Friday, April 28, 2017
That amazing DIY Pinoy punk rock subculture
by rick olivares
Punk rock has always had this spot in my heart. From the very first record I got which was “The Best of Punk and New Wave Rock Vol. 1” to Ocean Zoo’s first single that was heavily promoted on DZRJ and my copy of American punk band, X’s debut, “Los Angeles” to my Rancid records and CDs, I have always treasured and loved them.
While some might dismiss punk generally as mindless or angry man’s music in short, chaotic bursts, the truth is not all of it is. I don’t think it is exclusive to punk to sing of social ills or injustices. Folk music, reggae, or even pop does the same too.
Musically, it wasn’t all discordant. Stiff Little Fingers imbued their music with rockabilly trappings. X wrote pretty interesting songs with their musical influences ranging from Gene Vincent to the Doors. The Clash fused punk with reggae and dub. And there’s more.
Aside from the music, the DIY spirit as well as the crudeness of the releases appealed to me. I could really identify with the homemade releases. After all, I did my own comics, mixed tapes, and even t-shirts.
Most recently, I got back into Filipino punk. It started out with the Ex-Senadors’ 7-inch extended play single, “Kamatayaan o Kalayaan?” that was released in 2015. How can you not be drawn to the blood red cover featuring two of the dead from the infamous Mendiola Massacre of 1987? The interior album art made use of more related photos juxtaposed with pics of the band. And the six angry songs contained within railed against the rich, multi-national corporations, and the police in Tagalog that didn’t mince their words.
I thought it was angry, graphic, and powerful.
Through the Ex-Senadors’ record, I re-discovered the entire punk rock subculture that is amazing with many lessons to be learned.
The small and independent record distributors (or “distros” as it is called in street parlance), have regularly put out their albums on vinyl even way ahead of the current renaissance of the medium. For the longest time, cassette was the preferred choice of release. However, vinyl crept into the picture.
Bad Omen, which released their self-titled album in 1994, has seen over 24,000 cassettes sold since then. That’s way more than even many mainstream artists. And several years ago, they put out the album in vinyl. Of the 300 vinyl records that were pressed, only less than 40 remain unsold.
Bad Omen isn’t the only punk classic to be re-issued on vinyl. The seminal Urban Bandits album, Independence Day, that was previously only released in cassette in 1985 by the now defunct Twisted Red Cross Records, received the vinyl treatment and remains a popular seller. Other 1980s punk classics re-released include albums from George Imbecile and the Idiots, Philippine Violators, and the compilation album, Fatal Response.
Many punk bands in recent years have put out their music in 7-inchers. With no local vinyl pressing plants, they go to the United States or even Europe for the manufacturing of their records. The 7-inch extended play records cost about P90,000 while a 12-inch full length album will need a budget of P200,000 (both costs for 500 records)!
As much as everyone would like a full length album, the 7-inch EP is attractive. Despite the size and limited track availability (four to eight songs that are spread across the two sides), still manage to show their creativity. Many releases come in different colored vinyl or even picture discs making them highly collectable among local and even foreign fans. The Bad Omen LP came in seven different variant colors! And I thought this existed only in comic books.
The 7-inchers of Monthly Red (split with German trio Raskolnikoff) and local bands Random Violence and Value Lasts come in picture discs. They’ve got lyrics sheets with liner notes and pictures. And even one has some download codes! How cool is that?
In order to get them out to the fans, what the indie record companies do is rather incredible -- they all pitch in to have it manufactured.
For example, Veils’ self-titled release last 2016 was put out by Aklasan Records and Get Up And Go Records that are both based in the United States; and the local labels such as Delusion of Terror Records, Love from Hate records, Left Hand Path Press, and Mutilated Noise Records.
However, we learned that some local labels do not see eye to eye and another joint venture (if the other is still a part) will not materialize again.
Regarding record sales, many of local punk bands sell a lot of their records in the first few weeks (at P250-350 a pop) then it trickles until the next release. Bands make a profit margin of about P20-30 thousand per release. It isn’t much but the scene is alive and moshing.
But let’s qualify that – that’s just for the records. Cassettes and compact discs are cheaper to put out and bands also additionally have them out in other formats and that tends to make more. So why vinyl? Is it weird to say – especially for punk – that it is a luxury? Do they mean to say that there are at least 300 (the minimum number of discs pressed per release) punk rockers out there with a vinyl habit that needs to be satiated?
In the resellers’ market, the records cost even more. The 7-inch album, Nightmare Vol.1, that features bootleg versions of the seminal songs by legendary hardcore band Betrayed and the Urban Bandits among others… fetches for at least P5,000 nowadays on Ebay!
And for the punk rock scene, there is a market for their music and releases in vinyl or CD or cassette abroad. Indie distros sells records from outfits from all over Southeast Asia, North America, and Europe. In fact, you can buy a lot of them over here. Many of the shops that sell Pinoy and foreign punk are located in Manila from the streets of Recto to unobtrusively located shops in San Antonio Village in Makati. Most though hawk their wares online with Facebook pages serving as their web pages.
A few of the band shave even penetrated the other bigger indie record shops. You can now find them in the Grey Market at White Plains with even a few at the Pop Record Shop in Makati that seems totally different from their standard milieu. But it is what it is. The higher profile distribution allows more fans access to the music.
It’s an incredible scene that many would do well to take notes. Punk bands release albums, videos, merchandise, and play to packed clubs. In fact, they do better than many mainstream acts. They might not make too much but their scene is very much alive.
|Top: Veils and Bad Omen's excellent Echoes of the Quondam.|
Bottom: Feud's For the Sake of Unity and the Ex-Senadors' Kamatayaan o Kalayaan?
Pinoy punk rock records in my collection:
Monthly Red (Love From Hate Records and Alleiner Threat Records)
If you like Veruca Salt. This four-piece outfit from San Fernando, Pampanga has a knack for the hook that makes their brand of punk pretty cool.
Two tracks – “Away from Home” and “Lie”.
Veils (Still Ill Records, Aklasan Records, Love from Hate Records, Mutilated Noise Records, Get Up and Go records, Delusion of Terror Records, and Left Hand Path)
Ah, dark, metallic hardcore. Comes in three different covers regular cover and the alternate silkscreened cover featuring artwork by Ralph Espiritu.
Bad Omen – Echoes of the Quondam (Middle Finger Records)
A six-track record where these punk purveyors cover songs from Ethnic Faces, Left of Center, Fatal Disguise, Third World Chaos, Signal 3, and George Imbecile and the Idiots. A nice record.
Feud – For the Sake of Unity (Mutilated Noise and Still Ill Records)
Remastered from the original 2000 release. This record is a declaration of what the band stands for – anti-posers, blind faith, human and women’s rights. This band asks the right questions and makes a stand. It’s too bad they have split up. This is a band that should be heard – fast and straight to the point hardcore.
Biofeedback – Karamihan ng Tao Ay Pu (Mutilated Noise)
A re-release of these classics from 1990s punk rockers. The source of this re-release is a cassette and not the original masters. It’s muffled and well, it blunts the raw fury of this band. Nevertheless, a must have.
The Ex-Senadors – Kamatayaan o Kalayaan? (Mutilated Noise Records)
Personally, a special record as this got me back into local punk.
Random Violence/Value Lasts (Still Ill Records, Aklasan Records, Love from hate Records, Left Hand Path, Get Up and Go Records, and Delusion of Terror Records)
A split record between Random Violence and Value Lasts. Each band has three tracks.
Killratio – Erehe
This is like someone unloading off an assault rifle in full automatic. Rapid fire punk. Short, fast and furious just the way it should be.
|Top: Biofeedback and random Violence and Value Lasts split record|
Bottom: Killratio's upcoming release Erehe (have an advance copy) plus Monthly Red's split record with German band Raskolnikoff.
|Veils and the variant cover above.|
|The various Bad Omen releases with the LP variants.|
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.