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.

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