The piece on the Ipoh's independent music scene was published in the "Below the Radar" column in Malay Mail on Dec 15, 2004.
MENTION the Malaysian fringe music scene and you may only be familiar with bands from the Klang Valley.
These bands are very fortunate that they get exposure in the media, which can help promote their music.
If they're industrious and resourceful enough, they may even get their big break.
But what if they live in Johor Baru, Kuching, Ipoh or Alor Star? The chances of them being heard are very slim unless they move to KL. This is the situation of many good local bands in the independent music scene.
The bands in Ipoh are a good example. Throughout the years, the music scene up north has been producing one good band after another. But despite the glowing praises, they rarely get the attention they deserve.
Their presence can only be felt when they perform at Paul's Place in Damansara Uptown or appear on 8TV's Late - which are rare - and get written about in fringe publications.
Radio airplay? It's almost non-existent. Hopefully, with the emergence of Xfresh FM - the radio station that champions local music - Ipoh bands can finally get heard by the masses.
Below the Radar feels it's prime time to highlight one of our most active creative music scenes and give these bands and scene movers their long overdue attention.
Like most of the local independent music scenes, metal was the first form of fringe music that really gained popularity.
According to a seasoned Ipoh indie music enthusiast, the scene only started somewhere around 1988 with bands like Glottis (which later changed its name to Necrotic Chaos) and Warhead.
Another pioneering band, Brain Dead, though from another Perak district, Taiping, would always make the trip to Ipoh to hang out, trade tapes, magazines and fanzines.
Towards the `90s, more bands emerged, notably Profane Creation and Vociferation Eternity.
Also emerging at the same time were punk-driven bands like Disaster Funhouse, Skinning Pit, Nothing, Skinbashers, Pet Hate Minors (which then changed its name as Couple) and Muck. Oh, not forgetting the short-lived, all-female poppish punk combo, Spellbound.
In 1995, the Ipoh independent music scene hosted one of its biggest showcases at a cinema-turned-skate park, Dynasty, to a full-house audience.
Bands from other states like Penang and KL joined forces with Ipoh's very own, Skinning Pit and Nothing.
The following year saw another big scale independent music fest being held.
Dubbed as Ipoh Mega Blaster, the show went on for nine hours with 16 bands performing.
As we reached the late `90s, more and more bands of various music styles started to emerge notably Bloody Mary, Toxin 99%, Head Cleaner, Fat Flat, Soma, Boneless Mahoney and Ninecities.
But one of the most important events in the development of the Ipoh independent music scene in the `90s was the establishment of Bodysurf Music (run by members of Muck, which by then has become Ipoh's premier indie rock outfit).
Since its formation in 1997, it has been actively organising gigs and releasing recorded materials from Perak-based bands notably its Kopi Sechewen compilation series (Volume 1 was released in 1997, Volume 2 in 2001 and Volume 3 in 2003).
Speaking of compilations, the other two important documentations of the Ipoh/Perak independent scene would be Crashover Records' Silverstate Punk/HC compilation in 2001 and BARA a.k.a. Breaking Ground 2 compilation in 2002.
In this new millennium, Ipoh's independent music scene has somehow become the country's capital for indie rock led by its finest sons, Muck.
Couple, which has since relocated to KL, has been getting rave reviews within the international power-pop circuit with their playful and experimental brand of lo-fi pop.
Newer bands like Free Love, Bittersweet, Harmacy, Scandel 26, Elisebelle Tears and Neighbours Coma, not only continue the melodious legacy they pioneered, they have also improved it by marrying it with fresher sounds.
To keep tabs on the latest happenings there, Below the Radar's Ipoh correspondent, Jay from the band Free Love, recently sent us an update on the active bands back home.
If you feel that our local independent acts are trying too hard to sound like all the successful international radio-friendly bands, give these bands a chance to be heard. Perhaps that could change your current perception of local fringe music.
File Under: Indie rock/lo-fi
One of the pioneers and prime movers of the Ipoh indie scene, Muck made its mark in the local independent music scene with its second demo, Blastosit in 1996 (its debut, Bitch Sounds was released the previous year). Formed by brothers, Myo and Ducktoi in 1994, the band was inspired by the lo-fi/indie-rock sounds of bands like Dinosaur Jr, Modest Mouse, Pavement, Sonic Youth and Sebadoh.
Despite being consistently active in the gig circuit, the band's music was never documented in the form of an album or EP. Instead, its songs could only be found in notable compilations like Kopi Sechewen (1997), Underworld Chronicles (1998), Silverstate Punk/HC (2001), Breaking Ground (2001) and BARA a.k.a. Breaking Ground 2 (2002).
Finally, after more than eight years together, Muck churned out its first `proper' release, a split album with UK's dark and brooding lo-fi combo, Things in Herd. It was worth the long wait though, as the album captured the band at its finest and is regarded as one of the best in the
history of local independent music.
Those who are planning to make a trip up to Ipoh, feel free to pay the band a visit at their studio in Wallercourt. (Don't worry, the guys in Ipoh are friendly, fun-loving and nice).
* Contact them at: email@example.com
* Or visit: www.trademuck.tk or www.myspace.com/muck
File Under: Power pop/lo-fi
Started out as Pet Hate Minors in 1995, the band released its first EP, In Love in 1996. Despite its quality, the EP received glowing reviews from local music enthusiasts for its sense of urgency and frontman, Aidil's knack for sweet melodies.
After a short hiatus, (Aidil went to the UK to study Law), the band re-emerged in 2001 as Couple. The name change didn't seem to affect its music; in fact, Couple took off where it left off and bettered it.
Couple has released three critically acclaimed EPs, Turning Melancholy to Magic, Telegrams from the Heart and Listening to the Pop. This year, the band re-recorded eight songs from its EPs and two new songs and released them in its debut album, Punk Rock for Sissies.
The album somehow made its way into the international power pop circuit and the band was rumoured to have gained the attention from Not Lame Recordings (the biggest power pop label in the world) for a possible deal. This year, the band launched its Pet Projects, an independent collective cum record label. To date, it has released EPs by bands like Lucy in the Loo and Bittersweet.
* Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Or visit: www.couple.8k or www.myspace.com/couple
File Under: Indie rock/lo-fi
Inspired by bands like Sebadoh, Modest Mouse, Superchunk, 764-Hero and Sonic Youth, Free Love started out as a creative outlet for former Bloodymary band member, Jay.
Now a full unit, Free Love comprises the frontmen and frontwoman from Muck, Bittersweet and Lucy in the Loo (occasionally Smek from post rock quartet Sgt. Weener Arms will help them out with the synthesiser).
With a reputation as one of the fun-to-watch live acts, Free Love also excels in its musical department as can be heard on its song Indie Rock Darling (the only song that has been recorded so far) that was featured on 2003's Kopi Sechewen 3 compilation.
The band is currently working on an EP and until it's released, let's hope that it will live up to its expectations.
* Contact them at: email@example.com
* Or visit: www.myspace.com/freelove
File Under: Garage pop
How to describe its music? Well, imagine a mixture of Swedish garage poppers, the Drowners meet the groovy bass lines of the Rentals and distorted guitars from Ozma. One of the longest surviving bands in Ipoh's scene, the quartet has appeared in various compilations such as Breaking Ground 2 a.k.a. BARA, The Silverstate Punk/HC and Kopi SeChewen Vol 3.
* Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
File Under: Emo rock/screamo
Formed by former members of Fat Flat, the quintet will rock any stage given to them. To date, these emo rockers have one EP, Miracle Happens Once and were featured on Kopi Sechewen Vol 3. Have also appeared on 8TV's Latte and was said to have a big following in Singapore.
* Contact them at: email@example.com
* Or visit: www.myspace.com/elisebelletears
File Under: Indie rock
They're young and they rock harder than any MTV pop punk-boy band wannabes out there. From the slacker-pop guitar riffs to the melancholic vocal styles of J Mascis, these boys are definitely one of the bands to look out for in the near future.
You can check out its music on Kopi Sechewen Vol 3 or better yet, wait for its debut EP which is currently in the final stages of mixing and editing and probably will soon be available.
* Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
* Or visit: www.myspace.com/harmacy
File Under: Post grunge
Don't let the word post-grunge chase you away as Flicka is not your Pearl Jam or Nirvana wannabes. Grunge in their context came from bands like Seaweed, The Posies and Love Battery. The band has released a demo, For Sheila in 2003 and a song in Kopi Sechewen Vol 3.
* Contact them at: email@example.com
THE SWEETEST THINGS
File Under: Emo/pop punk
Fans of The Get Up Kids, Reggie and the Full Effects and Jimmy Eat World will definitely dig the band's music. The band has one song featured on the Kopi Sechewen Vol 3 compilation and is said to have finished recording its debut EP.
* Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
File Under: Brit rock/pop
A new band fronted by Herry who is also the drummer of Free Love (also a former member of The Hans). Having the best elements of the Stone Roses and the Cure in its music, the band recently released its debut EP, Something Much Greater to positive reviews.
* Contact them at: email@example.com
* Or visit: www.myspace.com/bittersweet
File Under: Indie pop
A catchy pop band with fun-loving attitude and a great sense of humour. Musically, it will ring a bell with fans of the Lemonheads, Better than Ezra and Goo Goo Dolls.
Under its belt, the band has released a split EP in 2002, contributed two songs in Kopi Sechewen Vol. 2 and one song in The Silverstate Punk/HC compilation. They have been in hiatus for a while but will be more than happy to come out of it, if they're invited to play.
* Contact them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
*Or visit: www.myspace.com/shizukabenaman
File Under: Brit pop
Heavily influenced by Suede, the band has contributed a song in Kopi Sechewen Vol. 3 compilation. Still early to tell what lies ahead but they're definitely loaded with potential.
* Contact them at: email@example.com
* Or visit: www.myspace.com/thehans
SUKA NO. 23
File Under: Indie pop
Musically, it's heavily influenced by bands like Radiohead, Asian Kung-fu Generation, Glay and lots of Indonesian bands (according to them). The group sing in Bahasa Malaysia and is said to be better than any Malay pop-boy-band around.
Currently busy recording its self-produced home-recording demo.
*post from Google