Wednesday, March 14, 2012

[interview] WORMROT (grindviolence from Singapore)

Mention the name WORMROT, and most everyone in the global hardcore-punk/metal circuit know who they are. Playing a style of abrasive in-your-face grindviolence, they have toured tirelessly in the past 2 years -- in the US, Europe, and Indonesia, with the occasional show in Singapore, Malaysia, and even Vietnam. Pretty soon they will conquer the world! We get the scoop on them in this exclusive interview which gives us the lowdown on all the stuff no one has dared to ask (at least not in front of them anyway): the Scion A/V deal, their recent Indonesia tour (What?! They asked for USD$300/show?!), their arrest by the religious police over New Year's in Malaysia, whether they consider themselves DIY or not. So: are they DIY or not? We love this game. You decide.

Hey guys! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview. Before we get started, let's get all the usual formalities out of the way. Names, positions in the band, daydreams and hobbies, favorite pop band/song on the radio? Also, perhaps a really really brief history on the band, for those who aren't familiar with WORMROT or grindcore in general?

Rasyid: Hi, my name is Rasyid. I play the guitars and I'll be doing the entire interview. Arif and Fitri do the vocals and drums respectively. We play grindcore with powerviolence and crust influences. We started in 2007 after we completed our National Service, and got signed by Earache Records in 2010 I think. Right now we have two full-lengths and various EPs, splits and comps, and are currently writing the third full-length. My favourite punk rock band EVER is FOUR GET ME A NOTS. Ever. A close second would be UPLIFT SPICE.

Wormrot has always been a hardworking band -- constantly writing, recording, improving and honing the art of blast-beat grindviolence. All this has evidently paid off, what with you guys being picked up by Earache soon after having your first full length LP released by underground label TVG Records. Since then, it's been constant touring coupled with solid releases and you have never looked back. Care to share your thoughts and views on this whole experience? How has the international world of grindcore been treating you guys on the road? How does it feel to be able to play huge festivals alongside big name bands most of us here back home only dream of seeing live while we sleep naked with their records nestled in our bosom?

Rasyid: The experience has been terrific so far, meeting and talking to members of big bands (well at least to us) like PLF, PHOBIA, MUNICIPAL WASTE, and TOMBS. What makes it more awesome is that they're all actually nice guys and not stuck-ups who think they know the scene too well. Watching bands that we only hear of or listen to back home is always a pleasure, but playing/touring with them is an indescribable experience altogether. Perceptions of them slowly fade and you realize that these people are just like us, trying to beat all odds, and loving what they do best every night on stage. But touring comes with a huge price: you will encounter financial problems, you will miss home or someone who's waiting for you back home, irregular mealtimes and of course lethargy, not due to performing but the tiring wait in the van from point A to B. We've basically got everything down except for the financial bit. Definitely not easy, dude. We once thought it was all fun and games, now shit has gotten real. It's a fucking business.

With so much touring for the band, and with each tour lasting at least a month or 2, how are you guys able to get time off work ? Do any of you even hold proper day jobs? What do you guys do to survive when you are not on the road playing music to grind freaks everywhere?

Rasyid: I'm the only one who has a day job most of the time. I work as a mover/driver in a furniture company. I'm lucky enough to get a job that allows me to leave for months and resume when I return. Not many companies in Singapore (or maybe, anywhere) would even consider hiring someone who goes out of the country ever so often, especially when they know it's to tour with a band. Arif doesn't have a day job but he supports himself with his art. Fitri gets a job after one tour, quits before the next, finds another after, lather rinse repeat. Currently he's selling electrical products in an IT shop. I work 6 days a week, and during my off days I prefer to stay at home and watch DVDs, read manga/comics, and play the guitar.

When MAGRUDERGRIND decided to release a free 10" vinyl under Scion A/V (for those who don't already know, Scion A/V is a music label owned by Toyota Motor Corporation, the Japanese car company), there was a huge backlash within the global punk community where harsh accusations of the band selling out and abandoning their DIY ethics were made. Understandably, the same can be said for WORMROT's decision to follow the same path and release a free record under Scion as well, as there were definitely tongues wagging within the local scene when the news broke. We are still on the fence on this whole debate about DIY-punk bands signing on with major corporate entities like Toyota to release a free record, even if the label is willing to pay for every single aspect of the release, from the recording to the pressing of the vinyl. Why did WORMROT decide to collaborate with Scion A/V in the first place? What was the deal?

Rasyid: Actually, we didn't want to do a release with Scion A/V, not because of ethical conflicts but because we thought we needed a break from writing after Dirge. MAGRUDERGRIND's decision to release it for free definitely set me thinking and influenced our decision. Our primary objective to collaborate with Scion is to capitalize on the massive advertising campaign, totally free, and if you're in a band, you would want as much exposure as possible (OK, OK... maybe not all bands). Especially us, coming from our tiny shores trying to make an impact in the foreign market. Everything we have done for the band has cost us a lot of money, and we have had to deal with currencies which are stronger than Singapore's. Why would we not jump on the chance to spread our music further, which also at the same time lightens our financial burden?

If you're against buying from these labels/companies, it's simple: don't buy it, and wait for it to be downloadable online. So far, our music has been available online way ahead of their physical releases anyway. However, if you want absolutely nothing to do with these entities, then cool, we respect your decision and point of view. So wag your tongues and tails all you want, we still won't give a fuck; we do things by our own rules.

The deal was simple: Scion offered us an amount of cash to record a few minutes worth of material for an EP release, they print copies of it, and then give it out for free. That's it. The only condition was that we had to put the Scion logo on the cover, and we had no problem with that, considering they paid for all the costs and get ZERO profit in sales. They even offered to support our US tour this year to promote Noise, but that fell through, so it's on hold. We didn't find anything suspicious with the deal, so we went ahead with the recording of Noise, and it paid off. No regrets.

DIY hardcore-punk has always been very apprehensive and suspicious about anything corporate and has relentlessly tried to keep business and government entities out of the community. Yet with the emergence of Scion Fest, this line has clearly been blurred, especially when staunchly DIY bands like BASTARD NOISE were on the bill last year. WORMROT, like most grindcore bands, started out playing small shows in the local DIY scene. In fact, you guys still do so to this very day. So the question is: do you all still consider WORMROT to be a DIY grindcore band? If so, what are your personal definitions on what constitutes as being DIY in this day and age?

Rasyid: We do what we think is right and that's it. That includes playing DIY shows whether you're under a label or not. I'm not sure what a DIY band is. Sure, we're signed to a label, but we book our own shows. Sometimes we use booking agents, but that doesn't mean we leave everything to them. In some ways, every band is a DIY band. I can't comment on what makes a band truly DIY (or not). Maybe I'm not DIY enough haha.

OK, let's get to the more recent stuff that has been going on for the band. The New Year's Eve show at Rumah Api in Kuala Lumpur was off the fucking hook. All the bands slayed, but WORMROT clearly was the highlight of the evening. Later on however, you were arrested by the Malaysian Islamic religious police. Please kind sirs, for the benefit of those who don't know, tell us more. Details please!

Rasyid: I've written a full write-up on what happened that night and included my opinions in a post on the band's Tumblr page.

You guys have also most recently returned from an Indonesia tour, and judging from the response and comments we've been hearing and reading both online and off, this has not been one of the highlights for the band thus far. Let's set the record straight for all the haters out there: what really happened?

Rasyid: It wasn't the best tour we had but certainly not the worst. There was a misunderstanding regarding our show fees. Apparently, they thought that we had asked for a high show fee, basing their assumptions on our show fees in Europe and the US. And if you convert that to the Indonesian currency, it's a lot. We have managed to clear up the misunderstanding with all the organizers that had asked us about the problem. This is really not a big issue however. Anyone can make assumptions. And quite frankly, we're used to it.  But thanks to all our friends in Indonesia, the problem was settled and we've got our name cleared (I hope).

WORMROT is embarking on a furious month and a half long UK/Europe tour starting this June of 2012. Sounds like an invincible summer! Who is setting up the tour? We understand that the original plan for the band this summer was to cover the States, UK, and Europe, back to back. Why is it only the UK and Europe now? And while we are talking about this, since you guys have toured all these areas before, any major differences between touring these 3 places? Any favorite city or scene that really left an impression? What about sketchy shows? Sketchy promoters? Sketchy kids? Any good tour story to share with the kids? 

Rasyid: As I mentioned above, our US tour has been put on hold, the reason being because MUNICIPAL WASTE will be touring the US during that same period, and Scion will be sponsoring their tour. We were offered to tour with MUNICIPAL WASTE, but Scion found it redundant to sponsor two bands on the same tour, which we understand completely. Also, we've toured the US consecutively in 2 years, and we can afford to give it a break. It's not as if we're not gonna return -- touring the US is awesome fun! Although the tour has been shortened, there's a downside: we now have to fork out our own cash for plane tickets to Europe, which the last time we checked costs about  SGD1700 per person. Therefore, we're saving our monies right now in the shortest time possible. We hate the idea of a fundraising show, -- usually with high ticket prices -- it's almost like begging for others' sympathy (money). Instead, other than our day jobs, we're collecting money by selling our possessions online. I'm selling my collection of toys, comics and whatnot, which are hard to part with but I'll do anything for this silly band.

This tour is set up by our friend named Luc who runs Doomstar Bookings. He too plays in a grindcore band and you've probably heard of it -- FUBAR. He set up our last Europe tour too and we've decided to work with him again. This time around we'll have Nico from Bones Brigade Records to drive us so that's a bonus!

Differences are not much, though I find the crowds crazier in Europe, especially when they're speaking in a language you don't understand. The language barrier is the main obstacle everyone will experience in Europe. Some of them have repeatedly apologized to us for their weak grasp of the English language, but it has never bothered us. Sometimes I find it fun trying to decipher a cryptic code. And coming from Singapore where languages are all mashed up into one, I believe not in the the language spoken but in the message delivered.
I really can't think of a favorite city or an outstanding show right now, but maybe you can ask me again later. These things happen when you're not thinking about it. Though I have the fondest memory of playing in front of a goat. We had a show in a squat/farm, and this goat was following us around... she was like a pet dog! And while I was playing, she'd occasionally come up to me and Arif, put her nose on my guitar, brush against my legs, totally distracting me and my fearsome grindcore playing haha! It was one of the coolest shows where everyone was smiling and laughing whenever the goat stole the spotlight.

(the aforementioned goat)

Describe a typical day in the life of WORMROT while on tour so we can all live vicariously through you. What are your most and least favorite things about touring?

Rasyid: The time we wake up in the morning depends on the journey to the next venue, sometimes we wake up as early as 7AM to get on the road. We'll either have breakfast at the organizer's house or somewhere along the way. And then we hit the endless tarmac roads for hours, usually around 4 hours or more per day. We've driven up to 18 hours, because our driver got lost. I'll usually listen to my player during the journey, and I'll try my best to stay awake and look out the window. I get tired if I sleep too much. I'm a quiet person, sometimes I don't even talk throughout the whole journey. When we arrive at the venue, we'll unload all our gear and equipment, set up the merch table, maybe sound-check (we usually don't), have a beer, and then it's the waiting game. Usually we'll be headlining the show, which means we're playing last, and most of the time, time passes so frustratingly slow. Whenever we're given a chance to play second last or earlier, we take it! After the show, we'll load our stuff back into the van, drive to the place to stay that night -- it could be the organizer's place, a cheap hotel, or a not-so-cheap hotel, or if we're lucky, a friend's apartment. We usually do not party after shows; we prefer a good, quiet and homely rest. But there are nights that I just need to get more alcohol in my system haha. That's about it. Repeat that for 70 days.

Last few questions so make 'em count! Upcoming plans for 2012 and beyond? Last words? And spill it guys, underwear preferences: boxers or briefs? 

Rasyid: Last words: this summer we'll be touring Europe for a month and a half. Everyone knows that we fucking love touring, but this summer will be our last before we take a long and indefinite break. Touring is taking a toll on our lives in Singapore, we have difficulty coping what with our personal commitments, not to mention it's tough for us financially. It's really not easy for Asian bands to travel to the US or Europe to make a living because of all the finances involved. Let us stabilize things back home first, we'll start touring again when things get better. Meanwhile we'll be writing new stuff for the third album, so rest assured we won't be sitting around doing nothing. WORMROT will still be active. And as for undies, Arif is the only one who likes it snuggly. 

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