Pioneering local punk band Opposition Party celebrate 30th anniversary with box set

Francis Frightful is the only active member of Opposition Party.
Francis Frightful is the only active member of Opposition Party.PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Frontman Francis Frightful, whose band Opposition Party are marking three decades in the local punk scene with a box set, runs things the old-school way

It was not easy being a punk in Singapore in the 1980s.

Francis Frightful, founder and frontman of Opposition Party (OP), known as Singapore's first punk band, recalls he, his friends and band members would regularly get stopped by the police because of their dressing and image.

"We had spiky hair and wore leather jackets with studs. I guess back then, we were extreme looking," he says.

"But what I would usually do is to show them a newspaper cutout of an article about OP in The Straits Times and they would let us go," he says with a laugh. "I guess you can be forgiven when you're famous."

Francis Frightful is the only active member of Opposition Party.
PHOTO: OPPOSITION PARTY

The group went on to make a name for themselves in the underground punk and metal scene overseas, releasing records on European labels and playing shows in cities such as Paris and London.

They are marking their third decade as a band with a new box set, the Complete Chaos Collection 30th Anniversary Boxset.

Comprising four cassettes, it contains remastered versions of some of their earliest tunes. The first cassette, for example, re-releases Viva La Anarchy, a collection first released in 1989 that has songs written from 1986 to 1988.

The box set also includes It's Our Lives, first released in 1990, and Nightmare Visions, first released in 1991.

The true gem for OP fans would surely be the fourth cassette, Thrashing It To Death!, a rare collection of songs that was recorded in 1989, but never released until now.

Frightful, who is "in his 40s", is the only active member left in the band. "The rest are on hiatus, busy with their own lives, but I do plan on getting the band back together for future shows," he says.

OP played their last show at Aliwal Arts Centre in 2015 with a line-up that featured Frightful, bass player Kazz and drummer Alfe, all of whom are known by only their stage names.

Formed in 1986, the band were influenced by British punk outfits The Exploited, GBH and Chaos UK.

They made their recording debut in a cassette compilation put out by now-defunct local music magazine BigO in 1987, a live recording of the No Surrender gig that also included other pioneering alternative bands such as Zircon Lounge.

Gigs were rare in those days, Frightful recalls, and he had to look through the Yellow Pages and call pubs and nightspots for opportunities to perform.

While he acknowledges that the local music scene has developed and changed a lot since OP's early days, he is adamant on running the band "the old-school way".

OP do not have any social media presence, for example, and he intends to keep it that way. Their only online presence is a website (www.oppositionparty.net) that Frightful updates.

"I have nothing against using the Internet to market your music," he says. "It's useful if you want your music to go out and get heard immediately. But for me, it takes the fun out of slowly spreading the word about your music."

Frightful still sports a spiky, bronze-dyed hairdo and is amused by how dressing like a punk has become almost mainstream these days.

"It's funny because back then, we would have spiky hair and wear torn jeans. Now, you see people who look a lot more extreme than we did and that's considered normal."

•Opposition Party's Complete Chaos Collection 30th Anniversary Boxset ($30) is available online at www.ebay.com.sg/usr/rockdistro

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2017, with the headline 'Thirty years of punk music'. Print Edition | Subscribe