#FLASHBACK Interview With Joe Kidd
This was an interview I did with Joe Kidd (Carburetor Dung, Zink, Shitworkers, Aedes Fanzine, Blasting Concept, Alternative Garage Entertainment & Ricecooker) back in July 1995 for my fanzine then Piss Of Mine #2. The interview was conducted via snail mail and Joe was kind enough not to only reply my questions, but also to type and lay it out for me. I did some minor edits to the interview just to make it more concise better flowing. Despite being conducted more than 17 years ago, what was said and discussed are still somehow relevant in today’s context. Please read with an open mind. If you wonder why there were a lot of reference to punk because Piss of Mine was a punk fanzine.
Hi Joe, what’s new?
Well, nothing much. I’ve been browsing through my new copy of Maximum Rock ‘N’ Roll in the last six hours. There’s this Lazy’s new album playing on the stereo. Have you heard of the band? Do check it out if you haven’t. The album is called Some Assembly Required and it’s available here via Sampoerna Music. They sounded a bit like Sonic Youth but a bit more melodic, slightly lo-fi and not too fucked up.
How’s A.G.E.? The label has been rather quiet of late.
A.G.E. was kinda in shamble recently. An asshole ran away with the master recording of The Pilgrims’ second album and he was trying to sell it off to other companies. I’m just waiting for it to show up and then sue those assholes.
Things are also rather quiet because of the antics by our financiers. The Pilgrims’ second album sold quite a lot, around 9,000 copies, but we didn’t receive much money because the assholes (the financiers) took more than what their shares are. Well, it’s all good now as A.G.E. is back on its feet again. We will be heading to the studio in two weeks time to record five bands for a compilation. The bands are Kuantan’s Minority, Taiping’s Karatz, KL’s Unnormal, Kuala Pilah’s The Bollocks and Terengganu’s Mr Wilson’s Garden. I wish I have more funds to add in some more bands, but for now, that’s it.
Are there anything exciting happening in our scene now? I’m kinda bored with it, to be honest.
There are a lot happenings actually. There’s an all-punk/skins show called The Joys Of Oi! at Pyramid Damansara this coming August 5. I’m looking forward to see ACAB and the Bollocks performing live again as well as to check out other bands performing that day. I just hope the punks and skinhead are more positive with their outlook and approach as they are too violent in the pit. Let’s see a more civilised slam dancing please. There are also shows coming up in Penang (Aug 26); Kuantan (Aug 27) and Ipoh (Aug 30). Carburetor Dung was supposed to perform at all three dates but our drummer Ollie is going off to Germany for one full month, so we had to pull out. I’ll try to be at all of these shows to check out the bands. I missed the one in Taiping (July 22) recently and deeply regretted that. I was too broke to go.
What are the books that you are currently reading or recently read?
The last book I read was Dostoyevsky’s Crime & Punishment and The Gambler. Two stories in one book by one great Russian writer. Highly recommended for people who likes beautifully written thick books. I got it at Times bookstore for only RM9.90! There are actually three stories in it but I yet to read the last one. Currently I’m reading Hubert Selby Jr’s The Room, which I picked up for only RM2.50 at a charity book sale recently. Some fucked up stuff it has in it.
Joe, can we consider that we have a scene when everyone is in it just because of the hype, especially now? I personally do not see anything positive happening within the “scene”.
True. I believe that is one of the best statements I heard all year! I mean, I’m on your side, but there’s actually a “scene.” We do have people with the same ideals getting together, doing things together with a lot of cooperation. Whether the “scene” is healthy one or not, is another matter all together. I mean, whenever I go to Central Market nowadays, I see the usual faces hanging out, exchanging notes on new CDs, new tapes, videos, T-shirt, songs, bands, gigs, zines, etc. That is actually a scene. But when you go there every night, you realised that these friends of mine are rather just hanging out, without putting out enough ideas or enough actions for the scene. I mean most of them are there to unwind, relax, meet and talk to friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, but wouldn’t it be great is they sit down together and put out a fanzine for example. That would be brilliant! They are wasting too much time there it’s shocking. I mean I hang out too, but let’s dedicate a bit of time for activities that will contribute to the scene. Write a zine, write a song, jam, or something. There are a lot of things that can be done. There are a lot of ideas floating around but did we ever see any of it happening? What we’ll hear is a lot of complains but no real actions to resolve the problems. So, to answer you, yes we have a “scene” but rather a “lifeless” one. It’s a scene made of fashion victims, mainstream-friendly punks, ignorance and apathy. They really need to get off their asses and do something. However, on the flipside, there are people who are genuinely working hard for a better scene. So you can’t generalise everyone because it’s unfair to them, especially when they are the consolation and inspiration for us to keep on going.
What kind of person Joe Kidd is?
I’m a lazy chain-smoking, meat-eating computer nerd. I don’t know. Better ask Fendi or Lee Pilgrims, they should know. What I’m sure of is that I’m a normal asshole, as crappy as the next person out there. I’m as fucked up as anybody else. Nothing special at all except for my rather extraordinary traits for being much too young for my age. I should be a boring old fart by now, but instead I’m a fucking boring old farting punk, oh well…
At this point, music is just entertainment, there’s nothing punk in it anymore? Do you agree with it?
Well the answer has to be yes and no. Yes, I agree with you if you are talking about the local scene; no if you’re talking about the whole world.
I mean the scene here is frustratingly unfocused. Local bands and people do not understand the ethics of DIY, anti-consumerism, anti-establishment, anti-capitalist and political awareness of ‘real’ punks. They take punk as merely a type of music, a type of fashion and a bit of clueless rebellion, nothing more.
Ask any them about the magazines they dig, you would end up with a lot mainstream stuffs.
Ask them about punk rock and they will feverishly talk about Green Day, Bad Religion and The Offsprings, bands that are now full-blown “mainstream” acts.
Most of these kids will go and buy all these imported punk t-shirts, Doc Martens and other expensive clothing as if, all these would turn them instantly into real punks, instant punk rocker. I find it pathetic and it makes me sad and angry. I was once young too. I understand the need to belong, the peer pressure, the need to be up-to-date with the in crowd, but do grow up lah. Fashion punks suck big time. It’s actually mindless consumerism – buying things that you don’t really need.
Then you’ll see local bands claiming that they’re from the underground yet eagerly getting themselves exploited by labels or by promoters just for the sake of being able to perform, to release an album or to have a song on a compilation. There’s no sense of independence.
Then you look at the lyrics, it’s mainly non-critical blank expression that doesn’t say much in terms of real rebellion. Apart from a couple of bands, Malaysian punk rock is safe, as safe as the music played by all those rock bands out there.
Then you look at the music, they are all aping the mainstream bands. Very few actually try to find their own sound or their own original direction. Playing “punk rock” doesn’t make you a punk, you know.
Frankly they’re not many local bands that I can easily say, I admire. I would always write about them without much criticism because I hope they would grow and learn new tricks and get their own way going. So far, there are only a few who do so.
So, going back to your question, I must say that nothing on the mainstream is real punk, so don’t use the mainstream as a yardstick. Use the underground, if not the one here, the one overseas. Go and check out bands that are really, really authentically punk. You will see that punk rock; still do mean punk fucking rock in the underground.
Too bad our scene is rather uninspired. Arguing on who’s and what’s real punk won’t really solve anything. Action speaks louder than words. Talk – Action = ZERO! Just remember this: To be a punk is to be anti-mainstream whether in thoughts, in action or in music. I’m not saying that you should become a militant and bomb a cinema or something. What I’m saying is know which side you’re on. Don’t be a clueless rebel. Punk is all in thoughts, creativity and action, not in consumerist fashion or popular music. Punk is about constructive rebellion and not mindless sheep mentality. Use your common sense. Its there imbedded in your head. Just open it up and think.
Today’s punks are so stupid, they don’t even know how to use their brains. Do they piss you off or did I?
Yea, I tend to agree with you. Kids nowadays really have nothing to say constructively. They are just fashion victims, blindly following things without using their grey matter. I mean, most of the so-called punks I see hanging out at gigs are the “I wanna be Sid Vicious” type; the worst kind of punk; the insecure, ignorant, macho kinda kids.
When I first got into punk, it was Johnny Rotten who I admired, not Sid. Sid was a charming fellow but was rather stupid and vain. He was trying to live up to the image created for him by the media. The newspaper said he’s violent; so he tries to be violent. The newspapers said he’s a junkie; he gets into junkie-dom. He’s a pathetic character, while Johnny Rotten was a smart guy. He was a normal street kid who was brutally honest and unhesitant when it comes to voicing out his opinions. He is the type of guy who uses his brains instead of his dick. I love him. I still do. He represent to me, a guy who is a rebel, an underdog and an outcast who saw the dark underbelly of our society, repulsed by the ignorance, the lies, the corruption and tries hard at exposing the farce he saw. The kids nowadays don’t see that at all. They just take whatever they see at eye-level. I mean, they’re just taking the outer layer without trying to dig deep into what they’re seeing. That is why they needed and wear the image. Like the normal ignorant scums out there, they just take things at face value and refused to acknowledge or be influenced by any hidden qualities lying underneath. You should read the poem written by Sid to Nancy’s mom after Nancy’s death. He’s actually an intelligent fellow who tried to impress the fucked up world we see around us. Anyway, I doubt any of these so-called punks will be around when it’s no longer hip to be punk anymore. They will just disappear up their own asses into another trend without learning an iota of what is punk.
As for the real ones, everyday will be an immense discovery trip, learning and being aware of what’s happening around them. Every time he opens his eyes, he would get a better grasp of the way of being a thinking punk and will greatly appreciate it. Punk will stick with them till the day they die. As we have always said, ‘Punk Sok’mo’
Are you satisfied with what you have done and achieved?
Ha Ha Ha! What have I achieved? There are still Nazi punks and rich-kids fashion skins out there. Bands still get exploited. There are still fights at gigs. Bands still playing cover songs faithfully and trying to be mainstream rockstars. Girls are still being harassed at gigs. Slow and lame sounding bands are still being ignored. Most of local zines still sucks. Political awareness in the scene is still at its lowest. Bands still sucks. There are still a lot of things that needs to be done. Our scene is actually a big embarrassment to the word ‘underground’. So what have I achieved? Apart from a handful of cool people and bands, I have actually failed. Like I said, there is a lot of work that needs to be done before we can be proud of our little scene and we need all the help that we can get.
Okay, let’s cool down a bit. What would you wish for if you are granted with three wishes?
Wow, you’re so kind. Well, I will wish for more wishes. There are so many things that I wanna see happening in this scene, it would take hundreds of wishes. But as you said, let’s cool down! Okay, I’m cool.
Let’s see, my first selfish wish will be, to have enough money for me to go to Boston and get back my absent girl. I wanna make babies with her!
Next is to have a government that would recognize its people’s rights; that wouldn’t have absolute control on the media; that don’t have any of those obsolete laws such as I.S.A. or O.S.A. or printing act; that recognizes and respect independent judiciary empowered to check on the government; that appreciates a stronger opposition coalition; that is not corrupt as today; and that tries hard at closing that wide gap between the rich and the poor, not just in monetary wealth, but also health.
The third wish would be, to be able to take Carburetor Dung on a world tour. Playing all the shit holes and dung piles just for the whole Ka-Bloomin’ experience. It should be fun. Just imagine being somewhere in Siberia and playing some happy joget song to cheer the people there.
What do you think of Piss Of Mine?
Nice name there! Clever! I need to go through the pages first before I start saying anything. But I do like the clean layout. Then there’s that ‘You Need Hands’ lyrics that I’ve been looking for years! Been singing to the wrong words for ages!
There’s that pro-Bad Religion, pro-major label discussion which is interesting. All I can say is that you’re wrong. The Pistols and the early bands were doing it as much as for money, as for fame and fun. However, at that time, the whole idea was more about “cash through chaos” – using the corporate business as much as they use the bands – courtesy of Malcolm Mclaren. But as we all well know, the bands failed, even Johnny Rotten had to go to courts to fight for his money. So their plans backfired.
This issue about selling out to majors is well-discussed all over the world, especially with the current trend of punk rock thanks to Green Day and all that.
Tell me, who supported the bands when nobody wants to listen to them and looked down at them as worthless cow dung?
Tell me, who sincerely helped the band without much care for money or fame but just for the enjoyment of sharing the free spirit of punk rock in those underground days?
It’s surely not the major labels or the current fans that will latch on to anything that’s trendy. Will these fans still listen to them in five years time? I doubt it.
Major labels deals with commercially viable products and product are at the mercy of market trends. Do the major labels care about the music? No way! It’s the money that counts. When there’s no more money to be made from these punk bands, they will be dropped. It’s business, man, nothing personal.
Punk rock on the other hand is personal. It’s not just a product. When a punk band is part of the mainstream, that band is no more a punk band, simple as that. Why? Well, business means capital, profit margins and exploitation. For a punk band to join a major label is like them embracing everything that is against the whole of punk ethics. They might play punk rock, or profess to be punk band, but what’s the difference between them and let’s say Bon Jovi in terms of ethics?
Fugazi sold a lot of records, got into the chart and became immensely successful, without succumbing to any carrot being dangled by the major labels. They stayed true by keeping their shows at the lowest price possible and keeping their recordings available at a very low price. Why can’t the others do the same?
Kurt killed himself when he discovered that all these fame and money did to him was nothing but to cheapen his self-worth as a true artist. He was ridiculed but yet treated with much respect (which is respect for being able to make a lot of money). He doesn’t want to be seen as a dog on a string or a product to be sold like a pack of detergent. There’s no real respect in the world of showbusiness. It’s about being able to make lots of money, and that is a very empty thing artistically. Imagine if you are in the same situation. You have become the symbol of a cash machine, and everyone wants a piece of you!
Punk rock, underground and the mainstream have ideals that are totally against each other. One is simple, down-to-earth and put emphasis on human satisfaction and the other is for money, fame and power. Check which one are you and get off the fence.
As for the local bands, I admit that we lacked of DIY releases, but the bands are learning. Give them time and let them learn from their mistakes. Like I said, there are a lot of miscalculations on the part of the bands, some due to ignorance, and some out of sheer stupidity. Carburetor Dung is now still contracted for another album with VSP, and that is our own fault. Actually, I didn’t sign anything with them, Fendi and Shahlan did. So anyway Carburetor Dung is contracted with a rather one-sided deal and there’s nothing that we can do about it. We thought about changing the band’s name to get out of the contract, but Carburetor Dung is our name. There’s no way we are going to give that away. So we will endure for a few more months and after that we’ll have our revenge!
Sorry, but I truly feel that our scene is going nowhere. The word scene is created to give life to the lifeless. It feels like the “scene” no longer exists. Everything is corrupted and polluted. Stupid and narrow-minded I am rite?
It is obvious that you haven’t been out of the city. There are shows in Kuantan and Penang, where the ‘scenes’ are as real as anything out there in the Western. It’s not as lively or as creative, but the shows gathered people of the same interest and was done independently by the kids themselves. One of their parents even helped out with the flyers distributions! And to see the kids’ faces in Kuantan is to feel warmth. The shows made them happy, at ease with themselves. It was the most fun they had in a day than a whole month of their normal lives.
These kids who tried to organize these shows are a part of a scene, and that scene means a lot to them, just like to you and me. Yes, maybe the scene is corrupted or polluted, the more reason for us to work for it.
Once a friend invited me to go to Bristol in England and join his band, the band was called At The Force and it was in 1982. I asked for my mum’s blessings and she begged me to go and enroll into a polytechnic instead. I obeyed and later realised that it was actually a better choice than England. Why? Because punk rock in the UK was already happening, whereas here there was nothing except some kids trading tapes. What I’m saying is that there’s a lot more challenges here than overseas. And now, there’s still a mountain high of them obstacles but so what?! The question is do you love the scene enough to try hard in saving it or not? Do you love punk rock enough to try harder?
I don’t think your statement is stupid or narrow-minded. We do need such words even though it is rather selfish and impatient. The local scene might stay shitty till the end of time, but I’m sure a couple of us will be there trying to erect a better one without alienating others. It’s a question of choice. I would still respect the people who went out the scene in disgust or gave up totally with disappointment. It’s their lives and dedicated your whole life for something so thankless is not for everyone.
Well, I guess that’s all. Thanks for sparing me your time in answering my questions. Good luck to you. Before we end this, anything to add?
Thanks for this rather lengthy interview. Sorry, but I had to say a lot even though just to make a simple point. It’s my lack of special vocabulary, I guess. Thanks to all who are reading this and all who are supporting the scene and trying to make it a better one. I got my Aedes fanzine out a few days ago. If you want it, just send RM 3 or a Money Order payable to Zulkifli Zakaria. By the way, are there any Mac nerds out there? I’m a user and I need to network with other Mac users out there. Drop me a line y’all. Thanks again. Check out the DIY compilation from A.G.E. soon. Oh yeah, Carburetor Dung will record a new album around the end of this rather boring year. Get into our mailing list. Write! Peace love and anarchy.
P/S: Have a lot of fun