Thursday, October 19, 2017

Collecting Xmal Deutschland and looking for Incubus Succubus.

I saw this black and white picture, it was a small one to be precise, in an item in Rolling Stone magazine. It featured this German band Xmal Deutschland. There were four females and one male in the band. lead singer Anja Huwe was a striking blonde but I was smitten by keyboardist Manuela Rickers and guitarist Fiona Sangster. Then I heard the song "Incubus Succubus" over Capital Radio on WXB. It was a haunting Goth song and in German too. 

I remember going to the old Odyssey store in Greenhills to order -- yes you could order records through them -- for Xmal Deutschland's debut album, Fetisch. I know it cost me about P120 bucks which was a princely sum back in the early 80s! When it finally arrived like two or three months after, I rushed home to play the record. I was so disappointed. One, it did not contain Incubus Succubus. Second, all the songs were in German. Boy, was I depressed. I tried to listen to it a couple of times but I didn't like it. I thought about selling it but decided otherwise. It was the first time I had seen the 4AD Record label and was intrigued. 

Eventually, the band came out with a mostly English album in Viva (their third album) which contained the hit single, "Matador". But it was New Wave and the band abandoned the Goth style that permeated Fetisch and Tocsin, the second album. 

I lost these albums over the years. They weren't among the batch that was burned when our house was lost to a fire. I have no idea what happened to them. But over the years, I decided to look for them. German or English, I have a better appreciation for Xmal Deutschland's music. 

Unfortunately, three decades later, I still do not have a copy of "Incubus Succubus". 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Anticipation for the Juan Dela Cruz Band & Listening to Himig Natin

Anticipation for the Juan Dela Cruz Band & Listening to Himig Natin
by rick olivares

I was with a cousin of mine and a classmate from Ateneo. We arrived early at the Loyola Center on a Saturday afternoon. The campus was quiet as there weren’t any classes. We all sat on the metal railings by the ticket booth waiting for it to open. That evening was a concert called “Loyola Jam” featuring a virtual who’s who in Pinoy rock – Sampaguita, Maria Cafra, Anakbayan, Asin, and the Juan Dela Cruz Band who were the headline act.

Now that was one heckuva line-up! I only remember few things about the show as this was in 1981 sometime after Martial Law was lifted. One was waiting outside the aforementioned ticket booth. Two, was I sat right behind Howling Dave and Delilah, local rock’s royalty. And that incandescent set by the Juan dela Cruz Band where they performed songs from their new album, Kahit Anong Mangyari (with Joey ‘Pepe’ Smith giving everyone the finger when they sang ‘Titser’s Enemi No.1’), and an incandescent performance of “Himig Natin” that closed the entire show.

As a sidenote that has nothing to do with this, there was this time when the Juan Dela Cruz Band performed in a show in Olongapo and a couple of hours before they took to the stage, Pepe went around from store to store asking if anyone had change for five centavos! For real, man! And absolutely hilarious!

I was in an entranced state during the guitar solo for “Himig Natin” where Wally Gonzalez just blew everyone away. Whoever was manning the light controls during the show focused on Wally as he bent backwards as he was coaxing one last note from his guitar. It was mesmerizing. No one said a word. It was an incredible performance and when the show ended and everyone filed out into the night, my cousin and my classmate were gushing about the show.

The Juan Dela Cruz Band’s Kahit Anong Mangyari was the first Pinoy records that I had bought with my own money. It cost P24 back then and I saved up my allowance just to buy the record.

I inherited my father’s copy of Himig Natin, the album. He was incidentally, the president of the Philippine Association of the Record Industry for 27 years and that meant we got every single OPM album released. Unfortunately, that and most of my massive record collection were lost to a fire that gutted our home several years ago.

A few years after that fire, it is only this 2017 that I got back into vinyl. I stopped back in the 1990s and shifted to compact discs. It took an ex-girlfriend of mine to get me back into the habit (she gifted me with a portable turntable and a couple of records). Beginning this past January, I have managed to reacquire many of those old records that my dad or I once had. Of course, it is significantly pricier now that it was back then. However, this is a small price to pay for something that means a lot to you.

Listening to Himig Natin (1973) and Super Hits (1977) today, I am transported back to my days as a 10-year old kid hearing those songs on the radio. Let’s face it, there was only one radio station worth listening to and that was the old DZRJ.

The records sound like a product of the time – a rumbling bass and a heavy sound. Simple and at times nonsensical lyrics. Blues-inflected. Sludge at times. But to borrow a term also from that time – groovy. Six of the nine tracks that comprise Himig Natin are in English. Not only borne of the time but also reflective of that band’s shows at the nearby American bases not to mention stints abroad.

“Take You Home” with Mike Hanopol singing reminds me of something that Iron Butterfly would play.

I wish that for “I Wanna Say Yeah”, the producer had Joey “Pepe” Smith singing with a bit more edge. This bluesy number and its wah pedal make it close to perfect except for that in my opinion.

“Round and Round” is a honky toink number that reminds me of the Rolling Stones who were obviously a massive influence on Smith (in the manner of his songwriting and singing).

“Blues Train” is a slow blues number that BB King would be proud of.

The classic “Rock ‘n’ Roll sa Ulan” opens Side Two. In this song, Pepe doesn’t really sing but sort of rants rather inanely.

“Shake Your Brains” finds Wally cranking up the reverb. As much as I like this song, I find myself wishing that the producer had Pepe deliver a more torch number to go with Wally’s wailing licks.

“Mamasyal sa Luneta” opens with that classic riff that was later used for Rizal Underground’s “Sabado Nights”.

“Big Boss Man” is another one of those bluesy numbers that start with an awesome riff ala Muddy Waters and finds Mike Hanopol channeling his inner George Thorogood.

Then the last track, Himig Natin, takes the whole blues-inflected album down several notches. It’s a beautiful and simple song that was an instant anthem for Pinoy Rock. And listening to its decades after I saw Wally Gonzalez mesmerize me and the audience at the Loyola Center, I remain in awe and enthralled.

When I listen to Himig Natin (and Maskara which are the first two albums featuring the trio of Gonzalez, Hanopol, and Smith), it makes me happy that we had a record that sits nicely next to Cream’s Disraeli Gears or the Doors’ LA Woman and their self-titled debut. It’s riff heavy, bluesy and smoky, and well, a darn good record. It was so good that provided a template for its follow up, Maskara, that came out a year later. It is unlike the punk influenced Kahit Anong Mangyari that came out four years after Maskara.

And now, I am so looking forward to see them perform at Full Blast Pinoy Super Bands this October 20 at the Cuneta Astrodome. I know that the band is older and they don’t rock out the way they used to. In fact, Pepe no longer sings as it is Mike who takes on the lead vocals full time. But just to see them… I’ll take it, warts, changes and all. After all, heto ang Himig Natin.

A copy of a JDC Band cassette made in the United Arab Emirates. Doesn't this take you back?

Monday, October 16, 2017

Hunting for good records with Seattle-based picker Jong Canimo

Hunting for good records with Seattle-based picker Jong Canimo
by rick olivares

It’s the third anniversary of Northwest Estate Collectibles, that small shop of collectibles along K-1 which is perpendicular to Kamuning Road in Quezon City. This past payday weekend, October 14 and 15, NEC was packed with people taking advantage of the massive sale that encompassed vinyl records, toys, cassette players, compact discs, used American license plates, baseball cards, books, comics, clothes, and just about anything else collectible under the sun.

In the midst of the chaos of music fans, re-sellers, and the collectors, stood Jong Canimo, who for the past 15-plus years has been selling collectibles he finds at flea markets, backyards, garage sales, and well, basements from in and around Washington State in America.

Jong is a Philippine version of the American Pickers (Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz from the popular History Channel reality television series) except he doesn’t do it full time as he holds a job at the Federal level in the United States. By the time he gets out of work around 2:30pm, he drives around in search of vinyl records and other collectibles to purchase and send back to the Philippines to sell at his Kamuning shop.

“I travel every day. Every single day,” said Canimo who himself is a massive music fan. He gets into his Honda Pilot and makes sure he has lots of coffee and cash in his pursuit of another man’s treasure that are looking for new homes.

“About 15 years ago, there was this garage sale over at Bellevue, which is where Bill Gates resides,” recounted Canimo. “I made a bunch of stops and this one was last stop for the day. It was advertised as an estate sale. When I got there, there was this guy sweeping the basement and the sale was all but done. Not wanting to waste the time and effort it took to get there, I asked the man, “Do you still have records that you are selling?”

“What do you mean records?”

“You know… vinyl, the old phonograph black phonograph records you play on a turntable…”

“Oh yeah, by that couch over there.”

What Canimo found got his heart racing. “I found a waist high jazz collection of which 25% were 10-inch Blue Note records. You know – Art Blakely, Freddie Hubbard, and a lot of these 1950s and 60s jazz records that also had iconic cover art (designed by the late noted graphic designer Reid Miles). I asked how much he was selling them. I wasn’t even sure if I was speaking to the owner but I asked the man anyway how much he was selling the lot.”

“Five bucks,” was the reply.

“Five bucks for each record?”

“No, five bucks for everything.”

It was an incredible find. Of course this was the time vinyl had greatly gone down in popularity and the compact disc was still king.

While it was a jackpot find, it isn’t every day that Canimo lands them. “I have missed out on some good collections,” he admitted.

Most recently, Canimo was the first to answer an ad on Craigslist, that online site devoted to classified advertisements. When he got there, the man was selling only a particular collection on top of the shelf. Curious about the collection at the bottom, he asked if he could take a look. “It was a collection of rare punk rock records! So I asked if I could get them as well. To sweeten the pot, I offered to take other items such as signs. The man agreed to it.”

Some of those records – Social Distortion, Black Flag, X, Fear, and the Dead Kennedys to name a few are currently on sale at NEC.

While there is exhilaration at finding very good and highly collectible collections, there are times when it seems hard especially when the owners are only parting with them to pay for medical costs or other urgent needs. “I have had a lot of customers who have sold their collections and who later regret it. There are instances where they felt bad about it because of their emotional attachments. I just tell them that they will go to places where the new owners will love them as much as they did,” shared Canimo.

The picking business isn’t an easy one. Canimo admits there are losses as much as win situations. “You try to make sure the losses are minimal,” he said.

With the resurgence in popularity of vinyl, NEC has been one of the leading sellers of records in the Philippines. The store itself has over 20,000 records in stock. “With more to come,” promised the store’s head honcho who flew in just for the Kamuning store’s third anniversary.

“When I get back to Seattle, there’s this collection I will take a look at. I was about to board my flight to Manila for the NEC anniversary weekend when I got a call from a man with a very good collection. It’s one of the first things I will attend to when I get back home.”

A picker’s work is never done. There’s more treasure – good music and good records, if you will – that need finding.

“As they say, ‘the thrill is also in the hunt.’”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blind Man Death Stare on tour: Touchdown Manila

Aussie punk rockers Blind Man Death Stare rock Manila
by rick olivares

“We need everyone to get off their chairs and to stand up,” exhorted Parker, drummer and lead singer for Blind Man Death Stare, an Australian punk rock band making its initial foray outside the Oceania zone with Manila as their first ever stop. "We're gonna be having loads of fun beginning now."

It was Friday the 13th. Friday payday with a tropical depression submerging the metropolis with its seemingly non-stop rains. Yet at the Dark Side Bar along Nakpil Street in Malate, Manila. Parker, along with guitarists Joel Parnell and Mitch, and bassist Immi were cooking up a different storm.

Blind Man Death Stare kicked-off their 40-minute long set with a raucous rocker, “IV Phones”, the fourth track from their recently release full length debut, It’ll Grow On Ya, and it the band’s pointed take on how technology and social media has ironically disconnected people from one another instead of fostering real relationships.

Despite the crowd not really knowing the band’s songs, the energy the Melbourne-based punks expended had most folks moshing and thrashing about. Folks were in a dancing mood that some of them clambered up on stage and accidentally knocked down Joel and Immi who didn’t stop playing at all.

‘Wow!” exclaimed Joel to no one in particular after the song and despite a tense moment when some beer got nearly splashed on a few effects pedals. “Let’s go.”

The road to the Philippines and the rest of Southeast Asia was hatched back in Blind Man Death Stare’s native Australia. Influenced by Lagwagon, Rancid, Bad Religion, NOFX, and other 1990s American punk bands, the band felt that punk rock was a way to communicate their thoughts and outlook on life. “We aren’t the nihilistic sort,” added Parker who is also the band’s principal songwriter and frontman. “We have our views on the world around us and we will say what we think we should say. But life is hard and too serious enough as it is so we make sure there’s this element of fun. We want people to like our songs and to mosh. We don’t get off on people moping to doom messages.”

That’s evident on songs like the album’s first single, “Spike My Drink But Don’t Take My Kidneys” that smacks of the fun of Reel Big Fish but is deadly serious. “Have we seen enough slasher flicks,” cracks Mitch.

The song “I’ve Had Islamabad Day” may be a pun but it is a pointed barb against how wars are also caused by religion and intolerance.

How does punk rock and a band from Down Under for the matter, get such messages across?

“We’re no community leaders, politician or some rich man who could get the attention that comes with that,” explained Joel. “With music – we have a chance, mate. We hope that people like our songs and when they do, they get into the lyrics and if that gets them thinking then it’s good, right? And that’s why our music is available on vinyl and on streaming. Plus, we’re going on the road.”

“Being in a punk band, well, we don’t expect to make a ton of money,” clarified Immi.

“Otherwise, we’d get a real job,” finished Joel.

“Being in a band, we get to play and create music – which is what we really want,” added Immi.

When It’ll Grow On Ya rolled off the vinyl pressing plant, the band was very much pleased. “I never had a record before,” admitted Joel. “This is a cool moment. Is this for real? It’s like – ‘yeah, now we’re for real.’”

“I thought of my heroes,” reflected Parker. “NOFX, Bad Religion, Rancid, Lagwagon, the Ramones, the Offspring – and this is for them. And of course for me and my mates. I just hope that the fans like it and it stacks up well against any punk rock record.”

“One of the cool things too is we get to travel and meet people who learn about us and our music. And the travel is fun.”

The band paid their own airfare for their three-nation tour with Manila as the initial touchdown point to be followed by Malaysia then Indonesia (Japan was also on the stop list but was cancelled at the last moment). However, once on-ground, the local promoter takes care of everything else. The band was to play in Cebu (Saturday) and Bacolod (Sunday) before moving on.

The band arrived in Manila at 4:30 Friday morning and by late afternoon, they felt somewhat jetlagged. The arrived early at the venue as their hotel was just around the corner. As the rain came pouring down, the band huddled outside the Dark Side Bar and shared a cigarette.

“I haven’t slept in two days but I am ready for this,” said Immi a few hours before the band took the stage. “The rain isn’t going to dampen the show one bit. I’m here to check out the local bands and am ready to rock.”

True enough, Blind Man Death Stare rocked the house. The result was 40 minutes of a show that at times reminded one of a good-time frat party with local punks and a pair of game Caucasian female fans who walked in (along with a couple of Nepalese citizens who have made Manila their home) moshing.

Dark Side Bar set list:
IV Phones
Spike My Drink But Don't Take My Kidneys
Bottles Warm
I Have A Sex Addiction
Solid As Is Hollow
David & Goliath
Bathtub Fiasco (the only one not on the album)
Lost the Plot
Old People Should Grow Up
I Can See the Way You Look at My Mum
Double Trouble
Impromptu Holiday

Got the band to sign my record! I love the zombie motif for the album. As if the band is saying we've become like zombies -- soul-less creatures who are slaves to technology and social media/the internet. And the album is darn good!

Hanging out with Blind Man Death Stare before the show.


From Mark Evardo from Cebu:

Blind Man Death Stare started playing at around 2am. Yet the crowd was still alive; waiting for them to play. Their set ended at 3am.

These guys are really cool. They drank and mingled with the crowd before playing -- just talking about how the punk scene is in Australia while we shared how it is here in Cebu. Would love to see them again next year if they come back.

They sure know how to bring on a show and play punk rock. And for sure, the punks in Cebu were entertained.