Sunday, October 14, 2007

Interview with Nakarin Teerapenun of T-Bone!

For over a decade, they were Thailand's only ska and reggae band. For over 16 years, they've been hard at work, spreading the sounds of ska and reggae throughout Thailand. They've played with artists such as Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, The English Beat, and INXS. They've even played at the world famous Glastonbury Festival a couple of times.

Just who are these guys? They're T-bone of course, and they hail from the Land of Smiles! (Thailand for you folks who don't get that reference.) Their lead guitar player, Nakarin Teerapenun, was kind enough to take the time to answer a couple of questions I had for him about his band and the scene in Thailand. Read on, loyal readers, read on.

1. For those of us who are uninformed, please tell us a little about the history of T-bone!

Nakarin: We are a band of college mates that formed 16 years ago (there are only 3 original founding members left now) out of our love of music. We played live gigs at clubs for very minimal pay. We were young and full of energy and just wanted to get out there and do what we love. Things slowly improved and we finally signed our first record contract 14 years ago.

2. How did you guys come up with the name, “T-bone” for the band?

Nakarin: My brother, Gap, who joined the band later as lead-singer, was at the time making these jeans for sale called T-Bone. That was pre-album days and we didn't have a name yet. We had auditioned at a club, and the owner asked what the name of the band was. We were dumbfounded when one of us looked at the jeans Gap was wearing and said "T-Bone"!

So, in a nutshell, by accident!

3. Please tell us a little bit about the history of the ska scene in Thailand. How was the scene when T-bone started playing, and how is the scene now?

Nakarin: When T-Bone was formed about 16 years ago, we played live gigs of only reggae music, such as cover songs of Bob Marley. He was probably the only reggae artist that Thai people knew, and even then, reggae music was restricted to a very, very small group of people. There was no "ska-scene" to speak of. Now the "ska-reggae" scene is the new "in" thing among indie music fans.

T-Bone has been the only ska-reggae band for over a decade, and I'm now happy to say we have many new additions to this scene. Mostly very young college kids who started their own ska-reggae band out of pure passion for this kind of music. The reason I say this is because, despite its increasing popularity, it is still not a major money-making scene for artists of this kind. But we love what we do, and are proud that our perseverance has finally brought us to where we are. We're able to do what we do and enjoy the strong support from our loyal fans without involving any marketing tactics.

Needless to say, we've all got day jobs to support our passion.

4. How did you get into ska music?

Nakarin: When we finally got our first break with a record label, we started doing interviews and were asked a lot of questions like "what is reggae music?" Up to that point we only played reggae music because it was what we loved, but we knew very little about its history. So, we thought we'd better do some research, and that's when we found out that it was ska music that actually came first and influenced the emergence of reggae music. Then we discovered The Skatalites, and the rest is history!

5. What bands or artists have influenced your band the most?

Nakarin: Surprisingly, only one of our members is a die-hard reggae fan. Most of the other present members, on the other hand, have a jazz background, and also perform with various jazz bands in Bangkok. This is probably the main influence that comes into play when we rehearse together and also when we compose and arrange songs. But if we are to name any particular band that influences us, it would of course have to be The Skatalites, for the way they seem to cleverly sneak jazz influences into their songs!

6. What are the types of people who show up to your show in Thailand? (Rastas? Skinheads? Rudeboys? Mods? Everybody and anybody?)

Nakarin: Yes, Rastas and Rudeboys, but Thai-style. You have to see them to understand what I mean by Thai style. And yes, everybody and anybody, because we have the original fans, who are now in their mid 30s and 40s, and the latest recruits in all forms and shapes and colours.

7. I know you guys have played at the Glastonbury Festival a couple of times, and I gather that you guys don’t tour outside Asia much. How did the crowd respond to your music? Were you
able to tour any other European cities after Glastonbury?

Nakarin: Outside of Asia, we actually played in London first for a Tsunami benefit show a couple of months before we were booked for Glastonbury on the same year. Because each band member has a full-time job, we are not able to do any extensive tours. We are an unknown band, so you can imagine how terrifying and exciting it was at the same time. We didn't know how the audiences at each venue would respond to Thai-style ska and reggae. To our surprise, we were very well-received by them, and they had fun despite not being able to understand our lyrics.

I guess it's true when they say that music is a universal language.

8. What has been your most memorable show experience so far?

Nakarin: Without a doubt, Glastonbury 2005 and 2007.

9. What are your favorite ska artists right now?

Nakarin: The Skatalites, New York Ska Jazz Ensemble, Chris Murray, Ska Cubano, etc.

10. What are some Thai bands that the rest of the world should be checking out?

Nakarin: Fong Nam. It's a Thai world music ensemble featuring western instruments alongside traditional Thai musical instruments. Their songs are arranged in a modern-classive style, very contemporary, very progressive.

11. What is on the horizon for T-bone?

Nakarin: In terms of touring, we've been hearing from concert organizers in new countries for us, like Australia, Brazil, etc. but the logistics is always the main challenge for us as we're a big band. We always end up having to depend on sponsorship money to cover our traveling costs alone.

We are now also in the middle of touring season in Thailand. As for our new album, that's in our plans for next year.

12. Any last comments?

Nakarin: Please tell your readers to visit our website We would love to hear from new people and get feedback about our music!

You heard the man! Go check out their website! If you're interested in their sound, keep your eye on the Pressure Drop Soundcast, as they are one of this month's featured artists. You can also buy some of their albums at

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