Sydney thrash trio Flaming Wreckage have returned home from their debut tour of Indonesia with a horror story worthy of an FX mini-series.
Off the back of their new album From Flesh To Dust, what started out as “one of the best tours [they’ve] done” quickly took a terrifying nose-dive, with the band’s shows getting cancelled, their passports seized and all three members getting threatened with deportation by allegedly corrupt police.
Shortly after playing an insanely successful show in Jember to over 700 uni students (where the riff crushers allege police may have solicited a bribe from the venue to let the event even go ahead) things took a turn for the worst when they hit their third tour stop at a city in East Java.
“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,” the fellas recall. “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.”
The band ended up not being allowed back inside the venue, and the cops added insult to injury by asking them to pose for a photo.
“‘Why aren’t you smiling?’ They said to us, before finishing with: ‘Immigration office. 10am tomorrow. See you there’,” the guys recount.
“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.”
The next day, Flaming Wreckage and their tour manager were held and questioned for up to ten hours, with authorities arguing that — despite the band playing all their shows for free and not reaping a cent from the tour — they were still required to obtain working Visas as the shows were “being promoted”.
Frontman Dave Lupton says he was questioned intensely for hours on end.
“That was a really horrible experience. He was asking me questions with huge pauses to make me feel as uncomfortable as possible…” Luppo says. “‘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.”
Lupton was then forced to sign a document in Indonesian that he was told held the answers to all the questions that he’d been asked.
“Pushing the 10 hour mark, stress levels were high and we just wanted to get out of the country. We asked if we cancelled all the shows and rebooked our flights for as soon as possible we could get our passports back,” the band reports. “He agreed.”
Lead guitarist Justin Humphry explains: “I saw the words come out of his mouth. ‘Book flights now and you can have them back’. With hardly any money, we managed to book another flight for the Saturday, two days from then, thanks to a very generous mum… We showed him the itinerary which was met with: ‘tomorrow you come in and we make the decision’.”
Flaming Wreckage claim the officer lied to them, making them fork out $3K for flights home under the pretence of getting their passports back, but then reneging on the guarantee once they’d spent the cash.
“What was originally a reasonably affordable tour turned into a very expensive one,” the band say “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 their relief, though, the next day they were handed their 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,” the band continue.
“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.”
The band reckon the crowd numbers they attracted and the impact they’d had on Indonesian social media may have caught the attention of the country’s brass.
“We saw a passion for heavy metal music in Indonesia unlike any other,” they say. “We played with some of the best death metal bands we’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 [tour managers] 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.”
The band conclude: “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.”
Meanwhile, Aussie fans can catch Flaming Wreckage touring their new album on home turf next month when they hit four dates across the country, including a set at the Blacken Open Air metal fest in Alice Springs.
Catch Part 1 of their video tour diary and list of tour dates below.