Pathompong Sombatpiboon, 52, aka Pong Hin Lek Fai, has long been one of the faces of Thai heavy metal as the leader of legendary rock bands The Olarn Project in the 1980s and Hin Lek Fai in the 1990s. Now, as he gears up for the big reunion concert Short Charge Shock this weekend, he opens up about learning to love the digital age and why rock will never die.
I was drawn to music by friends who loved listening to rock bands like Deep Purple, Queen and Black Sabbath. My parents objected to me being a musician but that didn’t bother me. I played around Pattaya before I met friends and formed The Olarn Project.
Being unsuccessful can lead you astray. After The Olarn Project broke up, I faded away, got a white collar job and had a relationship with a rich girl.
Walk away when things aren’t right. I could have led a wealthy life with her as we ran a business together but it wasn’t right for me.
It was like a curse. I was still passionate about songwriting and wanted to play music, but I couldn’t do it when I was with her.
I even cried when I left her. I didn’t know whether it was the right decision or not, but I couldn’t go on living like that. Then I formed Hin Lek Fai and we became very famous in the 90s.
The digital age changed everything for artists. Now, there are pirates everywhere. We used to invest B4-5 million per album. But now we can’t do that, as we can’t make money from selling records. We now rely on concerts for revenue. We’re playing 15 shows a month. Thankfully, the strict booze laws in Thailand mean many alcohol brands turn to musicians to promote their products.
Rock will never die. This phrase is so true. We’ve played for more than 30 years but we’re still gaining new fans who love rock. It’s so great to see our old fans bring their kids to our concerts.
This reunion has me reliving the old feeling of rocking out 20 years ago. Our vigor may be reduced as we get older but our intentions remain the same.
I love small gigs. Big concerts let you take in the enormity of the venue and the power of the audience, but small concerts are more intimate. You can see your fans singing along to your songs. You can even see tears in their eyes. It’s amazing to see these true feelings up close.
Music is so powerful. I’m so proud that my songs can help people. I once got mail from a fan who said her friend tried to commit suicide. When her friend came to, she played my song “Ya Yud Yang” (“Don’t Give Up”). Her friend promised to forget the troubles of the past and move on. That’s so cool.
My music can save people’s lives. That’s a better feeling than selling millions of records.
I always feel a bond with my songs. Each one comes from my true emotions.
Songwriting soothes my soul. I hope to encourage my fans when they are feeling weary.
Be honest with your audience. I never plan for my songs to be big hits. I just want to share good feelings with my fans.
You can’t live like a rock star forever. It’s good to be a famous rocker but at one point you need someone to be with.
Having children is the best thing that’s happened to me. I never dreamed that having a family would be so great. It’s something you have to experience for yourself.
I now love the internet. I used to spend tens of thousands of baht to call my parents whenever I went on tour. Now I can just do Facetime.
I dream of having a movie based on this novel I’m writing. I’m in such a frenzy about writing it. It’s called “Sanya Peesaj” (Devil’s Vow) and it’s for Banterngkadee Magazine. Manoch Puttal (the magazine’s editor, a DJ and a musician) promises me he will put it out if I finish it.
Many people sell their souls to the devil. They are willing to trade anything to get what they want, especially politicians.
You can’t always get what you want, but the bad never lasts forever, either. So don’t take things too seriously. No matter how bad it is, other people have gone through the same shit.
Death is the coolest thing about being human. No matter whether you’re good or bad, greedy or giving, you must die someday.