Thai-British cultural crossover entities Dudesweet and Supersweet have steadily grown in profile and status over the past couple of years. DiS chats to leading light Choltida of said publications about raves, backpacking and the defining impact of Britpop on Thai culture.
Tell us a little about Supersweet and Dudesweet.
It started with the club night Dudesweet, actually. Pongsuang Kunprasop is the founder of it. One day he told me the idea of doing this party and I gave him some music to play; the first party only had 80 people then it kind of blew up and we now have around 1,000 on average. A year after Dudesweet started, Pongsuang had the idea of doing a fanzine called Supersweet. At the time we were both working for MTV Magazine and we both got sick of having to cover bands we didn’t really like so he gave me Supersweet to look after as the editor and we just covered mostly what we loved. Somehow, quite quickly, it turned into more of a magazine which is a little self-indulgent to be able to get paid to have fun. We have both a print version (in Thai) and the digital (bilingual) currently at www.dudesweet.org.
Why did you set them up?
I just really love music. I’m excited about going to see gigs and just feel really grateful to be able to experience all these things. It’s like when you are happy about something and you want to tell your friends about it, but I was THAT happy! Telling just my friends wasn’t enough, and I wanted to tell the whole world. It doesn’t surprise me much these days as we have a gang of passionate staff who are real fanatics, but back then when there were just the two of us I used to write thinking no one would read it and it scared me every time to find we had an audience that was growing. It was then that I saw there were still many people who were keen to find out more about the same kind of music that we like which was back then still quite obscure.
Is there anything about British music in particular that appeals to Thais?
The Britpop era in particular was really big in Thailand in the ‘90s. There was this Thai band called Moderndog that became very successful and they were influenced by alternative and Britpop, and Radiohead. They were on Thailand’s first indie underground label called Bakery. So that raised everyone’s awareness of this kind of music. American music used to be big here, too, and I don’t know if it was because of us but British music seemed to have made a big comeback when we started doing the magazine and playing loads of the same music featured in Supersweet at Dudesweet. I like American and British music equally, but we’ve just been featuring more British acts due to the fact that I am based in London.
What brought you over to England?
I got shipped over, one-way, by my parents! They sent me over to study 15 years ago, for a better education and I think, secretly, to de-spoil me. I don’t think I got a better education from being here in the end, but there were simply more options that weren’t available in Thailand, making it easier to find where my passion lies. The de-spoiling didn’t help - I still get what I want today any way.
What links do you retain with Thailand? Activities over there?
I go back four times a year. My parents are there, and so are some of my closest friends – some of them are musicians and I still go to support them at their gigs as always, and help out whenever I can. There is Dudesweet every now and again, and there isn’t a way to excuse myself from that. I still work very closely with Pongsuang – even though the print version has stopped now he’s still our Creative Director and still oversees that part, and I still help him out with his Dudesweet stuff.
What is the Thai music scene like?
The whole attitude to any kind of Thai music is what I would describe as contrived. I haven’t seen that many bands that are doing anything because it’s genuinely what they are. It doesn’t feel natural to me; it’s as if everything is dictated by marketability and bands often end up being manufactured. And like anywhere else in this world, mainstream pop music dominates the entire market. You would think we are inspired by Western music, but in the past four years we have been heavily influenced by Korean music or K-Pop. It’s quite funny but the Korean television series are very popular here and they just take over everything. I think the majority of Thais will always listen to Thai music more than anything else though, simply because Thai is our only main language, unlike say Singapore where they speak both Chinese and English. And I’m glad it will be that way because I wouldn’t want to see the whole nation consumed by another culture completely; I’d rather take good things from elsewhere and adapt them into something quite unique of our own.
Are British and American bands a big influence in places like Bangkok?
I think the Thais are quite receptive to and easily influenced by anything but Thai, funnily enough. We still haven’t learned to appreciate what we’ve got and make the most of it. But maybe it’s down to the world getting smaller – East goes West and vice versa. This goes to almost everything culturally, not just in music.
People view Thailand, in some respects, as being full of backpackers, raves and dance music on islands… is this a fair picture? Or are there other things going on, musically?
Oh no, who told you that?! Those things do exist only because they are what the tourists/foreigners perceive and expect from us. I don’t think it represents what’s really going on at all. There’s much more to it than those things. We have quite unique traditional Thai music that is extremely different from region to region, although it seems like modern music is taking over but it’s like anywhere else in the world. Since Dudesweet, there has been a major boom in club night business and there are more options for people now, from indie to electro to rock to minimal or whatever. I am slightly disappointed by the live scene, though – people don’t seem to appreciate seeing bands as much as the DJ scene.
What would your dream achievement be, regarding British and Thai music?
We’re only a club night and press – I don’t think it’s ever been our goal to do something to change music or anything like that. Pongsuang and I are simply music fans like everyone else. We can only hope to be the platform that brings good things to the table for people to make their own choices, the more the better obviously. On a slightly more selfish note, we’re co-organising a festival with Tiger Beer at the end of this year, where we’re having our own tent showcasing both Thai and international bands. That’s as well as our own Supersweet Festival in Bangkok, but we don’t know yet if that will be this year or the next but we’ll definitely have our dream bands play there and we’ll just watch!
What are your future plans?
It’s been really difficult and extremely impractical to run a magazine between the two countries. Most of the content was made in the UK and the production and distribution were handled in Thailand. It was perhaps a little too ambitious as we couldn’t get enough support from both the UK and Thailand: not that many PRs would do anything to help and they couldn’t understand whether we were a Thai publication, or a UK one or an international magazine. It’s a shame as I thought I could help push the scene forward by bringing different and new things to present to my country, a lot more than we are doing now any way. So I’ve decided to stop the print version in Thailand and just concentrate on becoming a UK operation/digital magazine for now, which I’m very excited about – we’re launching our new website soon and moving to www.supersweet.org, and hopefully it will do well and the readers will enjoy it as much as we do while making it. There are too many things to come. All in all, we’ve always had fun being spontaneous and random, and we’ll just have to make sure things stay that way. I guess as long as it doesn’t feel too much like work, we’ll be okay.
For more Supersweet, click to the website here, like, right now