Greetings punk rockers of the world, gather round and make yourselves comfortable for I have a tale to tell. It is a story that has been several months in the making, and I’d like to say this is because of the time I’ve spent mulling the topic over, perfecting the exact words I would use to successfully enunciate my sorry tale, but the truth is I’ve been doing the best I can to forget the entire sordid affair for as long as possible.
For nearly ten years I produced the hardcore fanzine ‘Ploppy Pants’. The zine itself went through various phases, from the non-existent content and light interviews of the early issues, through a period as an international hardcore journal, before taking on an almost per-zine approach in the final issues. But throughout this varied history there remained one constant, an obsession with people shitting in their pants. Tales of others soiling their knickers first appeared as a response to interview questions, but the notion obviously struck a chord with my readership and it wasn’t long until I was receiving two or three letters per issue from some poor soul who wanted to tell the world about their very own dung-hamper disaster.
The zine quickly became known for its humorous scatological content, and many punks would buy Ploppy Pants solely to laugh at the embarrassing recollections of underwear mishaps gathered within. It was certainly an aspect of preparing the zine which I personally enjoyed, safe in the knowledge that my own bowels have always remained in full working order no matter how far I had travelled or how many beers I had a drunk. This complacency was to lead to catastrophic consequences.
Christmas 2014 and I am on tour with my band xSAXONx across the South East Asian sub-continent, 2 weeks of concerts spread over Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, twelve gigs in total. This would be the second time I had visited this part of the world and I was looking forward to catching up with old friends, playing with some great bands and of course sampling the delicious local cuisine. South East Asia is an absolute goldmine of delicious vegan food, which is freely available almost everywhere, from fancy restaurants to street hawkers, twenty four hours a day. This last point was a particular boon to us as since we were performing every night, sometimes coming off stage well after midnight, and so were often looking to eat in the small hours of the morning. Almost every night we would descend ravenously en-mass, usually all the bands who had performed plus half the audience, on some un-expecting street vendor who would set about frying a large wok’s of rice in earnest. This is how we ended every day in Indonesia, eating a tall plate of rice, tofu, tempeh and vegetables lathered in some kind of spicy sauce. I don’t know about the rest of xSAXONx, but I certainly felt like a king.
Despite my elated mood on our fourth night on tour, it was sat in the humid darkness, upon a Yogjakarta backstreet, that I was to leave any notions of regal ambition, and soon the only throne I would resting upon would be the luckily chanced upon porcelain glory of a western toilet. From this moment forward I was to spend six weeks basing every decision I took upon its proximity to a toilet. I had contracted a nasty case of salmonella. This lovely fellow first raised its head on our flight between Indonesia and Malaysia, “too many chillies last night”, I thought after my third or fourth visit to the cramped AirAsia inflight ‘cludgie’. I had no reason to suspect anything else; it was after all still coming out solid. Little did I realise when I laid down my head that evening that I was about to enter a whole new world self-realisation.
It came first in the night, waking in a hot sweat, every muscle in the vicinity of my ass screaming “Bombs away!” I managed to get to my feet, but that wasn’t good enough, by the time I made it to the bathroom my pants were well spread with a yellow paste. I then proceeded to violently empty my bowels until I was only passing something resembling well diluted orange juice. To appreciate this situation better I need to describe the bathroom. In most Asian homes there is no ‘toilet’ or ‘shower’ as you probably recognise these terms. Instead there is just a large bucket of water, a tap, sometimes a little hose, and a hole in the floor. When you need to go you squat over the hole, and you use water from the bucket to clean yourself up. I was shaking with fever and sweating from the heat, and during this twenty minute ordeal I could barely keep myself upright. It was with great care that I narrowly avoided falling into my own excrement several times. I returned to my corner of the room where we were sleeping a spent and broken man.
When I awoke the next morning I had again left a little deposit in my grundies and decided the best plan of action was to buy some more underwear before the evening’s concert. My friend and host, Matt Norr, took me to his local shopping mall, and after a few quick stops at the public toilet I was standing in a queue waiting to purchase some replacement boxers. The gods that deal with matters of a toilet visiting nature were obviously in a particularly jovial mood that day, and as I stood boxers in hand I felt a warm stream begin to pass down the back of my legs and onto my sandaled foot. I quickly bolted to the previously visited public conveniences and found myself their prisoner for the best part of an hour as I waited for Norr, first to find me, and then to bring me replacement pants and shorts.
The rest of this first day was spent running back and forward to toilets and resting, with my only serious exertion being our performance at the Chaos in Ruma Api festival. This twenty five minutes of leaping about was enough however to ensure that I once again had a sleepless, pantfilling night, including a desperate run for the bathroom where I managed to leave a trail of brown blobs in my wake. Imagine for a moment you have just shat to exhaustion, your head is swimming, and now you must crawl along the floor cleaning up more of your own mess. Humble is the word that leapt most readily to my mind.
The most humbling experience was yet to come however. The following day we returned to the Ruma Api venue, where xSAXONx were again to perform. We were billed to play earlier in the festival line-up this day and I was looking forward to getting it over and done with so I could go lie down and dream of flushing toilets and bog roll. I could feel that I was on the verge of an accident as we took to the stage, and so made the decision to stand stationary front-centre; it felt like any sudden movement would cause an eruption. Of course this being a hardcore concert meant I didn’t have a chance. The crowd, suitable warmed up by the earlier groups were ready for some Scottish hardcore thrash and it was inevitable that one of them would eventually grab me and pull me into the dancing throng. The fight back to the stage was desperate and I was seriously panicking, but with difficulty I made it through our entire set disaster free. Almost in unison with the final strum of the guitars however the charge of the brown brigade came forth in full force and I quickly found myself squatting above the venues ‘luxurious’ hole in the floor, naked and soaking with sweat from being on stage mere minutes earlier. I shat, and shat, and shat, and it was almost ten minutes before I was tidying up my bum with the little hose. It was then, just as I went to pull up my shorts (my boxers having been thrown away in frustrated disgust) that I realised that my flaccid cock and balls were also coated in shit. This was almost too much for me to handle, I had gone from the top of the world mere days earlier, to the my current predicament: no control over one of my most fundamental functions to the point where even the crown jewels were no longer sacred. This was truly one of the most humbling experiences of my life. The icing on the cake was upon returning to the backstage sofa which xSAXONx had commandeered as home for the evening. Sat contemplating life, the universe and my arse a local girl came up and started firing into me big style, all I could think as I answered her questions was “If only you knew!”
I suffered through the rest of our tour without re-filling my pants, but every time the turds would begin to turn solid again, I’d no sooner be back to throwing cups of dirty soup down the toilet. This continued upon my return to the UK and in the end I had to take two weeks off work as I could not perform my job whilst needing to run to the toilet every thirty minutes. There were a couple more bedtime accidents and by the end of January I was becoming increasingly frustrated, unsure if my bowels would ever return to normal. By early February however, I’m happy to say that things were all back in order, with one or two solid trips per day keeping me regular. The whole business gave me a brand new insight into the stories and recollections I had printed in ‘Ploppy Pants’. On the one hand, I think you cannot truly appreciate the horror of an uncontrollable bowel until you have suffered one yourself, but on the other I can see why so many people wanted to look back and laugh in the pages of my zine at the out of character experience of their ordeal.
In conclusion then, If you are planning to travel to South East Asia anytime soon, keep an eye on what you’re eating, it may the last thing you want to willingly eat for a long time!