Believe it or not, Southeast Asia is a hotbed for hardcore music. North American bands who are able to make the journey always come back with good things to say about the size of the shows and the passion of the kids.
Sadly, very few bands from that area make it on to the radar of the rest of the world, but hopefully Fuse can help change that. Their new LP on UK-based Quality Control HQ is a ripper of fast, to-the-point hardcore that deserves international recognition.
I recently spoke with the band about their music, Southeast Asian hardcore, and more.
Ok! First off, how did you two find hardcore and punk and what made you want to get involved?
Dahl (vocals): I first found out about hardcore and punk when I discovered Riot Grrrl movement and i was intrigued by the whole era. When I first went to local shows, there weren’t many females on stage. I’ve been playing the guitar and bass since young and making a girl band was one of my dreams [laughs].
Syaf (guitars): I started going to local mixed genre shows when I was 18 but I was only properly introduced to hardcore by Sam, who sings in Losing End, when he told me to come for their release show in 2015. I think I was only fully involved in hardcore when Fuse started out.
We felt that we had something different to offer and we wanted to create a space we felt more comfortable in as it was kinda male-dominated at that point of time.
Overall, what is the hardcore scene like over there in Singapore?
Syaf (guitars): I think the scene has been constantly growing with lots of new people coming to shows and forming bands. I can say it feels more welcoming than it was before and I see more people getting genuinely excited about hardcore here and that’s great. There are still cliques here and there but I guess that’s common for most scenes
Dahl (vocals): The scene here has been small and its a community where everyone knows everyone. However, lately, there have been constant growth in terms of show goers and supporters. New faces!
How often do bands from America and Europe make it down there?
Dahl (vocals): I think its pretty accessible for international bands to come over and there has been countless of shows. Knocked Loose, All for Nothing, Your Demise, Backtrack, Odd Man Out, Turnstile, and many many more.
Syaf (guitars): They’re mostly US bands. I can’t put a number to it cause it varies every year but the number has been increasing and there have been more bands expressing their interests in wanting to tour this side of the world.
I help to run Blacklisted Productions and we were supposed to have Candy over here in April but it was cancelled cause of the pandemic. But I’m quite optimistic about the next few years once everything is back to normal.
Indonesia seems to have a strong scene too, right? Anywhere else in your part of the world that is strong for hardcore?
Syaf (guitars): Yeah! Indonesia is strong. Malaysia too.
Dahl (vocals): Yeah, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand!
So, how did Fuse begin? Who else is in the band and what was the goal?
Syaf (guitars): In late, 2016 Dahl reached out to us individually to ask if we wanted to form a band. At that point of time we were just acquaintances who knew each other from shows. We had a few lineup changes along the way so now Fuse is Dahl on vocals, myself (Syaf) on guitar, Fiza on bass, and Izaam on drums.
The goal was to provide a more diverse representation in hardcore and create a space where people can feel safer.
Dahl (vocals): Yes, exactly what Syafe responded! That was how Fuse was formed. We would like to see more females representatives on stage and be able to be themselves and be vocal.
Have you seen more women become involved since Fuse started?
Dahl (vocals): Yes! There are definitely more women coming to gigs as compared to before. But I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily since Fuse started, but more on the community being more accessible and rapidly evolving with the diversity.
It’s refreshing to see new faces all the time. Not only for women, but everyone as well.
Syaf (guitars): Yeah, but I wouldn’t say we’re the only catalyst in why there have been more women being involved. I think the community as a whole has progressed in their mindset which is why the scene feels more welcoming and inclusive now
What other changes and improvements do you want to see in the scene?
Syaf (guitars): I think we need to be more proactive in creating a safer space with more accountability. I wish to see more open conversations and self-education happening cause I don’t think that topic is talked about enough. I would also love to see more new bands, venues and less hardcore beef on the internet.
Dahl (vocals): Changes that I’d like to see is having a more diverse community with many new faces and then more new fresh bands can be formed. A healthier community is a bit too far fetched but hopefully more things can be discussed face to face instead of heavily relying on social media.
Maybe with more dialogue sessions and like Syafe said — open conversations, someway or another, it can change.
I met you when you were out here in Los Angeles for the Sound and Fury festival. What was that experience and show like for you?
Syaf (guitars): Yeah, we first met at the RevHQ warehouse before Sound and Fury last year! Thanks for giving us a tour of the place! Sound and Fury was the high point of last year for me. Got to see some of my favorite bands and felt like everyone who went genuinely had a great time.
I think that was the most amount of hardcore I’ve consumed in a weekend [laughs]. The aftershow on the first day ended at about 1am and I remember feeling super jet lagged as well. Really looking forward to go back for another one.
Dahl (vocals): Sound and Fury was such a great experience and the best trip of 2019 for me. I’ve always wanted to experience what it’s like attending a huge hardcore fest and watching my favourite bands. The attendees of the event was so diverse as well and it’s so cool to see. It’s tiring as hell though, not gonna lie [laughs].
After that weekend, I only listened to K-pop for like a week [laughs]. Nevertheless, I managed to see the people I wanted to see and meet. It was intimidating at first but everyone’s so nice and welcoming. And because it was my first time to the US, I enjoyed the weather the most since Singapore is hot as hell. It's not a daily occurrence that I can actually layer my clothes to go out [laughs].
What else did you do in the US when you were here for Sound and Fury?
Dahl (vocals): We went sightseeing like any other tourists would do — went to Venice Beach, Hollywood, Santa Monica, etc. We went shopping for things that we cant usually get in Singapore, and at a better price. We also met with some friends from different states and countries that also went for Sound and Fury.
It was unfortunate that we couldn’t have more vacation time but it was a week packed with good company and music.
Syaf (guitars): We went to the famous Amoeba Music store in Hollywood, visited Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier, ate some good food at Grand Central Market, experienced the inescapable bad LA traffic a few times. Honestly, I wish we checked out more places but we always got tired quite early because of the 15 hour time difference.
Now back to the history of Fuse, before this LP on Quality Control HQ, what releases did you have out?
Dahl (vocals): Before QCHQ, we only released a 3-song promo on Bandcamp. Initially, our plan was to release a demo after the promo. However, most of us came with not much knowledge of music or being in a band — basically amateurs. And the first year of Fuse, we’re mainly still figuring out and experimenting with our sound and see to what extend our technicality is.
We thought we knew what we wanted but as we go along, it changes. Thus, demo didn’t happen [laughs]. We just proceed to do a LP with the songs that was supposed to come out on the demo, as well as the songs we wrote after, and then chuck them all into one LP.
How did you hook up with Ola Herbich from Quality Control HQ?
Dahl (vocals): Syaf went for a exchange program in University to UK for 4 months. She went for shows and met with Ola at a show. If I’m not mistaken, it was also a show where Arms Race was in the lineup. They became friends and we decided to email her our EP after we recorded wondering if she’ll be interested to help us release it. So, everything started from there!
Syaf (guitars): Yeah, I was studying in France in 2018. I met Ola at a fest in London where Arms Race was playing and became friends ever since. I’m so happy we released it with her under QCHQ. Seems like the perfect fit for us!
Did you have touring plans before the COVID-19 pandemic?
Dahl (vocals): Yes, we did. We were supposed to have a UK tour in November/December this year. When the borders were about to close, we were already getting our trip to Malaysia ready as well to play a show but had to cancel it after much thought, since it wasn’t safe. We were really excited for the tour especially and already were in discussion with Ola from the label.
What has the pandemic been like in your country?
Dahl (vocals): Umm, we were like one of the Top 10 most number of cases for a period of time, so it was pretty crazy. It went from a single digit to triple within a couple of days. We had about 2 months lockdown and now the government is opening up through 3 phases. Currently we are in phase 2 — certain social activities are allowed but only up to 5 people max. Places like karaoke bars arent open yet.
And if you don’t wear a mask you’ll be fined. So it’s compulsory! Which is good because it definitely reflected in the declining cases.
Syaf (guitars): I was feeling optimistic at first that it would have gone away by now but there was a drastic increase in cases in April and majority of those cases were of workers who live in overcrowded dormitories, which I feel could’ve been prevented if they were provided better living conditions in the first place.
I’m glad we‘re at less than 100 cases a day now but I hope even as the numbers drop further people will still try to be responsible and not cause a second wave
Tell me a few cool, positive things about where you live.
Dahl (vocals): Singapore is:
- Safe: It’s ok for me to walk around the streets at 3am without being scared.
- Diverse: There are so many different races here in Singapore, and thus we grew up learning about our culture as well as other races’ culture. We have a thing in Singapore where we kind of mix languages together ~ English + Chinese/Malay/Indian. Or all there together [laughs].
- It's a small country: Traveling from west to east of Singapore would only take a maximum of 1 hour plus. You will never have to travel more than that ever here [laughs].
Syaf (guitars): I like how it’s so easy to find a public toilet here even in the middle of the night. A lot of places run for 24 hours so there’s always somewhere to dine in nearby that’s not a fast food chain. Here we mainly speak English and our mother tongue — for all of us in Fuse we speak Malay too.
Singapore is also really clean and we have one of the best airports in the world. It’s common to hang out at the airport even though you’re not flying out because of how accessible and inviting it is. There’s even an indoor waterfall which is so extra but I love it.
I don’t think people appreciate how important it is to have public toilets.
Syaf (guitars): Exactly. I think there’s a public toilet at every train station here, which is cool.
Do you make it to shows in other cities or countries in Southeast Asia?
Syaf (guitars): We often go to Malaysia for shows since it’s the easiest to travel to. Johor Bahru is right across the border and Kuala Lumpur is about 5 hours away. I honestly miss going to KL. But other than that I would love to experience Bangkok and Jakarta’s hardcore scene.
Dahl (vocals): Yeah, the majority of the time it's in Malaysia. Once in Indonesia. Definitely looking into playing more shows in SEA.
Do you have anything else to add?
Dahl (vocals): I hope that the world will recover soon and we all can get back to socializing. Wish everyone the best of health and we’re in this together!
Syaf (guitars): Thank you Adam for having us on this interview! Looking forward to what the post pandemic hardcore world has in store for us. Shoutout to Lion City Hardcore.
This Segregation Will End is out now via Quality Control HQ.
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