This is an interview I did for a fanzine based in Pattani, South Thailand.
I wrote this down five years ago, laid it out with some pictures on QuarkXpress, printed it and sent to the guy. He never replied after that! So I’ve never seen this published and I have been wondering since whatever happened to that zine editor or his zine. At the moment I can’t remember his name, nor his actual address but I’ll look for it soon.
During this period, Me and Fendi has decided to hibernate from being Carburetor Dung. We were jamming with Bullet as The Shitworkers and having so much fun doing something a bit different.
INTERVIEW: FEBRUARY 9th 2001
Your first words for our readers…
Joe: Hello all, thanks for the support for our band but as I write these words Carburetor Dung has been inactive for almost 16 months! Me and bassist Fendi decided to have a rest from Dung in late 1999 and until now we haven’t rehearse or play live.
Our vocalist Lee is now busy with work, living on and off between KL and his hometown Kuantan. Drummer Ollie is still here in KL but we haven’t seen him for many months now, last time I heard he’s playing with a ska band called Gerhana Ska Cinta.
Me and Fendi actually reformed our old project band The Shitworkers and played a few live gigs here in KL but this band is also facing problems since our drummer Bullet is a busy man.
The Shitworkers will put out a CD of our rehearsal and live tracks very soon though. Now me and Fendi is starting another project band called Group Hug, we already have a few songs written and hoping to play live very soon.
Tell us what Carburetor Dung is all about? Do the words “carburetor dung” have any significant meaning?
Joe: As a band, Carburetor Dung was about doing what we like best; which is making a load of noise and raising some form of awareness about the usual socio-political issues around us. It was also about a bunch of close friends getting together and have a bit of fun.
For the meaning in the band’s name, I think it a two pronged thing. First of all its a homage to the legendary American music journalist Lester Bangs who were one of the few who supported real alternative music back in the late 60s and mid 70s. A collection of his writing was compiled in a book called Psychotic Reaction & Carburetor Dung.
On the other hand, I also think that Carburetor Dung is a derogatory name for the people who are used, abused and then ignored by the “machine” (i.e. the larger society, the businesses etc.).
A brief history of the band…
Joe: It’s a long story actually but it can be simplified as me and Fendi working with our friends since 1991. We are based in Kuala Lumpur and the band has had a few line-up changes through out the years. We also recorded one album in 1993 (Songs For Friends), one mini-album in 1998 (The Allure Of Manure) and a couple of tracks here and there.
For those who want more info on our history, just go to the website.
Some described Carburetor Dung’s music as “punk rawk”. What would you list as your musical influences?
Joe: First of all, “rawk” is just a silly corruption of the word “rock”, just to enhance the meaning a bit. It’s just stressing on the “dirt” of the very compromised word that is “rock”.
We play melodic, singalong punk rock but nothing like the commercial punk bands now big in the States. Some songs are heavy and fast, with emotional singing too. Our musical influences are many and varied but for the stuff we do in Carburetor Dung, it’s suffice to say that the gist of it is from a mixture of early 80s UK punk bands and also early Californian punk rock. So it can range from UK Subs to Discharge to 7 Seconds and Youth Brigade.
Of course, we always try to inject our own feel in all the songs. There’s no point is trying to sound like somebody else.
The band has already recorded and released its first album. So why does it take so long to put out the second one?
Joe: When we released our first album, “Songs For Friends”, it was on a independent label called VSP or Valentine Sound Production and we found out very soon that they were not being fair with the royalty payment. Since we were contracted for another album, we decided not to do anything until the contract expired in 1996. By 1996, we were free so we started recording a new album but that didn’t happen since the studio where we recorded the songs were closed down and the master recording were lost.
We tried again and again later but had money problems and also personal problems. It was only in 1998 that we managed to do a proper recording again, and that’s the year we recorded our mini-album “The Allure Of Manure” and put it out on our own label.
How does the songwriting done in the band?
Joe: Usually I would come up with a few riffs, either alone or with Fendi, and then we record it on cassette. When we are happy with the track, we would give the band members a listen and ask for their opinion. After that I would put in the melodies and lyrics and then we go rehearse the song. At this point, the other band members will put their own elements in there.
There are many songs which we rejected since we first formed in 1991; so we still have all these old “songwriting” cassettes which I think shouldbe interesting to go back to and visit sometimes.
I believe that Carburetor Dung has performed at various places as well as your own home base. Which place did you guys enjoyed playing most? How about the gig in Terengganu in 1999?
Joe: We’ve played many gigs all over the country. We nearly played in Bangkok once but the festival we supposed to play at was cancelled due to the economic crisis hitting Thailand.
Anyway, there were many good gigs we played, too many to really remember well. The one we always talked about was the Blast Off! gig in KL band in the mid-90s, there were 2,000 people there and most of them were singing along to our songs! That was really good.
I also liked a lot of the smaller gigs in Segamat, Batu Pahat, Kuantan and Ipoh. There are so many good people everywhere. As for the gig in Kuala Terengganu, it was a pleasant one since I have always wanted to play in KT, that’s the place where punk started for me back in the late 70s. It was like a dream came true.
How is the Malaysian scene nowadays? Do you have any good bands which you would like to mention here?
Joe: The scene is alive and well. I like the fact that many people started to go DIY rather than being signed to some big or dodgy labels. There’s also more socially-aware action and motivated groups like Food Not Bombs.
The fanzines are also getting better too, more thought and intelligence in the writing. Musically, it’s still very derivative of a certain set of mind or sound from some bands in Europe and the US. And that’s a bit of a shame really since I think a lot of our people are capable of doing more original music.
There are many new bands which I like here; some are close friends of mine like Amid The Mimic (noise, experimental band), Moxuan (post-punk/post-rock sung in Mandarin Chinese!), Fast Game (punk/HC crossover revival band), Mass Separation (heavy crust), Relationsheep (melodic peace punk), Marginwalker (post-punk with Jawbreaker influences), 4elm kids (indie-rock emo), FSF (which has split-up recently, they played fast early 80s US punk), Plea For Peace (melodic peace punk), The Worst of Me (acoustic singer/songwriter stuff) and many more.
As an old timer, what you define punk nowadays.
Joe: Well, one of the main thing about punk ever since the very beginning for me was self-empowerment and that is still very true till today.
Punk has inspired me to be a better person, either intellectually, creatively or morally (that is doing good things for the betterment of the world we live in). Another thing about punk which is still going strong is “education”.
A good punk band should NOT only entertain but also give us food for thought which will further enhance our lives and also our actions and also creative so that they can assimilate local cultural aspects into their music instead of regurgitating Western punk rock.
The third punk quality is “independence” and it doesn’t mean just being independent in terms of the music business but also in our day to day living – being who we are and live our own lives instead of someone else’s.
The rest are just ism-schism which you align yourselves to or subscribe to according to your own values, and you shouldn’t impose that on anybody around you.
Maybe you have something to say about these bands:
Joe: I used to be good friends with Megat, the leader of the band. He’s a very good singer and songwriter. ACAB’s musical output is really on par with a lot of the great Oi! bands out there especially when guitarist Eddie were still playing with them. Their recordings have always been me and Fendi’s favourites.
One thing I don’t like about the skinhead scene is that many of them tend to be aggro, macho and really childish, most of the time bordering on being a violent & clueless fascist.
However, not all skins are like that and I would really love to see more intelligent and positively political skins. I hope many of them would follow the steps taken by the mid-80s political bands like The Redskins (UK).
b) Old Parasite
Joe: I know Zul from this Terengganu grunge band. he’s a nice guy, really passionate, but the old demos of this band sounds too derivative of the more popular grunge bands.
Joe: This is how many new grunge bands try to sounds like nowadays but Butterfingers themselves are moving ahead with new ideas and influences far wider from the people who copy them. I like Butterfingers music sometimes and the people in the band are my friends but they are on a major label (EMI) which is exploiting them to the hilt and I have problems with that.
d) Silent Majority
Joe: I can’t remember much about this band. I think it was HC in some ways but maybe they have turned crust like everybody else? I saw them live ages ago, lots of energy but not the kind of music which I really dig. Whatever it is, they didn’t stand out from the rest. Maybe they are better now? I should check it again then.
Joe: Quite a popular crust band nowadays. I’m not really into their music much. Heard the same old thing too many times. Used to know one of the earlier band members and also was in touch with Jimbo until we had an ethical disagreement about a year ago. I can’t say much, my opinion about them is really old now. People change, so maybe I should give it another try.
Please give your opinion about these zines:
a) DRSA (Terengganu diy zine)
Joe: I know the editor, nice guy and he’s doing a lot of good things for the scene in KT. Haven’t been in touch with him for a while now, I don’t really know what happened. If you’re ever in KT, look for him and his bro.
b) Broken Vision
Joe: Run by Jimbo, also of Cronically Donut zine and Broken Noise Records. The zine is very much driven by anarchist ideals, most of the time not translated well enough to the context of being a Malaysian living on Malaysian soil like me. Still, it seems that it’s quite popular and thus influential; so I think a more realistic and localised approach to the ideas will be more beneficial.
c) Specific Heat
Joe: This is Fida’s zine isn’t it? Haven’t read it for ages so I can’t say much. The old issues saw Fida maturing up and getting better with each issue. It’s always nice to get the other side of the viewpoints.
Joe: This was one of the most promising zine around with its first issue but now it’s still in limbo, maybe too many ladles in the broth is not good for the actual dish? Hopefully it’ll wake up and unleash its mighty self on us again soon.
e) Fuzztival (Riot Grrrl zine from KT)
Joe: Haven’t seen it yet. Nice grungy name though. What’s the address? How much a copy?
Many bands sing lines like “smash the system” or “smash the government”, but sometimes they are afraid to step to direct action. What do you think about this.
Joe: First of all, many bands are just repeating what their favourite bands sing on their songs, somehow the words touch them deep inside and that made them wanna sing the same thing but actually there are not many bands around here who really understand what they are singing about, let alone come up with an intelligent, cohesive and easily understandable explanation to their lyrics.
If they do, many of them are just skipping on the surfaces, which is dead easy – just keep reading all the old Profane Existence issues and swallow them all without munching.
I always think that to have political change; you need the masses behind you, and thus, the first step is to have them understand you and also take those ideals as their own, and for them to understand, you as the rallying cry, not only must understand the people but also understand the subject you’re trying to get across.
Personally, what the people need is not some simplistic slogans. They need knowledge, understanding and acute awareness of what can be done to have a change for the better. You can smash this and smash that but what is the following actions which will ensure your goals?
On the other hand, I also understand the prevailing fear of the government which has been instilled in all of us since we were very young. Many of us are too scared to get right into the thick of things with direct action and the fear is very valid indeed. Still the act of voicing our concerns and views through our songs is still very relevant and much needed to create awareness amongst the people.
So it doesn’t really matter whether the bands would carry forward their views and ideals by way of political activities or not, as long as they are affecting the people with their musical activities. It’s not a total loss.
As for direct action, the best method of direct action is when people were made to think, learn, realise their position and finally emphatise with your ideals. And also, as Crass said it, “don’t get caught”.
Which is more important, music or the message?
Joe: Personally, the answer is both but I do admit that some tunes lacking in lyrical substance can still be enjoyable due to the songwriting.
Tell us what are the songs and from which bands you guys would like to cover during your gigs and why…
Joe: We rarely play covers so we can count by our fingers the cover songs played by us all these years. Most well known is “Do Nothing” by The Specials, this is because we are big fans of The Specials and also we emphatise with the lyrics, still we would enhance it further by putting on our own lyrics to it.
We also used to play one of Face To Face’s early tunes, can’t remember what it called as we only played it once back in 1994. We also played Stiff Little Fingers’ anti-war song “Wasted Life” and also Sex Pistols’ “EMI”. That’s it.
What’s your view about Straight Edge? Are there any SxEx movement in Malaysia?
Joe: SxEx is fine by me as long as it’s not militant/fascistic and especially if the people practicing it are really honest with it. They are too many people in it due to peer pressure and also trendiness. All of us in Carburetor Dung are more “spiral” edge then straight. We are a bunch of naughty people.
There are no SxEx movement as such here in the local scene but there are people who branded themselves SxEx since they don’t smoke or drink alcohol. I’ve met many ex-Straight Edgers from the West who would get out from SxEx when they are older due to the fact that they just wanna have fun sometimes. Give it a bit of slack, I’ll say.
We always heard the saying “punk is more than music”, how true is this from reality?
Joe: It’s very true. All you need to do is read this interview again. Punk has always been different from other genre of music due to its other agendas, especially the socio-political areas it attached itself to. Without it, punk will be like any other forms of music; fashion and entertainment and nothing much else.
What do you think about your current political situation? Do you agree with me if I say that there is no more freedom of speech in Malaysia?
Joe: To the first question, I have to say that we are in quite of a bind now. Things are rather chaotic with vastly different schools of thoughts vying for power; right from the patriotic, nationalist, racist ones to the militant fundamentalist Islamists on the other side.
As for the lack of freedom of speech over here; that has always been the case if you just look at the surface of the big picture. Truth is the advent of the internet has some how changed that a lot, and for those who are creative there are always a lot of channels for their voice, right from all the theatre works, to arts to music etc.
So in short, there are ready avenues for your speech and expression but the problem is the effectiveness of the address; I mean, most of these voices don’t reach the majority of the people who really need the message.
This is also affecting the DIY scene, many bands are saying a lot of good things but it seems like most of the bands only wants “their” people to listen to it. So what happens to the rest of the people out there? Why can’t they also have the ability to obtain your art and benefit from it?
Have you heard of any bands/zines from Thailand?
Joe: I heard about some old Bangkok punks through Luk Haas many years ago. There was this blind punk guy called Dok Mohok selling stuff at a market there. Don’t know what happened to him. Then there was The Toilet, a band of expat kids living in Bangkok.
Also the gig done by American pop-punk band All You Can Eat there. I went to Bangkok twice and met Sid or Norasate Mudkong (who was originally from Pattani!) and he was running a magazine called Generation Terrorist, also a club where I saw two really good indie-pop bands. I’ve lost touch with Sid and my friends who went to Bangkok to find him said that he has disappeared!
Anyway, now Bangkok has a zine initiated by Chris (this New York Hardcore guy who are living there). From him I heard that many bands in Bangkok are more influenced by MTV-bands like Limp Bizkit and Korn, but there are a bit of a scene going with a club run by the guys from the nu-metal band called Plahn. Hopefully we’ll see a punk or HC band there soon. Is there a scene in Southern Thailand?
Before we end this chat, maybe you want to say something for the new comers here..
Joe: Well, first of all, never underestimate the power of punk rock as a life-changing, mind-expanding and self-liberating experience.
Many of us would go through their “punk-phase” without being affected but there are also many of us which will forever be indebted to the knowledge, experiences and the awareness created by punk rock’s constant call for a better you, a better community and a better world.
You can take punk rock as just another form of entertainment but you would not escape from its socially-concerned, politically questioning nature. Another thing, punk rock is not only music or fashion but it’s also a way of living your lives as a responsible, thinking and action-oriented human beings.
Lastly, punk rock is also about your own self-empowerment, realising that you also can rise above all of these negativities you are surrounded with, that you can be that person which you want to be, that you yourselves can achieve what it is that you are dreaming for.
All you need is knowledge, experiences, openess, love, commitment and passion for a better world, which means you have to start by changing yourselves first.
All in, YOU CAN DO IT!
Your last words?
Joe: Terima kasih for your interest in what we have to say. At the moment, we don’t really know whether Carburetor Dung will be back together or not but me and Fendi is still together and do things together. Maybe we will be able to go there and play for you people one of these days. Salam persaudaraan from us both.