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CHOKE reveals the emotions packed into the digital single “Hack to the basic”!

Original interview by Tomonori Nagasawa vues.jp. Published in Jan 2021.
English translation by Royal Stage. Also available in French and Spanish.
In collaboration with Crimson Lotus and JROCK’N’ROLL.

The band CHOKE has recently released their digital single Hack to the basic. With the world immersed in fear and panic due to the invisible threat of coronavirus, this year CHOKE is not focusing on the COVID-19 virus itself. The band is mocking the hysterical society and expressing the importance to evaluate ourselves, just as they did with the cynical approach on their past digital singles No problem at all and The Human Anthem.

In contrast to the alternative loud compositions, loaded with intricate elements and harsh lyrics, of “No problem at all” and “The Human Anthem”; CHOKE gets fully into nu-metal with “Hack to the basic” and declares through the positive attitude framed into the lyrics and the melody that they’re will continue making their way out no matter the circumstances. Hopefully, this interview will help others to understand what CHOKE wants to convey. 

Rather than pointing out a problem like in our past two releases, I was eager to make a more optimistic and enjoyable song.

CHOKE has declared through “Hack to the basic” that music venues are your living space. Aren’t they?

REON: As a band, it’s all about live performances. At the moment, every venue is implementing its own safety guidelines such as “you can only raise your voice if you’re using a mask” or “moshing is prohibited”. We can’t have the same atmosphere, so it’s also difficult for the audience to have fun as before. In this case, CHOKE is taking the initiative to show a new way to enjoy concerts. That feeling was injected into “Hack to the basic” and I hope all of you can feel it as well. At the same time, it is a remark of our determination to move forward. The music has an upbeat vibe, I think that serves as a good hook.

Compared to the digital singles No problem at all and The Human Anthem, this new single is a lot catchier indeed.

REON: “Hack to the basic” is a groovy song. For this reason, rather than pointing out a problem like in our past two releases, I was eager to make a more optimistic and enjoyable song.

Did you compose this song with the intention of having a “good hook” in mind?

KVYA NONO: At our beginnings, others often referred to CHOKE as a “nu-metal revival band”. Since last year, we have constantly performed along with bands from the metalcore scene and heavy visual kei acts. We realized that there lots of great metalcore bands. That made us reflect on which direction we should move next and what kind of music we should play. We talked about “getting back to our nu-metal roots”, that’s how this work was made with that intention. Actually, the idea of making a song with a nu-metal taste has been always in the air, but we missed the right time to release it. We were finally able to do it. Also, our support drummer Toshiya Sato has a style that emphasizes the groove. I was strongly inspired by that and gave me that boost to return to our nu-metal origins.

Toshiya Sato: When I got the demo, KVYA NONO told me that he wanted to make this song with a great focus on the catchiness. Thus, I tried to blend my own beat with CHOKE’s world, without overlooking REON’s rap and the rhythm from the strings team.

B5: We formed this band because all the members shared the same music background and we were on the same channel regarding the kind of music we wanted to make. As the result of getting back to that point and approaching it in a new way, “Hack to the basic” is the evolved sound of the style that we were carrying along since our beginnings.

“Hack to the basic” was born from the scent of the nu-metal movement, which was popular in the early 2000s, fused with elements from the old-school hip hop and a mixture of the atmosphere of the Japanese style.

When I listened to “Hack to the basic”, I got the feeling of “mixture” that is often used in the Japanese scene.  You can feel the aura of those days from the song.

B5: “Hack to the basic” was born from the scent of the nu-metal movement, which was popular in the early 2000s, fused with elements from the old-school hip hop and a mixture of the atmosphere of the Japanese style. We have been lived immersed in that air. We thought it would be great to bring out a band that delivers the vibe of those years but with a fresh style. We made “Hack to the basic” with that in mind and I think that the song definitely pulls it off.  

It seems like CHOKE is evoking nostalgia without being utterly retro.

B5: We added scratching and brought over some of the typical touches, but it projects a modern groove too. But more than anything, the most important subject in “Hack to the basic” is to have fun.

KVYA NONO: In my interpretation of nu-metal, the key point is the implementation of sampling in conjunction with a touch of hip hop. This release was focused on such elements; for this reason, the B-track, “Stay high (retake)”, is a song that features scratching and samples of a female voice. Moreover, I deliberately prioritized a downer and loose mood in contrast to the slam energy from the 2000s and the characteristic “hey” flow from classic hip hop. “Hack to the basic” is a song with a shuffle feel; however, it doesn’t feel like a bouncy beat because I tried to eliminate all the swing as much as possible. In particular, I think the guitar conveys an underground vibe.

CHOKE is not the kind of band that makes music for boisterous parties, right?

KVYA NONO: No. I mean, I can’t see REON shouting “Oh, yeah!” at a concert. Can you? Certainly, the song has a strong taste of hip hop and it carries a cool vibe that resembles a party style, but the chorus has some influence of the loose mood and mature chords from city pop. CHOKE is the kind of band that can turn this into a downer. I was very conscious of this when I made it.

B5: Nevertheless, in concerts, this song stands out from others because of its cool groove. The lyrics of “Hack to the basic” are interesting since people can make different interpretations. Depending on the listener’s perspective, it can be positive or negative. I hope you can see it as a song which meaning it’s up to each person.

Instead of making adjustments, even if we have to start all over, we need to create a new way to live. Otherwise, the situation where we and our close ones stand now won’t change.

Please talk about the feelings packed into the lyrics of “Hack to the basic”.

REON: Our lives have been at the mercy of the coronavirus crisis since last year. We haven’t found a solution yet, so we are still in chaos. I felt like this at the beginning of the past spring when around May or June the people in power gave the guidelines on how we should proceed. The fact is that they didn’t show us anything. Or maybe they did, but that didn’t resonate with me at all and I couldn’t see anything for the future. I thought “if we have to wait for someone to guide us, we’ll just get stuck”. “No problem at all” and “The Human Anthem” were born from that anxiety and discontent. I wanted to encourage people to choose their own path to move forward through these songs. I could have expressed my dissatisfaction once again, but I wanted to go in a more positive direction. Therefore, I included an optimistic message into the track.

Respecting the sound, as the other members already said, nu-metal is the basics of my own musical style. The composition itself was made with the purpose of “getting back to our basics” and the lyrics also expressed the idea of “back to the basic[s]”. However, there was no good twist, so I changed the first letter to turn it into “Hack to the basic”. This way it has the meaning of “cut off” or “hack”. In other words, it means “to wreck the current set of basics”. That foundation led to the actual lyrics.

With “to wreck the current set of basics”, do you mean “let’s change our present situation and the world”?

REON: If this self-isolation mood continues for a while, we will get used to it and this lifestyle will become the norm. And judging from how things are going on nowadays, this situation will remain the same. Instead of making adjustments, even if we have to start all over, we need to create a new way to live. Otherwise, the situation where we and our close ones stand now won’t change. To sum it up, the current CHOKE has decided to follow its own path and break new ground, without minding what others are doing. That feeling was packed into “Hack to the basic”.

At the same time, I have felt a strong connection to people who like CHOKE and have gotten in touch with the emotions from those persons while performing live. Now, there is also a connection with people from around the world who really like us. I wanted to deliver a positive message to those too. I would like B5 to explain his approach regarding the sound next.

Please let us know your thoughts.

B5: This time, for “Hack to the basic”, I brought into play a bass that I used to perform with frequently in the past. That bass model was the typical one used for many bassists when nu-metal was at its peak. Since the theme was about returning to nu-meal, I took that specific bass (which I hadn’t used for a long time). It was a good fit.

This single it’s not only about going “Back to the basic[s]”, but going “Back to CHOKE”.

You got “Back to CHOKE” through “Hack to the basic”. Are you going to continue to develop your most recent style?

KVYA NONO: The B-track of this digital single is “Stay high(retake)”, which is the re-recorded version of this song from our first album. We often play this song, so that led us to discuss if this type of nu-metal is the style that CHOKE should pursue. Recently, CHOKE has been emphasizing the complexity with an “in your face” attitude, but we have been asking ourselves if we should keep the approach taken in “Hack to the basic”. Or maybe we should go in a completely different direction… To be honest, we don’t have a clear idea yet, since it will depend on our mood at the moment. I hope people look forward to whatever we come out with.

If we talk about CHOKE, my impression is that you’re a band with an intricate musical style; but in fact, your basic style is nu-metal. Isn’t it?

KVYA NONO: That’s correct. Furthermore, I think people are more into minimalism than complexity lately. “Hack to the basic” is a track that can be played with the tuning for a 6-string guitar. Basically, I use the standard tuning but dropping some strings into two notes lower to give it a particular hook.

B5: This was all inspired by the drumming style of Toshiya Sato. His approach really shines on a song with a good rhythm.

Toshiya Sato: All the members know very well my particular drumming style. I’m that type that has greedily adopted various musical styles, not only extreme metal. My disposition is always to play in order to fit the taste of the song, even if it’s only an 8-beat rhythm. This time, in “Hack to the basic”, I aimed to infuse metal with a modern pop groove. I feel I was able to put heaviness and a cool groove together successfully.

KVYA NONO: This single it’s not only about going “Back to the basic[s]”, but going “Back to CHOKE”. Isn’t it?

B5: I think so. We have tried several things but, after reflecting on who we are, we got back to our basics… right?

We have lived breathing the air of nu-metal. Can’t we get wrapped in the atmosphere of those days and go on stage again and be even more aggressive?!

CHOKE has thrown out a riddle to the future in the trailer of “Hack to the basic”.

KVYA NONO: As I edited the video myself entirely, I grasped REON’s consciousness and presented it from my perspective on how to pose the problem. Depending on how you look at it, it may be interpreted in a negative way. But let me tell you something, CHOKE’s future looks bright and we will be planning many things for 2021.

REON: Throughout the year, I’ve seen bands breaking up or giving up on live activities due to the COVID-19 impact. It’s something that you can still see frequently. If you only keep feeling bad about it, things will remain the same. Instead of only seeing the glass half-empty, what about trying to make something positive out of this? Me, the other members, and CHOKE itself are pretty much the type that is driven to face any challenge. This band will never have a pessimistic attitude, regardless of the circumstances.

B5: That’s because we wanted to convey a positive message with “Hack to the basic” at the end of 2020, this way we will continue making headway in 2021 as CHOKE.

KVYA NONO: In 2021, we won’t slow down the release pace and we will be focusing on our basic activities while polishing our skills.

B5: We have lived breathing the air of nu-metal. Can’t we get wrapped in the atmosphere of those days and go on stage again and be even more aggressive?!

KVYA NONO: We showed our tricky side in our past two releases, but our essence comes from the nu-metal style. We returned to our origins and brought up a positive approach with “Hack to the basic”. Please experience it by yourself.

Toshiya Sato: “No problem at all”, “The Human Anthem”, and “Hack to the basic” are the three songs that will become CHOKE’s new basics, which the band is facing the future with. And, in particular, “Hack to the basic” is the one that will be a turning point in 2021 without a doubt.

REON: It will be like that the whole year. Since it seems that the self-isolation practice will continue, modern society will adopt this as their new basic way to live. But we can’t just sit there forever. We will break through and move on to the next stage (way of life). We have to return to our set of basics (Back to the basic) to find our real essence and build new basics. That’s the way how CHOKE is living now.

♫ Listen to “Hack to the basic” on digital platforms: https://linkco.re/AvAAm3pE?lang=en

CHOKE – Hack to the basic

Download / Stream
01. Hack to the basic

Limited edition (online store)
Download
01. Hack to the basic
02. Stay high (ReTAKE)
03. Hack to the basic -Instrumental-
04. Stay high (ReTAKE) -Instrumental-
– Hi-res WAV audio files (24-bit/96kHz)
–  MP3, FLAC, and AIFF audio files
– Lyrics sheet (jpg)

About CHOKE

CHOKE is an emerging nu-metal/visual kei band from Japan. They started with the overall goal of creating a unique sound by mixing rap metal with djent. Their experimental music, nevertheless, does not stick to only one genre and has evolved since their formation in 2017. CHOKE have incorporated into their sound hard-core, trap-core, metalcore, thrash and groove metal influences while adding electronic, symphonic, or progressive elements into the mix. CHOKE offers a peculiar dissonant blend of heavy music with hip hop rhythm.

Their cranked-up songs feature dropped tuning instruments, intense breakdowns, distorted riffs with fast guitar licks, heavy vibrating bass lines along with thick punchy drum beats. The dynamic vocals combine clear rapping with low growls and piercing screams. Harsh and edgy lyrics regularly express social criticism and dogma rejection. CHOKE will start a fire on the listeners to speak up their minds and tear the world apart!

Official Sites

Homepage: http://choke.tokyo
YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCrDOWcdZEzCe_2dOExp67cg
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/choke.tokyo
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CHOKEofficialEN
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/choke.tokyo
Spotify: https://spoti.fi/3nB4onR
Apple Music: https://apple.co/3i6Nw7e

Line-up

REON – Vocals
KVYA NONO – Guitar
B5 – Bass
Toshiya Sato – Drums (support)


CHOKE International Online Store

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