There are few consistencies in the music world, but Kyoto Protocol have proven to be one of the unchanging staples of Kuala Lumpur’s local indie rock scene, at the coalface for the past seven years. The five piece, consisting of Fuad Alhabshi, 29, keyboardist Gael Oliveres, 30, guitarist Hairi Haneefa, 28, bassist Shakeil Bashir, 28, and drummer Shanjeev Reddy, 26 have been dishing up their raucous brand of indie rock for years, firmly establishing themselves as a huge fish in the relatively small bowl of Kuala Lumpur’s rock music scene.
Though in 2009 Kyoto Protocol missed the opportunity to represent Malaysia in Yamaha Asian Beat competition, there have been few accolades they haven’t achieved since then. From sharing the stage with MGMT, The Killers and the Smashing Pumpkins to holding down coveted slots at major festivals like Future Music Festival Asia, Rockaway and Urbanscapes, Kyoto Protocol have come a long way since their inception as a cover band back in 2008.
The band first released five-song EP An Album in 2011, and followed with their Pahlawan EP in 2013 but it has taken the group until February of this year to release their first full length Catch These Men. A versatile, dynamic album, the release seamlessly transitions between heavy blues laden riffs and the rambunctious indie rock sounds they’ve become renown for. A game-changing album in the context of Malaysian rock, it represents an clear evolution in their sound.
We quizzed Kyoto Protocol’s enigmatic frontman Fuad and bassist Shaq on all the (not so) important things:
What is the strangest thing you’ve eaten whilst on tour?
Fuad: Taiwan’s smelly tofu. The taste is actually not too bad, but I think it’s not enough of a reward to justify going through the smell.
Shaq: That would have to be in Taiwan. We went to this “hawker-like” food stall area, which we understand as pretty popular. To be fair, it was pretty full. Anyways, we walked around the area and found a lot of food that was different for us, that we have never tried before. We tried this dish which was what we assume was beef (language barrier) that was wrapped in rice. Sounds pretty plain, however, the way it was cooked and presented itself was interesting as it was all fried together and had a pretty funky taste, but we enjoyed it. Next time, hopefully we’ll try the stinky tofu.
What is one thing that you can’t live without?
Fuad: I have an elastic band that helps keep my glasses from flying off my face when I perform. It’s like Samson’s hair, I’m powerless without it!
Shaq: Music. We play it, we write it, we love it.
Tell us the worst advice you’ve ever gotten?
Fuad:“Invest your money in gold, it will never lose it’s value in the long term.” How much value has gold lost over the past 3 years?
Shaq: There was a time when someone said that we should change the style of music we write to better suit the masses. It was a little insulting, even though we know they were trying to just look out for us, but nonetheless, we write music that we enjoy performing and we feel the music.
Where is your favourite place on earth?
Fuad: Somewhere by the beach where the drinks are cheap and food is good, and the view is amazing.
Shaq: Anywhere with stable WiFi. 9GAG does a pretty decent job of keeping me entertained. Or Melbourne. Scratch that, WiFi in Melbourne.
Tell us the best gift you’ve given/received?
Fuad: Last Aidilfitri, one of our fans made KP (short for Kyoto Protocol) muffins for us. It was not only just a sweet gesture, it was also sweet in a delicious way. By now, you can tell most of us in the band like to eat.
Shaq: A fan once gave me her beloved Kamen Rider figurine, and I later found out that she couldn’t find a like-for-like replacement. It now protects me in my car and sits handsomely on my dashboard. I often wonder now and again if she regrets giving it to me…
What’s your greatest talent outside of music?
Fuad: Each one of us have our own little talents outside music. Fuad’s would probably be that he is good with languages. He is able to pick up languages pretty well and quickly. Gael’s would be that he is able to talk to anyone. Hairi’s would be that is able to make anything look good on him, clothing I mean. Shan’s would be that he is a pretty convincing actor, especially scared or crying (just check out our Still Alive music video on Youtube). Shaq’s would be that he is able to find the joke in any situation.
Shaq: I’m pretty good at that arcade basketball game. I think my all time best was a score of 500. That’s not enough to win a championship, but it’s good enough for me.
Dogs or cats?
Fuad: Cat I love both actually.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done while performing?
Fuad: Both Gael and Shaq have fallen over on stage by accident. On purpose? Well, that would be when we played topless in Kyoto, Japan. It’s not like we have beach bodies to show off.
Shaq: Playing topless in our “homecoming” show in Kyoto certainly was quite embarrassing at first, but I must say that after the first 3 songs I started to feel at home…
What is your worst habit?
Fuad: We don’t exercise enough. We tend to be kinda lazy outside of music and work.
Shaq: Taking my loved ones for granted. If you are reading this, I’m sorry. Please let me know how to make it up to you. I just wanted you to know that I’m very grateful because without you I’m nothing.
You’re hungover and can have anything in the world delivered to you. What is it?
Fuad: Depends who you ask. Fuad and Gael, definitely, pizza. Hairi, well, a bit hard to know for sure, but we’re guessing some sorta fast food. Shan’s would be a salad of some sort, since he is a vegetarian. Shaq’s would be Nasi Kandar, with extra, rice, extra vegetables, extra meat and definitely extra curry.
Shaq: Ooo pizza is good… but recently I’ve come to love ramen as well!
What is your favourite band at the moment?
Fuad: I’m not gonna pick. It’s like picking between children.
Shaq: As a band, we are really enjoying Queens of the Stone Age.
Who is the best dancer in the group?
Fuad: I think our best dance is synchronised dance. We’ve proved that in the “Pussycat” video.
Shaq: Shan. By far. The rest of us are on another level. A whole other level below.
Which was your favourite gig ever?
Fuad: I’m going to have to go with Urbanscapes 2013. That was probably the largest crowd we had without a major headliner (i.e. foreign) coming on after or before us. Everything just fell into place…
Shaq: I know Gael loved Foo Fighters live. For me it’s Big Day Out Australia when Pearl Jam headlined.