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An Interview with Shaun of tenzenmen

"In Asia... punk is still a means to rebel"

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An Interview with Shaun of tenzenmen

tenzenmen

While the situations in Bandan Aceh and Burma, as well as Mike Virus' resulting compilation Aceh Calling may have caused worldwide awareness of the Indonesian punk scene, it was by no means the beginning of the Indonesian punk scene. Indonesian punk, and indeed punk all throughout Australasia has been a force for quite a while now, one which garnered little exposure elsewhere.

This is the realm of tenzenmen. Formed in 2004, tenzenmen is a DIY label that primarily releases music by bands from this region. It's a testament to the diversity of the scene, and a testament to the dedication of Shaun, the man behind the label.

We connected with Shaun to talk a bit about his label, his vision, and his newest compilation, Stay Together, which, like Aceh Calling, is a benefit for the punks in Aceh.

RC: So before we talk Aceh, let's talk tenzenmen. What is tenzenmen?

S/T: tenzenmen is a DIY record label and distributor focusing primarily on music in the Australasia region. tenzenmen was born out of original DIY punk rock ideals but doesn't limit itself by any musical genres. If you go to the tenzenmen website you will perhaps be confused by the diversity of the catalogue but I can almost 100 percent guarantee you find something you will like in there somewhere.

RC: How did it come about?

S/T: tenzenmen is more of a label for things that I do, starting with releasing a record in the mid 90s using tenzenmen as an artist name. In 2004 I started a label to help release my friends' music. Being older (though not always wiser) I had many friends around the world through the punk underground network. Over time though I've narrowed the focus down to mostly Asian music as the scenes there are still young and enthusiastic. There's a lot of great music happening in the region that is unjustly ignored by western media and difficult to find for western audiences. I like to think tenzenmen is helping bridge that gap.

RC: How did you get focused on the scenes in Asia?

S/T: I'm originally from England and moved to Australia in 1994, aged 27 or so. Australian cities have a much more diverse population and whilst I knew some things about Japan thru it's noise scene I didn't really know about anywhere else. I got curious, particularly with Chinese history and culture and thru more investigations and travel I went to a few countries trying to find good music. Things became a little easier through the internet and I started to make many friends online and slowly I'm going around trying to meet them and help out their bands if I can.

RC: And what have you noticed about the various punk scenes in the various Asian Countries?

S/T: It's a little bit of a traveller's dilemma in that I only get to visit them briefly and they may seem idyllic at that time. From what I see in South East Asia there is a passionate following for punk rock - and again, not specifically bound that musical genre - groups of kids working very DIY to make things happen. Whereas punk and hardcore scenes seem to be waning in the west they only seem to be growing in Asia.

RC: What are some of your absolute favorites?

S/T: Malaysia is one for sure as I've been made very welcome there every time I have been and I'm truly grateful for the friends I have there even though I don't get to see them as much as I would like. China is the other place I'm most familiar with and I've been loving lots of music coming from there and it's intriguing to see it grow.

RC: How does exposing the world to the Asian punk scenes help the Asian punks themselves?

S/T: I guess in general I would just hope to encourage others to find out more about the people and cultures of these countries. This helps all of us to try and understand the whole world around us. Also, just in spreading the knowledge that there is something happening in these places and it's pretty easy for you to make contact and actually go there and experience it.

RC: Now with Stay Together, what's the goal of the compilation?

S/T: The compilation is Stay Together and it's volume five (so far) that I'm involved in. The goal of these compilations is to spread the word on new Indonesian punk music. These comps are fairly genre specific and show that the frustrations of everyday life are still very real for a lot of people. In the west, punk mostly evolved out of middle class art scenes, before being championed by the lower classes and this seems mostly irrelevant now. In Asia it is still very much real though, as punk is still a means to rebel and vent your anger.

RC: Who did you get to contribute to Stay Together?

S/T: Actually my involvement with getting everything organised was very minimal. I had contact from a label in Indonesia asking for tenzenmen to contribute with some money and distribution. The initial contact was probably 12-18 months ago as they put everything together. It just so happened that the release co-incided with the arrest of the punks in Aceh. At that point it seemed more important to put the profits made from selling the album back to try and help the kids there.

RC: What do you view as the primary problem facing the punks in Indonesia?

S/T: To be honest I don't have enough information to be able to comment on this. For the punks in Aceh that were 'arrested' they are obviously being persecuted for the way the look and the music that they listen to. Whether this is the primary problem I don't know. I'm guessing the general problems of poverty faced in any developing nation outweigh most other things.

RC: Any ideas on how it can be fixed?

S/T: This is an interesting question because I don't feel I'm in a position to say how things can be fixed. They need to be fixed by the people themselves. I'm just willing to give my support to them as and when I can. I've been collecting the monies from the sales of the disc and made a contact in Aceh to say that this money is available when it is needed and it should be up to them how they find it best used.

RC: And how much contact have you had with Indonesian scenes in general, either before or after the release of Stay Together?

S/T: I've worked with other Indonesian bands before and I always hear great things about the different places in Indonesia. I'm hoping I can visit there one day to experience it myself. I have made many more contacts since the album came out and I've been checking things out more closely since the arrests too.

RC: Anything you'd like to add?

S/T: Please find a few minutes to check out some of the releases on tenzenmen (they are almost all available to listen to online for free) and help spread the word about some great music happening throughout Asia. Thanks for the interview!

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