Monday, July 31, 2017

Hard times, the tough life of a Filipino punk band: the Dead Brains

Standing: Johnny, Tommy, me.
Sitting: Junimar and GeeDee

Hard times, the tough life of a Filipino punk band
The Dead Brains.
by rick olivares

The punk rock culture is intensely proud and protective of its DIY (Do It Yourself) culture and creed. For the Taytay Rizal based outfit, the Dead Brains… it’s also about gutting it out.

Like most bands, the Dead Brains started out with zero knowledge of how to play any songs. “Sariling turo,” is how Johnny Deadbrains, lead singer and sole remaining member of the crew that founded outfit in 2006.

Drummer Tommy Deadbrains admitted that as a freshman at Taytay National High School, he was introduced to punk rock by a classmate. Johnny’s classmates all grew up watching Johnny and his band – all seniors -- perform at school events. “Ilang taon bago ako na-hugot ni Johnny sa sumali sa band niya,” recounted Johnny. “Sobrang saya ko.”

The band’s guitarist, Junimar Deadbrains, has this youthful look. Like a kid running around with an older crew. In fact, if you saw the film adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s “The Outsiders”, a film about teenage rebels with a cause, Junimar is a dead ringer for a young Ralph Macchio pre-Karate Kid. “Napa-sama ako sa gig at unti unti na impluwensiyahan maging mahilig sa punk,” shared the soft-spoken kid.

Regarding his calling, the bassist, GeeDee Deadbrains, says the music of punk was the only one that spoke and expressed his feeling. It never held back and used language that he spoke whether course, rough, or profane. “Hindi siya censored. Best expression for me,” he threw in.

Johnny Deadbrains. Junimar Deadbrains. Tommy Deadbrains. And GeeDee Deadbrains.

While obviously not their surname and more so brothers from the same mother, perchance, are they influenced by the Ramones, that seminal and genre defining band out of Forest Hills, New York?

“Talaga,” a few of them chorus. However, the Deadbrains aren’t merely a tribute band to the now defunct Ramones. “Siyempre, naghanap kami ng sariling tunog,” said Johnny.

The punk rock scene in Taytay isn’t robust. “Matamlay,” is how GeeDee puts it. So they have to go out of their confines to gig. And that in itself comes with a set of problems.

The few equipment they have is all busted up. “Nanghihiram lang kami nga gamit sa tropa,” sheepishly admitted Johnny. “Yung sira sira namin na equipment ang ginagamit naming pang ensayo. Pero pag may gig? Nanghihiram lang kami.”

Thus far, friends have been most helpful. “Hindi pa naman kami nasi-zero sa hiram,” bared Johnny.

And that isn’t the end of the band’s challenges. On the way to gigs, it’s tough. Money is hard to come by. “Sabit sabit lang kami sa jeep,” once more sheepishly said Johnny.

“Yung worst namin?” chimed in GeeDee. “Sapang Palay, Bulacan. Gustong gusto namin tumugtog pero kapos kami sa pamasahe. Nakiusap na lang kami sa konduktor. Kung ano meron kami, yun ang ibinayad.”

To help make ends meet, they take odd jobs. When the odd jobs take them. Johnny does roadie work for a few other bands earning meager pay that he splits for his child and for his band. Last Saturday, he zipped in and out of Motorista bar in Timog doing roadie work in another bar a block away while waiting for the Dead Brains to perform.

Unfortunately for them, they never got to play that evening – or morning – as the production had its own set of problems. “That’s life,” grinned Johnny who said they are used to all these ups and downs but yet keep their hopes up. “Bawi na lang next time.”

In spite of these challenges that would have forced many another financially-challenged band to call it a day, the Dead Brains persist. They have recorded an independently-released album and have a few split ones (shared with other similarly-challenged bands). However, with this current line-up, they have yet to record an album. “Ah,” dropped Johnny. “Meron kami na-record…. cellphone lang.”

Too tough to die?

“Yung making music at makagawa kami ng album na pakikinggan ng tao… yan ang dream namin,” summed up GeeDee.

Published my first music zine!

Published my first music zine! This will be a regular production for me and in very low print runs. How low or small? Well, the first issue will only have 50 copies and not more. This premier issue features my stories on Cooky Chua,Joey "Pepe" Smith, the Skalawags, Bing Austria and the Flippin' Soul Stompers, the late DZRJ jock Howling Dave, Sepultura, Narcloudia, Sugar Hiccup, Kate Torralba, Gwen CaƱete of Singapore thrash metal band Tormentress, Dreaded Mortuary, Identity Crisis, Slapshock, the amazing Filipino punk DIY culture, Kaimito, the Late Isabel, and indie albums I recommend! All in 16 pages!

Not sure about the frequency but it will go on as I can do this. Where will this be available? Am placing a few at Middle Finger at Cartimar, the Grey Market in White Plains, and NEC in Quezon City.

The next one will feature more underground bands. 

Weekend underground haul

It was quite a haul for the underground releases this weekend! lots of stuff to listen to.

Releases from Thresthold Records. All Filipino punk and crustcore bands.
Cassettes I got from Emman of Delusion of Terror Records! Gangrene, Rogernomix (from New Zealand), and EyesofFire.
Save for Repugnant and Gangrene (top left and right), all the others are foreign bands. The top two middle ones are Japanese. The lower left is Japanese band Cheerio (with that raunchy cover). The lower middle is Filipino although Vivere Merda is an Italian hardcore outfit with a Fil-Italian lead guitarist. Maticrust is a Filipino grindcore band out of U.A.E. featuring an Arab drummer. Speedill is an Indonesian band.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Filipino directs hardcore group Dead Cross’ brutal cockfight video

Filipino directs hardcore group Dead Cross’ brutal cockfight video
by rick olivares

Filipino filmmaker Dennis Bersales just finished working on American hardcore band, Dead Cross’ new music video for “Obedience School”, the first single from their self-titled debut album that will be out on the 4th of August.

Bersales who previously directed a video for another hardcore band, Retox, once more got the nod for the first video of Dead Cross, the hardcore-metal supergroup whose members come from Retox (guitarist Mike Crain and bassist Justin Pearson), Faith No More (vocalist Mike Patton), and Slayer (drummer Dave Lombardo).

“Obedience School” brings the viewer front and center for a brutal cock fight.

Dennis Bersales
“With regards to the video, it has a project idea that I had quite some ago,” related Bersales. “I even started out with a photo essay of the cockfights a few years ago to get better idea. “But recently Dead Cross contacted me to about creating a video for them for their debut album.” 

“I have worked on a number of projects for one of the band members before,” pointed out Bersales.  “We brainstormed ideas together and settled on this. I was happy about it because I have been wanting to document aspects cockfighting for quite some time.  The band was happy with the outcome and we will continue to work together. This was shot in Cebu and in documentary style. There will be follow up video soon but I plan to shoot more footage first and will edit it in a different style.”

The Academy of Art University (in San Francisco) alumnus previously directed Retox’s video for “Without Money, We’d All Be Rich” that featured some young Filipino kids watching two spiders fight in a cemetery. For Dead Cross’ single, Bersales depicted in stark black and white, a cock fight, that matches the brutal music of the American band.

In an interview with American magazine, Fader, Bersales talked about his unusual “subjects” for his music videos: “This is just one of the many quirks of the Philippines that I have been trying to share in my work these past few years.”

Bersales also directed a pair of videos for electro-noise outfit, All Leather that also featured Justin Pearson.

“Dead Cross” will be released by Ipecac Records that is co-owned by Mike Patton and recording label veteran Greg Werckman.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Grinding it out: Swedish grindcore band Grid hits Manila.

Grinding it out: Swedish grindcore band Grid hits Manila.
by rick olivares

Frongo Larsson stood by the top of the stairs of the Darkside Bar. The six-foot-one bespectacled Swede, in Manila for his grindcore band, Grid’s Southeast Asian tour, was slumped against the wall. He was sweating buckets.

“Fuck,” he said to no one in particular. “It’s hot as fuck here.”

It was ironic as the metropolis was engulfed with Typhoon Gorio’s rains. The inclement weather had caused the cancellation of classes, work stoppage, and clogged up streets. Outside the Darkside Bar along Nakpil Street in Malate, the rain was pouring. Inside the bar, however, because of its small, cramped space with even worse ventilation and seemingly non-existent air-conditioning, and with bodies packing the floor for the plethora of the guttural singing/sounding bands that laid waste to one’s eardrums that night, it was extra hot.

“Fuck, man. All of a sudden I miss Sweden,” he chirped.

Larsson referred more to the humidity that threatened to sap all of his energy. Grid, the now two-man outfit, was on the last leg of its four-nation tour of Southeast Asia. They are on tour with Maticrust, that Fil-Arab outfit out of the United Arab Emirates, in a showcase billed as East/West Grind Core Finale”. Grid were also promoting their new album. “Human Collapse Syndrome” that was released by Discouraged Records last May 15.

“The album has been selling well on tour,” said Backstrom.

Friday night they were in Manila for their Darkside Bar gig then on Saturday, they play their last show at the Hi-Way 826 Resto Bar in Pampanga before flying back to Europe on Sunday.

“I guess it’s also because that we’re close to the end of the tour which is why I am homesick,” Frongo later shared. “But the show must go on.”

“I’m ‘Frederick’ but just call me ‘Frongo,’” he smiled extending a handshake.

I purchased a seven-inch single and two compact discs of their albums. That brought a huge smile to his face. “We sold out most of our stuff in our first few stops. Indonesia was fucking crazy. It was great,” he beamed. “We hope to get the same kind of response here. And I hope you like our stuff.”

Grid arrived in Bangkok, Thailand on the 19th of July; played a gig the next day then flew to Johor, Malaysia for the second show in as many days and countries. They spent four days in Indonesia that allowed them to see Jakarta. “When we were there it was foggy,” related Frongo.

Now he’s in between heat and rain.

During their 16-song set, Grid sent fans into a frenzy. At first, the fans watched the duo perform. Despite being a man-down, they are no less aggressive or loud. On display was technical proficiency. And loud as fuck brutal, agro music. A mosh pit ensued. Beer flowed. Cheers roared out into the dark and rainy night.

Later outside for some smokes, he accidentally dropped his cigarette on the street. The white of the stick is browned from the mud puddle.

“Give him another one,” called out a bar patron. “It’s already dirty.”

“It’s all right. I need a smoke,” he said putting the stick into his mouth while waiting for a light. “I need it before I go insane.”

The big man sat quietly for a moment. Reflection? Steeling one’s self?

It seemed almost embarrassing because the putrid smell of an open sewer assaulted our senses maybe even more than the music played upstairs. If the visitor was put off, he wasn’t showing it.

Then Larsson nodded. He was now ready to talk.

In the meantime, his co-bandmate, guitarist Andreas Backstrom has opted to stay upstairs. “How he can stand the heat, I don’t know. He’s like an iceman,” laughed Larsson.

According to the Swede, the grindcore scene in is homeland is dead. “Luckily, we can play in the metal and hardcore festivals so we still have some venues to play in. We just want to play.”

Talking to promoters around the Southeast Asian region, Grid was stoked to find out that the extreme music scene was alive and kicking. Some of the members of Maticrust enjoined them to perform in Manila. “’You have to try Manila,’” quoted Frongo of the invitation. “It’s good. We’re happy we’re here. And we’ve been having a blast man! I have yet to get fucking drunk in Manila.”

His last statement elicits a laugh from the fans around him.

“The tour is an eye opener for us. For sure, we’re going to do this again,” Frongo pronounced. “It’s good for the new experiences and making new friends. Hopefully, the experiences will make their way into our next batch of songs.”

Maybe when they return they can spend a little more time and see both the good and bad of the city if not the rest of the country. “Definitely,” Larsson said cheerfully. “We’d like to go to a beach as well because in Sweden it’s so fucking cold. The snow? It sometimes reaches up to here,” he said demonstrating with his hand how thick the snow falls.

“We’d also like to see more bands,” he added. “After all, we’re music fans ourselves.”

Then a couple of fans who made their way out of the hot and humid bar spot Larsson. “Sir… selfie?”

The Big Swede nodded.

“Hey, you’re famous,” I teased.

“Ha!” was the only one Larsson could say.

“We’re going to have to call it a night. We have a show tomorrow night.”

No rest for the wicked as the show must go on.

With Frongo Larsson outside Darkside Bar. Dirty smokes and all.