It was a coincidence when I met the Vienna-based punk rock band Choke On Me a few weeks ago. I was at a friend’s birthday party talking to a cool guy about music when he said “I’m in a band”.
It turned out he was Claus Kaputto, the lead vocalist and guitarist of Choke On Me. His girlfriend Connie Dee, who was across the room talking to my friend, plays bass and is the other lead vocalist in the band.
And, of course, because I’m new in Vienna and still learning about the music scene, I immediately made sure I got information about their upcoming gigs and went to them.
The first was at Arena, a cool industrial-style concert and arts venue in Vienna’s 3rd District, where Choke On Me opened for Los Pepes. The second was at Venster 99 last week. A bar whose website tells you quite plainly “If you are racist, sexist, homophobic or an asshole, don’t come”. I felt quite at home.
Both times the band (which also includes Klaus Delux on guitar and Dr. Bum Bum on drums) was loud, fun, very high energy and with some catchy songs, and, even though Arena had some sound problems, I enjoyed Choke On Me’s performance immensely.
I liked them even more when Claus sent me the demo of their upcoming EP to listen to. Because their recorded sound is richer, a little more mellow ‘pop punk rock’ than pure punk, with more emphasis on the vocals than they have live, and both Claus and Connie can really sing. (Even though Claus laughingly told me “I can’t”, believe me, he can). Connie has a beautiful throatiness to her voice too that makes every song she sings sexy, and really pulls you in to want to hear more.
As for guitar, Klaus Delux’s playing has a lovely depth and smoothness to it which is where some of that richness in their music comes from, and Dr. Bum Bum kicks ass on the drums.
One of the best drummers I’ve heard in a long time, in fact, and a drummer you can tell when he plays he really really really loves drumming. Because he gives it all he has.
So last week, I found myself at a cafe at Yppenplatz, Vienna’s trendy cafe-filled square, drinking beer with three of the four members of Choke On Me (Dr. Bum Bum couldn’t come) because I wanted to find out more.
How long had they been together? How did they meet? And why the hell were there not more bands from Austria known outside the country, as good bands like this one should be.
Another cool gig tonight with Vienna-based punk rock band Choke On Me. This one at Venster 99. Excellent set. Cool bass, guitar and vocals. Amazing drummer. Really really like this band. Awesome energy. 😚🙌💃#ChokeOnMe #PunkRock #Rock #LiveMusic #Music #Musicians #Venster99 #KickAssBands #Bands #AustrianBands #LiveMusicVienna #Clubs #Concerts #Gigs #Wien #Vienna #Austria #IgersVienna #LeoSigh Interview up on LeoSigh.com over the weekend. @clauskaputto
“How did Choke On Me come about?”
As Klaus and Claus told me, Choke On Me first got together in 2013.
“We were friends,” said Claus…… “and he (Klaus) put out a record of a band I had before.”
“We were always going to concerts together,” Klaus jumped in, “both of us really like music and watching bands, and we talked a lot about music so it was more or less the next step to say “Okay, let’s form a band”. Both of us had played in other bands, but were not doing then. He (Claus) had a solo/duo acoustic project – The Trusty Chords – and I had a small DIY record label, where I put out records from small punk rock bands that I’m friends with. So I put out a record from his acoustic singer songwriter project.”
“Then we got together, started rehearsing.” (Claus picked up the story), “We did two or three shows, but the others in the band didn’t have enough time because they had jobs, and during the week we were rehearsing. Then you do shows on weekends, which can be stressful, especially when you work at night like our drummer did back then. Because, if you work a lot, you really have to be passionate about the band too, as you also have to do work for the band”.
“When did Connie Dee join?”
“The bassist and the drummer left at the same time”, said Connie.
“When the others left the band, it was just the two of us”, explained Klaus. “I was friends with Connie, and she told me she was rehearsing bass because she had played in another band before, but guitar. So I asked her if she wanted to join us and…that was three years ago”.
And I mentioned then that I loved watching Connie play and sing, because she’s one of those women a lot of other women would kill to be like. Someone who stands up on stage, plays her bass, sings her songs and just looks incredibly cool and sexy, and as if she couldn’t care less what you think of of how she’s doing it, because she’s just doing what she loves.
“The one cool thing about her is the charisma on stage. And the other cool thing is she can sing, which I can’t unfortunately”, said Klaus. “And it’s always good to have more singers, especially if it’s a man and woman with different kinds of voices. “
“We have a good mixture”, agreed Connie.
It’s also a mixture that is changing a little bit, as Claus explained. “I sing most of the songs right now. But we have more songs coming that Connie sings. We have two new songs she sings herself. For us, it’s usually the one who writes the lyrics is the one who sings it. It’s easier to express the emotions in the song if that person sings it”.
“Why does Connie work so well with the band?”
You know what I really like about her, and also her in the band?” Claus said.
“We had a lot of talks, and she sometimes tells me, and I think that’s also important for the band, she has a different point of view. She has the point of view from a girl.
Sometimes we’re at home, we’re listening to music and I’m like “That touches me, I like it”, and she will say “Yeah, that’s boy’s music. It’s a point of view from a man”.
And with her writing songs as well, it’s like we have two different sides in the band saying stuff. Which never ever came to me before – the idea that music isn’t universal, and that there is some music that maybe just touches me as a man”.
‘And there’s music which touches both men and women”, said Connie. “And music which touches one or the other. I mean, I’m not into girly music, I never was….except maybe the Spice Girls when I was 12″.
And she laughed and added, “I was into the Spice Girls and the Beastie Boys at the same time”. (Which, of course, made me like her even more, because you’ve got to love someone who can see the beauty in all different kinds of music — even at the age of 12).
“Who writes Choke on Me’s songs?”
“All three of us, but I hardly write the lyrics and write more of the music. The others write both”, said Klaus.
“He’s our riff master”, said Claus. “He comes with a riff, and then we develop a song”.
“And some parts we figure out together, “ added Connie.
“What’s the punk rock scene like in Vienna”, (because me, being new to town, I would have guessed it was quite small)
“I think the scene in terms of that we have venues, and we have lots of touring bands playing here, small and big bands, I think you can say it’s a huge scene here, “said Klaus. “So there are a lot of punk rock shows, but not in terms of Austrian punk rock bands. There are not many punk rock bands from Vienna.”
“I think the Austrian punk rock band scene was more like the early 2000s or late 90s”, interjected Connie. “And then it got a lot less”.
Klaus explained it even more with a comparison between Vienna and Graz. A comparison that nobody could really explain why it was how it was, just that it was.
“I grew up in a small town, just 5,000 inhabitants. Then I lived a long time in Graz. Six years ago I moved to Vienna. But there’s a big music scene in Graz when it comes to punk rock. And, if you compare the size of the two cities – the music scene is so much bigger in Graz, but it only has 300,00 people compared to Vienna’s 1.8 million”.
“What’s with the classical music scene?” (Because classical music is huge in Austria, like nowhere else I’ve ever seen. A bit like living in the 1800s really, when you consider how much money Austria puts into classical music, and how little into its more modern counterpart)
“There is a line drawn in Austria between music the people create and the “official music”, said Claus.
And he went on to explain why he thinks contemporary music isn’t as supported as classical is in Austria, and some of that has to be with the Austrian character.
“I mean you like Austrian music (yes, I really do, there are some incredible contemporary Austrian artists) but you’re not Austrian. And I think that’s maybe because you’re an open person, and you have a different point of view coming from somewhere else. I mean we talked about the grumpiness of Austrians before (at the party where I first met him), and that’s the same when they go to a gig. They’re expecting it to be bad, so that’s how they react to it.
And that was one of my biggest lessons I learned in my music life when I was 19 and I was playing with a band in Lower Austria, and there was someone I knew there and he said “Oh that was really good”, and I said “Yeah, but I screwed up the one solo”. And then I heard another guy say to him “Oh they were really good” and the first guy said “Eh, the guy screwed up the solo”
Then I recognized that is what will happen, and now every time someone says “That was good” I say “Thank you”, and I just don’t talk about anything negative.”
“Why do Choke On Me love their drummer?” (Because these guys loooove their drummer)
“Our drummer joined about half a year ago,” said Klaus. “He’s brand new and we’re really happy we found him, because we had lots of trouble with our former drummer, and it was hard to find a new one as there are not many in Vienna. And the ones there are play in three other bands already”.
“The motivation of a drummer is what we recognized was important. Because some of our former drummers were just not motivated, like “Yeah, okay, there’s rehearsal but can we stop early”.
“Every time,” added Connie. “Not only once, every time”.
And it was then Claus explained his philosophy about music and what being a real musician means to him, as well as why having Dr. Bum Bum as their drummer now means so much to them.
“If you wanna be good at something you have to rehearse, rehearse, rehearse. And then when you’re on stage, you’re just doing it without thinking about it. It’s like sports. But some people make music to be on stage and to be able to say “I’m in a band”. And that’s the wrong reason. You’ve got to do it because you like what you’re doing. And that’s why we’re really happy to have our new drummer, and we’re so excited to play shows.”
“And I think he’s really in it with all his heart and all he can do”, said Connie. “That’s why he’s so good”.
“How often do you play live?” (which was when I realized this is one of the many reasons Choke On Me feel so lucky to have Dr. Bum Bum on board)
“Now we’re playing a lot more but, in the last year, we didn’t play as much as we used to because of our drummer problems.” Klaus explained.
And then Connie explained about the tour.
“There was the chance for a little tour, which would have been in Germany, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. It was for 10 days. Well planned and everything. But it wasn’t happening because of our drummer”.
So I asked, “You couldn’t find anybody else in time?”.
“No” said Claus. “We went on the tour. He f*cked up on the second day. He decided to quit the band.”
So at that point there was nothing Choke On Me could do but leave the tour after the second day, and come back to Vienna.
And I have to ask what’s wrong with a person who goes on tour with a band that has been busting their ass to do well, get noticed and get opportunities and then, only two days into the tour, decides “Meh, I’m done. F*ck them”? Because that’s pretty much what he did.
Needless to say, from the first moment they started talking about Dr. Bum Bum, I had gotten the sense they thought he walked on water. Now I understood why.
Because to have a drummer who plays drums incredibly well and with great emotion, who shows up on time, rehearses and rehearses and rehearses, and gives it his all when he’s up on stage and….he’s rocking, they all must feel like they died and went to heaven.
“When is Choke On Me’s EP going to be released?”
Choke On Me has been working on an EP for the last few months. An EP that has been recorded, and now just needs tinkering with before it’s ready for release. (And an EP that, from the demo I’ve heard, is very very good, by the way).
“Our plan is to make a vinyl record. A seven-inch, which takes about 3 months for the manufacturing of it. So now we just need to do a little more mixing and mastering, and then we’re going to press it. And then it’s like October when it’s finished.” said Klaus.
“It’s hard though, because you do live shows and people ask “Do you have a record out?”, which you have to do first”, added Claus. “And it’s putting your own money in, and most bands don’t even make enough money playing live gigs to buy guitar strings, so it’s all money, money, money. I think that’s why most bands stop making music at a certain point. The not having money is a huge problem”.
Choke On Me’s next gig is on June 24th at Punk an Der Donau at the Jazzkeller in Krems in Lower Austria (more on their Facebook page). If you’re in the area, check them out. They are very very good.
As for Vienna, they’re usually playing a couple of times a month, so keep your eyes peeled for their next gig announcement. Currently it’s on the 11th of July at Kramladen.
The band doesn’t have many videos up on YouTube yet but, I’m told, that’s soon to change.
Meanwhile, watch Choke On Me perform “I lie all day (to the N.S.A.)” in the video below (pre-Dr. Bum Bum days). And do notice how cool Connie looks.