AFL: Hey J. Sin! How are you? Firstly thank you for taking time for an interview. Please introduce short yourself. Since when do you make music together? How many members you are and so on?
We are Citizen Useless, a punk band from Jakarta, Indonesia. The band has been around since 2006 and has gone through many line-up changes over the years. We are a brotherhood of musicians from different parts of the world… Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Indonesia, but we are totally an Indonesian band. Citizen Useless currently consists of four members, J.Sin (vocals and backing guitar), Dang Dut (lead guitar), Yudah (bass), and Made Vomit (drums).
AFL: For a few years there was a film documentation about the punk scene in Jakarta in German television (Punk im Dschungel, 2007). A stunning film to get an insight how is the punk scene in Indonesia. What means Punk to you and what has change since 2007?
When Citizen Useless was first formed, the Punk scene was still slightly “above ground”. There were local festivals and many venues to play at. Since then the scene has gone further underground with many venues disappearing and more cops shutting down public outdoor gigs. The punk scene took that hit and like any good scene, actually grew bigger and stronger.
Nothing can keep the Indonesian punk scene down, it is a monster of a scene and devours the weak. With collectives like the Meruya Barmy Army and the Warriors Crew, the scene is the strongest and most influential scene in Asia and it shows no signs of dissipating. Punk in Indonesia is not a fashion statement, it is a way of life because of the oppressive government, religious fanatics, and a law enforcement agency that strong-arms anyone who goes against the grain. Punk in Indonesia exists for a reason… not just an Abercrombie and Fitch photo shoot for Vogue or some shit like that.
AFL: Why are you Punk-Rocker and how do you get into Punk-Rock?
To me, Punk was attractive because I was never the kid who fit in and I was looking for like-minded people, people who weren’t into the whole sports thing. Really, my story is cliché, one that you can hear pretty much any Punk say. I got into Punk rock through a friend of mine, Ian Dares, in high school. He and his friends were all the outsider kind of guys, and he basically gave me a few mix tapes and told me to listen. I was sold the moment I heard the noise. I play punk to get my aggression out. Always have. Always will. If you’re not angry and pissed off at the shit in the world, there’s something wrong with you.
AFL: How respond the system and the society on Punks in Indonesia? Are you socially agreed? The media in Germany reported 2011 from persecutions and re-education measures by the police against Punks.
The arrest and re-education of the punks in Aceh, Indonesia back in 2011 was big news and a real spark that pissed a LOT of people off. Protests and concerts to raise awareness about that were widespread. We wrote a song about it called “It’s Hard To Be A Punk In Aceh” which was inspired by that (inspired isn’t even a good word as our guitarist Dang Dut basically called me in the morning one day and said he had had a dream where he heard the music and saw the lyrics… so we directly went into the studio and recorded, mixed and mastered the song in a few hours and released it).
The good thing about the arrests was that it brought attention to just how oppressive and controlling the regime is in Aceh, and it really made the punks tighter and more resilient. Nothing can bring the punks down here, they are unbreakable.
AFL: I often heard that Jakarta has the biggest Punk-Rock scene in the world. Is it right? Please tell a little more about your scene.
The scene here is massive. It is so huge and spread out that you can’t really gauge its size until you are in the middle of a mosh pit with 3000 kids in it (and the pit is ringed by 8000 more kids). I think I have described the scene many times above, so I will just say that you gotta be here to really know the size and extent of the punk scene here.
AFL: Which bands and music do you count to your influences and how would you describe you music?
I always wince at this question because the answer is really a massive list of pretty much every band and performer on the planet. We have been influenced by every band we have ever heard, seen play, or met. Music cannot be seen as a genre, but as a piece of art.
When you stand in front of a painting, whether it be Impressionism, Cubism, Abstract, Realism, or Surrealism, you may love it or hate it, but the important thing is that you appreciate the style even though it is not your own and you draw inspiration from it to use in your own art. Almost everything has been done before, what is important is that you learn from it and try to make something your own. That being said, we have been influenced by NoFX, Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers, Nick Cave, Blind Willie McTell, Black Flag, Dwarves, Potbelly, Slayer, Rancid, Social Distortion, Leonard Cohen, Iggy Pop, Roger Miller, Elvis, and the list goes on and on.
AFL: You release so long ago you latest album called ‚Many Fingers Makes A Fist‘. The title show for sure your resistance against the system in Indonesia, am I right?
‘Many Fingers Make A Fist’ is our 4th album and it’s an album we are very proud of. It’s not just a reflection of how we feel about the part of the world we live in, but the system and the people outside of the system in general. It basically says that we are angry, we are all angry, and together that makes us strong. It’s a call for unity against anyone who wants to bring us down or repress us.
AFL: How satisfied you are with the album, how the album differs from your latest releases and what can the listeners expect on it? Which themes you threated there?
We all believe this release to be the best stuff we have done in the 9 years we have been together. We have expanded our creativity, learned to play off each other’s strengths and the whole process of making this album really brought us together as friends, not just musicians who play together on a stage. This album has seen us experiment more with styles, hardcore to acoustic, and we totally went back to what punk rock is for, releasing energy, hanging out with friends, partying, and having a good time.
AFL: I saw your labels are USELEZZ RECORDS and P.I.G. RECORDS. Are these labels from Jakarta and is there any chance to get your releases beyond Indonesia?
Uzeless Rekordz is our local DIY label and we basically distribute in Indonesia only. P.I.G. Records is based out of Seattle. They signed us up to distribute our albums in the USA a few years ago and they have been very good to us. It is an honour to be included on compilations and splits with such legendary bands as Potbelly, The Dehumanizers, Raw Power, Demoni, The Porn Stars of Horror, Jimmy Sinn, Koffin Kats, and Antiseen to name a few. PIG Records has always been a huge supporter of Indonesian punk and metal, they are truly advocates of the worldwide punk scene and we owe a lot to them for getting a lot of our music out there.
AFL: How are the shows you playing in Indonesia? How many visitors com and how is the organization of a Punk-Rock show?
The shows here are really no different than any show you play at anywhere in the world when you are an independent punk band. The shows are organized by local kids at any venue that will take their money and then bands are booked. Sometimes they are “collective” gigs where the bands donate $15 towards the stage and equipment rental in order to get the gig set up. The payments for the bands are coming usually from the door, or they may just offer to pay you in local booze… which isn’t a bad deal really. Hahahaha.
If there is an international headliner then the local bands may agree or offer to play for free and the door money will go to the headliner, it’s a really good system and really helps the community come together for the sake of the music and not trying to be a fucking Rockstar. Larger gigs with huge international acts are usually sponsored by corporations, usually the cigarette companies, and that’s where the money is made. That’s not the real punk scene though. The real deal is in the abandoned houses, the open fields, and basement venues.
AFL: Did you ever playing shows outside of your country? If no do you plan a tour in a foreign continent the next time? Is there any inside tip from Indonesia?
We would love to get out and play other countries, it’s a dream. We played Soundmaker Studio in Penang, Malaysia last year and it was fucking legendary. It was an Anti-fascist Festival with some of the coolest fucking bands I have ever seen. The Bois (Singapore), Gudank16 (Thailand), Street Boundaries (Malaysia), and Oikoholix.
They really know how to party and the scene there is just as tight and supportive. Everyone who came bought merch which helped us pay for our tour, no haggling, nothing. Just “Give me one of everything”. It was such a great experience and we would play there again in a heartbeat. My best advice for any bands coming this way is to find a cool organizer who is into the scene, make friends with the bands and help support them overseas and they will help promote you here, and then come with merch. Clothing is the best… they love to wear band merch over here.
AFL: How do you get new music which is released outside of Indonesia and what are your favorite bands and records at the moment?
The easiest way to get new music is just by reading magazines and browsing the internet. In this digital world CDBaby and iTunes are good places to get music, but I prefer to network on sites like soundcloud or bandcamp for new bands and releases. I am also fortunate to have a position at the online music blog Cassetteculture.com where I review new releases from bands all over the world. This gives me the opportunity to discover a shitload of amazingly talented new artists and bands. Aside from loving all the bands and albums I grew up with during the 80s and 90s (D.O.A., Black Flag, Social Distortion, Sonic Youth, etc…), and just weird shit I find randomly (Band Maid, an all-girl rock band from Japan who all wear French maid uniforms… I’m not joking, check that shit out.. it’s almost as awesome as BabyMetal), I am currently digging Peter Pan Speedrock “Buckle Up and Shove It!” (a Dutch band from Einhoven), Rosemary’s Billygoat (from Los Angeles, California), Zeke (Seattle, Washington), Fistula (St. Louis, Missouri), Adrian Adioetomo „Karat & Arang“ (awesome double album of delta blues from Jakarta, Indonesia), and The Wanton Bishops “Sleep With The Lights On” (blues rock from Beirut, Lebanon). Most of these I discovered from being asked to review them and I have to admit, reviewing and supporting new music and albums is the best way to discover new stuff. Plus, it’s helping the bands get the exposure they need to keep doing what they love. Win-win!
AFL: What are you doing otherwise besides music? Work? Hobbies?
Aside from the band I also own and run a digital recording studio, write for Cassette Culture, write and film short movies, and write and publish books. I also do graphic design and run my independent label Uzeless Rekordz. During the days I teach Junior and Senior High school English as well, and needless to say I try to turn the kids on to music and writing a lot. Dang Dut also teaches English and makes short films in his spare time while also writing and recording for his side project Rigs.
Made Vomit does odd jobs here and there… I think he is getting into being a Yoga teacher or something random like that at the moment. Yudah is a tattoo artist and clothing art designer amongst other art-related things. Everyone in the band is always doing things related to art and culture outside the band, I think that is what keeps everyone so focused and inspired to make the music we make.
AFL: What are your plans for the near future and where do you see yourself in 10 years?
In all honesty, we don’t make plans for the future, we all live day to day. Thinking ahead only gets in the way of now and the joy of loving what you already have. I am pretty sure each of us can say that if the band ended today none of us would regret anything or feel like we haven’t accomplished what we set out to do. We have made 4 albums of amazing music, travelled and met amazing people, and spent nine years with some of the best people we have ever known.
Then again… going on a world tour in the next year or so would kick some serious ass.
AFL: Final words and greetings?
We would just like to give a big salute of respect to all the bands and fans in the Indonesian underground punk scene and all our friends who have stood by us over the years. Indonesia is THE place to be and we wouldn’t want to have built this band up anywhere else. To all the punk/hardcore/rockabilly/psychobilly bands out there who haven’t played Jakarta yet… YA GOTTA COME TO JAKARTA!