Old Bands Tell Young Bands: 10 Myths About Your Local Music Scene

Illustrations kkkkkiddddd


“Yes I know Radiohead… I just bought a handphone charger there last week…”

Sheesh… music really has changed, especially for an oldhead like myself. But that doesn’t mean new music these days suck.

There are a lot of myths going around about the current generation’s artistic credibility, the scene, and you. Yes, this piece is (partially) about you, young music fan.

You and your music taste suck. You’re the reason why Nirvana, The Ramones and Pink Floyd are confused with tee shirt brands. You’re the reason why real hip hop is dead (lol). But you’re also the reason why music is still alive.

So listen up… Here are some myths old peeps will tell you about music that you shouldn’t pay attention to. God knows I’ve heard a few of them during my time…


Myth #1: The Scene Isn’t What It Used to Be

The older one gets the more they tend to romanticise things. A scene is not built on kids who are passionate about music or ideals, it’s built on horny youths with nothing to do with their time.

In general, people need to fill their time with something. It doesn’t necessarily have to be noble in nature. So that hasn’t changed.


Myth #2: There’s No Money in Making Music Because of the Internet, Do it for the Passion

WTF? Read Pastel Lite’s frontwoman’s piece on making it as a musician (who makes money). It’s not an easy feat for a musician anywhere in this world to do so, even more if you play urban music in an unsophisticated market. What hasn’t changed despite the internet killing the need for physical formats of music (my alter ego is saying “Hello, vinyl?”), is the struggle to get gigs, or more importantly, to get people to listen to you. Just getting people to care about your art/headlines/life is getting more difficult by the day with more noise out there in our daily lives.

You’ve made it if people care about your music.


Myth #3: Fans From Out of KL Are More Supportive and Better People in General

Not if your band sucks. I mean, c’mon, these guys might come from the kampungs but they’re not deaf. And they have internet as well. Just cause KL’s full of cold-blooded asses doesn’t mean you’ll find success by constantly hitting the road. Unless you’re a punk band. Punk rock’s still kickin’ (outside of KL).


Myth 4: Live Music Venues Are Dying Because No One Cares About Live Music

They’re dying because rent is getting higher, and the bands want to get paid even though their music doesn’t make the crowd want to dance or f**k each other (in fact, they don’t even want to come for the gig!); sound-proofing is expensive, equipment wears down and needs to be replaced; the bands they book aren’t enjoying themselves playing to a small audience hence it’s a depressing circle jerk, some bands don’t even show up after getting a status report from one of the members – usually the drummer – who actually showed up early; many organisers are dysfunctional and driven by lewd dreams of being Tony Wilson; bands bring their friends who don’t buy drinks, the audience (and bands) drink at bottle shops nearby before the show to save a couple of ringgit per beer; and lastly; every regular F&B business struggles to survive today so why would a gig venue selling hard alcohol under the table, or one that doesn’t have functioning air-conditioning or restrooms, do any better? 

For further info on managing an independent gig venue, you may talk to the proprietors of Rumah Api, Live Fact, BijanFX, Impero Studio, or FINDARS. They’ll fill you in on the shit. Please bring cigarettes when you meet them.


Myth 5: New Acts Suck Live

I don’t know what all the beef is about with the whole new skool hip hop VS old skool hip hop thing, I’ve never been a part of that world. But if you’re talking about electronic music VS traditional music (ie: traditional rock music), taking sides would be like arguing if there should be a ban on ‘Hotel California’ at open mics.

If there’s any reason why live music still sucks in Malaysian venues, it has to be with the sound-person and the house speakers. What kind of music you play doesn’t matter.


Myth #6: “Twilight Actiongirl Killed Indie”

“TAG killed indie…” This is a direct quote from someone I know. In the right context, TAG did us all a favour. What’s better than building a scene, is killing it. How can anything new come about if the old is still there? And the old won’t die unless something new comes along, get it?

In theory, it’s pretty straight forward – the kids made their choice and they wanted something different – a different kinda place and activity to do than what their elder siblings did. The irony of this is that TAG are probably peers of their elder siblings.

TAG patrons/KL youth/potential gig-goers spent about RM60-120 every Friday night on parking, long island tea and the occasional cover charge if you didn’t know the bouncer at Loft and later Barsonic, at the old Zouk, instead of watching a bunch of new KL indie bands for RM10-15 at a gig venue.

There’s more irony to this story when you take into consideration that TAG were champions of local indie, they spun local tunes in all their sets–infamously closing a local festival with OAG’s ’60’s TV’ right after Korn’s set; but were also highly responsible for diminishing the crowds at live shows, ’cause the kids had no money to go to gigs after each Friday night (not to mention, they probably couldn’t hear anymore, or just didn’t care about live music played by bands–the CDJ would do).

TAG’s saving grace was that they killed themselves (some say) before they became boring old farts. Side-note: even the more technical, older DJs trash-talked TAG. Shows what all local entertainers have to go through, despite being in whatever so-called forward-thinking scene.


Myth #7: No One Sells Albums Anymore Because Internet-Streaming Made Us All Spoilt

You never heard of the pasar malam ah? Back in the Net-less Age, kids used to buy ciplak cassette tapes at the local night market. That’s where I got my first copy of MJ’s Bad. Sha-moan!

Why pay when you can get it for free, right? Go preach your ethics to a first-world country kid.


Myth #8: There Are No More Revolutions

If you’re looking for a revolution to come out from the West, you’re looking in the wrong direction. Look towards places like Africa and the Middle East. You’ll probably find more inspiring, socially-conscious artists on the verge of pushing their societies towards real change.

The West are going through their own cultural battles right now, but they’re on a different level. Don’t expect people here to get it or be influence by #MeToo when some local bands can’t even accept LGBT+ Rights and basic feminist values.


Myth #9: No One Will Remember The New Bands, But Old Bands Can Still Pull A Crowd

Only if you’re OAG, Wings, Alleycats or ACAB (or DJ Bawang at Minuit Inuit)… One of the recent articles I’ve read (by Alt Nation) is on 20 or 30 bands from the 2000s that were forgotten – among them were Ugly Casanova (Modest Mouse’s frontman’s side-project). The thing is I remember some of them, and they were good bands – Ugly Cass was my fave for awhile.

Music is good to listen to when you’re young and in the process of embedding exciting memories of living life to its fullest. When you’re old it’s just to block out the kids crying in the backseat.


Myth #10: There Are Too Many New Bands So No One Gets Attention

That’s like saying there are too many cogs and not enough holes. Maybe your cog isn’t big enough? Or as attention-grabbing as it used to be?

Maybe you did not oil your cog for so long that during the dry season it got all worn out? Maybe you should just quit playing nanny and let the new bands do it themselves.


Bonus Myth: You Should Respect The Otai (Old-timers)

Did the Sex Pistols ever respect Pink Floyd? I remember a band called Novokane (I might have gotten the name mixed up here). They played a song called ‘F**k OAG’ during soundcheck for a gig and were immediately confronted by a bunch of otai schooling them on why they shouldn’t diss another local band.

I like OAG but I get it – OAG were big at the time and Novokane were just taking potshots at them for being rockstars. Funny thing is, even Radhi OAG is sick of playing and listening to ’60s TV’.

In music, there are no heroes. Just people trying to pay the bills.

Though he’s an oldhead, Ben Liew continues to make music with Ben’s Bitches, The Panda Head Curry?, Technoloji and most recently, as Kumbang Lemang and The Commies.