He has chosen to live a rock-n-roll life and spins reggae tunes now, instead of pursuing his previous brilliant career as a hotelier. Following his heart seems to have worked out well.
You are now managing Superman Is Dead, what does it feel like to be in charge of one of the biggest bands in Indonesia? Plus you are constantly on tour, must be fun living a rock-n-roll life, living the dream?
I feel great even though to me it is nothing new with SID, we’ve been friends since way back when and I was previously their road manager in 2003-2006. But after I resigned, the band grew up so much and here they are, as you said, one of the biggest bands in Indonesia. The real challenge now is to stay on top without becoming stagnant. Early 2012 SID released their best album on vinyl, and soon after that we already had to think about planning for next year, to find something different, something innovative.
Talking about living on the road, I guess what Bobby Kool once said is pretty much representing how it is: “The reason I wanted to be in the band was to avoid waking up for work in the morning, but look at me now, I have to be at the airport at 5am instead.” Haha. But I guess once we are all standing up on stage, thousands of heads and bodies moving with the same rhythm, all that ‘pain’ is worth it…
Are you optimistic that SID will remain on top? What makes SID different compared to other bands in Indonesia?
I took their offer to be their band manager partly because since the first time I’ve known them, their personality has never changed. Stay true to themselves, humble-no-rockstar attitude and always try to give back to community. During my absence, we still met during many social and environment activities, something that I’m also involved in a lot. I’m very optimistic, if they keep doing what they do now, they will be legendary in the Indonesian music scene, because what they create isn’t just music, but also a movement. Hey, 3 million diehard fans on Facebook can’t lie!
You’re also quite well known as a DJ—a reggae DJ to be precise. As far as I know, there are not many reggae DJs on the island (and even in Indonesia). How’s the public response so far?
First I don’t call myself a DJ, I’m a soundbwoy or selektah. It’s very different from a regular DJ you find in any club. From the name itself: it comes from Jamaican Patois. The music, I only spin Jamaican (influenced) chunes: Ska, Rocksteady, Reggae, Dub, and Dancehall. Technically it is pretty old school way I would say; I don’t always apply beat matching, I use lots of shout/speech samples, other sound samples like laser, frequency and even gun shots. And also my favourite gear, is a Dub siren and Space Echo unit, in my set.
I’m not the first one in Indonesia, but as far as I know, in Bali, I’m the only one who’s focusing on Roots and Culture. Some DJs I know, they have popular Reggae or Dancehall in their set but not the classics. To be honest, I’m not interested in spinning regularly in a club, and I’m not worried much about public’s response. I’d rather spin my chunes for a community event where people appreciate the music, not just come to get drunk and dancing till dawn. Educating people who surround me as I spin is very important so that the people will have a better understanding of the music. So far I have some loyal followers though. I’m also connected to some friends in Jakarta, where the scene is bigger. It started when I opened for Ras Muhamad on New Year’s Eve 2012 and our friendship continues till now. I can say he’s the person that I look up to and Ras Muhamad also gives me lots of support. Now I communicate regularly with Lion Rock, the selektah of Asia-Afrika Soundsytem which Ras Muhamad is the dee jay for. We discuss a lot about music and gear. I’m also part of Arca Singa Sound Connection, a collective group of selectors and toasters from Indonesia which was initiated by Asia-Afrika Soundsystem.
Why do you choose reggae?
I didn’t choose Reggae but Reggae chose me. …Well, if you ask me the reason, I have to go back to year 1996 when I listened to Ska for the first time. It was Ska Punk to be precise. From there on my collections grew and I started collecting not just Ska, but also Rocksteady. I guess it comes with age, I learnt more to di irie and chillaxing stuff, so I started digging for Roots Reggae and now my major collections are Dub (not Dubstep). I love Dub so much, it has a trippy and hallucinating effect (listen carefully to the delay and reverb and soon you’ll understand what I mean).
How do you find the reggae DJ scene in particular and reggae scene in general in Bali? I personally think it’s a bit stuck in the Bob Marley don’t-worry-about-a-thing-cause-every-little-thing-is-gonna-be-alright phenomenon.
There are many people I know (who are in bands) who are actually interested in Roots Reggae but because the clubs force them to play more UB40 and Bob Marley’s Legend, they became stuck. It’s a choice I guess, and I chose a different path. What I do is very personal.
Name three of your all time favourite reggae albums and why?
…And Out Come the Wolves from Rancid. Yes, it is not a Reggae album but the album is about my own roots, Rancid introduced me to Ska back in 1996 and the album brought me to where I am now.
So Many Things from Anthony B. His toasting is smooth and rhyming so well, not as rough as some other Dancehall singers. My favourite tracks would be “Repentance Time” and “Cold Feet”.
I’m Gonna Knock On Your Door from The Pioneers. I found this used vinyl in a small record shop in Medan and the record was produced in 1974. The harmonic vocals stole my attention, and uniquely they incorporated banjo in some of the tracks too…whoa!
Any last nagging words?
Apart from music, I’m very concerned with the environment in Bali now. Everywhere is pretty much trashed, and so few people are seriously paying attention to the problem. It has to change otherwise Bali will be no longer be a beautiful place to live. The change has to start from ourselves, don’t wait for the government to take action, join the movement, be part of the movement!
• Homegrown & Well Known is my biweekly column in The Beat (Bali) mag. Basically it’s an interview via e-mail with Bali’s local big shots. This is the 20th edition, was firstly published—a slightly different version—on The Beat (Bali) #327, Dec 21, 2012 – Jan 03, 2013
• Check out his online weekly radio show, Disco Rebel, every Friday, 4.20-5.20pm, on Rebel Radio Indonesia
• Check out also his mixtapes Disco Rebel vol. 1 and Madman Return