Those not closely involved in the music scene in Cambodia may be unaware, but we have all kinds of punk here in Phnom Penh popping up every couple of months. We’ve got the homegrown metal/punk nastiness of the almost-out-of-school Doch Chkae and the late Sliten6ix; we’ve got the swaggering English lager lout sing-along of the Stiff Little Punks; we’ve got the eurotrash/rockabilly sensibility of The Schkoots. And coming up at Oscar’s on the Corner today – incidentally and appropriately the 40th anniversary of the fall of the Khmer Rouge regime – we celebrate the first Cambodian show of Koteka Is The Reason, from East Java, Indonesia, headlining the aforementioned Doch Chkae, and the new band Reign in Slumber fronted by Sliten6ix’s former lead singer Vanntin Hoern.
I got in touch with Koteka Is The Reason for some extra background on what, in my ignorance, seems like an oddity: a Javanese band that lists the likes of seminal eighties hardcore punk bands Black Flag and Circle Jerks among their influences.
As fans of the Dead Kennedys, you must be looking forward to a holiday in Cambodia. How do some nice kids from Sidoarjo, East Java manage to get their hand on eighties hardcore punk?
The kids in Sidoarjo grow up with punk music, and lots of us really love to listen to eighties hardcore. Most of us collect records and share the music with our friends. We have never been to Cambodia before and never knew about a punk scene there. We are really curious now, and like a dream come true, we can tour to Cambodia like the Dead Kennedys song.
How was the band formed? Was it through friendship or a mutual love of the music?
It started with friendship; and as we really loved to listen to the same kinds of music, we decided to make a band.
Do you write together or is there one main writer/leader?
The singer writes the songs, but some parts we write together, and we share ideas about what we should write about.
Phnom Penh is slowly making contact with the wider region, with more bands touring through, and our own bands taking occasional trips, particularly on the punk and metal side. What is the music scene like in your area?
A lots of overseas band tour our area, and scene is mixed up with metal, punk, hardcore, ska, Oi!, Celtic punk and indie music. We are also involved in many socially progressive activities like the Food Not Bombs movement, and a free trading market where you can take stuff you need and trade with stuff you won’t use again. We have also held a Zine Fest a couple of times, exhibitions of posters, a free street library and lots of things outside the music.
Where else are you playing on this tour?
On this tour, apart from Cambodia, we are playing in Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore. We worked really hard to make this tour happen, and before leaving, we held a benefit show to sell merchandise and help raise travel funds, so many of our good friends at home have supported us in our dream.
What can the Phnom Penh audience expect from the upcoming Koteka is the Reason show?
We want to know about the music and musicians in Phnom Penh and build a more worldwide friendships and connection, to share our music and hopefully meet people who love eighties hardcore.
For those who are curious about koteka and why it is the reason: a koteka is a cover for male genitalia worn by highland peoples in West Papua, which has become symbolic of their struggle to protect their culture against oppression, and their lands and resources against exploitation.