We conducted this interview with Singapore hardcore band OVERTHROWN on January 1st, 2012.
Thank you for taking this interview, guys. Please, introduce yourself and tell us a few words about your band.
No worries. Likewise, thanks for this interview. My name is Shahrizal Zainal, better known as Jai. I run Reconstrux Booking and my band is called OVERTHROWN. This band have been around since mid-1996 and since day one we play hardcore. Our main influence are MADBALL, STRIFE and EARTH CRISIS.
The English name Singapore comes from Malay Palembang “Singapura”, meaning “Lion City” – two perfect words to put in a hardcore crew name. Please describe your local music scene.
The Lion City underground scene started in the late 80s and it was united regardless of genres. Metal, punks, hardcore and oi were not categorized into diff genres. It was known as ‘the underground music’. Through the years things changed and hardcore became it’s own scene in the early 90s and got really huge (I guess like any other scene in other parts of the world, the 90s were the peak, the best times of hardcore.) Slowly, after the millennium, we witness a lot of change in the scene here. Hardcore itself have a few sub-genres. It’s no longer straight forward and got more complicated. It was still quite huge, but sadly, hardcore was wrongly defined. You know, things like emo-core, metal-core, and whateva-core.. we didn’t care and still remain the way we are, but that is when we see a lot of segregations going on. Everyone was starting to prove something, but of coz… end of the day, only the true ones remain. The scene here now is really small but still strong and active. I actually prefer it this way. Numbers are not really important as long as we have true hardcore kids in the scene. Currently in the Lion City hardcore scene we see 2 generations of hardcore kids. The 90s and the post millenium kids. Both are getting along really well and sharing and exchanging knowledge. I still do see kids come and go every year but it’s all good. And even though the local hardcore scene are very much updated and advanced, I feel that we are all starting to build the scene again like back in the early 90s and this will definitely carry on till the next few generations. As long as there’s people setting the right example, it won’t fade away.
Singapore has four official languages What languages do you speak?
Yup, the locals speak English (as first language), Malay, Chinese and Tamil. I speak English, Malay and some Chinese dialects.
You’ve been on the scene for such a long time, but you haven’t been active all that time. Having been keeping a very low-profile for 5 years, are you able to compare all changes which occurred in hardcore scene? What are the most important differences between the old times and now? Is there anything you miss? Oh, and please define your understanding of “the old hardcore times”.
Yep, we’ve been around for more than 10 years as a band. We may not be as active as people think, coz we didn’t release many records and tour a lot, but we are still around playing small local shows and also organising shows. That’s how we contribute to the scene. In Singapore, everything is so strict and we struggle a lot to keep the hardcore scene going. Everything is DIY. Venues for shows are very limited, rentals rates are not cheap, crappy rules etc.. also, we have to go through 2 years of full-time national service where we were forced to join the army, police force or the civil defense force, but that doesn’t mean we became inactive. Our hearts and mind are still active but realistically, we can’t do as much as the other bands from Europe or USA. We need a real job to live in this country. The government is always taking money from us and they don’t really support our activities. So it’s hard to be a full-time hardcore band that is consistently touring, and the fact that we’re Asians, people from outside Asia may not be aware of our existence [laughs]. But then again, we were there during the 90s (old times hardcore) and we are still here now. So we witness both 90s and post millenium hardcore. There’s not really much difference. Still struggling for unity, still fighting to keep the scene going…the only difference are the numbers of scene kids and of coz the mindset. Back then (oldtimes hardcore days), hardcore kids don’t care too much about anything. They just wanna have fun together and look out for one another’s back. Style of music and dressing is not important. Kids buy CDs more than t-shirts. They moshed to any kind hardcore bands and were not picky about it. The mosh pit were never empty. All these are missing these days.. on top of all that, it’s better to move slow and steady rather than to rise so fast but exist not more than 4 years.
Give us a quick tour of your discography.
2005 – “The Remaining Few” EP, 2007 – Split demo with FORGIVE, 2008 – “Reset The Pace” single (promo) , 2009 – “Our Last Defence” debut album. We have also contributed to some compilations before, but have no idea what happened to it! [laughs]
Are you stoked about your upcoming Indonesia tour with BACKTRACK? How many shows have you been playing so far? What great hardcore bands have you played with?
Hell yeah! We just did a short South East Asia tour and it was an awesome experience as it was part of NO TURNING BACK’s Asia tour. Learnt a lot! We’ve played after 2004 mainly in local ones and around Malaysia and Indonesia. We’ve played with IGNITE, BOLD, FIRST BLOOD, ALCATRAZ, RUINER, CALIBAN, HAVE HEART, MILES AWAY, FC FIVE, AYS, A STRENGTH WITHIN, TERROR, DEATH BEFORE DISHONOR, ALL SHALL PERISH, COMEBACK KID, DRIVEN FEAR, RELENTLESS, ABHORRENCE and NO TURNING BACK.
How do you distribute your music, both digitally and physically?
We try to distribute it physically as much possible but mainly, we just put it up online via Myspace or Facebook.
What countries have you been to? What’s the furthest place you’ve ever traveled to?
We played around se Asia, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. That’s the furthest I think. [laughs]
Is there any chance to see you live in Europe some time?
Yeah, we’re planning to do it this year. NO TURNING BACK was encouraging us to do it and will help us out when we get there. We just need more support :)
Are you into European hardcore? Name you favourite European bands.
Back in the mid 90s, European hxc was our favourite! ABHINANDA, RYKER’S, SHIELD, DOUGHNUTS, and FINAL EXIT especially. Right now it’s NO TURNING BACK, A STRENGTH WITHIN and FOR THE GLORY… and more to come! :)
You’ve been spending some time in a studio. What are you recording plans?
We are releasing a mini-album in a few weeks time which was long delayed! Right after this release, an EP.
How would you compare your fresh tunes to the oldest of yours?
It’s still pretty much the same. Maybe a slight diff on the style of vocals. Otherwise, it’s still in your face!
What do you do besides music? Do you live off hardcore? [laughs] What do you do in your private lives?
All of us have main jobs, which is our main source of living. Being in a hardcore band is just our passion. I am a nurse, my brother Racthmad (vocalist) is a fire-fighter at the airport, Hotdog (bassist) works as technical/engineering support at a 5star hotel and Yusof (drummer) works as technical support at Singapore power grid.
What are you most looking forward to in the future as a band?
We just wanna play more shows and really look forward for shows outside South East Asia and also release more album/EP.
Thank you for your answers! Would you like to add anything?
Your most welcome! Keep spreading hardcore music worldwide. Hardcore lives!