Interview Exclusive

Interview with CHOKE

15/10/2020 2020-10-15 02:00:00 JaME Author: Lucy C.H., Christine, Wicky

Interview with CHOKE

Roller coaster metal aiming to tear the world apart.

© CHOKE. Provided by Royal Stage
Formed in the Tokyo underground scene in 2017 by vocalist REON, guitarist KVYA NONO and bassist B5, visual rap metal band CHOKE has been experimenting with different genres to create their very own sound, aiming to break away from established patterns. Their songs feature high-gain and drop-tuned instruments; distorted riffs with fast guitar licks; heavy and often slapped basslines with thick punchy beats; intense breakdowns; and dynamic vocals with clear rapping switching with low gutturals and piercing screams.

CHOKE have taken advantage of digital distribution channels recently, expanding their music around the world and encouraging their listeners to speak their minds and tear the world apart.

For any readers who have not had the chance to listen to CHOKE yet, how would you describe the music you make?

REON: Many of our songs have been composed in a collage style, by adding different fragments from various musical styles into a single song. It has been said that this unexpected progression feels like a roller coaster ride. Thus, to put it into simple words, I think that “roller coaster metal” would be the perfect coined word to describe the genre of our band.

KVYA NONO: If we need to introduce ourselves, I would say that “our music is a combination of nu-metal and djent”. But actually, the music that we are doing lately has hard-core and trap elements as well. At this point, I don’t know how it is perceived by the listeners and I'm well aware of this situation. I would add that “our make-up looks are cool”. (laughs)

B5: I think the term 'crossover' fits well. Although the base of our music is metal, we integrate a diversity of elements into it. To be honest, I still don’t know how to describe it.

The lyrics in your single No problem at all seem to warn the listener about the dangers of mob mentality, misinformation, and people-pleasing. Would you like to expand on this? What inspired you to address these topics?

REON: The theme of the danger of mob mentality has been constantly on my mind. I feel that our current situation of dealing with the echo chamber effect that occurs on social media and other outlets is not different from the foundation of religious cults and radical political parties. Most people who are brainwashed believe that they are not being manipulated and that their own judgment has not been affected, but in reality, their minds have been invaded gently.

The phrase “mawata de shimetsukeru Like a Snake
~ (Being tied with floss silk, like a snake)” at the beginning of the song conveys exactly that point. To be out of that kind of risk, it is necessary to have strong values. To me, I found them in music. But what about you guys? I ask. I think that it’s possible to overcome any current hardships and move to the next level if you have such values. Therefore, I chose this title because in the end there is “No problem at all”.

In The Human Anthem you expand this reasoning somewhat and call for people to think outside the box and dare to be who they were originally meant to be before society got to them. It is an interesting message for a Japanese band, as Japanese society is often perceived by people in the West as extremely strict and codified. Did you write this song as a direct reaction to this phenomenon?

REON: If No problem at all points at people with no determination, The Human Anthem addresses those who live while repressing their will and desires. That’s how these songs can be classified. Those rules exist not only in Japan but in all countries and areas. In some cases, desires that don’t align with those rules arise on people; regardless of whether it is ethically right or wrong. Of course, you will be punished if you break the law and such behavior will be never be approved of.

Nevertheless, compared to “those humans who have been brainwashed by others” (which was the theme on No problem at all), these individuals exude an “eager energy” that makes them have a sparkier and more human-like existence. We praise this on The Human Anthem. If I can point that confidence in the right direction, I will be able to take my destiny down a better path. “Let’s live without being afraid of experience” is left as a final positive message.

It is difficult to classify your music into a single genre as you incorporate elements from so many different ones. Is this a conscious choice, or just the result of your individual musical backgrounds coming together?

REON: It is true to a certain extent that we intentionally mix all sorts of musical elements. Having that in mind, it might be referred to as experimental music. In this case, we can say that our completed songs are a “report of experimental studies”. Moreover, I want to be a fan of music rather than being only a musician. Without a doubt, the bands that had left more impact on me are those with a fresh and original touch. So, I want to be like that too. It is more important to us to be a band that always surprises the audience.

KVYA NONO: I like to look for new releases when I listen to music. So, I’m the kind of person who checks the charts on Billboard and Spotify in depth. These new songs are not always good, but I want CHOKE’s music to keep up with the latest trends in the scene. Even though I check out many sources in order to make our compositions unique; concerning sound, I prioritize the recording techniques from the analog era and then I look for recent innovations. CHOKE often incorporates the style of the good old days. I hope people can pay attention to such details.

B5: It is intentional. We know that our personal backgrounds are very different, and if we combine them it will be inevitable to have a diverse mix of styles. Consequently, the curiosity made us give it a try as we thought that it would turn out into something cool. Since all the members had the intention of doing the kind of music that they like with no restrictions, we were aware that chaotic songs would result. And even now, we are still enjoying doing this.

How do you think CHOKE’s sound will evolve in the future? Are there any particular sounds or themes that you are interested in exploring?

REON: At this point in our career, I believe that finally I have a clear idea of how to work and make music as CHOKE. Therefore, there is a big chance that a much wider variety of unconstrained music will be born. Personally, I would like to polish my skills in making hip-hop beats and rapping. Recently, I’ve been thinking of studying hip-hop from other countries like Russia and South Korea.

KVYA NONO: I think the nu-metal sound will be more present in the future. Also, I would like to significantly continue adding trap-core elements. The analog touch and the live sound feel will still come first, putting aside the digital options. Needless to say, taking care of the acoustics is important too. However, if I put much weight on it, the original sound of CHOKE might be left behind. I will make music without forgetting the essence of the band.

B5: It will depend on the inspiration of that specific moment. I like the fact that the future is unpredictable. But one thing’s for sure: we won’t stop doing what we want to do and we won’t let others' opinions get in our way. Thinking about music is always exciting.

You just released No problem at all and The Human Anthem on streaming services recently. Why was that? Are you hoping to tour abroad when the coronavirus pandemic is over?

REON: We were interested in having digital releases and we felt that this was the perfect time to try it. The advantage of a digital release is that you can listen to it immediately no matter where you live, but that doesn’t mean that we had lost our love and appreciation for CDs and physical records. For this reason, we will continue to select the best way to deliver our music. Touring overseas has been always one of our goals and we are working every day to make it happen.

KVYA NONO: I had the plan of releasing a music video for each song this year. Also, I told the members that it was important to carry a “speed sensation” along. Then, when the coronavirus emerged and all of us around the world were forced to stay home, I felt that I was being able to get closer to people outside Japan.

With the words “speed sensation” and “reaching overseas” in mind, I came to the conclusion that streaming would be the perfect choice for CHOKE's current activities. We've always longed to tour abroad. During this coronavirus pandemic, this desire has become even stronger. Definitely, we want to do it. I really want to go and perform overseas immediately.

B5: I would like to tour abroad if people want to see us live there. The streaming services allow you to listen to various artists regardless of the country or region you live in. Physical distribution was not possible due to the coronavirus crisis, so we started doing it online. It's a very convenient tool, isn’t it?

Finally, do have any messages for your overseas fans?

REON: It would be great to do a concert in your country. Thank you.

KVYA NONO: A lot of messages from international fans, who I haven’t met in person yet, gave me relief when I had to face difficult times in Japan. I will be forever grateful for that. I will do my best to meet you guys. I hope I can count on your help.

B5: Thank you for your interest in CHOKE and for taking the time to get to know us. I hope one day we will be able to play in front of you.

JaME would like to thank CHOKE and Royal Stage for this interview opportunity.

CHOKE released their second single The Human Anthem on September 11th on several streaming platforms, just three months after the release of No problem at all. There is also a limited edition of the single available via CHOKE's online store that includes a second song called Amyotrophic, as well as instrumental tracks, high quality audio files and lyric transcriptions.


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