News : Flaming Wrekage – Wrongly held by corrupt officials during Indonesia tour
Sydney’s Flaming Wrekage would have today been performing in Indonesia (for what was their first ever international tour) and promoting their newest album, From Flesh To Dust. Despite a great start to the tour, the band recently came under strife when corrupt police officials cancelled their shows, confiscated their passports and threatened the band with deportation.
After an unnerving series of events and many hours spent being interrogated, the band ultimately were forced to cancel the whole tour and head back home to Australia.
In the bands’ own words, the story is as follows:
We arrived in Surabaya, Indonesia on the 16th of March 2017 on the cusp of our first international tour. We had eight shows booked and spirits had never been higher amongst the band. Our hosts and tour managers picked us up from the airport to take us to our hotel, stopping for some amazing Indonesian street food on the way. The following day we geared up for our first ever show abroad, at The Orgi Sauna Room in Pasuruan. We were in the literal deep end straight off the bat, sweating it out in a tiny 50 degree plus room to a bunch of crazy Indonesian metal heads. If there’s a hotter show in the world I don’t wanna know about it!
From here the tour only got better. We were letting off fireworks on top of mountains, checking out the local bars, swimming it hot springs. We then played a uni show in Jember to over 700 people followed by another great turnout in Surabaya the following night. It was at this show however where we had our first glimpse of police intervention. Police were outside the show for what seemed like a bribe from the venue. Our set time was pushed back by several hours in an attempt to move them on and although they waited till the end of the show, they left without any trouble, or at least no trouble that we were aware of directly.
The next show was when one of the best tours we’ve done fell off a cliff in the worst way possible. We arrived in Malang to play at the Houtenhand Beerhouse only to have our set cancelled by undercover police who arrived at the show. They shut down the show and took our passports. Everyone from the show, including over a hundred fans waited till after midnight outside the venue, hoping that we still might be able to play. It seemed like a bribe wasn’t going to cut it this time.
Not allowed back in the venue, our tour managers had to take all of our gear down three flights of the steepest stairs ever by themselves and put our guitars on the back of motorbikes to take them to a safe location. The police finally decided the night was done, asking us to pose for a photo. “Why aren’t you smiling?” They said to us, before finishing with “Immigration office. 10am tomorrow. See you there.” We got back to the hotel and to read over the extremely vague forms they gave us. It appeared there was an issue with our visas, despite the fact we weren’t making a cent from the tour. We were assured that this has never happened to any other band on this circuit before, making the situation even more concerning.
After at the most two hours sleep we drove into Malang city to face the music. Hopefully we’d be there for an hour at the most, get our passports back and continue the tour. After each passing hour it became more apparent that we weren’t going to be in and out of there. Dave was briefly questioned by the chief officer who explained that our holiday visas were not the correct documents. The shows, although all free, were being promoted which counted as commercial activity, therefore we were supposed to have working visas to be touring the country.
Our tour manager was questioned for several hours by one of the officers who shut down the show. Following this Dave was intensely by the same officer, whose english was very difficult to understand. “That was a really horrible experience. He was asking me questions with huge pauses to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible…” says the frontman. “Write down your mother and fathers full names. Why are you in this country? Where did you go after this city? Where you going tomorrow? Why was concert shutdown?”
It became apparent that the fact that we weren’t making any money was completely irrelevant. We were in his country and he didn’t like it. Dave was questioned for a very anxious 2 hours before signing a document in Indonesian that was allegedly the answers to all the questions he had asked. Pushing the 10 hour mark, stress levels were high and we just wanted to get out of the country. We asked if we we cancelled all the shows and rebooked our flights for as soon as possible we could get our passports back. He agreed.
“I saw the words come out of his mouth. Book flights now and you can have them back”, lead guitarist Justin Humphry explains. With hardly any money, we managed to book another flight for the Saturday, two days from then, thanks to a very generous mum. (Gail Campbell you are our saviour.) We showed him the itinerary which was met with “tomorrow you come in and we make the decision”.
The officer flat out lied to us and made us pay nearly $3000 in flights for something that might not even happen. What was originally a reasonably affordable tour turned into a very expensive one. At this point we were in constant contact with the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, who informed us that what he had done was completely illegal. Even though we hadn’t committed a crime, we were very concerned about being deported, which would have completely ruined any future touring prospects for the band.
To our relief we went in the next day and were handed our passports back. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to the Australian embassy for putting the pressure on them to do what was right. Under strict instructions from the embassy, we headed back to Surabaya to fly home, not able to stop anywhere where we had a show booked on the way. Our tour managers Herman and Oopie were devastated by all of this, informing us that many venues have to pay regular bribes for the privilege to put on consistent shows. The freedom to enjoy live music is something we take for granted in Australia and we couldn’t believe that this whole fiasco was over a heavy metal show.
Herman explained that he had never toured with a band that had had these sorts of crowd numbers. Our hashtag was going crazy on instagram, we were asked for more photos than ever. He suggested that this might have attracted the attention of the police and immigration officers. Maybe if we were less successful nothing would have happened. We saw a passion for heavy metal music in indonesia unlike any other. We played with some of the best death metal bands I’ve ever seen, some riding their bikes over three hours to the shows with their guitars on their backs. We were honoured to have played in Indonesia and witnessed the beauty of this amazing country. This whole situation was extremely unfortunate, only coming down to a few corrupt people whose jobs circle around making life extremely difficult for others. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to Herman and Oopie and make it very clear that none of this was in anyway their fault and they did everything they possible could have to help us in this very unfortunate series of events.
We wanted to share this story to highlight how amazing a tour can be and how quickly that can be taken away from you. We one day hope to return to Indonesia to pick up where we left off.
Below, you can watch a short promo video Flaming Wrekage managed to film for the opening of their planned Indonesia tour.
Flaming Wrekage will next be hitting up Australia venues for their ongoing tour dates.
From Flesh To Dust was recorded in Melbourne with Orpheus Omega’s Chris ThemelcoFlaming Wrekage formed in 2009 and have become a driving force in the Sydney metal community and have extended their reach to all corners of the country, delivering an intense and memorable live show.
Releasing their first EP in 2011 followed by their debut album, Catharsis in 2013, the band garnered the support of national metal media including the now defunct Channel V Loud and as a result were able to reach far flung regional pockets of the country, bringing metal to the masses and the scattered alike.Flaming Wrekage have a distinctive take on modern thrash that has the ability to turn crowds into a flurry of limbs the moment they start playing.Those attending their live shows… bring a helmet!