As featured on Now Again’s Those Shocking Shaking Days compilation, AKA (an acronym of Apotik Kali Asin) started in the early 70s in Indonesia’s second largest city, Surabaya, East Java, and came to be known as one of the nation’s greatest rock bands. Starting off their careers as an infamous local band with notorious crowd pleasing antics, AKA regularly went through repertoires of Steppenwolf, Grand Funk Railroad, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Three Dog Night before finding a significant audience outside their home city. It was soon after that the band signed with a Jakarta based label, Indra Records that they started producing a steady release of albums, including 11 studio LPs and a couple of compilations.
Thanks to the supreme digging efforts of Jason “MoSS” Connoy (who, as you’ll see below, also compiled Those Shocking Shaking Days) our thirst for more heavy psychedelic & progressive funk from Indonesia is whetted with this new release–AKA Hard Beat (CD | 2xLP Strawberry Rain | SR001) available now from Light In The Attic. MoSS was kind enough to take time from his busy schedule to talk with us a bit about his various reissue projects and the new AKA comp.
We will be giving away ONE free copy (either CD or 2xLP) of AKA Hard Beat. Leave your name and email in the comment field below (email is kept private and not shared). We’ll announce the winner on our Facebook and Twitter pages on Friday at 12PM (PST). So be sure to follow us to see if you won!
Tell us about Strawberry Rain? What inspired you to start the label?
I have been helping various labels source reissue material for a few years now. A year or two ago I had the reels to an Iranian band (JOKERS) and while I was listening I started to wonder why I hadn’t tried my hand in the reissue market. I’ve put out releases in other genres of music, so it’s wasn’t a huge learning curve. I ended up putting out JOKERS with a friend of mine named Gholam on a label called Fading Sunshine. When the AKA contracts came about, my friend had other commitments so I decided to start another label named after a song from the group Ellison.
Your first release, the JOKERS album, got a lot of play around here. What was the story behind that project?
Well, a close friend of mine, Gholam, is a notorious psychedelic dealer, and has been for many years. He sourced all the Iranian stuff well before it hit eBay, including the Abbas Mehrpouya and Pari Zangeneh LPs and 1000′s of 45′s. He used to live in Tehran as a teen, and was a heavy rock head back then, which obviously wasn’t common there. He managed to preserve a lot of his collection, and kept contacts over the years. We ended up finding one of the engineers from one of the bigger studios in Iran, and got the reels out of there. Sadly all but one of the Jokers has passed, but the lone member was very happy with the result. We plan to have some other unreleased Iranian music in the future as well; it’s just a matter of timing.
Recently you curated and compiled the excellent Those Shocking Shaking Days comp on Now Again. When I first got that, I was immediately struck by how weirdly similar in vibe the Panbers track “Haai” was to Jane’s Addiction. A few weeks later I heard Henry Rollins play “Haai” on his KCRW show which he preceded with Jane’s Addiction’s “Stop” …he drew the same reference. A really great record.
Those Shocking Shaking Days was a great opportunity for me. Egon at NOWAGAIN and I have traded records over the years, so when he approached me about working on an Indonesian comp with him, it just felt natural. He’s very good on the marketing end of things, as well as discovering music, and sourcing bands. It took us a long time to get it all done, but we’ve had good feedback on it. Indonesia has a pretty interesting scene. I have 1000′s of LPs, tapes and magazines. TSSD was an intro to the scene as a whole, from a Western perspective.
Your new release is the first ever anthology of the Indonesian psych/progressive funk band AKA (also featured on Those Shocking Shaking Days). Tell us about this project.
I have been collecting AKA records for many years now. I discovered them early on when I got into Indonesian music, and really tried to collect all their LPs as quick as I could. Some of their albums are bloody rare and took me years to find. I haven’t seen a single copy in over 10 years. I always saw AKA as a group that had a couple of good songs per LP, and wished they had created a single “rock” album. They actually had one released in Indonesia with most of the songs on this comp, but it was only available on tape in the late 70′s. When we worked on the TSSD contracts, the opportunity came for me to create this record, and here we are.
Tell us about the re-mastering process. It’s a process that we spend a lot of time on and it’s great to hear when others do as well. What was the source material that you had to work with? Vinyl? Master tapes?
There are no master tapes in Indonesia outside of a small number of bands. The majority of the labels would erase the previous session after it was cut to vinyl. They didn’t want to import new reels, so they re-used existing ones. I used M- vinyl copies for all the masters. I can’t stress how long it took to get clean copies of their discography. It was hell. I had VG copies already, but didn’t want to ruin the sound quality from noise restoration. The transfers were done on a very high end turntable/stylus. I didn’t want to lose anything in the transfer itself. When I compare them to the originals, they’re unbelievably close on all fronts. The originals themselves vary in quality depending on label, and who mastered them at the time.
A bit about the design/packaging. The LP release a super nice tip-on sleeve (Stoughton?) and lots of great photos. Were you able to get in touch with the band or their family members for archive photos?
Photos came from old photographers and Rolling Stone Indonesia. The band themselves only had footage of SAS, the group that was formed post AKA. I’m looking into that reissue now, I’m not sure what will happen. I try my best to give customers something that feels good in their hands. I like the heavy sleeves.
What’s next on the horizon for you and Strawberry Rain? Can you divulge any details?
I have some Zambian albums I’m currently sorting out, and I’m also in talks with a few other bands that I need to keep quiet for now. I’m also looking to release another unreleased Iranian album in the next year or so if things work out.
Lastly, a spin on the oft-asked “what’s the first album you ever bought?” question. What’s the first reissue you ever bought or remember having?
I honestly don’t remember. Good question, I just have no clue.
For more info, audio samples and to order AKA Hard Beat (CD | 2xLP Strawberry Rain | SR001) click HERE!
Interview by Patrick McCarthy. Thanks to LITA’s Josh Wright for setting up the interview. Special thanks to MoSS for doing the interview.