ASK any local music fan where Live Fact is and they’ll point you in the direction of a nondescript building in one of Taman Danau Desa’s shoplots.
Those who pop by one of KL’s most notable spots for an underground music fix might feel a little sense of apprehension as the staircase leading to it has been described as dark and dimly lit.
But what they’ll find once they enter the space is a different kind of light — solid new Malaysian acts strutting their craft on stage.
After Kontackt and Live Sparkle, Live Fact has now entered its third series, Push to Play. While the first two initiatives focused on new rock bands and acoustic acts respectively, its latest offering shines the spotlight on Malaysian acts who produce ambient sounds.
“There are quite a few places around KL where indie or alternative bands can showcase their music but as far as ambient sounds are concerned, this is the only place that I know of currently,” says Mak Wai Hoo, one of the three people who spearhead Live Fact.
“Oh, and we don’t use the term ‘underground’ these days since it has quite a negative connotation attached to it. So we go with indie or alternative,” he adds, chuckling.
The reason for the series, he explains, is to showcase little-known diversity of music we have in the scene, adding that performers like Hootan Mokhtaran, Electric Funeral, Margaswara, Tintuxx, Purple Label and Kit Merlin have been performing on Push to Play.
“We want to encourage these new acts to have live shows because, honestly, live shows are the best way of connecting with your audience. You can have your music online but it’s a different thing when you’re on stage,” adds Mak, who has also been working with local indie music label Soundscapes since 2006.
Over the last decade venues such as Live Fact have been sprouting up around the city, a phenomenon Mak says isn’t something new.
He explains that places like Merdekarya, Gaslight Cafe and Music, ATAS by Bijan, Barlai and Rumah Api are spaces that continue the tradition of showcasing the country’s lesser known acts, a hugely popular movement in the 1990s.
“Back then, there was more interest in local music,” confides Mak, noting that there has sadly been a decline in the following, a reason he attributes to the lack of ticket sales.
“A lot of spaces can’t afford to upkeep their spaces if they can’t sell tickets. Not many people are willing to pay to watch local bands perform so these places where local musicians can perform are few and far between.”
Perhaps the disinterest stems from the belief that local musicians are nowhere close to their international counterparts.
“That’s a huge misconception among the public — our local musicians are actually on par with international acts. The only difference is that there’s not enough space for them to perform to earn that experience and exposure,” says Mak, who has been organising gigs both big and small for local and international performers.
The lack of opportunity to perform is exactly why Mak, together with partners Hwang and Shin, kick started Live Fact in 2015.
All three have been involved in the music business for over 11 years — setting up gigs, running equipment rentals and recording among the few.
A performance space, as they reveal in an interview with Malaysian music magazine JUICE in April 2016, was “...the last item on our list that needs to be checked.”
Over the last two years, more than 50 performers have taken the stage at Live Fact including singer-songwriters Froya and Reza Salleh, bands like The Red Panda Parade, The Endsleaves, jazz acts Nadir and Fazz as well as international acts such as Swedish synth pop duo Lehnberg.
But Live Fact is what people in the industry refer to as a DIY or self-sustaining space, a venue which doesn’t rely on or receive any sponsorship or corporate funding.
“We don’t exactly play commercial acts so we rely on ticket sales at the door to upkeep the place. Most venues like us who showcase non-commercial acts run along the same lines,” explains Mak.
PAYING IT RIGHT
Since Live Fact is a stage open to anyone who’d like to showcase their acts, the organisers have placed a price tag on performing there. But the minimal fee is an incentive, rather than rent.
“We wanted to emulate what the Japanese are doing. In Japan the market is so saturated with different kinds of music and new, emerging artistes that it’s so hard to get a spot to showcase their music — so in a way it must be worth something,” he says.
The lack of arenas to perform means a musician has to show commitment in sharing and showcasing their music.
Live Fact, says Mak, will waive the minimal fee if a performer or musician brings at least five people to the venue.
At the heart of it all, adds Mak, is the support of the public and of the people who govern the city. He cites the Borough of Camden, London as an example.
“In Camden, the city council has issued permits for places to open up so emerging artistes can showcase their talent, including music festivals, which has made Camden the centre of creativity and the arts.”
For Mak, KL has equally great potential. “We have such diversity in talent. Commercial radios are governed by certain rules of what they can and cannot play. But if we have more spaces like this or more festivals, we’ll be seeing more latent talent come out of the woodwork.”
33-2 , Plaza Danau 2,
Taman Danau Desa,