Ready to Choke...almost 

Punk legends Choke make one last stand before packing it in after 14 years of making music

By Nicole Fitzgerald

Who: Choke

When: Sunday, June 3

Where: Garfinkel’s

Edmonton’s punkers Choked have definitely earned a chapter in Canadian Punk Rock History.

“Maybe a paragraph,” bassist Clay Shea jokes from the band’s touring van traveling to their next gig on the final leg of their last tour.

Fourteen years of blood, sweat and 40-hour drives have finally taken its toll on the punk legends who are closing the book on the four suburban refugees jumping around on stage.

The cross Canada tour touches down in Whistler for Punk Night on Sunday, Sunday, June 3 at Garfinkel’s.

“Sometimes I feel like we are running away from a good relationship,” Shea said. “We are all still the best of friends. I wish we could continue to do what we do. In a way, it’s a fitting end. Four friends, 14 years, I would rather go out with all of us best friends and celebrate the last 14 years than wait for something to erupt into a big fight and storm out.”

Life, “real jobs” and education kept chipping away at the Choke machine of Shea, guitarist Shaun Moncrieff, drummer Stefan Levasseur and guitarist Jack Jaggard.

One moved to B.C. and another decided to pick up at university after putting it on hold 11 years ago for the band. Energies pulled in different directions; finding time for tours let alone recording became more and more difficult.

Choke leaves a legacy of six albums behind, including the last Slow Fade: Or How I Learned to Question Infinity released in 2005 on Smallman Records. The album, embraced country wide, was produced by Paul Forgues of Slayer and Nine Inch Nails fame and Blair Calibaba who was responsible for the likes of Propagandhi and No Means No.

“We realized we weren’t going to have time to make a better record and we are extremely proud of it,” he said. “It’s the one that represents us the most. Making the record was so much fun. We decided if we can’t top that one, and we aren’t going to have the time, that we are better to have closure than to go on with it.”

Moving on won’t be easy. Shea is not the kind of guy to keep up with putting away mementos. He paints a picture of him old with kids. They go to a fan’s house to look at scrapbooks with images of him and the band to prove that he “used to be cool”.

One page would turn to Choke’s first Smallman Records tour in 2000-2001.

“It was the first time we toured as a headliner and realized we had made fans across the country,” he recounts. “It was an exciting time. Friendships made during those few months are some of the best things that came out of the band. They are people I will know for the rest of my life. It was a highlight. It was when we started to be successful and not starve in Canada. We were still suffering in the U.S., but at least it felt like we mini-conquered one country.”

The Edmonton boys conquered music charts, radio airwaves and album sales alike. The album Needless To Say put the band on the national stage.

“Thirteen angst ridden anthems that gleefully defy the parameters of modern-day pop punk,” wrote one Exclaim Magazine critic of Needless to Say . “A great record that will set the standard by which the rest of Canada’s punk bands will be judged.”

So what kind of legacy will Choke leave behind?

“I hope we are remembered for the fact that we tried to be sincere with our music,” Shea said. “We influenced a lot of bands. Some bands that are doing quite well now, better than we ever did.”

Protest the Hero used to come and play with Choke when the Protest troupe was only 14 years old.

Shea will miss Choke’s extremely dedicated and passionate fans. The band will pull from all of their albums for the farewell show in Whistler, including crowd favourites Needless and Turd Farmer. However, there is one thing Shea won’t miss.

“Waking up hot in the van more than anything,” he said. “I do the overnight drives. I drive all night and then lay down a bit before the sun comes up and then I wake up sweating and tired. That is the grumpiest point of the day. And then it is all about playing. Playing together on this trip, we’ve really seen that the music we’ve made means a lot to people. We may not be the biggest band by any means, but what we really saw on this tour is people’s crazy love for this band. It really validates the last 14 years.”

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