They may perform intense music at a volume rivalled only by an angry platoon commander shouting, but local band Wormrot is — surprise — really soft-spoken and laidback in real life.
The grindcore (think hardcore punk and heavy metal) band was formed in 2007 by singer Mohammad Arif Suhaimi and guitarist Mohammad Nurrasyid ‘Rasyid’ Juraimi, both 33. The band’s current drummer, Vijesh Ashok Ghariwala, 26, joined in 2015.
The band, which has a 64K-strong following on Facebook, made local music history by being the first homegrown outfit to perform at the Glastonbury Festival in June, alongside headliners like Radiohead and Lorde.
Wormrot is signed to UK indie label Earache Records and have released three albums that the band endearingly describes it as “organised chaos”.
Arif recalls, “[The label] contacted us through Myspace back then with a record deal. We were so young and naive, we said yes immediately. But we had to hire a very expensive lawyer to go through the contract ’cos we didn’t understand a thing!”
8 DAYS: How did you land the Glastonbury gig?
ARIF SUHAIMI: We were touring Europe recently and played a show in London. [Our record label was] impressed by our show, and they approached us and said: “Please don’t tell anyone yet, but you’re playing at Glastonbury.” I was like, “Excuse me, are you kidding?”
They explained that it was the record label’s anniversary and they were bringing bands performing harsher genres to the festival for something different.
NURRASYID JURAIMI: That gig was great. We played a 45-minute set at our record label’s stage called Earache Express that was actually a train [converted into a stage]. That show was packed.
We also played a second time at a bigger stage, but the turnout wasn’t good. I think about 20 to 30 people showed up. We were the first band in the lineup and it was too early.
Were you disappointed by the turnout?
Rasyid: Not really, ’cos Glastonbury wasn’t really our scene, even though it was the biggest stage we’ve played at. We’re not their kind of music. But we appreciate the opportunity. It doesn’t mean we stop putting effort into making music.
Arif: We keep things neutral so that our expectations don’t destroy us in the long run. We weren’t paid a show fee for Glastonbury. It’s not the norm [for smaller acts to not get paid], but we went there just for the experience. Our record label sponsored our flights, accommodation and gave us coupons for food and drinks [on festival grounds].
How do you make ends meet?
Arif: We have day jobs. I’m a warehouse supervisor for [online grocer] Redmart. It’s a 12-hour job and I wake up at 4am for work, so it’s pretty rough. But it’s fine ’cos we don’t have band practice that often.
Compared to when we started out 10 years ago, nowadays we don’t have time to sit down and chit chat. Priorities change. We’d just discuss when all of us are free and book a studio to practise.
But I’d like to make a career and a living out of this in the long run. We enjoy playing music, making albums and travelling for shows. But we have to make a lot of sacrifices, especially since I have a family now.
I have a two-year-old son with my wife Azean, who is our band manager. She’s the backbone of our band.
VIJESH GHARIWALA: I’m a freelance drum teacher. I teach at three music schools, so I just reschedule lessons with my students whenever we tour. My bosses are also musicians, so they are pretty understanding.
Rasyid: I’m a delivery driver for Tiong Bahru Bakery. Each time we tour, we have to quit our jobs. Most companies won’t allow you to take off for a few months! But I’m lucky to get this job which lets me do that.
It’s easy to find jobs whenever we come back from touring — it just may not be a job we really want.
Arif: [Making sacrifices for music is] worth it, but at the same time, we need decent jobs to support ourselves. Through the years, we have struggled with raising the capital for band expenses.
What kind of expenses?
Rasyid: Each time we tour we have to set aside money for plane tickets, petrol, accommodation, equipment and driver’s fee. Money is a killer.
Arif: And food. Sometimes we just have pasta with tomatoes.
Rasyid: We always eat the cheapest food we can find. Sandwiches every day (everybody laughs). There’s always the temptation of getting a proper job, but I’m not willing to sacrifice what we have now.
Vijesh: We have upcoming shows in Japan, Indonesia, Taiwan and Hongkong.
Arif: Next year is gonna be huge for us. We are going back to the US to tour. It was supposed to happen this year, but it got cancelled ’cos we [couldn’t get visas]. We are also doing a Europe tour.
But it’s still not [lucrative] enough to make this a full-time career. I’m not willing to leave my son for a whole year to tour! But it’s good that we’re not doing this full-time lah. If we tour every year, people will get sick and tired of us.
So far we’ve been handling it okay, even though sometimes when we travel in a van together for two months, we get cabin fever and get pissed off at one another (laughs).
How challenging was it to plan your finances the first time you toured?
Rasyid: We treated our first tour in Europe as a holiday. We were irresponsible with our finances, slept late, and drank a lot. But the second tour was when all the real s*** happened.
Our promoter ran away after the show without paying us, and we had a car instead of a tour van. I’ll always remember crouching in the backseat for two months with our band merchandise. It was not a good time (guffaws).
But every band has to start somewhere. For our first two tours, sometimes nobody came for the show, which means no money. And promoters would give us only $50 a day to live on. The petrol already costs $80, and the hotel is $60. So we are paying to perform, instead of getting paid to perform.
Arif: When we came back to Singapore, everyone was like, “Wah shiok ah, now you can shake leg and wait for money to come in.” And I was like, “Um, you don’t know what we went through!” (Laughs) You have to be very strong — mentally and physically — to do this.
Does making music at such a loud volume affect your hearing?
Rasyid: (Pretends he can’t hear) What?
Vijesh: We don’t wear ear plugs, though I think we are supposed to (laughs)!
Wormrot’s latest album, Voices, is available on iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, and www.webstore.earache.com/wormrot.
Select photos: Ealbert Ho