Homegrown & Well Known: DENY SURYA


Either Bali doesn’t have a whole lot of skillful cross-genre drummers or this guy is just one hell of an adventurer when it comes to his music. No matter the reason, Deny Surya is one sought after player. One of few early 90s era Balinese musicians in possession of enough charisma and skill to get national attention, he’s notched several notable bands to his belt and now keeps the beat behind folk rock trio Dialog Dini Hari. Let’s get him into the spotlight and show him the respect he deserves…

How many bands are you playing in at the moment? I mean, actively?
Ha! At the moment Dialog Dini Hari is my only band, but over the years I’ve also played with Delta, Trisma Voice, Hydra, Hologram, Lolot, and Rokavatar. I guess in my entire career I’ve joined a few too many bands!

Ah, Hydra. You guys were one of the first Bali bands in early-mid 90s who attracted big label like Sony Music Indonesia and got involved in their legendary Indie Ten compilation. But it didn’t seem to work out. Want to share?
Yeah, that’s true, right after we joined this rock competition, organised by Log Zhelebour—we didn’t win but we made it through to the second stage—Sony Music Indonesia contacted my old band Hydra and asked us if we wanted to be included in Indie Ten compilation album. Needless to say, it was a pretty simple decision to make! We flew to Jakarta quite frequently after that, for gigging, meeting with music industry people, all that kind of stuff.

Even though Indie Ten, at the time, was considered a reputable album—one where most of its alumnus became famous in the Indonesian music industry—Hydra never really landed on the planet of fame and fortune; we became quite popular in Bali, but that was it. In a way, if I really I think about it, that unsuccessful journey turned out much better for me though. You know, everything happens for a reason. As Hydra didn’t really have one, I learnt the importance of having a solid vision and my failure has shaped me and taken me to where I am today.
DDHbyMuhammadKhalidIllustration by Muhammad Khalid

What is your real passion, genre wise?
I have a policy not to limit myself to particular genres; I love playing all of them. But, if I really had to choose, then my first three preferences would have to be rock, soul, and groove.

What’s your recipe to blend, say, from a smooth styling folk-jazz to full power rock drummer without losing your Deny Surya’s signature? They seem to be from a totally different spectrum?
Tough question. Honestly speaking, I don’t really have a special recipe for genre-crossing. To me it’s all about following your feeling, trusting your instinct, and mixing this with your own musical skill. You know, you can just feel that the thing that you are doing is going smoothly. It’s a little hard for me to explain it in words so I guess all I can say is that when I play, I follow my feeling and that’s the key.

I heard that you’ve just built your own recording studio. You’ve always been into sound engineering or this is a new venture, a future investment?
I always dreamt of having my own studio and so I’ve always been into sound engineering. Since I was in junior high! And when I worked at Pregina, right after I finished my high school, I got the opportunity to learn. I’m still working as sound engineer at Antida and, yep, as you said, not so long ago I built my own studio. It’s still not really the one that I’ve been dreaming of—it might still be too early to call it a recording studio for my standard because it’s just a small room with mixing and mastering facilities—but hey, we have to start somewhere, right?!

How do you find Balinese music these days? You think local musicians can already compete with fellow musicians from other cities, especially Jakarta and Bandung?
Bali right now is like the heyday of musician brotherhood; different musicians from different backgrounds, different genres, have all started to work together or support each other. That positivity has pumped up our confidence in Bali music—without question we are as awesome as other parts of Indonesia! In fact, talking about skills and quality, I think it’s actually pretty much equal, it’s just because Jakarta used to be the centre of music industry, musicians here in Bali thought that the music scene in Java was better than ours. The internet makes our life easier as well; now there’s no need to move to Jakarta to get the attention from the general public.

Name three of your favourite records of all time and why.
Any and all albums by Deep Purple, TOTO, and Nirvana… Why? I would have to say it’s because these three bands have a complete skill set, one that also matches their attitude. And I think having that is what makes an album great; these bands have a way of connecting people with their lyrics.

Any last nagging words?
Life is simpler when you expand your heart.

*Homegrown & Well Known is my biweekly column in The Beat (Bali) mag. Basically it’s an interview via e-mail with Bali’s local big shots. This is the 22nd edition, was firstly published—a slightly different version—on The Beat (Bali) #329, Jan 18 – Feb 01, 2013
*Co-editor: Lauren Shipman
*Photos courtesy of Saylow
*Check out also videos of Deny with his current band, Dialog Dini Hari, present “Lengkung Langit” + his drum solo action
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