Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Hanggang sa dulo ng mundo: Reflections on a night listening to Rayms, Buddy & Herbert jam through old Eraserheads songs.

Hanggang sa dulo ng mundo: Reflections on a night listening to Rayms, Buddy & Herbert jam through old Eraserheads songs.
by rick olivares

I’ve got an Eraserheads story. Well, it’s a non-story because it didn’t happen. While working as an artist and repertoire manager for a record company back in the 1990s, the band’s demo – in cassette form in case you want to know -- was submitted to us among many many others.

The person in charge of listening to everything that came our way ejected the cassette midway through the first song. He didn’t say anything and just slapped in another demo tape of some hopeful.  

Eventually that pile of demos grew. I recall those were rejected in order – Tropical Depression, Color it Red, and Teeth. After “Laklak” by the latter turned out to be a monstrous hit, I finally mustered the courage to ask if I can be the one to get some bands since I was the one who regularly went to the old Club Dredd and Mayrics. I bought all the Twisted Red Cross cassettes. Watched bands in Manila and made the long trek to Olongapo when its band scene was beyond compare. My bosses gave me permission, and I struck pay dirt with Datu’s Tribe and then Parokya ni Edgar before I went in a different direction.

As for those rejected demos? I took home every single one including the Eraserheads’ demo. There were even a few of the other bands I badly wanted to sign – Indio I (that went on to Star Records), Fatal Posporos (that eventually went to BMG), and Sugar Hiccup (also to BMG). Up until three years ago, I still had every single demo I took home with me. That is until a fire destroyed our home.

Three years after that fire, I find myself in the basement of Raymund Marasigan’s home studio marveling at perhaps the only copy left of that original E-heads demo. It’s framed for posterity. And why not?

Everyone and everyone rejected them. And well no band has been bigger.

That Monday, April 24 evening, Marasigan along with old Eheads bandmate Buddy Zabala, and Moonstar 88 guitarist Herbert Hernandez are jamming to some of those classic songs (for an upcoming impromptu out of town performance to plug a spot vacated by a band at the last minute).

The last time I saw the Eheads perform was at a show in Dredd a long time ago. The last time I saw Marasigan and Zabala performing a song as a trio it was for Planet Garapata sets also at Dredd. That band’s music eventually morphed into Squid 9. So this night brought back a lot of memories. And what a thrill it was… even as a one-man audience who unsure if he was dreaming, beamed like a kid in a candy store, and who applauded after every song.

It was a first for me as well as for Hernandez who himself said he enjoyed the opportunity. As they play, Rayms sets some parameters. “No solos. Let’s keep it tight.”

It’s a closely measured 40-minute set that Marasigan has performed before… acoustically. And they jam through the songs working out the kinks.

The kinks. These guys including Ely Buendia and Marcus Adoro sure worked them out.

During a food break over Lucky Me Pancit canton, Marasigan and Zabala recount the rough times. How they auditioned for a club and lost out to a band that played covers of Pink Floyd. How they were walking away dejectedly when a jeepney splashed leftover rainwater on them.

The band had actually called it quits when Club Dredd owner Patrick Reidenbach heard them and sought them out.

“Dredd, man,” emphasized Marasigan. “It was them. They took us in. Didn’t ask us to change anything. Not one note.”

And so they jam with Marasigan – who was both drumming and singing – pointing out proper chord changes with that acute sense of hearing of his. It’s been a while for even Zabala. “You know the songs,” gently reminds his longtime colleague.

Who doesn’t? I do.

And they go through the songs – Magasin, Alcohol, Overdrive, Alapaap, Ligaya, Pare Ko,
Sem Break, Minsan, and a few others. A cavalcade of hits, classics that have embedded themselves into Filipino culture and Pinoy rock and roll lore.

It is said that a song is the perfect time machine and truer words were never spoken. Suddenly, I am back in the Alternative 90s. I nod along to every beat, savoring to watch these savants hard at work at a craft that has made so many people happy, and has elicited laughter and tears. I think of Dredd, Mayrics, the NU Rock Awards, meeting the band for the first time at those cramped BMG offices all those years ago, drinking with Ely at 70’s Bistro, surfing with Marcus Adoro in La Union, hanging out with Rayms’ bands, and talking with Buddy about our mutual love for Francis Magalona’s music. About why we’ll never see an Eraserheads vinyl record. And why it is painful to replace a lost copy of their final album, “Carbon Stereoxide” that costs 5,000 bucks.  

I applaud after each song. The guys smile. We hang out for a bit and call it a night.

I go home. Sit in my work station and try to make sense of everything. About how I have an Eraserheads story except it isn’t one. I guess it’s fine. I’ve still got their music with me.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Looking at the first Record Store Day in Manila

Looking at the first Record Store Day in Manila
by rick olivares

The first Record Store Day held in the Philippines has come and gone. Many music and vinyl enthusiasts like myself had a great time digging, swapping stories, socializing, and listening to the bands that also performed that day at the Buddha Bar along Kalayaan Avenue in Makati.

Spread across 25 sellers, there was quite a diverse selection of titles and wares and it sure helped that I had a game plan for the event.

Here are my simple tactics for the day:

Go early.
As the saying goes, “the early bird gets the worm.” Going early means you have a good chance of finding stuff that wouldn’t necessarily be available later on. One dude bought at least 12 LPs from one seller at one go. And he bought even more elsewhere. So you can bet he had the pick of the litter.

Going early means you get to pace yourself as there aren’t that many people yet. Unlike when you arrive mid-afternoon when there are more people and you have to now wait until you get to dig into one particular rack.

Have a clear cut idea of what you want.
Unless you have deep deep pockets then you might want to have a game plan.

It pays to know what you want and are looking for. It’s easy to pull out any album that strikes your fancy or have great memories as a youngster. However, for those operating on a reasonable budget, know that there are albums that are always going to be available - the Beatles, U2, Bruce Springsteen etc. The more popular artists simply have a lot of product out there with high press runs. If you can avoid getting them, hold off. You might want to look for certain titles that are harder to find. Such as Nirvana. Finding those old Nirvana releases from the 1990s is difficult. I’ve been digging in England, Singapore, Hong Kong, and here… all I see are the remastered ones and not the original ones that came out under the Sub Pop label in the 1990s.

Dig thoroughly.
Some sellers simply are little pricier but there are alternatives. And going through each and every record one by one requires patience. I skipped a bunch of records after going through one rack that didn’t appeal to me at all. The next guy who browsed after me fished out Rush’s “Moving Pictures” that was all the way to the back and it wasn’t only in superb condition but it was cheap. Argh!

There is no uniform pricing for new records. So browse before buying. I saw one table that was easily at least Php300 cheaper than most others selling new LPs.

One table had certain new records that were at least P700 off the price of many others!

If you spot something you like but would like to browse, ask if they can hold it for a few minutes then look around. If you saw the new pressings of the Smiths’ “Hatful of Hollow” there were sellers that pegged them at P1,400 and P1,800. However, did you see that seller who had the UK pressing – and in great shape mind you – for P1,800. Now it’s your choice – pre-loved or brand new?

It. Won’t. Hurt. To. Bargain. Even a hundred shaved off the price is still a hundred off.

Here are some observations of mine from Record Store Day.

Take business cards and get to know the sellers.
Nothing like befriending the cool folks who help satisfy your music habit. Once you become a regular, he or she can help you find particular records you are looking for. Getting their cards means you can check out their online or Facebook sites.

OPM is in demand
Almost at every table, buyers could be heard asking if there was OPM available. There are but they are expensive. And you really have to consider if it’s worth it. I was told this Andrew E album was in great condition except it wasn’t. Way too many scratches. But the price, I have to admit, was good – P1K. Except that I am not into Andrew E.

A sealed edition of Juan de la Cruz band’s final opus, “Kahit Anong Mangyari” was selling for P20K. Did anyone get that? Maria Cafra’s debut album and Mike Hanopol’s “Awiting Pilipino” was selling for P15K each.

The new pressings of some classic OPM albums such as The Story of FrancisM, The Dawn etc. was sold at a special price – some P300-400 off the usual price!

Am not sure if Buddha Bar was the best place for the event.
It’s a bar and that means dim lights. Good overhead lights do not necessarily mean it’s going to hurt the merchandise. And it helps you when browsing. Maybe it’s a cost factor.

And a little more browsing and elbow room is good. With all the tables and audio and performance equipment, navigating especially when there were a lot of people was slightly difficult.

Small quibbles but they didn’t dampen the overall experience.

And lastly, a recommendation.

Hopefully, next year, the organizers, in conjunction with local recording artists can put out unique stuff to the day and the event itself. You have to get people into the music and vinyl habit.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Filipino punk rock soundtrip

Rescue Ladders & Human Barricade: Fatal Response, FishBOL - Thermionic Emissions (by former Private Stock guitarist Frederick Dator, GI and the Idiots' "Fascinating World of Garbage", and Bad Omen's "Echoes of the Quondam". 

Slapshock: 20 years of Devotion

Slapshock: 20 years of Devotion
by rick olivares pics by rey teves

Twenty years is a long time for a band to be together. That’s 20 years for Slapshock – lead singer Jamir Garcia, bassist Lee Nadela, guitarists Lean Ansing and Jerry Basco, and drummer Chi Evora -- as hard rocking, uncompromising metal band that has paraded virtually the same line-up night in and out. No breaks in between. No times off to wonder about one’s place in terra firma. Just 20 years of rocking and rolling on all cylinders and leaving no prisoners through seven full length (although the latest, Atake, is still due this coming May) and two extended play albums, and three compilations that have been released since 1997.

That’s roughly two and a half years per new album. Now that’s devotion by the band to each other, to the music, and to their fans.

“We were really young when we started,” related Jamir Garcia who conversely and in the course of the band’s long career has seen his body ink grow until it’s pretty much adorned his entire body. “We all agreed on the music and what we wanted to accomplish. It’s a relationship na matibay because of the foundation that we had.”

“Why we’ve been together for 20 years and counting? We treated this as a career. We conceptualized ourselves as artists and as businessmen who were committed a total of 100%. Kung ganyan ang binigay ng ka-banda mo dapat suklian mo rin,” pointed out Nadela. “No side projects. No line-up changes. All our life, energy, sweat, and tears, we gave and continue to give this band of ours.”

That’s devotion to the music and to the fans.

Last Thursday, April 20, the band launched its latest t-shirt design, a merchandise collaboration with Team Manila for their line of clothing called, “Destroy”. A couple of fans from Pangasinan took the five hours and change ride to Manila to avail of the new line of shirts.

When Garcia learned of that, he couldn’t help but marvel and be at a loss for words, “Wow. Talaga from Pangasinan? Thanks, ha,” was all he could say. So he obliged them a selfie and a couple of cans of beer. It’s the least he can do for this kind of devotion.

The fans do not only come from the far-flung areas of the Philippines. When the band elicited fans to share their “Slapshock stories” on Facebook, the first respondent was a former US soldier now living in Mexico.

“My Slapshock story started in 2002,” posted Eric Vazquez. I am a Mexican-American soldier who was then in the US Army and stationed in South Korea. I thought that there was no good music left to hear, but when I saw the video for “Queen Paranoia”, it really blew my mind. I had a Filipino friend who travels to Manila every six months and I asked him to buy all the band’s CDs because they were not available anywhere else. Fifteen years later, I still listen to those CDs and enjoy them like the first time I heard them. I live in Mexico now but still follow the band.”

That’s devotion.

While the live performances and the video – as talked about by Eric Vazquez – have been incendiary, their albums have been highly visual; the imagery integral to the band’s image and make up.

“Since the beginning, we always wanted to collaborate with some of the best visual designers,” extrapolated Garcia. “We started out with Rob Villaseran, a well-respected painter and visual artist and now work with Team Manila. They always get an advance copy of the songs that will be included in the album and we give them a free hand to interpret out music.”

The one album that departed from the visual is their sixth opus, “Kinse Kalibre,” that featured the band on the cover. “For ‘Kinse Kalibre’ we wanted to show that after 15 years, it’s the same people behind Slapshock.”

And five years later, the band is celebrating their 20th years with a new album, a tour that will take them through 20 shows all across the country.

“There are fans – Slap Army as well call them – everywhere,” underscored Slap Army boss John Mark Canlas who has been a fan of the band forever. “I just connect with their music. And the way they connect with their fans – what can you say? They are international stars but don’t act like it. Very humble and down-to-earth.”

As a way to thank they loyal fans, the cover to Atake will feature… the Slap Army.

“It’s our way of saying, ‘thank you for all the support,” said the band’s manager Kevin Arnedo of the tribute to the fans.

“Furthermore, the plan is to release Atake in all formats,” threw in Nadela. “We grew up with vinyl, cassettes, compact discs, and now we have USBs… so the plan is to release it in different ways to reach to as many people who like our music.”

“It has been a surreal experience,” marveled guitarist Lean Ansing. “When we first started out, we were scrounging for money to record a demo then we’re recording Night Owls (their 2014 release that was recorded in Los Angeles and San Francisco) with System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian.”

And speaking of more surreal experiences, the band collectively points out to their taking part in the 2008 Dubai Desert Rock Fest alongside heroes Korn, Killswitch Engage, Velvet Revolver, and Muse to name a few as a definite highlight on their experiences as well as the bucket list.

“Definitely isa yun,” gleefully pointed out rhythm guitarist Jerry Basco. “Imagine nakasama kami sa ganoon?”

Added Nadela, “We were in the same billing as Muse, Korn – who would have thought?  We were walking backstage with many of our heroes like Scott Weiland who is gone already. So meeting a rock icon like him will not happen again. Slash. And we weren’t an opening act for anyone. We shared the same billing.”

“But what was cool to see even the white dudes head banging to our music,” chimed in Garcia. “They were happy to know that even metal music thrives here.”

And so 20 years later, Slapshock is still thriving. They sure don’t show any signs of stopping.

“You asked us about things on our bucket list,” wonder Garcia. “What is special for me is in 1999, I got to play ‘Agent Orange’ with people moshing to it. Twenty years later, I get to play ‘CariƱo Brutal’ and the younger generation gets it. And it happens every night.”

Now that’s devotion.

Lee Nadela signing my record!