Archive for the Thailand Category

Sounds from Siam [2 of 3]: Yos Fest

Posted in Interviews, Thailand with tags , , , , on September 2, 2013 by Alright Jack

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.

Yos

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?”

“Yep”

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].”

Sounds from Siam [1 of 3]: Holding On

Posted in Interviews, Thailand with tags , , , , , on August 27, 2013 by Alright Jack

Thai hardcore kids with the singer of NTB in the middle

Gap is a 20 year old Thai guy that set up Holding On Records last year. Holding On Records is a small hardcore-punk label in Thailand. The name, interestingly enough, comes from the similarly named album of the Netherland’s No Turning Back (NTB), who have been touring South-East Asia and visited Bangkok for the third year in a row last December. As for the story behind the name Holding On Records, it is indeed connected to NTB. NTB was looking for a label to release their latest album ‘Take Control’ and after talking with Martijn (the singer of NTB) Gap felt inspired enough to do it himself. With NTB as his inspiration he named it after NTB’s Holding On album from 2006. So far they released a record of A Strength Within from Belgium, Minus-3 from Belgium, Homerun from Malaysia. Gap is also running it as a distro and sells some stuff from other foreign labels. They also just released the Pak Kred Hardcore (PKHC) compilation with two songs of all the six PKHC bands on it: Born From Pain, A-Zero, Take it Back, Mosherman Friends, X on the Hand, Skip It. Pak Kred is a district of the the Nonthaburi, right next to Bangkok, where Born From Pain and A-Zero started out. Gap also helps out organizing shows. I met up with him in early October 2011 to talk with him about the Thai hardcore scene.

Gap is also the singer of X on the Hand. The first and only Straight Edge band of Thailand. They started out in 2005, but he is the third singer of the band as the first singer quit as he was too busy and the second singer Jam wanted to put more time in A-zero. Gap started going to hardcore shows 6 years ago as a 14 year old with his older brother. He tells me that the hardcore scene has been growing stronger, with relatively many foreign bands coming over like Terror, Death Before Dishonor, No Turning Back and many others. As for difficulties getting foreign bands over: “Big organizers get many big bands from all genres of music, sometimes also hardcore and metal bands. But it’s only work. For money. But sometimes, if we can get a contact with a band. We do it by ourself and our crew with our money. We do not care if we lose some money sometimes. It’s okay. If we lose money, it’s all our crew money. Not only one.”

“It’s a problem. I’ve been to a few concerts here myself. If you go to a Thai concert, it’s like 100 baht entry or something with only Thai bands. But if Terror comes over it’s going to be like….”

“800 baht?”

“Yes. It’s a lot of money for most Thais.” 

“Yeah. Some bands when they think they are a big band, they need many things. It depends, some big bands don’t need anything. Or they need some money, so they can buy their flight ticket. A little money, some food etc. I think that’s okay. But for some other bands, they need many things. They need food, hotel for staff. Big bands do like this.”

And you don’t want to do that..”

 “No, I don’t need to do that. It is expensive. If you do like this, it´s not hardcore, It’s business. For money only. I don´t like that.”

While I am not exactly the most spiritual person myself, I briefly wanted to talk about Buddhism with Gap as I saw a photo of him as a novice on Facebook. I ask him for how long he did that as it is quite normal for young Thai guys to be in monkhood for a year or so (often to escape poverty), but he tells me he only did for one day: “Because of my uncle passed away. And in Buddhism, it is normal for a nephew or son or anyone close to the man that passed away to do this. So that’s why I did it. And it was the first time my family saw my tattoo..” “Haha. So did they like it?” “No. Haha”

“What did your mom say?”

“My mom said, why did you do like this?

So I was like, it has some meaning, this side is straight edge and the other Pak Kred Hardcore. So this means I don’t drink, I’m not smoking and I’m not fucking around. And my mom said, if you think to do like this, you can do this, but you cannot do the tattoo, that’s not okay. But now it’s okay.” “She has to accept it…” “Yes, because I cannot I erase it. Hahahah”

“So how did the monks react to it in the temple?”

“Oh, they just came to see this new monk with tattoos on his back and arms. Oh, he has a cat on arm. Oh, he has a wolf on arm. But it was okay.”

“Do you think punk or hardcore punk relates in any way to Buddhism for you?”

“Oh, yeah. For me. Some of my lyrics for X on the Hand are based on Buddhism. Sometime I have read a lot about Buddhism in the past, and I just use this for my lyrics. Buddhism teaches everything for a positive mind. And I want to make positive lyrics for X on the Hand too..“

“What are your favourite Thai hc bands?”

“Born From Pain for sure. Then A-zero and Take it Back. Those are three of my favorites. I need to introduce you to Skip it, they are good band too.”

“Are there any Asian bands outside Thailand you like?”

“Yes, many from over South-East Asia are playing very good. I love Homerun from Malaysia. Second Combat, also from Malaysia.”

“Ohh.. I’ve heard of Second Combat. Yeah, yeah, my brother interviewed them for Jagged Visions #2 I think [ed: it was the first issue]. They toured in the Netherlands.”

“Their guitarist just emailed me the other day that they want to come over here.”

“Others?”

“Ohh. Kids on the Move from Malaysia. From Singapore, I love Overthrown. They will play in Bangkok with NTB 17 December. Under 18 from Indonesia. Mouthful of Air from Singapore, they play melodic hardcore. They’re so good. I just saw them play coming together with anticolizali [??], but they only came with 3 persons, but they played in Bangkok. I want to see the full band.”

“What about bands from Cambodia, Laos or Isaan?”

“I’ve not heard of anything from there.”

“And underground music outside Bangkok in Thailand?”

“I have seen some shows being set up in Chonburi, Chiang Mai, Phuket and Lopburi. In many provinces there are some shows. Some bands, but not much. There are some hardcore bands from Chonburi like Take It Over and Can’t Break.”

“Anything else you want to say?”

If you want to follow my label Holding On Records, you can find us on Facebook. I will do my best to make the BKK hardcore scene better than in the past. Cause I want to do everything for hardcore. And now we have a plan to make a Holding On fanzine, with interviews with NTB and A Strength Within. And some other bands from the other side of the world. 

Holding On Records

Sounds from Siam: Hardcore-punk in Thailand

Posted in Thailand with tags , , on August 23, 2013 by Alright Jack

People may recognize this photo of the Thammasat massacre in Bangkok of 6th October 1976 as the cover of the Dead Kennedy’s Holiday in Cambodia single.

I’m the little brother of Willem, the editor and mastermind behind Jagged Visions Zine, I used to live in Bangkok for a year and had the plan to write an issue of Jagged Visions about hardcore-punk and underground culture in Thailand. I ended up interviewing some Thai hardcore kids that are involved in the scene by organizing stuff and creating music. I think I had some good ideas and lots of material and photos for a cut ‘n paste zine, but I have been slow with it. And now, more than a year later, I don’t have the willpower anymore to finish the zine. Part of the reason is that I was just not really happy with the stuff I had written. I did however have three finished interviews lying around, so when I decided to quit finishing the zine, I guess I could at the very least put the interviews online.

So there will be three interviews uploaded in the next month here on Jagged Visions. First one will be with the founder of Holding On Records, then with Yos Fest, a guy that has been involved for over a decade in organizing hardcore-punk shows in Bangkok, and finally with the singer of what is probably Thailand’s best hardcore-punk band: Born From Pain. All the interviews were conducted late 2011, early 2012.

Terror in Bangkok

Posted in Thailand with tags , , , , on March 17, 2011 by Alright Jack
 

I suppose this is the first guest post on Jagged Visions. I am the Jagged Vision’s creator’s younger brother and currently living in Bangkok for perhaps up to a year (it’s sort of unplanned still). I thought it’d be cool to write a little about punk and underground culture here in Thailand. Enjoy.

 

Last Tuesday I saw Terror play in Bangkok. I missed the first Thai band as the flyer said the show would start 7:30. In Europe this usually means that the door is open at 7:30 and the first band starts at 8:30/9pm, but here the second band was almost already finished when I walked in. At war with Gods from Melbourne sounded cool, but sort of standard, the crowd went crazy on it though. But from what I’ve heard the response to the first Thai band “10 baht per hour” was much crazier than to the Australian band. I’m a bit angry about missing out on the first band, but I’m sure I’ll have a second chance here in Bangkok. Terror from the first seconds was complete mayhem. It’s been a while since I’ve seen show with this amount of headwalks, crazy jumps and moshing. And Scott Vogel continued to call for “more stagedives, more stagedives, more stagedives!”. It’s never enough for that guy. Anyway, Terror seemed to enjoy themselves and played as you’d expect them to. It reminded me of the craziest Terror shows back in 2004 in the Netherlands. You don’t see this stuff all that often in the Netherlands anno 2011. Thankfully more than half of the songs they played were from One with the Underdogs and Lowest of the Low, which is the only stuff I’m able to recognize.

The one thing that bugs me a bit is the entree fee of 600 baht. 600 baht translates into 15 euro, which I would already consider to be a lot of money for a punk gig in the Netherlands, and for normal Thai people here that’s an awful lot of money. Unless you’re from a priviliged background or have a good job (and there are of course plenty of rich Thai people), the monthly rent for your apartment for 50-75 euro a month here. To then spend 15 euro on a punk gig is rather insane. It’s like what you pay to see Metallica and Iron Maiden play in the Netherlands. But then for a hardcore band that barely lasts 30 minutes. And then doesn’t even play an encore. I’m not saying that punk bands should play more than 30 minutes. I usually hate encores. I like it short and powerful, and I’m sure Terror isn’t going to make a lot of money out of it. But still… I guess it’s just fucking expensive to have a Western band come over here considering flight-tickets and all.

Picture from Siam hardcore website

The place itself, the Rock Bar, was also horribly commercial and filled with kitschy objects. The drinks are expensive, resulting in a venue where the only people drinking inside are farang (foreigners), while all the Thais are sitting outside drinking cheap booze bought from the convenience store. In general this seems to be a problem in Bangkok. All the clubs and bars are horribly commercial. Not many places feel authentic or have character, it’s all kitsch. And unless you like Thai pop-music, there are not too many real cool places for going out. At first sight it seems underground culture is rather undeveloped. Considering the amount of empty buildings (abandoned skyscrapers for fucks sake!) there should be plenty of space for people to organize and set up things together. I know the authorities are probably a bit less easygoing on squatters and diy initiatives than in West-Europe. Here you might just have a 40 cops armed with batons and teargas ready to break some faces show up during an event. I have no idea. But the people living in the slums of klong thoey can be considered to be squatters and  seem to be quite succesful in resisting the police and the interests big capital. So it might be something that could be developed. The only proper underground venue in Bangkok I’ve found so far is The Overstay, which is an unorganized hostel owned by a French guy in which cool stuff is organized from time to time.

Thai HC kid with a patriotic No Turning Back shirt

It seems to be a rather small punk scene. Terror would probably attract a bit more people on a week-show in the Netherlands, even when they play there 10 times a year. But there should be potential considering there is plenty of disenfranchised youth around. Funny to me is that you have exactly the same fashion, dancing, posing and punk music style as back in the West. It’s pretty much all copied, but that’s of course exactly the same for contemporary hardcore kids in Europe and the US. You see a bit more bandana’s than in Europe, and just as with Latino’s, bandana’s seems to fit Thai people much more than white hardcore kids.

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