Rear Naked Choke interview

Hi Rear Naked Choke! What’s the meaning of your band’s title? What’s the origin of that name? Have you changed the band’s name before?

We get asked that a lot, especially with some raised eyebrows because it sound like it could be a lot of things. But the truth is we’re all big MMA (mixed martial arts) fans and in the early days of the band we would get together at  our original lead guitarist who passed away, Mike’s, house and watch the UFC fights. In between fights we’d go back and jam in the room he had set up. So we were sitting there watching a fight and Joe Rogan was commentating the fight and said “Oh he’s going for a Uma Plata (which is a submission in MMA)” and Mike and Mick were like “Oh that’s kinda of a cool name” and the Joe Rogan said “Oh he’s transitioning to a Rear Naked Choke, that’s the number one submission move in MMA” and they looked at each other and said “That’s it, Rear Naked Choke!!” and so that’s where the name came from. Once we had it set we haven’t changed it at all.

What genre of music do you consider your work to be? Who are your major influences?

We prefer to say that we’re Heavy Music, we tend to ride the line between Hard Rock and Metal so it’s hard to say we’re exactly “this” or “that” but we’re firmly planted in the Heavy Music Genre. We have lots of influences between all the members. Metallica, Godsmack, Clutch, All That Remains, Scorpions, Kiss, Iron Maiden and the list could go on and on.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?

Mick and Chris have known each other for over 20 years, since Mick first moved to Abilene TX where we’re based out of. We’ve known Josh since he was in his teens and we’ve known Don and Paul for a good 8 or 9 years, through other bands they had played in and just being around the music scene.

When did you form your band? What inspired you to make music together?

We started up around the end of 2009. There have been a few member changes along the way. Chris started out as the Tech and moved onto rhythm guitar when one of the guitarists just stopped coming to practice. Josh joined on Lead Guitar when Mike, who is still a huge part of the heart and soul of the band, passed away after a battle with cancer. But since the beginning Chris and Josh were both part of the band family, helping with tech stuff, gear, and just jamming around, so along with Mick they’ve pretty much been there from the start. We’ve had several changes in bass and drums, but things have really solidified with Don and Paul on Bass and Drums respectively.

What can you tell me about your instruments? (i.e., Are you subject to brand loyalty or will you play with whatever’s available? What made you choose the instruments you have now? Was it cost or was it a style/model/brand/color preference?

Chris – I prefer ESP guitars, mail because they are great quality instruments that are tough and road worthy, but don’t cost an arm and a leg. I tend to gravitate towards the Eclipse shape (it’s a single cutaway style similar to a Les Paul) and while I love both white and black guitars I also like some of the bursts that allow the beauty of the maple tops to come through. Josh – For me the brand doesn’t matter as much, but I do like Ibanez a lot, as much as the functionality for my lead work. Color wise I like just about anything outside of some of the pastels and stuff like that.

We both are using the Line 6 Helix for our guitar rigs. While we love tube amps like Mesa Boogie’s and Marshall’s they become a bit of a issues with touring. Between the weight and the possible issues with tubes and all that it can be tough. So we’ve found with the Helix we can get the sounds and tones we want without worrying as much about the factors you have to be aware of with Tube Amps. It also allows for a lot more versatility for experimenting with sounds and that kind of stuff.

Where have you performed? What are your favorite and least favorite venues? Do you have any upcoming shows?

We’ve preformed all over the southern part of the US, but the majority has been in our home state of Texas. We’ve traveled outside of Texas, though, to several of the surrounding states and further as well. Texas is so large that it’s not hard to play for a whole year and not hit the same places twice. But we have plans to start going even further out in 2019 and maybe even make it over to Europe. With the holidays here we’ve finished touring for this year and we are currently working on some new music.

Which songs do you perform most frequently? Do you ever play any covers? Do you have a set play list?

Suicide Betsy, which is the current single, is definitely the song we play the most. There are a few others that are close in the play count as well like Nothing to Me but Suicide Betsy is definitely number 1 right now. We do play some covers, we did a remake of Shine from Collective Soul that is on our album, so that one gets played quite a bit. During a headlining set we usually throw in an additional cover as an encore song as well. We have quite a few that we kind of rotate through, depending on the show and how we’re feeling that night.

Who writes your songs? What are the main themes or topics for most of your songs? Do you think these topics will change over time?

Most of the songs on this album were stated from idea’s that Mick had been working on. Some were songs he had worked up before the band really started with just him and an acoustic guitar. So on a lot of those he brought them in with the skeleton and then as a band we would start fleshing them out, so that they worked as the band. There are a few that Mike brought in as well but the biggest part of these songs started with ideas from Mick. The newer songs that we’ve started writing are really all over the place as far as who’s idea they’re starting from, right now we have songs in progress that started from ideas or riffs form almost every member, so there’s going to be some new sounds on the next album. Lyrically Mick does the writing, sometimes we’ll throw out a line of idea and he’ll latch on to that but 99% of all the lyrical content is from Mick.

As for themes we don’t try to have a single theme or limit ourselves to the idea that all the songs have to be about a specific thing, or that they all have to be super serious. So on this album you have a song and a Motorcycle (Suicide Betsy), about more personal feelings (BetterMan, Nothing to Me, Mike’s Song, I Will Rise), about having a good time (Toast to Dime) so we kinda go with what seems to fit the music and how we’re feeling.

Could you briefly describe the music-making process?

Usually the ideas start from a guitar riff, after that there’s really no set process. Someone could come in with a fully formed idea or they could just have a melody or riff that comes to them, so it’s always different.

What are your rehearsals generally like? Do you have a set time each week in which you practice or are rehearsals more spontaneous?

We have set rehearsal days, especially when we aren’t our playing every week. So we usually have 2-3 rehearsals a week. Now those can vary on what we’re doing during that time. If we have shows coming up then we’re usually formulating a set list and then rehearsing those songs to make sure we’re tight and ready for the shows. If, like now, we’ve got some time off then we’re working on learning some new covers to keep things fresh and also working on new original material.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

As a band we’ve obviously gotten tighter and more proficient with getting into synch with each other. Also our musical tastes have expanded and changed with the introduction of some of the newer members that have come into the band. So that has created some new dynamics within the music that may have been missing or just changed the emphasis of some things.

What has been your biggest challenge as a band? Have you been able to overcome that challenge? If so, how?

Really in this day and technological age the biggest issues is making enough of an impact to get any notice. With the internet and the shift in the easy and quality of music production there is just more music out there to compete with and more ways for people to find it. So getting heard in that is probably the most difficult thing we’ve faced. I don’t know that we’ve totally overcome that but we keep striving to get our music our to more and more people, and so far that has been working. We’ve done that by playing live, putting out, what we feel is, a good product and by hard work following leads and aligning ourselves with partners, like Sliptrick Records, who can help us continue to expand that reach and get the music out to more people.

What’s your ultimate direction for your band? Are you seeking fame and fortune?

If we could get to a point where music was able to provide us with a reasonable level of living we would be happy. That doesn’t mean that we would stop trying to continue to grow our reach but that would be the goal right now. I don’t think that we’re seeking fame and fortune so much as just feeling the need to pursue our passion of making music and that feeling of playing it live for people who, hopefully, enjoy it and care about it like we do.

What advice do you have for people who want to form their own bands?

In the end each person/band has to determine what their measure of success is. If it’s just to jam once in a while with your friends then cool, enjoy that, but if it’s to get out there and play shows, tour, make albums and all that then you have to be ready for a lot of hard work.

Being in a band should be fun, but there are times where it get’s hard and may loose that fun, at least for a little bit. But if you want to really get out there and share your music with others then you have to work through those times and the fun will return.

How can fans-to-be gain access to your music?

Our album is available on all major media outlets like iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc… You can also pick up or order the physical CD (so you can see all the cool artwork and stuff you don’t see with a digital download) from most major music retailers, or directly form us on our website, as well. You can also stream our music on Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music and more. You can also find us online at or search for us on social media.

Is there anyone you’d like to acknowledge for offering financial or emotional support?

We definitely have to thank our families for supporting us and putting up with us being gone from home to play show and when we come home frustrated or irritated. A big thanks also to CJ Pierce (Guitarist of Drowning Pool) for being a great friend and mentor, and for doing such a great job recording and producing our album. Also want to thank Wes “Moose” Jacques of Metal Coffee PR for his hard work and also all the guys at Sliptrick Records for their belief in us and getting this album out to a far greater audience that we could have alone.

Any last words?

Go check out our self-titled album now, share it with friends, tell others about it and thanks to everyone who has supported us so far, we’ll see you at a live show soon!!!