The Other Option had to dig deep to uncover the first ever tours of South East Asia by Australian punk and hardcore acts and discovered their trailblazing stories began in the late 1990s. But while there is no doubt that Australian bands led the way in working with the scenes in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia to establish the underground touring circuit, they were definitely not the first international punk and hardcore bands to get a taste of what the region had to offer.
In fact some of the biggest ‘alternative’ artists in the world made their way to South East Asia well before Aussie bands even considered the same idea. The Buzzcocks and Rollins Band played Singapore in the early 90s, but there was others whose popularity was in the next stratosphere. With such massive bands involved, these shows appeared to do little in establishing the relationships and touring bonds explored in The Other Option, but they did shine an early spotlight on alternative music in the region. And the results, as is often the case in South East Asia, were unpredictable.
Metallica – Jakarta, 1993
Sure, this is hardly a ‘punk and hardcore’ band. But the impact of Metallica’s visit to Jakarta in the early 90s was discussed by more than one of the individuals interviewed in The Other Option. As is discussed in the introduction to the film, well before there was punk and hardcore in South East Asia there was thriving thrash and metal scenes. Indonesia’s metal scene alone is HUGE and has been for a very long time. So it was not surprising the biggest metal band in the world, at the height of their popularity, would try and get in front of this massive audience. Attempting to describe exactly what happened is futile, particularly when you have the following…
Green Day – Jakarta. 1996
Green Day may not yet have reached the stratosphere of the ‘arena rock’ they embraced in the new millennium, but they were still one hell of a huge band when they played this show in 1996 and a lot closer to their original punk rock roots than they are today. No matter what you thought of Green Day at this time, to me it seems a pretty big deal that Indonesia got a piece of them in what was still their early days. It appeared an early indicator of how thirsty the scene was for some action. Rudolph Dethu, a veteran of the Bali punk scene and former manager of one of Asia’s biggest punk bands Superman is Dead, features in The Other Option and in part of the interview not seen in the film, recalls some of what was happening that night.
Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day onstage in Jakarta, 1996.
Fugazi – Malaysia, 1996
Fugazi were actually on their way home from shows in Australia – which to this day remains an ‘I was there’ bragging right for ageing punks – when they played in Malaysia. It also gives a strong indicator how the option of ‘stopping off’ in South East Asia when on the way to tour Australia definitely played a role in kick-starting the touring circuit. Joe Kidd, guitarist for Carburetor Dung and a cornerstone of the Malaysian punk scene for over 25 years gives an incredible interview in The Other Option. Here’s his recollection on the importance of the ’96 Fugazi shows to the South East Asian DIY scene.
“The FUGAZI show … is a hugely important show for us. Besides the band’s stature and influence in the global scene, no other band from the international punk/hardcore milieu had ever been here to do a show before. They were the first. When I say ‘here’ though, I mean Malaysia. Fugazi actually played in Singapore four years before, a show which me and some mates took the bus down to see. Also there were earlier shows by BUZZCOCKS and ROLLINS BAND, both in Singapore too in the earlier 90s, but I can’t say these bands (even though much loved and important) belonged to the then emerging influence and adoption of the anti-corporate, political DIY punk ethos.”
Flyer from the Fugazi show in Kuala Lumpur, 1996.
Of course, The Other Option picks up where these bands left off, or never really got too, in the depths of the ‘real’ South East Asian underground.