Music Interview: Choke vs. Time

By Courtney Post

It is said the more things change, the more they stay the same. This cliche holds true for many good things in life and Edmonton punk quartet Choke is no exception. While their music has undergone many transformations throughout their career, the one constant is the band’s original line up. Choke comprises of Clay Shea (Bass/Vocals), Jack Jaggard (Guitar/Vocals), Shawn Moncrieff (Vocals/Guitar), and Sefan Levasseur (Drums). Choke started up in 1994 and haven’t looked back since.

“After we got to a certain point, and we’d made it this far, what would be the point in starting something new or quitting?” Asks Jaggard. “We’ve all just accepted that this is our life… If we tried something new, [since] we’ve been in Choke for so long, it wouldn’t be as fun.”

If a band is a marriage–or union in Kleinist terminology–then Choke are perfect monogamists, taking to heart the old “until death do us part” adage. Like any relationship Choke’s has required a lot of hard work to last this long. The secret behind the band’s longevity, in the end, can be boiled down to similar goals and interests.

“We all had really high expectations to write really cool music and to be really stoked about playing” Jaggard explains. “We’re four guys willing to push anything aside to continue playing.”

While this sounds very romantic, like any relationship, the honeymoon couldn’t last forever. This realization, and many more, surface in the band’s newest CD on Smallman Records, Slow Fade or: How I Learned to Question Infinity. While the title sounds quite complex, its explanation is simple.

“It’s the realization that this isn’t gonna last forever,” Jaggard continues. “It’s about grabbing a hold of what we have while we have it. Eventually we’re not gonna get to do this anymore, and it’s about the realization that time is not infinite.”

Luckily for fans, Choke doesn’t have any plans to put the guitars away any time soon, after the success of Slow Fade. Jaggard, like many critics, considers the album to be the band’s biggest accomplishment to date. Choke tries to change their sound from album to album, and this time around they reached new heights incorporating a lot more structure and flow to their customary break-neck speed, technical take on punk rock.

“There’s a little bit of experimentation as far as song writing style and sound effects,” explains Jaggard of the swirling guitar effects, experimental tempos, and lush atmosphere populating the songs. “We always just try to write stuff we haven’t tried before, that’s kind of our goal.”

Currently touring in Western Canada, the band will be making a stop in Calgary on September 8th with Ghosts of a Modern Man. Jaggard is clearly excited about the tour.

“This show is gonna be pretty rad if no one has seen Ghosts of a Modern Man,” he says. “They absolutely tear the skin off your face. If you haven’t seen them before you should.”

So 11 years and six records later Choke is now considered to be one of the best punk bands in Canada. They’ve made many changes along the way, but one thing they’ve kept the same is who they are and what they stand for. Despite the temptations of widespread radio-play and stardom the band has continued to make music for their fans, not the music industry. Past albums such as Foreward prove this opportunity was knocking at the door but the band chose to stick to their roots.

“We could’ve gone a way that was more marketable, but we said ‘screw this’ and stayed true to what was us,” Jaggard explains. ” We even kinda put our foot down.”

Decisions like this have endeared the band to fans and contributed to the hell of a relationship they’ve endured, and they’re not about to give up now.

“We’re gonna have to get remarried and have another honeymoon,” jokes Jaggard.