Born from their love of 80s hardcore, Kuala Lumpur hardcore act Ogoshi Rebels have been flying the flag for international DIY punk for a few years now. Taking the sonic pummelling and chaotic energy of Bad Brains and dosing it with the fuel and fire of Hatebreed’s metal-tinged fury, they’ve rarely left a venue unturned. Having just released their new 5-song EP, we spoke to guitarist Paul Stewart about their formation, sound, and what it’s like being a hardcore band in Malaysia’s capital.
Tell us a little bit about the Ogoshi Rebels, where you guys are from and how you all met.
Paul: Well, I started the band late 2017, September or October I think. I’ve been pretty busy playing with another punk band called, The Hiroshima Lovers (still currently playing). During this period of time, we had a pretty long break and I still wanted to go out there and play live music. But this time I just wanted to play aggressive music. I guess I could’ve started a metal band but I suck balls on the guitar and decided to write music which is kinda catchy and fast. Lucky enough, we’re all from, Kuala Lumpur and basically most of us met at gigs. I’ve met, Ran (guitar) Sara (vocals) and Shreq (Drums) around 10, 11 years ago. That time of course we were all playing in different bands. I’ve met, Mukhriz (Bass) when I started playing with, The Hiroshima Lovers two years back. My mate, Bax takes over the bass once in a while. I met him many beer drinking years ago…around 15 years I think.
How did you get into punk and hardcore?
Paul: I started getting into punk and hardcore when I was living in, Indonesia, Jakarta. Around 1992-ish… Yes I’m old but young at heart. I actually got into Metal first which was introduced by my old, Polish friend, Michael Drzewiecki. Me and my brother were blown away when Michael was playing Slayer, Kreator and Metallica on his stereo. Later the whole grunge thing came in. Everyone was listening to, Nirvana and that pretty much started me getting into, punk. I think the first punk album I bought, would be, Punk in Drublic by NOFX. I think the first time I heard some hardcore music would be from watching MTV when they had Headbangers Ball. I believe it would have been one of Bio-Hazard’s music vids. But the first hardcore album I got was Sick Of It All’s Scratch the Surface. This basically started me off into the whole punk/hardcore thinghy.
How is the scene in Malaysia?
Paul: The scene in, Malaysia is actually pretty fuckin good! We’ve actually got bands that cover just about every rock to metal genre out there. I’m surprised myself. There are so many bands over here. I keep seeing different band names on flyers all the time. In just about every state, there would be a known live venue where most gigs would be held. You could bet that there is always something going on every weekend. Just in Kuala Lumpur, you’re probably looking at 3 to 5 shows a week. But of course, I can’t compare to the scenes in America, Europe or even Australia. It’s heaven for us over there. Things would be even better if we were able to bring in bands from overseas…Well, we are, but only if the organizer has
You guys do things DIY- how is it in Malaysia- playing shows, recording, touring?
Paul: When I first got back home, the scene in, KL was kickin’ off pretty hard. But at the end of the day like most places, if ya got cash, then you could just rent the
For recording, there are those who would record by themselves or if ya have the budget, record in a proper studio. With one of my old bands, we actually recorded the whole album in my band member’s spare room. It was quite a fun experience. But these days, recording studios give out pretty good and affordable deals for bands. For packaging, again, there are guys in the scene who can hook you up with good deals for the CD printing/packaging and merchandise. Just need to save some cash in the band fund and your set.
Is it easy at all though, for say a kid looking for different music to find punk in Malaysia?
Paul: Most definitely. The music scene is huge! So many different types of bands across the country. And to find punk music? Not a problem. If ya in, KL, check out a live venue called, Rumah
Listen to “Slither” from their new EP:
Tell us a little bit about the new EP- how did the songwriting go for this release?
Paul: Before I started the band, I wrote three songs already. I just wanted to make the songs easy to play
And the recording?
Paul: We were on a very tight budget and to be honest, I didn’t want to spend so much time in the recording studio. I just wanted things to be straight forward. The perfect guy and studio for this was a guy named, Mokhtar. He runs a recording studio called, I Seek Music Studio. The recording session was very basic. What we did was we recorded the main part of the song live. One guitar, bass and drums. We did this over and over again until we decided which recording was the best. Then later on top of that, we layered the second guitar and vocals. The rest, Mokhtar worked his magic. We didn’t even do any mixing for the final tracks. I wanted the sound of each track to be a bit raw.
Listening to the record, I get a sense you guys have a love for some of that brutal 80s hardcore- were there some bands you guys drew inspiration from for this record?
Paul: Yea for sure! Bands like, Black Flag and Bad Brains. We just love that aggressive energy these guys give. We try to be as active as possible when we perform too. We’re all inspired by different types of punk and metal music. We just play what we feel sounds good to us but at the same time, try to keep it as punk/ hardcore as possible.
What’s next for 2019 now that the EP is out there?
Paul: Well, we just want to play as many shows as possible. Pimp out the EP and sell as much merchandise as we can. We just want to play most of, Malaysia first before we start planning out to go to other neighboring countries.
Ogoshi Rebels’ self-titled EP is available now. Get in touch with the band to see how you can pick up a copy.
Everything Will Be Alright: An interview with Ogikubo Station
There is great joy in simple chords and simple melodies. It is, after all, the feeling of comfort that these things often bring. Comfort from the day’s burdens, comfort from the issues that disappoint us, comfort when the sunsets bring us joy. Ogikubo Station, the music project of Maura Weaver (of Ohio punks Mixtapes) and Mike Park (of Asian Man Records), is that kind of comfort. It is music that makes us think of the week we’ve just had, music that makes us want to do better in our every day, and music that makes us laugh, cry, and sing-a-long.
Fresh off the release of a new 7” EP Okinawan Love Songs, we chat to Maura and Mike about the new songs, making music from distances, and how Ogikubo Station came to be. The chat was a reminder that music can be the result of many things and many reasons. Some simple, some more complicated. It was also a reminder that if we’ve got the music, then maybe, just maybe, everything will be alright in the end.
You released your full length We Can Pretend Like last year- was there a catalyst that sparked getting back into the writing and recording again so quickly?
Maura: I think Mike just called me and said do you want to come out to California and do some songwriting, and then while I was out there he booked two days in the studio and said “Guess what? We’re gonna record a 7 inch.”
Mike: Is that what happened? Haha. I can’t remember. I know we had “Would I Break My Heart Enough For You” written and we were playing it live, so I thought “let’s just add a couple more songs and release a fun 7 inch.”
Did you write these songs the same way you’ve written in the past; from a distance?
Mike: Not this time. Since it was only a few songs we just rehearsed for a day and then recorded.
Does that process ever get easier, being quite far apart?
Maura: Not really. I prefer being able to collaborate in person and I believe that’s the plan for the next record. We started writing 4 new songs aside from what’s on this 7 inch to go towards the next Ogikubo full length.
Mike: Yeah, it’s not the best case scenario, but I’ve been doing with a lot of different projects over the years. Sending mixes and vocal parts and asking various friends to guest on records, so it’s not that bad actually.
How was having Dan (Andriano) play bass on this EP? Will you be working with him again in the future?
Mike: I’ve known Dan since he was a teenager, so I just called him and said “Dan, I’m gonna send you a couple of songs for you to play bass on” and he was like “okay”. He has his own home studio and he’s kind of a gear head, so I knew it would be easy for him to do. I’d love to do more stuff with him, but I guess we’ll see.
Maura: Heck yes! I’ve been an Alkaline Trio fan since I was 14, so this is all kind of geeking out excitement for me.
For those who are new to Ogikubo Station – tell us how you ended up collaborating together?
Mike: Maura, you want to tell it?
Maura: Sure. So I was visiting the San Francisco/Oakland area where my sister lives and we were hanging out with my friend Danielle Bailey who is also friends with Mike. Danny had posted some photos of us hanging and Mike called Danny and said: “ask Maura if she would record a song with me”. So we drove to San Jose and we recorded a song called “Weak Souls Walk Around Here” and that was it. Just a one-time thing.
Mike: And at that time I believe I told Maura I’d like to put out her solo album and so for the next 2 years I would bug her every couple months to see how it was going and she would say “oh, I’m still working on it”. And then I finally said “hey, let’s start a project together” and thus Ogikubo Station was born.
How many bands are you in now Mike?
Mike: Kitty Kat Fan Club, Ogikubo Station, Bruce Lee Band …are the only ones that play, but I’m working on a couple of new projects. Always doing music.
Maura, how different has it been with Ogikubo Station than say, writing and recording with Mixtapes? Do the different processes give you new ways to write and approach songwriting?
Maura: I guess the biggest difference is the distance factor and that Ogikubo is not a full-time band. Mixtapes was my first real band and it was at a time in my life when everything was a first. First tour, first record, first van, the first van breaking down. I was still in my teens with Mixtapes and we all lived in Cincinnati. So it’s very different with Ogikubo. It’s hard to explain fully, but both bands have definitely been influential in different ways. But the basic idea of writing a melody over a strummed guitar chord is the same no matter the situation.
I love the TMBG cover on the new EP, and the fact that you chose to keep it lo-fi—what are some of the other bands you say would have directly led to the music and songwriting of Ogikubo Station?
Mike: I guess I’ve been listening to a lot of 80’s bands as of late and just kind of falling in love again with bands like Hoodoo Gurus, the Replacements, REM, and then newer bands like ALVVAYS, PUP, and Laura Stevenson. I’m always just looking for a good melody and some lyrics that aren’t filler bullshit.
Maura: I listen to so much music. From Kate Bush, TMBG, Desmond Dekker, Operation Ivy, to Beyonce and Taylor Swift. It’s hard to say what influences Ogikubo Station, but those are some bands I’ve been listening to lately.
Mike, I know on Twitter recently you’ve expressed your frustration and anger at a lot of the political things that are happening in the US (hopefully that’s not the cause of those grey hairs!) – but as songwriters, do you feel that it’s more important than ever to provide listeners with fuel to fight for equality and kindness, or do you feel that its just as important to provide an escape through music?
Mike: I’ve always felt music is political even when you aren’t trying to make it political. The sounds fuel the soul, creates the body to move and puts you in moods that you may not even realise are happening. Music has been my solace when it comes to expression and emotion. An outlet to get my ideas across in an artistic and productive manner. I don’t feel it’s imperative to be overtly political. I try not to shove politics down your throat, but if something comes to mind and I write about it and it happens to be classified as political, so be it.
Maura, you did the artwork for the new EP, an illustration of your Okinawan grandmother. The art is beautiful, can you tell us a little bit about your art and how you came into illustrating?
Maura: I’ve always enjoyed illustrating and painting. Creating art: With a guitar or a brush or a pen/ pencil. I wanted to draw my grandmother and give it to her as a present. When Mike saw the drawing he asked if we could use it for the 7-inch cover. It wasn’t meant to be the cover, but after mike brought it up I said of course.
What are some of the things you’re looking forward to on this UK tour? You guys are going all over England, and then to Wales, and then Scotland.
Mike: Sadly I’m not going on the tour this time due to some hearing damage I have sustained, but I’m still going to Brighton for a wedding, so I will be there for 3 days. And I’ll try to do every stereotypical British thing. TEA/MILK/FISH/CHIPS/MUSHY PEAS.
Maura: Getting to travel with my best friend Megan is the most exciting part of this UK tour. She’s never been before and that makes it that much more special being able to share this experience together. We are both Vegan/Vegetarian and one of our favorite things to do is eat, so we’ll checking out the different vegan spots in every city. And just meeting new friends, seeing old friends, and Edinburgh. I can’t wait to go to Edinburgh.
Is there a new full length on the horizon?
Mike: I’d like to work on one next year. I’m tapped out for this year. I’m gonna work on some new Bruce Lee Band stuff next and then I have a couple of other collaborations, but hopefully sometime next year we can start the process for the next full length.
Maura: That sounds good to me. It will give me a chance to keep writing songs.