Inter/view with TROY

photos by kmeron


TROY VON BALTHAZAR travels through the world as a singer/songwriter. He plays here and lives there. Besides being the lead singer in the band Chokebore he has started a solo career and released five albums until now. Hard to believe that the Hawaiian wrote his first song when he was 18 – he’s a late starter, he admits with a smile. His new album HOW TO LIVE ON NOTHING is ambivalent stuff with enormous experimentality, a dash of pop, electronic sequences and samples structures – all made by himself. That’s what we would call a multi-instrumentalist. But there’s more to him than that: he’s a singer, a writer and an actor at the same time. And of course he manages to radiate his charm everywhere – just as in our interview.

photo by Magalie Boyer

So, Mr. Balthazar, let us start with the question marathon:

I suppose that TROY VON BALTHAZAR is not your real name.
How did you hit on that? I mean it sounds extraordinary but nevertheless great.

My legal name is Troy Bruno Balthazar but “Von” sounds cooler than Bruno.

Bruno – really? That sounds cute and of course a bit German …
Well, you have been the leader of the Grunge band Chokebore, which was founded in 1993. After a break you are back together since 2009. A serious revival or is it just for old time sake?

We came back to see if we still like the music together and so far it seems pretty nice… We’ve written a few new songs so its interesting. Chokebore is ok.

Chokebore Live Concert, Festival de Dour 2010 // photo by kmeron

Troy, sorry, but I am curious about something and I have to ask you that:
Chokebore was on tour as a support band with Nirvana. Could you tell me something about that experience?

It was scary playing in front of that any people and the food as great backstage and Nirvana were really people. While playing I kept hoping that wouldn’t be my peak in music. I have had different peaks since then but never that many people again.

photo by kmeron

And in 2002 you’ve started your solo-career. I have seen several of your concerts and I have to admit that it’s very amazing. Your are performing all instruments by yourself… The audience can experience your experimentality visually and acoustically. It’s like a(n) (art) performance: you never know what you get…


Do you record and mix your music by yourself as well?

Yes. I enjoy production and all the little details in making an album. I’m learning more about the whole process each time. I would love to produce someone else’s album one day. I can imagine myself at 139 years old producing albums drinking a cup of milk sitting behind the studio glass in my dark granny shades.

This image I can’t deny…!
You are using effects and the technique of sampling. Samples seem to be in your live performances very spontaneous. How do you create these parts when you are recording songs?

Recording and live performance are totally separate in my mind. I’m not thinking of the other doing one, when I’m recording. I’m just looking for sounds and lines. Million of lines to cover the crappy songs that I write.

photo by kmeron

Crappy? I would protest! Meanwhile you have lots of fans all over the world.
What I like besides the fact that you’re playing all instruments by yourself is that I can delve and somehow disappear in your texts. I would like to cite a text passage from the song “Tigers”: „I drink to keep the tiger away, I sail my boat across the bay, I do what I can to get through the day, I drink to keep the tigers away“. I would say that we’ve forgotten something: When you are 139 years old you will have a typewriter next to you …
You are writing books as well. Your first book was “3 girls”. What is it about?


Where can I buy it?

Some select shops in Paris, and you might find a copy online but Its out of print now and I’m working on the next one this summer. It’s going to be a good summer. (note by YIKS // you will find the book here)

I would love to read this book!
What does happiness mean for you?

Finishing a strong lyrical line in pencil knowing it could be wiped away when I close the book.

How much happiness is missing in your life?

I don’t really know what I’m missing. I suppose, but I always see the people in movies falling in love and it looks nice.

The title of your new album is: HOW TO LIVE ON NOTHING – is that your philosophy of life?

No. It is what I have had to learn how to do to continue my music.

I’ve read in other interviews that you have no real home. One day you’re in Los Angeles, the next day you’re in Paris or in Berlin. Where do you live at the moment?

For the next 3 days I’m in Paris then on tour for one month then Im happy to say I’ll be in Berlin this summer working on a soundtrack for a film. Walking the streets playing the songs in my brains until they sound good.

A soundtrack for a film – cool. I’m very excited about. (note: He has been an actor in „Working eats my soul”, a film by Paul Durango. // trailer ) But what interests me the most: How do you live without a flat – do you miss safety and security?

No. I’m fine. I’m pretty muscular.

photo by kmeron

Where can you imagine living for longer time?

I like Berlin. Also I was thinking about Greenland out in the flatlands. Fresh air. Fighting wolves.

You will be in Berlin the next months and today you will play at the Babylon in Berlin Mitte. The summer screams for more. Are you planning to play some more concerts in Berlin?

Yes, I plan to spend the summer in Berlin and hope to play but for now this will be my only scheduled show. It should be really fun and I hear that Babylon is a beautiful place so Im excited.

You grew up in Hawaii. Do you often feel homesick?

I do miss the ocean.

photo by kmeron

Do you retire into privacy when you are writing a text or do you need people, troubel around you to be more creative?

My inspiration comes from being very aware that I will die in the next 30 years. I want to spend my last years on earth writing songs. I know it’s a lot to ask.

What are you doing when you’re not playing music?

Thinking about playing music or thinking about writing something or wondering why I am sitting around thinking about writing something when I really should just be writing some music or something.

I have read that you have been lived together with Leonard Cohen.
How does this encounter influence your music?

He is a very nice man. I admire his style, and his poetry, his peace and his luck.

For your song “Dots and Hearts” you collaborate with the dancer Ana García Morales…
It is a wonderful video…and a very pretty dancer!

She is a great natural dancer. I was happy to work with her. She really is wonderful.


You are often alone on the stage (besides female vocals).
How do you think about musical collaborations? Do you want to realize some songs with other artists?

Sure. But no one asks me because I’m too scary. I don’t know but I’m sure my voice would be great on a PJ harvey track or something like that.

Have you any plans for the future? Will you start to conquer the world?

No undies, no plans.
That’s my philosophy.

What are your favourite musicans?

The ones at home writing the intense stuff.

What kind of stuff are you dreaming about?

I dream about the ocean almost every night but I guess that’s from growing up on an island in the middle of the pacific ocean. The water stays in your mind forever.

The last thing I’d like to know is if you could tell me about the strangest place you’ve been so far?

I’ve been to paradise but I’ve never been to me.

Everything fine?

Fine wine in the sunshine

photo by kmeron

Thank you Troy!
And many thanks to kmeron for these wonderful pics!

Interview by Katharina Worf

photos by kmeron


* 2011/04/05 – Babylon – Berlin (De)
* 2011/04/06 – Klub 007 – Prague (Cz)
* 2011/04/07 – Jubez – Karlsruhe (De)
* 2011/04/08 – Le Fil – Saint Étienne (Fr)
* 2011/04/11 – Le Cabaret Aléatoire – Marseille (Fr)
* 2011/04/12 – Secret Place – Montpellier (Fr)
* 2011/04/13 – La Dynamo – Toulouse (Fr)
* 2011/04/14 – La Fourmi – Limoges (Fr)
* 2011/04/15 – La Machine – Paris (Fr)
* 2011/04/19 – Le Studio – Onet-le-Château (Fr)
* 2011/05/06 – Faveur de Printemps festival – Théâtre Denis – Hyères (Fr)
* 2011/05/07 – Le Lux – Le Locle (Ch)
* 2011/05/27 – L’aire Libre – Saint Jacques de la Lande (Fr)





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