First of all; congratulations with the return of Leo Setiawan, you must be very glad that he is able to join you again. What are the consequences of this event for Kekal as a band? Is he taking someone's place?
Thank you. No, Leo isn't taking someone's place. His return to the band makes us as a three-piece again with two guitarists. Since Leo left the band in 2001, I handled all the guitar duties during recording, except on our new album 'Acidity' which he played too, and we had an additional guitarist for local gigs. Speaking of consequences, I think our music might have some more new elements to add because of Leo coming in. He is currently dig jazz-fusion stuff like Al DiMeola, Jaco Pastorius, until the more traditional ones like Wes Montgomery or George Benson..
Your label Fear Dark kind of warned us not to label them as a religious label, however they give room for a lot of religious-minded bands. Could you explain about your viewpoints on the topic of God, Christianity, and religions in general, so that we will never have this “confusion” again?
First thing, from my point of view I don't see Fear Dark as a religious label. From what I see, half of the bands on their roster doesn't even have any religious tendency, but because they are not anti-religious, anti-God, or anti-Christian label, they would ended up releasing album form Christian-related band, like ANTESTOR for example, and other bands that are neutral in their political or religious views. But well, sometimes black metal fans think if an extreme metal band doesn't satanic or anti-Christian then it's called 'white-metal'. You probably hear every time anywhere about this. Even bands like CELTIC FROST were once considered 'white-metal' from some 'true' black metal fans because the band thanked God on album thanks list, and one member wearing a cross necklace instead of inverted cross. It's a totally relative issue, depending on how 'extreme' you would go, right? And on the other hand, they also have metal fans that are coming from Christian church scene digging their bands too, because the nature of their bands that are not anti-religion. For example, Fear Dark have a pagan metal band on their roster, but this band doesn't possess a right-wing agenda like any average pagan bands would do. These word-of-mouth from the fans at both sides of the camp would make Fear Dark's image known as 'pro-religion' or something similar. But the truth is, to me Fear Dark is more considered as a neutral-leaning label, they don't have any extreme anti-religious band, but in the other hand they also don't have any Christian band or other religious-minded band with extreme fascistic/hard-line tendency.
However, my view about religion is very different than the view in western countries, so I don't represent the views of whoever lives in European countries, and I don't want to speculate and acting like I know about what religion means for European people. I just know that it is very different. In Indonesia, religion is not an issue of faith nor tradition. It's more the constitutional issue, that means the legal and political ones. I am not an anti-religion person, but I do against religion in a political and legal context. On an interview with Aardschok magazine last year, I told them a lot about this kind of religious issue in Indonesia. Then I got some responses from some of our Dutch fans because they seemed to not fully understand what I was trying to tell and they kind of misunderstood it. Anyone might be even more confused if I tell this thing again on this interview because it's just so complicated.. So I won't talk about this anymore at the open forum.
Do you feel different from other (black) metal acts because of your religious backgrounds?
We're not a black metal band so I don't give a shit about that. Some of our black metal fans told us that they are Christians, some Satanists, many of them Muslims, but as long as they dig our music, that's great. That's the most important point for us. It is impossible if fans expect us to be the same like them, because their backgrounds are very diverse. And we are non-conformists, musical anarchists. We hate being trendy and we never try to be the same with the rest of the scene. People can love us or hate us, I don't care. If we thanked God on our album thank-list, for me that doesn't automatically mean as a religious statement. I do believe in God in a personal level although I don't consider myself to be into religion at all, from what religion is perceived by me as an Indonesian. But it is easy to remove that “God” name on the thank list, right? And then we would never be considered as a 'religious band' by you and other metal fans. But we don't want to, because we don't want to create an image for the band. What we are is already reflected in the music we play.
Ok, one last religion-question then I will leave you be about it ;). Doesn't it bother you that most of the first black metal bands are highly against Christianity and religion in general?
I think you're wrong if first black metal bands were highly against Christianity. If you refer to the 2nd wave black metal bands like those early 90's Norwegian bands, well, for me they aren't the first black metal bands. I dig the very first black metal bands a lot.. those 80's bands like VENOM, BATHORY, HELLHAMMER/CELTIC FROST, early SODOM, etc. They were our heroes when we started out a band ten years ago. By my knowledge, none of those bands were against Christianity. They only had those kind of 'satanic' image which is more like some high-school Halloween movies or parent-shocker rather than Satanism as a philosophy or ideology. And I studied the philosophy of Satanism too some years ago when I was still in a Psychology class. I've read books from Nietzsche, etc., and even those stuffs don't bother me at all with my belief in God. What bothers me a lot is when a band has a boring music but yet their CD sells a lot because of the media support. That's the most irreligious phenomenon!!
The album 'Acidity' is your fifth release already. Where you completely satisfied with the way it was produced, or do you think there is still lots of room for improvement?
To be honest, the production although it is considered to be very good for an underground band, it is still not as good as I wanted to do as the album producer. We recorded the album at my small home-studio, and I don't even use Pro-Tools and racks of expensive effect modules to record the album. The limitation of the hardware and editing capabilities of the software I used made us to accept the certain level of production as the best thing we can get. At the level of we have now, we're satisfied. But if the recording environment were better, it would be possible for us to get better outcome.
Personally I think the compositions are of very high quality, yet the production still could have lifted it to a higher level, shouldn't a high class metal act like Kekal record in a high class studio like Fredman or something?
The fact that we live in South-East Asia, far far away from Europe. It is just not possible for us to record an album at the world-class studio in Sweden, or any other place in Europe. It's far too expensive, and we don't play music full-time. We have our own day-jobs too who pay most of our bills.
All of us here were quite shocked by the images of the Tsunami disaster that struck your part of the globe. Did it have any effect on Kekal and its activities?
We live around Jakarta, about 1200 km south-east of Aceh province -the region worst struck by Tsunami. It didn't affect our daily activities.
Isn't it frustrating to be a band like Kekal in a country like Indonesia, it is not quite known for its metal scene, right?
Yes you're right, it's frustrating. And it's a serious frustration. We once thought like moving to Holland, but it's just impossible.
Are there a couple of Indonesian colleagues in metal you would like to get better known in Europe?
I think ARMAGEDDON HOLOCAUST is worth to get known in Europe. They are a really good un-trendy metal band. I was playing in this band and helping to produce the albums. But I quit earlier this year.
When can we expect another European tour like you did a couple of years ago? I heard it was quite a success!
I hope we can go to Europe again for another tour. But that depends on the record-label Fear Dark. The last year's tour was a success for us, even though there were some stupid problems happened, like the other guitarist didn't get to Europe, because his visa was not approved only two days before the departure date.
How are the side projects around Kekal like Altera Enigma? Can we expect some material from them soon?
For ALTERA ENIGMA, I have done all my parts, I just played some guitars and did the vocals. The songwriting and the rest of the instruments were done by Jason, the other guy on the project. Last time I know he was busy mixing the last couple songs. After the final mix is ready, then Jason mailed me the tracks and I got it mastered here and then send back to him. After that, nobody knows, perhaps we will press some limited edition CD independently while waiting for a label that might be interested to release the album. Let's see.
Is there anything you would like to add or say to fans in Holland?
To anyone that never heard about KEKAL or haven't got our new album, please check out our newest CD 'Acidity'. In Holland it is distributed by Displeased Records and you can order it at their online catalog:http://www.displeasedrecords.com.Or you can buy directly at the record label Fear Dark athttp://www.fear-dark.com. Don't forget to check out our websitehttp://www.kekal.cjb.net.Thank you for supporting the band throughout the years.