I don’t think we really intended to do it, but Rakenrol showed that making music was all just a phase. I mean, you can’t really be like Ely or Pepe Smith and dedicate your whole life to it…It becomes a story you tell your grandchildren. But then, at the time, it meant the world to you.
Questionable childhood taste
Peeing on hands
Puking in hair
Mikey Amistoso (who gets mentioned so many times in this interview, you’d think all the questions were about him)
The Origins of Blast Ople
The Dark Ages
Building your own dream
I am Quark Henares – filmmaker, and now business student! And I sing for a band. Or two.
This is shameful, but when I was in grade school, I was really into hip hop– like MC Hammer, Young MC, and all that shit. I kinda liked New Kids on the Block, before I met Ramon (de Veyra), who laughed at me. And then I stopped getting into music, so I missed out on the whole Nirvana thing. All the other kids were getting into Nevermind while I was like, “Eh, these guys are okay,” because I wasn’t getting into music anymore, and I was tired of hip hop.
And then I got into music again in ’93, when I was in first year high school. These were the songs that got me into music again: Four Non-Blondes, “What’s Up?”; Soul Asylum, “Runaway Train”; (giggles) and yung favourite namin ni Mang Rudy, “Two Steps Behind,” by Def Leppard…Yeeeeeaaaaahhhh!
So my first cassette tape ever was Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em. I was such big a fan of Francis M too that I even had my hair cut like his – you know, the two lines over here? But my first CDs were Soul Asylum’s Grave Dancer’s Union (1992) and Pearl Jam’s Vs. (1993) I just listened to it again after twenty years and it’s still working and in good order, so I’m very happy about that.
I was really obsessed with NU (107.5), so I was listening to NU all the time, and I’d call and request. Soon after, I got into Juliana Hatfield’s “My Sister,” from Become What You Are (1993). I really got into that album and it actually became my favorite album of all time. Ever. And then around that time, that’s when alternative rock started coming in, so you had Lemonheads, Gin Blossoms, Cracker—I remember ’94 was really the year that music broke for me. That was when I first heard Possum Dixon and Pavement, and I really started getting into Not Radio. I got into Not Radio because Myrene (Academia) previewed the new Pearl Jam single, and funnily enough, it was also the first radio show that ever played The Cranberries’ “Linger” – which eventually became one of my top five favorite songs of all time. People should probably stop reading now because things get more and more shameful.
1994 was also the year of “Stay,” by Lisa Loeb, which I loved—with a video directed by Ethan Hawke. “Spin the Bottle” was also directed by Ethan Hawke. I think she kisses him in that video…I don’t know, I had questionable taste, but I really love those songs.
I also love It’s a Shame about Ray, by the Lemonheads. All the Boston bands like Dinosaur Jr., The Pixies. Surfer Rosa (1988) by The Pixies, Pavement’s Wowee Zowee (1995) , and Sleater Kinney’s The Hot Rock (1999) were my essential albums. I love 90’s alternative – it was all just people in their t-shirts, you know? Like, anyone can have a band. That’s what I loved about the 90’s – they were very no-frills, which reminds me of the scene now, here, in the Philippines. Anyone can have a band and just go and make music. You can pass them on the street and not recognize them. It was very…unfashionable.
The only Filipino band I was really into was The Eraserheads. I didn’t really like The Youth. I didn’t really like Yano. I liked that one song, “Ulan”, by the then up-and-coming band, Rivermaya. So yeah, 1994 was a big year – you had Cracker, Low, some Pavement, some Guided by Voices. I was listening to more of Juliana’s stuff; I got her Blake Babies album. So I guess most of it was really Myrene, that’s why I call her my mom, because she really molded my taste. It really all leads up to her.
My best friend in high school was this young man named Mikey Amistoso, who was my classmate. I was discovering music with him, so I’d tape him my CDs (laughs)—yung tipong, nagca-calculate pa kami ng, “how much tape is there left?” And we’d try to fit one more song, and if the tape stopped in the middle of the song, I’d have to rewind and record over silence. And we were making our own fucking covers—yung tipong, we’d cut up magazines and we would Elmer’s glue them! So we’d get these Maxell tapes, and we’d trade: I’d give him the new Pearl Jam and he’d give me his cousin’s stuff. His cousin was Ron Ruiz, who sang for a band called Feet like Fins.
We made this movie called Rakenrol (2011), and the main character, Odie, was actually based on Mikey. Mikey has this story, I mean you know how it’s normal for young boys to pee in front of each other? Mikey would be peeing, then Ron actually washed his hands in Mikey’s pee! There’s a much tamer version of this in the movie, where he pees on the Noche Buena table, but that’s what actually happened.
First gig I ever went to was that last gig of The Dawn before they broke up, in Club Dredd. I went with my dad and with my sister, and I got drunk and threw up in her hair. She was eleven years old, and I threw up in her hair. So now in this story, we already have peeing on hands and puking on hair. Classeh.
Anyway, Ron really liked Pavement and The Pixies. I remember the first Pixies album I ever heard was Trompe Le Monde (1991), but I didn’t really like it. I only liked two or three songs, but then we both liked Pavement at the same time. Mikey and I were the only ones who were into that kind of music and everyone was laughing at us, because the in-thing at the time was Senti (which is really just a less rocky version of emo): mga Michael Learns to Rock, mga Wet Wet Wet, and all that shit.
And then the other guys in class who were into rock, Jeff Cabal and Justin Sunico, were into like…Satriani…I know Mitch Singson was into hip hop. We had this class project where you had to write a nationalistic song, and Mikey formed a band with those guys, while I had another group called The Dendrites (we sucked! We’re still friends, though). They formed Ciudad from this group, it was named it after a bus line—which is the worst fucking thing you can base a band name on! The song they did was called “Banaag”. It had lyrics like, “Ikaw ba ang bagong bayani/ na magliligtas sa salinlahi?/ Kaya mo bang manatili?” Naaalala ko pa yon! It had the bass line of “Tame” by the Pixies I loved it! So I was like, “You guys need a manager? I’m gonna manage you!”
So I became the manager of Ciudad, and that’s what really started everything.
Diego (Castillo) naman, who was Myrene’s boyfriend, hated me at the time. I would call him Neo-Nazi, because he was bald and sullen; but we bonded because he had a Reservoir Dogs shirt, and I was like, “What’s that, is that a band?” and he was like, “No, it’s a movie. It’s called Reservoir Dogs and you should check it out.” I checked it out and loved it. If Myrene was in charge of teaching me about music, it was Diego who took charge of teaching me about film. He told me to watch Goodfellas and Godfather, Deerhunter, Boyz ‘n the Hood; so parang informal parents ko talaga si Diego and Myrene.
I was also their biggest fan. They had a band called The Aga Muhlach Experience, with Toti Dalmacion and Mario Alipio, and they played over here, in Jusmag, which was like a military training…place. So they played there, and I was an Aga Muhlach groupie. (Maybe somewhere on the internets, you can find the one and only interview with The Aga Muhlach Experience. I was the one who did it. I was 15 years old.)
I think Ciudad eventually auditioned for the benefit of Tulong Dunong, which was the first session they actually played in Club Dredd. The gig was called Skapologs and they played with Tungaw. Another one of the bands that played was called Shiznit (laughs), which later became Chicosci, who were doing (at this point Quark launches into the gibberish opening from 311’s “Down”) 311.
In college, I was more active. There was Ciudad, but I also managed Boldstar, Monsterbot, and Chico Science. I was also writing for Pulp and Volume magazine, so I was full-force in the band scene before we put up our own band, Blast Ople. The way we formed was really funny: We were eating in McDonald’s after one gig – it was me, Marie (Jamora), Jason (Caballa), Joey (Odulio), and Mikey—basically, what would become Blast Ople. And we were just laughing at stupid band names. There was a band called Blastoff Country Style, so Mikey said his cousin came up with Blast Ople.
We were all in an org called Amp (Ateneo Musician’s Pool), then the next day, on the chalkboard it said, “Blast Ople is…Quark Henares on vocals—“ and we were just like, “Did Jason just form a band without telling us?” So we just went with it. We’ve basically been doing the same set for fifteen years now, and it’s gonna stay that way forever.
Erwin (Romulo) and I were talking the other day, and he was like, “Grabe. Grabe ang Ciudad,iba na talaga.” There used to be gigs where there would only be two or three people. No one really cared about Ciudad, and it got really bad in what I call, “The Dark Ages.” This was 1997 to 2001, when everyone was into Nu Metal and fucking modern rock Creed-type shit. I actually would say the scene is better with our audience now. I mean, I can only imagine Us-2, Evil-0 existing in that time…people would throw shit at you.
Ciudad actually got booed off stage once, at one of those acoustic gigs; one of those NU Alternativity things, and we got “Uwi na! Uwi na!!!” instead of “Corina! Turina!” (a Ciudad song). I mean, shit, ganun yung crowd! I even remember this one Wolfgang gig where people were storming into Tower Records, and they broke the fucking door. I was always afraid during the Rock Awards that there would be a riot.
So now, it’s more diverse. I mean the Nu Metal guys are still around, but I really would say there’s an audience for Ciudad—because Jeff just got back with Ciudad, right? And he was like, “Quark, remember how you were telling me that we were before our time?” (laughs) “Then apparently, you were right!” Because now all those kids who were singing “Strawberry Jam” in grade school now have purchasing power.
Recording changed a lot. I remember we would do the cassette recordings first – the karaoke recordings. It sounded like shit. Then we would track in Power Chords (on Katipunan), and we’d spend like 10,000 pesos to do three songs. And it’s reel, ‘di ba? So you’d have to rewind, and wait for the part where you made a mistake, then play along. That’s what it was like back in those days. It was really fucking expensive, so no one in their right mind would decide to go indie. But funnily enough, Pinup Girls and Twisted Halo went indie, Cynthia Alexander also (this was in 2000 or 2001). Then everyone followed suit.
So now, people don’t even think about getting signed, right? It’s all, “Just record your own stuff and get it out there,” which is really awesome! A band like Up Dharma Down would never have released an album had it not been for the whole indie and digital recording model. There are actually no more labels here: BMG’s gone, Warner is not even signing Filipino artists – they’re just a distribution company for the American stuff. Everyone’s kind of disappeared, so it’s a weird place to be making music. No one even knows how to make money just yet.
What sucks is that it’s so hard to penetrate the traditional record stores with the selection process and all. Same with the film industry (actually, it’s even worse with the film industry). It’s so hard to get your distribution done in stores. But because of CDbaby and Artiste Connect, it’s so much easier to just download shit. I was surprised to learn that Up Dharma Down is actually on Spotify—and we can’t even get Spotify here! You can get albums at gigs and everything, but it’s still not readily accessible. Well, you have places like Fully Booked, which are kind of progressive.
But even in the States, music videos are dead. They’re gone. Forget it. Which is sad: because in the whole story of my life in the music industry—more than a manager, more than a singer or a music writer—I really became a music video director. That was really my role.
Even niche radio is pretty much dead. There used to be a jazz station and, you know, NU. I was listening to Jam 88.3 the other day, and they’re playing Bryan Adams and Bon Jovi now. So it’s hard to market niche stuff. But at the same time, because of this newfangled thing called the internet, and social media and whatever, it’s easier to plug your gig or get your homemade music video around. That’s the tradeoff.
It’s almost as if it’s come to a world where you have to build your own dream, which is (kind of) counterintuitive to many Filipinos. I mean, as a people we’re very…parang, you don’t wanna toot your own horn, ‘di ba? So ang hirap. Now you really have to sell yourself. But there are so many venues to get the music heard: Soundcloud, and even MySpace, back in the day. Have you seen the new MySpace? It’s pretty fucking awesome. You have to log in through Facebook. (laughs)
Remember before, press was really just Pulp magazine? Well, there was Jingle, Sure Hits, mga ganon – Sure Hits and Song Hits and whatever. I remember Sure Hits because it was a big S, and then “sure” and then “hits” under, so it looked like Sure Shits. May guitar tabs, at yun yung thing nila. But we don’t have that anymore, because it’s become this new, web-based thing.
What I find sad is that it’s hard to bump into shit. It’s not like before, when you’d be listening to NU, then you hear Pavement or Guided by Voices, and it’s like, “Wow! This is fuckin’ awesome!” Nakaka-miss lang, na there was a lot of serendipity. Even at gigs, like Attraction! Reaction!, you pretty much get the same crowd all the time. Not like before, na you’d have Greyhoundz and Brownbeat All-Stars, then they’d play with Ciudad and then Elemento, with their homemade guitars. Parang ang labo lang ng mix, which I liked.
When I was in college, Marie and I had this production called All-Starugo Nights; and the main point of All-Starugo was really to promote diversity through the bands. Pero the dark years nga yon, so if you had a band like Slapshock—who we’d book—kawawa yung other bands. Like, I remember, Skies of Ember played to a crowd that was mostly the Greyhoundz crowd, and he (Dott Sekie) played one song. And then after the first song, he was like, “Last song. I’m sorry. I can’t rock. I just can’t.”
(Oasis’ “Wonderwall” starts playing in the background) This is one of my favourite songs of all time! Siguro top 3…I love this song…along with “Linger”!
I can’t believe I’ve worked with Ely (Buendia) so many times, but every time I see him, I still get starstruck. I can’t talk to him. I really loved Eraserheads and I’m still such a big fan. Ron Ruiz I think is legendary. He’s in Baguio, hiding; but there was a Pedicab gig where they did “Jazzdog”, which was awesome! Si Jack Sicat (of Ethnic Faces)—that was a fucking awesome band. There’s Cooky Chua, Skarlet, Dong Abay – I think they’re all legendary…
I think that’s also why Rakenrol was so important to Diego and me, because we just had to document this whole thing. I don’t think we really intended to do it, but Rakenrol showed that it (making music) was all just a phase. I mean, you can’t really be like Ely or Pepe Smith and dedicate your whole life to it. I see people like Glenn (Jacinto, from Teeth), and he’s an ambulance dispatcher now in LA. And that was his whole life, but it was also just a phase. It becomes a story you tell your grandchildren. But then, at the time, it meant the world to you. It meant everything—until you have to get your day job, get married, have kids, and just leave that behind. Rakenrol became kind of about that, in many ways…ang depressing naman nito!
But then there’s Raymund (Marasigan), who I think is one of the most important musicians who is still working today—probably because he has so many bands. It’s almost become like a mission for him to help bands like Monsterbot and Ciudad, then he’d push them forward. Then there are all of his bands, and all of the bands that they formed, after. Raymund has been such a driving force in all of that.
It’s so hard being away, because there are all these bands doing all these things, and you’re not here. Like this new vinyl trend—vinyl! Everyone’s going vinyl! It just keeps on growing and the scene just keeps on changing. I hope there will be more venues and more intermingling, more diversity; because everyone’s just in their little holes. And I hope our music industry—as in the industry itself—really learns how to make money. When that happens, once again, OPM can really dominate the airwaves.
Tama na ang Drama (Ang Bandang Shirley, 2012) is such a great album, and I don’t know if any radio stations are playing it. Same thing with Follow the Leader (Ciudad, 2012) – it’s just so hard to break through. Everyone has been so supportive in keeping each other alive, but Cutter Pillow went platinum seven times (platinum used to be 40,000, now it’s 25,000). So that’s nearly 300,000 copies. That won’t happen again for a long time. You won’t have a common culture like with The Eraserheads, and 80,000 people going to the Fort to watch them.
But I wish that could happen again.
Recorded at Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, Metro Manila. 7 January 2013. Duration: 46 mins.
Illustrated by Mikey Quijano