Behind the Thai music scene with Nice Orsuwan of Dr. Rifles
Talking to Thai’s young talent inspired by the unknown 90s rock scene, who has ignited the unusually free spirit, is what I’m here to do today. Speaking of the vintage rock scene in Thailand, even in the capital city like Bangkok, such influence is very rare. Lyrics and tunes that express deep psychological states of mind such as depression, suicide, oppression, sex, drugs, political, religion or gay-related restriction are unheard of from artists represented by the two major records in Thailand, RS and GRAMMY. This isn’t what you find from songs written in other countries that talk about whatever, whenever to whoever, whether they are positive or negative and regardless of gender. Perhaps it’s to do with social values, and the conservative way of living in Thailand. Does sugar-coating songs become the main marketable product, specifically targeting the average heterosexual male or female with themes of love and heartbreak? What if people relate to other things apart from that, such as God or Buddha? Is there a line that Thai music artists should not cross? Why is everyone so scared to challenge the norm. The song “Prated Ku Me” translated to‘“My country has” by an unknown artist, rapping against dictatorship and the military immediately released an arrest warrant for anyone who shared and reposted the song. But why are Thai artists being censored? Nice Orasuwan of the band Dr. Rifles has chosen to detain himself from the commercial pop industry. Instead, the 22-year-old goes against the grain and creates music without worrying about major record deals.
Tell us about your first single, why did you decide to write it? Nice: ‘Deep down’ is inspired by the feeling of not relating to anything and anyone. I just always feel different and express things in a different way. I just don’t have a limit when it comes to expressing myself or the way I dress. People don’t seem to get it but fuck them. I just want to live the way I am and do not care about what everyone else thinks of me. Seriously, my manifesto is I don’t give a fuck. When I first played ‘Deep Down’ at a local bar, I was pretty sure not everyone understood the meaning behind this song, the feeling of being the odd one out, but when I played it everybody seemed to dance and cheer and I guess, in a way, it built up the tension resulting from the style of tunes. It was as if I was injecting pure adrenaline into their veins and making them happy and maybe just for a moment, lose control. All my songs are like a personal space and therapy, that was why I wrote them in the first place. I never expected anyone to like it so, it’s fine if I don’t get paid for it.
I see that your music style is rather different and niche especially in the Thai music industry. What inspired you to compose this kind of music? How do you feel about differentiating yourself from the commercial music scene? Nice: I don’t have anything against mass music. They probably will always have more fans and earn way more than I what I will ever do in my entire music career. It’s just not what I want to do. When it comes to my style of music, I am very certain about it. I know what I want, and I know exactly what I don’t want. The reason most of my songs are very 90s rock inspired is because it’s my personal favourite era of rock. Nowadays, it’s impossible to find anyone who writes this kind of tunes in my country. I really love to think that someday people will feel nostalgic with this style of music and we can all go to the rock concert together just like 10 or 20 years ago.
Why aren’t there many songs mentioning or relating to gay, political, self-inflicted, sex or drugs in Thailand? Nice: There are a lot of limitations when it comes to writing songs here. If we all speak our minds, let alone write songs about it, we know what is going to happen to us. Topics that have anything to do with the military, politics, monarchy or religion are untouchable and extremely sensitive. If anyone were to write about how they really felt about them, it would end in catastrophe. It’s like freedom of speech is not common sense. If we had ever been given that sort of freedom of expression, I believe that there would be a lot of controversial and interesting artworks here.
Why do you think people call you flamboyant or perceive you as so? Nice: Speaking of the way I dress, I feel like it’s more of an experimental thing for me. It’s the way to express myself. I live by the concept of if you like doing something, then do it. I love to mix and match clothes sometimes, it’s the last thing I think of before I fall asleep. I love creating looks even sometimes it shocks people. Everyone, even my friends, usually laugh or are stunned when they see me in an unusual choice of clothing. For example, I would wear a dress together with a pair of ripped jeans and lots of accessories that I customised myself and of course eyeliner. People usually give me a dirty look or worse, some even called me faggot. I personally don’t believe men should always have to dress only from the selection of what are sold in men’s sections to feel masculine.
How would you feel if one of your songs was banned in the country because of the aggressive or inappropriate content? Nice: I would not feel anything in a negative way because even though the song has been banned, I still can upload it somewhere else. Freedom in music is as rare as freedom of speech here. Will the local major records such as RS or GRAMMYS ever support this kind of underground artist? Someone with such an unconventional music genre and personality? Or will they continue to commercialise the artists and their music by sticking to the old way? Will the voice that represents those who feel self-conscious, emotional, questionable of their sexual identity and self-conflicted ever be heard or broadcasted freely? I don’t know how far away the people of Thailand are from questioning or exploring these points.