Thai Rock: Slot Machine

Thai Rock: Slot Machine

Bringing Southeast Asian rock to the international stage


International attention towards the Asian music market has always gravitated towards Japan, Hong Kong and, especially in the last few years, South Korea. Southeast Asia tends to get overshadowed. Thai rock band Slot Machine aims to change that.

“We have had the chance to perform in many places such as Japan, North America, England, Australia, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong,” the group’s lead singer Karinyawat “Foet” Durongjirakan tells Metropolis over email. “It has helped us to always find new inspiration, new ideas and to have fun with our lives and our music.”

It’s also turning the four-piece outfit—made up of Durongjirakan, bassist Atirath Pintong, guitarist Janevit Chanpanyawong and drummer Settharat Pancgchunan—into ambassadors for Thailand’s music scene. They are one of the first Thai bands to tour across Europe, the United States and Canada, not to mention around their native continent. They play Shinjuku’s ReNY on Monday, December 18th starting from 6:30pm, alongside local rockers I Don’t Like Mondays (let’s hope they avoid checking the calendar).

It’s not their first Japan trip. In 2016, they became the first Thai band to ever play the Fuji Rock Festival. Since then, they’ve been moving non-stop, peaking in 2017 with the aforementioned North American tour—which also featured Japan’s Miyavi and Korean group Kiha & The Faces—alongside a large solo show in Bangkok. They’ve also recorded songs for animated Thai films and the region’s version of the Kamen Rider series.

The band formed in the early noughties, hailing from the northern part of the country. Initially, Slot Machine featured a different cast of players besides Durongjirakan and Pintong. Yet the current line-up locked in with the arrival of the other two members in 2006.

In the decade that followed, Slot Machine have dabbled in a variety of rock-leaning sounds. They are comfortable playing speedy arena rockers, and can also peel off a dramatic ballad. At their most intriguing, though, they fuse rock with elements of music from their home region in the north of the country, adding sonic details that make them stand out from other groups who didn’t grow up surrounded by these styles.

This mish-mash of rock stylings—influenced by their home or otherwise — came together on 2016’s Spin The World, their last full-length. “On that album, we acted as though we were scientists in the laboratory! We were having fun exploring new elements and we were open for new ideas,” Durongjirakan says.

Recent numbers from Slot Machine continue to find them pairing Thai sounds with other styles. Take their latest cut, “The Land Of Himmaphan,” a shadow-grazed number that Chanpanyawong says riffs on famous folk tales (the name Himmaphan refers to a forest in Thailand). It features a bounce reminiscent of reggae music, but isn’t quite that.

“We feel that reggae and Northeastern Thai music have some similar elements. But we didn’t want pure reggae, we just borrowed the rhythm. The song is not as upbeat as pure reggae,”  Durongjirakan says. “The guitar lines and melody are not exactly reggae either and what we got in the end is a fusion of reggae, rock and Northeastern Thai music.”

The group says Japanese music has also influenced them. “We noticed lots of good ideas from Japanese music. It contains imagination and interesting perspectives that are fun for us to explore,” drummer Settharat Pancgchunan says, before mentioning that bassist Pintong loves One OK Rock.

Although they have a few Thai dates left before the new year, Slot Machine’s Shinjuku show marks their last international show of 2017, a 12-month stretch that saw them visiting a plethora of new locations. They are already ramping up for 2018, as they plan to put out a new album. There’s very little rest when you are trying to put your nation’s music on the map.