Interview with CHOKE about『Hack to the basic』

Hello folks, this time I share two interviews with CHOKE.
One by JROCKNROLL and one by Nagasawa Tomonori
Both are translated by Royal Stage

To read both interviews on JROCKNROLL just check out this topic!
You will also find a link to the French version of Nagasawa’s interview.

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

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.

Mini interview by JROCKNROLL, reveals some stuff which isn’t said it Nagasawa’s interview! Please enjoy! (This one is also available in Spanish on JRNR!)

What’s the concept of Hack to the basic?

REON: “Back to the basic[s]” was the phrase and image that came to my mind when I listened to the song for the first time. For this reason, I started to work on this with the basic feeling of enjoying the music.

KVYA NONO: This work was made focused on “Nu-metal”. This word is very important to our own existence and to stay true to ourselves so we decided to return to this point at the end of 2020.

B5: What makes us CHOKE? We went into retrospect mode and reflected on our roots… the things that only we are able to do, I guess. I’m not sure if that’s really an answer.

Why did you choose to name this single “Hack to the basic”?

REON: I combined the words “Back” and “Hack” from the phrase “Back to the basic[s]”. I wanted to give a more proactive connotation rather than just being a retrospection. That’s how I came out with this title.

What was the biggest inspiration for this single? (composing and lyrics)

REON: I wanted to bring out the catchiness and the exciting vibe of the rap bands that were popular in Japan a long time ago. Regarding the lyrics, I put a lot of thought into how I could evoke that mood.

KVYA NONO: I set to work on this song after I found a sample that starts after 45 seconds from the beginning. The music in the latter half of the ’90s and the early first decade of the ’2000s is filled with that kind of atmosphere and makes you want to move. Nevertheless, I was unsure about the first and last sections of the lead guitar, so it took almost 4 months to be completed. I wanted to create a dark and mysterious atmosphere but the pieces just didn’t fit. Eventually, I was able to finish it off by taking inspiration from the Japanese city pop that emerged in recent years.

Please give us some details about the MV. (the concept behind the shooting, etc.)

REON: The shooting of this music video was done during the period when concerts were canceled or postponed. In consequence, the act itself of performing inside a venue was very significant and the footage is filled with that message.

KVYA NONO: The lyrics are linked to the many memories and hopes wrapped up in the music venues. We realized it during that time. The shooting was in July, it was our first visit to a concert hall after a long time so we obviously got really hyped up. That mood was fully captured in the footage and it’s the main highlight of the music video!

B5: “It’s live!!!”, I guess. It was an idea that has been warming up for a long time, but we finally were able to implement it in this song.

Please leave some liner notes about the concept of each track.

1. Hack to the basic
REON: The basics of activities until now have been changing significantly due to COVID-19 and therefore I thought that we as humans should create new basics. It’s not about fighting the virus, it’s to take a stance where we need to be conscious of fighting against the saturated society of nowadays and its sense of values.

KVYA NONO: I’m going to talk a little bit about the guitar approach. The lower notes in this song are on a higher scale and use only up to the 7th string of an 8-string guitar. I added a lot of funk strumming, which I have rarely implemented until now. On the other hand, rather than prioritize meticulous technique, I thought that it would be great to highlight a wild feeling in the recording.

B5: The rhythm of these 2 songs is different from other CHOKE songs. This might be the distinctive feature of this single.

2. Stay high (ReTAKE)
REON: It’s a re-recorded version of this song that was included in our first album. The energy of this song has constantly changed with the experience gathered after playing it over time. The outcome was a thoroughly polished version.

KVYA NONO: The guitar approach is technically more difficult than in the previous version. The drums also got more technical and that gives it a dynamic impression to it. This song delivers the excitement produced in the concerts.

What did you enjoy the most while working on the single?

REON: I went prepared with the lyrics ready but at the time of the actual recording, things didn’t turn out as I thought. I changed words, I modified the way of singing and I had to adapt myself to work on the spur of the moment. It was stressful, but it was very satisfying when the recording ended up being good.

KVYA NONO: Recently, I spend more time in the mixing and mastering process than doing my own recording. I feel that this time the sound of the bass turned out to be really good, I was especially pleased with the result on “Stay high”. The bass drum is great too. The drumming technique is not focused on an attacking style, the approach is to create a heavy sound instead.

B5: I played with a bass guitar that I had never used in a CHOKE recording before. I thought it was the perfect one for this song. It went well as expected. I was quite inspired at that moment.

What sets this single apart from previous releases?

REON: It does not refer to a really serious matter. If you listen to our two past albums, you will notice that those show our serious side and unique facet. On this occasion, it’s a work with loud music and that’s its special feature.

KVYA NONO: The basic rhythm of this song uses a shuffle feel. This is the first CHOKE composition that implements that. I told my bandmates not to be too rhythmical with their instruments and asked them to shorten the upbeat. The result is a musical arrangement with great energy while keeping a heavy sound.

B5: As REON early said, it’s a song with a fun atmosphere. The key of the single is having a rhythm that makes you move.

Leave a comment about the jacket design (Who was in charge of the design? Why did you want to create that kind of atmosphere? etc.)

REON: Each member shared their ideas and my proposal was chosen at the end. I saw many images while searching, but only this one had something special. I was drawn to it because I felt that this picture of someone practicing ballet passionately in a room located in the city is linked to the lyrics.

KVYA NONO: Since I have zero talent for design, I pretty much left it to REON.

B5: NONO was the one who put together the ideas from REON. We haven’t had any jacket design like this before, so it’s refreshing!

You earlier mentioned “Japanese city pop” as an inspiration. What is the key element that you used from this music genre? If you compare it to CHOKE’s music, JCP is much slower and quieter (easy to fall asleep while listening to it). Which makes me wonder, how did you receive inspiration from JCP music?

REON: I think that the emphasis of city pop music relies especially on the beat. For this reason, even if the genre is different, there are many elements from city pop where we can take inspiration from.

KVYA NONO: City pop has a really smooth and pleasant chord progression. The song is complex and it was constructed using many harsh sounds, so I thought that city pop would fit well into the progression of the chorus and I gave it a try.

B5: Personally, I am not influenced by it. It’s hard for me to give a comment in this regard.

NU-METAL is your roots. Since you stated that you went back to your roots with this single, does that mean that your previous releases didn’t include the true NU-METAL feeling?

REON: Our previous two albums contain several songs with a nu metal-like approach. Therefore, to us, this is our regular style. I believe that people who are familiar with those songs already see it as an essential element.

KVYA NONO: Despite the fact that it was described as a return to nu-metal, I think CHOKE has always been a nu-metal band. Nonetheless, the nu-metal expression is stronger than ever in this work and thus I dared to make such a statement.

B5: The nu-metal influence is definitely present in all the songs we have released so far. Our first and second albums are very influenced by this. Those albums are not available on digital platforms but you can listen to them and watch the music videos on YouTube.

Please leave a very last comment about this release. Tell the reader why he/she should check it out!

REON: Hopefully, you can check our 3rd single “Hack to the basic”. It would make me happy if you did. Also, I hope you will get the feeling of enjoying music with ease.

KVYA NONO: This song is an expression of our nu-metal roots to the fullest. Moreover, it features such characteristics as a catchy chorus and a particular lead guitar that make it a song that only CHOKE can produce. Please listen to it a lot.

B5: I’d love to play this song live in front of all of you someday. Listen to it a lot for the time being.

need more CHOKE?

Check out (Japanese, English and Spanish)