Music in Bangkok

Raising The Standards


thestandards1
thestandards2
The Standards, Bangkok, Thailand

Thankfully, in a world of musical platitudes, Matt and the boys (and girl) are raising the standards. After going it alone, and succeeding, they are taking their sound to the UK on a tour designed to see if a Thailand-based band can “compete with the big boys”. Listen to the sounds on their Facebook page to hear what The Standards are all about. 

The history of popular music in Thailand has been a pretty woeful affair. Twenty-five years ago, it was Asanee Wasan that were credited with bringing Thai music into the modern era. For someone stepping off a plane in what was then the post-punk era, Asanee Wasan’s soaring power chords and painfully slow rock ballads equated more with ancient history than anything contemporary. Fortunately though, things did change – at least for a while. 

Thailand’s ‘New Wave’ happened about 15 years after the fact, but it was worth the wait… Bands like Modern Dog, Clash, Silly Fools and Paradox emerged to offer something a bit different alongside the nation’s usual fare. It got to the point where an ex-member of Suede was in a band in Thailand (Futon). And they were all pretty decent bands… Modern Dog for example opened for Radiohead’s visit to Bangkok, toured extensively world-wide, and in 2006 blew bands like Franz Ferdinand off the stage at Bangkok 100 (even though they were on earlier in the day). Grunge, Indie, Punk, New Wave, Death Metal, Hip Hop, House – whatever the musical style someone, somewhere, was experimenting… But unfortunately the momentum didn’t carry. 

As with elsewhere in the world, Thailand’s music industry adapted and survived. Slowly, but surely, “alternative” was tamed, packaged and brought into the mainstream. Today, the kingdom’s music scene is, to say the least, predictable – a steady and sure product of similar sounds generating an equally steady source of revenue. The time is right for a new ‘Modern Dog’ to shake things up a bit. Perhaps ‘The Standards’ are the band we are looking for.

The Standards are a musical oddity. They have been around for about 4 years and their lineup includes 2 foreigners and 3 Thais. Front man Matt Smith provides the vocals while Nay Voravittayathorn hits the drums, Manasnit Setthawong (nickname Nit) provides keyboards, Paul Smith plays lead guitar and Sithikorn Likitvoarchaui (nickname Mc) plays bass.

A chirpy Cockney from Woolwich in South London, front man Matt certainly has the front man look (ala Damon Albarn). He played in a couple of bands in the UK, most noticeable being Foxtail, a London-based band with ‘Mod’ overtones. Despite lots of concerts and coverage in the NME, nothing ever got to vinyl. After moving to Thailand he missed being in a band and he very quickly helped pull The Standards together. 

Unlike other Thai bands, they don’t have the promotional weight of a mega-corporation behind them, and despite this – perhaps because of this – they are doing the business. Considering the context they are working in, The Standards have a very unique look and sound. They’ve played most major venues in Thailand (including club Culture near Khao San Road, and Immortal, which used to be on Khao San Road until a couple of years ago), their music videos are played on MTV, they’ve played live on MTV, and they supported megastars “The Charlatans” who played Bangkok in 2010.

“It’s easier to get your music out to an audience these days,” suggested Matt when we spoke to him. “Back in the day it cost 600 or 700 quid an hour to record in a decent studio, but these days you can do everything on a Mac.” That flexibility led to the band putting together “Well, Well, Well”, a three-track EP on CD and “Nations”, a full-blown album which sits nicely amongst the racks of CDs by foreign artists found in record stores around Siam Square. “We tried working with some of the local producers, but it didn’t work out. We wanted more of a live sound. At the time we have a regular event called Popscene at Bangkok Rocks on Sukhumvit 19, and we recorded everything there. The owner just let us use the place afterhours and we did things like record the vocals in the toilet so we could get the right sound.”

The band’s big sound and attention to detail has translated into a powerful live act which soon amassed a solid following of locals (20%) and expats (80%). In the short time they have been together, they have toured extensively – they did an Asian tour with 9 concerts in Singapore, Borneo, Malaysia, and a three day festival in the Philippines. More recently they played CAMA in Hanoi. Quite an achievement in its own right, but all the more impressive when you consider they manage themselves.

 “The fact that we manage ourselves means we can do what we want”, added Matt. “The Thai alternative sound is more like British music in the 80’s, but our sound is more influenced by bands like Kasabian and Arcade Fire. It’s very different from what people are used to here. If we really wanted to make something of ourselves in Thailand we’d have to change our sound and it wouldn’t be worth it really. It’s hard work doing everything ourselves, but we just enjoy it.”

Historically, “it’s all about the music” is a sentiment that has been relegated to cliché, but as far as The Standards are concerned, it really does seem to be the case. With a sound that doesn’t fit the local scene and no managerial support, The Standards have created a niche in Thailand’s music scene that allows them to keep doing what they like doing – playing their music. Now, with that under their belt they are taking on what might be considered the ultimate challenge – a tour of the United Kingdom.

Matt has been the focal point in the organization of The Standard’s UK tour. They have organized everything themselves. They’ve contacted the venues, begged to borrow equipment, and apart from promotion by the venues themselves, promoted it themselves. To pay for everything they have organized their own sponsorship. “But we aren’t going to make any money out of it,” points out Matt, “quite the opposite in fact”. 

He’s breaking his neck 24/7 organizing a tour that is going to put the band out of pocket… I guess the question “What’s the effing the point?” would come to anyone’s mind. The answer it seems reinforces the “it’s all about the music” concept.

 “We’ve just got to go there just to see what happens. We aren’t aiming for world domination or anything, but we just have to know. We have to know how we compare against the big boys. If we don’t do it, it will always be on our minds, so, yeah, it’s a pointless exercise. We hope to get people talking but there’s no real objective beyond that”. 

The Standards take their Thai homegrown to the UK in July 2011. Here’s a breakdown of the tour:

The July dates are:

01/07/11 – Camden Rock, London
http://www.camdenrock.co.uk/

03/07/11 – Bull And Gate, London
http://www.bullandgate.co.uk/

04/07/11 – Workshop, London
http://www.theworkshophoxton.com/

05/07/11 – Haymakers, Cambridge
http://www.acousticstage.co.uk/the-haymakers/index.php

06/07/11 – The Shed, Leeds       
http://www.theshedbar.co.uk/

07/07/11 – The Blue Cat, Stockport
http://www.bluecatcafe.co.uk/Main.html

09/07/11 – Alan McGee’s Greasy Lips, Jamm, London
http://www.nme.com/tickets/artist/alan-mcgees-greasy-lips-club

10/07/11 – Rhythms Of The World Festival, Hitchin
http://www.rotw.org.uk/

The tour is sponsored by Wood Street Bar, Smu Guitars, and Popscene.

More info on the Facebook event page.

Pictures Miki Giles

Denis Hemakom, 808 Club, Royal City Avenue (RCA), Bangkok, Thailand

808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
royal_city_avenue_808_2
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand
808 Royal City Avenue (RCA) Bangkok, Thailand

On RCA, we spoke to Denis Hemakom. Denis has the luxury of being a partner of 808 Club, which a quick sound check with a young Thai club fanatic we know confirmed, is “the hottest place on RCA”. 100% Thai, yet a native of Washington DC, we could find nobody better to give us an insight into the club scene in Bangkok, RCA in particular, and what exactly brought Grandmaster Flash to town.

What attracts the planet’s peripatetic youth to Thailand’s capital? For many, their quest is of a spiritual nature; a quest for discovery – to find people different to themselves and situations they would never encounter back home; to learn and to grow… and, of course, to take in some of Bangkok’s “kickass nightlife”. But with all of this passion for discovery abounding, you can sometimes wonder if the KSR “decompression chamber” actually has a safety net around it. It’s sad to say, but many a traveler on KSR never actually makes it further than the police station of an evening. Some of those that do venture out only get as far as Rambutrri Road, where they fill their journals with vivid descriptions of their “taste of Bangkok the traveling masses rarely encounter”. Well, as Ricky Fitts said, “Never underestimate the power of denial”. With a philosophy that aspires to get people off Khao San Road, KhaoSanRoad.com had to intervene. We took a look around to find something worth getting off the strip for – and we came up with RCA.

On RCA, we spoke to Denis Hemakom. Denis has the luxury of being a partner of 808 Club, which a quick sound check with a young Thai club fanatic we know confirmed, is “the hottest place on RCA”. 100% Thai, yet a native of Washington DC, we could find nobody better to give us an insight into the club scene in Bangkok, RCA in particular, and what exactly brought Grandmaster Flash to town.

RCA started life as a failed investment – a street full of shop front offices that were finished just in time to greet a massive downturn in Bangkok’s real estate market. The area’s fortunes
turned when a couple of Thai pop stars bought up some of the offices and opened them up as cafes/bars. Through their fame, and their choice of local bands as entertainment, they encouraged an immediately loyal clientele. When members of the government raised their eyebrows at role models as purveyors of alcohol fueled entertainment, the pop stars sold up, but RCA’s fame as an ‘alternative’ venue remained. The rest, as they say, is history.

Compare RCA (or ‘Royal City Avenue’ by its proper, but now somewhat outmoded name) and KSR, and you might be entering the Twilight Zone. To imagine what it is like, take KSR, shake off all the travel agents, hotels and guesthouses, and you are left with the clubs and entertainments venues. Now, add a genuine club culture with top local and international acts, and you have RCA. What’s curious in the comparison is that RCA caters to a local market with acts like Grandmaster Flash and Ed Banger, while KSR, where the bulk of visitors might have at even heard of DJs of this magnitude, in general, does not. Why then aren’t legions of die hard clubbers heading from KSR to RCA as part of their Bangkok itinerary? We ventured to 808 Club to find out.

808

We enter a dimly lit 808 Club – clothed in black ‘808’ t-shirts, the club’s bar staff and security receive a military-style briefing in preparation for tonight’s big act – the DJ legend Grandmaster Flash. Opposite, Grandmaster Flash’s crew are setting up turntables and checking sound levels. It’s all go in here tonight, but despite the backdrop of industrial efficiency, we get a warm and generous greeting from a calm and relaxed looking Denis Hemakom. A Thai-American, Denis looks a lot younger than his 32 years.

KSR: So, how long have you been in Thailand?

Denis: I was brought up in the US, but I came to Thailand often, and I moved here full-time 4 and half years ago.

KSR: And were you involved in the US club scene?

Denis: Actually, I was involved in the bio-tech industry, but I also used to run DJ events and parties on the side. We used to do things like throw a party in the desert 2 or 3 hours out of San Diego – that’s when I was living in California.

KSR: In the desert? That’s sounds like a lot of organizing?

Denis: Not really – these weren’t ‘Burning Man’ type events. There’s a plateau in the desert we called ‘Fat Man’s Crack’ which was this huge crack in the ground that tapered off into something the size of a footpath. We’d set up speakers and we’d have about 400 people there. They were pretty intimate affairs.

KSR:
You obviously know your stuff – so the first question should be about the club scene in the US and the club scene in Thailand; are they at all similar?

Denis: Totally different. In the States a venue might be just a bar and a dance floor. It might even be a warehouse. There the focus is on the music – here people want the package; the sofa to sit on, the table to have their drinks – that’s part of the club experience. I am not saying one is better than the other – both are unique.

KSR: So where does 808 fit in?

Denis: We looked at Astra (the former name of the club) and thought hard about where it went wrong, and how we could fill the holes. Yes, it’s a compromise between a US club and a Thai-style club – we have tables, but not so many, and we have a dance floor. We really feel like we have created a genuine international club here. Our biggest investment was the sound system – if it’s not the best, it’s equal to the best in Thailand.

(A post interview walkabout around RCA revealed some clubs in the area, like Denis said, had an intriguing nature. One of the wings of Route 66 typified what Denis was talking about – rows and rows of school desk-sized tables where you’d expect a dance floor. The advantage though was punters had plenty of room to house dispensers the size of mini-beer kegs, each holding about 5 liters of ‘Vodka and soda’ – very handy, if potentially life threatening.)

KSR: And what about the music?

Denis: To be honest, the ‘cutting edge’ in Bangkok might really only be what the ‘Top 40’ clubs might play in the US. The House is the same as the US, but there’s no real Hip-Hop hardcore here.

KSR: Do the locals really understand the music?

Denis: Not in the same sense someone in the US might – not really, but the changes are encouraging. When we opened 6 months ago and we had a big name in, I’d send pictures back home and my friends would say, ‘Is that Thailand?’ – they’d just see rows of white faces with maybe a couple of Asians – a similar dynamic to clubs in some parts of the US. We had ‘DJ Nu-Mark’ here and he said the same thing – he felt he might as well have been playing in the US. But even in the short time we have been open – 6 months – there have been changes. Now when we bring in a big name we can expect much closer to a 50/50 split between Thais and foreigners. Regular nights, it’s a typically Thai scene, but at events like Grandmaster Flash – well, you’ll see tonight.

(And although it was probably more 40-60 loaded in the favor of foreigners, he was closer to the mark than we expected.)

KSR:
So, in the West a lot of ‘youth culture’ – for want of a better word – comes from grassroots, the streets, and works its way up to mainstream. Here in Thailand the music on the streets is the music farmers listen to in the Northeast of Thailand, or Ad Carabao-type ‘Songs for Life’ music – which is never heading for mainstream. If club music doesn’t have any roots in Thailand, can it ever be anything more than fashion here? I mean, let’s face it – the people who come to your club are pretty well off.

Denis: Maybe, but the people who come to 808 don’t come here because they are rich; they come here because they like the club and the music we play. Yes, the people into this music have traditionally been pretty well off in Thailand – they’ve studied abroad, they have done an MA at college in New York or Washington, but they’ve grown an understanding and appreciation for the music. They have brought it back, and they have made it accessible to people in Thailand. Bands like Thaitanium – they spent a long time in New York. Clubs like Route, Slim, Santika sprung up to cater for the demand or adjusted their format, all
big opulent places – where we fit in is by providing something a bit different. Yes, we want to make money – but we also want to be accessible. We could charge 1,000 Baht ($35) at the door for Grandmaster Flash, but we are not, we’re charging 700 Baht ($21). Like you said, in the US things start at the street and work their way up, while here there has been a trickle down. We play a part in educating people so that they start to feel going to a club is a good way to spend their time. We want people to come regularly, not just for events.

KSR: In your opinion, what does RCA have to offer?
Denis: It offers some really great clubs – Route 66, Flix, Slim, House of Bangkok, 808 of course – they are all good places. It also offers diversity – down the road you have ‘Old Leung’ – it’s a rock venue. There are clubs here full of students dancing to local pop music. You get live bands down here. Some good places to eat. Also, it’s an Entertainment Zone – that means we get a license to do this and we can legitimately stay open until 2:00 a.m. We’re still going when you get kicked out of most places in Bangkok.

KSR: It’s clear RCA has a genuine club culture and you have international acts here that Westerners and others might already know, so why aren’t there legions of clubbers coming down from KSR?

Denis: We have asked the same question and didn’t really come up with an answer. Perhaps it’s the distance in uncharted territory…

KSR: You mean they’re shit scared?

Denis: (smiles) Or perhaps they are in Thailand and they don’t want that sort of thing – perhaps they came here to get away from clubs. We tried piggybacking a few acts down there (KSR) when they came to Astra, but it didn’t really work out. Who knows – if you find out the answer let me know! (smiles)

KSR: Would it be a good thing? Herds of foreigners in a traditionally Thai scene?

Denis: Anything that gets people to see more of Thailand has to be a good thing.

KSR: OK – RCA, Bangkok. Why Grandmaster Flash?

Denis: Well – it’s personal!

KSR: So this is just for you?

Denis: (smiles) Right – you see in this job I have had the opportunity to meet some of my heroes. Jazzy Jeff, DJ Premier – as I was growing up Grandmaster Flash was the man. He was just – you know… a hero. So, yes this is just for me, but it’s also a safe bet. We’re going to sell out tonight – it’s not a problem.

KSR: Aren’t you worried about too many old people turning up with walking frames or electric wheelchairs?

“Yes – they’ve been on the phone all day today”, interrupted Dave, Denis’ British partner.

KSR: Have they been asking ‘Is it the real Grandmaster Flash?’

Dave: That’s right!

KSR: So what’s the next big thing at 808 after Grandmaster Flash?

Denis: Ed Banger August 2 – it’s the one we’ve had the most requests for.

KSR: OK – well good luck tonight and good luck with Ed Banger.

Denis:
Thanks.

Three hours later, Grandmaster Flash was making people make some noise and work up a sweat that could only have meant bar receipts for the evening were pretty good. It was a good night, and despite Dave’s worst fears, a packed house wielded not a single walking frame and no fire risk bylaws were broken. Strange how things change and stay the same. I guess quality always does and Grandmaster Flash played an awesome set. Although it lacked some of the presence his earlier days mustered, it was still powerful. But what’s to compare – there was nothing when Grandmaster Flash started off, so of course he was going to be amazing then. OK – it wasn’t the 80s, but Grandmaster Flash in Bangkok? Has to be awesome enough!

If you ever feel like venturing off KSR and ending up at RCA, probably the best way is get a taxi to Hualumpong Railway station and catch the MRT. Get off at Praram 9 station, and get out of the station on the ‘True Head Office’ side (you will see the signs). From there, take another taxi to RCA. Yes, there is a bus route, but you don’t want to bother late at night – bear in mind RCA is a late venue… things really don’t really get going until around 10:30-11:00 pm.

Tip: Leave before 2:00 am. When the masses move onto the street, getting a taxi is a bitch, and at that time of night you aren’t going to find another way back to KSR easily.

If you want to know more about 808 Club visit their website.

Hooky in Wonderland


Hooky in Wonderland
Hooky in Wonderland
hooky_in_wonderland_3

A couple of years ago Peter Hook (Hooky) played a DJ set on RCA, Bangkok. When KSR.com asked me to interview him, I mentally prepared an informative and detailed preamble about New Orders highly credible impact on the music scene and the pivotal role that their nightclub The Hacienda played in the dance revolution of the late eighties and early nineties. However, after some consideration I decided to keep it brief and just say that New Order are the best band in the world and Hooky’s their bass player.

If you want a history lesson get a copy of the film 24 Hour Party People or read Dave Haslam’s book “Manchester England”.

Here’s what happened when I hooked up with Hooky.

Myself and a few other journo types congregated in the Cy’an Restaurant at the Metropolitan Hotel and waited anxiously, a rumour went round that Hooky was in the pool and we made polite conversation amongst ourselves until a slightly damp Hooky arrived carrying sunglasses and wearing a bathrobe insisting that nobody took photographs until he got dressed.

This is the transcript.

Q) Have you been here before?

A) I came here for six hours in 1981. It was funny because we came out the airport, there were hundreds of taxis and they came running at you, we were like ‘f***in’ ell. What ‘appenin’ ‘ere?’ – They were trying to get you in their taxis so we got in one and told him to take us to a bar.
 
Q) What do you think of the place?
 
A) It seems alright I’ve not really seen that much of it. I’ve got a lot of friends that come here though.
 
Q) How do you think it compares to Walkden or Worsley like?
 
A) It was Little Hulton actually. That’s a strange question I’ve not been there for a long time either.
 
Q) Where do you live now then?
 
A) Alderley Edge.
 
Q) What’s the strangest thing you’ve seen since you’ve been here?
 
A) You! (laughs)
 
Q) A skinhead from Wigan in Bangkok, I mean when people get here there’s always something that blows their mind, something out of the ordinary.
 
A) Well, I’ve only been here half an hour and to be honest it’s just like being in the Metropolitan in London, so I’ll have to reserve judgment on that one.
 
Q) Had you thought of bringing the rest of the lads over to do a gig like?
 
A) It isn’t like that really. I think it’s pretty well documented that New Order don’t really do a lot of gigs, so er the chances of it’ll be quite slim really.
 
Q) I heard Bernard Sumner saying that one if the reasons you don’t tour much is your bad guts, do you anticipate any problems on that front tonight?
 
A) I bought some Imodium at the airport. The reason we don’t tour much is because of Barney’s bad head, his bad attitude to touring.
 
Q) Is there anything you’re looking forward to seeing while you’re in Bangkok?
 
A) No, not really, it’s a funny thing. I’m very lucky in the way I get to travel to a lot of places and I really enjoy my job and I just look forward to doing it well wherever I do it. It’s like that. It’s quite a strange thing, I live in England and I’m happy there and I know that my job takes me everywhere which I love, so the thing is that I come here I do my job I go home. If I want to come and see things I’d come when I wasn’t working it’s a different mind set.
 
Q) One of the things Bangkok’s famous for is its racey nightlife are you considering indulging?
 
A) My racey nightlife days are pretty much over now. I’m an alcoholic, so I don’t drink, which is quite ironic. I’ve been tee total now for eighteen months, now I have a different way of looking at life. You see having been through the Hacienda, Madchester and all the things like that in Manchester I’ve found that there’s other things in the world. I actually found that it was stopping me working and I wasn’t enjoying it, so I’m on the other side of it if you like.
 
Q) Have you reached the point where you enjoy being sober?
 
A) I wouldn’t put it that way. It’s like a child not being able to have sweets, even though you know it’s not good for you, you still f***ing want it don’t you.
 
Q) In an interview before you started DJ’ing you didn’t give much credence to DJ’s
 
A) No, I didn’t, I thought they were all a***holes. I still do, and now I include myself.
 
Q) So now you’ve become a rockstar DJ do you sympathise with any of them?
 
A) Oh no, I don’t sympathise with them. They don’t deserve your sympathy, they’re a bunch of arseholes. I’m being facetious; the thing is there are different things that people do. I count myself as a live musician my first love in the world is playing live music and I’m not able to do that for one reason or another so the next best thing to that is to DJ, and whilst it’s different it is still a performance and Bernard (Sumner) is still right when he says that what we do as ‘celebrities’ that’s a horrible word, is a PA and people come and stare at a geek that used to be in a band (laughs). I mean I’ve realised how difficult a job it can be, how lonely it can be, I mean if it goes wrong, you’re like ‘F***in’ ‘ell. Sh**.’ You just want to dissolve. I mean I found it very difficult it took me a long time to get used to not being with people because for 28 years I’ve had about 30 people with me. The worst thing is when they just stare at you, you have 200 people staring at you it’s very unsettling. It’s alright when you’re on stage you’ve got a guitar and can hide behind it or ponce about. It took me a long time to get used to people staring at me.
 
Q) So now you only do major gigs like Glastonbury?
 
A) Yeah. It’s like Naomi Campbell, we don’t get out of bed for less than fifty grand. (Laughs again)
 
Q) Do you think the Hacienda would have stayed open a bit longer if you’d saved a few bob by Dj’ing yourself?
 
A) (laughs). No, the interesting thing about the Hacienda was it created the superstar DJ they had the record for paying the most.
 
Q) Like Dave Haslam?
 
A) We didn’t pay Dave Haslam the most.
 
A) It was an enormous amount. I mean the interesting thing was that the Hacienda closed because of its debts. It’d been ran so badly for so long and basically Factory and Rob, Rob Gretton bless him had been using New Order’s money to keep it open, without New Order knowing. As soon as New Order found out then they stopped. It was almost as simple as that.
 
Q) What do you think Ian Curtis would have made of the Hacienda and the New Order of today?
 
A) I think he would have liked it. Ian was very much one of us anyway. I think his illness changed him and the medication for his illness did him the least help. I was reading an article about the way they used to treat epilepsy in the seventies and it was f***ing frightening. It was the cocktail of drugs. Compare it to now there’s a lot more awareness, they’re a lot more gentle, there’s more awareness about your mental health that sort of thing. So I think Ian’s probably up there having a laugh. He’s never really left me so…
 
Q) Do you feel any personal responsibility or guilt for the popularity of the paisley bandana in the late eighties?
 
A) I thought you were gonna say the death of Ian Curtis then. I thought ‘who’ve you been talking to’. The paisley bandana I never wore one, did you?
 
Me) Some people did.
 
Hooky) Let’s get ’em. That’s what I say.
 
Q) I listened to a radio show you did over Christmas and you played some songs by unknowns from across the world. Are there any Thai musicians you like?
 
A) Funnily enough what happens is, when I gig people give me things. A lot of the time I worry about having nothing, so I’m afraid of missing something, so whenever somebody gives me something I always listen to it. Even though it takes f***ing forever, I’ve got a pile on my desk f***ing this high you know, every so often I go in and pull one out and think “Thank God it’s crap” then it goes through the shredder, though funnily enough or luckily, with all the places I’ve played like Japan I found some fantastic dance music in Japan that I play. I did a gig in Mexico and met this guy who does noiselab.com, who’s got some f***ing fantastic Mexican dance bands. They’re great and I was delighted. I do I pick them up. There’s also a French band that gave me their CD that I play erm (drums his finger) I’ll play it tonight, I can’t remember I can see it but I can’t remember. Sh** I’ll tell you tonight I can’t remember.
 
Q) Are you going to modify what you play tonight for the Thai crowd?
 
A) No, I can’t do that. I mean I don’t know the Thai crowd. It’s a funny thing really, because I went through a phase of not playing New Order. It seemed logical to me I was in New Order, why the f*** do I want to play New Order? I mean I think I was denigrating it. I thought why would anybody want to listen to New Order, then I got so sick of people asking me to play New Order that I started looking for a way to play it and I started putting weird stuff together and stuff that hadn’t been heard before and things like that to make it interesting for me really. So the thing is that I have a spectrum that I draw from, but I don’t know people well enough. I can only tell if they’re dancing or not or if they’re all stood there like that (looks at floor solemnly), and you think f***ing hell. If you’re playing dance they want indie and if you’re playing indie they want dance.
 
Q) What about requests? How do you handle requests?
 
A) I have a really good way of handling them I just go ‘no’. I’ve not travelled 5000 f***ing miles for you to ask me for The Cure, know what I mean, f*** off. Americans get very upset when you say ‘no’. It’s quite interesting, they don’t get it. (Peter puts on mock startled American accent)
 
“What did he say?”
“He said no.”
“He said what?”
“He said no”
 
It’s like that. I mean you don’t go up to a band and say ‘oi’ do you? I know people think they can do.
 
Q) What are the rest of New Order doing?
 
A) Err, Bernard’s at Waitrose, he does the shopping about now. Stephen’ll be at the local homeless shelter he gives the soup out at 4… (laughs). How would I know?
 
Q) I mean like, will there be another album?
 
A) Oh right sorry, you meant generally… er.. It’s changed lately in that we’ve found our new records are… it’s what the record companies call a ‘Rolling Stones’ moment. Everyone wants to hear your old stuff, not your new stuff. Like waiting for the Siren’s Call hasn’t really sold many.
 
Q) Why do you think that is?
 
A) Because people don’t like it, (laughs) off the top of my head. I don’t know I think the climates changed. It depends what your audience is made up of doesn’t it. It depends if you cross over to a younger audience or if your audience is made up of forty year olds who just want to get off their tits on ecstasy to Blue Monday again. My accountant summed it up quite well he said “Peter people don’t want to hear your old stuff they just want to get off their tits to Blue Monday again.” Do you think that’s true? (looks at me and laughs).
 
Q) How does that make you feel?
 
A) It doesn’t particularly bother me, I mean I’ve been doing this a long time and I’d be really surprised if somebody surprised me. I mean with me being sober you begin to see the irony of things. Like I had this girl – I was playing a gig in Spain last week and she was screaming at me and I’d just played Blue Monday. I thought I’d better go and see what she wants, she said ‘Play Blue Monday ! Play Blue Monday!’.I got back I thought ‘F***in’ ‘ell’ That is wierd.’ So in a way it’s part of the rich tapestry of life.
 
Q) Where you going next?
 
A) I go to China tomorrow.
 
Q) Do you listen to some of the new bands?
 
A) I listen to a lot of new bands, I mean I was very impressed by The Editors, I’m still a great fan of Razorlight although the new stuff sounds a bit weird and funnily enough when I was at the NME awards I was very impressed by Babyshambles actually, but the guy’s such a f***ing jerk (Pete Doherty) in’t he. I just think he’s a complete and utter w****r. I mean I’ve got mates like that but they’re not in the press thank God, I mean I think it’s a bit dangerous, because you’re always aware, especially as a parent of the effect that glamorising that shit has, and I get worried about that, especially when we’ve glamorised the Hacienda and the Happy Mondays and the Ecstasy angle of what we went through. I mean I think it’s a very dangerous thing because you’ll get some kid in a club going, ‘Do you want a bit of smack mate?’ ‘Well I’ve seen Pete Doherty doing it and he seems to be doing alright’ it’s as simple as that in’t it.
 
He’s obviously a very troubled character and he sort of needs looking after really and nobody seems to be doing that really. I was watching a documentary about the Lotto Lout, that Mike Carroll and they were saying people set him up to make a dick of himself, and they guy managing him uses that.
 
I think with Pete Doherty it seems like that, I mean for someone to get caught that often you’ve got to be pretty stupid haven’t you.
 
It reminds me of that time Liam Gallagher got caught on Tottenham Court road, he was off his trolly wasn’t he and got paranoid when he saw a couple of policeman and they pulled him over, that was his sort of cry for help. I think musically he (Doherty) is very good, he’s very interesting. His lyrics are very interesting as well.
 
I also like Carl Barrett although it amazes me that you can talk to him but you can’t understand a f***ing word he says and yet you can understand him when he sings, it’s quite funny.
 
Q) Do you think it’s useful to explore altered states to expand musically and creatively?
 
A) Yeah, well, I think a lot of the time when you make music like that you think it’s great, but when you wake up in the morning and listen to it you think ‘f***in’ ‘ell’. I mean some people can do, but I’m not one of those musicians so I don’t understand it. Bernard tells me all the time, ‘It was great when we were all off our heads.’ I wasn’t off my f***in’ head, what you talking about? ‘We were all off our heads when we made Power Corruption and lies.’ I wasn’t. He says it was acid album, it was more like f***ing hard work, so it is for some people, but I’ve never found that drugs and music go together, I think it’s very destructive. I mean when you look at things like Shaun Ryder and The Happy Mondays, the pinnacle they were at, they just destroyed themselves.
 
Q) One of the things that gave Joy Division and New Order their credibility was your reluctance to court the press. A friend of mine called it ‘anti marketing’ was that a deliberate ploy?
 
A) Well our manager said, ‘You two are f***ing thick – stop talking to the press.’ I mean now at the age of 50 it’s quite easy for me to talk to you lot, even though I don’t even know you, which is just practice really, but the thing is when you’re twenty-one you’re consumed with a burning anger, you’re trying to break out from your Salford roots or wherever, you feel like the worlds against you. You’re not really in the right frame of mind to talk a lot really because you’re going to make a lot of mistakes. The thing is when I was twenty one I didn’t know why I was doing it, I was doing it because there was free beer and I got to chat up a few birds.
 
Q) What do you think of the Hacienda being turned into flats?
 
A) That didn’t bother me at all. I’d rather have it as flats, if it had remained a nightclub it would have been like seeing your girlfriend out with another bloke. I actually heard a rumour that Noel Gallagher is buying the penthouse there which I thought would be fantastic.
 
Q) While you’re in Bangkok do you harbour any secret curiosities for ladyboys?
 
A) Yeah, course. Are they a local band? Part of the post punk revival? The LadyBoys of Bangkok were actually hugely successful in Salford, it was like a review, they became local stars, people used to see them out shopping and treat them like they were off Coronation Street or something.
 
I was hoping for something a bit more newsworthy than that.
 
I’ll leave that to you, you’re the one that lives here.
 
Peter called the interview to a halt at that point insisting that he need to go and sleep before the gig. Throughout the interview he was affable and good natured. All the points he made that could be interpreted as contentious were tongue in cheek.
 
The music he played ranged from Deep Dish, Chemical Brothers through to Joy Division, Sex Pistols and Johnny Cash with all the colours of the rainbow in between. It sounds weird but it worked.
 
I’m biased but it was one of the best DJ sets ever played. If you ever get the opportunity to see him, grab it with both hands.
 
Copyright: Doiminic Lavin (first appearing on KhaoSanRoad.com)