Zack Yusof: Who Ya’ Callin’ Indie?

If you’re an indie music fan, you’d have probably heard his voice on 33rpm on BFM (British For Malaysians… Just kidding). But what really is indie, selling out and good music? Free Deserters frontman, muso journalist and radio DJ, ZACK YUSOF gives us his take on that thing called indie.

Indie. Now that’s a popular buzzword. Look around and modern indie culture is simply everywhere. In the cities as well as the provinces. In our shopping malls, on our favourite TV shows, in Hollywood movies and most definitely on our Ipods. Indie today is a clever marketing tool. A catchy song on a TV commercial. Wayne Rooney is a hardcore Stereophonics fanboy while Barack Obama digs The National. The anti-establishment have gone mainstream .The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

There was a time when being indie used to stand for something worth risking girlfriends, social status and sometimes even a few teeth for, Before it got co-opted by corporations and the mass public for mass consumption. Before it became a cool fashion statement. When being indie was like being part of an elite counter culture underground society, a secret club of kindred spirits who understood what it was like to be consumed by music as a life style, as a life choice. Regardless of whether you were in school, working behind the counter in a bank or waiting tables at a café.

In an ideal world, good indie would always be adventurous, no holds barred music made independently of populist or commercial considerations and always for the best artistic intentions. No compromise. No sell out. After all, all, It was never meant to be a popularity contest. Then just let the people decide who makes the cut, as they did with the Beatles or The Smiths. Cream – the stuff one puts on desserts and not the sixties power trio – will always rise to the top.

In these high visibility days of social net working, can band really stay underground? Better question would be why they would possibly want to? Anyway, underground status is easy to maintain. Just keep being mediocre and you will happily go along unnoticed. Getting popular but preserving your creative control in order to keep creating interesting music at the same time? Now that’s much more difficult proposition.

Difficult yes but definitely not unattainable. Enjoying success without compromise. That’s the ultimate dream and something to aspiring for because at the end of the day, the essence of being indie is all being free-spirited, adventurous, and even selfish with your art. Ego has everything to do with it. Respect comes with dedication to the cause every time. And long may that continue.

And that’s why the Smiths are still loved by the faithful and copyists like Gene not so much. Poseurs will always get found out in the end and that’s the beauty of it. Proper Indie credibility can’t be attained with a pair of skintight jeans and some Wayfarers. It needs to earned, nurtured and sweated over before it has a chance of becoming something precious. Put the work in, take some risks, be unique and then let cards fall where they may. Now that’s real rock ‘n’ roll.

Zack Yusof spins indie music on 33rpm on BFM every Tuesday and Thursday, 7.30 – 8.30pm. Checkout Free Deserters at