Benny Soebardja is one of the most important figures from the Indonesian music industry. Being a member of bands such as ‘The Peels’, ‘Shark Move’ and the infamous ‘Giant Step’, Benny left his mark across many memorable albums throughout the years. During his career he also recorded solo efforts, which many regard to as some of the best music to ever surface from the region. With the help of British poet Bob Dook, Benny recorded numerous English based songs filled with incredible musicianship and melodies that have an underlying progressive nature.
It's our great pleasure to have your here, Benny. How are you?
Yeah, I'm also very glad to know you, Klemen. I'm OK since I got heart attack on November 2nd 2012 and survived. Its like my 2nd life. My best friend, Bob Dook and I are now making lyrics with the title "Second Life". We plan to make a song and record it.
Where were you born and what can you tell us about growing up and learning to play a guitar? What were some of your influences?
I was born in a town called Tasikmalaya on July 4, 1949 (so American citizen will celebrate my birthday every year hehe). I was learning guitar since I was 10 years old without a teacher, just watching somebody else playing guitar and I was very glad when my mom gave me a birthday present (acoustic guitar) made locally that was the best present I got. The most influential guitar players for me are mostly from British bands such as King Crimson, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Tielman Brothers from Holland, Gentle Giant, and off course Led Zepp and Jimi Hendrix and many more, but I've tried to blend all ideas becoming my own character.
Your first major band, that recorded LP's was Shark Move. Were you in any other bands before that?
In 1968 I formed pop group band called the Peels (still in High School at that moment) we mostly played cover versions such as Beatles songs, Jimi Hendrix, Procol Harum, as well Rolling Stones and had a contract in some night clubs in Singapore, Kualalumpur and Penang, during that time one of the member named Soman Loebis (passed away) is one of the founding member of Shark Move band, other member of the Peels is Boetje Garna (left hand bassist), Deddy Garna (drums) and Gumilang (lead singer).
Shark Move formed in Bandung back in 1971 or was it in 1972? And by the time of late 1972 you already recorded an album titled "Ghede Chokra's". I believe you released it by yourselves as SHARK MOVE Record. How did you come together to form Shark Move and why the name "Shark Move"?
In 1972 I was registered as student of Agriculture Faculty Univ Padjadjaran Bandung West Java, while Soman Loebis also registered as student of Institute Technology Bandung, me and Soman wanted to improve our band quality instead of as a cover version band we prefered to have a recording with our own songs, at that time I had already songs: "My Life", "Butterfly", "Evil War" and Soman got "Bingung", so we (me and Soman) decided to leave the Peels and form SHARK MOVE to me Soman is the best keyboardist player at that moment. Shark Move name was given by Aktuil magazine as well as designing the cover of the album the guy name is Choqie one of creative person in Aktuil magazine.
Shark Move members:
Benny Soebardja- Lead guitar, lead vocal
Sammy Zakaria (passed away)-drums/vocal
Bhagu Ramchand (sponsor/manager) he also passed away and he sang "Evil War" which he was love that song very much, and we also made English lyric with him.
I made those song "My Life", "Butterfly", "Evil War" and "Insan", "Yanto" made 2 Indonesian songs while Soman made song Bingung and he sang the song as well.
Where did you record the album and what gear did the band use?
We rent a studio in Jakarta called Musica Studio using 12 Tracks channel, my guitar Gibson Les Paul, Fender as well as bass, and Ludwig drums and Hammond organ with Leslie, and we recorded the album in 7 days recording non stop (saving our money) but off course we did a proper preparation in Bandung before we began recording.
What are some of the strongest memories from producing and recording it? Was there any concept to it? What can you tell us about the cover artwork?
Since I was as also student of Faculty of Agriculture and Soman as well a student of ITB, music for us was only a hobby, we wanted to express our creation, witch was sadly dictated by producer (majority of the music genre at that moment is sad song or mellow which really isn't my style) so I refused to be a part of major label and we may claimed that Sharkmove is the pioneer of INDIE label. which nobody doing the same thing yet. Our basic concept was only that we do have a same vision and mission to form the band and propose something different in other word we call it Progressive.
As I told you earlier the art of cover album made by Choqie Samanta an artist from Aktuil magazine, the cover is related to my song Evil War, where the 5 heroes try fight with Evil.
Do you know how many copies were made, since this was a private release. And how did you actually distribute the LP? It must had been a hard work for you to get some exposure.
Sharkmove made only 100 Vinyl and sell at music shop at that moment, and later the pirates very clever copied onto cassettes and selled them well all over Indonesia without our permit, that is one reason me and Bhagu decided to make another recording Benny Soebardja solo album and put some songs from Sharkmove plus new song and made cassette. Later on (2004 ???) one recording company from Germany ask me to make a Re Issue of Sharkmove in Vinyl and CD format but until now I had no report at all about the selling process. And I believe the original 100 vinyl of Sharkmove its now kept by collectors in Indonesia as well as other countries in Europe < Japan maybe also USA.
How about concerts? Where all did you play and what do you recall from having concerts? What were some other bands of the time you shared bill?
As I told you earlier that music was at that moment just a hobby and we were (me and Soman) very selective to accept any contract of life show and have to match with our tight study, and Sharkmove only 1 year since Soman die in a traffic accident in Jakarta. I decided to close the chapter of Sharkmove, and a year later I came back in the music and form GIANT STEP and this is the group I worked a lot in my career of the music, in this era I met BOB DOOK one of the best lyric from UK and he contributed a lot to Giant Step. Nowadays he still stays in Singapore and we agreed to continue by bringing back GIANT STEP with a new concept and support by my son Rhamaditya Nalendra he is multi instrument player and writes good songs, now being discussing with JASON CONNOY from Strawberry Rain by making a new Giant Step recording and sell world wide.
I'm going to write down songs from the LP and I would like if you could comment each one.
A1 My Life
I wrote this song when I was surrounded by hopeless people, careless, frustrated
Its also I made this. Its an advice for people to beware from the bad conditions as crime, it was everywhere at that moment
Its made by Yanto you have to ask him.
B1 Evil War
Its a protest from me as students to the condition which was no fair play at the moment
Its written by Soman, I will try to explain the meaning of the lyric, this is also a protest from Soman to the father and mother which was so much consideration of blessing their daughter who planned to get married with some one proposed.
Its my song telling about some one who is really confused and frustrated with the surrounding situation and does not know what is he going to do ??
Its a song made by Yanto, and its a warning to the drugs user
What happened next? You probably disbanded and joined Giant Step, which released first LP in 1976, but they were already together and you just join them. Tell us how did that happen?
Well, again I have told you that since Soman died in accident I feel lonely and fed up with music cos I had a very closed relationship with my best friend Soman (may he RIP), but after long sad situation me and Sammy decided to form another band form GIANT STEP and invite Deddy Stanza (bassist he is very good in stage act), and I ask Jockie (keyboardist) he is also very good to form Giant Step and this in the longest time I ever worked in the music, as well as the long lists of band players joined in this group, some have already passed away such as Yanto Sudjono (drums), Sammy Zakaria (drums) Deddy Stanza (bassist).
Music of "Giant Step" is different than music of your previous band. How did you manage to get connected with it or was this just a smooth process of you expanding and experimenting in various of ways?
Giant Step was the beginning for me to make music based on harmony and good team work so the members such as Albert, Triawan Erwin did contribute a lot to reach character of Giant Step Sound, in Giant Step Mark 1 joined us also a guitarist and keyboardist named Deddy Dorres, he did very well and sang the song written by Bob Dook and melody by my self called Childhood and the sea bird.
Your first LP was "Giant on the Move!". I would like to stop here a little bit to talk about this LP. What do you remember from recording and producing it? Was there any concept to it?
Giant on the Move was made after Giant Step mark 1 and we broke up, Deddy left the group and again I met the next generation of keyboardist which is really genius named Triawan he made the song Giant on the move with Bob Dook lyric writer. And the basic concept was that we together agreed to keep Giant Step moving ahead, so called Giant on the move with Benny Soebardja and Albert Warnerin (double lead guitarist) Triawan Munaf (keyboard), Haddy Arief (drums) and Adhi Sibolangit (bassist), Triawan< Haddy and Adi we worked together in producing my solo album as well as Albert.
I'm not sure, but you released around 5 albums in the 70's and then there was your solo carrier, which we will talk about a bit later. Tell us about these releases. Mark I followed and Kukuh Nan Teguh, which is also outstanding.
Giant Step 1 released by family of Deddy Dorres who was dealing business in record shop in Bandung and Kukun Nan Teguh also did by Nova Recording in Bandung, from here we joined with major label with which I wasn't really satisfied with the result of music, and study almost finished and I graduated in 1979 as Agronomist, so my music vision was a little bit contaminated and couldn't focused, and my British Company ICI Pesticides where I worked put me in East Jawa Region my position in that company is Research and Development staff. Some times my friends had to fly to Malang East Java for a music practice if we had a concert to prepare.
How did you release LP's. It was again a DIY project? How many copies were released?
We did our selves only Sharkmove project the rest projects we do not in touch
Giant Step and concerts?
We did a lot of concerts mostly in big Cities in Indonesia we had visited, again we were very selective to accept the contract due to my tight schedule as a student.
Let's go to your solo career. In 1975, that is before you Giant Step you recorded Benny Soebardja & Lizard album, which didn't even have an "original" release. It was recorded on the cassettes. How many copies were made and what can you tell us about it? We can hear, you had all freedom in the world to do whatever you like…
Yes......as I told you my original project is only Sharkmove the rest projects we do not know and I dont want to know in commercial aspect since my recording payment paid once and no Royalties.
"Gimmie a Piece of Gut Rock", was released two years later. How did you record it? Rumor has it, that you had unlimited time in some studio? Your band mates from Giant Step also came and add something to it, right?
Yes it was a crazy idea in that moment where a dominant music business in Indonesia was mellow music. I met Chinese guy who was interested to produce a different music and gave me a freedom and unlimited time in his studio so this is like a blessing from God.
A year later your released probably the rarest album, which was also only cassette made called "Night Train".
Night train made by my brother Harry Soebardja is the beginning of working together with my brother band called Lizard in producing my solo album, this happened after Giant Step broke up and Deddy left the group, and from that moment again I had a plan to re form Giant Step with young and fresh musician and have the same idealism..
What happened after that in the 80s and so on with your music career? What are other members of Shark Move and Giant Step doing these days?
Since I graduated in 1979 and joined ICI Pesticide company and afterwards I worked with Monsanto American company, my music activities slowed down, and in 1986 i've been offered by a famous radio broadcasting called Prambors to sing 2 songs from their 10 best songs called APATIS (wrote by Inggrid) and SESAAT (wrote by Harry Sabar) was a big success, and again major label signed a contract with me to make a solo album called SETITIK HARAPAN and LESTARI (this album its difficult to get) and at the end Giant Step signed contract of 2 albums and made album called GEREGETAN but after that i had decided not to make the 2nd album since i was very busy with my job as Agronomist.
In 2002 Shadoks reissued your Shark Move LP and these days we have solo albums out on Strawberry Rain label. How does it feel knowing people are still listening to your music, even more than ever?
Thanks to Allah, what we did for about more than 30 years ago can still exist in nowaday generation, and thanks to Shadoks, Strawberry Rain (Jason my best friend), Now Again Record (Eothen my best friend too) and Bob Dook who kept supporting and you also Klemen thanks, hope more people in the world will listen to what we did in late 70s, thanks guys.
Was there original master used for the Strawberry Rain releases? Is there any unreleased stuff?
Yes.. I did a project with help from Bob Dook and my son Rhama to produce a new recording of Giant Step we can call a new Giant Step which is a collaboration between 70s and now generation, we are ready for making 2 albums but still waiting for the confirmation from Jason Connoy of Strawberry Rain, now I am in Singapore discussing with Bob Dook for this project
Benny, I think we covered your music carrier very nicely. Tell us what occupies your life these days?
Today I enjoyed my life after heart attached 2nd of November 2012 hope I can survive, just for your information Bob Dook had a same problem on 2nd November 20 years ago. I live in Jakarta with my wife Tria and i have 2 sons my first son Anggara Rhabenta he is graduated architecture from TU Delft Holland and now works in Singapore, my 2nd son is Rhama Nalendra graduted as Graphic Designer and follows 100% in music he wrote a lot of good song, he loves very much 70s music and at his age of 26 years has still a long way to go and has been offered by Berkley Music school in States to study there, but he prefers to make the project of new Giant Step first with Strawberry Rain Canada. And I also have 2 adopted sons.
For the end, would you like to send a message to It's Psychedelic Baby readers?
Yes keep on moving, Rock will never die, keep listening to our songs and May Allah Bless you All, Peace on Earth....!!