Interview: Chokebore

Part one: James, Jon & Troy, 2002/04/18, Brussels (Belgium)

#01 (Hélio): How does it feel to be back in Europe? I guess you are looking forward to touring, seeing your friends again and above all getting a change of air (it seems that L.A. is a very polluted city... LOL)?

Troy (guitar/vocals): Yes, definitely. I've been visiting France since I arrived. It's been great.

Frank (bass): We all like Europe.

Troy: We are going to stay for a while this time.

Jon (guitar): Unfortunately we can't stay as long as we would like to because there is a lot of bureaucracy...

#02 (Franck): In an interview made in 1996 (by Franck) you said you would record a hundred records, one per year... So, what happened?

Troy: (LOL)

Jon: Well, we were hiding some other ones. (LOL)

Troy: We made lots of songs but it was just hard to... I mean we had the music but it was hard to find the right label to put it out in a good way, you know... And we finally did.

#03 (Franck): How does it feel to record songs written years ago (for some of them)?

Troy: It was cool. It was about time, you know. We had some good songs, real songs... We were just waiting to put them on an album.

Jon: In a case like a song like "Geneva" which we've had for a couple of years, recording it and releasing it almost makes it seem newer, I mean feels fresher to me now because we finally did record it and release it.

Troy: Well, it depends on the song. I mean, a song like "Geneva" is a good song, you know, so it's like a baby you love it more and more.

Frank: Yeah, there were some songs that we have been playing for like you know a year and a half or whatever in the time between the records and we've been playing some other songs for a while and then yeah we didn't record those songs and we didn't really ever you know... We worked on them but we didn't enjoy them.

#04 (Franck): It's the first time your faces appear on the cover: is there any particular reason or just Kevin Hanley's suggestion?

Jon: No, it's a... I guess it's not just Kevin's suggestion. I mean we work with him in town give him ideas also and it's not actually true. We did a couple of singles where our faces appeared on the cover in actual photographs but I think we just wanted to try something a little different for the cover.

Frank: And as far as appearing on a cover... We kind of appear on the cover... I mean...

Jon: It's not really us.

Frank: It's not a photo... It's just a... tracing.

#05 (Franck): Do you take drugs to create and/or play?

Frank: Drugs?

Troy: Drugs are good. No no no no no. (LOL). No, really no.

Jon: We don't use anything to create or play.

Frank: I mean you might be practicing, writing a song and maybe you are stoned or whatever or playing... You know...

Jon: But I mean it's not something we use as a creative writing.

Frank: It's not like I gotta get high so I can finish the song but you will mix the two from time to time.

#06 (Franck): Songs seem to be more arranged, deeper in ambiences than before, acoustic guitar, keys appear, more backing vocals too: you wanted more than a "live record"? I mean a real studio one?

Jon: We like to take advantage of the difference between studio and live and in studio you can add extra melodies that you don't have enough fingers to do live. So, I mean, when you are writing something you hear extra things, you have ideas and that's when you are able to realize them, the recorded album. We deliberately always chose studios that have 24 tracks so that we have this room.

Troy: And it's good to have both: studio version and also live version.

Frank: We don't really try to sound exactly like on the record. I mean like some bands: you hear their record then you hear them live and it's the same thing. They did a real good job. That's awesome but although we're gonna try to sound a little bit more like the record there's gonna be parts we don't play live.

#07 (Hélio): (to Troy) There are songwriters/musicians who do not like to comment their lyrics. What about you? Do you prefer to let the listener make up his own interpretation? Would you mind to comment your songs? How were they born, what are they about?

Troy: Well, most of them I don't really know. There are a lot of images that I put into words. I don't really know... They are about all different things... They are about thoughts... Just things I saw and see, think about. It's not real solid lyrics like "I'm walking down the street. Everything's good". It's more symbolism. It makes sense to me. I guess it's good because people can take it different ways. Whatever sounds good and feels powerful I keep it.

(about the lyrics of "Snow")

Well, I mean sometimes it's amazing that there's so many ignorant people in the world. It's about individualism and being strong.

#08 (Hélio): If you could choose, which feeling would you like your music causes to the listener?

Troy: Passion... I want people to make love to Chokebore!

Frank: Woaw... You gonna watch too?

(LOL)

Jon: Make love to Chokebore???

(LOL)

Troy: No, not actually to, with Chokebore playing in the background. Oh shit... You took that wrong.

Frank: That's not absolutely bad either.

Jon: No but if it's everyone... Badly ugly!

(LOL)

Troy: It's freaky!

(silence)

Frank: Load (?) of emotion.

Jon: I don't know. It's hard to summarize it to one sensation but I guess something strong and beautiful... But...

Frank: Like a horse...

(LOL)

Jon: Not a horse...

Frank: Pegasus?

(LOL)

Jon: No, but something atmospheric and beautiful at the same time, not concrete.

#09 (Hélio): In Portugal there is a traditional canto called fado. Fado is characterized by the "saudade" (kind or mixture of melancholy, nostalgia, sadness). I feel a lot of "saudade" in your music.

Frank: Yes, I mean...

Jon: One of our albums, "A Taste for Bitters", was even written when we were... From a sense of... Just totally travelling all the time... But I don't think it was written from missing Los Angeles (LOL)... But just more from the strange feeling you get... Just floating, you know...

Troy: Even this album... The song "Person You Chose" was written on tour.

#10 (Hélio): Chokebore is composed of a classic rock line-up (guitar, bass, drums) like thousands of bands; however your sound is different, even unique. How do you explain that?

Frank: Probably it has a 100% to do with my direction of playing bass...

(LOL)

No, I'm just joking. Don't write that. I don't know. I guess we got lucky.

Jon: Hopefully that's the case. I mean, we would like to. That's what we want to do but you can't always tell when you are inside the band.

Troy: Well, we just try to use our own voice to write something beautiful.

Frank: It is a traditional rock line-up but when you play you don't wanna just come off like every rock band. I think a lot of bands just don't pay attention trying to sound different... I mean, not sound different and be radically different or whatever but just when we're on stage it's there a unique thing, it's then. We are not trying to take from other music so much. I mean you're gonna take stuff, you're gonna have beats and crap like that but you wanna have an original atmosphere. It doesn't have to be radically different. You don't have to tune your guitar crazy and stuff like that... Unless you want to. But just trying to have that feeling in concert.

#11 (Hélio): Do you have common influences? Tell us about your favorite writers...

Jon: I'm sure that we like some of the same things.

Troy: I like many writers. I read more classics. The thing is (referring to last question) we probably listen to ourselves more than we listen to other people. That's probably why we sound like ourselves and not like other people.

Jon: When we're writing music I think really what we're doing is playing of each other and just listening to what each other are doing. It's not thinking about something outside of it.

Part two: Troy, 2002/06/01, Brussels (Belgium)

#12 (Hélio): Is there a band you recently discovered and that impressed/moved you?

Troy (guitar/vocals): That I recently discovered? Well, we see so many bands, you know and there were lot of really good ones but it's hard to think of one. I just started to listen to Jeff Buckley a little bit, he has a beautiful voice. I just started to listen to a bit Bob Dylan, all the bootlegs series from Bob Dylan are really good. There's a couple of things I just started listening to.

#13 (Hélio): How is it that your records are so badly distributed, especially the old ones and especially in the States? I don't understand why you weren't signed by an independent label like Southern or other similar label. I think it's an injustice especially when you see the shit that is released every day?

Troy: Yeah, I agree with you. It is. It's hard. The thing about Chokebore is that we always concentrate on music and we forgot to concentrate on the business and the reality is that if you want to do anything you have to do the business also. Our minds are made for music and it's a different mind that's made for business, you know, and so for many many years we suffered because we have good music, but we don't know how to give it to the right people. Our new label, Pale Blue, seems to be doing a good job, you know, it seems really cool. They are closer to something that we should have done a long time ago, you know. And the old records we were talking about we'll try to get them out again, to rerelease them with Pale Blue.

We've had chances, you know, and everytime we talked to a major label they were crazy, you know. If we talked to a label that was big and was intelligent and they really want to do something and they let us do our music the way we want to then it would be cool, I mean, no problem. But usually all of them which we spoke to really wanted us to change what we were doing so...

Well, hopefully Pale Blue becomes strong and that'll work out.

#14 (Hélio): When did you decide to devote your life to your music? How did that occur? Was it hard to manage this decision with your family, with your close friends and with yourself? Today, years after this decision, do you think it was worth it?

Troy: Of course it was worth it because I know what I want to do and what I love in my life, you know, and that's important. When I was about 18 years old I just started really wanting to play guitar, you know, and my mother bought me a guitar for my birthday and then I just stayed in my room for 10 hours every day playing guitar, you know. It's just the thing that I love more than everything, so it was really worth it because that where I find the beauty in this world, you know, it's through music, you know.

Sure, it was hard to manage. I mean, it's taking a path in life that is very uncertain. It's very easy to be a failure and it's very easy to be poor trying to do this in this world now, trying to do art but it doesn't matter if there is a chance that you could fail, all that matters is that I know what I want to do and I just keep doing it, keep trying, you know. It's hard for friends and family because I never see anybody. And it's hard for girlfriends because I can't really hold one because I keep leaving. But to me the most important thing is this, you know, and has been since I started playing guitar when I was 18. Nothing else is as intense, you know, so I'm happy.

#15 (Hélio): I have the impression that you don't make big plans. I mean: you don't make career plans and your choices seem to be guided by your passion. Basically, do you have a certainty, an intuition which guides you?

Troy: I suppose so, yeah. But that intuition is used to make songs, you know. I've been trying to think about a little more and more lately and so I started doing an acoustic project, you know, just because I want to continue doing music all my life, you know, that's important. The real world does exist, you know, and I need to live in it and also have this world of music, you know, that is different from the real world. I guess that there's something that, you know, keeps me on the right track, you know. I just don't go other places that could take me away from music, you know. Whenever I have the choice between staying home and writing a song or going out to a party I'll stay home and write a song if I feel a song inside of me and that I think directs my life, you know.

#16 (Gianni): Which advice to you give to young and passionate musicians who would like to make the "big dive", that is to say live for and from their music?

Troy: Advice? (LOL) I'm the wrong person to talk about that, man. I mean, I've been poor for many many many years. But just without money, not poor inside. I mean, I just knew what I loved, you know. In the world I found the thing that I loved the most. You can't be afraid, you know. Don't be afraid, you know. That's all.

#17 (Gianni): Chokebore belongs to these bands which have a very strong relation with their fans. So much so that some of them have for you a rare adoration. Do you think that it's due to your integrity, your honesty and the intense emotions you share with them through your songs?

Troy: I hope so. That would be nice, yeah. I mean, we make a lot of friends, you know, on tour because we like people and we like to play music and it's good, you know. It's good to create atmosphere with people in the room. It feels good. So we usually feel good and we like to talk to people. So more and more our fans become our friends and that's cool.

#18 (Gianni): Does the title of your album "It's a Miracle" represent the fact that Chokebore still exists after all these years despite the hardness of life and the barriers you've encountered throughout your career?

Troy: Well, it's a miracle that we still exist, so I guess this is kind of correct, you know. I mean, we put out 5 albums and we have no money, nothing, you know, and we're still trying and we're still doing it, we're still living in this life, you know. It's been hard to play for many many many years with no one at the shows, you know, but things are getting better now and it feels good and it's a miracle that we're still doing it and that we still love it so much, I mean, the passion for it, just as much as in the beginning. The passion is very strong for us, you know, and it's a miracle to... For me it's a miracle just to write music. I mean, it feels so good.

#19 (Gianni): The cover of your album was entirely carried out using only one and single line. Is there any message behind that? Does it symbolize that you are close to each other and/or that life only hangs by a thread?

Troy: (LOL) That's nice. Probably the life hangs by a thread. closer to something like that. Closer to that sort of feeling, yeah. It's very frail and it's just very thin, you know.

#20 (Hélio): (to Troy) What did you want to express with this line: "...And those who are closest don't see with their heartbeat, they see with their tongues."?

Troy: (silence) I wrote that in a van driving through Paris looking for a club and it's just trying to explain the closeness of people. How some people can seem so close, you know, and really be far away in their heads, you know. That's how I am a lot of times, you know. I can be in a group of people but in my head I'm so far away, you know, and that's what I'm trying to say.

It's referring to... You mean a particular relationship? I thought of like a family, you know, and just the people that are close to you... A lot of them... I'm just trying to understand the distance between people, try to express the distance (both physical and spiritual) between people and I still haven't done it clearly but I'm trying. Just try to understand humans, you know. It's one of the things I'm most interested in and I think it's sort of my job, you know, or that I would like to be my job. I mean, I try to understand what people are and what they want and what they feel and how it works, you know.

#21 (Hélio): What are your plans for the future (after your European tour)?

Troy: Well, ok we're doing some festivals in the summer and then October we'll do a full tour, full European tour 'cause this was only a couple of shows, really, you know. In October and maybe November we'll do a full tour, play everywhere, you know, play many many many shows. After that we will go back to Los Angeles and write the next album, continue writing and recording the album and then I will come to Europe with my acoustic music in March or April for B. Balthazar and do a tour.

Well, I've recorded a couple of singles, you know, a couple of 3 songs EPs (on my website: http://www.sweetreceiver.com) but by then I'll probably have many things to sell at the shows. I have a lot of songs recorded and ready to be on an album. I have more than an album with music. I'm just waiting for the right time and the right place, you know. Then after that hopefully more and more music and better music, after that.

Gianni & Hélio

Matamore (July 2002)