Flashback, 15 Years of Kekal (1995 - 2010) - Part V: The Painful Experience
Every week, we, "the collective" (people who moderate Kekal Facebook & Myspace pages) collect and present insights on each of 7 albums Kekal have released (from Kekal newsletter and interviews), and possibly do some little interviews with former members Jeff and Levi if there are not enough references. Enjoy the reading. If you need translation, just use Google Translate: http://translate.google.com
Part I: Audible Minority -> http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=428969339762
Part II: The Habit of Fire -> http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=430764454762
Part III: Acidity -> http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=433534864762
Part IV: 1000 Thoughts of Violence -> http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=436585819762
We chatted with Jeff just recently about "The Painful Experience" album, exclusively for this facebook note. This following inteview was done just a few days ago:
"The Painful Experience" was known as a shocking revelation for many of us who dig your earlier albums "Embrace The Dead" and "Beyond The Glimpse of Dreams". What was in your mind when you guys did "The Painful Experience"? Why the changes?
Well, to me "The Painful Experience" was a new beginning to Kekal.. The main reason is that there were lots of anger and pain we felt during that period of time, and that the music style of "Embrace The Dead" doesn't really cater those expression, we needed a channel to just let loose and throw out all anger, frustration and whatever you want to call them.. and at the same time we wanted to really enjoy and have fun in recording the music, as we needed that for our mental health.. haha.. Basically, "The Painful Experience" is a back to basic of what Kekal should stand: to be 100% honest to ourselves and play music from the heart.. We moved away from our basics during recording "Embrace The Dead", so that's why to both Levi and I, we don't really like "Embrace The Dead" that much, despite there are some very good songs there on the album.. It's just not 100% Kekal, we were just emulating the trend of so-called melodic black metal around that time and it was embarrasing.. "The Painful Experience" was also the first album we recorded using computer-based digital audio workstation, so there're lots of new possibilities like incorporating loops, electronic beats, etc..
"The Painful Experience" is also, should we say, the rawest Kekal full-length album. Any insight on that?
Yes, I totally stripped down most of the reverbs on that album, especially on the vocals.. I wanted the album to be in-your-face and no bullshit pseudo-epic production like we wanted to achieve on "Embrace The Dead".. It was connected with the back-to-basic philosophy of Kekal, the underground do-it-yourself ethic, and the producion style should reflect that.. We wrote shorter songs too and some of them are verse-chorus-verse kind of structure.. We wanted to bring energy and attitude on the album, more than any other unecessary elements..
You once said that the title "The Painful Experience" came out from your experience with "Embrace The Dead" album. How was the reception of "Embrace The Dead" by the time you recorded "The Painful Experience"? Were you aware that fans would hate the band after "The Painful Experience" came out? and knowing after it did happen, were you surprised?
Good question.. But really we didn't care about public reception.. We were very small around that time, and most of people who bought and dig our first 2 albums were not necessarily Kekal enthusiasts.. We didn't have significant amount of real fans in the sense that they like Kekal for what we do, but more because they like black metal or white metal or whatever they were drawn into, and we were also drawn into those sub-cultures with the music, rather than finding our own personality, especially with "Embrace The Dead" album.. So I must say that "The Painful Experience" is our first album that has our personality in it.. A first true Kekal album I must say.. We lost about half of our previous fans after releasing "The Painful Experience", but that's for the better because we showed them what we really are on the album, and "Embrace The Dead" was a kind of little deceiving, we never really wanted to be a black (or white) metal, but yet we didn't show it on the album.. It was a blessing in disguise when it came to the amount of frustration we had during recording and promotion of "Embrace The Dead", that really opened my eyes about what should we do in the first place: to be honest to ourselves first when making music.. So we had anticipated that many "Embrace The Dead" fans would hate "The Painful Experience" and Kekal, and when it did happen we weren't surprised at all..
"The Painful Experience" is also the album that you found yourself starting a relationship with Fear Dark label from Holland, the same label that brought you for European Tour in 2004 and released your most successful album "1000 Thoughts of Violence". What do you think about them around that time, and now?
Well, to be honest with you, we have already been in contact with Fear Dark before "The Painful Experience", actually they contacted us after they heard "Embrace The Dead".. But we were still in a crossroads that time, and basically we declined to talk further with them about releasing "Embrace The Dead" and it was better to start with the next album instead, which is "The Painful Experience".. They were a little bit surprised after hearing "The Painful Experience", which is different than what they expected, but they put their trust in Kekal and released the album.. In Europe, "Embrace The Dead" is probably more suitable style to get potential fans because fan-base of that kind of style has already been established by bigger and more well-known bands over there, and it's easy to just jump into the bandwagon.. But I personally respect Fear Dark for keeping their trust in us and continue to promote "The Painful Experience" and worked with us building the fan-base from bottom up.. The sales of the album weren't great, but it built the path for us to grow our confidence with the style of music we were heading into, and made possible for us to push it even further on "1000 Thoughts of Violence" and albums after that.. Although Fear Dark is no longer running now, they were a very visionary label.. They were not a big label who had all the money to promote bands directly to big masses, but they picked bands that are high quality, in my opinion, and through their releases, bigger labels started to eyeing the bands on their roster.. One example, Fear Dark released the first couple CDs of a band called Eluveitie, and they are pretty successful now after Nuclear Blast records took them..
"The Painful Experience" is so... dare I say...Iron Maiden influenced. What do you think about them and have you heard their new album "The Final Frontier"?
Haha.. It was year 2000, and I remember being super excited knowing that Adrian smith and Bruce Dickinson went back to the band and they have 3 guitarists.. I remember getting the "Brave New World" album on the first day it was released in Indonesia and listened to it for more than 10 times back and forth without listening to other music.. When I wrote the songs for "The Painful Experience" I listened to Iron Maiden a lot, the "Brave New World" album and all their back catalog with Adrian and Bruce, so the influence was so direct and affecting the riffs and melody lines too.. Maybe too much but it was fun.. Yes, I just listened to their new album a couple weeks ago, well.. the excitement was different now, because I don't really listen to any metal music these days, and "The Final Frontier" was the first metal album I listened in 2010 and I'm not joking.. I no longer have any reference of what is good in heavy metal right now, so I really can't say anything about it.. Sorry..
What do you think about "The Painful Experience" now, after you haven't really listening to metal music?
You know, I am currently listening to it ("The Painful Experience") again when answering your questions.. bcause I must admit I had forgotten on how it sounds.. My bad.. I rarely listen to earlier Kekal material right now, as I wanted to focus on the new album "8" and that is the album I am really proud of, even though I am no longer active as a band member.. But I'm still amazed on the energy level that we put on "The Painful Experience", I could never ever be as intense as when I sang the songs like "Mean Attraction" or "Like There's No Other Way to Go".. The album really captured the energy and the level of frustration portrayed on songs like "Like There's No Other..." or "Behind Closed Doors".. The production was perfect to enhance the energy of the songs, and it is one of those albums that you can have both anger and fun at the same time..
==Interview Excerpt from Ultimate Metal webzine, conducted in 2002, credits goes to Russell from Ultimate Metal==
Congratulations “The Painful Experience”, an excellent release! I have read several reviews in which people didn’t like the falsetto, King Diamond-influenced singing. What inspired you to use this style?
Thanks..! I have to tell you that it was the first time we used that kind of vocals, so you can only find them on “The Painful Experience” album.. Well, we actually needed some more aggressive vocals but yet melodic ones because the nature of the songs and the lyrical themes.. So we thought those kind of vocals were suitable in some of the songs.. I really like the Rob Halford and King Diamond approaches on vocals because they have variations of styles and each style has its own “personality”..
I agree, one of my favourite aspects of your music is the huge variation in vocal styles. Are you glad you used the falsetto?
Yes, particularly for that album, the use of those vocal styles is the best one..
Do you think your lack of formulated music writing helps add diversity to your sound and keep it fresh then?
Yes of course, if we stuck in only one way to write music and keep it over and over again we would be ended up sound the same in each album, and that’s what we want to avoid.. We don’t want to get stagnant..
Cool! I really liked the almost dance/ethereal feel on the remix... Did you find any tracks harder to write than others?
Yes of course, for example the title track which needed more than 2 months to build, and the 2nd half of the music on that song was actually written and recorded after the first one was recorded, then they got mixed together.. You can hear different guitar tones between the first half and the 2nd half.. But in the other hand we have a song that was entirely written down in about 30 minutes, like “Like There’s No Other Way To Go”..
As your main inspiration is life itself, do any have stories/specific experiences behind your songs?
Not specifically.. But every title tells a story as an illustration.. On “The Painful Experience” album, we address more topics from the current socio-political situation in our country.. We took that as illustrations and brought them in words..