Interview: Jon & Troy, 2002/05/17, Havana Café, Toulouse (France) – Only Angels Have Wings

Can you introduce yourselves?

Troy: I am Troy from Chokebore, I sing and play guitar.

John: my name is Jonathan from Chokebore, I play guitar.

Can you tell us about Pale Blue, the label for this album?

Troy: well, it's a new label in France. Seems to be pretty cool. We've known the man who runs it for a long time, he really likes Chokebore a lot. We're actually the only artist on the label right now. So it's cool.

Do you know if there are others bands to be signed on this label?

Troy: right now it's just Chokebore, maybe in the future they will do more.

Do you have a distributor in the States?

Troy: probably in the fall, we don't have it yet. We're trying to figure out.

Are you really more successful in France and in Europe in general than in the States?

Troy: probably I'd say yes because we haven't played there very much over the years, we've really played here probably ten times more than in USA. We were doing really good there and then we came to Europe for the first time and we loved it so much. And we just stopped playing over there.

Can you tell us what happened during the recording of the new album?

Troy: well, it was very different. The other albums, we would go into the studio and do everything one time instead of staying for a week, stay there and live there, and not think about anything else. But this time we were in Los Angeles, it was a bit harder to concentrate. It is always hard making an album, but it doesn't matter. What matters is how it sounds. And I think it sounds pretty cool.

"It's a Miracle" sounds somehow cleaner than "Black Black" and A Taste for Bitters.

Troy: well it's a different place you know, we also mixed it a bit different. The other stuff was probably mixed a little more indie, because everything was equal, voice was lower, drums were louder. This is a little more like a triangle.

John: it's also interesting to do different things with different albums. It doesn't make any sense to do the same thing again. When we start a new album we don't have any concrete plans, but we do have ideas of things we want to do that we haven't done before. And that's the interesting part. It becomes mechanical if all you do is going there and repeat the same process each time.

What do you think of your first albums now? "Motionless", "Anything Near Water"...

Troy: there are some good songs in there. Good songs and bad songs.

John: I don't listen to our albums that much, even if I do it's more for just hear what we did. It seems strange sitting around your house, entertaining yourself at your own music. We've recorded what we wanted to at each time, and I think it all works even if it's not something we would write now.

Troy: I think we got better at writing songs.

Why is the album intitled "It's a Miracle"?

Troy: you should answer that.

John: because we came up with this title.

There's no particular reason?

John: no, no solid reason.

Troy: well, actually we were playing a show in the USA and we were looking for a title of a song.

John: it was suggested from someone in the audience. We were on stage and we announced "this is a new song, it doesn't have a title, does anyone have any suggestion?" and someone screamed out "it's a miracle". Then we stole it from the song because we didn't want to have the title to be a song from the record. We wanted something separate.

Does one of you bring the songs complete or do the four of you work altogether on bribes of songs?

Troy: it's different each time.

John: it all depends.

Troy: sometimes it's just a piece of a song and we all write everything, each person writes something different most of the time. Sometimes one person has a pretty much full song and brings it to the band, the band works on it and it becomes a band song.

Do you create when you record, or before?

Troy: well it's both. On this album, a couple of songs, I sang them totally different then we rehearsed them. And that's how it is forever.

John: most of the time, when we are writing songs, because you're playing guitar you can't do other things. We write the songs, and structure the songs and always keep in our minds when we're in studio and work on other things. We structure but also leave free time, like lose time, just to work on different melodies or different ideas. It's a combination of both.

Is it a slow process for you?

John: it depends. Sometimes a song seems right almost immediately, sometimes we beat the hell out of it, we work on it, we shape it. We even throw the song away, and a year later we take a part from it.

On your last tour in France you played some songs of this album. Were they already set in your mind for the studio?

John: we played a few, yes. I think that last year when we were here, we also had a bunch more songs and we were still trying to figure out what would be the album, what songs would be on it or not. We enjoy playing new songs so we are playing a lot, we don't really start thinking of what's going to be on the record until we get in the studio and start working.

Do you consider that Black Black was a milestone for Chokebore?

Troy: I think it's cool because it was really dark and it's good to have that as part of what we did. No one can ever say that we don't write real music. Some people didn't like it or liked it in a strange way, you know. Milestone? It changed the band for sure, because it was so dark, and dark times, we start to come out of that, which is good.

What happened during the tour?

Troy: it was just a really hard tour.

John: physically, mentally.

That's why it appears in the lyrics: "I'm looking back against the tour of black black"...

Troy and John: yeah.

Why don't you use the piano more often? Do you play these songs live?

Troy: playing live is a little hard because I don't like to use keyboards unless it's really cool old keyboard, and it's really expensive.

John: actually, we did have another song on the album that was piano based.

Troy: why don't we do more of it? It's kind of a guitar-based band.

Do you think it's way too different? "Where Is the Assassin?" is really in the mood of Black Black.

John: I think it's just the fact that we are guitarists and used to write on.

Troy: I am hopeful we will do more and more. Piano is a beautiful instrument.

John: that's all my favourite thing to listen to at home, just piano music with nothing else, no people.

Troy: I write a lot of stuff on piano, sometimes we take that to guitar, sometimes it stays piano.

Do you plan to release the B. Balthazar album soon?

Troy: not necessarily soon, I have to find the right person to release it, the right company, and make sure it's the right thing to do at the right time. Right now I am just concentrating on Chokebore. For me it's good to step away from what you do in your life, and I think about Chokebore every minute of every day. It's good to step away a little bit to learn some new things and try some new things and then come back to Chokebore. And hopefully that makes Chokebore better.

You played with Interpol at La Route du Rock festival, they told us they liked you, did you like them?

John: band from New York? I didn't hear so much.

Troy: I didn't hear. They sound like really nice guys.

John: we didn't meet them actually. I watched Pulp from the side of the stage cos I enjoy Pulp, and I had never seen them live before. It was fun to watch the guitar player, cos they actually did a lot of the sounds that are on the record, they do live, I mean, there was a lot of... crap. It's fun to watch. That was really the only show I watched. Bits and pieces.

Do you plan on touring this summer?

John: we gonna play a festival in France, Evreux and then Dour in Belgium. And then Pop in Cologne. And then, more like a club tour in the fall. A larger club tour in Europe.

Do you want to say anything special? It's a free moment.

Troy: express yourself. We could dance or something.

John: I want to use my free moment to get to know Troy better. What will you do with your free moment?

Troy: I am going to think of my holidays.

John: We have a week off after tonight.

Troy: I am going to a friend's house. There is nobody at the house, I am going to sit there for six days all by myself, play guitar.

John: my brother is going to go to Spain. Me and the drummer we're gonna go to Nantes and probably sit in the country and play guitar for a few days, relax. That's what we've been doing all day, trying to figure out where in the hell we are going to go tomorrow.

Thanks a lot.

Troy (playing with an apple in his hands): thank you for the interview. You guys are coming to the show?


Angus Anderson, Seb Wood and Barbara H

Only Angels Have Wings (2002/05/17)