Chokehold

Ever been so intrigued or moved by something that you couldn’t get it out of your head? That’s pretty much how Canadian Hardcore band Chokehold has been for me since the age of 15. I managed to get in touch with mouthpiece Chris Logan to get a bit of info and a few words on his views of the band some 17 years after their final performance in New Bedford, Ma in 1996. So read away, share away, and stay angry. 

Chokehold

“Think. Question it.” These 3 words are very good advice when approaching difficult and highly subjective social issues that involve rigorous mental processing. To come up with a logical conclusion that fits into one’s personal agenda, a person must weigh many different viewpoints, factual or otherwise, to come up with a stance that makes the most sense for their environment. Like most hardcore bands of the time, Hamilton, Canada’s Chokehold had very strong opinions and ideas on many social issues, and it was clear they weren’t backing down from anyone.

Chokehold exemplifies one of the best examples of early, straight edge vegan drop D chug hardcore. It’s not difficult to play, sounds heavy as hell, and offers all participants involved a constructive way to vent their frustrations. In their 6 years together, the group managed to put out a small handful of sonically poor, often sloppy releases, but the tension and anger they displayed through their songs far outweighed their obvious musical amateurism.

I never got a chance to see the band, but stories of their performances are now that of legend. They’ll be the first to tell you they were not very good, but the music was secondary to the message… Chokehold had something to say, and they were going to say it. 17 years after their last show in New Bedford, Massachusetts, I decided to get in contact with front man Chris Logan to discuss the group’s motivation, rise, controversies, political stances, and their untimely demise.

Interview:

G- Hi Chris and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five. Chokehold has been dead for many years, but the legend of the band lives on. Can you tell us a bit about how the band got started, and how you got involved with hardcore. What was the climate in the hardcore scene like back then?

C- Thanks for giving a shit so many years later haha. Basically, my introduction to hardcore was mainly through Jeff (guitar player) and Matt (drummer) from Chokehold.  I was listening to mostly punk and metal, and when I started to hang out with them, they would tell me a lot of hardcore bands to check out. 

At that time, I had Minor Threat and Youth Of Today records, but I just thought they were weird punk bands that didn’t sound like GBH and Dead Kennedy’s.  The band just started up with the three of us (the same three that ended the band) getting together with the intention of starting a hardcore band.  Matt and Jeff are brothers and were already jamming in their basement, and I originally played bass guitar in the band with another friend on vocals.  That didn’t work out almost immediately, and I ended up moving to vocals and the rest is history. 

In our city, there was no scene at that time. We basically started it from the ground up putting on our own shows at local bars and bringing bands from Buffalo and Detroit over to play.  We would just invite friends from our high school and it grew from there.

We kind of called Buffalo home for a while because that is where we spent most weekends watching bands play. The scene was amazing at that time in Upstate NY… Such amazing shows, and a great vibe and community.  Shows in Syracuse and Buffalo and Rochester were all very fucking awesome. 

G- They certainly were! Now, tracks like “Depopulation” left me absolutely floored when I thought about the possibility of AIDS being introduced by the government to rid the population of “undesirables.” In many ways, Chokehold seemed to be more of a social response than a creative outlet… The music was a medium to convey thoughts and opinions on tough subject matter… What was it that sparked your need to communicate these possibilities?

C- The need was to change the climate of the scene at that time.  Every band’s record was the hardcore formula… One part straight edge, one part stabbed in the back, one part anti-sexism, one part anti-racism, etc etc.  No one was screaming about real world problems, and everyone was screaming to the converted.  We wanted to introduce some change and maybe get a dialogue going about some new shit we could change or at least bring attention to.  We have a room full of smart and angry kids, so why not challenge the government or religion etc etc.  

G- Right on. By your own admission, Chokehold was not a good band, but you certainly played a lot of shows. Why do you feel the group has such appeal and how did it become what it did?

C- We were a pretty terrible band, especially at the very start.  All of us just picked up instruments and played them and used whatever shit we could afford.   The urgency was to play hardcore and write pissed off music… That was it. 

When we played, we gave everything… There was no act or insincerity. That rage was flowing through each of us and we could feel it up there coming off of each other.  If there was 4 kids or 400, it didn’t fucking matter.  I think the appeal was that we didn’t stand up there like we were better or knew more… We were just kids like every person standing in front of us and they were just as tired and angry as we were.  There was a lot of energy flowing at those shows, and people could feel it. 

Chokehold

Photo by Sean Capone

G- In the band’s brief time together, you had considerable lineup changes, with you being the only constant… Why did the lineup shift as often as it did, and as mouthpiece, were you aware of the impact of your words?

C- Well, I will correct you on one thing… The band was always Me, Jeff and Matt.  The three of us were there from start to finish, but the bass player spot and second guitar spot were constantly revolving.  It sucked for touring, but never stopped us.  We would just fill the spot with someone and go.  I think it may have hurt the band a little at times, but we dealt with it.  In my opinion, the line up we had for the Prison Of Hope years was the most powerful and energetic.  

I had no idea if my words meant anything to anyone, and a lot of them were written by Jeff and I. We shared lyric writing on most records.  We just came to a decision that we didn’t want to write about the same re-hashed shit that every hardcore band was singing about. 

G- There was a fake flyer being passed around the interwebs of Chokehold reuniting for a Conquer The World anniversary show, and it quickly went viral in many hardcore circles, offering proof that the band still has a strong influence in scene… Did you ever get to the bottom of where the post came from?

C- No, I have no idea who made it, but the response was pretty flattering. We were bombarded by people asking what was going on so they could make travel arrangements. 

G- Shit… I’d have traveled, too!!! And speaking of Conquer The World, there was much controversy about the label and how they treated Chokehold and other bands back in the day. Can you explain what really happened with Chokehold and the label, and is their still tension between the label and Chokehold?

C- There was some tension between us, but it was mostly comical.  Mike is a strange dude and I truly believe that he really doesn’t think he was ripping anyone off.  I know for a fact he sold a LOT of our records.  I mean a lot.  All we ever wanted was records to sell and that was it.  But it was hard keeping track of the pressings he was doing. 

In retrospect, I could give a shit.  I can’t speak for the entire band, but I happen to like Mike and think he’s a good dude.  He has some issues and I think he probably ripped a few bands off without really realizing, but we took what was ours and moved on.  I don’t forget that he played an important part of the bands success and for that I am grateful to him. 

G- Regarding politics, Chokehold was one of the earliest of the 90’s hardcore bands to actively promote a straight edge vegan lifestyle to its followers, and helped propel the ethos to thousands of fans. Are you still living a drug/alcohol/animal free lifestyle? What was your reasoning behind promoting this way of living?

C- I don’t know if we promoted it, or if we just wrote a few songs about it because at that time it was important to everyone in the band.  It was definitely a focus of ours early on, but sort of became less important for us to write songs about as we went forward.  

I mean, we wanted to be more than just a straight edge band.  Like “Yes, fine… Here is our SXE anthem. Can we move onto something else?” Don’t get me wrong, it was important, but not what we wanted to be remembered for. 

I am no longer Straight Edge and have not been for a while now.  I do not do drugs though.  I still believe they suck. 

G- Chokehold strongly held to a Pro-Choice stance regarding abortion, and at one point there was a huge controversy with Hardline devotees, culminating at a show that nearly pitted Chokehold vs. Abnegation… Can you explain what went down there, and why the topic was as polarizing as it was in the hardcore scene back then?

C- I don’t know man … That shit was crazy.  No song we wrote caused so much bullshit.  What can be said?  A woman’s body is hers and she decides what she does with it, not a room full of fucking sweaty hardcore kids or a room full of kid-touching religious nuts. 

The face of the pro-life movement is largely male, which I find hilarious.  When you give the government control over peoples bodies, then it is game over for the human race. That is all we were trying to say. 

G- Much to the chagrin of hardcore kids everywhere, the group ultimately disbanded in 1996 after European tour… What made you decide to disband?

C- We were all tired.  The European tour was a huge wake up for us.  Driving around on a fucking huge bus with bunks in it?  Rolling into a shitty squat in Germany to play in front of 6 people in our huge tour bus?  We wanted to kill ourselves nightly. 

We didn’t know what we were getting into over there.  We played to 3 people, and to a few thousand people… It was fucked. At the end of that tour, we had been on the road for over 3 months and we just fizzled out.  Everyone had different ideas of how the band should continue and none of us could agree, so we just said fuck it.  We did what we wanted to do. 

G- You have stated numerous times that Chokehold is a dead group and will never perform again, even with people continually calling for it to happen. Why will Chokehold never reunite, or what would it take to make a reunion take place for those of us who never got a chance to see the group perform?

C- A couple of years ago, we discussed it very briefly and decided that it was probably never going to happen.  We are constantly being asked to play shows or fests every single year, so we actually talked about playing and it went nowhere and that was that. 

Are the three of us still pissed off?  Yes… Probably more than ever!!!  Are we all straight edge?  Nope. Does that matter to us in order to play again? It’s hard to say.  I have written it off as dead for good, but a fantasy of mine would be to get together with Matt and Jeff and write a couple new Chokehold songs and record them to see what the band would sound like now, just for fun. 

G- Are you still active in the hardcore scene, and how do you feel about the current state of hardcore and punk music? How is the scene where you came from in Canada?

C- After I folded Goodfellow Records, I went away for a while from everything.  I hated music so much, and I hated hardcore.  Dealing with the business aspect of the scene was soul destroying.  I fucking hated it and needed to separate myself from it for a few years. 

It worked, and now I’m all hyped up on a pile of new projects.  I have a new band with Matt (Chokehold) and Dave Walker (Harvest).  I am very excited about it. I think the scene here is like the scene everywhere now… It sucks. 

G- After Chokehold disbanded, you formed another group called 78 Days… Are you still performing, or interested in performing in the future?

C- No, 78 Days folded many, many years ago.  The funny part is none of us know why…  I loved that band so much, and am very proud of the two records we released.  I think that that band is dead, and no one would give a rat’s ass to see it ever again anyhow. 

G- You also founded Goodfellow Records and have released several artists. What is happening with the label now, and do you have anything in the works we should be on the lookout for? Can you recommend any artist that you are currently listening to?

C- Goodfellow Records is 99.8% dead, but never say never. That is pretty much all I can say.  I know that if I was still putting records out, there are some really great new bands I would love to work with.  There was and is chatter of doing a vinyl discography for Chokehold.  I can recommend a great local band that is probably going to be huge soon… TV Freaks. 

G- Do you still feel music is a good medium to push for change or to spread a message? If Chokehold was still around today, what would be some of the problems/challenges facing society today that you would be speaking out for/against?

C- I think music has fucked itself so badly that no one listens to anything any band is saying now.  There needs to be some ugliness brought back into it.  I could write 10 albums worth of shit right now.  There is so much fucked up stuff happening in our world right now, I wouldn’t even know where to start.