There should’ve been, at minimum, 3 bands to explode from Bali: Superman Is Dead, Navicula and Kaimsasikun. The last one had sophisticated skills, cool-and-controlled performance style, and their songs are even ‘poppier’ sounding than the other two bands (meaning it would be easier to penetrate the Indonesian market). They even have the looks. Ian Stevenson, the frontman, is without doubt one of the greatest young musicians that Bali ever produced. He shares what went wrong with his almost-famous group and a bit about his personal life in the post-Kaimsasikun era.
I loved your band so much. I think they were one of a very few excellent bands from Bali, who could’ve gone massive nationally. But things seemed to not work out as planned. What happened?
When Kaimsasikun was formed in 1999, we basically started out as just friends who liked to get together, learn our favourite songs, and play in the rehearsal studio. Eventually, we decided to start writing originals, and apparently a producer in Jakarta became interested in our music and offered us a contract. Very clichÃ©, but it was really that simple. It all started out as something that we just did for fun. Our first contract was with Pro Sound records, for only one year. Then my mother passed away, and I had to go home to Bali. The other guys followed shortly after. We were all back together in Bali, and we were compelled to keep making music. So a friend offered to help us make an EP album, which was later released independently, titled Solas.
Loss of hope, is that the reason why Kaimsasikun ended up disbanding?
Kaimsasikun didn’t lose hope, ever. The reason we disbanded was due to the difference of frequencies amongst the members of the band. That lack of spirit and energy amongst us is probably what made us decide to call it quits, and Kaimsasikun was left on hold for 2 years or so. But even though we broke up as a band, we still remained friends and remained in contact. We moved on, I started producing, Sanny and Pandu were also producing, Mark did late night gigs as a drummer at a local cafe. But we knew deep inside that we really missed being together and working as a band, so in November 2011 me and Sanny hung out, and had this urge to call up the other guys. We decided to get together and make some music which we could release for free over the internet. And we did. Project 11 was born, we decided on this name because on every 11th of every month each of us (or sometimes all of us together) upload our new music. We don’t know where this project will go, but to me this project is a place where I can put my musical inspirations, and I am pretty sure the others think the same way. Yeah, we’ll see what the future brings.
You built a little studio at your house. Was that just about killing time after Kaimsasikun broke up?
During the time after Kaimsasikun had broken up, I needed to do something for myself. So with money I had at the time, I built a home recording studio and bought recording equipment, even though I had zero knowledge about audio engineering. So, I took a short course over the internet, learned the basics and began experimenting on my own in my studio. And before you know it I became an audio recording geek, almost in no time at all! With all the knowledge I had, I started producing pop music for artists from Jakarta. For these projects I had to set aside my so called “idealism”, which was very hard at first, because it was just so different from what I normally do. But it was interesting, because I had to learn to listen to a song, or music, with very different perspective, and be open to other genres of music. Behind all that there’s a lesson for me, which is to enjoy limitless exploration of my musical abilities.
Are you guys planning on making a new come back?
Oh that time will come. Haha. I am sure Kaimsasikun will start gigging again but I’m just not sure when. For now me and the other guys are busy with work and our own activities. But Project 11 is home for us, and ever since the 11th of November 2011 each of us have uploaded around 10 songs. All the songs have different styles. And that is the concept of Project 11, it is just a place for us to pour out our own ideas. If one day we compile the songs onto an album we would have to re-arrange the music to match our band’s style, so we could play live as Kaimsasikun.
I think more people need to see Kaimsasikun playing live. You guys are brilliant on stage; skilful, tight—as tight as Navicula, plus performing gives more solid power to your original songs.
We have had plans to gig again. But they always seem to get postponed. Everyone is still living in different areas and even countries. One of us is in Malaysia, a few of us are in Jakarta, and I live mostly in Bali. Even so, I have still managed to play a few gigs by myself. I also made a project not too long ago called Dialog Dini Hari. And I am also sometimes called to get up on stage to sing Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy” with Navicula. Hahaha. But it’s been a while since I have actually performed a proper show. Almost 2 years probably!
Let’s get personal, name 3 of your all-time favourite albums and why.
OK Computer by Radiohead. This album is brilliant. The production is genius. From music arrangement, the mood that each songs creates, the notation/melodies and lyrics. It’s perfect!
In Utero by Nirvana. Almost anyone who grew up and lived through the 90s probably knows this album. To me this is the best album from Nirvana.
Around the Fur by Deftones. This is one of my favourite Deftones albums. I’ve been listening to this album since high school, I guess it’s just stuck with me ever since.
Any last nagging words?
Don’t ask what music has given to you, but ask what you have given to music!
Ian and Kaimsasikun sing about Nyepi Day.
*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 16th edition, was firstly published on The Beat (Bali) #322, Oct 12-25, 2012
*Photo of Ian with the dog, borrowed from abodmu.net