SUPERMAN IS DEAD: POP PUNK IS ALIVE
by Matt Wilson
BALI PUNKS ON THE US INVASION
Bali, a place of immense beauty, dirt, chaos and strange tranquility, has become a major tourist destination. The place is flooded with people from all over the world, just out to buy crap and abuse the locals with wads of dollars. Yet there’s still a true and real feeling about the place.
It all started in 1971, when Uluwatu, one of the world’s best waves, was exposed by Australian surfer Steve Cooney and a perfect clean left. Since then, a lot has changed. Hotels have gone up and waves of clueless tourists, oblivious to the love of riding waves, have stopped by, leaving a wake of destruction. But amongst all the chaos, beauty and contradictions of Indonesia and many other Asian countries, lives a thriving alternative music scene.
Bali’s favorite misfits, Superman Is Dead, have been perfecting their own brand of Balinesian powerpop, punk and rock ‘n roll since 1995. They’re currently signed to Sony Music Indonesia, they've toured Australia and have supported punk giants like MxPx and NOFX. But now, it all seems to be coming together, with a great new album, Angels and the Outsiders, and a slot at this year’s Warped Tour, in the big ‘ol US of A.
Superman Is Dead have also done a lot for other up-and-coming Bali bands. Drummer Jrx owns a punk rock ‘n roll bar in Kuta that has great local acts playing almost every night. If you’re ever in Bali, it really is a cool spot to check out: awesome tunes, cold Bintangs, framed punk and rockabilly posters on the walls and stylish, two tone-inspired, black and white checkered floors. Hell, you can even get inked while you drink.
I caught up with the band on MySpace, to find out what makes these Indonesian anti superheroes tick.
Hey, so first off, who’s in the band and who does what?
Yo! We're three-piece, punk rock, designer bad boys, with Bobby Kool on guitar/vox, Eka Rock on bass/vox and Jrx on drums/vox.
Bali seems to mean a lot to you guys, what was it like growing up there?
Bali's everything to us. Love it to death. We're so proud of our island and will always fight for it. Growing up here taught us a lot about tolerance and open mind, ‘cos Bali's an international melting pot. The easy-going vibe just perfect with the punk rock life we're living – do your own thing and respect each other equally.
Do any of you guys surf?
In the late ‘90s, we all kinda got into it, then we all got bored (lack of talents, ha ha) and focused on the band. Now only Jrx got back to surf again since a year ago, and he's still not a good surfer. He looks better holding a beer bottle than a surfboard, but who cares, he's happy, ha ha.
Indonesia seems to have a great alternative music scene, what do you the think the reason for this is? Quite a few other Asian countries have a much more conservative musical approach?
We're not sure what the real reason is. Indonesia is a mixed and almost over populated country with different religions and race, maybe that's got something to do with our musical taste. We do have a great alternative music scene, but it's still quite underground. And on a mainstream level, we're almost the same with other Asian countries. Pop is the king.
You guys toured Australia a few years back, what was that like? Were you the first band from Bali to do that?
Yeah, in 2007 we toured Aussie for the first time. It was hectic but fun – 16 gigs, 30 days. Cops came and closed our illegal gig at a skate park. Never-ending supplies of beer and weed and on the last gig our singer Bobby collapsed on stage, but he's fine after 10 mins of blackout. Yes, we're the first Balinese band and the second Indonesian band that toured Australia.
What’s it like being on a major label like Sony Music?
In Indonesia, the music industry's still very centralised. You gotta move to big cities like Jakarta or Bandung (both in Java) to make it. And as a band that lives in Bali and refuses to move to the big cities, we're so lucky to have Sony as our label. They're the best label ever. From the first time we signed up with them (2003), we've still got the freedom in our music and art. We still pretty much an underground band, ‘cos we do principal things by our own, from video clips, CD covers, merchandise etc. Sony's contributions are paying for our recording sessions, promoting our albums (video clips, TV, radio etc.) and distributing our albums nationally. And that's great, ‘cos we're not good at doing those things. Ha ha.
Tell us a little bit about Twice Bar, who owns it and what does it mean to Kuta Rock City?
Twice Bar is owned by Jrx's family. Back in 1999, it was a CD shop with a small studio in the back, where SID used to jam. But then more and more people came to watch SID practicing, so Jrx and a friend turned it into an un-professional bar. That time, SID's the only band that jammed there. In 2003, Jrx renovated the bar from the royalties he made selling SID's Kuta Rock City album. And since then, Twice Bar is like Indonesia's answer to CBGB – with cheaper booze. And until today, there's no bar like Twice in Indonesia. We got local (mostly rock) bands playing their own music almost everyday. All the bands get equal chances to play at Twice. And it's free entrance all night long baby!
Are there any other cool bands coming out of Bali or Indo?
Many! Here's some we're so proud of (click the band names to listen on MySpace):
The Hydrant (rockabilly)
Suicidal Sinatra (psychobilly)
Dialog Dini Hari (folk/blues)
Discotion Pill (electro-punk)
Scared Of Bums (metal-punk)
Painful By Kisses (emocore)
Johnny Agung and Double T (reggae)
De Buntu (Britrock)
The Wheels (rock ‘n roll).
You guys sing in English and Indonesian, do you think this helped you tour other countries? Would you prefer to just sing in your own language?
When we were younger, our musical references are mostly bands that sing in English. So when we begin to write songs, it automatically came out in English in our heads. It's a spontaneous act. Even though our grammar still messed up, we feel comfortable singing in English. And what's funny is, we just found out how to write proper Indonesian lyrics a few years ago, which started ‘cos a lot of our fans wrote to us that they don't understand the meaning of our English lyrics. So now we're singing in both. We realised that to educate the masses and get your point heard, sometimes you gotta speak their language. And yes, we think singing in both has helped us to be able to tour overseas.
What do you sing about?
Besides being rich and handsome models? Nothing! Ha ha. We have some serious psychosocial content (as in, against the fascist, racist, religious hardliners, which is sadly still a big problem in Indonesia). Then we singing about some pro-environment propaganda (global warming issues), lifestyle (kustom kulture, tattoos, low rider bicycle), outlaw love songs, wild street parties, alcohol and nationalism.
Tell us a little bit about your US tour and playing Warped Tour, how did you guys hook that up? Aren’t you, like, the second Asian band in the history of the tour?
Yeah, we're really stoked and a bit nervous about Warped Tour. It's all a beautiful coincidence. End of 2008, an event organiser from Philadelphia offered to do a small US tour to promote Bali. When it's all confirmed, out of the blue we checked the Warped Tour schedule and the timing is right. Warped starts right when we finish our own small US tour. So we sent them emails, no reply. Then we sent email to NOFX manager Mr. Kent about the situation. SID opened for NOFX once in Bali, so he knows what we are. Kent then recommended SID to Kevin Lyman, the founder of Warped. A few weeks later, Warped sent us a contract to do 11 gigs! Crazy! Still can't really believe it....
Who are some of your influences?
Besides the rich and handsome devils? Ha ha. Plenty, my man, so many. To name a few: The Clash, NOFX, Rancid, Johnny Cash, Social Distortion, Ramones, Elvis Presley, Sublime, The Living End, Everlast, Green Day, Frank Sinatra, Tiger Army and some Indonesian bands also.....
Tell us a little bit about the new album and the direction you guys took?
Emotionally, this is a very honest and vulnerable album for SID. Being together for almost 15 years, we realised we can't just play fast all the time. So now we're putting a few mid-tempo songs in, with tons of collaborations, starting with an orphanage kids choir, a ragga/ska band, jazz musicians, a poet and some Balinese traditional instruments. Musically, this album is wider and not as angry as our previous ones, but we managed to keep the 'rebellious' energy.
What’s the story behind the awesome album art?
Ah, we know you're gonna ask that! Well, it's a project we did with some street-artists from Jogja (Central Java). We did the photo-collage and they hand-painted it in Jogja. It's inspired by the love of old-movie posters. On the cover, that's SID bass-man Eka Rock with his son Romeo. The story is about passing the whole SID positive energy to the newer generation, in the coolest way possible!
What’s up with your fanclub, The Outsiders?
We just recently named our fan club Outsiders, ‘cos we were not really into fan club. We thought we shouldn't worship our self by making a fan club, ‘cos we're just as same as every human being in this planet. But those kids, they're just too strong (and too much free time), and start making their own names for their SID fan clubs. Funny names like Sidheads, Sidiots, Siders etc. So we started to think maybe it's time to give them ideas of a better name and The Outsiders came up two years ago. Since then, they're just getting stronger and more organised. They got chapters in almost every city in Indonesia. They make their own ID card, uniform and flags. They do gatherings monthly or weekly, and doing some projects (music events, charity events etc.) and what's amazing is they're doing it all by themselves, without SID telling them what to do. That's what makes us so proud of them. They're smart, creative and big-hearted kids trying to prove to the people that even though they don't look and act like “normal” Indonesian kids, they can do something good and positive.
Cool, any last comments or shout outs?
Thank you God for making Bali an amazingly beautiful home, thank you to the people all around the globe who's reading this interview – someday we will knock on your door! Thank you so much to Matt of Sibling Rivalry – no more ping pong for you in Bangkok my man, ha ha. And of course, a big thank you to The Outsiders! Cheers and much love from Bali!
Taken from : Blunt Magazine