Sunday, July 12, 2009

Discovered: Joe Kidd and Malaysian punk rock

I've been working on an article about how venues for indie music have changed over the years in KL. I got the idea for it because my roommate took me to an opening party for a merch, zine and CD shop called Ricecooker the day after I got here. The guy who runs it is named Joe Kidd and he's pretty much the father of Malaysian punk rock. I'm gonna guess he probably wouldn't characterize himself that way, but he definitely plays a big role in spreading punk and DIY culture in the country. Say hi to Joe:

As you can probably guess, not everyone in Malaysia is thrilled about kids spiking their hair up, rebelling against authority, and playing loud, noisy, political music. Joe says the cops regularly urine test everyone at shows in rural areas for drugs. A few years ago there was a big raid on a New Year's eve show where about 400 people got rounded up, loosely based on the perception of black metal being tied to satanism. And just last year, Joe's band provoked what has been described as a riot at a rally for the opposition coalition when they performed a song about "ass-licking" that ended with the lead singer showing three inches of his boxer shorts to the crowd.

The opposition coalition in Malaysia is a weird and often unstable mix of a socialist-leaning party, a social justice/reform-minded party, and a pro-Islamic state party. Some members of the latter were less than thrilled about these antics - although as Joe pointed out in the interview, some defended him and said a lot of his band's criticisms of corruption were "spot on."

I asked Joe if there are any upcoming happenings. He said that soon, there's going to be a show in a very small town on the east coast, half an hour away from where he grew up.

This is where I need you to help me. Do you find all of this fascinating? Because I sure do. But it's also extremely possible that I've developed a weird, niche interest in Malaysian misfits that is not shared by my fellow Canadian citizens. Also, I have a soft spot for kids making home made punk rock shows in unlikely venues, because I, too, was once a 14-year-old rebel who was known to bust out a skank and a mosh at Oakville concerts held at the YMCA and ice rinks.

The reason I'm asking is because I'm wondering if I could tag along to this concert and try to freelance something out of it.

To me, the story is just the sheer "WTF??" factor, the contrast of kids embracing this subculture and making it their own in a small, rural town in a developing country. There's also a kind of circular-ness to Joe returning to the region where he grew up. In terms of what's "new..." well, I dunno. I'll find something.

But seriously, if you journalism-savvy classmates of mine think it would be a waste of time, please tell me.

"We ain't got no place to go, let's go to a punk rock show, come and take me by the hand, we're gonna see a punk rock band..."


Anonymous said...

While I see the appeal to any number of magazines, I would definitely try querying music mags first. Music with socio-political undercurrents (esp punk rock) isn't as important in the west as in areas like Malaysia (or at least it isn't a story anymore in the west). I would take as many photos as possible and query a photo-essay and feature to a bunch of music mags in the states/Canada. It's something I would read if I found it in one of those places--whereas if I found it in Maclean's I might skip it.

ohdarnedwind said...

Hey im no journalism student, just a card carrying member of the general public, but if its worth anything I think this sounds exciting and interesting and I could see lots of people I know being really into reading about it. I think you have to follow all your own little niche/quirk interests (not that this is even one of them) to create orginal and inspired work, otherwise you are on the wrong side of the tide.


mega said...


Javier said...

Hey Claire! Just stumbled upon your article about Joe and the Malaysian punk rock, and I think you have something relevant and important to write about! I also played in a punk rock band in Kuala Lumpur in the late 90s, where we shared the stage with Joe's band a few times. He even helped my band record our first album, and encouraged us to keep going to this day. I've since moved to Canada (Vancouver) and started a new band, but what we learned from Joe and the punk scene is still with us every day.
Take care and keep on keeping on!