MICHAEL KILLIAN OF ZODIAC

Amidst the seemingly interminable stretch of verdant foliage at the heart of Ubud, Michael Killian sits with Jasmine Kusuma one morning over coffee and bentos to talk about bringing forth the good times through fashion, music and culture

How did you develop the idea for Zodiac? 

Pleasure was purely a party collective initially. We had no proper venue for the parties we threw so we would find a restaurant, book it, then revamped the whole space to make it look like an actual club — bringing in disco balls and a proper set of sound system. The first few rounds of Pleasure went fully booked. From there, friends talked to their friends about our parties and their friends talked to their friends and the cycle continued. We designed a shirt for each event and that sold out as well. After Pleasure was established into a clothing line, we gathered to have a talk about our ambitions for it. We all dreamed of owning our own bar; a couple years later, a friend of ours offered us a spot and we saw its great potential. Long story short: The planning and conceptualising of a music bar and small club began. The whole process happened at lightning speed and, 4 months after the initiation, we opened Zodiac towards the end of 2018. 

What made you finally take the plunge into making Zodiac into a bonafide club in Senopati? 

My first taste of the F&B world was at Potato Head where I started as a graphic designer; somewhere along the way I became the Creative Director for Potato Head Jakarta. I resigned from Potato Head in 2017 and concurrently was offered a spot in Senopati. My partners and I felt like it was the right time and rode on that momentum. We all wanted to bring a breath of fresh air into the party and creative scene in Jakarta. 

What about the space? Zodiac doesn’t really adhere to the traditional club layout. 

The space that Zodiac currently occupies in Senopati was built to be the parking area of the building. They messed up the layout during construction so cars couldn’t get in. When we first saw it, we thought that it would make a nice intimate music bar on weekdays and small club on the weekends. If the space was too large it would, first and foremost, be hard for us to consistently attract a crowd to fill it with. Anyways, a large club wasn’t what we were going for; we wanted a spot where close friends could comfortably gather whenever they want. 

Where did the love for the idiosyncrasy come from? What’s your background? 

My father never let me read comics and the like growing up; even in elementary school, he gave me design books. He basically conditioned me to do what I do now. I was fascinated with the streetwear and sneakerhead culture in high school. It wasn’t just about buying a certain shirt or a pair of sneakers rather it was the layers of stories and culture — from music and movies to art and architecture — that inspired the making of them. Indonesia was very one dimensional, but as time went on a palpable shift happened. What was a minute group of fans formed into a big community that I felt a kinship with. I had a vision to elevate that scene in Indonesia to a worldwide level.

Angela, how did you first meet Michael? 

I met him during my senior year of university. He was my junior in college and we were within the same faculty. 

[To Angela] How would you describe him? 

Talented. Driven. Passionate. Visionary. He also has very good interpersonal skills and the eye for spotting talented individuals. 

What’s your favourite place in Ubud?

I can honestly say Sayan House. Before the pandemic, my friend brought me here to introduce a different side of Ubud. Food has always been amazing but what struck me was the combination of aesthetic inspirations available here. Sayan House has managed to incorporate Japanese, Scandinavian and Traditional Balinese sensibilities into one space. It’s different from the stereotypical image of serenity that Ubud customarily represents, but it works. 

So what’s the next move? 

Corona shifted a lot of things into perspective for me. I get to appreciate the little things more fully. Partying was the norm; now whenever a great one is about to go down, I say: let’s go.