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.