Sounds from Siam [2 of 3]: Yos Fest

The four issues of the Arise hardcore zine

When I met up with Gap of Holding On Records I asked him what he knew about the history of hardcore-punk in Thailand and whether anyone ever wrote punk zines. As a young guy, he wasn’t around at the time, but he mentioned Arise zine. Afterwards I looked on the internet for Arise zine and found an article on First Blood that was once published in the zine. Playing internet-detective a bit longer led me to find the email address of Chris who started the zine. Sent him an email, hoping he was still using the same one 6 years later, and received the long story of him ending up in Thailand in return. As interesting as that story was (leaving home as a 14 or so year old kid to follow the Grateful Dead touring around the US, seeing bands as Black Flag and the Bad Brains, ending up in Thailand in ’99 looking for a punk scene, giving away cd’s and tapes to interested kids, starting a zine and so on), he suggested me to interview some of the other old guys that were involved in organizing things.

One of them is Yos, a 37 year old Thai guy. He organizes shows and works full-time for Guitar Mag, Thailand’s biggest music magazine, writing columns, doing reviews and selling advertising space. After meeting Chris he got more into hardcore-punk and when Chris decided to write the zine in both Thai and English, Yos helped out with the translation. Furthermore, he also organized Bangkok’s biggest hardcore festival called Yos Fest. Yos Fest #2 was the biggest edition, with over 34 local bands playing and 6 foreign bands in one single day, attended by around 1600 people. After talking to him at the No Turning Back show in Bangkok we decided to meet up for a talk one evening and have some beers at Ratchatewi, Bangkok.

Yos is from a Thai-Chinese family. His father came from China by boat to work in Bangkok about 60 years ago, started out as a waiter in Chinatown, but was selling antique when Yos was born. Yos his Thai mother was his father´s second wife, but when he was young the family broke up because his father was addicted to gambling and was selling everything in the house in order to keep gambling.


I ask him about how he got into music. He tells me about how his brother, who studied in Macau, brought back a lot of vinyl from there, stuff like The Police, Black Sabbath, Twisted Sister, Micheal Jackson, Jon Bon Jovi. “I remember seeing the Black Sabbath – Paranoid cover album for the first time. I didn’t know it, but then he played. First song, Iron Man, scared the hell out of me. Holy shit, what the fuck. It opened my mind. I loved it. I was 8 years old. And then I listened to Michael Jackson – Beat it with Van Halen playing guitar. I loved the guitar music. And Michael Jackson’s dancing, I still love him. If I didn’t have my brother, maybe I would’ve been listening to K-Pop music now. He opened my mind for rock music.”

As for punk music in Thailand: “In my opinion, punk music and some of the Thai music are very close to each other. You know Caribou right? It’s like real life music, politics, lyrics are close to punk. Melody and sound is different. We grew up with phleng pheua chiwit [music for life], bands like  Caribou and Caravan (see youtube video below). When we were growing up, we have heard of punk band from the US like Bad Religion, Black Flag and a lot of old school punk bands 20 years ago in Thailand. This punk music was never popular here, but it had a small piece of the music scene in Thailand“.

So I ask him if he remembers how he met Chris Arise back in 1999. “I cannot forget that. My friend opened a t-shirt shop at Siam square soi 4 and then one day he called me that he met a farang from New York that was into NYHC. So I met up with my friend and then Chris came. He had a big bag filled with cd’s. I bought some cd’s and he gave me his phone nr and we talked about music. He told me to listen to the lyrics, explained the typical hardcore things; youthcrew, straight edge, vegan etc. He is like my brother also.”

“So basically, first you had your brother with Black Sabbath and Bon Jovi and then you met your second brother who got you into hardcore?”


With regards to Arise Zine, Chris founded it and wanted to do it bilingual, so Yos helped out. The first issue was about explaining and introducing hardcore-punk to Thailand in 2000, with an article that invited people from all over the world involved in hardcore-punk on what it means. They sold them for 20 baht (50 euro cents) and made four different issues. Yos and Chris stopped when Chris went to Surin in Isaan six years ago.

The early Thai hardcore-punk scene revolved bands like License to Kill, System Sucker, Zealot and Superman. With the ‘Russian Roullette 2’ show they started up the Thailand Hardcore (THxHC) group at the end of 2001. Yos tells me about the first shows he organized with Chris Arise and his brother in 2002 with Recover from Singapore. “[It was] in a small room that fit a 100 people, but more than 200 people came. Not everyone could be inside, so we rotated … Chris helped out with contacting the band.”

“You guys were the only ones organizing back then?”

“Everyone helped. A big problem was police. Because eh, they do not know what the fuck this music is. Violent? Cannot play, cannot use the PA system, etc. We had a lot of problems with the police. That’s why my friend burned down a small police check point at a junction in 2003. That’s why License to Kill has a song fuck the police.”

“Did you have to bribe police in the beginning?”

“Yeah, usually 2000 baht. But then we moved to the immortal bar [back then on Khao San Road], where we could organize concerts more easily as the owner was a music lover with his own band, small stage, equipment, sound system. No police showed up there.”

Himsa in Bangkok, many years ago

 The first Yos Fest was in 2006. Of course, the name is a pun on OzzFest. As for the reason of using his own name for the show, it involves a girl:  “I called it Yos Fest in dedication to my ex girlfriend. I had a broken heart when my ex girlfriend left me. She was a punk-rock girl and then she went to university, where things changed. She broke up by phone. The world had turned. I missed her a lot, so I dedicated the festival to her and by calling it Yos Fest I hoped she would come, but she didn´t. She had new friends, got into jazz etcera.” The second Yos Fest was the biggest hardcore show ever in Thailand, but again she didn’t come. “But with Yos Fest #3 in 2009 when I had a new girlfriend, my ex finally showed up haha”.

“So how was that?”

“I told her it was nice to meet you again, there were no hard feelings anymore. I told her afterwards I dedicated the festivals to her.  She said she didn’t have time to come for the previous ones“.

“Are you organizing another?”

“I still set up shows, and help foreign bands when they come over. But I often don’t have enough time. And with a friend I organize concerts for Indie Pop Concerts, Parkway Drive, Black Dahlia Murder etc. Not to make money, just as hobby. Don’t tell my boss, but sometimes I sneak out of the office [and organize shows instead].”


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