Can you first introduce the band Kekal to us? When did it start and what have you done
over the years?
Well, the band was formed around August
1995 as a one-time project of two guys. It was only just for fun. There were some songs
that were already written at that moment, and we just needed to write some other ones to
record the demotape. The demo was finally recorded in November 1995 along with a vocalist
named Harry. The tape was dubbed into 20 copies and were spread around the local
tape-trading circuit. A guitarist named Leo heard a copy of this tape in his friend's
house, this guy (Leo's friend) was a friend of Harry too. Later Leo contacted us as he was
interested in joining us as second guitarist. In about June 1996 we became active again,
but this time with a vision and commitment to be a serious band. We remixed the very first
demo along with some new material we released under the title Contra Spiritualia
Nequitiae, our first official demo. It was never produced properly and it sounds like a
rehearsal tape, but it got a good response from the underground and sold out the 500+
copies quite fast. We had the new line-up shortly afterwards: Harry on vocals, Leo on
guitar, Azhar on bass/vocals, and myself on guitar/vocals. We continued to write new
material. In early 1998, the first full-length album entitled Beyond The Glimpse Of Dreams
was recorded and licensed to various labels. First it was just released on cassette format
by Indonesian label THT Productions, and later re-released on both CD and cassette formats
by the Singaporean label Sonic Wave. The response has also been very good since it has
sold for about 4500 copies now. A quite good number for an underground band like us. At
the end of 1998 Harry left the band due to other commitments outside music. Azhar, Leo,
and I remained in the band. Our second full-length album called Embrace The Dead was
recorded and released in August 1999 by THT productions as a tape version. The CD version
was released later in 2000 by Fleshwalker records. In early 2001 we entered the studio to
record material for our third full-length album The Painful Experience, and now it's
licensed to three labels: Fear Dark for the European market, Clenchedfist Records for the
North American market, and THT Productions for South East Asia.
Lord Rogoth: In recent
years your country Indonesia's been in the news quite often with the attacks on Christians
and Muslims on certain islands. Maybe ít's comparatively a lot in the news here in The
Netherlands as Indonesia was a colony of my country and we still have some sort of
relationship with Indonesia. Many people from Indonesia live here. As I was browsing
through the lyrics I couldn't help but think of the situation in your country in certain
lyrics, like the opening track. In how far is the situation in your country an
For our third album we did it on purpose. I
mean the lyrics are mostly inspired by all the happenings in our country. Indonesia has
changed a lot since 1998. We have been through four different presidents only in three
years! And during that period there were many riots, unrests, civil wars. We wanted to
address the current socio-political issues in Indonesia as illustrations. But the topic
can possibly change on our next albums.
LordRogoth: If you do it on
purpose, what do you hope to communicate with the public? Is there some kind of ideology
or a feeling or an overall thought that you hope to bring over or do you want to get
attention for your country? Or is it to work it out for yourself? So, what is the purpose
for you to get inspiration from the happenings in your country?
We try to communicate everything. Through
these happenings in our country we just love to share our ideology (that's a Christian
belief, just in case you may wonder), our thoughts, and also emotions or feelings. It will
hopefully work out for everyone, not only Indonesian people, not only for ourselves, but
to other people as well, both believers as non-believers. Let me explain some of the songs
I wrote; The opening track The Monsters Within is actually a true story about a man who
stole a chicken for food because he didn't have enough money. But he ended up being burned
by the angered mass in the neighborhood, after being beaten to near-death, because the
owner of the chicken saw him and yelled, then the mass at the owner's neighborhood
instantly caught him. No matter what he stole, a chicken or a car. He will meet his death
if the police doesn't come. Too bad, the police always come late. Now, who is right and
who is wrong? At the end of the lyric-lines it said "There is no one righteous, not
even one..." It's actually a Christian belief, you can't find a statement like that
in any other religion. Only Christianity states the original sin of mankind.Another
example is Mean Attraction. This is a song about terrorism. Once again it's taken from
true events. There were about sixteen churches time-bombed around the same time at
Christmas eve, eleven of them in Jakarta (the capital city) when the congregations were
still in there for Christmas eve's services. Many were killed, some of them were little
children. You can imagine that. We share our own thoughts about it. Like in the last line
"Purpose never reached, when all become a part of business as usual..".. I saw
later that it didn't make any believer too afraid to go to church, absolutely not. People
still go to church and bring their children. They even have more faith and confidence to
go to church than before the tragedy. The terrorists actually lost their goal to spread
fear amongst Indonesian Christians, what they did was only a vicious murder. Everyday the
terrorists do only the act of killing without a single goal reached. I realized that they
only feel 'better' when their enemies died on their hands, not really because of what they
wanted to fight for. It's not so long afterwards when they did that to New York's WTC and
The Pentagon too. On the title-track The Painful Experience, we would like to share the
feelings about painful live. It's actually like taking your own cross, and you can feel
the pain that Christ once had when he took the cross. It's very emotional. Many of us, the
believers, including ourselves, tend to refuse to experience the pain of life. We can
easily complain to God when we got even a little everyday problem. This song is actually a
reminder for me, for ourselves, and for everyone. I must admit that I was personally
touched when I was asking questions in my mind like "Why does God let this happens to
innocent people?" right when I saw the news about the churches being bombed and saw
on the TV that many children were being taken to hospital
covered with blood.
Lord Rogoth: Another
question. You say you want to share your ideology through these events in your country.
What is the relevance of your ideology in the current situation? Like for your own
country, does it contribute in any way that you can experience?
We see the importance to relate our
ideology and spiritual beliefs towards the current situation in our country. It means that
if the people's eyes were open enough for the principles of Christianity, the situation
could be better. It's just an evaluation, or for a better word, a reflection from our life
as we experience it. It won't change the whole society of course, but at least we can
bring it in for our personal lives to affect our own actions, and also share it with
people who read the lyrics. Take a line from U2 in one of their songs: "I cannot
change the world, but I can change the world in me". That's what we are trying to do.
I've heard some comments that our new lyrics are quite negative and little bit
pessimistic, but if we read deeper they are actually very positive.
Lord Rogoth: Today I was
looking at the cover of the new album and the portrayal of the severed face and began
wondering how it relates to the album. Is it sort of an expression of the feel of the
album's lyrical approach or is there even a deeper meaning behind it?
The cover depicts the main theme of the
album. It's more than just a particular lyric of one or two songs. The face itself
represents our severe condition. For troubled countries like ours, it can also represents
the system, the government, the social life, and so on. In general it represents the
condition of mankind.
Negatyfus: How do you feel
about black metal's satanic heritage and how do you perceive Christianity having a place
in the dark, sinister atmosphere that is set by this extremity?
I still believe that black metal refers
more to the music style rather than to religious, political, or any other things that
follows. It's one of metal sub-genre like death metal, power metal, thrash metal, etc.
It's the way you play the music, not the way you live the life. You know, the very first
bands that played black metal are Hellhammer, Bathory, Sodom, or if you wish Venom. They
just made it for fun like any other metal bands at that time, it's all for the sake of
image. The musical atmosphere can be so dark, grim and somber, but that's nothing to do
with anything satanic things or even Satanism. Nothing at all. All the situations we have
in this world can influence us while writing music, and it can influence anyone with any
kind of spiritual belief, including Christianity of course. It's not true when people look
at Christians as being happy persons all the time. There are times when we are in sorrow,
anger, and other things that we can perceive it as the darker times. But there are times
when we are happy of course. Oh, another thing I must add, Christians always have a place
in the darkness, because we all live in this dark world.
Shamgar: Have you received
any serious death threats? If yes, how does that affect you, and how do you deal with
As for serious death threats, no. There are
some hate mails we got who look like death threats in words but we don't see them as
serious death threats like that they will really kill us when they get us. Most metal fans
I know nowadays, even the most 'Satanic' ones, are not involved with the real mafia who
can commit murder without being caught by the police. They might hate Christianity very
much but they will think twice to commit murder. That doesn't mean I'm not taking these
seriously, we have to be alert of course. But it's not good if they can affect our visions
or make us fear. They are like acts of little terrorism, to create terror, to spread fear.
To deal with hate mails from people who wish us to die, we have to put it on prayer, and
of course we don't have to be afraid and keep the band going. If there's a local music
scene in your place, you can get yourself involved with it and make friends to the key
persons in the scene of whom you know have some 'neutral' political and religious views
(like the zine editors, promoters, bands, etc.). Just try not to be exclusive. People in
the scene at least will have more respect to the bands that are involved in the local
scene, even if they have different views.
mpomusic: There's another
thing that I have been wondering about and it's your past project Inner Warfare which has
been described as an industrial band by HM Magazine around 1998. Was Inner Warfare a
project you did alongside Kekal or goes the history of IW even before Kekal? And in how
far is Excision, your other side project, a continuation of Inner Warfare?
Inner Warfare was my first real band, long
before Kekal. It was formed around 1992. I formed this band along with a high-school
friend and a couple of other friends. We did three or four demos and quit in 1997. The
style is quite different from Kekal as it was started as a punk/metal hybrid then evolved
to a more metalcore/rapcore thing with industrial elements. Perhaps we could've ended up
being a kind of hip-metal band now if we had continued with this band, but God put a
different way for us. Our keyboardist/sampling-programmer got an offer from a mainstream
local CCM/pop band and he chose to take the opportunity. Now he's also an
arranger/producer who does many good local CCM albums. We couldn't continue without him so
we ended the band ourselves, and then I joined Kekal later on. As for Excision, it's my
own side project. This means that I have a full control over everything. I 'formed' this
project when I was still in Inner Warfare, before I officially joined Kekal. Excision was
just a channel to release some of my recorded songs that were rejected by Inner Warfare,
but then continued to be my solo project afterwards. I still have some songs that don't
fit in with Kekal so I record them myself as Excision. But my priority has always been in
Stefan: Did Kekal ever play
cover songs or do you plan some?
Cover songs? Yes, we already did two cover
songs, one from Trouble and one from Living Sacrifice. The Living Sacrifice cover was done
for their Tribute Album released by Clenchedfist Records. We will re-record the Trouble
cover for our next release. We haven't planned to record cover songs from other bands yet.
Cover songs are very good to be played live but not in studio recording.
Stefan: That's really cool,
I love Trouble! What song? My guess would be The Tempter but Tourniquet already did that
song. So maybe The Wolf??
Hey, you're almost right, the song we cover
also starts with 'The' :). It's The Skull! One of the best songs from Trouble
both musically as well as lyrically.
mpomusic: Jeff, as main
writer of Kekal do you get moments when you lack the inspiration to go on? Sort of a
writers block? And what do you do to get new inspiration to write?
Oh yes! I always have this block especially
when there are many other things to do at the same time. What should I do then? Just don't
write music... :) When this happens, I choose not to push myself writing anything because
that's not effective at all. Even the lyrics. During that period it must be at least two
albums I listen each day, any kind of music, from metal to indie rock to progressive to
classical. Sometimes I listen to the radio with all that pop music. It's just to get
refreshed. Within a few weeks, you can start making music again.
Natan: At the Kekal website
I saw that you guys don't have a drummer. How can you play without a drummer? Or how is it
possible to be a band without a drummer?
It is possible of course. We use a drum
computer, by some called a drum machine or drum-programs. But it's more than a drum
machine actually. We arrange the drum patterns by using sequencer software as a midi file,
programmed in both mathematically and real-time. And the drum sounds were taken from the
sampled sound of real drums, mixed with the sounds from the drum module/drum machine. But
you couldn't tell it's a machine. Because of the more and more sophisticated software
these days, we can do whatever we want to sound as human as possible. Nowadays there are
more metal-related bands using drum computers, and if they use real drums, they also
trigger their drums, which means that they can edit their performaces and sounds in a
computer. It's almost the same in terms of the output.
Shamgar: Do you ever play
gigs, and if yes, in what kind of places, and how many people visit such a concert?
We haven't played any gig yet. Why? Because
we still haven't had a permanent drummer. It's really hard to find a drummer who has the
same belief and vision as the rest of the band. We don't want to use a session drummer
while playing live. There are promotors who asked us to play at their places around cities
& towns here. We've got about an average of one inquiry per month. The concerts are
ranging from smaller ones with about 100 to 300 people, but also to larger ones, kind of
festivals with more than 1,000 people in attendance and with about 15 to 20 bands playing.
There are no mega festivals like Dynamo Open Air or such. The biggest ones are less than
Shamgar: How is the scene
in Asia? And how well known is Kekal there?
The metal scene is quite big in some Asian
countries like Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia. But it works
more in the underground than in mainstream, except Japan of course. In Indonesia a popular
death metal band can sell more than 4000 or 5000 copies of tapes locally, but still
without a major record-stores distribution. That means the underground scene has some
strong cult following. We are quite well known here, perhaps our band-name is known by
almost all the underground metal fans as we're among the first bands who signed with
overseas labels. But, that doesn't mean we sell a lot of albums here. Many of the fans
won't buy the album because of the stylistical and philosophical differences. In
Indonesia, the scene is more into brutal death metal and some extreme black metal. We're
not really fitting in with those two leanings.
Daffie K.: I wonder what
the blackmetalscene is like in Indonesia, because I have absolutely no idea what styles
are popular over there. How is your music received over there, do you get good reviews?
The black metal scene in Indonesia, I must
say, is really boring, only full with copycats. They are now occupied with younger bands
and fans, mostly teenagers, because they still need to look 'evil' and 'extreme' to the
people around, and black metal can provide them with that. The most popular style is
brutal death metal. Most of the better metal bands here play death metal. Indonesia is
quite known for its underground brutal death metal scene. Our music is received well here,
but mostly within the circle of bands now, which means that most of our fans also play in
bands and such. It can be black metal bands, thrash bands, death metal bands, hardcore,
modern rock. We're no longer popular within the black metal scene now. Our first album was
quite popular there and we received many pros and contras. But since our second album
Embrace The Dead, we appeal to a different kind of listeners rather than just black metal
fans. And we are a little bit more acceptable among prog-metal fans as well.
mpomusic: Last year you got
married and Leo left the band in December. What does that mean for the future of the band.
In reply to another question you talked about future albums. How will the band go on? Will
it remain a studio band/project or will you attract new members?
I talked with bassist Azhar a few weeks ago
about the band's future direction. We will still go on with the band no matter the
circumstances we have. At this moment there is no other possibility except making Kekal a
studio band only although we're still open for changes in the future. Myself and Azhar
have day jobs now and we can't tour even to other cities in Indonesia, and then Leo left
the band, and we're still drummerless. We tried to add new members in the past. We were
once looking for a drummer and a vocalist who could replace Harry (our former vocalist).
But we got no one. I mean, there were quite many people who were interested to join us.
Some even called me directly and asked about that very confidently. But if they have a
different vision and commitment than us, we just can't. The relationship between the
members of Kekal is more like a family relationship rather than a job relationship. We
only have few members but we have a strong understanding and respect within each of us.
That's better for Kekal I think.