The eastern reaches of Bandung, West Java, are the primordial swamp of Indonesian metal. Here in Ujungberung this riff-worshiping, rebellious genre climbed from the sludge of the late 80s and spread across Indonesia.
One of the biggest bands to rise from Ujungberung were JASAD—a blistering death metal assault of blast beats and heavier-than-lead breakdowns. We met with Man Jasad, the vocalist of JASAD and Karinding Attack—a side project where some metalheads play the karinding, a local Sundanese instrument made from bamboo that sounds sort of like the indigenous Australian didgeridoo.
Man is a member of the Ujungberung Rebels, a free-form artists collective that's behind the growth of the metal scene in Indonesia. From this collective, and this small neighborhood, sprung more bands than we can count, including: Burgerkill, Beside, and Forgotten.
VICE Indonesia: So why Ujungberung? Does the whole neighborhood just love metal? Is everyone a huge fan of Mayhem?
Man Jasad: How can I put it? Geographically, Bandung isn't all that big. Back then, there were these spots, colonies of metal communities in a few areas. Fortunately, Ujungberung became of the most resilient of all these spots. We're pretty consistent here, even after periods of regeneration. A lot of bands today are born there. But it's mostly because the studios and hangouts are there. Not everyone is a Ujungberung native.
So what are he Ujungberung Rebels?
The Ujungberung Rebels are not an organized community. We're just a normal commune of people, who got together without any structure or organization at all, to form a collective. These free moving particles somehow bunched up together in Ujungberung. If we're talking about bands who are 'from' Ujungberung, all my fingers combined with all the fingers in this room wouldn't be enough to count them all.
How many bands were on the Ujungberung Independen compilation?
Fifteen. Independent Records was fifteen bands.
When was that?
1998. In `98 there were fifteen bands. There were a lot more before that though.
Do you release the comp. every year?
No, not anymore. We're trying to be less representative of Ujungberung now. It's more global. We're less Bandung centric now. We're trying to represent a united Indonesia and luckily many bands who used to hang out in Ujungberung are now spread out everywhere in Indonesia.
There was a time when this scene was pretty rough.
There's always going to be some form of ruckus.
Has it changed in recent years?
Maybe. It's a fact that society branded us, stigmatized us. But the reality is that even from way back when it's all been pretty chill. It's not incidents like the fights that break out in mainstream music concerts or like the media reports. Every so often, someone ends up with a broken bone, or they get busted up, but that's normal. It's not from fighting, it's from dancing. Although there was one big problem back in 2008.
Back then, 10 people died in an over-capacity venue. What happened?
It wasn't the fault of everyone who was involved. But the reality is that it sort of became a lesson for all of us. Everything should have been better coordinated. Every aspect needs to be taken care of with extreme detail, so incidents like that never happen again.
What happened next?
What happened in Bandung echoed across Indonesia. The way I see it, we became a red flag. We had to get the people running this country to grant us permits.
Not everywhere could come back stronger after something like that. What drives this community?
Geographically, Bandung is so different than the massive scale of Jakarta. It's a lot cozier, and easier to share ideas. We even offer classes. If you're good at drums, then you teach drums. Good at guitar? Teach guitar. But in the classes we also discuss social issues and the like. Nowadays, we're more into developing the local culture here. We're trying to not only activate the music, but also a sense of kinship, and a bit of an economy too. Because, whether we like it or not, our friends in the metal community of Bandung—their lives depend on the music.