By Thanachai Ujjin of Moderndog, Musician
Words by Nikolaj Hansson / Illustration by Sine Jensen
In junction with the opening of the Soulland Bangkok store in collaboration with Uncensored, we sat down with Thai musician, Thanachai Ujjin, also known as Pod, of Thai indieband, Moderndog. Having performed as opening act for Radiohead and released five studio albums, Moderndog are a household name on the Thai music scene. We linked up with Pod for a conversation on music, studio time and changing a horse into a dog.
Growing up in Thailand, what were your early influences with regards to music and culture?
I remember when I was a kid, my parents would put a radio on top of my bed. I listened to The Carpenters, The Beatles, Elvis and all Thai songs from that era. These artists made me familiar with the sound of music since my early age. But what triggered me was when I watched the Live 8 concert, that provided aid for Ethiopians. There was Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Duran Duran and various artists from both side of the world, that made me step into another world of music outside Thailand.
Was it always your plan to go into music or did that happen along the way?
As a matter of fact, believe it or not, I wanted to become a painter during my study at Chulalongkorn University. But I formed Modern Dog to get into a competition at the University. We planned to perform the loudest noise in our extravagant hall. And, as you see, that lasted a bit longer than I originally thought.
Some claim that Moderndog throughout the 90’s paved the way for what is now the emerging indie scene of Thailand. Do you see this the same way?
Yes, I think so.
Some years ago, you and Moderndog parted ways with your record label through 10 years, Bakery Music. Was this an intentional move to gain more creative freedom?
Yes, even though I had lot of freedom with Bakery Music, while we worked together. However, having our own recording label gave me an ultimate freedom.
Thom Yorke is quoted for saying: “I think the most important thing about music is the sense of escape.” What is your view on the role of escapism in music?
I totally agree with him on this point. Since its inception, Modern Dog has always been seeking for something fresh from time to time, even though it might be out of our comfort zone.
Would you consider a piece of music meaningless, if it didn’t offer reflection and discussion to its listener?
As long as the given piece of music serves as satisfactory to the artist, that's fine for me.
Remind by Moderndog
How would you say Moderndog has impacted you on a more personal level, since it’s beginning in 1992?
When someone walks towards me and tells me, how something such as our songs helped them get through tougher times, or even crying, for their own reasons. This ensured me that I made a right choice and continuously inspires me to go on creating more songs.
You’ve performed several times in the United States. Did you ever expect Moderndog to reach outside the borders of Thailand?
Yes, I hoped so.
It’s been almost six years since the last Moderndog studio album came out and a new album is now rumored to be on its way. Do you ever miss going to the studio?
After I finished my 5th album in 2009, I was feeling kind of blunt and empty, until I collected new ideas and got back to work at Tar Box Studio in Buffalo, New York. It was in the middle of the woods, out in the middle of nowhere, a very nice scenery. We were eating, playing, cooking, jogging, sleeping, walking and that on top of making our songs is what I miss the most about it.
All your albums are written in Thai. Besides being your mother tongue, what does the Thai language have to offer, compared to English?
Our language is really fragile and delicate. If you change the toning of your pronunciation the slightest bit, you can change what you're saying from a horse into a dog.