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Interviews

Becoming a punk in Malaysia – an interview with Kuching, Borneo hardcore band THE MARMOSET KIDZ

MARMOSET KIDZ hardcore band
It’s obvious from the very moment that I encounter Josh of South Asian hardcore act THE MARMOSET KIDZ that he is a devoted and passionate fan, promoter and activist of everything punk, hardcore, and skatebording related. His enthusiasm is infectious and his passion for music led us to the following interview where we’ve managed to get much detailed information on his background, growing up years, local music scene and Malaysian socio-political environment. See the full interview below.

THE MARMOSET KIDZ started in 2010 and hail from Kuching, the capital and the most populous city in Malaysian Sarawak state.

Hi there buddies! Thanks a lot for taking some time with IDIOTEQ and letting us dive into the story of THE MARMOSET KIDZ and your local scene in Kuching. How are you?

Hi there too, you’re welcome! Great, yeah I’m doing fine… That would be an honor to have a talk about it and share my “not-so-important” opinions. I’ve been very busy lately with gigs and all that shit, so sorry for keep you waiting for long. It’s so unexpected to be interviewed. By the way, thanks for reaching out. Really appreciated it :)

Tell us a little about yourself. Where did you grow up and what kinds of musical background did you have when you were younger?

Okay… First of all, as you know, I am the frontman for TMK I’m Josh (Main Guitarist/Vocals) which is an ordinary person living at Petra Jaya in Kuching city. It’s a place where I called home because I’m proud that I was able to grow up in the biggest state of my country. Back then on different territory of the providence before moving to a better place I live in such sort of lacks, where mostly working class people and their families hold their ground against the government land. We called it “kawasan setinggan”. Resistance does exist in result due to corruption that happens, the rich plundering the poor without mercy, street fight at night by a bunch of citizens with low level of morality. It caught up the kids attention with their very own eyes, a victim that were not supposed to experienced an act of violence in their underage. I have lived that life. It had taught me enough at a very young age. Maybe that’s one of the reason for who i am as a person today. Thought that i will never growing up but I did LOL.

In my early years, I used to listening on generally Punk, Metal, Rock N’ Roll, Garage, Hillbilly (country song), several retro stuff including Ballad and Soul, Progressive, Jazz, New Wave, Grunge, regular Pop music sometimes… Anything in between. Exploring curiously different range of genre is kind a fun things. It bring a sort of stoked excitement in me about how to play this kind of sound. I don’t have any proper music education. I learn how to play guitar by ear with a little help from basic chord note book that i get all by myself since i was a kid. It’s quite almost the same with everybody because we only got a radio at that moment and in time we explore those sounds through hanging out with friends, having a lot of discussion on the street, gathering and changing ideas of culture either music itself. We buy some band cd’s and stuff which can bring a positive feeling that is close to us. I also watch documentary, hear an alternative band on the internet (by surfing YouTube in a cybercafe hahhaaha…) and all of that part still remain today. People have different view and path of life that they’re into, this is my perception of life that we’re living. Its been like forever true over the past years, it did.

Did that get you in trouble at school? Did your views differ from other people’s?

Well, I hope I didn’t get any trouble but trouble is always there to get me. Somehow people obviously judging other people’s taste of music, the music they’re making or is it because the subculture that they were into? They simply attach and randomly patch your life with it, judge as if it having a connection with their life that you’ve experienced. It’s not them who put on that shoes, slipper, boots or whatever it is and walked that life. Back in the days, people listening to what they both like and dislike. Even trendies have their own requirement on choosing the type of music they like to hear. Some of them being influenced by their friends, only a few still standing with their taste of music. In other case, it’s similar to everyone else. They will still listening to any genre they want of love song whenever they’re having a bad day with their relationship (relationshit = for example). It’s a mutual fact, me too zzz… Plenty of them probably fucking confuse with their own philosophy of music which they mix with a comparison of culture. As for me, Punk Rock and Hardcore is much more than just a music genre. I guess hearing it for the first time since day one when i were younger was right. It’s a lifetime music that i assume as the other half of me, it never changes. My views does differ from other people’s, because that is what they did to others. Typical critique on either music taste or recorded music made up by the society shouldn’t be the measurement to its value of art. There’s a time when some bully at school talk about how bad my music taste is, asked me if i am a punk then why am i not listening to it? Then i tell them : “Do you even need and have to listen on Punk music 24/7 to be a Punk?” Just listen to it often but don’t get the actual meaning, the messages content and understanding beyond reality is so totally wrong. Who the fuck do they think they are? Its simple and everyone knows that, it just a music talks come on! No one can answer it fully right, but i bet they can now. After all, knowledge later days fuckin’ sellouts. It doesn’t worth anymore. It is not like rebellion waging rage time as we used to lived in our youth. We have to go out there and explore the world. Don’t let yourself being bullied, stand your ground because it will eroded with you as time goes by. Doesn’t care if you are a geek, hipster or whatever shit you called yourself. Live your life hard to the core, it’s your life you’re living not others. Fuck what people think of you. I always keep that in mind. People judge, that is reality and it hasn’t changed (or might not be) since long ago. Face it…

THE MARMOSET KIDZ 2013

What attracted you to punk rock and hardcore? Tell us more about the link between your personal characteristics and the urge to be a member of hardcore community.

Punk Rock and Hardcore to me in my thought is a kind of self-consciousness… Showing off is what usually people would always bear in mind, but don’t even try to understand because for them it’s just wasting time to reveal the true spirit and meanings. Attention seeker, they all just know how to talk from the beginning to end with no actions. For me personally it brings you to a sense of believing yourself, a confidence and freedom. Which influencing every option of decision in life that you’ve chosen, like it’s your life. Its my life! (well that sound more like it) Building our independent character with such definition of life through a lyrical honesty, letting go of pressure at times it feel so real as it just like what you’ve feel. It’s what define who you really are. All of the unsatisfied feeling, something latent in you, the volition that you kept inside, a perfect life soundtrack where you can freely express your whole feeling and creativity through it may not fit in solely. It’s a form of courage that keep me going in whatever i do. To be honest i am a simple person who used to be a loner and not that talkative in real life, i barely talk about ideology with others because they think that they were right. They persistently consider of what you think, i admit that i am a bad guys once in my youth. Act to be so cool by doing such bad things to cover my fear that i won’t survive because the world isn’t a fair place. If life is unfair to everyone, isn’t that mean life is fair? But then i realize and keep humble, letting other describe me as what they want to because people don’t get to understand me well. The pain and struggles that i’ve been through. Hardcore Punk was there in my childhood and even now, my youth. I admire anything connected to it, it’s something close to my soul that i adore so much until now. I will hold and stick to it forever till my last breath. It’s hard to explain and still don’t know why its happening to me. The more i learn, the more i appreciate and love. Being in a Hardcore community doesn’t change my perspective of Punk attitude at all. Punk for me is way more positive rather than such bullshit you’ve known out there. Everyone is under the same skies, we breathe same air in this atmosphere. Even the society keep pushing, looking at us like we’re so bad. It doesn’t bring any differences and problem to me in personal. Nowadays, all I can see is you don’t have to be a real Punk if you’re one of it. It’s just people who always wondering why it’s so compulsory to admit and known yourself as a Punk if you really do? This retard question sounds too stupid. To describe and tear the shit out that you’re it? To fully understand the theory that last endeavor won’t even finish if we put a study on it for life… Scared that others might think that you’re a poser? Poser shouldn’t exist in any kind of discussion, only faker does. Apparently people doesn’t know or either refuse to accept the reality and fact that, if you’re not a poser then are you totally the founder? Punk is political, because what’s provoking the culture of Punk is politic itself. Punk isn’t just about its dress up fashion, music and stuff. Only fanatic cunt and pussy add it up with shit and giving the society bad thoughts. It’s more than ideology thinking and not just all talk but action is required. What i mean is you might have listen to this before, but somebody anyone should start thinking wise on behalf of the new generation. We should avoid negative impulse that influence the society’s way of thinking. Because some group of people living their life with lyrics only without knowing the true purpose, discriminating and con-damning the innocent irrationally, paranoid hypocrisy, but if that wasn’t heaven to those ‘so punk’ fakers and punktard so what the hell is that about? Pretending so much with righteousness on lives that they were not in. An imposture characteristic by a fake that cause a hypocrite identity on themselves where the end of it lead to personality misconception. Stop treating and discouraging people when you don’t even know them by addressing them as the like of outsider or something. The fact is we’re all the same. Except you’re racist! There’s nothing to be shame at what you’re thinking, writing, music you’re making or even the life you’re living. The failure of expressing your idea in life and anything of it was never that bad. It’s just the lack of your inspirations, a lesson to become more aware that people nowadays is too brainwashed with the content on mass media and social computing affiliation where they put on their personal thoughts. Talk is cheap, easier said than done. People doesn’t always think positive in everything. The attempt of negativity is always there everywhere anyhow. But before that, make sure of yourself that whatever you feel right to do just do it. Act as one, together and build a culture of freedom through expression that works toward self-improvement. Life sucks. Learning has no ending, so get educated because knowledge is power it’s precious to be too wasted in life. Stay true and be yourself. It’s all that matter to have a positive vibe within people surround you.

When did you work on your own writing? Have you been in other bands before THE MARMOSET KIDZ? What influenced you to participate?

It’s since high school when I work on my own writing… A sudden rising passion of trying to let the world know what you’ve feel inside your heart. Actively start doing it on my free time and imagine that I’m singing in front of the others like a fool. :P I’m fucking my mind anonymously that time about life, depression, the tense by oppression and all, minority, minimalism, public/politic agenda, daily routine of what happen in our life where it almost sounds universal like a diary, love of course hahaha! and mostly against the norm etc. That’s the least issues i could think of when it comes to lyric’s brainstorming. Even now i still can’t forget few lyrics that i wrote way far ago, it laugh my ass off. A ridiculous idea that doesn’t fit as maturity preserved by ages. I think we all have that “dirty minds” as a teenager in our youth. I’ve never been in other bands before TMK. Some friends do ask me to join their band and either back up their jamming sessions. But all i can say is, I’m just helping and not really into it. Not to be bloody arrogant or what, but keep myself a low profile (it is) because i realize i didn’t have that much talent to be in a band. We’re too busy with study and the changing of life as we grow up. We just randomly play any popular songs that we knew from both international band and local act together while hanging around in some street loitering. Until finally, I made up my mind to start a band. We are going to talk more about that later :)

How is your local punk rock and hardcore scene? Please help us understand how thriving it is, how many shows do you get, are there proper venues to organize shows, etc.

Our local scene here in Kuching is not as big as it seems. Not only for Punk, Skin, Hardcore, Metal, EDM if it count, the other local underground for Indie like Grunge (let just say all in one). It’s actually small BUT we’re united. Everyone collaborate and deal with it, helping hand is always there indeed. Furthermore, it’s our own scene after all. It’s just the matter of common and uncommon music taste. However, a small group of people still divided into such tribe in the making by deceiving others. Get socialized into Punk’s kind of thing won’t bob the builder fucking fix the mentality that people do always judge us even before meet the eye. Even for Punk in person. That means you’re just jumping on a conclusion without knowing nothing. To think that we’re not being treated equally, like we were so lack of experiences and only know how to make chaos out of nothing. Bla bla bla… Punk will be Punk, beat me if that never cross your mind. Convincing especially a sort types of people is never easy. Respect is just for them who is so called noble. Nobility that is measured by what they called a “wise legend”. Our life isn’t for granted on your necessary chart of rankings. Don’t you jaded living just to fulfill others shitty request? If we didn’t reach your “so professional” level of expectation than sorry. I don’t give a fuck. I just don’t understand who are they exactly trying to impress, the world? Not even close to sure if they know what they’re talking about. Act like they know everything where the solid fact is they’re not. Trying to be someone or confess something they don’t that doesn’t suit their attitudes. Maybe people should stop making fun to one another. Learn and having respect to each others. It isn’t just for the sake of our beloved scene, but this bullshit is still there anywhere across the globe. Well like i early said it’s just my “not-so-important”opinions and point of view. Far from that, we all still consider and cooperate with the others. We respect any scene that were run by those that having the same amount of respect to us. It’s a field of gathering where we make some friends and share different idea from different community. The urge, timeless difficulties the organizer have faced… Apart from that we all try the best we can to attend any shows possible. We have minor scene with a passive gig-goer because majority of the mainstream and underground actions go to the federal capital state for tour. Can’t blame their schedule, because sometime everything is not meant to be as it planned.

As for how many shows, if you talked about us then TMK rarely play in a gig. It only happen if there’s a slot for such an underdog like us. Do we not? Our hair color’s the same black, but not the heart. It’s more to a band who can bring mass crowd to the show, sorry but we’re not famous. To be famous is not the reason why I’m starting this band. Venue to organize shows isn’t that ‘proper’ in our scene’s dictionary. We use such space where we feel we can afford, try the best to give the touring band a good accommodation and hospitality beyond the range. There’s no official space to organize a fest or something, we just do it as long as we can by the way it should be. I know every organizer that run the gig in Kuching work hard toward it. They’re fusing much effort to make it happen. Everyone is supportive because if it’s not then who else?

What do you think is missing from Malaysian hardcore community?

Precision. All this while, what i can see is another mainstream fucker where in the beginning, they’re talking so loud about non-profit action and all that anti-capitalism but in the end they ate that shit up. Everyone wants to be the media itself nowadays. I don’t want to turn this conversation to a blame game, i had enough. It may sounds rude, but everyone should just think by their own. What have you done for the scene? The saluted community you’re in? It’s not the time to be stupid and be ignorant. I know certain DIY organizers and space developers work very hard as a team to build a good ethics and enjoyable environment for the underground scenes. Rise with respected attitudes.

THE MARMOSET KIDZ live chaos

Do you often visit other parts of the island or travel to Kuala Lumpur and other states located outside Borneo island?

Not so often, but I did. Get to know other part of the country you’re in can help you know how civilized the people outside of your surrounding area. How is the life that they’re living, from big city to small city. It either teach you a lesson or it can be a new experiences in your life. Get to know others culture, how similar and different it is with your neighborhood and all. Everything has it own variations. I enjoy doing it, if there’s an event i would like to attend outside Borneo Island i will. It just the matter of time either you’re eligible to travel or not.

How do you feel your closest neighbourhood and places you visit affect you?

Similar and differences is always there in wherever places you have been to. Is it connected to the government administration? Not sure if it’s my kind of things to debated with. When it comes to strategies and system, there is where Anarchy revolt movement appears. Some people practice direct democracy and choose to being an Anarchist that’s because of life and option that they’re into. Anarchy is not chaos and anarchist can be anyone, it’s not only for Punk. Some places didn’t have that chance of peace like a country that being in a war crisis or something around the world, so be grateful. I live in a peaceful land, I’m more than thankful enough. Wherever the place you stay or live, it’s just you who can decide the option you want to choose. It’s your life, being affect by the surrounding is normal. But like i said, stay true to yourself. It’s you who living this life, for you not for others.

Speaking of inspirations, you list skateboarding as one of your main impulses to run this band. Are you all active skaters? How did you start?

I’m not used to skate anymore, it just happen back then when I’m in high school. I’m not sure about the others, but I hope this practically maintain our attitude in the band exactly the same way like skateboarding. Skateboarding is skateboarding, music is music. The emerge of disciplinary action that help confront our dedication through both different things, even if you’re not a skater. It’s not necessary to be a skater to be in a Skate Punk band. How about those that have lost their legs? Not everyone can skate. It’s action, a virtue commitment that shows you exist by being yourself more than anything that stop you from what and who you want to be. That’s the real inspiration.

Nevertheless, what makes skating and punk such a good pairing?

Pairing isn’t the matter when it comes to its culture, even hip-hop do skateboarding as one of their hobby… In my own perceptions, the connection between skating and Punk exist long time ago before i was born. I’m not google-ing those wiki on every topic that i share my thought in like certain people do to pick some info on their talks, so some might say that what i’ve shared is not totally 100% right. It’s your own believe and trust to deal with. Skating and Punk is a role of subculture which lead by a subgenre of Hardcore Punk, from Punk itself that is Skate Punk. In other way, it also does linked with Thrashcore, Fastcore and Grind music. Why it’s a good pairing? Because, it fit those culture ideology and way of life, logical thinking and etc. To me skating have much ability, consistency and commitment to rely on so do the Punk culture. Skating is about speed, techniques, endurance and focus. In Punk, those character is really important. Old folks once said, “Punk music is not meant to be slow, it should be fast.” Fast or slow is not the matter but as i say it’s something close to an emerge of speed, focus, commitment and ideology dedication.

MARMOSET KIDZ scene

Ok, so back to THE MARMOSET KIDZ, was running a band something you expected it would be? Were there any failures and frustrations you have encountered along the way?

To be honest, since I was a kid I’m always dream of singing with all that guitar, bass, drums and all. Pour the breath of soul to my lungs out like as if the world would’ve feel what I feel. It’s only for fun purpose in the beginning. I’m not good in those things hahahaa and I never imagined how my life could turned to this, you can say that I’m passionately living my dream. Even we’re not famous or something like that, but I’m happy because we always stick together and share much thoughts to be better each day. A small band that is form to tell our stories, every band has that point of view. Fame is not what we expected, we just hope our little ideas being heard. We’re trying to spread some good messages and advise through our songs about life and anything attached to it, almost everything that life has offer and its consequences… Well it sounds like I’m mumbling a bit around isn’t? Hahaha! Failure, frustration, hardships etc… There’s no band who never encountered it all. Typical matter. But be optimist, it’s a journey… It’s not a destination so everything happen for a reason. That’s what build the bond between you, the band and the world. It’s what makes a band, that’s why people always had say “music is my life”. When your feeling is something that you can’t express by bare words, there’s music.

Tell us more about the band’s reformation and lineup changes you experienced. How did those turbulences affect the band?

Actually there’s not much I can tell. Line-up changes is normal in any band situations, according to their former members will to keep it alive or not nor being better. Particularly TMK is base on personal ideas. Some people don’t get to know why. TMK is more to one man band, that’s because I always put myself first before everyone else. The time, effort, ideology… Apart from that, I do realize and exactly understand it’s not an action of togetherness. But since i always used to do all the things alone on my own, the band members keep rely on me. And truly i know sometimes they’re not able to help so like I say I put myself on behalf and in the end credit goes to all. TMK in what I can see is kind of an experimental study for a few Hardcore kids in town, in which those people were recruited to gain experience as a band in the local scenes. Personally it doesn’t bother me, but it is the path that they will choose. Because some people in the scenes forming a band and they’re active in just a little moment, being in a hiatus for long enough then disbanded without any further updates. To get a bond of existence, commitment, consistency and brotherhood either in the band or the scene is never easy. I try and struggle very hard with much faith and courage to keep TMK alive until today. Even if it means that i will do this alone. Because this is something it have to be, what light up the spirit and who I’m really are… To never deny that TMK does exist. When you start on something, stick to the end with all your guts to where it begin.

MARMOSET KIDZ live

Ok guys, so what’s your next recording project? When can we expect a follow up to your last year’s EP? What are your future plans?

Our next recording project is still under progress, in the meantime we’re focusing on our writing mode. It might be a long played tracks with full length version (LP) or else another EP albums. It’s a sequel from our debut Between The Beat And Balance (EP) that is “Tranquility Divergence” set to be launched around 2017 or 2018 at least i guess if there’s no obstacles. This new album will be heavier and more mild, hope it will go steady because it’s our side of maturity in both sounds and lyric so stay tune. We still try to figured out the next upcoming singles. As for the future plans, an official music video maybe? Hahahaa not sure bro but we do have something in mind about TMK merchandise. We find ourself still lack in merch production, so it will be our another plans throughout the years. Could it also be tours? Don’t know yet LOL zzz…

And touring wise, are there plans to book some treks in the future?

Sure of course, tour is a fun things and not only just a sightseeing… But at this rate, I think we all still busy with each others life like always hahahaa! I do hope to bring our Kuching Pyrate Punx community and movement to sail somewhere across the region so let’s wait for what’s in store for the next move. We will try to update some tour info about TMK when we’ve confirmed the shows so keep an eye on our social media links.

OK Josh, lastly, who do you believe are most inspiring artists that hardcore and punk rock has ever seen?

In my personal believe, RAMONES and MINOR THREAT lead to such multiple variations of influences in both mainstream and underground arena. Their attribute’s so classic and what I’m trying to say is founder, co-founder or anything related to their music is not the main idea. I found that it’s really inspiring to know others would be inspired by them. Their music is a total Proto genre. Dayyyummm i love those band…

THE MARMOSET KIDZ 2015

How about some of the newest bands? Would you like to recommend some cool records before we say goodbye?

There’s too many side-project and NEW bands, so it’s kind of hard to recognized because after sometimes hiatus can only be seen as a state of disbandment literally. By the way in Kuching i guess people should checking out POLISHIT, BAKTERIA, PIG-KRUST, ANARKIDX, BRONCO BUSTER, DANCE ON YOUR GRAVE etc. (too many potential bands that i’ve known) You guys can also stream the past member’s band and line-up related to TMK like ASAXAKIRA, PATH TO SURVIVE and FIREBOMB. They’re pretty good too. For the records, as far there’s only Thornwire and Eden Records in Kuching that I supposed to know… They’re focusing on Hardcore and Metal related stuff as for the Punk it all seems to go DIY ahahaahhaa…It sure does, but it just not meant to be official. :)

Great, thanks so much for your time and lots of interesting thoughts. Feel free to add your last words and take care! Hugs from Warsaw!

Not sure if there’s anything left to say Karol! I’ve been messing around so much already LOL zzz… By the way, thanks again for having us. May you and IDIOTEQ keep this things up. It’s a great effort for the scene to be alive, respect. Stay productive and have a nice day. Thanks bro. :D *hugs*

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