|Left to Right: Kieran James, Jason Xenophobic, and Lauren Wilson @ Melbourne, 11 January 2011
My interview with Jason Hutagalung of XENOPHOBIC RECORDS (Melbourne, Australia death-metal label)
“I will do it again if I can, it’s an achievement, I’m proud of it, [and] it made history. If I don’t do it no-one else will do it. People are very xenophobic. I believe we came out triumphantly” – Jason Hutagalung about organizing PSYCROPTIC tour to Indonesia and BURGERKILL and DEATH VOMIT tours to Australia
“The boys are very humble, they are very Indonesian. Roy is one of the best drummers in the world” – Jason about DEATH VOMIT
By Dr Kieran James (University of Fiji)
Personal interview at: St Alban’s, Melbourne, Australia, 11 January 2011
Extra comments by: Lauren Wilson of XENOPHOBIC RECORDS
|Kieran James and Jason Xenophobic
Kieran James: Jason, mate, first of all thanks for agreeing to do this interview for my proposed book on Indonesian death-metal. First of all, for the record, can you take me through all the events leading up to the DEATH VOMIT tour of Australia in September last year?
Jason: Basically it began following the PSYCROPTIC and BURGERKILL tours in 2009 [KJ: Hobart, Australia band PSYCROPTIC toured Indonesia and Bandung, Indonesia band BURGERKILL toured Australia.] The manager of DEATH VOMIT sent me The Prophecy.
Jason: No, it was before Corna [Irawan], the manager was someone else.
KJ: OK, maybe we should begin right at the start, with the PSYCROPTIC and BURGERKILL tours...
Jason: I organized the tours called ALLEGIANCE TO METAL. The idea [for these tours is] the relationship between Indonesia and Australia. What we hear is [always] the bad stuff whether it is terrorism or floods. My daughter is half-Indonesian. We know nothing about each other. We need to showcase Indonesian [music] talent in Australia and Australian talent in Indonesia. BURGERKILL started it all [the cultural exchange]. BURGERKILL is the number one in Indonesia, biggest Indonesian metal band. I saw them in 05, 06. I never heard anything like that.
KJ: How do you describe BURGERKILL style?
[KJ: Jason doesn’t like it when my tongue slips and I keep calling the band BURGER KING! Maybe I was hungry! The outer suburbs of Melbourne aren’t exactly a great cuisine mecca.]
Jason: Before you heard of Scandinavian metal, BURGERKILL already had their own style. Bandung is Indonesian Metal King. [There is] JASAD and BURGERKILL. Eighty percent of [Indonesian] bands are run by people from Bandung. Medan scene was huge in the 1990s, [but] Bandung has always been the centre, everything new comes from Bandung.
We made a contract. We have a band management company XENOPHOBIC. In 2009 we decided BURGERKILL will come to Australia, first one ever, [with] no help from Indonesian Government or Australian Government. Everything is legit, [including] performance visas, we are self-funded. We used my wage [KJ: as tattoo artist in St Alban’s].
[KJ: At this point Jason’s partner Lauren Wilson joined the interview]
Lauren: We had to put all money into one account [because] we had to show it to the Australian Government. We had to pay Australian trade unions, the Musicians Union Australia and the Media, Entertainment & Arts Alliance, one [trade union] for the musicians and one for the sound technicians. They make it so hard; it’s the most difficult thing I can think of. The boys [BURGERKILL boys] all had swab tests for bombs. This was at Perth Airport; they got hung up on by Immigration. They were held up for two to three hours in the airport and questioned by Customs and all that shit.
Jason: We call the company XENOPHOBIC as that is how people look at us. We knew their capabilities [BURGERKILL]. One of Australia’s more prominent metal music promoters said they are shit. No-one wanted to do anything with us. We registered our company as a small business here.
SOUNDWAVE is the biggest [festival]. That is the biggest thing ever to happen in Indo, playing with UNEARTH, LACUNA COIL, DEVILDRIVER in 2009, we were openers.
KJ: So how many shows did BURGERKILL play in Australia?
Jason: They played six shows, all in Perth. SOUNDWAVE [had] 20,000 [people], we opened at 12 noon. When we [BURGERKILL] played everyone could not believe their eyes [because] of the quality of the sounds. BURGERKILL played the most original of sounds. There is a history to it [now] for us. People are jealous of what we [XENOPHOBIC] are doing. SOUNDWAVE is the biggest thing in Australia. People approached us that those that use to refuse us.
[KJ: It was Gene Simmons of KISS who said: “Revenge is having them all work for you”!]
Jason: They copied us to try to bring another kind of band here. It is ironic, know what I mean? After this tour we did ALLEGIANCE TO METAL. In October 2009 we were opening in Jakarta for ARCH ENEMY and PSYCROPTIC...
KJ: Can we go back a bit, what bands toured through other companies which you thought were poor quality bands?
Jason: HUMONIC from Australia [toured Indonesia]; they don’t [even] have an album out. It really pisses me off. I don’t mind as long as they are good talents. I saw them live but it does not compare [favourably] to any high-school band in Indonesia, simple as that.
KJ: Where did ALLEGIANCE TO METAL go in Indonesia?
Jason: We went to Solo, Bandung, Malang [and] Bali. PSYCROPTIC was headlining the show.
KJ: Why do you think death-metal is so huge in Indonesia right now?
Jason: Death-metal is quite big in Indo. Death-metal is like a fashion, like a religion, mostly brutal death-metal and black-metal. It is much easier to sing in death-metal. It is popular as people can relate to it very easily, it s not glamorous like the glam music.
KJ: I notice that the Indonesian death-metal bands are not so strongly anti-religion like the western bands such as DEICIDE, VITAL REMAINS, IMMOLATION, INCANTATION, etc.
Jason: In Indonesia religion has never been the main part of the problem. You have to look at the whole nation. In most of Indonesia it is very multi-cultural. [For example] Javanese live in Sumatra. People tend to avoid writing about race and religion. How can you say something about Christianity when you live with the same people?
KJ: To me the Indonesian death-metal bands have more hardcore style lyrics like HATEBREED, AGNOSTIC FRONT or one of my favourite bands BIOHAZARD...
Jason: [Yes], it’s all about standing up for your rights, about corruption, like telling a fable of your own life. The singer of BURGERKILL, Ivan Scumbag, passed away in 2006. Singlehandedly he revolutionized the Indonesian metal sound. He had this aura, one of the best you can think of, like Glenn Danzig; you can pick up the unique singing style. There is a book in Indonesian language on BURGERKILL [by Kimung Core, ex-bassist BURGERKILL]. The singer – an Indonesian legend in metal you know? The guitarist is endorsed by Sector Guitars.
KJ: So which is now the biggest death-metal scene in Indo?
Jason: Bandung is the biggest metal scene, every time I go back to Indo I go there.
KJ: Is it very strong in the clubs and pubs there?
Jason: It is not so much about clubs, small nightclubs. BURGERKILL was banned from playing in Bandung for four years. The place capacity was 4,000 but there were 8,000 people inside, eleven people died, squashed up [KJ: other sources claim seven died].
KJ: Who was the headliner act for this show?
Jason: The band BESIDE, album Against Ourselves (2007), [they are] metalcore band.
KJ: So what happened after or as a result of the deaths at the BESIDE show?
Jason: Eleven people died. The police tried to blame the band. Our guitar player for BURGERKILL won’t take shit liked that. There was around eleven police for the whole crowd. A few of the boys were thrown into jail for a few days. It was a slap in the face for the police. They were beaten up. It was on CNN for Indonesia. The band was blacklisted for two years as was BURGERKILL. They were banned for over two years.
KJ: So how was it possible for you to stage ALLEGIANCE TO METAL in Bandung then after these problems?
Jason: We played ALLEGIANCE TO METAL quietly, we did not announce it. In March 2010 we played in front of 20,000 people in Bandung. BURGERKILL played. [There was] heavy security. They returned to Australia again – January 2010 – for INVASION OF NOISE II. They [BURGERKILL] were headlining it. They had a great name. We ended up playing BIG DAY OUT with FEAR FACTORY only in WA [Western Australia].
KJ: How do you feel know about what you have achieved in organizing these tours based on your original vision?
Jason: I want to showcase the Indo talent. I pay from my wages working in the tattoo shop [KJ: Jason has since stopped working at the tattoo shop]. It’s pretty brutal, I will do it again if I can, it’s an achievement, I’m proud of it, [and] it made history. If I don’t do it no-one else will do it. People are very xenophobic. I believe we came out triumphantly. I would do it again over and over.
KJ: OK, now please tell us about the DEATH VOMIT tour to Australia. You know I was there at the Brisbane show in Step Inn, if you remember you personally sold me a copy of The Prophecy CD that night before it was sold out...
Jason: I wanted to find different kinds of music. Perth is very much into death-metal stuff. Roy [Agus, DEATH VOMIT] is one of the best drummers in the world. The tour was a roller-coaster. We opened in Perth [for] DYING FETUS and NAPALM DEATH. The boys are very humble, they are very Indonesian. The last two shows [Sydney and Brisbane] they really came out of themselves.
[KJ: See my review of DEATH VOMIT 15 September 2010 Brisbane concert in “Concert Reviews” section of this website.]
Jason: The best crowd was in Perth, 180-200 [people]. We played with DYING FETUS, we did alright. People saw how good they are. We had two shows in Perth. We look at it as a success. People brought their friends for [the] second show. We got an invitation from SONIC FORGE. They want us to bring DEATH VOMIT again. We worked with BURGERKILL, biggest name in Indo, so we have no problems getting Indo bands, they will jump first thing. The problem is the airfares, most they pay themselves. Merchandise is so good, it’s such good promotion to come to Australia, any [Indo] metal band would love to go overseas, checking the scene over here.
KJ: Is there a profit to be made from it?
Jason: At the end of the day we would not make money out of it. We won’t just bring any metal band.
KJ: Did you experience any racism personally?
Jason: We don’t experience much racism. We don’t stand up for that kind of shit.
KJ: Please tell us more about who you think are the best musicians in Indo death-metal today.
Jason: The highlight of this band [DEATH VOMIT] is Roy. He plays with a few different sorts of bands. He’s fucking gifted and talented to be honest with you. It’s the genes! He is just out there if you think about it. In my eyes Roy Agus as a drummer [is best]. For guitar that guy from BURGERKILL, Agung Hellfrog [is best]. The other guy from DEADSQUAD [Jakarta] he’s fucking good shredder too. The [best] singer is between the JASAD singer [Man] and the DEATH VOMIT singer [Sofyan Hadi].
KJ: What do you think of Man? Next month I will go to Bandung to interview JASAD...
Jason: One thing I don’t like about Man [JASAD] is cigarette. It is very sad in Indo that there is a very high smoking rate. The image of metal is tough kids and they smoke. We don’t like it all, we try to avoid it, know what I mean?
KJ: If an Aussie wants to do a “metal tour” of Indo where should she or he visit in addition to Bandung?
Jason: Best place to go for metal is Borneo, Malang, [and] Yogya. They organize metal, Jogja Corpse Grinder, it’s like a club or society, they support each other. Bands in Indo don’t have the [poor] facilities we have in Australia. The major media back them up in Indo, cig companies or Hard Rock [Cafe] sponsors them. It’s a pretty good achievement.
KJ: Tell me more about the role of religion in Indo death-metal and about the Islamic fundamentalist and Jihadist bands in Jakarta?
Jason: Religion does not play a role in Indo heavy-metal. There is a split in Indo metal. METALLICA came to visit in 1991, there is a band ROTOR, thrash-metal, they play [like] SODOM, VENOM. They supported METALLICA, first band to release album in the name of metal. The singer/ guitarist became a hardline Jihadist. Over there [Indo] the religion does not impact much on the music.
Lauren: In Indo the religion is more easygoing, it’s easy, people are free to do what they want in their religion, they are not forced to do anything.
Jason: If you wear a metal shirt here people look at you as weird. Metal in Australia is more outcast. It’s very big in Indo. We are revolutionizing it, in Indo you can wear a metal shirt, [and] you have something to sell.
We had the argument in Indo three or four years ago that Sweden bands are big due to government support. The most isolated place in the world has good metal bands. Now everything is at the tip of your fingers. They are using metal in a good way. This argument is out there among the public. Yayat Achdiat, best producer, founding member of JASAD and guitarist, he is helping to put Indo music at a good level. Another extreme-metal band is FORGOTTEN [Bandung] and also FUNERAL INCEPTION [Jakarta].
KJ: How is the black-metal scene in Indonesia? I don’t hear you mention any black-metal bands in our conversation...
Jason: Black-metal bands are not that big in Indo. FUNERAL INCEPTION is standing out from the rest. The lyrics are taken out of the Koran. The “heaven is under the dog’s feet”, in Koran it says it is “under the mother’s feet”. He is anti-religion, every religion. There are Muslim youth who don’t like his ideas. Last year there was a big problem. Splinter groups in metal do one finger meaning only One God. They don’t use the devil’s horns. People became quiet, scared to answer it except FUNERAL INCEPTION [guys] argue very strongly.
KJ: How many bands were involved in this skirmish or disagreement?
Jason: There are only a handful of bands involved [in the skirmish] - FUNERAL INCEPTION leader Doni Iblis and, on the Muslim side, TENGKORAK, meaning “skull”.
KJ: What does this Muslim band sing about?
Jason: The band preaches about going to the mosque and praying. They are connected to Islamic [Defenders] Front [Front Pembela Islam, FPI]. These people want the country to become a Muslim country; they have their own publication, magazine.
Jason: About 20% of hardcore metal people [are fundamentalist] mostly in Jakarta, Malang and Medan. We had an agreement to ignore them and not give them publicity. We have not heard from them much but they are around in the Indo metal community.
KJ: Does metal prevent terrorism in your opinion?
Jason: Often people ask [this] in Indo, metal gets people out of doing anything stupid, you know what I mean? It opens your head; you really see what is different. SIKSA KUBUR just released their album a little while ago, it’s a pretty good album, death-metal, some of them are Christian and some are Muslim.
KJ: I think that is about all mate. Thanks for everything you shared. Can we get a picture and, after that, can you give me a ride to the St Alban’s train station? Thank you.