Friday, May 27, 2011

[event] KittyWu & Macbeth present Envy (JP) w/ Amateur Takes Control // 18th June 2011 @ The Substation

For the last 19 years, ENVY have been creating the most intense fusion of emotive ballads with ferocious teeth gritting screaming hardcore. They have created their own sound with their speedy guitars, loud pounding bombastic drums, pummeling fretless bass lines, and heavy emotive vocals of Tetsu Fukagawa. 6 full lengths, numerous EPs and Split Singles later, they've earned the praise and admiration from the likes of Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai) and Steve Aoki (Dim Mak). leading to highly acclaimed releases on Rock Action Records, Dim Mak and Temporary Residence. Their live show is a fucking tornado leaving people crying in the crowd out of pure emotional intensity.

This is a small show so tickets are limited and you don't want to be the last one outside crying your heart out.

Tickets released for sale 1 June Wednesday. Limited advanced tickets will be available.
Ticketing outlet details to follow soon.

KittyWu & Macbeth present:

w/ Amateur Takes Control
The Substation Guinness Theatre
18 June Saturday

Advance Tickets: S$57
Tickets at the door: S$70

Supported by
The Rockstar Collective
The Substation


Since 1992, Envy has become a dominant band in the independent hardcore scene in Japan. Their music, through their own evolution, encompasses a sound where intensity and beauty coexists. They have recorded a number of singles and albums in Japan, including split albums with bands like This Machine Kills, Endeavor, Six Pence and Yaphet Kotto. Since their beginning, Envy has toured all throughout Japan with Mogwai, Isis and many more. They have labored and toured their songs relentlessly for over a decade, and will continue to do so well into the next decade.

Envy has just been added to this year's Fuji Rock Festival.

A solo project by guitarist Adel Rashid, Amateur Takes Control (ATC) has evolved to its present 5 person line-up, creating music which is undeniably diverse in style and influence, yet still manages to showcase a seamlessness that justifies their identity as a group.

Known for their intense onstage performances and dedication to their craft, they have a passion about the music they’re creating – schizophrenetic, achingly emotive and a full throttle forward.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

[event] Anatomically // Self-Destruct vol. 3 w/ RAIVORAITTIUS // 5th June 2011 @ Chapter Six Studios

Come join us as raw xvx Finnish hardcore-punk RAIVORAITTIUS land on our shores -- after 3 weeks in Indonesia, no less -- this 5th June! Imagine BLACK FLAG on speed (well, sxe speed, that is) with a dose of Finnish legends TERVEET KADET, RATTUS, and KAAOS!

Supporting these boys are:

ELEGY FOR EULISZA (metallic hardcore)
SJANSE (screamo)
VAARALLINEN* (Scandi hardcore)

*debut show!

Doors open at 5pm, and tickets are $6 apiece.

See you there!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

[event] Relentless (AU) and Abhorrence (SK) live in Singapore // 4th June 2011 @ Home Club

Venue: Home Club
Tickets: $20*

Brought to you by ECHO Productions.

*Show your ticket stub at CRUEL HAND LIVE IN SINGAPORE on 7th June to get $10 off!

[event] No Frills Tuesday // 31st May 2011 @ Night and Day bar + gallery + friends

Entry is free - donations welcome.


Zai Tang
Jax Deluca
Mark Wenwei Wong
Lee Wen

No frills no budget no mega plans
no sell no hell no promise no lies
no bull no rules
just play
just want to do it,
No frills Tuesday

We've been wanting to play and listen
for a good time
we can have a good time.

Acoustic guitar, electric guitars, euphonium, harmonica, saxophone, turntables, voice;
microphone, speakers, amplifiers, mixer, and other no frills objects!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

[scene report] Shock&Awe! Tour to Sabah

On one March weekend, the Shock&Awe! team made their virgin trip to Ranau, Keningau, and Kota Kinabalu for a short tour. As Borneo is generally an oft-overlooked region by SE Asian bands and international bands alike, this Sabah scene report is a breath of fresh air. Now think about what the other regions in Borneo could be like! Touted by Shock&Awe! as a "best-kept secret" of sorts, this could no longer be the case as more and more bands (and punks!) head there in the near future.


On the weekend of 18th – 20th March 2011, the Shock&Awe! family made a visit to Sabah. It has always been our desire to meet up with the kids there even before the Shock&Awe! project commenced, as we have heard great stories from those who have been there. The tour was actually planned one midnight while dipping in a hot spring near Kampung Batu after a gig at Seventh Heaven, Tampin. It was rather unfortunate that a few bands could not make it -- one of CRIMESCENE's member was a part of those who were present while the informal discussion started.


A date was decided and we made the plans. As some of you might have heard, there was a problem with communication and yes, it turned out to be a rip off, that caused SARJAN HASSAN -- the initial band that we were supposed to be the supporting act to -- to not be there. Three shows were planned at Keningau, Ranau and Kota Kinabalu and it happened successfully. We hate to state the obvious, but the kids in Sabah are receptive of different genres of music and are open to visits from bands from anywhere in the world.


We are not going to go into details but we would like to share a few observations that we made from the tour. Firstly, the quality of the bands in Sabah is above average (read: good!); it is a good self-check for the bands in the Peninsular to check what Sabah has to offer and tighten up their own acts. Practice before you appear on any stage in Sabah! Secondly, the local bands in Sabah are close to their local politics and surroundings, most of them aware of what is happening in their locality and this is apparent from the lyrical contents of the bands there -- something that a lot of Malaya band cannot claim! Thirdly, diversity is all around in Sabah, and is embraced whole-heartedly by the kids there: the countless and almost futile-to-keep-track race and ethnicity, the various sorts of music genres and a wide array of local brews -- all under one roof, in one close-knit community (Ok, a little exaggeration, but better than what KL has). Whether you drink or you don't, whether you dig reggae or not, everyone embraces diversity, providing us with a glimpse of what a Discrimination Free (yes, there is even a band there by that name!) world would look like.


One conclusion that we could make was, as much as we like to keep Sabah as our best-kept secret, that is the place that touring bands should start heading to. While people are busy making plans to tour to Singapore and Indonesia, it is their loss if they fail to consider Sabah as one of the must-visits and must-haves in their tour schedule.


Can’t read text without pikturrreesss? Some pictures here:

That darn time-sucking bloody thing called Facebook (you gotta be friends with certain people though).

Also at: Quick Reverb


1) Do check out Omega Shop in Ranau if you are in Sabah! Run by our close brother, Rizo. Taking DIY to the next level.

2) Anybody can help with the video editing? Our labor department is over-stretched at the moment.

Pic credits to : Rikki Segantang, Freewheelin Man, Mel Mohd, Jan Omar and Brandon QuickReverb. Merci beaucoup!


* lightning speed
** resolution

Monday, May 23, 2011

[event] Rooted In The Ephemeral Speak #03-2011 // 23rd June 2011 @ The Substation

23 June 2011
7.30 pm to late
The Substation, Theatre
45 Armenian Street, Singapore 179936

1. Emmanuelle Waeckerlé (U.K.)

2. Jeremy Hiah (SG)

3. Shannon Cochrane (CA)

4. Wunderspaze (SG)


1. Emmanuelle Waeckerlé (U.K.)

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé was born in Morocco, lives between London and St Yrieix la Perche in France. Her work straddles across various disciplines including performance art, photography, storytelling and Book art, While anchored in explorations on language, identity and displacement, recurring themes such as the relationship between body and identity and the limitations of translation were seen as poetics of survival and resistance.

Through her continuing commitment to both education and practice based research she tries to foster new enquiry across and between Photography, Performance art and Book art, developing collaborative projects and communities both at local and international levels, in academic and non academic contexts.

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé is a reader in Photography and relational practices at University for the Creative Art in Farnham UK, and co-founder / co-director of bookRoom research cluster. She helped set up bookRoom press.

The art of letting go (on the edges of language)

To a greater or lesser extent, everyone depends on stories to discover the manifold truth of life. Only such stories, read sometimes in a trance, have the power to confront a person with his fate. This is why we must keep passionately striving after what constitutes a story.

George Bataille. Blue of Noon appendix: The author’s foreword (1957)

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé will conduct “Jungle Fever (wish you were here)”, a workshop on 22 June as a prelude to the presentation of “The art of letting go (on the edges of language)” on 23 June. Participants (max.25) who respond to “Jungle Fever”, will be taken on a tour with Emmanuelle Waeckerlé as tour guide.

“Jungle Fever (wish you were here)”, will be conducted as a workshop on 22 June in the dance studio of the Substation. For the past 5 years she has been developing a series of workshops “Body thought Body talk” - a collaborative construction of personal meaning using simple performance exercises to explore one’s body (as opposed to one’s mind) as both a tool and the object/subject of observation. Emmanuelle’s process set out to liberate the participants by demanding stretches on preconceived habits of consciousness between de-learning the past habits and renewal of inter-personal interactions and thinking behaviors, by working on the body through the performances in “Jungle Fever”.

“The art of letting go (on the edges of language)” (23 June)

Emmanuelle Waeckerlé sets out to link the workshop processes of “Body thought Body talk” conducted on the day before in “Jungle Fever” by using VINST, developed in collaboraton with software artist, Sebastian Lexer first presented in 2005. VINST is a unique vocal instrument, part human part virtual - a body without organs - responding to touch but also to mood and sensibility. It is an exercise in verbal procreation and story telling, weaving together personal, conceptual and whimsical concepts that might have led Emmanuelle Waeckerlé to become a vocal instrument for all to play {with) and a tourist guide for authentic travel and beyond. The sounds are pre- or non- linguistic, and are based on how the body reacts to touch and how it produces sound. Emmanuelle Waeckerlé personally derive as much pleasure playing (with) her virtual self as well as from watching others doing so.

Estimated Duration: approx: 45mins

2. Jeremy Hiah (SG)

Born in 1972, Jeremy Hiah began his involvement in the arts since 1993. His works mostly deal with social questions, based on his personal experiences and background. As a practicing artist Hiah widely explored different art media and materials in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and collaborations with different artists in different fields. Hiah has presented his works in various countries including Germany, Italy, Austria for UNSECO Artists In Residency Vienna, Hong Kong Art Center, Vietnam Contemporary Art Center Indonesia Australia, South Korea Thailand and China for exhibition festival and artists in residency. He is also an active organizer and member of The Artists Village and Sculpture Society Singapore. Former 2001 Vice President of The Artist Village and 2005 Vice President of Sculpture Society and doing art workshop in Secondary, Junior College and Polytechnic schools. He established and ran Your MOTHER Gallery, an alternative living room art space since 2004. Hiah is the artistic director for Fetter-Field Performance Art Event 2006, 2007 and 2009.

The White Crocodile

The work that I intend to make for this project is the myth of the white crocodile. Bendemeer Road is where the two rivers Kallang River and Whampoa River meet. This white crocodile myth comes from the canal Whampoa River and Kallang River. The neighborhood use to say that there is a white crocodile living in this River and believes to be the guidance of this river and had protected the people of this area. Whoever sees it will have good luck and number some time appears on the body of the crocodile and one see it will strike lottery. I have been living in this area for the pass 27 years and River was my playground during my childhood time. I believe this white crocodile has protected my friend and me. This white crocodile is a mystery to us, as I have not seen it. The myth said that it would only appear if there were some good events coming into our neighborhood. This white crocodile is like a deity according to some of our old folks.

Estimated Duration: approx: 30mins

3. Shannon Cochrane

Shannon Cochrane's performance works have been presented across Canada in Toronto, Montréal, Halifax and Vancouver and internationally in China,Chilé, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Scotland, Sweden, Switzerland and the US. Shannon is a co-founder and co-curator/organizer of the 7a*11 International Festival of Performance Art ( and is the current Artistic and Administrative Director of FADO Performance Art Centre (

Performance for Prepared Invisible Table

My performance work engages directly with audience, strategically with humour, and methodically with material to create situations and images that are concerned with the formal presentation of action, the possibilities of social interaction, and the investigation of authorship, repertoire, the archive and the practice of performance art itself. Performance for Prepared Invisible Table is an action collage using some everyday materials and some not-so-everyday materials to create images that appear and disappear in the exact same moment.

Estimated duration: approx.: 30mins.

4. Wunderspaze (SG)

Wunderspaze is the contemporary art initiative first established in January 2006 in Singapore. As a modest collective, Wunderspaze has been operating independently without receipt of government or other institutional funding. It aims to be a venue of exchange for emerging local, Southeast Asian and other artists and curators interested in the development and discourse of contemporary art in Southeast Asia. It intends to make its work through regional networking, research, documentation and presentation of works, ideas and strategies by such young artists and curators that is has contact with. Aside from artistic development within contemporary visual art and associated practices, the concurrent direction is to examine and develop curatorial approaches, models and methodologies. Wunderspaze is represented by Khairuddin Hori and Zaki Razak.

White Market

Founded in 2006 in Singapore, Wunderspaze is a loose collective of artists and artworkers interested in the research and presentation of art. Amongst its interests is the profiling of artists and artworks belonging to minority groups. This time, Wunderspaze activates a community of Malay-Singaporean artworkers for a performance called “White Market”. “White Market” is an assembly of improvised rituals and actions, juxtaposed in the given space and time, taking off from the notion of collective and analogous actions that is often associated with organised assemblies and cults.

Estimated Duration: approx: 45mins

[event] Pink Dot 2011 // 18th June 2011 @ Hong Lim Park

Everyone should have the freedom to love, regardless of sexual orientation. But fear, ignorance and prejudice often stand in the way. At Pink Dot, we believe the first step to overcoming these barriers is for open-minded segments of society to come together.

If you too feel that LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) people deserve to express their love just like any other Singaporean, please join us, and bring along your friends and family, at Hong Lim Park on 18 June 2011.

Official event starts at 5pm, but do come early for a picnic and catch up with friends.

Pink Dot's blog

Pink Dot 2011 Campaign Video

[event] Playfreely IV // 28th May 2011 @ Black Box, Goodman Arts Centre

When you start to play off the top of your head, that's when the truth is really known about people. - Steve Howe

A 6 part series of spontaneous, inventive musical collaboration between musicians from diverse musical backgrounds and genres. Venturing into unfamiliar artistic terrains, Playfreely engages various groups in a collaborative exchange to improvise without any boundaries, to release the shapes that are latent in that unique moment of time... to play freely.

Dominic Wan – acoustic guitar, woodwind
Ty Constant (Ang Mo Faux) – percussion
Tim O’Dwyer (Tim O’Dwyer Trio) – saxophone
Eli (The Psalms) - voice
Susanne Wurmnest – viola, saw
Joyce Teo (BronzAge Gamelan Ensemble) – assorted gamelan instruments

Part IV will be purely acoustic, without any amplification.

Presented by The Observatory in partnership with Ujikaji Records.

Contact The Observatory at

Entry by donation (minimum $10).

Interviews, features and more on Playfreely at:

Sunday, May 22, 2011

[interview] INJAKMATI (grindcore from Jakarta, Indonesia)

Originally published in issue #11 of Ploppy Pants, this interview is with Dolly, guitarist and mastermind behind the Indonesian crust/grind outfit INJAKMATI. Scottish fast-hardcore band ATOMGEVITTER (whom Roddy, the interviewer is a part of) will be touring with them in July through Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia so it seems like a good time to republish their chat from late 2009 - enjoy!

Dolly, my brother how are ya? How is the Indonesian summer? We’re freezing our asses off over here right now!! So let's start with introductions, who are INJAKMATI, when did you start, who plays what and what does the band name mean in English?

Dolly: Hey Roddy my blood brother! ciamar a tha thu?! How's BLACK SISTER and ATOMGEVITTER doing? I'm good. Summer has just begun here so get ready to feel the most extreme heat as hell! INJAKMATI started in the middle of the 2000's by me on guitar and insults, Benny(vox), Gamebell (bass), and Ade (drums). Today the line-up is me/Dolly Patchaos (guitar + insults), Adit Riot (bass) and Ranggaukkus (drums).When the time most people read this we will have a new singer. The band's name means step/tread you till death. It is supposed to have a space in between the name: Injak Mati, but that doesn't look cool hehe...
Injakmati is based out of Jakarta, Indonesia so tell us a little about the scene over there, How did you guys come to be exposed to punk in the first place? How and when did the Indonesian scene develop?

Dolly: The scene here existed in the early 90's. At that time only a few local bands were playing but there were a lot of squats and kids who were into punk and hardcore. The scene is getting bigger everyday, especially when we become more connected to other punks around the world via the internet (MySpace?). We can get more info about punk activities and bands, so the communication is stronger. All of these things are easier compared to a few years ago, and the good news is that there have been many good responses about Indonesian punk.

What does it mean to be a punk in Indonesia, do you get a lot of trouble from ‘normal’ people on the street? Does playing in the band help you guys deal with your daily lives over there?

Dolly: I think every one has their own opinion on why they decided to be a punk, but for me punk is a place where I can get more freedom, happiness, love, peace and comradeship/brotherhood; that has all contributed to my attraction to punk. All the shit things I see in this shitty world -- war, lies, repression and greed, I don't want any of it. So it is through the band where I feel I can spread and scream our anger and peace message to the world and hope to make a change. I know it's hard work but at least we can contribute a little. Most people who don't understand yet about what punk is about might think and see that punx are just a bunch of scumbags. That is such a big mistake when they only judge a book by its cover. So I think as long as we maintain our attitude without harming anyone else we will never get any trouble because that was never what we wanted.

You describe yourselves as old grind/fast punk bulldozers and I would definitely agree that you manage to create a pretty raw assault that sounds like a bulldozer crushing your house but what does this slogan mean to you, who were the bands that you had in mind when you started the band, were you aiming for a certain sound or did it all happen organically?

Dolly: Well I used this slogan after I heard the result of our first recording in 2009. Old grind/punk fathers and some freaky bands I have in mind like NAPALM DEATH, TERRORIZER, HERESY, ASSUCK, PHOBIA, CRIPPLE BASTARDS, GRIDE, UNHOLY GRAVE, AGATHOCLES, FIGHTING COUGARS, DISRUPT, MINDFLAIR, etc has really influenced me to get on a ride on an old bulldozer with full speed and then crushing/destroying all the shit things in sight, while keeping the DIY punk flag flying high! The music created at the time simply flowed with our minimalist skills and instruments.

The lyrics of INJAKMATI cover typical punk topics like war and the DIY scene but the lyrics to the song Disgrace where you seem to be attacking students really stood out for me. Could you please explain what this song is about? Are there any issues in particular that you feel strongly should be represented in your lyrics?

Dolly: Disgrace is a portrait of some stupid Indonesian students' behaviour who engage in a kind of barbaric entertainment on the street or at their school/college. You can see it almost everyday! They fight each other for irrational reasons. This is ridiculous to me! I don't discredit them but I just don't understand why the so-called intelligent people like them act like they have no brains. And ironically when some of them go into power after they have graduated, they use that power to fool other people. They only think for themselves as a result of their greed and never gives a fuck about the poor who is supposed to be supported by them. This is so sad! Education in here is so expensive and so fucked up! My only message of this song is: please stop this madness!

Your first release was a split 7” with BLACK SISTER and I know you have a few other releases lined up. Is this an important part of the band for you guys, to be able to release a lot of different records in different countries? Have you had any feedback on your releases so far?

Dolly: This is exactly what we wanted as a DIY underground band! By sharing records it can be help us connect with other DIY bands/punks around the world. Creating communication and doing a trade which can definitely result in a beautiful friendship! That is what I'm feeling. And yeah, so many trade and split requests coming to us since our 1st release with our metalhead brothers!
INJAKMATI has only just played your first live show and as I understand it ended in a drunken riot. Why did it take you so long to play a live show and what was the trouble that night? Is this kind of chaos typical at shows in Indonesia?

Dolly: I think this can happen at gigs anytime, anywhere. Actually, riots at shows almost never happens here. We were just the lucky bastards who got thrown a boot from that fucking drunken master when we played that night, haha... Line-up changes and other activities outside the band such as earning money to take care of our arses and family have make us progress slowly so we have to look for the right time to play shows.

And speaking of live shows a lot of DIY bands from Europe and the USA seem to be touring Southeast Asia these days. What has been the reaction to this within the Indonesian scene, are folk happy to see these foreign acts coming over?

Dolly: Yeah, touring bands from abroad has always gotten a good welcome from the kids here and we have really enjoyed the shows!

Ok, this one is for you Dolly. We first made contact through your patch-making business and I think this possibility for 2 people from opposite sides of the world to build a relationship is one of the best aspects of the DIY underground. What do think, have you had a lot of positive experiences through your patch business?

Dolly: I get a lot of positive experiences through this which I don't only consider as a business but also a true friendship. This is also the way for me to know/meet other people from other parts of the world and create a brotherhood. This is amazing and beautiful for me! I remember the first time you contacted me when you were in FIGHTING COUGARS and played a show with AVSKUM; you got a patch from them with my DIY handwriting on the back. It's been a long time ago! From patches to our split 7” to this interview! Wow! We've had a fantastic relationship until now! And finally to be meeting you face to face in 2011!!

There seems to be a hell of a lot of bands in Indonesia right now (I certainly get enough messages coming to the Problem? Records MySpace looking for a record deal!) but the quality of a lot of these bands is not exactly the best... which bands should we be looking out for from Indonesia right now? Which bands are setting your stereos on fire?

Dolly: Yeah, lots of new bands are born almost everyday here! Some of them are really dead serious to play! This sounds stupid because I don't know which bands I should recommend since we have different tastes. My tape and CD player has been broken for a long time already so I am unable to play a lot of records these days. I also don't really have the time to check out bands properly. Sorry!

As you guys know, in Ploppy Pants zine we want to hear your stories of pant shitting disasters so please, I hope the INJAKMATI boys will not disappoint!!

Dolly: Hahaha! This one I like! I'm happy to get my turn to tell my own. Well, I had diarrhoea a few years ago. On the last few days when I was feeling better, I ran to the toilet but I didn't make it fast enough to get my underwear down so the shit came out faster than when I saw it! I was really happy! You know why? My shit was normal again. :)

Ok guys that’s it, thanks for answering my questions and please take this space to add whatever you like!!

Dolly: I thank you so much for doing this interview with us. I hope you understand my English. I also wanna thank you for all your kindness, help and support to me and INJAKMATI since the beginning. You are my DIY hero, Roddy! I've learnt so much from you about true friendship, DIY, English and whatever else that I can't say here. Thanks to the people who read this! Please get in touch for INJAKMATI merch, trades, split requests, friendship, insults or to get some patches done or T-shirt printing from me, Just write for my DIY price list! Friendship gu brath!


Check out INJAKMATI at or email

Dolly can be contacted at or at

Interview conducted by Roddy of Ploppy Pants zine/ATOMGEVITTER, who will be touring Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore this July with FAMILY MAN (German old-school hardcore), INJAKMATI, and MICHAEL CRAFTER (Sydney posiviolence). Tour brought to you by the good people at Revulsion Records and 7x0x7 -- keep your eyes peeled for more info out soon!

ATOMGEVITTER news can also be seen at

Saturday, May 21, 2011

[event] Imprints // 22nd May 2011 @ WELL Centre, Dairy Farm Nature Park

Imprints: a green gathering with short videos, discussion, and walking in the Wallace trail.

Underneath The Radar presents a medley of short videos specially curated for Manicured Nature, a rumination on the impact we have environmentally and sharing thoughts on the possibilities ahead. Do join us as we examine toxic colonization, farms in buildings, water woes, superhero mushrooms, sharing cells with trees, and a seed monster, while we ponder how to tread lightly forward. Completing the session wandering in the Wallace trail.

*Please come in comfortable attire and suitable footwear for trail walking.

22nd May 2011
3.30pm - 6pm
WELL Centre
Dairy Farm Nature Park
100 Dairy Farm Road

Please do get in touch at to confirm attendance because of space constraints.

Entry is free but donations greatly greatly welcome to cover costs.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 9, 2011

[event] Playfreely III // 13th May 2011 @ Black Box, Goodman Arts Centre


13 May 2011
Black Box, Goodman Arts Centre
90 Goodman Road

When you start to play off the top of your head, that's when the truth is really known about people. - Steve Howe

A 6-part series of spontaneous, inventive musical collaboration between musicians from diverse musical backgrounds and genres. Venturing into unfamiliar artistic terrains, Playfreely engages various groups in a collaborative exchange to improvise without any boundaries, to release the shapes that are latent in that unique moment of time... to play freely.

Atwell Jansen (Heritage) – violin
Ustad Sharafat Khan – sitar
Wil Kolen (Blindspot, Brin) – guitar
Rex Lee – theremin
Aya Sekine – keyboards, moog and shruti box
Jase Sng (Kimchi and the Laksas) – electric bass and upright bass
Cheryl Ong (A Bigger Bang. The Percussion Assembly) – traditional Chinese percussion

Entry by donation (minimum $10)

Presented by The Observatory in partnership with Ujikaji Records.
Contact The Observatory at for more info.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

[interview] Picking It Apart: w/ Playfreely I participants Mish'aal and Isyraf (The Psalms), Az and Phid (Stellarium)

Cross talk. From left: Horacio Pollard, Mish’aal, Reggie Perera, Darren Moore and Phid / Photo by The Observatory

"Play Freely" means exactly like it is. Pretensions cast aside, the six-part series organised by The Observatory sees a convergence of musicians from diverse backgrounds bringing in their own unique elements to the mix. With the first instalment held just two weeks ago on April 15, instruments as atypical as the stick, veena, and didgeridoo were matched with more “conventional” offerings of guitar, bass and drum – pushing all involved out of their comfort zones. The result: an improvisational cacophony that was split into four separate sets, each delivering something distinct, yet feral and discordant. Therefore, it would seem apt to speak with some of the musicians involved that night, to get a sense of their perspectives and perhaps, to make a tentative grasp of what unfolded before us in the audience.

First things first, introduce yourselves.

Mish’aal: Mish’aal, bass player from The Psalms.

Phid: My name is Firdhaus, a.k.a. Fid or Phid, whichever. I’m one of the two guitarists for Stellarium.

Az: Az Kadir, I, Noiseferatu, 32, male, outer rims of Orion’s Belt.

Isyraf: Isyraf and I play drums for The Psalms.

Reflecting prior to Playfreely, how did you feel about getting invited to be a part of it? What role does improvisation play in your usual band practices/arrangements?

Isyraf: When Mish’aal told me I was going to be playing with a bunch of musicians I’d never seen or heard of prior, I got all juiced up. Add a veena player into the mix, and immediately I knew that the entire event was going to be interesting and fun; a real eye-opener. In The Psalms, we rarely improvise due to lack of time. Usually one has a song or riff in mind before practice.

Phid: I think me being in Stellarium got me invited to Playfreely. I had mixed feelings, both honored and unsure – mostly honored to be in the mix with talented musicians. Improvisation usually takes place during live shows for Stellarium, making noises and guitar feedback which I did during some parts of my set.

Mish’aal: Initially, I was pretty excited when The Psalms got invited for Playfreely thinking that we’d be collaborating with other musicians as a band. Later, I found out that the band members would be separated, which I was fine about at first, but the closer the event loomed the more nervous I became. It didn’t help when the first thing I saw when I walked into the Black Box were Andy’s effect pedals which I thought was on an epic scale. Regarding the role of improvisation within the band, I’d say it’s pretty much on a “safe” level where we’d come in with a song or basic structure ready, which we’d try out before making any changes. The entire band has an input on everyone’s parts, thus improvisation is kept at a minimal since we’re helping one another out.

Az: It was great in a sense that the people behind Playfreely made it such a fun thing to explore. It’s different than say, being invited just to session or play something as is; this is definitely well thought of and considered and planned. In Stellarium, we don’t require much improvisation really, it’s always diagrams and structures and sounds in my head prior.

Did you “cheat”? Did you do anything to prepare for your part(s) during the set? If so, what?

Az: Yes, some honey, and I took a rocket-ship first to my home planet near Orion’s belt.

Isyraf: No. Basically whatever that comes to mind will automatically go into my drumming. All the preparation I had was to keep telling myself to maintain eye contact with the other musicians, and also to really dig in and listen.

Mish’aal: Didn’t have the chance to cheat or come out with parts before the set. Sorry.

Phid: Nah! There’s no way one can cheat or prepare for such events. That will only backfire.

Starburst: Az (left) and Isyraf / Photo by Andy Yang

What kind of feelings did you experience during your set(s)? What did you find coming out? Were there riffs or chord patterns that you were familiar with? Did interacting with the other musicians push you to places you hadn’t been before?

Phid: Mine was the first set, with Darren Moore, Mish’aal, Reggie and Horacio [Pollard]. So it was pretty awkward for us I guess. No one knew when to start and what to expect. Not sure if they had eye contact but not me. I just looked down and did my thing using what I heard as a guide. I’m not a very good guitarist so I mostly did familiar things which I’m used to with Stellarium while accommodating to the other musicians.

Az: I felt a clash of elements, it was like an amalgamation of chaos, bliss, harmony and conflict. What came out was a kaleidoscope of thoughts and uncertainties, as well as aggression and reluctance. Also a tinge of frustration, maybe ‘cos some of us failed to gel while some did; and when given room but not having the opportunity to, I found that I had to take the lead, which I think was the main brunt of this element of tension coming about. I kind of enjoy playing and exploring different areas musically with other musicians, regardless of the outcome. It’s good for growth of abilities and also widens the perspective.

Mish’aal: During the first session I was in my comfort zone – I was basically playing droning riffs which I was used to without really pushing myself. I was worried that if I tried to do something different, I would spoil the set, especially when I didn’t know the other musicians at all (except Fid whom I went to secondary school with and finally got to see/play with him after all these years!). However, the last session really threw me outside of that aforementioned comfort zone, as there was no sense of common rhythm that I could fall back to. Plus there was no communication between the four of us which then required full concentration.

Isyraf: It was awesome! I wanted Arun to kick off the set and he really did. I didn’t even tell him what I had in mind! That was really weird. When everyone came in after he gave count, that was it. I can’t tell you how much fun it was. Everything sounded great from where I was. We were playing as a unit, we weren’t playing individually. I could hear the guitarist (Az) pulling his sound back a bit to give way to the veena player (Arun) and also vice versa. I tried my best not to overplay but then again I don’t even know how to overplay. I love beats that are plain and simple. Anders and Az made the whole thing sound sick and twisted. It was suh-weet! It felt like I was in an asylum but in a good way. Then again, I’ve never been to an asylum before… hahaha. Plus I totally lost track of time. The melodies which came from the veena really got me hooked. Arun was like the pied piper slowly reeling me in.

Search & destroy: Isyraf (left) and Anders Hana (MoHa!) / Photo by Andy Yang

How was it collaborating with the other musicians during your set? What did you think of them?

Mish’aal: Collaborating with the others was pretty awesome, especially knowing who they are (I’m not a groupie but I’m usually in awe of musicians or performers with talent). I thought each and everyone of them came in with their own definition of “play freely” and applied it during their sessions, which was rather varied.

Isyraf: I don’t know any of the musicians personally except for Mish’aal but I’m more than willing to work with them in the future. I’m really curious about their thought processes when it comes to music.

Phid: From where I was, I couldn’t hear what Horacio and Reggie was playing but a friend watching said our set was really good. Darren Moore was great on drums and Mish’aal was spot on at getting the groove going. There was a lot of respect amongst us. I felt a great sense of accomplishment after our set. It felt great.

Az: It’s always great to collaborate with people, albeit the negative results. It’s a matter of luck, chance and chemistry, despite existing talent and skill. I think everyone had their own contribution from whatever musical backgrounds they came from.

What did you think of the other sets? Of the entire event in general?

Mish’aal: I really enjoyed the whole event, it was fun watching individuals who had never played with each other prior get thrown together. I really liked how the veena player blended in nicely with the drums during the second session. Also, the event allows musicians to interact with those whom they may not have a chance to in regular circumstances.

Phid: I loved the sets featuring Mr Arun Kumar on the veena. I was sure he was nervous based on his body language during the briefing by Dharma before the show. But he kept his cool and played like a true master. Andy’s “stick” was very interesting – I didn’t know of its existence till that day. The event itself was well-planned, and the turnout was good. I applaud the idea and I’d love to witness the next one. I personally wish to see more exotic instruments at future shows.

Az: I think some of the sets were better and had more tandem chemistry, but I also thought that it was leaning too much in one particular area. I think it’s best to try and step beyond yourself and connect, and not stay within one’s own boundaries.

Isyraf: In general, the entire event was very memorable. I miss it already. Loads and loads of thanks to Dharma and the rest of The Obs for giving me an opportunity to be a part of the event. I really appreciate it.

Phid slinging it low / Photo by Andy Yang

How much of a challenge was this for you considering how you are not “improv” musicians in the specific sense of the word?

Az: Everyone does some “improv” unconsciously, when they are tuning up their strings or noodling at home, composing, etc. I guess as a songwriter I’m inclined to improvise? Yeah.

Mish’aal: I think most of the Psalms would know that I pretty much suck at improvising, as I’m very bothered by criticism or what people might think. Therefore I hardly step out of my comfort zone and venture new styles. So participating in something like this without knowing at all what to expect was something really nerve-wrecking for me.

Isyraf: I didn’t take it as a challenge in the first place. This may sound cheesy but it was more like self-exploration for me. I wanted to know if I could gel with players coming from different musical backgrounds. I seriously have no idea when I’ll “graduate” but I’m still learning and exploring. The best way is to just keep playing/reading/listening and learning from other players.

Phid: Yes, I’m not really an “improv” musician per se. I tried to make some improvisations at times during my set but I was more focused on blending with the other sounds. The challenge really was to get out of my comfort zone, play the guitar unconventionally, but what IS the conventional way?
Can one make mistakes in an improv set? If so, what constitutes a mistake in such a performance and did you find yourself making mistakes? If there are no such thing as mistakes, why not?

Phid: Yes definitely. When one gets carried away trying to outshine the others instead of working together. I can’t tell but I really hope I didn’t make that mistake. Which reminds me of what Dharma said when he noticed that I was nervous: “there are no mistakes; there are only good and bad choices.”

Mish’aal: I don’t think you can say mistakes happen in an improv set, because I think when you are improvising the lack of a template or structure allows you to basically play off of other musicians, against the backdrop of what they are playing.

Az: Well, I don’t think there are mistakes in the avant-garde doctrines, but as far as me – being purely a musician – yes of course. I can’t say much about this as I’m not schooled well enough in its concepts and frameworks; I’m from a place much more primal than that. In the end, does it matter whether what a heart and soul expresses is a mistake? I think not.

Isyraf: I don’t think one can make any mistakes during an improv session. Music has this weird way whereby everything will just fit in nicely. You just have to follow the flow.
This one is for Mish’aal only. Elaborate on how the two sets you played in juxtaposed against each other. How were they different?

Mish’aal: The first set was pretty straightforward. It was something I was very comfortable with, compared to the second one which literally had me going through a whirlwind of emotions just trying to anticipate what was coming. During the first session there were a lot of points where the each musician kept the structure consistent.I usually play through drummers but for session two, there was no common rhythm or direction that I could fit into (except during one part where the drummer slowed down his beats as if he was following the bass line, but only to shift to patterns that took me by surprise). Each of us were just playing on our own and I was just struggling trying to think of any riffs/things. The two sessions put together really showed how different each musician interprets their idea of improvisation jam.

Mish’aal sh’miles… at Dharma (The Observatory) / Photo by Andy Yang