Interview with Amat and Mimi of Sjanse
1/3 of Form und Leere has been spending the last five months halfway round the globe in Singapore. On his trip he had some time to dive into the local music scene, meeting lovely people who are keeping our beloved subculture in Lion City alive and breathing.
Please introduce yourself & your band(s):
Amat: Hey there. I'm Amatos, and I‘m the vocalist for Sjanse. (Also playing in Connection Error)
Mimi: Mimi from Sjanse here! I'm on drums! (Also playing in Yumi, Beelzebud, Tantra)
How did you get into (let’s call it) subculture, especially punk and hardcore in the widest sense? When did you start playing music?
A: My first encounter with the subculture scene was in the late 2001. I was 13 back then. Worst experience ever. I never actually thought I would ever go to shows again, till I met my friend, in 2005, where he introduced me to Envy, and brought me to my first show, since 2001. Oh and I started playing in a band (Sjanse) in late 2010 I think?
M: : I started out being a groupie for my friends' hardcore band [laughing] … would just tag along when they were having jamming sessions and rehearsals... think I was about 16/17 years old? From there I got introduced to bands like Converge, Lifetime and Reversal of Man. And the rest as they say, is history! Without those friends of mine, I think I wouldn't be where I am right now so here's a shout out to you Afiq and Azhar!
I started picking up drums when I was working at a rehearsal studio around that time as well... would usually practice till the wee hours of the morning, playing covers most of the time.
Amat, what was that bad experience you had?
A: Oh. I was pogo-ed really bad by some old-timer punk.
Haha alright. Last year the two of you went to Europe in summer. How did it come about? Tell us a little about your experience.
A: Our main objective going to Europe was, well of course, CMAR (Cry Me A River). We had the best experience ever, well at least I did. But yeah, the whole Europe trip was pretty awesome.
M: Amat and I wanted to go to CMAR and even though flights and expenditure at Europe is expensive for us, it was not impossible to be there anyway. So with a positive mindset, we saved up and finally made it there! Felt pretty surreal! Europe was amazing!
Your band Sjanse will be playing at Cry Me A River (CMAR) in Versmold / Peckeloh, Germany this year. How did that happen? Are there more shows planned in Europe?
A: When we were at last year's CMAR, Mimi gave one of our tapes to Lars (React with Protest) and told him of our plans on touring Europe. Early this year, I received a message from Lars, asking if we're still keen on playing CMAR. So yeah! We're going to Europe!
M: And we are doing a tour with a band there as well...can't tell you who they are yet! [laughing]
Speaking of traveling, what is the touring situation for bands from SG? What are the main difficulties to get out of the country?
M: Well, there are some differences between touring in Southeast Asia vs touring in Europe. For example, in SEA (South East Asia), backline is usually provided at shows while in Europe it's the opposite (correct me if I'm wrong). So financially, that might pose a challenge for SEA bands who want to tour Europe.
A: It's basically the same problems every band from every part of the globe is facing. Money, jobs, commitments.
When I went to Rumah Api (the most punk place) in Kuala Lumpur a few weeks back I saw quite a few familiar faces from Singapore. How is the exchange with and connection to likeminded people in other countries?
A: Hardcore DIY punk scene has always had this connection with one another. Be it if you're from Europe, States, Asia, Central Asia, or whatever. There's always a connection. Malaysia, being our neighboring country, we are closest to them, I believe.
If the “scene” here in Singapore was a medical patient, how would you describe its state of health? How did it change over the course of the past few years? Any highs / lows?
A: Hmmm, if you're new to the scene here, I could probably imagine you‘re saying that it's critical. But we have had our ups and downs. Recently we've had more people (not from the music scene) showing interest towards the scene.
M: The 90's have always been referred to as the golden age for Singapore independent/underground music though I was still kid during that era [laughing]. But the future is bright! Lots of new and very talented bands gracing the scene... the torchbearers!
Politics usually plays an important role in punk and hardcore culture although it’s not that prevalent in screamo. You being very active here in Singapore, how would you describe the role of politics for the people here?
A: Firstly, Sjanse has always been a political band. But anyways, most Singaporeans, to be honest, are hypocrites. They may say "fuck xenophobes", then go on complaining on how the foreigners get paid more than them, or say "fuck homophobic" and giving the disgusted look when they see two gay men kissing. So yeah. hypocrites.
The next question is probably very German/European since it’s a very sensitive topic for many people being active in punk and hardcore culture. Historically we are part of a leftish scene, usually being rather critical when it comes to matters of government and politics. Singapore has the obligatory civil service (military, police, fire brigade,…). Would you say it has an influence on how you think about and treat matters of state and government? If so, how would you describe it?
A: To some, yes. So this is how the thing goes. It's called the National Service (NS). Every male has to serve the NS once you've reached the age of 17/18. You'll have to go through 2 years of NS, and once you're done with your 2 years service, you'll have to at least serve them once a year, for 10 more years. If you fail to comply, they'll just send you to prison, or if you a have certain ridiculous amount of money, you can just buy your way out of the whole NS. I’m down with 6 more years to serve. NS basically is a waste of time. There is a bit of brain washing, and of course the privileges you'll receive if you decided to join them.
M: I don't feel any more patriotic going through NS, it even feels like it‘s a waste of time. [laughing]
A few months back I saw this flyer appealing punks to unite against LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bi Transgender) in Malaysia, it was published on this girl’s Instagram account. Also Singapore is challenging homosexuality by law. What are your thoughts on that? Would you consider it as a regional problem?
A: That was a major bullshit. One of the punks had a talk with her, and she apologized for putting the word punk on the poster. But still, that's just bullshit. Homosexuality has been an issue in many countries, not just Singapore. But to be honest, more Singaporeans are beginning to open up on the situation. It may not be legally accepted, but it gets the support from the people.
M: Yes Singaporeans nowadays are more liberal and open regarding this issue as compared to, say, 30 or 20 years ago.
It is indeed an issue in many countries around the world, but it is good to hear that the situation is improving here. Now back to music. Any plans for the future / anything in the making?
A: We're still waiting for our 2-way 7" split with Malaysian screamo band Virginia on Duty. We're planning on 2 or 3 more splits right after. Shall not mention the band names yet.
M: Yeah, though Wall (guitarist for Sjanse), Suhayl (bassist) and I are busy with our other bands as well, we've got some stuff in the works. Will head down to the studios soon!
Anything you would like to add?
M: Thanks for doing up this interview with us Carl! Much appreciated!
A: I honestly think what you're doing here, is a great thing. I believe that everyone has a part in the scene. Be it if you wanna be in a band, or an artist, or poet, or even a dancer. Hmm political dancer? That should be interesting. But yeah. Salute.
One final question: What are to you personally the 3 most important bands and records from Singaporean bands?
A: Depressed State by Daily Ritual, The Jhai Alai, Transcendence by Pazahora
M: Secret 7, Zainichi!, Stellarium
Thank you very much :)