One of my favorite hardcore albums to come out of the early '90s was and is Chokehold's Prison of Hope. Released in 1993 by Conquer the World Records, the album followed the band's split 7" with fellow Cannuck hardcore outfit, Crisis of Faith. I first came across Chokehold via that split through my friend, Taj Reynolds, a kid I went to high school with. He was up on all of the Canadian and Midwestern punk stuff at the time, while most of the rest of my hardcore-centered friends focused on our local NYHC scene, and what was going on in California
With '90s Hardcore Week coming to a close, I wanted to end the inaugural run with a quick piece on Prison of Hope since it reminds me so much of that era in my life. I reached out Chokehold singer Chris Logan to chat about the making of the album.
Tell me about the writing/prep for Prison of Hope. Did you write the material specifically for the album?
Writing and prep would be sort of be an overstatement. We just kept making songs all the time. Our thing was we were friends having a great time making punk rock. Every single weekend we would jam in Matt and Jeff’s basement for hours on end, only taking breaks to watch hockey night in Canada. After like 3 hours of just jamming, we would have some parts and record them on a tape recorder and go watch a movie upstairs. It was just fun and loose.
Did you guys take everything very seriously, in the sense that is was going to be a proper studio album statement?
I think it’s fairly obvious by the looseness of the recording is that record that it’s just who we were and how we did things. I think we all would have liked it to sound better production wise but the way it came out was pretty much us.
Let's just get into the actual recording sessions for Prison of Hope. Who did you work with and what was it like working together? Also, since you say things went very loose when the material was being written, did that vibe follow you into the studio, or did things get pressure-filled?
Studio options were pretty limited around town at that time. If I remember correctly I think Sandy (guitar) was doing a coop at the studio we ended up at. The record was the only record we did with a “regular joe." I think we scared the shit out of him as he probably hadn’t heard anything quite so heavy or terrible [laughs].
He was out of his element and was probably relieved when it was over. I just remember is was a super duper pro studio and the guy smoked more than he breathed. It was a strange marriage for sure.
Not sure if this changed at all the more you've recorded over the years, but what were the vocal sessions like for Prison of Hope? Is that something that gave you a ton of anxiety before you tracked? Did you blow your voice out? Maybe you had some kind of preparation in that regard?
No anxiety at all for that session. I’m sure I blew my voice out. I’ve never ever learned how to do that properly to this day. I can go two shows tops without blowing it.
I was also like 19 or 20 at that point and didn’t give a fuck about blowing any voice. I just powered through and tried to make it as crazy as possible. These days the anxiety would be front and center.
From a lyrical standpoint, what are some of the songs you're most proud of on that album? My favorite lyrics show up in the song "Deaf to Reason," since they're so raw and blunt.
I think the song "Depopulation" was a fairly wild song and still makes me think especially what is happening today with the Pandemic. I don’t really subscribe to any of the current conspiracy theories about it other than it is completely possible for something like this to have started in a lab and gotten out not on purpose. But it just goes to show you that there are things being worked on in labs all over the world that are far scarier than Covid. Why?
I also think the song "Deception" was fairly powerful and still relevant — about advertising tactics. It’s funny to look back on some of the lyrics because we don’t play much if any of those songs live. If we ever do play again it would be fun to play a couple of these.
What do you remember the reaction being like once the record came out? Were people positive? Did the label do a good job of getting it out there?
I mean for us the response was great. We would have been happy with anything but ya I think it took a little bit and it caught on. We were in the van every single weekend driving to Philly, Boston, Buffalo, Syracuse, NJ, NY, basically if it was between 1 and 10 hours away, we would do it. We toured a bunch as well and just tried to form as many relationships as possible so we could trade shows.
For all the talk about Conquer the World Records and the owner Mike [Warden], he really did a great job and got that record out there everywhere. He was a hustler and worked really hard to get records out. He didn’t exactly come from the best life and I’m thankful for what he did and I’ll just leave it there [laughs].
Which song from the record would be your favorite and why?
[Laughs] Oh man. This will be embarrassing but "More Than Ever" is my favorite. Only because it was the funnest song to make and play live at the time. That was the first song we wrote that basically set us on the sound of that record. And playing it live was always war [laughs].
Donate a few bucks to help with No Echo's operating costs: