Friday, March 22, 2019
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Brace Yourself for Anthem for Maria
by rick olivares
Pop Punk band Anthem for Maria is launching their second album, Brace Yourself, this coming April 13, at Tomato Kick in the Timog area of Quezon City.
Brace Yourself, follows their 2017 debut, Sweet Tears on Reckless Years, and features 10 songs of polished and catchy hooks. While you will find traces of their influences such as Fall Out Boy, Pierce the Veil, All Time Low, Kamikazee, and Chicosci. But the Dasmariñas, Cavite-based band (vocalist Charles Vincent Vera, guitarists JV Lucero and Jake Palmaso, bassist Paul Michael Barcelona, and drummer Mark Denzel Lucero) has put their own stamp on the genre by a mix of their love for all things pop culture.
According to JV Lucero, Anthem for Maria derives their name from two things – first and foremost, them being fans of Maria Ozawa, and second, their desire to write songs about women and the affairs of the heart.
Lucero clarified the latter, “We are all for respect for women.”
In fact, the cover for Brace Yourself shows five dogs (that represent each member of Anthem for Maria) surrounding a curvy woman. It means either protection and that the band are coming for the affections of their respective crushes. “Music is a way into one’s heart,” pointed out Lucero.
Their songs are aimed at the teen and young adult set with accompanying anime/manga style art.
We aren’t just referring to the album cover art, because this also translates to their merchandise, videos (see their latest video for “Lucia”) and songs on Spotify. Each and every song comes with corresponding art that is based on the song.
Their band merch (from Carnivore Clothing) are just as fetching.
While the female of the species isn’t too far from their mind, Anthem for Maria are all professed geeks. All are into anime and manga, American comics, music, and video games.
“Through art, we want to add something more to the song and we also want others who aren’t fans of our band or even pop punk to check us out because they might be fans of anime/manga and American comics,” added Lucero.
In their words, the band just wants to make their music more enjoyable to all the senses.
Catch them at Tomato Kick for their album launch.
Friday, March 15, 2019
Wednesday, March 13, 2019
Tuesday, March 12, 2019
Sunday, March 10, 2019
The Last of the Romantics: Shirebound & Busking releases an album of love, heartache, and yearning
by rick olivares
Iego Tan aka “Shirebound & Busking” has an old soul.
Even if he is in his early 20s, anyone who quotes American author and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, listens to Irish folk singer Glen Hansard, and loves and uses Miles Davis cover art as inspiration has got to be an old soul. Oh… let’s not forget late British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien who he swears by and in fact owes for his moniker.
“I am not sure if I woke up and got drunk or vice versa,” Tan explained of his nom de guerre. “But when I woke up, I thought that I don’t belong in the human world and that maybe I was a displaced Hobbit. Now, I have to find my way home; hence, Shirebound. And I am a big Glen Hansard fan and he started out as a busker. Since I didn’t have money to get home, I had to busk. So, Shirebound & Busking was born.
And just to get it out of the way…. Yes, Tan did try his hand at busking. Twice as a student in his alma mater of the University of the Philippines. “It was embarrassing,” he can only say with a wry smile. Perhaps a bit embarrassed, but also feeling emboldened.
On that previous Tokien-esque reference, mayhap, Shirebound & Busking is a modern-day minstrel. – a man with his guitar and the occasional help from friends. “I write love songs and romance. But a lot of times when I look at sunsets and hillsides, I also connect those feelings to a woman. They are related but distinct. When writing songs, I try to tap into the distinction of love for your partner and love for nature.”
And as fate would have it, that Bard-upon-Diliman, is releasing his first full-length album titled, For Princesses, By Thieves O Mga Awit ng Hiraya para sa Guni-guning Sinta, this coming March 29 at Route 196.
It sounds like a mouthful – “long-ass titles,” Tan said of his debut album’s title with a chuckle.
The album art is austere. Rustic. “Like a thesis paper,” Iego was quick to point out. “Or Miles Davis album covers.”
Truth be told, it has that feel right down to the song titles preceded by Roman numerals. As a whole, the album is sparse in its design, but overall, it is deep. And to borrow a song title of his, For Princesses, By Thieves O Mga Awit ng Hiraya para sa Guni-guning Sintasays “A Million Little Things” that can be two-edged.
“Everyone says I write sad songs,” he wondered. “But I think they are actually happy.”
“Maybe,” he simply responded.
“The other day, I saw an interview of Neil deGrasse Tyson where he said, ‘Thunder shapes you.’ And that is exactly the album that I hope I made where the music and the art engages your senses.”
Case in point, the second track, “Pahintulot” that is about a long-distance relationship.
“I was trying to tell this woman how I feel about her before leaving to teach these Lumad children in Mindanao. I said goodbye and constantly thought about her while looking at the mountainscapes of Mindanao. So, I continued writing this song.”
The two are together today. So, the song heals all wounds.
“Tunnels” and “Relapse” seemed so similar. Like they flowed into one another. But the final product is they have become dissimilar. Essentially, writing For Princesses, By Thieves O Mga Awit ng Hiraya para sa Guni-guning Sinta was going deeper than the cliché of trying to find ‘the one’ as cliché-ish as it sounds. And yet, a lot of it is about heartbreak and a summation of the last decade of my life.”
Shirebound & Busking’sFor Princesses, By Thieves O Mga Awit ng Hiraya para sa Guni-guning Sinta is exhilarating, poignant, and insightful look at love and all its complexities. Written and performed by the last of these dying breed of romantics.
“I wouldn’t disagree,” Iego Tan concluded with that wry smile of his. “It’s just the way that I feel.”
Saturday, March 9, 2019
How is OPM faring on vinyl?
by rick olivares
There is no question that vinyl is back as a preferred medium for music fans all over the world. Now how does Original Pilipino Music (from the albums recorded back in the Golden Age of the 1960s-1980s all the way up to today) fare in the market?
Let’s clarify OPM to include not only the music (pop music in general) but to also include the independent and underground releases that one can find in the market today. So not everything is on a major label. There are no new releases on vinyl from major record labels except for their reissues. All the new releases on vinyl come from independent and underground labels.
We spoke to some of the Kagatan music fair sellers about their observations about how OPM performs in the vinyl market.
The consensus is that OPM on vinyl does well. However, one thing that we inferred from our interviews and observations as a music enthusiast is that price has a lot to do with how quick it moves.
We spoke to Arbie Bulaong (Treskul Records), Omeng Rodolfa (Spins Records), Roland Savellano (Lahn’s Records), Paolo Dagdag (Old School Music Project), Remy Cabaltera (Remnants Thrift Store), and Elwyn Zalamea (New Vintage Culture) on their thoughts about OPM on vinyl.
How is the demand for OPM today?
Bulaong: It is still high. The usual big name artists are sure sellers – APO Hiking Society, the Dawn, Identity Crisis, Juan Dela Cruz Band, Sharon Cuneta… the big names. For the artists today, Up Dharma Down’s vinyl release for Capacities is in sought after by fans. I am not sure kung marami na press but marami naghahanap. The Pinoy Punk releases are always popular. Anything punk kahit foreign mabilis bilhin. Yung mga really hard to find releases tulad ng RJ and the Riots, Electromaniacs, Speed Glue & Shinki, Third World Chaos kahit bootleg pinapatulan.
Dagdag: In demand pa rin up to now. Marami naghahanap ng OPM at masaya ako kasi nagkaroon ng value ang lumabas nung araw. Kung bakit maraming naghahanap—siguro kasi yung kabataan nila madalas nila marinig sa radio at telebisyon yung musika kaya naghahanap sila ngayon. Wala silang budget noon at ngayon meron na.
The popular titles on my list are Ric Segreto, VST & Company, Hotdog, the Bagets soundtrack, Boyfriends, Juan Dela Cruz Band, Soul Jugglers, Wadab, Identity Crisis, Bong Gabriel, Maria Cafra, Sampaguita, Mike Hanopol, at marami pang iba.
Rodolfa: Up to now marami naghahanap ng OPM. VST & Company, Boyfriends, Apo Hiking Society, Juan Dela Cruz Band. One foreigner was even looking for the Soul Jugglers!
Savellano: Marami naghahanap ng OPM. Ang challenge lang ay yung makakita na makinis na kopya. Pahirapan maghanap ng ganyan. Malakas din sa online yung mga naghahanap ng OPM.
Cabaltera: When we opened Remnants in 1994, pawala na yung mga long playing records. That time, pag meron nag-offer ng OPM, tinatangihan ko. Bagito pa ako noon. But even before the vinyl revival, we started getting OPM. Bakit siya mahal? Kasi konti lang in circulation unlike yung foreign artists na meron pressings from different countries. Because of the lower print runs, the demand is higher.
Zalamea: In my case, not as much unlike two years ago. Baka rin kasi mahal siya. It has to stop at some point. It can only go as high as what people are willing to pay.
We also asked who are buying? Is it Generation X? The Millennial and post-millennial generation?
All agree that it is both. Abroad, it has been acknowledged that it is the millennials who form the bulk of buyers today, but here in the Philippines, Gen X has the buying power, but so do millennials who are catching up.
We also asked each seller what was the most expensive OPM record they sold and the answers are shocking.
Bulaong: Most recently, I was able to sell a sealed copy of Mike Hanopol’s Buhay Musikero for 12K!
Dagdag: Ang pinakamataas ko nabenta is yung Up in Arms album ng Juan Dela Cruz Band; yung first album nila. Siyempre, Gen Xer yung bumili and I sold it for 38K kahit hindi ganun ka-perfect yung condition niya. Imagine if perfect or sealed. It will go higher. The next highest sold record was original na (Pinoy Punk) album ng Third World Chaos. Ang bumili ay German collector for P35,000!
Zalamea: I sold a near mint copy of the Juan Dela Cruz Band’s Greatest Hits (in its original shrink wrap) for 10K and this was in 2013. Also an original press of 10 of Another Kind for the same price before the reissue came out.
Savellano: Nabenta ko yung The Very Best of Sharon Cuneta, High School and Sharon & Love albums for 6K each. Nabenta ko yung Maskara ng Juan Dela Cruz Band’s for 6K and the Dawn’s self-titled debut for 8K.
Rodolfa: The most expensive na nabenta ko is Juan Dela Cruz Band’s Kahit Anong Mangyari for 15K.
Cabaltera: Nabenta namin yung Up In Arms ng Juan Dela Cruz Band for 13K. And the condition wasn’t so good. If it is in excellent condition, it will go for much higher. Maybe 30K.
Friday, March 8, 2019
RetRox, a concert for the damned & the death of a piano
by rick olivares
You know that it is said how your life flashes in front of you when you’re about to die?
Last February 27, at the Cine Adarna of the UP Film Institute, it was close. But not quite.
Famed artist, cartoonist, and experimental film maker Rox Lee was celebrated for his 40-plus years for his body of work in an exhibit cleverly titled, RetRox. During the 7pm performance dubbed, Rox External, some of his art and film shot on 8mm cameras, flashed on screen with members of sludge metal band Kapitan Kulam, blues rockers the Borrachos, and avant-garde crew, the Brockas playing in what was equal parts a theater of the absurd, a symphony of the damned, and a madcap dance that assaulted the senses.
The scene reminded me of two things. The first, a scene in Ralph Bakshi’s animated post-apocalyptic classic, Wizards, where Blackwolf shows his mutant army World War II propaganda film that feeds their bloodlust to the haunting strains of an organ played by the grim reaper. And the second, of that part in the Doors’ classic “The End” where the song enters a spoken word section by vocalist Jim Morrison, a re-enactment of Freudian drama with the music building to a climax before the band goes ballistic.
And true enough, as the clips sped up, the music got faster, and the scene, even more surreal and bizarre. Poet and artist Khavn dela Cruz who also pays with the Brockas, began literally hammering away at the keys of an old piano with… a hammer. And when the keyboard was finally destroyed, he brought out an axe and began hacking away. Copper coil, wood, leather, including parts of plastic Monobloc chairs there were smashed on the instrument by host and actor Jun Sabayton began flying in all directions. At one point, Dela Cruz doused the remains with some liquid as if to set it on fire. But it was like a final blessing on the life of a musical instrument that served its purpose well.
In the midst of this orgy of sound and sight, Rox Lee, at 68 years of age, was rocking with his makeshift guitar made out of aluminum, shingles, and wire. It was as if, he was having a seizure. His eyes looked up to the ceiling, entranced. His body shaking with spastic delight.
The whole set took about 45-minutes and it ended with the destruction of the piano and the bloodlust satiated.
“That wasn’t art,” dispelled Sabayton. “That was experimental.”
I asked if this was rehearsed. “No,” clarified dela Cruz who also said that they have done this before during a performance at Cubao X, “It was totally improvisational. If we did this outdoors, I would have burned the piano’s remains. Its work on this world… is done.”
By performance’s end, the hundred plus people who attended the exhibit and performance all clambered up to the stage to take photos and pick up remains from the piano as souvenirs.
Kapitan Kulam drummer Jay Gapasin noted, “Improv performances are exciting. You not only go with the flow, but you play on the emotions and mood of the moment.”
And Rox Lee summed it up best with a joke and a laugh, “That was 40 years of pent-up frustration… in one moment. I hope people enjoyed it.”
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Singaporean new pop rock sensation, Islandeer, has Filipino roots
by rick olivares
Currently making waves in the island state of Singapore is pop rock duo, Islandeer, with their shimmering single, “Momento.”
Islandeer is Christian Jansen (drums, guitars, and keyboards) and Michael Garcia (vocals, guitars, and keyboards). And if the names are any indication, the two have a Filipino lineage.
“My parents are pure Filipino and they came to Singapore from the Philippines before I was born,” revealed Garcia. “So, along with my younger sister, I grew up a Singaporean without much Filipino cultural upbringing. But, most of my relatives live in the Philippines, and my family would visit them at our grandparents’ house in Cubao every year or so.
Jansen’s family on the other hand settled in Singapore in 1940 right before the start of World War II. “My grandmother was born in the Philippines. Her father, Carlos Bosito, was a band master who travelled around South East Asia while taking his family. He ended up settling in Singapore in 1940.”
The two also have music in their blood. Added Jansen, “My dad who is of Chinese-Eurasian mix, is a distant cousin to the members a famous local band called Heritage. My dad played drums for some small bands in Singapore in the 80s. My mom who is Irish-Filipino, is a self-taught pianist.”
Chimed in Garcia, “My dad kick started my interest in music when I was young. He also introduced Original Pilipino Music to me at a young age and it is definitely one of my influences.”
And it is those myriad and diverse influences that drive Islandeer’s music. The duo, which has been around for two years, have performed in many huge music events in Singapore including Urban Ventures, Sound Feeling at the Lithe House and the Pilot Project at *Scape which is an organization that allows local youth to bring their aspirations to life through music and the arts.
“Momento” is a breezy and at once atmospheric song with Islandeer drawing inspiration from their collective influences Radiohead, the Bombay Bicycle Club, the Beatles, Fleet Foxes, Tame Impala, the Strokes, and other indie rock music.
“We wrote most of the songs on the album during our National Service which we completed last year,” revealed Garcia. “The oldest song we have is five years old and the latest song was written early last year.For “Momento,” Christian came up with the main chords and rhythm and showed it to me after our friend’s birthday party. Then half-drunk, we completed a basic demo of Momento in that night.”
Added Jansen, “That song is also about when you begin to notice everything about this thing or person, and time freezes regardless of the atmosphere or situation. Then comes rejection, which often happens when your attraction goes unnoticed. A strong yearning for reciprocation starts bubbling.”
The song has attracted attention from fans in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
Islandeer’s “Momento” is available for streaming and downloading on Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, and Bandcamp.
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Eat, Play & Love: How an American death metal guitarist found second life in the Philippines.
by rick olivares
Jason Gobel hurriedly walked over to the coffee shop in a mall in Marikina where we were meeting up. He was an hour and a half late as he mistakenly went to another mall that was farther out. Gobel profusely apologized on the mix up. But it wasn’t any trouble. It isn’t every day that you get to meet someone who played on two classic death metal albums one of which I have. Besides, I had The Insektlife Cycle and Boarhog bassist Joy Legason to keep me company.
Gobel, 48, doesn’t look anything like his younger self when he wore his hair long, and was swathed in black looking like some avatar of death. Gobel recorded music with Cynic and Monstrosity, bands might not be household names, but they did release cutting edge records, Focus for the former, and Imperial Doom for the latter. You can say that both were ahead of their time and helped define extreme music in general. And the two records are considered among the 500 best metal albums of all time.
I remark that Gobel who hails from Miami, Florida, USA, looks like he wouldn’t look out of place of a NASA control room or some college classroom. He laughs and smiles.
It wasn’t too long ago, Gobel wasn’t smiling. He was going through a divorce and in need to find himself and what lay ahead.
In an Eat, Pray, Love moment, Gobel, like the noted author Elizabeth Gilbert, sold all his belongings and traveled around the world. “I had to get away from what was familiar to me and go out and do some soul searching,” he explained.
Imperial Doom was released by Nuclear Blast Records in May of 1992, setting a template for death metal bands in terms of technical efficiency and a somewhat progressive approach. The album experienced moderate success having sold over 40,000 copies.
Yet a year later, Gobel found himself recording with Cynic.
Focus came out on Roadrunner Records in 1993, there were expectations. But the album didn’t fare too well, and the label, then one of the biggest and most famous of the independent record companies, didn’t do too much to promote Focus.
“I think that after giving it a good chunk of my youth recording, performing, and touring, maybe it was time to get some real work and support my family,” recalled Gobel. “The decision certainly wasn’t easy. I stewed over it for a while, but I did what I had to do. I have no regrets.”
However, life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at you. With the divorce being worked out, and his kids already adults, Gobel felt it was time to figure out the next phase of his life.
“If I stayed in the States, I’d be around familiar faces and places so it would be easy to slip into something else. I needed to get as far away as I could and away from my comfort zone.”
“I was supposed to experience new cultures and food. And it is great trying all these. It’s a feast for the senses,” said Gobel. “What wasn’t supposed to be a musical journey was ending up as a musical journey.”
Meet and Greets were arranged and Jason was surprised when fans in Malaysia and Thailand (and later in the Philippines) pulled out rare copies of Focus for him to sign. “And we’re talking about a first pressing here,” he noted.
“I know the records I worked on were released all over the world and some of them made their way to Asia,” reasoned Gobel. “I have not recorded nor played professionally in a while so it was surprising and gratifying to know that people knew who I was and that I had an impact in their music in some way.”
While the American was stomping around Southeast Asia from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and other countries in the region, the Philippines wasn’t really on his stopover list. “I was invited by a friend from the Philippines, Yarden Angeles, to come over,” he recalled. “and I thought, ‘Why not?’ We’d do things such as go see the Hanging Coffins in Sagada. Yet at some point, I was always asked if I wanted to play in some gig or studio.”
Last February 4, Gobel was surprised when some local metal musicians organized (Angeles, Jamez Salvaje, and the East crew) A Night with Jason Gobel, where they performed songs from Monstrosity and Cynic. He was finally persuaded to jam with the musicians on stage. “I was really rusty from not having played in a while,” chuckled the guitarist. “I haven’t played these songs even longer so I wasn’t sure if the muscle memory would kick in. I didn’t want to leave them with a bad impression.”
Nevertheless, Gobel got his licks in. “A short guitar solo,” he clarified.
However, it sparked something in Gobel that he had not felt in a long time. “I started getting ideas – bits and pieces – for songs. Ideas for projects. Including one where I would work with local musicians. And I have met a lot of talented Filipino musicians.”
Anything is possible, bared Gobel. “It is impossible for me to go back to that death metal phase. I might do a metal song here and there. A project here and there, but at this point, I am open to a lot of things.”
Over time, his musical horizons expanded and the American enjoys a myriad of genres. “I think it is impossible to be still playing the same things over decades. As a musician, as an artist, you want to grow. You’re tastes change. You appreciate different things. And traveling opens your eyes as well.”
And to love as well. While in Manila, Gobel has met someone. The effect on Gobel has been huge. “I thought that it was in Thailand where I’d settle if not find myself. But it looks like Manila will be my base in Asia.”
“From the little that I have seen, the music scene here is exciting. You can say that it has also inspired me and I feel a rebirth of sorts here.”
“Not really because that is picking up where you left off. This one… is like starting something new. Definitely, a new stage.”