after a while. You can watch in the van, you know, we'll be in the van for three months or something, and home for a week, and gone again... in a little van, you know, eating just nothing. You watch around you, and people go crazy, one by one. You'll just go fuckinq nuts, you'll just have a schizophrenic breakdown, and you'll finally get over it, and about a week later, you're thinking, "I feel a little better, I can finally control my bowels again." The next thing you know, the guy next to you is just wiggin'the fuck out of his skull, and it just kind of goes around, you know? Because you can't take it, dad gumnit.
Kristin: It's hard.
Troy: Music is good, so we just keep going.
Kristin: That's good.
Troy: And we've eaten so much shit, that... we've eaten so much dirt along the way, that I think now we can eat dirt, and not really feel it as hard, you know?
Kristin: What about food in Europe?
Troy: They give us food, at the shows, but it's no way to live. I think that you have to be on a different level. We're at a very low level, tee-hee. Actually, sometimes we get some really interesting dinners in strange lands, that fill us up, and make us happy.
Kristin: That's great!
Troy: It seems worth it, sure it does, it's totally worth it, because it's what I like more than everything else in the world. Even though it's hard, and makes me want to go crazy, and kilt people and stuff, it's still better than... I've been in LA for about two months now, and I got a job...
Kristin: Doing what?
Troy: Delivery. Toxic waste. Volatile chemicals.
Kristin: To where?
Troy: I don't know, around town. And, uh... that job sucks. It's like, Modern Problems. [Laughter]
Troy: I want to play music, you know? A lot of people do, and that's good, because music is better than a lot of things. Sometimes I look around at this world and I don't like it very much.
Kristin: It's hard.
Troy: I don't like most of the things I see. I don't like the ways things are going and leading. Some things are good, and some things are bad, but, I guess I won't get cynical here. It doesn't matter to me. What matters is if I can feel good when I write songs. It's a horrible thing to say.
Kristin: No, it's really not. You have to have something leading you through life that makes you happy, and if you can give that to yourself, that's amazing.
Troy: I guess so, yeah.
Kristin: OK, what was the band's first record?
Troy: "Motionless". We did a single before that, on Amphetamine Reptile. It was a picture disk.
Kristin: Do you have a favorite radio station in LA?
Troy: I would say 100.3.
Kristin: What's that?
Troy: It plays soul, R&B oldies, and also KXLU. I'd say KXLU first, and then that one afterwards. Sometimes they play some good stuff, some Al Green. I like soul music.
Kristin: What's your favorite modern band?
Troy: Is Al Green contemporary?
Troy: [Long pause] Lowercase, they're cool. I always will love The Cows, because they are fucking great! There's a band in LA that I like, called The Warlocks, and another band called the Devics.
Kristin: What is Chokebore doing right now, in the States?
Troy: We are putting out a new record called "Black Black" in Mid-September on Punk iN My Vitamins, from Olympia. At the same time, we're about ten songs into writing the next album. So we are about a year ahead of ourselves in the States, which is good. Oh yeah, we also have a double 7" coming out on PNMV.
Kristin: OK, cool. Where did you record it?
Troy: We actually recorded the last two albums in France, at this really great studio, but for the next album we're going to do it here somewhere. We wanted to do each album in a different country, or a different area completely. The first one we did in Minneapolis, then the second one in Los Angeles, and then the third and "Black Black" in France.
Kristin: Anything that you want to say before the interview is over?
Troy: Why who wants to know?
Kristin: Um... me.
Troy: Oh, OK, sorry, you're alright in my book, little critter. [Pause] Oh, Chokebore likes music.
Flipside #122 (spring 2000)