2004 was the first time my band traveled to Kuala Lumpur to play…it was a life changing experience for myself and especially my band at the time. We arrived at a venue called Blue Planet and one of the first bands we saw destroy the venue with love and positivity – not mosh parts and breakdowns – was a band called Second x Combat…a straight edge youth-crew inspired hardcore band from Malaysia. What I was seeing in front of my very own eyes was the Malaysian/Muslim version of a hardcore scene…I will never forget that image – Ein the singer was completely surrounded by all sorts of Malaysian kids (punk, metal, hardcore) but ESPECIALLY Malaysian Muslim females wearing hijabs finger-pointing the lyrics he was spouting out. The equipment at that show wasn’t loud enough to hear everything but the kids in attendance were screaming the words so loud that all I could hear and feel was immense passion for this thing called hardcore from everyone in attendance who whole heartedly believed in it.
Fast forward to 2015 and I consider Ein one of Asia’s greatest hardcore representatives because of the path that he has found for himself. Not only that, but because he took the ideals of hardcore out of sweaty club shows and onto the ACTUAL streets trying to make a difference.
He started up an organization called Drug Free Youth Malaysia trying to impact and change the lives of hundreds of hundreds of people…
It is my immense honor to introduce Ein and his phenomenal work through this website…
Give us a background to yourself before you became the face of Drug Free Malaysia?
I’m 36 years old now. I got involved in punk in 1993 through skateboarding. I was introduced to hardcore in 1994 and that’s when I started my first hardcore punk band called the Pistons. We played a few shows in our hometown and disbanded in 1996. Our favourite bands were Bad Religion, Black Flag and NOFX – that type of stuff. After that I started the band Second Combat which means one more fight. At the time we were certainly not a straight edge band because a few of the band members smoked weed and cigarettes including myself. The band was not very serious about music at the time either. That era had a LOT of bands that sounded like us. So we decided to try something different and become a little more serious. We really got into bands like Minor Threat once we started listening to Dischord Records. We immediately changed and tried to mimick Minor Threat but of course we could never be like them. Eventually, we accidently created our own sound. In 2000 we became straight edge band when most of the band members decided to accept this lifestyle. We, as people in the band, were already facing a lot of drug issues within our own families so the whole idea of straight edge really made a lot of sense to us. We then decided to take this opportunity that we were given as musicians with access to a stage to inform other kids about the dangers of drugs and the many poisons of the world.
Currently I’m an active volunteer in a few NGOs like Untoxicated, MFADA, MAHA, MCTC and MASAC.
How did you go about starting Drug Free Malaysia and what was your inspiration to do this?
I was really inspired by the Straight Edge movement. I think it’s something an important philosophy that needs to be promoted. It’s been about 17 years that Ive been talking to kids in the scene and in this time I have managed to inspire hundreds. But I wondered if maybe I could try a different way to promote the message. Ive seen Toby Morse and how he promotes the drug free message through his One Life, One Chance organization and I thought to myself “Hey, I could do this!” It all really started for me in 2009 when I was working at a college as a consultant. My job was to get students to enrol at the college where I worked. The college’s main focus was to aid poorer children. Within my job requirements it was also part of my work to find sponsors to financially support students. So I had to find two things: students and sponsors. So I started thinking about trying to get these students through a similar format that Toby used by doing school talks. So that’s what I did…at first, I was a bit messy and pretty nervous. I showed videos about drugs and about straight edge and started explaining it all to kids. After the talks I did a little survey by posing a simple question to the kids: what were you more interested in baking bread or studying electricity? Through these surveys I managed to start getting students..But then I still had to figure out how to get the sponsors to sponsor these poor kids. The way I did that is a long story and I’ll maybe explain that some other day.
After a while I had to quit this job and I started my own work. I studied how to open an organization and tried to figure it all out. Thats where I started the Drug Free Youth Association with the intention to help educate kids with drug problems, alcohol/smoking addiction, and especially work with family’s from poorer backgrounds. Through the years the organization has gotten even more serious now with our focus shifting to prevention. Up until this date we have about 200 bands part of the organization and 5000 kids who have joined us!
Besides giving presentations, what else does your organization do?
We used to do charity programs but we’ve run out of two important resources: time and manpower. So we decided that to make this really work we have to combine forces with another organization which is what we did by working together with The Traveller Group to continue our commitment to charity work. We realized there were other problems on the streets that needed our help like homelessness, drug addiction, alcohol addiction, depression, poverty and so many others. Poverty was what brought them to the streets and begin their lives as drug addicts. The Traveller Group is run by my wife. She is more focused on problems such as homelessness, refugees, human rights, shelter and all kinds of things related to humanitarian issues. So as to not confuse all our volunteers we had to clearly divide the programs so that our assistance to different initiatives were clear especially to our volunteers who are putting in the time and effort. Now we are teaching school kids in our programs to help their communities. One of the programs that we are focusing on right now for the Traveller Group is building schools for the Somalian and Rohingya people. The great news is that the Somalian school is already up and running and is sustaining itself. We are currently working on building a Rohingya school but it has been a slow process because we are short of manpower.
Have you gotten support from Malaysias hardcore scene?
One of my main objectives is to get the hardcore kids to come along. Most of them are older now and busy with other activities. I want to show them that this is what we should do because this is what we sing about in our songs! The way I see hardcore is that it is more than just music. Its about social change and a highly creative intelligent weapon that can cure problems. The bigger world outside our underground scene would certainly steal from us if they only knew the values that we fight for and hold dear. We have the best communities in the world that can’t be broken by the mainstream. The hardcore I listened to was totally about change and empowering communities. Bands like New Winds, Morning Again, Catharsis, Larm, Man Lifting Banner, Seein Red were really inspiring because they turned music into revolution. They were the 90s hardcore. It’s totally different from what bands are singing about nowadays. I’m a believer. I easily believe in things and if it’s something that I fully understand then I will continue down that path and apply what I’ve learned. I believe in hardcore and it’s power to change the world. It has educated me and many others about worldwide problems. It also has the power to converge communities. It has connected me to the whole world. I cant believe somewhere in France and Mexico there are people who think like me. Thats an element of hardcore that people can’t put a price on especially when comparing to the world of the mainstream that teaches us to be materialistic and shallow.
Ive gotten support from various underground scenes. People from hip hop, punk rock, indie, post rock, metalcore have all volunteered for my programs. For me it’s good enough because I need trustworthy people in every scene to make this change. I actually need to clone myself a hundred times to help benefit this world.
Was their any backlash from people? If so, why?
Some people still dont understand the connection between music and the drug-free culture. They don’t know the subcultures of this world such as punk rock, skinheads, straight edge, drug-free, vegetarianism, veganism, and so on. Drugs are not the popular issues that people want to talk about. The general public still thinks that we are a bunch of junkies in Malaysia because of the way we dress and look. To them we would be better off if we looked like Korean popstar idols.
It is a dangerous job and I think a lot of people feel threatened by us. At a few places we get a lot of hate from kids and sometimes we get threatened by communities where drugs are heavily used. At one place where we were holding an event our van was smashed by drug dealers. Sometimes our van tires get slashed by broken bottles. The most common thing that happens is our windows get smashed.
Then we also have the issue that some schools dont like the way we look. Some of our volunteers have colored hair, mohawks and/or long hair. Some of these schools don’t allow our volunteers to enter their vicinity because of their hair. Basically, the Malaysian people are still living in the 80s. They basically want us to dress up like salesmen speaking to kids in a suit and tie to show them how “successful” we are.
But, all of these experiences have really thickened our skin and allowed us to build some strength and confidence especially when dealing with communities who do not welcome our assistance or presence.
What is your main goal for Drug Free Malaysia and how can people help?
Our main goal is to get kids well informed and educated about tobacco, alcohol and drug abuse at schools. We keep trying to approach more schools but the resources are very limited. Only few schools have the means to stay informed. We want to go into rural areas where drugs like meth, marijuana, ketamin, karthong are very popular. Our ultimate plan one day is to have our own youth center where the youth can partake in positive activities like skateboarding, music, art and other sorts of educational experiences.
I highly recommend bands volunteer. By using their status to teach kids about the drug free lifestyle and activities, they can inspire so many more kids to go down this path. People can also donate money to us in order for us to have the means to go to schools and do worskhops training kids to help their schools in solving community problems.
If anyone reading this is interested they can donate to us at maybank 5640 5211 4801 (Drug Free Youth Association)
Whats next for you and Drug Free Malaysia?
We plan to expand to Indonesia and the Philippines. We want to teach bands in Indonesia and Philippines to do the same thing as what we have done here. We want hardcore to be the catalyst to change lives not just by lyrics but by action.
I know this story is mainly about Drug Free Malaysia – but how can I not ask for a brief update about one of my favorite Asian hardcore bands! Give us a brief update of whats going on with Second Combat?
Haha good one Riz! We’re currently writing new songs for our last album next year. We plan to release a book and a discography for our 20th anniversary. Hopefully it all goes well.
Inshallah my friend!
Drug Free Youth Malaysia
The Traveller Group
Check out this Second Combat playlist up on SoundCloud (ignore the super cute photo of the girl who I think put this playlist together hahahaha):