Interview: Joe by Sireh & Cengkeh

go here for a lengthy interview by Syed Shahrul for the net magazine Sireh & Cengkeh (posted on their site on 7 September 2007)

I remember the first gig that I went to. It was 1994. Plaza Kotaraya. We arrived early and the bands were still doing their usual routine. Sound check. That day we saw Psycho Sonic, Future Primitive and then, there was Carburetor Dung.

I don’t know if I got the details right. I’m not sure if Carburetor actually performed that day. But one fact remains the same; back then, even today, by any punk-rock standard, up there, in the most popular sing-a-long songs of all time, Boo Hoo Clapping Song must be in the Top 2. The other song was Sua Sue Good Morning by The Pilgrims. It was one of those situation, people sings their heart out and everyone automatically have this urge to dance and punch the air. It was crazy.

Joe Kidd was one of the founding member of the band Carburetor Dung. He plays the guitar like nobody business. He is known as the godfather of Malaysia indie scene. Running his own label AGE and writing his own ‘zine, Aedes. His column, Blasting Concept in The Sun was a must read for all undergrounders back the in the 90’s

Joe now runs the popular webzine Ricecooker, a must visit website if you want to know about Malaysia independent scene. Then, when all of us have abandon all hopes on the once lively Central Market, the Ricecooker shop came and save the day.

So, what next? What is Ricecooker, the shop, is all about?

Special thanks to Joe Kidd for answering the questions.

How are you Joe. How’s life?

I’m fine, thank you. Life’s not that bad really, it would be ridiculous to complain, apart from the fact that you always find yourself with a million things to do all the time. People said being busy is good, but at this time I’d rather go out of the city and hitch-hike all over the country, well, sometimes lah.

What’s up with Ricecooker shop? Haven’t got the time to check it out myself but heard there are alot of interesting activities going out around there.

It’s doing okay. Currently we need more stuff to carry in our catalogue though. Some close friends have been helping out a lot, that’s cool of them and I’m very grateful for that, but I do wish there are more people who would do the same. The shop is essentially an outlet for independent expression, and it’s for everyone who are inclined to that broad term. That means it’s a community thing, but the community itself is pretty slow to “discover” and contribute to it proper.

As for activities, there have been quite a lot of stuff happening around the Annexe, the building we are situated at. We have gigs during the weekends and some other scattered happenings during the week with the free and open philosophy class by Hishamuddin Rais, free film screenings on the verandah etc.

The thing is Ricecooker is not only doing it by ourselves, we work with our friends from our neighbour (the Bau-Bau Cafe, Food Not Bombs’ kitchen) and also the Annexe’s management, who have been very accommodating. In that way, the activities are quite broad and it can go from simple street art exhibition to acoustic parties to full-blown art exhibition to theatre etc.

Who initiated the idea to open the shop? Is there any concept behind it (if any)?

I’ve been hoping to have a community space/outlet for many years. Back in the mid-90s, me and my friends who were living together in Brickfields almost got our first shop/space. We saw ourselves as a collective with the name The Republic of Brickfields. However the space’s owner decided not to rent it to us at the last minutes. It was a huge setback for us but the name Republic of Brickfields is still being used by our old friends operating as a reggae band nowadays.

Later somewhere in 2000, our flatmates at the new place I was living opened up a record store on the 3rd floor of that building across the road from KL Plaza and asked me if I wanna join them. I asked for a part of the shop to be dedicated to independent recordings and activities. They agreed, so me and my girlfriend were set to open it up with ideas including a small art gallery, info-shop style library and of course music etc. But then again, the owner of the building took his words back as there was a company who wanted to rent the whole three floors, so they kicked us out! So again we were thwarted lah.

Around the middle of last year, I was called for a meeting by the new Central Market’s management about developing the Central Market Annexe, and they offered me the shop and the rest is what’s happening today, and hopefully for the next few years and more.

As for the concept, it’s just an idea to have community space/outlet, where we can promote things happenings or stuff being produced by the DIY or independent community, and at the same time contribute to it ourselves in whatever ways we can.

How about monetary issues and financing, do you get any help?

My girlfriend I-Lann helped a lot with the initial money needed. I would not be able to do it without her assistance and support. I’m still working as a freelance designer so some of the money comes from that too.

So far, is there any major problem you face since opening Ricecooker shop?

Well, there have been a lot of problems but I think the worse is my time management. I’m essentially a lazy person who wants to do many things at the same time, so it’s hard to concentrate. I need to slap myself all the time and focus, focus, focus.

The next one is of course, the money. So I do my usual freelance work (web design, print design, copy-writing etc.) to partly finance the shop. With that I need time, so there was this shortage of man-power to man the shop, but now I have two friends helping out (Bebe Cobra, who used to play with Black Boots in Indonesia, and Aiman who plays with Civil Disorder and Dum Dum Tak).

There are more problems of course, mostly external but I think we can pull through all of that.

Is there any significant in opening Ricecooker shop, maybe in term of personal goal or social awareness?

Well, it hasn’t change the world! Ha ha! But seriously, the shop still needs a lot of work in the next few months or years. Best to ask us that question in 2009! As for personal goals, well, it’s cool because I have always wanted to have something a lot more concrete than nebulous ideas. It’s always good to have your dreams turning up true, but that’s just the beginning of it. Like I said, there’s a hell lot more things to do boss!

Haven’t been to gig for months. How are the guys in Carburetor Dung’s doing? Any plans to release new album or LP? How about Shitworkers and Babushka?

Funny you asked about The Shitworkers. All of the guys in The Shitworkers are now in Carburetor Dung! This happened when Bullet who used to play with the Shits joining us a few years ago.

Carburetor has just recorded 9 new songs about a month ago. Now we are adding bits into it and soon we will mix it up. There’s plan to record more songs to add to it. We have decided to add a 5th member, and he’s Yandsen (AKA Yong Yen Sin), who used to play with the Mandarin-singing post-punk band Moxuan. He’ll be a multi-instrumentalist in the band; especially guitars and saxophone. He has appeared with us on the song Mari Nyanyi Menjilat before.

Personally, I think Carburetor Dung features the best line-up ever nowadays. These guys are my close friends, including Alak who is just 26 this year! Bullet was my first close friend when I first came to KL in 1988/89. He was playing drums for both Punisher and Nemesis those days. Alak is a young guy I admired from afar before because of his activities with the label Knot Records and also his band Pusher. And Fendi, my brother. I can’t ask for more. With Yandsen, another old friend, the band hope to grow musically and all the rest lah.

As for Babushka, that’s long dead. I rarely meet the guys in that band now. Chris is in Jakarta playing with The Wild Zeros, while Su is now married and she’s having a baby. I don’t think we will ever reform, that is apart from me and Chris jamming when he comes over and stay at my house.

What are you currently reading and listening to right now?

Goenawan Mohamad’s SIDELINES: Thought Pieces from TEMPO Magazine, a translated collection of Goenawan’s columns, given to me by Ari (Hark! The Crawling Tar-Tar & Domestik Doktrin) and I’m listening to a lot of Burning Spirits Jap-core; especially Paintbox, Assault, Gudon, DSB and their ilk.

Do you involve in any non-government organization or activist groups?

No. I’m too busy to join any group like that but I would help some of them when I’m free.

Ricecooker, the webzine have been in existence for quite awhile and have been a source of information for our local indie scene. How have been the response from the readers?

Last time I check, we had about 800,000 hits per month from all over the world! So that’s quite good but I’m not particularly overjoyed with the content though. It should have a lot of contributions but as you can see people are a lot more lazy nowadays than lets say in the mid-90s, so I end up doing it all myself, again.

I think at this point Ricecooker the webzine is only at 30% of its capability. Again, a lot more work to be done. A lot more contributions needed. There should be lots of reviews, interviews, etc. etc. but I don’t have much time to do that. It is frustrating really.

What is your view on our local independent scene today, if compare to, let say, the middle of 90s.

Main thing is that I think music, in any form, nowadays no longer hold that kind of “mystical” quality in people’s mind or in their appreciation of it. Those days, the music we were into was unique, hard to comeby, and so very special. It has a certain dignity to it that made it extra-ordinary. Nowadays, it’s almost disposable. People don’t put much value in that anymore.

And so I feel like we’re back to “year zero” again, like in the early 80s, where nobody cares apart from a few. But of course, I was there and have gone through all these cycles, and so it doesn’t feel same. There’s not as much enthusiasm from the public to check them out anymore.

That said, there are so many good bands now. Mostly they are playing some genres which I don’t have much time for BUT a lot of them are very good at what they are doing; especially in the maturity of the playing and the ideas they are pursuing. Sometimes, this makes me nervous when I want to record and release my own music. These kids can kick my arse anytime, they are so good, I’m very scared that my music or lyrics are not as “smart” or “matured”.

In the mid-90s we have a lot of bands too but I think most of the products from that era don’t have much original character, unlike the early 90s where you can listen to one song and already know which band it is. Our mid to late 90s bands copied so much that they lost their own identity. A large part of that carries on to this very day but there are some who have surpassed all that and going on their own paths.

As for the whole scene, I find it really strange that they are so little activity in terms of writing or making fanzines or even doing a blog. It is as if people are perfectly able to write but only held back because they are scared to put forth their opinions to the public. Back in the late 80s to mid-90s there were tonnes of zines it was very hard to keep up, now there’s almost nothing. Where are those people anyway? What happened?

It’s August and it’s our 50 years of independence. I have to ask this. What do you think we, as Malaysians, still lacking? Do you think we are really independent, physically and mentally?

Our 50th year of independence doesn’t carry much weight for me because a lot of the history leading up to and immediately after our Merdeka is fabricated, full of misinformation and rewritten by the powers that be, hijacked for their propaganda and exploitative purposes. Most of it are pretty much lies, built upon more lies and manipulations anyway.

Too many individuals, groupings and other aspirational figures, entities and happenings who/which were instrumental or played a huge part in the activities for the liberation of Malaya were wiped out from our collective memory because they were not a part of the ruling party or its instruments, its structure, etc.

They were suppressed, tricked, banished, imprisoned, killed etc. but worse, they are not being remembered, acknowledged and celebrated.

And that immediately paint a good hint to our government’s current collective mindset. There’s no free press, we are still shackled by threats from long-archaic laws such as the ISA, OSA, the printing act etc.

Our media is not “our” media. It’s theirs, controlled and suppressed to fit their agenda. Our judiciary had lost its fangs many years ago now, leaving the power to regulate or any hope of check and balances to the executive themselves.

There’s no transparency, no concrete evidence of true change or correctional activities in terms of our collective rights as citizens in our own country, let alone basic human rights. And so on and on.

And we are supposed to celebrate our “Merdeka”?

I haven’t gone into the fact that “Malaysia” didn’t exist in 1957. It was Malaya, or the Federated States, but it was not MALAYSIA. So why is it being celebrated as Malaysia’s independence when at that time there were still no Sabah nor Sarawak, and no “Malaysia”?

And even Malaya ceased to be an entity (by the act of the Parliament itself!) when the federation, Sabah and Sarawak came together as one in 1963. Malaya became obsolete when that chapter in our history unfolded.

I agree, in some ways the Merdeka day needs to be celebrated even though it was achieved in a manner favouring the British manipulators (with the support of its Malayan cronies) rather than in accordance to the rakyat. But when you celebrated Merdeka as Malaysia’s independence, you’re excluding Sabahans and Sarawakians from the party. Of course, many of you would not care because you’re in the Semenanjung, it doesn’t matter a bit to you but think of our people in Borneo. Imagine the hurt. Imagine the neglect. Imagine the injustice done.

For me, September 16th 1963, when Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak & Singapore came together as equals, as one and became the country that we’ve known today, carry a lot more weight to be celebrated as the real national celebration, yet not many even know of this fact. September 16th is not even a public holiday!

Again we’ve come to be brainwashed, made forgetful and worse, completely lost our bearings when it comes to acknowledging our own history and its importance. And here’s the scary bit, we are still being kept in the dark and being fed with fabrications and misinformation. On top of that we are being kept stupid with a lot of “manure” that is masquerading as “entertainment” and “information”, even as “education”!

Just look at the Akta Universiti & Kolej Universiti (AUKU) which has been instrumental in turning our students, our young into morons that couldn’t even go beyond bullshit barriers such as race and religion, colour and the size of our eye-slits, etc. etc. They are the future, yet they are fucked already lah.

Actually, I don’t want to go any further apart from highlighting the importance for all of us to open up and get educated, be awake and keep on challenging our own perceptions, go and find out our truth behind all that bullshit smokescreens erected by the powers that be, and most importantly, by our own prejudices and ignorance.

If you’re really “patriotic” about your country and its people, that is what you need to do first and foremost. Liberate yourself, unlearn the bullshit and keep on learning to uncover the darkness. Without that you are just a bunch of manipulated zombies.

Do you write for any publication or independent media?

No boss. No time lah.

What was the most happening or interesting event you have the pleasure or coming to this years?

I’m lucky in the way that I’m situated right in the middle of KL and in the midst of many active friends in both the music and the arts scene, so i go to a lot of happenings. The best performance I’ve seen was Rahmat Haron doing his poetry reading and scribbling the walls with a black marker at the Annexe early this year when he was supporting Benjamin Zephaniah’s show. He was intense, inspired and shockingly magnetic.

As for a musical performance, it was The Aggrobeats supporting The Republic of Brickfileds at Little Havana recently. They rocked.

I have my problems with bands related to some people who have crossed over to the mainstream in a very exploitative way, and my friend Eddy (ex-ACAB and now with Gerhana Skacinta) is related to that scene, but his new band The Aggrobeats really made my day. They may be the copycats of The Aggrolites but they’re more energetic, intense and “punk rock” I think!

Sweaty Motown soul meets raw 60s Ska! Whoaa!

Is there any surprises you have in store for us? Maybe another controversial modelling gig in a major publication or act as an ustaz in a Yasmin Ahmad’s movie?

As Johnny Rotten said it yoinks ago, “don’t be stupid! we don’t make plans, we just do it!”

Thank you!

If you guys have anything to sell or distro at The Ricecooker Shop, please contact me. We need help stocking it up with tonnes of local releases. And if you have anything to say or to share, do contribute to The Ricecooker Webzine (


Joe Kidd, the Gucci model…


Joe Kidd


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