Thursday, February 24, 2005

KEKAL - In-depth interview #1

I publish my first "official" interview with Jeff, the guitarist/vocalist of Indonesian avantgarde metal wonder KEKAL. This is the first part. Enjoy!

Jeff of KEKAL

Nekro: What "Avantgarde Metal" means to you?

Jeff: The term "avantgarde" is a common term.. It's like "being at the front line".. In music, it is something to do with creating something new, something that has not been done by others or already becomes a trend.. Avantgarde metal is something to do with being avantgarde inside a metal music, I guess..

Nekro: What is the meaning behind the album title "Acidity", if there any?

Jeff: It is related with "urban stress" created by our urban lifestyles and the way we work everyday.. The term "Acidity" is actually a medical term, and it is a state when your stomach produces acid in an excessive level, when you are in a highly stress level (the stress level which most who live and work in a huge city like Jakarta have), your stomach tends to produce a high amount of acid, that's why you always feel hungry when you're in stress.. Also if you eat fast-food, the chemical in there can make your stomach to produce an excessive amount of acid.. So the more stress you have and doubling with the heavy consumtion of fast-food can make the acidity level to be very high, even could be deadly.. Ironically, our urban lifestyles leave no other options.. It's killing you softly.. You will face daily job-stress each day, and you only can eat at fast-food stores because you have a short lunch-time and an almost empty pocket..

Nekro: I've noticed some changes in the production of Acidity, one example the drum sound. The new album has the snare sounds louder and it is set in a higher pitch, also the kick drums lack some accentuation. Is that because you used the real drums, or because you guys decided to make exactly what it is as a part of the album concept?

Jeff: All of the drum production is intended, as a part of the whole production for the album.. You can hear the different mix in bass and guitars too, right..? If you ask me for the reason.. The main thing is because we wanted to sound more "rock" and "groovy" again.. As you know, in our previous album "1000 Thoughts of Violence" we wanted to get all those dark sounds, so I bring in the kick drums up in the mix until the level that you cannot really feel the groove of the songs.. The bass guitar mixed quite low and distorted a lot at "1000 Thoughts..." because that's the good way to get the eerie feel of the song, I had to make some hollow at the middle-low frequencies, and you can feel the sound reflects the emptiness in your heart.. But in "Acidity" we didn't want to make a whole dark album, so we changed back to the general production like our first album "Beyond The Glimpse of Dreams", while the snare drums should sound more "alive" and the bass-drums kept at the low frequency and aren't very "clicking".. And bass guitar sounds more "in-your-face" as you can hear all the basslines.. This is the ideal "rock" mix I guess, the best way for us to get the good groove..

Nekro: What's your current playlist Jeff? The albums you dig much.

Jeff: THE MARS VOLTA "De-Loused in The Comatorium" -> The best prog-rock album of this decade.. I haven't heard any album that is as magnificent as this one in the last 3 or 4 years..
TYPE O NEGATIVE "Life is Killing Me"
BJORK "Medulla"
DURAN DURAN "Astronaut"
MASSIVE ATTACK "100th Windows"

Nekro: Now switch to guitar.... You used Floyd Rose or up-down bridge system for your guitars, how do you feel about playing with that kind of bridge? Do you think it is necessary for your type of guitar playing?

Jeff: I started to play electric guitar in 1989, before I had my own guitar I tried some guitars at the rehearsal studio, from Strat, Telecaster, some Gibson's, but I never thought they were cool enough until I found a "metal" guitar with double humbuckers and Floyd Rose system on it.. I thought just "Wow, it looks great, it looks real metal".. I couldn't play guitar in 1989 so my impression was entirely based on the look rather than sound, you know.. When I got a chance to get my own guitar couple years later, I chose the one with humbucker pickups and Floyd Rose bridge.. And then I developed my playing from that guitar.. I don't think Floyd Rose system is good enough to maintain the tuning.. If you use it too much, like playing some evil screamin' metal solos, you will need to tune your strings again.. It's not very recommended for live shows unless you bring more than 1 guitar and have your own guitar technician..

Nekro: Jeff, I think your solo is very unique, it has a character, it is hard for me to expect all the notes and melody lines you choose. I know you never took guitar courses and you said you can't even read music and guitar tabs. How do you learn to play guitars?

Jeff: Thanks.. The way I teach myself to play guitar is not based on guitar techniques and scales.. I hate reading tablatures and I don't know about "this scale" or "that scale", so I just play something that sounds cool to my ears.. Some people said that I have more freedom to play because I don't need to re-evaluate my playing in a theoretical sense.. Maybe they're right.. Like I remember you said a while ago, that the spirit of progressive music is freedom, and not a theoretical knowledge.. KEKAL is a street-progressive kind of band, we took our energy from the punk movement or early metal bands who were influenced directly from punk.. We play metal, but aestetically we are closer to bands like SONIC YOUTH or THE MARS VOLTA than bands like DREAM THEATER..

Nekro: Yea you freakin right! The true spirit of progressive music is freedom, not a theoretical knowledge!! To me, Dream Theater is not progressive metal. It's a "metal clinic".

Jeff: Yes.. It is a musical anarchy that triggers a band to experiment.. Anarchy comes from punk movement and punk music in general..

Nekro: Still talking about guitar, who do you think you are inspired by, and why?

Jeff: I think Alex Lifeson, Eddie Van Halen, The Edge, Robert Fripp, Gary Moore, some Syd Barrett, some Thurston Moore.. And also some metal guitarists like the late Criss Oliva of SAVATAGE and Piggy of VOIVOD.. I don't know why, just like them very much.. haha.. And now I admire the playing of Omar Rodriguez from THE MARS VOLTA..

Nekro: What is the best guitarist for you? (not who but what)

Jeff: For me the best guitarist is someone who can successfully translate all his/her feelings and mood into his/her guitar playing.. Everyone can play fast if he practice a lot.. Everyone can play many complex scales if he knows much about theories..

Nekro: You use laptop computer on-stage. What is your opinion of laptop-music in general? (I am writing an article about well-known noisician MERZBOW changed his direction and use only laptop computers on-stage nowadays. Read my article about MERZBOW here ). Do you think laptop computer helps you to re-create all the elements you need live (by playbacking all the samples and beats) or it lacks some live interaction between performer and audience, as live-concert means you need to perform entirely live to get some "live feel"?

Jeff: Very good question! I am not against the use of computers onstage.. But that's true if you said that in order to get the "live feel", you should perform entirely live.. In case of KEKAL, we had no choice, we just have no time to rehearse together with 3 additional musicians who can handle drums, synthesizers, and samples for our shows.. Not only the time for rehearsal, it is not easy to look for the right persons.. As a band, KEKAL is not considered "big" enough to ask (and to pay) professional musicians to play with us in our shows.. Basically, we use computer because there are no other choice at this moment..

click here to continue on the 2nd part


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