05. 03. 2002
Joe Kidd: Unclogging the Underground
by Jerome Kugan
For much of the past decade, the Terengganu-born 37-year-old Joe Kidd has dedicated himself to the KL music scene. First as a writer covering local music for The Star and The Sun, then as a guitarist/vocalist in punk bands Carburetor Dung and Shit Workers, among others.
That list also includes his role as a promoter of underground music through various shows, notably the Unclogged nights at No Black Tie. He also runs a small independent record label, Alternative Garage Entertainment (AGE), that last year put out the soundtrack to Hishamuddin Raisâ€™s film Dari Jemapoh ke Manchestee that was presented at various international film festivals.
If effort alone does not warrant respect, what is wonderfully different about Joeâ€™s approach is his staunch refusal to conform to the expectations of others. Anyone who has known Joe long enough would know of his strong opinions on just about everything thatâ€™s wrong with the profit-driven, sponsorship-polluted, artistically-stagnant local music industry.
â€œIf youâ€™ve been around as long as I have, youâ€™d know about the awful things that go on in the music industry. Iâ€™ve had several meetings with major labels and the first thing they want to talk about is money. Never the music. These companies donâ€™t care about cultivating the talent of their artists or looking after their welfare. Everything is about instant profit. I think thereâ€™s a better way.â€
His irreverent attitude to the status quo also extends beyond the mainstream. Nothing delights him more than challenging the standards of underground music fans. Take for instance his flirtations with absurdity via the country and western spoof outfit The Famous Cowboys and his pseudo avantgarde electronica offering with a tiny Casio keyboard, rubber ducky and vacuum cleaner at Mejelis in January.
â€œA lot of the time I see musicians in the underground taking themselves too seriously. I like to take the piss out of the scene whenever I can.â€ Still, Joe remembers fondly playing punk gigs where fans in the mosh-pit swell would engulf the microphone and engage in mass karaoke sing-alongs, underground-style.
These days, however, building on his desire to challenge convention, Joe makes a bit more space for less aggressive (but no less mind-expanding) music. This takes its most obvious form in Unclogged, a more-or-less regular event featuring mostly acoustic performers.
Although Unclogged shares much in common with Acoustic Jam (the other acoustic night organized by Hassan Peter Brown), both were founded independently, under different circumstances. While Acoustic Jam began as an effort by Hassan to emulate acoustic nights in Britain, Unclogged became acoustic simply by virtue of Joeâ€™s DIY approach to art and life.
â€œBack in 1998, when the idea to organise a regular show was brought up, we didnâ€™t have any money to hire a proper sound system. So it was decided that the show would be acoustic. That way we would also be able to make it cheap for people to attend.â€ Needless to say, in its early days, the fans werenâ€™t impressed by the quiet sounds.
Gradually, however, over seven Unclogged events, the series has attained its own following and significance, especially among up-and-coming local musicians who clamour to appear as billed acts on the show. It also has a more mature atmosphere compared to the gamut of other underground shows. Nevertheless, Joe advises Unclogged virgins to flush all expectations when they come.
â€œThe great thing about Unclogged is that I never know whatâ€™s going to happen. Itâ€™s very unlike the other shows at No Black Tie, which are more musician-based. We have a very open, very simple approach. Bands formed the day before, bands that play one song for an entire hour. Itâ€™s really fun. But sometimes I have to step out myself for a bit of fresh air.â€ Enough said.
Postscript: Just when you thought the man had his hands full of work, the seemingly inexhaustible Joe is planning to record a full-length album with Shit Workers in between collaborating with Korean punk bands for a gig at the Kwangju Biennale (29 March to 2 April 2002) and being on the organising committee for the Chow Kit Fest (planned for 1 to 5 May, 2002).
If you want to stay informed of about the Unclogged shows you can join the mailing list by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org
featuring Rai Koris (Kathmandu punk trio), Farmhouse, Couple, Monsoon and Libra Defect.
Date/Time: 9 March 2002, 9pm
Venue: No Black Tie, 27, Jalan Mesui, Bukit Bintang (off Raja Chulan, near Istana Hotel) (Tel: 2148 8110)
Check out Unclogged online at http://dungpeople.sevcom.com/unclogged