Riding the soundscape (interview with Siga Nu Betul)

Maybe you’ve read my review of “Salsé” by Siga Nu Betul, the one man project from Bandung. Or not. But if you did, then you know that I liked that material quite a lot. So, as Sherlock Holmes would say, it’s only logical that I wanted to learn more about it and about the person behind it. So I’ve got in touch with Caesar…and the rest you can read below. Enjoy!

Hello, Caesar, how are you doing, man? I hope all is well with you during these troubling times….
Hello, Rudolf I’m doing great, currently I’m Abu Dhabi for a full-time job. I hope all is well with you too!

First of all, what can you tell us about your project Siga Nu Betul? What is the meaning of the name? 
Basically siga nu betul is a Sundanese term to mock seriousness, similar to try-hard* in English. Which is actually me for the last few years hahaha. Frankly speaking the project is like a desperate attempt to get recognition but at the same time, somehow, I don’t want people to expect so much from me, you know, being a full-time hotelier, time management is kind of challenging. Your working hours are changing every now and then. 

Let’s explore something of your background, and by that I mean, of course, a musical background. What can you tell me about it? When did you start to take interest in music composition? What bands have influenced your musical taste?
I think its all started when I was in my final year of high school, however I have been a fan of music since early in my teenage years when I got my own bedroom and a radio to spend the time with. Same like other people obviously. Then I met with Dodo the Poet, my classmate, one day we hangout together and he showed me his cassettes collections which was mainly Radiohead, Smashing Pumpkins, Silverchair, etc. And I was like hey these are something you don’t hear in the radio very often. From that moment I start exploring and I discover many genres I have never knew before. 

In one afternoon in 2003 I was watching MTV, they played Malaikat by The Milo, and I was like “this is the kind of music to soundtrack the story of my life” I was so flabbergasted and I soon discovered that they’re from Bandung and they’re going to launch the album with live performance soon. I went to the gig with Dodo we both were just mesmerised. It was a beautiful moment. Long story short, I went to college and I met with someone who introduced me to this music software called Fruity Loops Studio.

A year later, in 2004, I got my own Pentium II computer and I quickly installed FL Studio and I just spent hours and hours just exploring sound. I was like “as long as I have a good reverb & delay, I’ll have my own version of the milo.” I think that’s how all it started.

From the short bio on the Bandcamp I could find you’ve previously had a band called Sunday Night Joy. I haven’t been able to find any info about it, would you be so kind and give me some insight about it?
 I was lucky to be in this group of talented people back when I was in college and I believe it was in 2005 when one day I came to visit Rangga Kuntara (Astrolab) in his house and I said to everyone who was there “guys, I made this song” and they listened to it and they were impressed particularly Segog who is the guitarist of Jelly Belly, a well-known shoegaze band in our local scene. He went “please, let me be in your band” and I said “sure”. Then Sunday Night Joy was formed, then there was Kiki Killjoy as the bassist (currently the front man of Leach Me Lemonade), Teguh (currently drummer for Sunny Summer Day) and Luthfi from Elemental Gaze as the 2nd guitarist.

We did several gigs in 2006 & 2007. The most memorable one was at the 2007 Kickfest which is the biggest stage I’ve been but at that time Killjoy and Teguh had to leave the band and were replaced by Bulè and another guy named Kiki in drums. It was two glorious years of my music career. 

Ironically as the front man and songwriter, I don’t have my own equipment, I don’t have my own guitar, all I have was my FL studio in my PC which is obviously at home. I began to reject many offers of live performances, because I was too embarrassed to borrow. Eventually, most of the band members returned to their own projects and slowly we part ways. Regretfully we were never made it to the studio. However, I’m forever grateful for their contribution. It was an honour to play with them.

“Salsé“ presents the recomposed old tracks from Sunday Night Joy. Why did you feel the need to do a “facelift” to those songs? And how do you feel about them before and after you’ve done the recomposition?
Initially, I utilise FL Studio as a medium to run down how a song should be. You got my point? I made the sample at home, show it to the guys, then we try to play it with real instruments. So to compare, Siga Nu Betul is more electronical than SNJ. There are few adjustments because I think there are elements that is outdated, I feel like it does not belong there anymore. Sometimes it takes several days before you decide I want to erase this and I want to add this and this and this. At the end of the day when you really I’m happy with the result you just go with it. The only hiccup is I wish I had a professional sound engineer to finalise the track, you know what I mean? Because you need at least an input, like a feedback. I think if you had a professional with you’ll 100% satisfied with the product. So I must say there is possibility that the album can be better with the sound quality but I’m happy nevertheless.

Songs like yours ale usually deeply personal. Can you tell us something about the individual titles, what is their meaning? Which one, if there’s any, is your personal favourite?
I like the idea of drowning and floating in soundscapes and I think the combination of the right level of reverb and delay can produce that kind of sense in my opinion. It takes you away from your problem to your comfort realm even for a while. I think that’s music, innit?

And my personal favourite would be Bandung Discovery & Salsé (previously known as Ether), those are the first few songs I made back in 2005. I superbly enjoyed the song making process. I was literally in my own comfort realm that I was telling you about.

The text say “Composed & produced by Mangison in [sic, on] his living room sofa”…now, I am quite curious about that working process! Seriously though, where do you get the ideas for your songs and how long does it usually take for the song to take a final shape?
Hahaha for those who is wondering Mang Ison is a nickname given by Segog, we played Alison by Slowdive in our first gig and he mocked the way I sing the chorus part. Anyway, like everyone else in any part of the world we spend most of our time at home since its too dangerous to go outside with this virus, but you don’t want to be lacking in productivity so I was lucky enough that I still have a working laptop, basically you just sit in the sofa, with your headphones and try your best to composed after you done your daily chores of course hahaha.
I think I have about 800 of unfinished tracks.

For now, your material is available only on Bandcamp. Do you plan to release it also in a physical form, or are you looking for a label to release it? Yes, that’s a good question indeed..so, what is your vision of spreading your music?
I’m thinking of hiring a sound engineer, maybe when I have enough fund. Like I said I’m very happy with Salsé but it could be better, you know. Or maybe yeah, why not, I would love to get a label to release it as a re-mastered release hahaha but on a serious note though, Salsé is not only available in Bandcamp but also in Spotify and various online music streaming platforms. And honestly I’m not an expert of promoting my music. I don’t really use any social media, I mean, I have twitter but I just read tweets haha.

I can’t avoid the question – how are the reactions to your album so far? Did they meet your expectations?
Reaction has been very positive so far but I’m not really impressed with the number of the listeners. I don’t have access to this data to be honest. Understandably, my kind of music is not that popular. To reach more audiences is a challenge. But I, honestly, have nothing to lose. I’m just happy with the way it is now but I’ll be happier if I can reach wider audience.

And let’s not stop with a vision here. I won’t lie, I liked your stuff and naturally, I am interested in something new too. So, tell me, do you have any new material planned or already recorded? If so, when we can expect new material to be available?
Thank you, Rudolf, I genuinely delighted you like my stuff. Actually I’m currently making a series in my YouTube channel Siga Nu Betul Production, basically its a 20 minutes long video with few tracks in it. Feel free to dig in. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy but I try to upload it as much as I can. 

As I don’t have much info about the scene in Bandung related to this kind of music, do you know and recommend any artists from your local scene with a similar music to yours?
The legendary The Milo is most definitely a recommendation and those bands I mentioned in question no. 3 are also something you have to check. Let me name a few Perfect Angel, My Violainé Morning, Eyesun, Heals and many many more.

Slowly moving towards the end of this short interview – any final words/message to readers of IndoKult?
Well, Rudolf, I want to say thank you for this fantastic opportunity and support. I just want to encourage people to do what you’re doing right now which is going on a quest to explore and to discover many talents from an unlikely source like IndonesiaBandung in particular. There are great inspiring music made in Bandung, trust me.

Avatar photo
I am the founder/owner and editor-in-chief of the Rubber Axe webzine, the underground/overground cultural publication, publishing also this website dedicated to all things Indonesian. I'm a happily married guy with 2 kids and a fantastic wife, and I'm a relentless discoverer of all things cultural and culinary. An everlasting dreamer and idealist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.