Bangkok Straight Edge band Monument X are bringing the positive youth crew spirit and message to a new generation of hardcore kids in Thailand.
How you got interested in hardcore and punk. What were the factors that introduced you to hardcore, straight edge and ideas that come with all of these?
The first time when I got introduced to hardcore was around 4 years ago by my friends. I remember watching a video of Youth of Today and other straight edge bands, and I thought they were amazing. Their lyrics were very meaningful to me, and they were something that I could look up to and follow.
When and why did you decide to start the band together? What other past and present projects do you guys have been involved in and are they all connected to straight edge and youth crew?
Monument X started around May 2012 because we wanted to make a band that plays the same style of hardcore that we all enjoy listening to. There weren’t any straight edge or youth crew style bands in Thailand, so we decided to fill that void.
How does hardcore punk scene in Thailand look like? How many people come to shows, are there divisions between the people with different social backgrounds or music taste or there’s unity and everyone is going to all of the shows and supports the DIY ethics in one way or another?
The scene here is smaller than the ones you could find in Malaysia or Indonesia, but the number of hardcore kids and people coming to shows keeps rising every year. Hardcore shows can range from having 50 people to around 200 people, while in Indonesia they can have more than 1000 people. Despite not having quite the same numbers here, it doesn’t mean that the kids won’t go all in with stage dives, sing-a-longs and moshing every show. There is hardly any division between the people going to shows. In the small hardcore scene of Thailand everyone is friends with each other, and we share and support each other in any way we can.
What kind of places do you use for playing shows and how do the gigs look like? Is there anything in regard of hardcore punk outside of Bangkok? What about the bands, zines and activities happening out there?
Usually we play shows in bars like the Immortal bar or outdoor stages. There aren’t many places to arrange shows in Thailand, but we make the most of it. The shows are always very energetic with people giving it all whether it’s a new local band or a headlining international band. If you’re interested in taking a look at a Thai hardcore show yourself you can find great videos of from our friend Oum the Snapper (xOUMxHC on Youtube). There are small scenes outside of Bangkok, but almost all of the activity happens in Bangkok. As a whole, most of the hardcore bands here play heavy hardcore, which is a very popular style here. There aren’t really any traditional zines to speak of in Thailand. People take the full advantage of the internet to express and share their ideas and creativity in outlets such as Facebook.
Is there social or political pressure on you for being punk or straight edge in your country? What are the similarities and differences between Thailand and other SEA countries?
In regards of political pressure, Thailand isn’t as conservative towards punks like for example Indonesia, where it isn’t unusual for police to arrest punks just for the way they look. Here people who don’t know about punk sub-culture may give you strange looks, but most of the times people don’t care about what you look like or do.
For straight edge, most of the people don’t really know what it’s about. When I tell them about what goes into being straight edge, they usually view it as a positive thing, so there isn’t any pressure on how you choose to live your life. The scenes in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore are very similar to each other and the only major differences being the amount of people attending the shows and the different languages. Differences between styles may be that the Malaysian scene favours melodic hardcore, and the Indonesian scene enjoys youth crew style. Other SEA countries like Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia don’t have established hardcore scenes yet.
What are your reasons to be straight edge? Do you see straight edge as a revolutionary mindset that has an impact on the world outside of the hardcore punk scene?
I’ve never felt the need to take drugs, get drunk or smoke. In my opinion you can have a better life without them and straight edge is just that, a life free from drugs or other substances. Straight edge is a choice you take yourself. The current culture that commands people is that they will do what others do, whether it’s drinking or partying. Claiming edge will set you apart from everyone else in their eyes, and they will react to that accordingly either accepting you for your own choices or viewing you as an outcast. I think it’s very hard for straight edge alone to invoke a radical impact in the current trends and norms just because of the tradition and how people think. For now, straight edge as a mindset is embedded well into its hardcore roots but we may not yet know if it’ll spread beyond that.
What do you think of the fashion in the straight edge scene? Collecting records and buying merch and Nike shoes is something that is not common only in Western scene but also something that people from all of the world are trying to copy and be cool. Are there sxe kids from Thailand getting criticisms for example from crust punx about how stupid it is to wear Nike shoes or something like that?
I think it’s good to show support to the bands you like by buying their records and merch, but if you don’t actually listen to the music and go to the shows you’re not contributing to the hardcore scene in any way. Wearing a band shirt and other clothes just to look cool in the eyes of others is not cool in my opinion. As long as you show support to your favorite bands and contribute to the hardcore scene in some way, the fashion and whatever criticism that comes with that doesn’t matter.
One of the problems that we hear about Thailand is the prostitution and sex tourism. Is there anything that people can do in regards of defending worker’s rights be it sex workers or people working in sweatshop factories? Do you as a band have songs or messages dealing with the issues of sexism, homophobia or worker’s right?
Thailand has been trying to get rid of its reputation for sex tourism for a long time and improving the rights of the workers, mostly in response to the outcry of the people. I think the best way to help the people is to simply spread the message, which there is many other better and effective ways than through hardcore music. We don’t have any songs yet dealing with the problems in equality, because they aren’t very prevalent here in Thailand as they would be in the West. In Thailand people are very open minded and everyone is treated as an equal, which Thailand is known for.
Thailand is among the countries that have a woman for a prime minister, roughly one out of five men is gay and can be openly so, and workers have a set minimum wage and other rights to go with it now so things are looking pretty great in that way.
What would you say about the culture in modern Thailand? What are the problems that people face every day? How does capitalism and globalization mix with the traditional way of life, spiritual traditions or religion? Are there people in the hardcore punk scene who are openly religious or some kind of nationalist?
I think the Thai culture is shifting away from the conservative and traditional Asian culture to a more western one. Westernization has brought things like shopping malls (like the famous Central World, which is among the largest in the world) and other things typical to a western society, along with consumerism and other problems that come with it. If you venture outside of Bangkok and its towering metropolis of skyscrapers you may find that the people still live a quite a simple life free from the first world problems. I would say that the spiritual traditions still remain largely unaffected of the globalization, which is the way Thailand wants to keep it in the future. I haven’t met any people in the Thai hardcore scene that would’ve been zealous about their religion or nationalist views. I think the Thai hardcore scene is open to all kinds of religions and opinions, though people mostly don’t choose to display it more than they usually would.
What are some of the best shows of foreign bands that you’ve seen so far or bands you’ve played with?
I think all of the shows have been great, but the best show by far was the Bane show which was also the first show of Monument X. We were very excited to share the stage with such a great band and the members of Bane were all very friendly, great guys. Other notable shows include the Edge Fest, where we went to play in Malaysia. We played with bands like Braveheart from Indonesia and Homerun, Second Combat, and Kids on the Move from Malaysia. It was the first Edge Day show I’ve been to and a lot of people came to sing along to our songs. Everyone had a great time.
Anything else you want to add?
This year Monument X will release a new EP and also hopefully tour around South-East Asia. You can listen to our songs on bandcamp and keep in touch with us on what we do on our Facebook page. You can also find us on the Hard Care 2 compilation along bands like In My Eyes, Better Times, Good Clean Fun and Second Combat. It’s a charity compilation that raises money to help victims of human trafficking in Cambodia, so I recommend you guys to check it out at xmorethaninkx.bandcamp.com.
I would like to thank everyone who supports us and all the people that make the shows happen and contribute to the hardcore scene, everything from arranging shows to taking pictures and spreading the word to making new bands. Support your local hardcore scene. For last words I would like to say be yourself, stand your ground and show the world what you stand for.
The interview was answered by Michael Choothai (Vocals) with Niko Kallio (2nd Guitar) on behalf of Monument X