Choy’s career has been first-class: he’s worked on 50-plus albums, from that first Atheist record to the Latin Grammy-nominated album Hay Que Cambiar in 2004 with the band Area 305. He looks back on those early days with humility: his spot on Unquestionable Presence came about after Atheist’s previous bass player, Roger Patterson, lost his life in a road accident.
“I often think back to Unquestionable,” he says, “because I was playing my friend Roger’s music and continuing his legacy. May he rest in peace. He was such a beast of a musician, and so humble. He would have dominated the music business if he’d survived.”
After 25 years of this you learn a lot about how not to do it - that’s what I tell people!
Choy has a full plate of gigs ahead of him, he explains. “I lived in Miami for 30 years and I couldn’t take it any more, so recently I moved up north and partnered up with Rising Starz Music Academy in Davie, Florida. I started an artist development programme there, working with kids and showing them the tricks of the trade. After 25 years of this you learn a lot about how not to do it - that’s what I tell people!”
He adds: “I’m also working on a project called Neuromorph with Patrick Mameli from Pestilence, and just produced an album for a Mexican thrash metal band called Strike Master.
“Not only that, me, [renowned session drummer] Derek Roddy and [Cannibal Corpse guitarist] Rob Barrett are going to do a little side project. Rob and I have been friends for over 20 years, since we were kids and I was in [death metal band] Cynic. He knew I’d been producing music for 17 years and suggested we form a band like Rush but with an edge and a melodic bass. I thought that sounded really cool.”
Does Choy have any tips for budding career bassists? He starts with a grim warning. “All today’s musicians are on a race to zero, thanks to the internet. Everybody does everything themselves now. Everybody’s a producer with a home studio and musicians are practically obsolete.
Knowledge is power: learn as much as you can! That’s what I tell my kids and my students
“You can put a track together in minutes, perhaps not professionally, but good enough to get by. In the term ‘music business’, the music part is small and the business part is big. We’ve lost the essence of what music is really about.”
It’s not all bad news, though: “That said, nothing is impossible, as long as you approach your instrument - and your career, and your life - with passion,” he states. “That will take you a long, long way. I definitely recommend that you study theory. I learned to play bass on the street, in the school of hard knocks, and it’s a blessing that I got to learn from amazing musicians. That was how I learned my theory, but you can learn your theory in school too. Knowledge is power: learn as much as you can! That’s what I tell my kids and my students. With that knowledge you can get out there and make music - good music.”