Reviews

Kekal – Interview


 

PD:  How would you describe yourself or your band as an artist?

Jeff: Hi Pete, this is Jeff representing Kekal. Well, Kekal is now a band with no official members. It has been like this since 2009. So now, the band operates on a voluntary basis, with artistic outputs supplied by open contributors, not only the music but to all aspects from the recording production to artwork, video, and much of the marketing & promotional materials. All former members can still contribute in making albums after the band became member-less, although without commitment and no strings attached, meaning one may contribute in a few albums only depending on availability. To me, Kekal is – in my own wording – a canvas for personal artistic expressions, so one contributor may use that to express through writing the lyrics and singing, other through playing/recording the guitars, and other through artwork or photography. Everything is open and non-binding, and none of us contributors get the money from it, all the funds the band receives from album sales and merchandise are being recycled for marketing and promotional costs as well as online presence like website hosting, etc. Kekal is 100% independent, never giving ownership of recording masters to any record label ever. All partnerships with labels are only through licensing on a per-album basis. We self-produce everything from music to artwork & promotional material.

 

PD: Can you tell us briefly about your background – i.e. where you’re from, how you came to make music, etc.

Jeff: Kekal has been around since 1995, now over 27 years already. We’re originally from Jakarta, Indonesia. All of the musicians who joined or formed Kekal have played in other bands already since high-school, but Kekal was probably the band that became more committed and serious in doing music. For me, looking back to the earliest work of the band, I feel that Kekal formed with the no-nonsense and anti-mainstream attitude, and we’ve had this D.I.Y. ethic since the very beginning. For me, I started to make music in 1990, and my music background was more from punk although musically I also dig much of metal music since the 80s. I was interested in the energy of much of the 80s punk music and how it became interconnected musically to the development of heavy metal music as well as electronic music. When Kekal started, we were already able to write our own songs but we had yet to discover our internal-energy and to express it through our music. That took years to develop. Finding your own self and to express it through music is much much harder than just playing chords, notes and riffs, and following the crowd.

 

PD: Who and what inspires you to make music, both in terms of musical and other influences? What do you like to write about in your songs?

Jeff: Well, I started to buy bootleg cassette tapes when I reached 10 years old, because that was the time my mom gave me weekly lunch money as opposed to daily. Bootleg releases were common in Indonesia back in the 80s and it wasn’t made illegal yet, just so you know. With that weekly money, I would skip lunch at school for some days and was able to save money to buy cassette tapes of both albums and unofficial mixtape compilations. That’s when my first music discovery began. As a 10-year old kid in the mid-1980s, my first encounter with the music that impacted me was when I listened to the Iron Maiden song “2 Minutes to Midnight”. My main sources of inspiration that made me want to form a band and write music were from the things that could “move” me emotionally or in other word, stir my soul. It was hard to describe, because that led me to look for music from many different styles and genres, bought hundreds of tapes, exchanged mixtapes with friends, only to find a few that could move me in the similar way I was moved by Iron Maiden’s “2 Minutes to Midnight”. Later on, I discovered that if I was able to write music honestly and authentically without thinking about trying to fit into certain styles, tempos, and other non-important aspects in the first place, I could channel my inner self more effectively and that song would capture most of the energy. A song doesn’t need to be brutal or intense to carry a great energy inside it. It can be just a simple, quiet acoustic guitar piece or piano and at the same time it can have a tremendous energy that can transform a person. As for the lyrics, I’d write lyrics in order to understand the way I see myself and the world, and to channel what is inside. Perhaps it’s similar to the way a poet writes their poetry.

 

PD: What are your aspirations as an artist?

Jeff: My only aspiration as an artist is spiritual growth and an expansion of consciousness.

 

PD: What is the proudest moment in your music career so far?

Jeff: I don’t have anything to be proud of in terms of the so-called ‘achievements’. Life is all about learning from experience, and I’ve experienced many stages in my life that can be considered as a bit extreme in terms of ups and downs with both good and bad moments, but those experiences as a whole certainly enrich my own personal evolution as a human. I don’t consider music as my career, but as the main instrument for growth because it can reflect my inner self without the filtering from the so-called societal norms. This way, I feel grateful as a musician or artist because my music would help me face my own self with both light and darkness aspects within me, and to learn from the dynamics of these naked interactions without judgments. In order to grow as a human, I feel the need to be able to learn from our experiences in life, otherwise we can’t evolve or move forward. The more we learn from these experiences the more we are able to see life both from multiple perspectives and from a higher elevation like a drone would capture the landscapes in a bigger picture.

 

PD: Promoting one’s music is such a challenge these days, especially with so many new artists emerging from bedrooms in the day of the home studio. How is that going?

Jeff: Believe it or not, Kekal emerged from the bedroom too. Back in 1995 and 1996 we recorded a few demo tapes mostly in my bedroom, using only a 4-track analog cassette recorder, but then after we were able to experience recording in different types of studios both professional studios and modest home-studio setup. My view of new artists emerging from bedrooms is very positive, I mean back in the day, doing this type of thing would be much more difficult technically because of the limitation of recording gear. I remember we needed to come up with some silly solutions for example putting a large bucket around the head to record vocals so that it can simulate the reverberation effect, and because of the limitation of the available recording tracks, as we only had 4-track recorder, it made things more challenging. Right now, any album can sound great with just a computer-based home-studio setup, and musicians can express themselves better that way. As for the challenge in promoting the music, well, to me it is not because of the number of artists doing music at home, but more because of the move towards the mainstream streaming platforms. People no longer buy albums the way it used to be, whether physical forms like CD and vinyl, or digital download, so smaller independent bands and labels get lesser and lesser funds from album sales in order to be able to spend promoting the music further. This is one main reason that Kekal discourages listeners to use mainstream streaming platforms like Spotify, and encourages them to download the music through Bandcamp instead. It’s simple math: Let’s say if a band had 1000 people paying only $2 each on Bandcamp to download that band’s albums, that band can get more than $1000 only from that. With the same 1000 listeners tuning to a band on Spotify, that band gets almost nothing.

 

PD: And how do you book and promote your live shows and tours? Any performances coming up?

Jeff: We no longer play any live shows now because the band has no members. Kekal’s last performance was in 2005 after we released our 5th album “Acidity”.

 

PD: What do you think about downloading music online? What about streaming sites like Spotify?

Jeff: Downloading music, like through Bandcamp, is a great alternative for listeners who don’t want to buy physical formats for whatever reason. That way, listeners would help support the band financially. Streaming sites like Spotify isn’t a good solution for smaller independent bands. Their business model isn’t sustainable and equal, it’s almost like a pyramid, ponzi-scheme multi-level marketing model. Small musicians won’t stand a chance to flourish and survive by using this type of streaming platform alone. Bandcamp is the only digital platform out there with a fair business model for independent artists, and even though they are technically no longer “independent” after the acquisition by Epic Games, their business model stays and it’s still a decent win-win situation both for the platform and for independent bands and labels. Things like Spotify only make sense if an artist has hundreds of thousands to millions of monthly listeners, and how many percentage of artists distributed there that have that amount of listeners? Very small. And there are bots as well that can be paid to “listen” to your music and inflate the number of listeners just to enhance the popularity and help gain further exposure in the platform’s algorithms in terms of appearances in their playlists and “radios”. Major industry players use these paid bots or even operate their own bot farms to enhance themselves to reach more listeners. I believe this entire system was designed that way, very similar to how the stock market bubble works.

 

PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?

Jeff: I’m pleased with most of the songs I’ve written because they authentically reflect my inner self, so I don’t see any reason why I would wish to re-write other people’s songs. It’s almost like meddling with someone else’s affairs.

 

PD: Is there anything you don’t like about the music industry, which you would change if you could?

Jeff: The entire music industry since the beginning has always been designed to benefit those big players, you know, the so-called mainstream artists and all their “supporting-infrastructure”. It’s been a dog-eat-dog world out there, with bigger players exploiting and even killing the smaller or weaker ones. It’s the reflection of the entire system of this broken world. For me, it’s not a matter of like or dislike, because it’s how things work in this world and they are part of the whole corrupt system. But we can still be riding the same wave, by still using their own corrupt tools like social-media and other platforms without being completely attached to them and playing their game. In their world but not part of their world, you know what I mean. In the end, independent artists and loyal listeners of independent music should also keep the so-called “self-sustaining mentality”, which is more towards supporting each other between musicians and listeners. In the underground, we can still work using “traditional tools” we used before the whole social-media started, such as handing-out flyers at concerts, features at independent webzines, radio, word of mouth, etc. The biggest problem we face right now, is that some small independent musicians have illogical aspirations that they just want to go big on themselves by shoving away others that are perceived to be getting in their way, leading to distrust and disunity between artists in the scene. We can also see more and more independent webzines, for example, that tend to cover only popular releases from tier-1 and tier-2 bands, and discard promos from independent bands and smaller labels just because smaller players don’t help much with their website traffic.

 

PD: So, what are you working on at the moment?

Jeff: I’m taking a full break from doing music right now. Kekal is preparing to release a digital-only best-of compilation album in early March called “Eternitarian” with 31 tracks taken from entire 13 albums + 3 EPs, that’s almost 3 hours of music. It won’t be released on Spotify and other mainstream platforms, just through Bandcamp. Also, I’m doing a monthly video podcast called “Inward Journey”, a kind of recorded monologue that is layered upon walking video footage. It’s not music-related per se, but the content is connected thematically with the past 2 Kekal albums. The first episode of Inward Journey is now published on Kekal’s YouTube channel. www.youtube.com/kekalofficial

 

PD: Where can we learn more about you and buy your music/merch online?

Jeff: We have a band website www.kekal.org where you can get much of the band’s information, including to download 6 Kekal albums for free. The merchandise site can be accessed from www.kekal.org/merchandise

Kekal links:
Band/Artist location – Jakarta, Indonesia
Website – Facebook – You Tube – Soundcloud – Bandcamp – Merch – Reverbnation –
Instagram – Apple – Spotify – Amazon – Deezer – LinkTree – Last Fm
Check our page for Kekal


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