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.”
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 ‘Cariño Brutal’ and the younger generation gets it. And it happens every night.”
Now that’s devotion.