Back in 1983 while still pupils at a Jakarta high school, a bunch of mates got together to jam their favourite Rolling Stones songs. Like the Stones in their heyday, they relished a devil-may-care attitude, sometimes verging on the reckless, as they reinvented the English band's riffs in their own inimitable style. Above all, they focused on the delivery of the rock n' roll rather than the niceties of a polished performance. This, essentially, is where they got their name from, as Slank (or Slengian in Indonesian), means ‘recklessly ignorant'.
In some musical circles, these attributes might well be seen as a hindrance rather than positive qualities. But with Slank, the opposite is the case. Indeed, they have bottled up this impudence and used it to terrific effect, wowing audiences way beyond their native Indonesia, and releasing 20 popular albums in the process.
Hardcore rock fans: Slankers
If anything, Slank have managed to gain something of a cult status in Indonesia. They have an army of eager followers who delight in the generic term ‘Slankers'. At concerts, many of these fans produce hand-crafted flags consisting of the band name ‘Slank' shaped into a graffitied butterfly. It is also obvious from looking around these audiences that Slankers are not necessarily all young fans. Some have obviously been devotees since Slank's debut album was released in 1990. Others have cottoned onto them more recently, perhaps from rifling through their parents' record or CD collections.
To look into the band's meteoric rise you have to go back to the early 80s, and that school band that started life as a Rolling Stones tribute act. Known as Cikini Stone Complex. They swiftly became bored with playing songs which had already been done to death by Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and the gang, and promptly split. Drummer Bimbim recruited a guitarist, Bongky, and along with his colleagues Denny and Erwan. They formed a band named Red Devil. At the end of 1983 they decided to change their name to Slank for all the reasons already mentioned.
Their initial line-up was now Kaka (lead vocals), Bongky (bass guitar), Pay (lead guitar), Indra Qadarsih (drums) and Bimbim. As is the way with many young rock n' roll bands, they spent a lot of their formative years plying their trade in small clubs around Indonesia, steadily building a loyal following, and mastering their instruments.
They secured their first record deal in 1990 and this was soon followed by their debut album, Suit suit … hehehe. Throughout this decade they released albums that were always well-received by the rock appreciating public, although continued to be plagued by that familiar bugbear of rock bands seeking fame and fortune: internal disagreements. Nevertheless, their first three albums became best sellers, with an award being granted by BASF Indonesia. Album number four, Generasi Biru, became a multi-platinum seller, storming Indonesia's music charts. By 2005 they were being recognized by a global audience of Slankers, becoming Indonesia's first stars of MTV.
As well a touring around the Pacific Rim and becoming familiar to audiences from Japan to Korea, Slank have toured Europe and America to widespread acclaim. Their first English-spoken album was entitled Anthem for the Broken-Hearted. This was recorded and mixed in America in the space of three weeks, testament to Slank's seemingly never-ending enthusiasm for their riotous blend of rock n' roll.