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The Restarts in Indonesia

Originally from Bayonne, drummer Jeremy Hayat joined the legendary London combo The Restarts in 2015. He tells us here a bit about their recent tour in Indonesia… on a desert island ! | By Polka B (Trad: Julie B.)

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Could you give us a little context about this tour ?

It was my first tour with the Restarts ! There are a lot of punk-rockers in south-east Asia, and particularly in Malaysia and Indonesia. The first time I heard about it was back in 2011. The story of Banda Aceh’s concert was in everyone’s mind. The cops had cut people from the audience’s hair, burned the t-shirts and the patches in the name of the Islamic law. In reaction to that, many bands protested in front of the Indonesian embassies all around the world, and the Restarts did as well. Indonesian people are fond of English punk music, especially bands from the second wave, such as The Varukers and Discharge. This really made things easier. We soon enough got to know Kunx (from the band Krass Kepala of Bandung), who organises the Libertad Festival every January !

The festival on a desert island !

Exactly ! But I think it may take place somewhere else this year. They have some other spots in the mountains (I even heard they thought about doing it in an abandoned submarine!).

I will never forget this festival. When the band and I arrived in Jakarta, we boarded on a huge boat to go to another island. From there, we were transferred to a smaller boat to go to Poison Island, the « desert island » ! It’s really tiny. It’s only 100 meters large and 500 meters long… The landscape is heavenly. One important thing to stress : the whole festival is free… and it’s the bands that pay to play there ! If you add the plane tickets, this tour really was a financial abyss. All in all, it has nothing to do with a European tour. It’s a bit like paying for a holiday, except we play every night !

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What’s the audience like in the festival ? Have you witnessed true interactions between the locals and the foreigners ?

I’d say there are something like 300 or 400 people coming… almost all punks ! I was scared to the bones at first. I was the « new guy », and had no idea of how the Indonesians were going to react, considering my position of French guy, arriving with his money and his travel bag ! They really had a tough daily life… I wondered how this gap would be dealt with. But I was wrong to worry ! They were all very open and seemed thrilled to meet us.

Among the foreign punks, I saw many Russians, Germans and Americans. Also loads of Australians and New-Zealanders, who didn’t come from far away. Everybody really seemed to be in the same vibe. The Indonesian punks love difference, I think that’s part of why they organise this festival. It’s the punks that marked me most. To them, the DIY way of life is an obligation. Considering how much this culture is repressed over there…it can only inspire respect !

After that we continued our tour in Australia, in New-Zealand, and in Latin America. It really was awesome, but I never felt that intensity and urgence that came from the punks at the Libertad. 

Is the DIY punk scene really developed in Indonesia ? Or is it more like a micro-society ?

Hard to say. That being said, I talked with many young people in Jakarta, and they told me that at their school, half the pupils wore spiked hair ! Punk-rock matters to them, and the looks are really important to them.

How did you concert go ?

Everyone was on fire. An aggressive riff and it was on ! It also was an audience made of connoisseurs, that knows the songs really well. To be honest, some locals knew way more English punk bands than I did ! Right after us played the Americans from Millions of Dead Cops, a really old school band. Of course, their live wasn’t as energetic as it used to be, but the Indonesians were so attached to the band’s aura of 80s legends that they danced like they were possessed !

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Did you attend the Alcoholympics organised on the island ?

Definitely did ! They imported the American concept of the « beer Olympics ». They mostly drink beer, and other stronger stuff like Pondoh. It’s really strong (and not so good!). Then again, the drinking games don’t have the same signification as they do at home. It’s forbidden and really poorly looked upon. They get the stuff in secret places. And I didn’t see any drugs on the island. I remember a Malaysian guy had brought some weed, but that’s all.

A little culinary advice ?

« Gado gado » ! It’s the vegetables ! Robin (guitarist from The Restarts) wants it tattooed on his fingers. This topic made many discussions and jokes happen ! Being a vegetarian isn’t really quite understood by many Indonesians. Why only feeding on side dishes ? A meal without meat or fish really is unimaginable to a lot of them.

Any last words ?

If you ever get the chance, go there ! The Libertad Festival is by far my best concert memory !