Wednesday, 18 July 2018

INTERVIEW: Wormrot @ The Meatlocker in Montclair, NJ (June 3rd 2018)

By: Mark Ambrose

In May and June of this year, Singapore’s Wormrot embarked on their first US tour in years, culminating on June 3rd at the Meatlocker in Montclair, NJ.  The set was once in a lifetime spectacular, enervating a wall to wall crowd from start to finish.  Though the show wrapped up after 1 AM, I was wide awake for hours afterward, trying to put into words the emotionally transcendent moment the few of us lucky to be there had witnessed.  This show, and this tour, were the result of years of planning, frustration, and hard work by bookers, tour managers, local musicians, and the band themselves.  I was honored to sit and speak for a few moments that evening with founding member, vocalist and lyricist Arif.  He went in depth about a number of topics: just how tumultuous it can be for foreign visitors to the United States, especially musicians; the frustration of creating art in a colonized society; the experience of playing a heralded set at this year’s Maryland Deathfest; and the relentless struggle of being separated from his wife (Wormrot manager Azean) and their son in order to perform around the world.

SL: First off, can you explain what happened when the tour booked for 2017 fell through?

Arif: So we were supposed to tour the US last year but we weren’t prepared visa-wise.  It was a little bit of last minute preparation and due to the political climate we didn’t want to risk it.  We were a little more prepared this year.  Visas are expensive and we had to go through interviews with the US embassy in Singapore.  Thankfully things went smoothly and we’re here now.

SL: On top of that, you had some issues around your equipment this time – apparently some things were held up in customs?

Arif: It’s not a tour if shit doesn’t happen.  One of our friends was supposed to come with us and mentioned the wrong fucking thing and was deported.  We were being interviewed and he was asked, “What do you do in the band?” And he probably mentioned he sells stuff.  And if you mention money, they’re going to interrogate you.  And on top of that, our luggage was all in his name.  That was the start of the complications.  It took us about a week to get our luggage back, but we borrowed equipment from bands, used our same clothes for a week – no toiletries or whatever.  So it was a little rough.  But thankfully everything is with us now.

SL: So with these hurdles and headaches – is that particular to US touring or is it anytime your travel internationally to play that you’ll encounter these frustrations?

Arif: I think it’s probably our luck is not that great. I’m sure it’s easy to travel.  Our luggage was supposed to be under our names but someone in Singapore customs put it all under one name.  I guess… better luck next time!

SL: What was your preparation for Maryland Deathfest?

Arif: It’s good NOT to prep yourself.  Be yourself.  We’re not trying to impress anyone or show off or say we’re better than other bands.  If people like it, fucking great.  Try not to pressure yourself every show.  Stay calm and have fun.

SL: Are you working towards any new material or a new release?

Arif: Afer this tour we’re heading out again – not another tour but the Obscene Extreme Festival in the Czech Republic.  It’s the 20th anniversary so we’re really honored to be there.  After that we’ll probably start writing the new album.  But we’re going to take our time – we do not like to rush albums.  Usually what we do is Rasyid, our guitarist, will come up with a riff and a few drum beats and we’ll jam it out in a studio.  And I’ll just blurt our something to go alone with the music and write the lyrics during the recording process.  On “Voices”, after they recorded the guitar and drums so I had fixed, concrete music, I started writing the lyrics.

SL: This will be the second album with drummer Vijesh on drums.  Does he take an active part in songwriting or is it jammed out in studio?  What’s the musical approach?

Arif: Raysid is the main songwriter of the band.  He has all the riffs built out already. Vijesh and I will have some tweaks or modify things.

SL: As you work towards new material, what are some topics that have been on your mind?  A lot of bands, especially in grindcore, are focused on the immediately political, but with a record like “Voices” it seemed a lot more personally focused with some crossover to broader issues.

Arif: A zillion grindcore bands start talking about politics – and this is just my opinion – it’s pretty redundant.  They are talking about changing the world but the world is still fucked!  So there is no point in my point of view.  I’ll take every single album of ours as a diary.  I think its way more meaningful so we can look back at the lyrics and go “oh shit we went through all that shit!” So we try not to be as political… It depends on what we experience through the year.  If it was a depressing year, it’s probably a depressing album.  With “Voices” that ended up being a really depressing album.  We lost our drummer [Fitri] that year and we almost quit the band.  But we pulled it through.

SL: Do you feel in a more positive mode now?

Arif: So far it’s been very positive.  I’m a little concerned about the next album – it’s probably going to be a very positive album!  But at the same time, we’re still going through social issues.  We’ll mix it up.

SL: Is there much you’re taking in, as far as music or culture, that’s locally produced? 

Arif: Singapore is basically a Westernized country.  The majority of our shows or TV is US stuff.  Locally we have cuisine and stuff like that.  Culture-wise – it’s basically fading off.  We don’t have much forested area – its high rises.  A lot of the old buildings have been demolished.  So, I have no idea – we are a westernized island.

SL: What do you dig into to get centered or relaxed?

Arif: Really, spending time with my wife and son.  Family comes first.  Living in Singapore you can become a robot.  It’s all about work.  There’s no time for leisure.  You have to make the best out of it.  Touring is sort of like a holiday, but a tiring fucking holiday.  It’s always about work.  Actually, I work in a warehouse doing a twelve-hour shift every day.  When we get back from tour, the next day will be back to work.  Living in Singapore is really fucking expensive, too.  I’m sorry to depress you!

SL: Well with the amount of energy and money people expend to really keep a band going, it’s pretty remarkable that you guys can still work, and do these tough tours, and maintain a job, and keep making, frankly, amazing records!

Arif: You know, we have friends back home who used to be in bands and had to quit to make money or keep a job or have a family and at the time I would say, “Oh you’re a fucking pussy!”  But you have to pay your rent.  Now that I’m at that stage, having a child, I can see that quitting a band is probably a good move.  But I’m not going to be a robot.  I need a break from that reality and Wormrot is a big deal in my life.  Wormrot is bigger than the three of us now and I’m not going to put it to rest.

SL: Last question: What are some bands you were able to take in and enjoy this tour?

Arif: Oh man – we have seen so many great fucking bands.  We’re touring with Escuela and they’re just killing it every night.  I loved Sarlacc – a Star Wars inspired band that is fucking groovy.  Organ Dealer. Chepang.  I didn’t get to watch Pig Destroyer but they probably killed it.  I managed to watch Godflesh for five minutes and it was amazing.  There are a lot of underground bands that kicked our asses every night that I can’t remember the name of right now!

The End

Band info: facebook || bandcamp