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Artist Spotlight - Kekal

Please introduce yourself and share a bit about your background.

This is Jeff representing the band called Kekal. The band has been around since 1995 and has released 13 full-length albums so far, the newest one called "Envisaged" released in 2022. In the beginning, Kekal identified itself as an extreme metal band with strong influences derived from punk music, but gradually explored broader musical territories outside metal. Since the early 2000s, Kekal has been mostly known as a progressive or avant-garde metal/rock band with strong electronic elements.

The band decided to be fully independent, never signing a contract with any record label, and instead preferring to license self-financed finished albums to independent record labels, sometimes 3 or 4 different labels for one album, which also helped our albums to be distributed and promoted internationally. Back in the day, releases were all physical, like CD, cassette tape, or vinyl.

In 2004, Kekal became the first band from Indonesia to tour Europe. Since 2009, Kekal has become a band with no official members, with former members and other musicians voluntarily contributing together in collaboration to make new albums up to this date. Kekal is also known for its do-it-yourself ethic, with all artistic works from recording production, cover artwork, photography, and promotional music videos done voluntarily by the band contributors. The band is also independently self-managed.

Where are you located?

The band is based in Jakarta, Indonesia, although I myself live in Canada.

What is your artist's name?

Kekal, which means "immortal" or "eternal" in Indonesian language.

How long have you been writing music?

I have been writing songs since the early 1990s. I officially joined Kekal in 1996 but previously I was in other bands and also wrote songs for them. There are 3 main songwriters who write music for Kekal, and I'm one of them.

What inspired you to start playing and making music?

Probably when I discovered the song "2 Minutes to Midnight" by Iron Maiden back in 1984 when I was still a little kid. I was blown away by that song, and I believe it was the main trigger for me to become a musician and want to play in a band. I started playing drums in the early years but switched to guitar in 1992 because I wanted to compose music and also sing.

In junior high back in the late 1980s, I hung out with friends who dig heavy metal music, so naturally, I started to play in a metal band and listen to lots of metal and punk music. When Kekal was formed in 1995, I began to act as a producer, recording and producing demos and later on full-length albums. In my opinion, producing music is also part of making music. A songwriter isn't limited to only composing and writing lyrics but also helping to arrange the music and find the right sound during recording, in which the role of a recording producer is part of it.

What were the driving forces or pivotal moments that inspired you to pursue music?

There's something "magical" in music that I cannot describe in words. I was good at drawing too and could make technically proficient sketches, but I felt distance from it. I could not express myself fully in doing that, so when I discovered music and tried to play guitar and write songs, that was the time when I found myself being immersed in it.

I'm not a career musician, and I never had any official training in playing any musical instrument; everything was self-taught. I'm a graphic designer by professional occupation, that's how I pay my bills, but music is probably more important to me. It has been part of me, and I can't get away from it.

How would you describe your style of music?

I don't want to put my music into boxes of styles and genres. I listen to all kinds of music and don't see music as divided into genres or styles. Good music is good music, despite so many styles and genres/subgenres. That probably reflects in the music of Kekal, which can't really be put into specific boxes of genres.

People call the music of Kekal "avant-garde" and "progressive", or sometimes "weird", just because the music contains elements from many music styles that make some wonder "what the hell is that?". Kekal is one of those bands that can be either loved or hated, and we've lost many fans along the way because we put out albums that turned out to "offend" them in some ways. I don't mind that. Most of the time, being different can also help people discover the alternative when they get bored of the sameness, but I don't want listeners to expect Kekal's music to be like this or like that.

How is your personality reflected in your work?

When I write songs, I always try to be honest with myself, so the songs would naturally reflect my innermost self. Back in the day, when my former bandmates Levi and Leo were still active in supplying songs for Kekal, listeners could differentiate them because the songs carry different personalities. When you find Kekal's music to be very diverse, it's because we don't want to limit our personal expressions when it comes to writing music for the band.

Describe your creative process when you write new music.

I've tried many ways in writing music, literally more than 10 different approaches in writing songs, so I don't think I can describe them all here because that would be too long. The more recent approach that I took was writing complete lyrics first before thinking about the music. From the lyrics, I would then determine the temperament, mood, and other elements, and then compose the music based on those elements. This approach may take more time, but if you think the lyrics carry a message that is important to be shared, that is the only way to make it work.

What is the name of your latest releases?

The latest release is a best-of compilation called "Eternitarian", released in 2023. It features 31 tracks selected from Kekal's 13 full-length albums + 3 EPs spanning 27 years of the band's entire discography. Total running time is almost 3 hours. We also have the latest full-length album called "Envisaged" which was released in 2022. All are available on Bandcamp.

What was the inspiration for that release?

We have gotten listeners' requests to put out a release that would work as an "introductory sampler" or something that they don't need to browse through the entire 13 albums to listen to the songs. Kekal isn't a popular band, meaning it has many potential listeners that may discover the band recently. I think this "Eternitarian" best-of compilation is a good starting point in discovering the band, and it can also work as an "essential playlist" because songs were selected based on listeners' favorites and also highlights from reviewers.

What upcoming promotional activities or releases are you most excited about?

Right now, I'm working on an acoustic guitar music project called K432, which is a sub-unit of Kekal. You can watch/listen to the first 2 songs published as music videos on Kekal's YouTube channel under the K432 playlist. More songs will be added as they become available and will also be published on Bandcamp.

How can folks contact you (socials/email/websites etc.)?

Avant-garde and alternative approach to various expressions of rock, metal and electronic music.

Kekal
Eternitarian

avant-garde metal / black metal / death metal / electronic / experimental / metal / progressive metal

"music spanning 27 years of the band's entire discography"

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Kekal
Deeper Underground

avant-garde metal / black metal / death metal / electronic / experimental / metal

"weird and avantgarde music"

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Kekal
Acidity

avant-garde metal / black metal / electronic / experimental / progressive metal

"includes 2 hidden bonus tracks"

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