NOTE: This is an old interview with Add Carabao. There is no date, but I believe the “rap” he does is from an album that came out in 2004. I would guess a date about 2004. This interview used to be important because Add admitted that he and several other band members used or were using marijuana. Now that Add Carabao is leading a personal campaign to further legalize marijuana in Thailand (it has just been legalized for medical use), this is no longer a surprising admission. However, the interview has resurfaced in connection with his campaign, and I realized it contains other information relevant to understanding his singing and songwriting. [Do not totally trust this translation. It is probably 95% correct.]
Saryut: The matter that I want to ask, that I’ve asked P’Add here for is, well you might be mad . . .
Add: No problem . . .
S: I want to ask you about your childhood, OK?
S: Add, you’re Chinese right? *
S: I have the face of a Chinese boy. How come you don’t have a Chinese-boy face
A: [Laughs] I don’t know
S: I’m asking
A: I don’t know either.
A: Chinese people don’t all have faces like you, Khun Sarayut
S: Look! Add doesn’t look like a Chinese boy. Did you used to look like a Chinese boy?
A: It was always like this face here.
S: Can you sing Chinese songs?
A: No, I can’t.
S: Not even one song?
A: I never learned Chinese.
S: “Jom Paw Siang Hai,” can you sing it?
A: I can’t
S: Just sing a little
A: Should I sing “Bao”?
A: [SINGING:] “Long bang . ., Long bao”
S: Can you sing in this style? Can you change styles?
A: If you are talking about ethnicities. If in Chinese, if I studied the language a little, I think it might be possible. It’s embedded in the genes. Really, it’s something about the genes.
S: So it’s a music gene?
A: It is that way. When people practice for a long time they transmit what was accumulated through the genes. Like my friend Tito is Thai. If you had him sing out like Suraphol [Sombatcharoen], like Sanyan Sanya,* he could totally do it. But I couldn’t do it. I would ask, “Why can you sing it, but I can’t sing like that?” He would say, “Because you are Chinese!” And I couldn’t sing it! Couldn’t sing Luuk Tung [Thai country music].** Even though I was born in Suphan [Buri Province of Thailand]. And he was born in a house next to mine, and he could sing it!” I say that I am a Thai, but my race is Chinese. Like you, Khun Surayut [just] told me.
S: Did you ever have an accent? Tell me the truth, did you have a little bit of an accent? [A Suphan Buri accent relative to a Bangkok accent]
A: When I first came to Bangkok, I had an accent. ***
S: But you can’t sing Luuk Tung?
A: No I can’t. Well I could, but not really. It really doesn’t come out.
[Sings “Gai Ja” ไก่จ๋า (Oh Gai Sweetie!)]
Their news is you, Gai, have a new boyfriend
[You two] are probably really rich, happy living with money
But do you know, Gai, when your smile beams out
I almost go crazy. I’ve been sleeping in a flood of tears for so long now”
. . . That’s it. Only to this much [to this degree] It’s not the same. I can’t come out with it like Saiyan Sanyan.****
S: Oh-ho! “Just this much”!
A: Khun Surawat you never really listened to Luuk Tung. If you really listened to Luuk Tung, you’d understand when its full of aroma . . . It’s hard. It’s hard to do. When Luuk Tung come out and sing, this is fake, and this isn’t. When they use just their face/appearance . . oh-ho! Using what is so beautiful, I can’t do.
S: You must do the face for us!
A: All beautiful, painted white, like a young Chinese woman? I can’t.
S: And because of that you can’t. You must sing in the style of Songs for Life
S: How about rap?
A: In the past I did an album ?????? that was “For Life”
S: Did you ever think you wanted to sing Tung?
A: Yes because at my house, my father was the head of a band. And so I saw my father and older siblings sing and play in a band together, I wanted to be able to do it. And in a past period, they would play for Luuk Tung singers. And I wanted to follow in their trail. But in that period guitars started at XXX baht . . . and so I did like that.
S: And so coming up to this time. How about rap? Can you rap?
A: No, but my daughter can.
S: So sometimes you can sing with your children
S: Sing a little.
A: [*Heavy sigh*]
S: A Songs for Life rap
A: So I guess you want rap . . . [to the audience] So you’ll pay me to sing? Yes or no? [cheering from the audience]
[Jumps up and does a weird rap, which is from a song on the album OTOP] ******
A: There, Suphan-style rap.
S: I promise you, we didn’t prepare that. I didn’t know Khun Add was this good [at rap]. How old are you, P’Add?
A: [Things] change.
S: Is that so?
A: Add Carabao changes.
S: And because of that, I want to talk about [your composing.] [Interviewer asks something about “concentration” and having money.]
A: The truth is, the period in which I wrote the best songs was probably the period in which life was more difficult. . . .. so I composed. I spent money, was an amateur. If you want to be an successful artist, you need to be poor first, very, very poor. Then squeeze [your way] out of it. In that period, as soon as one totally squeezes out of it, you can just keep forging ahead. And so before that, you must be poor. And then squeeze out of it.
S: And because of that, before the money, you must be poor.
S: And squeeze out of it.
A: You wouldn’t believe it, Oh Surayut, if you could see [me in] that past era. Oh-ho! I used to sell my blood for something to eat. I would go donate in that past era.
S: Oh really!
A: I would go sell it. For like only $200 baht ($6.50).
A: For something to eat.
S: You were out of money to that extent?
A: It’s true! Bpai long bai ma magot
S: And you would sell your blood?
A: I would sell it it 300cc for $200 baht and a snack. I would get a cookie.
S: And one bag [of blood] was $200 baht?
A: 200. 200 per time. Sometimes two per time.
S: Two per time also! And in that period, you weren’t singing yet?
A: In that period, I had just come to Bangkok to study, at Wat Lapidik.
A: My mother gave me 10 baht a day. That wasn’t enough. Well I was young
S: [You needed] to go out.
A: Yeah, to go out. That was normal. I was young.
S: You really you [only] sold your blood so you could go out!
A: Maybe I could eat and go out and drink.
S: You made it seem like you were without food.
A: You need to understand what’s going on. If you just eat and study you’ll be an idiot. You have to travel go here and there and continually, learn about the contours of the world you live in. Do you know the [names a specific place]?
S: I wasn’t born in time.
A: Aww . . .
S: I was born in time for some other period
S: I won’t say which one. Your songs come from your imagination, right?
A: Yes, from my imagination. But also sometimes songs come from things I experience. That might be a small factor, it’s a takeoff point, and then I’m off writing.
S: When you composed the song ““Ganja” what were you doing?
A: In that period I still smoked ganja. I smoked with Keow. Lek a little. OK, true story, I smoked. At that time, we would compose in Lek’s room. Lek would be the person on the guitar doing the cords. And I would be coming up with the words. And after that, I just quit. And I told Keow, “I’m quitting.” He said, “OK, fine. I can smoke it [all] myself.” I think he still smokes today.
A: So you tossed aside your friend. OK, let’s leave it there. Thank you!
* His nationality is of course Thai, so this is his ethnicity. His parents or grandparents immigrated from China. See the song “ กีต้าร์แม่ (Mother’s Guitar) for details about the emigration of his parents and grandparents. Add’s mother could speak Chinese as reflected in the song บ่อเยี่ยะโจ่ย Baw Ye-ya Joi (No Big Deal).
** Luuk Tung ลูกทุ่ง is Thai country music. “Luuk Tung” literally means “Child of the Field” or “Farmboy.” It is not like American country music. There is a lot of vibrato and vocal acrobatics. Here is the Wikipeia entry on Luuk Tung.
*** A song on the first Carabao album is a cute song about a young man being teased for his Suphan accent. The song is “Num Suphan” (“Young Man from Suphan”).”
**** Interestingly, a recent Add Carabao album is all covers of Sanya Sanyan songs and Add covered this very song! You can hear it HERE on YouTube:
And Here is my review of the album Add Carabao did of Sanya Sanyan covers.
***** Add’s son raps briefly on the song สวนจตุจักร Suan Jatujak (Jatujak Park), which came out in 2005.
****** I haven’t translated this song with the rap interlude. In 2010, he wrote the hook for a rap song that was amazing: สุดขอบฟ้า Sud Kob Fah (The Horizon).