Malaysian band Kyoto Protocol is the reason behind the rebirth of Rock & Roll in Malaysia.

Kyoto Protocol 5

Consisting of long-time friends vocalist and guitarist Fuad, vocalist and keyboardist Gael, guitarist Hairi, bassist Shaq and drummer Shan, Kyoto Protocol started off by playing covers in local bars in 2009 and it wasn’t until they won the second place in the Yamaha Asian Beat Malaysian Finals that very same year that they got recognised by a bigger audience.


In 2011, the band released its debut album entitled An Album featuring two of their top singles Pussycat and Never Know which peaked at number #1 on various local radio charts. Following the success of their album, Kyoto Protocol was nominated for the Best New Artist Award at the Anugerah Industri Muzik 2011. The very same year saw the band open for MGMT’s maiden concert KL, making it their first exposure to the big stage.

The band’s success continued to escalate as they were nominated for the Breakout Award at the Shout Awards 2012 and performed at regional festivals in Malaysia such as Rockway and Urbanscapes. Kyoto Protocol continued to gain exposure and win hearts of fans overseas as they performed at Baybeats in Singapore and BeastieRock in Taiwan. Recognised and loved by many, Kyoto Protocol performed for their biggest crowd to date at the Future Music Festival Asia 2013 and also played at the recent H&M opening at Avenue K, Kuala Lumpur.

Having come along way from when they first started, these down-to-earth boys are set to rock the stage at Urbanscapes 2013 and are bound to win over more hearts with their amazing talent and crazy fun personality on stage! Hype.My spoke to Fuad of Kyoto Protocol in an exclusive interview in conjunction with Urbanscapes 2013.

Kyoto Protocol 1

How did the name Kyoto Protocol come about?

We were from two different bands with one common member, i.e. Shaq. Fuad and Shaq were in a grunge cover band called The Johnnys while Gael had AfterEffect. After deciding to pool our resources together, we saw it fit to have a new name for a new start. All of us chipped in to find a name until Fuad suggested the name Redux Initiative: a literal description of the music, i.e. bringing back a relatively old school rock ‘n’ roll sound but taking the initiative to give an old horse new legs. A friend quipped, “I don’t know man, it sounds like Kyoto Protocol or Geneva Convention.” So we were almost called Geneva Convention.

Tell us more about your band.

We all have day jobs, but you don’t want to know the specifics. If we tell you, then we’d have to kill you.


How long has Kyoto Protocol been performing?

We have been Kyoto Protocol for four years now. Our first show was entering ourselves in the Yamaha Asian Beat competition in 2009. We weren’t too shabby: champion of the central region and national runner-up!

What do you guys think about the current music industry in Malaysia?

It’s improving, slowly but surely… Hopefully it will be awesome before our fingers get too arthritis-y to play. More and more people are showing support to the local scene and it’s also exhibiting greater diversity.

Who usually writes the songs in the band?

I usually write the lyrics, but it’s up to anyone to write the music. We’ve had many different permutations before! Gimme Nothing was the first song that the whole band contributed to, whereas other songs like Pussycat had less input from the rest of the band.

What are the songs usually based on?

The songs are usually based on observations about social dynamics. And how it relates to me. e.g. Pussycat is about herd behaviour and how it makes people do funny things without realising it. Like the Macarena.

How important would Kyoto Protocol say lyrics are?

Lyrics are one of the main pivot points where a connection is formed with the listener, so I deem it to be very important.

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Favourite singer/band?

Fuad: Right now, Queens of the Stone Age.
Gael: Maynard James Keenan of Tool and A Perfect Circle.
Shan: The Foo Fighters.
Shaq: Freddie Mercury of Queen.
Hairi: Bloc Party.

Favourite songwriter?

Fuad: Jason Reece and Conrad Keeley of …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.
Gael: Dave Matthews.
Shan: Michael Jackson.
Shaq: Dave Matthews.
Hairi: Jimi Hendrix.

Who are the major influences for Kyoto Protocol?

We’ve almost had too many influences to mention… personally I’ve always been influenced by The Clash, Queens of the Stone Age, Pearl Jam and apart from rock, I grew up on Motown and old rhythm and blues. Old soul like Stevie Wonder to the last great classic soul album – in my opinion at least. I don’t have time to explore the world of soul music too much – “Voodoo” by D’Angelo. And then you have the music that straddles the in-betweens, the unchartered territories of music of which I aspire to like TV on the Radio.

If you guys could collaborate with a local artist, who would it be and why?

I don’t know if this guy is officially a musician or not – he’s more commonly known for his work on PopTeeVee’s “That Effing Show” – but I think Faiq has the voice of an angel. Kind of like Bon Iver; it sounds so earnest! I’d love to write music for that voice! I learnt about this when I watched “Something I Wrote” (the play about Azmyl Yunor’s life). Seriously Faiq, if you are listening and you’re open to the idea, let’s make some sweet music!

What about an international artist?

It would be super cool to do something with HAIM. I reckon the results would be like Wilson Phillips-meets-Electric Six. HIGH VOLTAGE!

What does Kyoto Protocal love most about performing?

Forming a real connection with the audience is the best part of performing. Problem is, it doesn’t happen every time. But we’re working to the point where every time feels just as magical!

You guys performed at FMFA 2013; tell us what it was like!

FMFA13 was one of the best experiences we ever had. Not only did we get to play right before Temper Trap, we also pulled off the biggest and baddest show to date. We had the Pussycat dancers, beach balls and a light show. It marked our transition from just playing instruments onstage to being entertainers. Not many can claim to play on the same stage as Mr. ‘Gangnam Style’ himself (Psy)! Our gratitude goes out to Livescape Asia for not only pulling off an amazing event, but allowing homegrown talent to be part of it as well.

What about Urbanscapes?

Urbanscapes was also a great milestone for us. We played our first Urbanscapes in 2010 right after Yuna. You should’ve seen how many people left after Yuna’s set. We expected this to happen, but what we promised ourselves is that one day most people would want to stay and listen to us.

What can fans and our readers expect from Kyoto Protocol at Urbanscapes 2013?

We’re taking a month off before Urbanscapes to do a few things, e.g. sort out our fitness, trial-and-error some new material and plan something different. Some of the #KPeeps have already been trying to figure out what songs are going to be played at the Urbanscapes set on Twitter. I can safely say at least four or five unreleased songs will be in our Urbanscapes set.

Who are you looking forward to see perform at Urbanscapes?

Definitely Franz Ferdinand as they are one of our biggest influences. Also very excited for Two Door Cinema Club because we’ll be opening for them in Bangkok the week after – 28th November for the Godung Festival. There’s also a smorgasbord of regional acts that I’ve heard of but haven’t heard yet. The Indonesian contingent, in particular, have been breaking some sonic ground, especially against the backdrop of the usual popular Indonesian artists in Malaysia who play it safe. I hope our slot is next to Oh Chentaku, our brothers-in-arms.

Apart from Urbanscapes, what’s next for Kyoto Protocol?

I previously mentioned the Two Door Cinema Club gig in Bangkok for the Godung Festival. For the rest of the year, we’ll be focusing on creating new music instead of vigorous gigging. You can only play Gimme Nothing so many times. We don’t have a fixed timeline yet for our next album, but we’ll definitely be in the studio in December. We also have some new music videos up our sleeves that we can’t wait to release!

Where can our readers listen to and get updates from Kyoto Protocol?

Please do check out our YouTube channel because that’s where we’ll be putting up some of our new music videos that should be out by the end of this year. If you’re itching for a listen, the best place would be on Spotify: Kyoto Protocol ‘cause you get to listen for free and we get our dues as well!

Thanks guys! See you at Urbanscapes 2013!

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Updates on Kyoto Protocol can also be obtained from their website and Facebook page.

Here’s Rindu by Kyoto Protocol. Enjoy!

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Bryna spends most of her time obsessing over cars and sports, particularly football while keeping updated with the entertainment scene. From raves to rock concerts, Bryna listens to all sorts of genres and is also a fan of horror and action movies.