After joining Isan Dancehall late last year, UK dub producer Prince Fatty is riding into Thailand once again, promising “big bass lines, hot dancers and beats that will drive you crazy.” After appearing at Big Mountain music fest on Dec 7-8, he’ll head to Bangkok for his Tropical Dope Party at Rockademy on Dec 14. We spoke to him about his latest project and his ongoing fight for musical freedom. 

What brings you back to Bangkok?
Big Mountain and Sticky Rice Sound System have invited us back, after we kicked it last year. This time will be even better. I am bringing over 30kg of dub plates [custom vinyl records] of fresh music. The speakers are even bigger this year, so the deep bass will travel far. We’ll be with special guests Cian Finn, UK soul legend Omar [Lye Fook] and one of Jamaica’s best dancehall MCs, Horseman. I will be selecting and playing some real killer tunes, the very best in reggae, afro, soul and disco.
 
How did you first get into reggae/dub/dancehall/ska?
I loved the bass in music, so I just followed my ears and my vibe. I started by listening to reggae and hip hop pretty much at the same time. I ended up in the ghetto of London where the good music is made. This is where I got the training from reggae producers and sound systems. Music is like martial arts, it takes years to learn all the moves, as you get older you get more powerful as your understanding grows.
 
Tell us about Tropical Dope – I understand it’s a label/promoter/party all wrapped into one?
Tropical Dope takes care of itself: we make some of the best parties, we control the sound, the mood and tempo. After a while, I felt we had to make our own music to keep things fresh. I did this with reggae, now Prince Fatty and Horseman are doing the same thing with afro, disco, funk and hip hop. We are now working with artists such as Marcia Griffith, Big Youth and Omar, who we are bringing to Thailand, and developing new younger talent.
 
You’ve been very critical of the music industry in the past—is Tropical Dope a response to this?
Yes, we need musical freedom--freedom of notes and of melodies, vibe and expression. I am told by the business not to work with foreign language artists. Why? This is negative. I love learning and hearing new sounds, exploring moods. This is why English music uses things like "baby, I love you baby" nonsense in songs. Other professionals who work in TV or performing athletes have rights; we have none. Musicians are treated badly, have no rights over their work and get very little respect even though the whole world enjoys the sounds we make. Can you imagine a world with no music?
 
What have you been working on lately?
I recorded a recent album by a fantastic singer called Mayra Andrade from Cape Verde on Sony Records and Hollie Cook, our lover’s rock reggae singer has just completed her album—disco reggae for romantics.
 
What can people expect from your sets at Big Mountain Festival and the Tropical Dope party?
Big bass lines, hot dancers and beats that will drive you crazy. Our reggae set brings together 30 years of great reggae into one big mix and Horseman is the master MC who will "rub a dub" dance all night long. 
 
How different is your material live to on record? I hear you tend to play a lot of unreleased material…
Yes, we play what we call "specials;" these are songs we record just for the sound system. We take the vocals from famous songs and do our own music and beats, such as our afro version of "The Message". Eventually some will get released, like our reggae version of the disco classic by The Whispers, "The Beat Goes On" by Hollie Cook.
 
What’s your most memorable touring experience?
Doing a sold out show at the Dub Club in Los Angeles and hanging out in the Sierra Nevada mountains with all the reggae greats like Errol Dunkley and Cornell Campbell--chilling on my hotel balcony while they were telling me stories and drinking warm beer!
 
What was the inspiration behind your Battle for Seattle (2011) album of Nirvana covers?
Myself and Mutant Hi-Fi occasionally feel misunderstood. On this occasion I heard Nirvana in a shopping mall and I felt the inspiration. Both being fans of Nirvana when we were kids, it just felt right.
 
Doing a full album of Nirvana covers suggests you have pretty broad influences; how would you define your tastes?
Open and magical, I can tell if something is fake. In reggae the man choosing the songs is called "The Selector." I have tried to be the best selector I can without tricks just raw songs. Music takes on a life of its own. Once we have recorded something, it’s alive. I get pleasure from seeing the reaction on the dance floor. It’s often natural and the people just can’t stop dancing and vibing to the sound.

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Known for their raucous live shows, Berlin-based electro-punk troupe Bonaparte are swinging by Bangkok as part of their Asia tour. BK caught up with the band’s much-traveled frontman Tobias Jundt ahead of their gig at Cosmic Café on Nov 25.

How was Bonaparte born?
Bonaparte's mother was feeling funny one day and she thought it was the tuna sandwich that she ate for lunch, but then she gave birth to a little pink-haired creature and realized what that funny feeling was: Bonaparte! That's how it all started. Oh, you mean the band? In 2006, I drove around Europe in a red rally car from the 60s with nothing but a guitar on the backseat. I was eventually stranded in Spain where I wrote a lot of songs. When I was invited to play in Berlin by the legendary Bar25, I needed a name, so I called the band Bonaparte! The project was only supposed to last for one night. But it was so much fun that we’ve kept it going for more than seven years now. From Berlin to Bangkok in 7 years—not bad!

How would you describe your sound?
Some say it is loud! I'd say it is a mixture of the energy of punk, the swing of jazz, the club affinity of Berlin electronic music, the message of folk music, the dripping love of soul and the tribal fire of native music. It is a mixture of everything that sticks after coming home from a journey. So, who knows how we will sound after this first visit to Asia? 

Would you describe your performances as concerts or cabaret?
I personally would not call them cabaret, no. I write songs, I perform them live with a band is the core explosion of everything. But I like to take along some friends who do not play instruments, so we started having dancers on stage–they call themselves "divas" and I guess because it is very visual I usually call it a "show." But we’ve also featured people reading a book or grilling sausages on stage. It is all a visual enhancement of the music. It should connect to all of your senses.

How can Bangkokians prepare for your show?
I think you should eat a lot of papayas for breakfast because on the night of the Bonaparte show you will sweat, sweat, sweat—and sweat! You could, of course, prepare by learning the lyrics to songs like "Too Much" but, most importantly, be there! Be there when we play our first ever show in Bangkok! We are very excited that you will have us.

What’s your favorite outfit for performing live?
I always wear the same shoes. For seven years now, I’ve only performed in my old white boxing shoes. I used to joke that the day I can't find old white boxing shoes anymore, I will have to stop performing as Bonaparte, but I don't think this would actually happen. As long as I have my shows and a guitar nothing can go wrong!

What's your first music memory?
I guess my mother playing the cembalo when I woke up on Sunday mornings as a child was quite magical. It's almost like what dying must be like, when you have done everything right in life and you arrive in heaven in a soft feather-bed and someone is serenading you. Sweet!

 

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A few ways to set sail on the Andaman Sea, even if you can’t afford your own yacht.

With its good year-round sailing weather and proximity to at least 30 smaller, idyllic islands, Phuket has become the sailing and yachting hub for Thailand. And it seems the world’s taking notice, too. The organizers of the Singapore Yacht Show (www.singaporeyachtshow.com) recently announced a sister yacht event to be hosted in Phuket from December 2014 to sell the region as a charter destination, while many Mediterranean-based yacht owners and captains are seeing it as an increasingly popular winter destination.

The island is already home to four full-service marinas, all located on the eastern side of the island—Royal Phuket Marina (Koh Kaew), Yacht Haven (Laem Phrao), Phuket Boat Lagoon (Koh Kaew), and Ao Po Grand Marina (Ao Po)—and countless yacht charter operators providing various types of cruises. With peak cruising season beginning in December, now’s the time to hit the water.

One of the major draws of yachting is that it provides a better chance to really explore the smaller islands of the Andaman. When you are looking to book a trip you have three main options: either to hire a bareboat yacht, a fully crewed yacht or—the middle ground—a bareboat yacht with a skipper.

A bareboat charter is where you take full responsibility for the boat and the trip, which means navigating, mooring, motoring, cooking and cleaning. It can be likened to renting a mobile vacation home, where you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. But before you set sail for the high seas do note that at least one of your party must have a marine skippers certificate (see Get Qualified).

Booking a crewed boat, however, can make for a much more relaxing holiday, as you don’t have to worry about doing any hard work. The downside can be having to stick to a more fixed itinerary. Many operators offer this option, with up to six crew members to take care of all necessities.
Hiring a bareboat charter with a qualified skipper means you have someone on-board to take responsibility for the navigation but you still get the feeling of sailing your own boat. The skipper will most likely look to involve you by asking you to help out with everything from raising the sails to dropping anchor.

Get Qualified
When it comes to bareboat charters, most charter companies ask for one to three years’ skipper experience on a similar size yacht. Keppel Bay Sailing Academy (6303-8448, http://www.marinakeppelbay.com) have yachts available for charter and also offer sailing courses. For those with no previous experience, there is the five-day live-on-board RYA Competent Crew course, in which you sail between ports in Singapore and Batam. The course ranges from $1,150 to $1,450, depending on when you do it. The next level is the RYA Day Skipper course, in two parts, shore-based ($1,050) and practical ($1,550), five days for each part, which certifies you to charter a boat yourself.

THE PARTY CRUISE

Hot Tropics
The good folks at Zouk have just teamed up with online cruise specialist Openseas to organize a five-day, four-night trip to Langkawi and Phuket on November 15. You’ll get to travel to two beautiful beachfronts in Asia on a luxury liner Costa Victoria, party with Zouk DJs like Adrian Wee and djB from dusk till dawn, and even learn Pilates and  how to mix your own cocktails. Sounds like a sunkissed plan.
PRICE: From November 15-19, $562 per person.
MORE: 6823-3153, www.openseas.com.sg

SOCIAL TRAVELER’S PICK

The Sail Spin
If you love meeting new people and want to hit the water with a minimum of fuss, this option could be for you. Organized by Sunshine Nation, a Singapore-based event and travel company that’s been up-and-running for about 18 months, The Sail Spin is a flotilla sailing event that takes place about 10 times a year involving up to 20 yachts cruising together through the Andaman Sea. Gather a group of friends and book a yacht to yourselves, or—if you’re more social—secure a cabin and go with the flow. While sailing generally requires a lot of preparation, The Sail Spin crew takes care of most of basics: your yacht’s pantry is fully stocked, while professional skippers take the ship’s helm. It’s not all about topping up your tan and sipping cocktails on deck, though; your skipper will be more than be happy to send some sailing tasks your way. The itinerary is a mix of sightseeing and partying (Koh Phi Phi), a touch of luxe (private beach dinners at high-end resorts; visits to two of Phuket’s chicest beach clubs, Catch Beach Club on Surin Beach and Xana Beach Club on Bang Tao Beach) and the adventurous (cliff jumping and kayaking). They also run a pirate radio station with DJs on-board, making even the less-glamorous jobs like cooking and cleaning more fun. Do note that while Instagram-ready scenery abounds, professional photographers are also on-board to document your trip.
Price: An upcoming Sail Spin event to setting off from Yacht Haven takes place Jan 30-Feb 4, 2014 (five nights/six days) from $3,500 for a double cabin or from $6,600 for a four-person, 32-foot yacht up to $31,200 for a 12-person, 58-foot deluxe yacht with private chef and special amenities.
More: 9006-6557, www.thesailspin.com

THE CUSTOMIZED EXPERIENCE

Jabudays
Founded in 2008, Jabudays offers customized cruise-based events including weddings, teambuilding exercises and company retreats. Their Turkish Gullet flagship, the 75-foot Jabuticaba, can cater for up to 60 people for day charters and also be used for longer island-hopping cruises, sleeping 12 in six cabins. Where the company excels, though, is in tailoring one-of-a-kind experiences, under themes like meditation and yoga cruises, adventure cruises, and networking events. Programs can involve nights spent at luxury hotels where the fleet docks or stop-offs for scuba diving or even kite surfing—it’s down to your preference. The spacious yacht, is also the site of much luxury, replete with sunbeds, while massages, live music and bartenders are all available on-board. Detailed sample programs are provided on the website and you’re invited to tweak them to your liking.
Price: Day charters and customizable tours like yoga and meditation charters start from B52,000 ($2,066), while overnight charters are from B190,000 ($7,550) with a minimum of eight people.
More: +66 08 5666-5504, www.jabudays.com

THE CREWED RENTAL

Tiger Marine Charter
Tiger Marine is a charter operator that offers fully crewed cruises, especially suited to those new to yachting. If you’re a first-timer, Zimbabwean owner Richard Hayes assures us that his flagship catamaran, the 70-foot Shangani, makes the ideal starter boat due to its sheer size, comfort and stability. Setting off from Ao Po Marina, the company’s most popular run is a day charter through the idyllic Phang Nga Bay to what Hayes dubs his “private beach,” a clear sweep of sand that he’s negotiated exclusive access to with the owners. Here, the scene is set with proper dining tables, beach games, massage benches and live music. Other attractions are the water Jacuzzis anchored just off the beach, aqua slides and water trampolines. Three-day and week-long charters are also available, taking in everywhere from Krabi to the Similan Islands, though cruising on the west coast of Phuket is only an option during high season, as between May and October the monsson winds mean the seas are too rough.
Price: From December to March, B172,500 ($6,854) a day (24-hour period) for 15 people, cheaper in the quiet season. Large groups of up to 50 come in at B187,500 ($7,450) for a day charter.
More: +66 08 1893-9742 or +66 08 9866-4401, www.tigermarinecharter.com

THE BAREBOAT OPTION

Elite Yachting
Founded back in 1993 by two Swiss sailing enthusiasts, Elite Yachting now claims to operate the largest independent bareboat fleet in Phuket, with 22 yachts ranging from 32-50 feet, including seven catamarans, in different price categories. Bareboat bookings require a “marine skippers certificate” and at least one year’s experience (recently reduced from three) on a similar-sized yacht (you can also hire a qualified skipper to accompany you). Bookings are taken one year to one week ahead of the trip. Christmas and New Year is their most popular period, with most yachts booked out up to eight months in advance. A suggested one-week itinerary involves visiting Phang Nga Bay National Park to see the spectacular limestone sea karsts—full of secret caves to explore by dinghy. Then cruising by the long sandy beaches of Krabi, enjoying the nightlife of Koh Phi Phi, where you can also arrange some diving, before kicking back at a secluded island. However, the sea’s your playground and you can go anywhere from the Similan Islands off the west coast of Phuket all the way south to the Butang group on the Malay borders.
Price: Monohulls start from 190 euros ($324) per day while catamarans are from 370 euros ($632) a day. Hiring a skipper costs an additional 120 euros ($205) per day.
More: +66 08 1968-4188, www.phuket-yachts.com

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How to set sail on the Andaman Sea, even if you can’t afford your own yacht.

With its good year-round sailing weather and proximity to at least 30 smaller, idyllic islands, Phuket has become the sailing and yachting hub for Thailand. And it seems the world’s taking notice, too. The organizers of the Singapore Yacht Show (www.singaporeyachtshow.com) recently announced a sister yacht event to be hosted in Phuket from December 2014 to sell the region as a charter destination, while many Mediterranean-based yacht owners and captains are seeing it as an increasingly popular winter destination.
 
The island is already home to four full-service marinas, all located on the eastern side of the island—Royal Phuket Marina (Koh Kaew), Yacht Haven (Laem Phrao), Phuket Boat Lagoon (Koh Kaew), and Ao Po Grand Marina (Ao Po)—and countless yacht charter operators providing various types of cruises. With peak cruising season beginning in December, now’s the time to hit the water.
 
One of the major draws of yachting is that it provides a better chance to really explore the smaller islands of the Andaman. When you are looking to book a trip you have three main options: either to hire a bareboat yacht, a fully crewed yacht or—the middle ground—a bareboat yacht with a skipper.
 
A bareboat charter is where you take full responsibility for the boat and the trip, which means navigating, mooring, motoring, cooking and cleaning. It can be likened to renting a mobile vacation home, where you have the freedom to go wherever you want, whenever you want. But before you set sail for the high seas do note that at least one of your party must have a marine skippers certificate [see Get Qualified].
 
Booking a crewed boat, however, can make for a much more relaxing holiday, as you don’t have to worry about doing any hard work. The downside can be having to stick to a more fixed itinerary. Many operators offer this option, with up to six crew members to take care of all necessities.
 
Hiring a bareboat charter with a qualified skipper means you have someone on-board to take responsibility for the navigation but you still get the feeling of sailing your own boat. The skipper will most likely look to involve you by asking you to help out with everything from raising the sails to dropping anchor.

SOCIAL TRAVELER’S PICK

The Sail Spin
If you love meeting new people and want to hit the water with a minimum of fuss, this option could be for you. Organized by Sunshine Nation, a Singapore-based event and travel company that’s been up-and-running for about 18 months, The Sail Spin is a flotilla sailing event that takes place about 10 times a year involving up to 20 yachts cruising together through the Andaman Sea. Gather a group of friends and book a yacht to yourselves, or—if you’re more social—secure a cabin and go with the flow. While sailing generally requires a lot of preparation, The Sail Spin crew takes care of most of basics: your yacht’s pantry is fully stocked, while professional skippers take the ship’s helm. It’s not all about topping up your tan and sipping cocktails on deck, though; your skipper will be more than be happy to send some sailing tasks your way. The itinerary is a mix of sightseeing and partying (Koh Phi Phi), a touch of luxe (private beach dinners at high-end resorts; visits to two of Phuket’s chicest beach clubs, Catch Beach Club on Surin Beach and Xana Beach Club on Bang Tao Beach) and the adventurous (cliff jumping and kayaking). They also run a pirate radio station with DJs on-board, making even the less-glamorous jobs like cooking and cleaning more fun. Do note that while Instagram-ready scenery abounds, professional photographers are also on-board to document your trip. 
 
Price: The next three Sail Spin events to set off from Yacht Haven take place Nov 1-5 and Nov 14-18 (four nights/five days) and Jan 30-Feb 4 (five nights/six days) from SGD3,500 (approx. B87,200) for a double cabin or from SGD6,600 (approx. B164,500) for a four-person, 32-foot yacht up to SGD31,200 (approx. B777,400) for a 12-person, 58-foot deluxe yacht with private chef and special amenities. 
 
More: +65-9006-6557 www.thesailspin.com

THE CUSTOMIZED EXPERIENCE

Jabudays
Founded in 2008, Jabudays offers customized cruise-based events including weddings, teambuilding exercises and company retreats. Their Turkish Gullet flagship, the 75-foot Jabuticaba, can cater for up to 60 people for day charters and also be used for longer island-hopping cruises, sleeping 12 in six cabins. Where the company excels, though, is in tailoring one-of-a-kind experiences, under themes like meditation and yoga cruises, adventure cruises, and networking events. Programs can involve nights spent at luxury hotels where the fleet docks or stop-offs for scuba diving or even kite surfing—it’s down to your preference. The spacious yacht, is also the site of much luxury, replete with sunbeds, while massages, live music and bartenders are all available on-board. Detailed sample programs are provided on the website and you’re invited to tweak them to your liking. 
 
Price: Day charters and customizable tours like yoga and meditation charters start from B52,000, while overnight charters are from B190,000 with a minimum of eight people.
 
More: 085-666-5504 www.jabudays.com
 

THE CREWED RENTAL

Tiger Marine Charter
Tiger Marine is a charter operator that offers fully crewed cruises, especially suited to those new to yachting. If you’re a first-timer, Zimbabwean owner Richard Hayes assures us that his flagship catamaran, the 70-foot Shangani, makes the ideal starter boat due to its sheer size, comfort and stability. Setting off from Ao Po Marina, the company’s most popular run is a day charter through the idyllic Phang Nga Bay to what Hayes dubs his “private beach,” a clear sweep of sand that he’s negotiated exclusive access to with the owners. Here, the scene is set with proper dining tables, beach games, massage benches and live music. Other attractions are the water Jacuzzis anchored just off the beach, aqua slides and water trampolines. Three-day and week-long charters are also available, taking in everywhere from Krabi to the Similan Islands, though cruising on the west coast of Phuket is only an option during high season, as between May and October the monsson winds mean the seas are too rough. 
 
Price: From December to March, B172,500 a day (24-hour period) for 15 people, cheaper in the quiet season. Large groups of up to 50 come in at B187,500 for a day charter.
 
More: 081-893-9742 or 089-866-4401 
 

THE BAREBOAT OPTION

Elite Yachting
Founded back in 1993 by two Swiss sailing enthusiasts, Elite Yachting now claims to operate the largest independent bareboat fleet in Phuket, with 22 yachts ranging from 32-50 feet, including seven catamarans, in different price categories. Bareboat bookings require a “marine skippers certificate” and at least one year’s experience (recently reduced from three) on a similar-sized yacht (you can also hire a qualified skipper to accompany you). Bookings are taken one year to one week ahead of the trip. Christmas and New Year is their most popular period, with most yachts booked out up to eight months in advance. A suggested one-week itinerary involves visiting Phang Nga Bay National Park to see the spectacular limestone sea karsts—full of secret caves to explore by dinghy. Then cruising by the long sandy beaches of Krabi, enjoying the nightlife of Koh Phi Phi, where you can also arrange some diving, before kicking back at a secluded island. However, the sea’s your playground and you can go anywhere from the Similan Islands off the west coast of Phuket all the way south to the Butang group on the Malay borders.
 
Price: Monohulls start from 190 euros (approx. B8,000) per day while catamarans are from 370 euros (aprox. B15,600) a day. Hiring a skipper costs an additional 120 euros (approx. B5,000) per day. Special promotion available through Nov 1: pay five days get one free, pay seven days get two free, pay 10 days get four free or pay 14 days get seven free. 
 
More: 081-968-4188. www.phuket-yachts.com
 

Get Qualified

When it comes to bareboat charters, most charter companies ask for one to three years’ skipper experience on a similar size yacht. Yacht Pro (076-331-615. www.sailing-thailand.com), at Yacht Haven, has only a couple of monohull sailing yachts (no catamarans) available for bareboat charter, but it does offer a great range of sailing courses if you’re looking to acquire your yachtmaster/skipper license. They offer introductory courses (from B4,500/person/half-day), as well as American Sailing Association and International Sailing Schools Association certified courses (from three days lesson B43,900 to a four-and-a-half days private lesson B78,700), qualifications which enable you to hire yachts around the world.
 

Q&A

Alex Linnerth, The Sail Spin
 
What does The Sail Spin offer that other yacht charters don’t? 
I’d say it sets itself apart by not really being a yacht charter. Each journey is defined by the people you meet along the way and the experiences you share. So, in the end each cruise is a completely new adventure—that’s why we have had people join us for a third time in a row already. You will be worry-free, escape mass tourism and spend quality time with your best and new friends. 
 
Is there a best time of year to go sailing around Phuket? 
Sailing around Phuket is possible all year long and wind strengths are more or less the same regardless of the time of the year. From May to October winds are blowing from the South-West and from November to April from the North-East, meaning certain anchor spots are only accessible at specific months. May to October is definitely quieter as the risk of rain is slightly higher, but in return there are way less yachts out there so you have all the beautiful islands and beaches for yourself. 
 
What’s your top tip for those looking to hit the water for the first time? 
Come with an open mind and a willingness to experience new things in an extraordinary environment and you will have a great time! Oh, and pack light on clothes and heavy on good vibes and smiles.

 

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Self-proclaimed unconventional party crew Spoiled Rotten are throwing a Japanese salary man-themed event, Don’t Touch My Mustache, on Sep 7 at Silom’s brand new rooftop bar Cloud 47. BK got the chance to briefly speak with the party’s star attraction, Kyoto DJ and producer Takashiro Takahashi, aka Halfby, who’s worked with artists as wide-ranging as Diana Ross, The Go! Team and Ugly Duckling.

What are you busy with at the moment?
I am currently working on music for a commercial and my new album which I plan to release in 2014. Apart from that, I want to make more mixes and also DJ more.

How would you describe your sound?
It's the "likely but unique" music that makes up our daily life.

What can we expect from your show here?
I’ve never been to Bangkok before but I’m very excited. Please expect my DJ set to incorporate a lot of live aspects all the way through to the last tune!

Your music videos for “Rodeo Machine” and “Screw the Plan” became pretty big internet memes in Japan; how do you feel about that?
That was entirely unexpected, but I found it very interesting. The videos seemed to link together Japanese animation, video games and Niconico [Japanese video-sharing network]. Since I have experience as a designer, visuals are important to me—I provide the direction for all the design aspects of Halfby.

You’ve also scored some films–can tell us some more about that?
I've worked on the score for Summer Time Machine Blues, a movie made by famous Japanese movie director Katsuyuki Motohiro. The film was based on the stage play by a theater company called Gekidan Europe Kikaku.

You’re about to play at a party called “Don’t Touch My Mustache”; have you ever tried growing a mustache?
I've never grown a beard or mustache on purpose. Mine is just stubble, anyway.

What’s the best thing about touring?
It’s fantastic simply getting inspired by the different international music scenes. These tour experiences really shape my future music projects. There’s nothing bad at all about touring.

You’ve performed at many of Japan’s big music festivals–what are your experiences?
Mmmm, nothing too crazy things in the past, but I am looking forward to having crazy experiences from now on.

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With the Sonic Bang music festival coming up this weekend (Aug 24), we speak to Brian Molko, frontman of alt-rock veterans Placebo, about their forthcoming album and his past memories of Bangkok. 

It’s been a while since your last visit to Bangkok–what are your memories of it?
We have an office in Bangkok so the city has become a second home in Asia over the years and an excellent springboard from which to explore the mainland and the islands. In my time, I’ve DJ’d at the Met bar, eaten and danced the night away at Bed Supperclub, visited the temples, eaten some more at the fish-(super)market, confiscated bootleg Placebo CDs in Patpong, and, at times, explored the city's more salacious underbelly.

Your new album Loud Like Love will be released next month—how is it different from previous albums?
I wanted to call our last album "Speed of Sound" before Coldplay beat us to it with their single. So this time I scoured the internet to check that "Loud Like Love" had not already been used in a musical context which, to the best of my knowledge, it hasn't. I can't remember exactly when and where and why it came to me, but it was sometime during our first phase of writing. It occurred to me that an underlying theme was emerging. We stood at a turning point: were we to follow our instincts and recognize that this theme was a manifestation of our collective sub-conscience and have the courage to explore, in our own singular manner, the subject that remains the most explored in popular song? Or were we to embrace the intellectual and steer the album’s subject matter away from its natural course out of fear of appearing cliched? Thankfully we chose the former and never once questioned that choice. And the results have exceeded our own expectations.

The new album was a long time coming. What took so long?
It is a common misconception that in the time between visits to a particular country your favorite band hasn't been up to much. In our case, we toured Battle For The Sun (2009) for almost two years. I then decided to take a year off to focus on parenting, during which I wrote some of the songs that appear on Loud Like Love. We reconvened in the summer of 2012 ostensibly to record a new single as we had just signed a new record deal. That single morphed into the five-track B3 EP which we released in the autumn to placate the more militant factions of our fanbase. We then realized that we were having such a fantastic time in the studio with our new producer Adam Noble that it felt as if we had already begun the recording of album seven. And that was when we committed ourselves.

What was the recording process like?
Because we practically fell into the recording process accidentally we all had other commitments to fulfill. Adam Noble was about to tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers to record their live shows and we had booked a tour to promote the B3 EP. We got back together at the beginning of 2013 to finish the new album. This proved challenging as we had already set quite a high benchmark of quality with our 2012 recordings that we felt we had to surpass in some way. A great deal of self-questioning and insecurity followed. It was unpleasant at the time but it forced us out of our comfort zone and to up the ante. The result is an album that feels as if it has a side A and a side B, like an old vinyl album. And like an old vinyl album it is best consumed in one sitting.

What can we expect from your Bangkok show? Plenty of new material?
Unfortunately, due to the fevered proliferation and iniquitousness of smart devices it has become more and more difficult to preview unfinished or unreleased material in a live setting. We do, however, re-work a lot of our old songs to keep them fresh and enjoy presenting them in a new form. Rest assured, our set-list will differ greatly to the one from the last tour.

Your new single “Too Many Friends” seems a bit of a rallying cry against social media…
"Too Many Friends" is most definitely not a rallying cry against social media. It is a small story about social alienation. I do worry, however, that technology is fast replacing religion as the opium of the people. But we cannot blame the technology itself—people are the problem. After all, guns don't kill people, but people do.

You’re coming here to play the Sonic Bang festival, which has a pretty diverse line-up, from Pitbull to the Pet Shop Boys and a number of K-Pop bands. What’s your strangest festival experience?
Being pelted with cooked ham whilst opening for Metallica at an Italian festival ranks in the top three. We have had many strange objects thrown at us during gigs over the years. Coins hurt the most. Bullets were the most disturbing.

You guys have been playing together for so long. Do you still get the same buzz out of touring/playing shows?
If anything, the satisfaction is greater. But it’s a very nerve-wracking thing to do, because as a performer you are placing yourself in a very vulnerable position. When an audience reaches out to the band as much as the band reaches out to them, a state of collective euphoria akin to transcendence is created. Band and audience exist purely in the moment, our every-day perception of time evaporates and true synergy is achieved. This is a rare occurrence but it is what we strive to achieve every time we step out onto the stage. 

Placebo has always been pretty overt in challenging of gender stereotypes—do you feel popular perception has changed at all over the span of your career?
I do not, despite the fact that how we presented ourselves in the 90s has been assimilated into the mainstream. This is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. In my opinion, the human race is as prejudiced as it ever was despite the fact that minorities are accepted by the artistic community. This has always been the case. The internet has simply given a louder voice to the forces of tolerance. But it has also provided a platform for the spineless and hateful---and governments still discriminate against what they fear and do not understand.

We’ve heard you’re pretty interested in Asian religions; can you tell us any more about that? 
I’m interested in Buddhism because it is a philosophy of life rather than a religion. In Buddhism, there’s no god and that is a big part of the attraction for me. Right thoughts, right action. No god, no attachments—no worries.

Lately in the news, Thai monks have been getting pretty messed up with drugs, sex and scandals. Do you have any words for them?
I don't quote Jesus very often but I think in this case it is appropriate: "let he who is without sin cast the first stone."

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Ahead of their Bangkok gig this week (Route 66, Aug 14), one half of Canadian indie-rock duo Japandroids, David Prowse (drums, vocals), talks to BK about life on the road and the stresses of following up on a successful record.

How would you describe your sound?
Loud, fast, rock n’roll music.

What’s the best thing about touring?
Playing a show for a room full of people who like your music is pretty much the most fun thing there is to do. It’s an incredible feeling to perform for people and have them sing along with the songs you’ve written. Getting to travel all over the world doing that every night is pretty much the best job in the world.

Worst thing? Any horror stories?
Life is pretty great these days, but obviously you have low points on tour. Mostly it’s just about how tired you get, which can lead to some negativity. Occasionally there are those moments where you have to deal with stupid people or technical problems. Under normal circumstances things like that aren’t a big deal, but when you’re hungover and exhausted sometimes you’re ready to burn a venue to the ground just because it’s on the second floor and you have to carry all of your gear up a giant flight of stairs. But honestly, at the end of the day, it’s a hell of a lot of fun and you just need to keep things in perspective.

What keeps you sane on the road?
Our tour manager Melissa keeps me from going insane on tour. She’s probably the calmest, most patient person in the entire world, and keeps Brian and I from getting lost, missing shows, disappearing down darkened alleys, etc. We probably would be dead in a ditch somewhere if she wasn’t around.

You guys were close to breaking up before putting out Post-Nothing in 2008; now, having tasted success, do you actually feel more pressure?
We felt we had nothing to lose leading up to Post-Nothing, since nobody knew who we were. By the time we got around to working on Celebration Rock (2012), everything had changed—all of a sudden we were a real band that had toured all over the world and had fans waiting for new material. When we were writing Celebration Rock, we wanted to prove that Post-Nothing wasn’t a fluke, and we pushed ourselves to create an album that was a clear improvement from the last record. We had a lot to prove, and a lot to lose with that record. 2011 was a very stressful year. It was not fun making Celebration Rock. I don’t think it will ever be easy for us to write and record music, but it won’t ever be as difficult as it was making that album.

On that note, any news on your third album?
We’ve been on tour since before Celebration Rock was released, and haven’t had any time to work on new songs, unfortunately. We’re still touring until September, and after that we’ll have some time at home and hopefully can start thinking about what to do next.

So many of your songs seem to involve girls and alcohol; is there really anything more to write about?
I suppose that’s what we spend a lot of our time thinking about, so it was natural to write songs about those two subjects.

Do you enjoy playing on bigger stages these days, or do you prefer the intimacy of smaller venues?
I think they both have their advantages. There is an incredible energy you get playing larger venues and festivals, since you just have so many more people together. But I really love the intimacy of smaller venues. It’s nice being able to interact with the audience on a more personal level, which is a lot harder to do at festivals and bigger shows. It’s good to play a mix to keep things interesting.

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After six months of top international gigs from the likes of The Vaccines, The Radio Dept. and Cold Cave, the second half of the year is shaping up to be even more explosive.

Jul 10: Ronan Keating Live in Bangkok

The biggest promoter in town, BEC TERO, kick off this live music season with a concert from sensitive Irish pop crooner Ronan Keating. After starting out his career as a member of the boy band Boyzone in the late 90s, Keating really shot to fame with the single “When You Say Nothing at All,” which featured on the soundtrack for the super-soppy rom-com hit Notting Hill (1999) and can still be heard being belted out in karaoke bars across the Kingdom. After splitting with his band, Keating went on to release a string of commercially successful pop albums, Ronan (2000), Destination (2002), Turn It On (2003) and Bring You Home (2006). Despite reuniting for a tour with the other Boyz, he’s now back with a fifth solo studio album, Fires, which he’s promoting with his first world tour in many years. The Fire Live in Bangkok concert will also feature local pop singer Two Popetorn as warm-up act.
Where: Impact Arena Muangthong Thani
Tix: B2,500-4,500 from Thaiticketmajor.com
Brought to you by: BEC TERO Entertainment

Aug 7: Peace

While Godung eventually took the credit for Brit-rock upstarts The Vaccines rolling into town earlier this year, the gig was initially teed up by Dudesweet before they handed over the reins. Apart from that, and organizing a DJ set by Ladytron’s Ruben Wu at Badmotel back in March, things have been pretty quiet on the gig-front for Dudesweet. (They did, of course, throw a rather dazzling Great Gatsby-themed bash just last month.) But now our favorite party people are back, and they’re bringing over fresh-faced, fashion-conscious British rockers Peace. The four-piece, made up of Harry “Harrison” Koisser, brother Samuel, Douglas Castle and Dominic Boyce, have been hotly tipped for the top since their first release, “Bblood,” saw them named one of NME’s Ones To Watch in 2012. Later Madchester-influenced singles “California Daze,” “Bloodshake” and “Follow Baby” have also cranked the hype machine in to overdrive. Support on the night will come from local art-rockers PLOT (search YouTube for their crazy recent single “Mai Sa Nid Ya Len”) signed to the SO::On Dry Flowers label. If you can’t wait till August, you’ll be pleased to know that the Dudesweet Party is set to shake Cosmic Café this weekend.  
Where: Sonic Ekkamai
Tix: Early birds B1,000 from www.dudesweet.org and B1,200 on the door. Limited to 350 tickets only.
Brought to you by: Dudesweet

Aug 14: Japandroids

If there was an award for 2013’s most enthusiastic concert promoter, Lullaby Entertainment would be a shoe-in (rivaled only by Popscene). After kicking off the year with singer-songwriter Rachael Yamagata (Feb 28), they enjoyed a busy April welcoming Japanese post-rock veterans Mono (Apr 3) and TOE (Apr 20) as well as UK indie-pop trio Delphic (Apr 29). But the best is still to come, in the form of Canadian rock duo Japandroids. Formed in 2006 by Brian King (guitar and vocals) and David Prowse (drum and vocal) with the intention of playing with the same ferocity as a five-piece band, the duo’s much-lauded last album, Celebration Rock, was included as one of Rolling Stone’s Top 50 Albums of 2012. That album’s scorching single “The House That Heaven Built” was also named the fifth best song of 2012 by online tastemaker Pitchfork.
Where: Route 66, 29/33 RCA Block B, Rama 9 Rd., 02-203-0936. www.route66club.com
Tix: B1,400 from Thaiticketmajor.com
Brought to you by: Lullaby Entertainment

Aug 10:  Kap Bambino

Now four years old, Popscene have been on a real roll of late. On top of the countless up and coming local acts they’ve put on at venues all over town, this year has seen them bring over some extremely impressive international bands. Thee Oh Sees, King Khan & BBQ Show, Cold Cave and Dead Elvis—are hardly household names but they all boast some serious scene cred and some great live performance pedigree. Whether you want scuzzed-out, psychedelic rock or brooding post-punk, Popscene’s generally got you covered, with an emphasis on crowd involvement (and crowd-surfing! see interview, this page) and crazy-if-you-miss-it prices (B400-500). And the next gig could be the wildest yet. Kap Bambino are a French electro-punk duo who’ve been likened to an even more aggressive Crystal Castles. And with her edgy outfits, raw vocals and smeared make-up, frontlady Caroline Martial is every type of effortless cool.
Where: TBA
Tix: TBA
Brought to you by: Popscene, tinyurl.com/plta68d

Sep 26: Justin Bieber

Even though the Bieb has already confirmed his performance for the Singapore F1 on Sep 23, we are still waiting for a final affirmative on his visit to Bangkok. Still it does seem like the rumors are true, American pop heartthrob Justin Bieber is headed to Bangkok. According to his official site, the Justin Bieber: Believe Tour will roll into town on Sep 26 at Impact Arena Muangthong Thani. The people behind the show are none other than Thailand’s first official Bieber fan site Thaibeliebers.com. Ticket prices and details will be announced soon. Keep an eye on BK+ for updates.
Where: Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, 99 Popular Rd., 02-833-4455.
Tix: B2,500-6,500 from Thaiticketmajor.com  
Brought to you by: The Thai Beliebers

Aug 24: Sonic Bang

After Ronan Keating, next up for BEC TERO is the Sonic Bang Music Festival. We’ve got to say that when we first caught wind of the event, we had high, high expectations—especially given it’s close proximity to Japan’s massive Summer Sonic music festival. While it isn’t quite the wet-dream musical line-up we’d envisaged, the list of 30 international and local acts spread across six stages is nothing to scoff at. The confirmed artists includes major international acts Jason Mraz, Pet Shop Boys, Pitbull, Placebo, Ash and Owl City, Asian heavyweights Scandal (Japan), Epik High (Korea), Miyavi (Japan), Love Me Butch (Malaysia), Jam Project (Japan) and Kyary Pamyu Pamyu (Japan), as well as local bands Slot Machine, Flure, Tor Saksit, Stamp, Lipta, Room 39, Scrubb, Gale, Sugar Eyes, Buddha Bless, Southside, Kratae & Baitoey R-Siam, DJs Jay Montonn Jira, Ono, Bee Futon, Suharit Siamwalla and Seed Norasete. Let’s hope this is a sign of Bangkok becoming a music festival destination to rival Singapore and Japan.
Where: Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani, 99 Popular Rd., 02-833-4455
Tix: B4,000 and B5,000 for VIP tickets (inclusive of two drinks, festival T-shirt, lounge, and fast-track entrance at every stage) from Thaiticketmajor.com
Brought to you by: BEC TERO

Nov 6: Wild Nothing

The dream-pop lovers Have you Heard? gave us wild hopes last month when they hosted a night devoted to Wild Nothing’s latest EP, Empty Estate, at Rehab Bar. Could it be that they would bring the American band to our shores? Indeed, front man Jack Tatum has just been booked to perform in Bangkok this November. And of course, the band will be there, too: Nathan Goodman (guitar), Jeff Haley (bass), Kevin Knight (keyboards) and Jeremiah Johnson (drums). Expect songs from the new EP together with favorites like “Shadow” and “Paradise” from album Nocturne (2012) and “Live and Dream” from debut album Gemini (2010).     
Venue: Tickets details will be announced via www.facebook.com/HaveYouHeard.Live
Brought to you by: Have You Heard?

Nov 28: Two Door Cinema Club

After having to cancel their Primal Scream concert on May 10 (through no fault of their own, it must be said), the Godung team hit back with the news that many dek naew were waiting for: Two Door Cinema Club are coming to Bangkok. The Northern Irish trio of Alex Trimble, Kevin Baird and Sam Halliday quickly caught the attention of indie kids the world over with their debut album, Tourist History (2010), which contained bouncy and melodic tunes like “What You Know” and “Something Good Can Work.” After opening for bands like Delphic, Phoenix and Foals, their second studio album, Beacon (2012), cemented their place as darlings of the hipster crowd. Support in Bangkok will come from Malaysian rockers Kyoto Protocol and local indie act Tabasco, who we’ve previously dubbed as the “Thai version of Two Door Cinema Club.”
Where: BITEC Bangna, 88 Bangna-Trad Rd. km. 1, 02-749-3939, 02-361-1916.
Tix: B2,000-B2,500 from Thaiticketmajor.com
Brought to you by: Godung.com

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History: Part of the Deschutes family of beers, who have been brewing out of Bend, Oregon (the heartland of craft beers), since 1988. From brewing a few hundred barrels in their pub overlooking the Deschutes River, they are now one of the largest craft brewers in America and have won multiple awards for their range of beers. First manufactured in 2012, Chainbreaker is actually named after an off-road bike race in Oregon. The beer itself is unusual in that it is a hybrid; brewed with both wheat and pilsner malt, plus orange and coriander, the end result is a distinctive blend of traditional Belgian-style wheat beer and Indian Pale Ale.

Appearance: It pours a very pale, straw-like yellow and has a strong frothy head that hangs on the side of the glass. Cloudy in appearance, it reminded some of our testers of a traditional homemade lemonade, though for others it conjured up reminders of bladder infections.

Smell: Your first sniff sees you assailed by lots of citrusy notes, but there’s also a milder undercurrent of warm spices like cinnamon and clove blended with a mild wheat-y aroma.

Mouthfeel: Initially very effervescent but it’s quickly replaced by an almost soapy feel that fades to leave a slightly dry aftertaste.

Taste: It pretty much tastes like it smells, so lots of strong citrus notes upfront, which gradually fade to leave a mild yeasty aftertaste.

Overall: Generally very drinkable and, unlike some wheat beers, the spicy undercurrent isn’t too overpowering. Light and refreshing, this is definitely a beer that we could sink a few of while soaking up the sunshine with a barbie. Nick Measures

Lowdown: B220, 12 Fl Oz. 5.6%.

Get it at: Roadhouse Barbecue (Rama 4 Rd., 02-236-8010).


BEER Q&A: Gary Fish, founder and CEO of Deschutes Brewery


What makes Deschutes beers special?
Our beers are special primarily because of our approach to brewing; we take a little more time, use primarily whole hops, leave a little more yeast in the bottle and bottle condition most of our beers. In short, we go to more trouble than most. 

Bangkok is the first to savor Deschutes outside the US; why here?
I have been friends with Bill Marinelli and Warunee Ponkpong at The Oyster Bar for a long time and, as we begin to explore exporting the Pacific Rim, this opportunity made sense. That combined with the Beervana guys assuring us that the beer will be well cared for, and their enthusiasm for the product, made this seem like a pretty good place to start.

Which beer from your range would you recommend to Bangkokians?
For Bangkokians, I’d recommend they start with the beer most outside their comfort zone, maybe the Black Butte Porter. As a dark beer, it is very refreshing. The others are lighter in color but are each different. We did a tasting at The Oyster Bar and asked their attendees which beer they liked best and the first four responded with each of the four different beers. So, try them all. Don’t let preconceptions drive your decision.

What beer would you have for your last meal?
If I could have only one beer for my last meal, it might be a Black Butte Porter, but you never know what mood I might be in that day. The beauty of the craft beer revolution is the variety, so I think that decision would be very difficult for me. Carl Dixon
 

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