Saturday, June 24, 2017

A sort of homecoming for Joey Ayala

A sort of homecoming for Joey Ayala
by rick olivares

How does a recording artist who came up in the early 1980’s remain a creative force in this new millennium?

For Joey Ayala… it’s going back to the past… with a creative eye to the future.

This coming September, Joey Ayala and Ang Bagong Lumad will return to the Music Museum where exactly 25 years ago, they performed and launch three records all at once. Those records were his debut, "Panganay Ng Umaga," "Magkabilaan," and "Mga Awit ng Tanod-lupa."

Will lightning strike twice with Ayala launching a new album in this “sort of homecoming?”

“Hmm,” he mused with his eyes ablaze with thought and possibility.

Now at 61 years of age, Ayala’s creative spark has not dampened one iota. “I have enough songs, but I haven’t decided to either launch it as a new album or in single form,” said Ayala during a photo shoot for the promotional materials for the upcoming show at A Space in Legaspi Village, Makati.

For that show, Ayala still has to decide on the set list. He pauses for a moment his brow knotted in mild concern. “It is so different from when I first came up to today,” he pointed out. “Now I have to consider how much of the old stuff do I perform and how much new materials do I introduce. Some want to hear old songs while some might look for new ones. Some might wonder, ‘why is Joey playing jazz?’”

When Ayala first came into national consciousness after rising up from Davao with his home recordings, his music was lumped together with folk and even acoustic rock. Ayala’s music later was pigeon-holed into the category called, “world music.” Ayala is kind of at a loss to describe his music especially now.

“My life and journey as a musician has seen me play in Kuala Lumpur to London and many other places. I recall when I performed in a festival in London with Grace Nono, there were so many other musicians from all over the world – Egypt, Africa, Tibet. I found myself drawn to their music. Eye opener, ba? Over the years, I have expanded my horizons. My music has changed. I’ve adapted Middle Eastern styles, Flamenco, Spanish sounds, and others into my own style. Even my voice is different. You have to grow as an artist. I cannot sound like it is 1982,” he shared.

And 25 years later, Ayala is still having a lot of fun “sa buhay musikero.”

“Today mas nagging malinaw yung kaya mo as a musician,” he pointed out. “Economically, the source of money is performing and not album sales. It’s from compositions or scoring commissioned work. So I focus a lot of my energies on performing.”

And that September performance will find Ayala sharing the same stage with former Bagong Lumad member Bayang Barrios for the first time since she went solo.

“Yung aming landas nagkakasalubong kami but with not opportunity to perform so this is a good -- how do you say this – homecoming.”

Other guests for the show include Bullet Dumas and Dong Abay to name a couple who have confirmed for the show.

“When you perform with other talented and respected musicians, the creative sparks fly; the show takes a certain life of its own,” gushed Ayala. “I am excited for this.”

As much as Ayala is looking forward to the show and the potential synergies with other performers, there is one collaboration that he hopes will see the light of day. “One of those major things on my personal bucket list is to make an album with my sister, Cynthia Alexander. Nag-kwentuhan na kami. Nagkakatamaran kami. Although nasa States na siya (Alexander lives in Seattle), we can do file sharing for the songs. But it will happen in its time.”

Aside from the possible collaboration with Alexander, in the pipeline is the possibility of re-recording his old songs for a new generation. “I don’t really calibrate my songs for my younger audiences, but since I own the publishing rights and my former recording company has not re-released any of my old albums, I am contemplating on re-arranging and re-releasing them. My ambition is to record them at home. I have spent a lot of time studying today’s technology that will allow me to record at home. As I said earlier, my voice and way of performing is different so the arrangements will reflect that.”

“You mentioned the word ‘homecoming’?”

“You know homecomings always bring smiles, good memories. I guess you can call the show something like that. With an eye for the future though.”

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Got back and opening a sealed copy of Sampaguita's debut album

As a grade school and high school kid, I got into OPM. Yet since I couldn't afford to buy records, I had to save up on my allowance, do some extra work by doing my classmates' homework, collecting the deposit of soda bottles just to buy what I wanted (comic books, toys, and vinyl records). 

The first local album that I got was the Juan dela Cruz Band's "Kahit Anong Mangyari" after which I picked up Mike Hanopol's "Awiting Pilipino", "Gapo Vol.1", "The Dawn Live", Maria Cafra's self-titled debut, Identity Crisis' "Tale of Two", and Sampaguita's debut record. 

I lost many of these records to time and moving around. When I started re-acquiring vinyl this year, getting back these records was on my list. I haven't been able to get Identity Crisis' "Tale of Two" but last Thursday, June 22, I was able to get Sampaguita's album! Plus, it was sealed!!!! What a treat!

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Got a Pizzacoi shirt! Love it.

Pinoy indie music albums you must pick up

Pinoy indie music albums you must pick up
by rick olivares

The Philippine indie music scene is alive and well. The technology of today has made it possible for bands to release albums without being on a major label. If they don’t have them pressed (compact disc) locally, they go abroad either for production or for release (cassette and vinyl). Some bands are literally abroad!

Because it’s indie that means many releases do not get mass production so they are available in limited quantities. Furthermore, in spite of information supposedly being at one’s finger tips, many bands still fall within the cracks talented they may be.

Here are some albums you should check out:

For the Love of Death – Richard Collier (TakeFour Collective records)
Okay. This is a stretch right here. Released sometime in 2005 it sounds like it did come out of that era when bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday to name a few ruled.
There are some copies left that you can get at the Middle Finger shop in Cartimar, Recto or through those swell guys at Still Ill Records.

Named after the late Christopher Reeve’s character from the film “Somewhere in Time” (there is even a picture of Jane Seymour in the liner notes), this album features 19 earnest songs of love, heartbreak, and yearning. It’s that type of album you’ll play again and again while listening to every word sung and taking in the razor sharp licks.

Unfortunately, this band has called it a day (although two of their members have gone on to form another interesting band called the Skeleton Years).

Movin’ Up Movin’ On – Various Artists (Delusion of Terror/Still Ill/Love from Hate Records)
The heir to Twisted Red Cross’ “Rescue Ladders and Human Barricades” that ushered in Pinoy punk in the 1980s. In this massive compilation album, there are thirty-two songs from 18 punk rock bands from all over the country from Metro Manila to Cavite to Laguna to Pampanga to Baguio to Malaybalay and even all the way from the United Arab Emirates who vent their angst or poke fun at life. It goes to show that there are music scenes everywhere and that’s good.

There’s a lot to like in this album with the contrasting styles of punk rock. After giving this a listen, you’ll be looking for the individual bands herein. As this was DIY and recorded all over the country, the quality of the recordings differs greatly. But hey, it’s punk rock. An incendiary album that if is your introduction to the local scene then is money well spent.

Secrets & Lies – The GoSignals (Paisley Cloud Records)
Oh, yeah! A Mod album released in 2011 that has me recalling my love for the Jam, the Who, the Lambrettas, and the Modfather himself, Paul Weller. This three-piece outfit channels their inner Weller as well as their other influences with songs that bite with its social commentary. I like the fact that they opted for a throwback sound that is so different from everyone else in the local scene. I got my copy from Mutilated Noise Records so check ‘em out for stocks.

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas – Isidro Project
A thought provoking and biting album that has me thinking that this is how Yano would sound if they performed punk rock.

Complex Disorders of Adult Life – Dystocia Curve (Dystocia Records)
If you loved the Magnetic Fields’ “69 Love Songs” that was released in three albums in 1999, then you’ll want to pick up indie rockers Dystocia Curve’s magnum opus. Released in three albums in 2010 (the covers all make use of Juan Luna paintings that are another treat) and in a nifty box package that calls out to you as “Gamot sa Heartache”. Yes, three albums with 36 songs about love, loss, and life. It’s a pensive and insightful album. One you have to listen to when sitting around and doing nothing. Because the music and their gift for prose and melody demand your attention. And if you cannot get enough, look for their follow up effort, “Metro Love” that was released in 2014.

If you like the music of Paul Westerberg, Yano, the Magnetic Fields, the Eraserheads, and Death Cab for Cutie then you should look for this band’s works.

The Cheats (self-titled debut)
This eight-piece indie rock outfit only released a buoyant and wonderful debut album two years ago (and re-launched last April in its proper corrugated pizza box type packaging) and to this day, I enjoy listening to the boy-girl harmonies and the clever melodies. You can feel and hear the love and hard work that went into the production of this album and this is why this is one of the best ones released in a while.   

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Nite Bar Tour

June 17, 2017. Caught some metal bands at Dark Side Bar in Malate then jumped over to Alchemy to catch some Mod and Ska bands. 

Extreme ain't it?

Friday, June 16, 2017

On a Slowdive soundtrip

I have been a fan of this English shoegazer band since the mid-90s. At first I only got their CDs with only Souvlaki, their second album the only one I had on vinyl. Eventually, I picked up the first one (Just for A Day) and third release (Pygmalion) and their latest record that was released just this past May, the self-titled fourth album.

Now that the band has reunited, I hope to catch them sometime soon.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Bing Austria searches for his soul (music)

Bing Austria searches for his soul (music)
by rick olivares

“Para ako tumatanda ng pa urong,” quipped Bing Austria.

For those who grew up in the 1990s music scene, Austria was the dreadlocked sporting keyboardist of Tropical Depression and later Put3ska. Then he was the Mod revivalist, all dressed up and ready to dance as a frontman for the Juan Pablo Dream. Now, he’s still grooving -- albeit with his head close to clean shaven – to even more soul music with his band Bing Austria and the Flippin’ Soul Stompers.

“When I first started performing music – take note – ‘performing’, I was a punk rocker, revealed Austria over a meal of dinuguan at Rodic’s in the old UP Shopping Mall on a rainy afternoon. But the punk I got into was the Clash and their music saw an infusion of reggae. Eh, saan ba galing ang reggae kung hindi sa rock steady and dub? And saan din galing ng influence ng rock steady kung hindi sa jazz, rhythm and blues, and soul?”

While soul music might sound like a 70s throwback to a new generation of fans; hence, a niche market here in the Philippines, Austria is breaking down borders. “When I think of soul, I think – and it is a dream – playing in Detroit, the whole Motown deal, Philadelphia and its smoky sound. Instead, I am playing soul music in Germany.”

Following the slow demise of Juan Pablo Dream (‘nabangungot kami” Austria jokes of his crowd favorite band that released two bouncing and joyous albums), Austria finally got to form a band that approximated the sound that he wanted. The Flippin’ Soul Stompers performed everywhere from weddings to birthdays to fiestas. And in a case of serendipity, recording a vinyl record release in Germany titled “Rosas Epektos.”

“Basically, it’s me and the band interpreting the poetry of Khavn de la Cruz,” explained Austria. “It’s a weird debut for us because it isn’t our songs but it is a welcome change and very good exposure for the band.”

“Meron ibang parts during the album, feel ko sadyang iniinis ako ni Khavn so lalabas yun sa interpretation ko,” laughed Austria of the process. “During the recording, he would whisper the lyrics of the songs on the head set and I’d sing them on the go. It’s a weird way to record but it’s also something else. It was all part of the process. It was only when we performed in Germany last month that I got what Khavn wanted. Whatever that is.”

More laughter.

“Rosas Epektos”, features 12 tracks of soul music. Although recorded in Manila, the album was laid out, printed, and pressed in Germany. And last May, Austria went on tour in Germany and France (with German musicians backing him up instead of the Flippin’ Soul Stompers) to promote the album’s release.

“It’s different of course,” said Austria of the experience. “It’s an avant-garde, artsy-fartsy show (the launch and the tour that started in Germany). But it’s a wild experience. I wish it was recorded.”

“Rosas Epektos” was released internationally just this month of June. Here in Manila, it is available only by order.

Austria isn’t worried about whether the album will be a hit with local audiences or not. “When I first became a musician, I never did this to become a millionaire although that would be nice,” he cackled. “It’s just making music that cuts deep into my soul. And of course, hopefully, others too.”

“So far there is a soul scene here but it is modern soul. Not the soul I grew up to. There are some but it’s more disco. Late 1990s namin na simula ni (expatriate Englishman) Shane Cosgrove yung soul scene here. Now there are clubs that do soul events. And that’s good.

“My first record, the first one I bought, was the Commodores (their debut album, “Machine Gun”). Then I got into the Jackson Five. Then Motown. After which I discovered punk rock. But after Put3ska broke up, I got back into soul when Shane introduced me to Northern Soul. Sabi ko sa sarili ko na marami pa palang music na kailangan marinig at matutunan. And it got me to dig deeper into records and music.”

Northern Soul is a music style that although was first influenced by black American soul music with an uptempo beat, it later grew to include contemporary styles.

The new discoveries in music found their way into the formation of the Flippin’ Soul Stompers and “Rosas Epektos”. The experience of recording the album for a foreign audience and touring in Europe have inspired Austria to write new songs for “a proper Flippin’ Soul Stompers’ debut. I can’t wait to get started on this,” he expressed.

“Mula noong nahilig ako magsulat ng kanta; mula noong ako nahilig tumugtog, meron mga kanta that have had a profound effect on me,’ underscored Austria by way of summation.

“There’s John Lennon’s ‘Working Class Hero’ that is applicable to my journey. Madness’ ‘It Must Be Love’ ay lagging naka-dikit sa aking utak. Hindi nila orig yung kanta na yun. British songwriter Labi Siffre wrote and released the song in 1971. But when Madness released their version in 1981, they made it their own. I guess that is how you do a cover version – you own it.”

“There are also all the songs of soul musician Curtis Mayfield (who has also had a profound effect on one of Austria’s heroes, Paul Weller). Lahat ng kanta niya – I strive for to write for similar effect, relevance, and their beauty. And having mentioned Paul Weller – well, Paul Weller. From his bands in the Jam, the Style Council, and well, now as a solo artist. I feel insecure when I listen to his songs. I wish I wrote songs like him. And all of that plus the new experience, I hope to distill that into our next record.”

For now, Austria and the Flippin’ Soul Stompers (who are Thursday night regulars at Alchemy) will promote “Rosas Epektos”.

“It isn’t every day that you record an album for international release. After two albums with Put3ska, two albums with Juan Pablo Dream, I got to release an album on vinyl!” enthused an elated Austria. “As someone who is also an occasional DJ, it’s a thrill.”