Portfolio: John Resborn


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The Independent Culture

Eccentric toilet, Love Me Butch, Burgerkill… the names of the bands on the CD that accompanies siblings John and Lena Resborn's underground-music journey through Southeast Asia might sound juvenilely abstruse– but the bands themselves are deadly serious.

They have to be. Due to religious and political oppression, heavy metal on this continent has consequences. "As metal has become more mainstream in the West, it has lost its rebellion," says John Resborn. "Nobody cares if you listen to Marilyn Manson or Norwegian black metal and say you worship Satan and dress in black. If you do that in, let's say, Malaysia, you risk being thrown in religious rehab." It is not for nothing that Ai Weiwei recently announced that his next project will be a metal album.

Max, of black-metal band Balabans, painted on his corpse paint specifically for John, the photographer of the duo, and his journalist sister. The black-metal get-up is considered blasphemous in Malaysia, where he lives, but he wanted to show his true colours.

Man Jasad, known as the "President of Metal" in Indonesia, is one of the scene's most respected figures. A "growler" in brutal-death-metal band Jasad and vocalist with traditional bamboo-instruments band Karinding Attack, he also holds talks with the authorities about the underground movement. Talks which allow events such as those held in football stadia, top left, with the army serving as security. Bandung in Java, where this festival was held, "is like a mecca for underground creativity", according to Resborn.

Though many play just for love of the music, from Jakartan Islamists spreading jihad through political grindcore to female goth-metallists fighting for feminism while performing in their veils, there is a sedition present that echoes that in the West 30 years ago. Or almost: outside the cramped Chiang Mai café in which Thai band Opportunity were playing their gig, bottom right, there was a banner on the wall by the entrance that read: "No alcohol, No drugs – Just fun."

'Labour of Love and Hate' is published by Turnaround (turnaround-uk.com), priced £25, on 6 June