Because Stories Need to be Told Again

I’ve recently been uploading older articles I’ve written for amplify.ph. I figured that since the site’s been down, I wanted to put the few things I wrote for them up. I really liked writing that column and honestly, I wish I still had it. It would have given me an excuse to still keep myself in the scene.

The column was mostly about my growing estrangement from the local music scene and me trying to come to terms with the difficulty of being in a band in my late 30s. It feels like now, my transition away from those things has been completed.

I wrote my last column for amplify.ph in January 2016 (see last post) and since then, my life has completely changed. In 22 January 2018, I entered the Philippine Foreign Service as a Foreign Service Officer Class IV. I have since finished my cadetship program and have been working in the Office of ASEAN Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs since the end of July 2016. I somehow survived the Philippine Chairmanship of ASEAN without developing a serious alcohol problem and with my sanity relatively intact.  I am currently due to be posted to another (hopefully Southeast Asian) country this year.

In the two years plus since I wrote my last column for amplify.ph, the gigs I’ve attended have drastically decreased and I missed what may have been my first and only chance to watch Slayer because of work.

The band that I played for has also been on hiatus for reasons unrelated to my assumption of duties as a government officer (though it’s possible that other people might think differently). We have only recently regrouped to talk about finishing the songs that we left unrecorded.

I hope to still continue to do Losing My Edge in this space since it’s probably more apt for the head space I’m in right now. There may also be room for writing more closely related to my current work, though that area is covered well enough by some of my colleagues. 

Whatever the case, there’s a need for me to share stories again. And I may as well start doing it again now.

 

 

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LOSING MY EDGE: WHY I HATE RELEASING NEW MUSIC (originally written for Amplify.ph; published in January 2016)

Note: I had a very short-lived stint writing a column called Losing My Edge for the now defunct music website amplify.ph. Since the website is gone, I thought I’d put some of  the articles up here for posterity’s sake. 

This particular entry was submitted on January 2016, right before I entered the Foreign Service. The lyric video for Clandestine was just released around this time. This is relevant mostly because the band has pretty much decided to finish up the songs that we have left hanging. Let’s see if we’ll get them done before I leave for my posting, which I hope to happen by this year

Having been in the same band for the past fifteen years, I’m confident that I’ve pretty much learned how to deal with most of the things that come with it. There aren’t many things that I’m going to experience as a member of a Philippine metal band that I haven’t experienced in the past. Whether it’s writing songs, playing gigs or whatever, I’ve been around long enough to know that I don’t need to stress about it.

There’s one thing I haven’t learned to deal with though. In spite of the fact that we’ve been releasing music since around 2001, I still don’t know how to deal with the anxiety that comes with each new release. One would think that I’d have learned to deal with it now after having released a couple of albums, an EP, and a handful of music videos. I haven’t though. If anything, it’s gotten much worse at handling it.

I write about this now because we just released the lyric video for our song “Clandestine” last week. During the first few hours after I shared the video. I was constantly refreshing Facebook, the Page Manager app, and YouTube to see how many likes, dislikes, views, and comments we were getting. It got so bad that I had to stop checking YouTube for my own sanity. A week or so later, I’m stressing about the number of views and why they aren’t rising as quickly as anything we’ve done in the past. I can’t even to the song right now because it just stresses me the hell out. That’s how bad it’s become.

I neither experienced this level of anxiety with “Lines Crossed,” the last original song we released through Tower Sessions two years ago, nor with “Millipede,” the last music video we did six years ago. Given this, I can’t completely blame social media and the immediacy of the feedback that you get. I’ve probably touched on it in this space before, but the anxiety really comes from the fear of declining relevance as the band and I grow older.

While relevance isn’t really a directly measurable metric, it’s probably something that anybody doing any creative endeavour questions, especially as they grow older. I’ve never presumed to know what would be relevant to someone else though, and it always felt more honest to figure out what’s relevant to me and the people I’m collaborating with. This is kind of problematic, since what seems to have been relevant to us since the start was to try to do stuff that we’ve never done before.

Though most people ultimately participate in creative projects because it’s what they love to do, anybody who does any sort of artistic endeavor always hopes that what they’re saying about the human condition resonates with somebody else. It’s pretty insane if you think about it. We take great pains in making sure that we don’t repeat whatever it was that worked for us in the past while at the same time hoping that those few souls who found resonance with our past work are still along for the ride.


LOSING MY EDGE: ONLY SHALLOW (originally written for amplify.ph, published 28 September 2015)

Note: I had a very short-lived stint writing a column called Losing My Edge for the now defunct music website amplify.ph. Since the website is gone, I thought I’d put some of  the articles up here for posterity’s sake

I once went out on a few dates with a girl who was really into K-Pop. And when I say into K-Pop, I mean OG K-Pop fanatic. K-Pop hipster if there is such a thing, complete with encyclopaedic knowledge of groups and songs that most of the general populace haven’t heard of. My most obsessive moments of fanboying over grindcore don’t even come close.

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I tried to understand it as much as I could. I understand fandom after all, and I know how it is to be a fan of something that most people don’t really understand. In spite of the fact that K-Pop is probably diametrically opposite from what I listen to, I appreciate the amount of effort that goes into the production of the songs and the groups. How different is that fandom really from my own love for anything that the members of the band (not the terrorist group) Isis have ever done? (Except for Palms. I fucking hate Palms.)

That’s not the only time I’ve gone out with someone who had different musical tastes. In fact, I’ve barely gone out with anyone who remotely had the same taste in music recently. I briefly dated somebody who unironically listened to Avril Lavigne and Linkin Park. There was one who couldn’t get why people generally hated on Creed and Nickleback, though she said she wasn’t a fan of either band. I’ve also had other unsuccessful dates with women who probably didn’t know who Creed and Nickleback are.

This totally goes against what I believed in my 20s. “[W]hat really matters is what you like, not what you *are* like,” said Rob Fleming (or Rob Gordon if you didn’t the read the book) of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity. And that pretty much rang true for the majority of my 20s. Like he said, “it’s no good pretending that any relationship has a future if your record collections disagree violently, or if your favourite films won’t ever speak to each other if they met at a party.”

My twenties were all about falling for someone’s tastes in music and film, and these things mattered to me more than what these people were actually like. I can’t count the number of times I fell for someone because they included a Broken Social Scene song in this mix that they burned for me (LOL Mix CDs) or recommended that I watch some obscure indie flick or another.

Of course, I eventually found this kind of shallow as I entered my thirties. It helped that a lot of the cool people I liked apparently had tons of baggage. Either that or they were completely too cool for me. It also helped that as I entered my thirties, I met some interesting people who didn’t share the same pop culture vocabulary. I found out that people didn’t need to get my Monty Python references, or share my love for the Cocteau Twins to actually connect with them.

Also, it seems like the dating pool grows smaller as I get older. While apps like Tinder have made it easier to meet new people, it also made it much more apparent that the people I would actually want to go out with make up a small percentage of the population. Now, I’m not delusional about my attractiveness at all, but the union of the set of people I’m attracted to and the set of people who I think I have a chance with is actually kind of small.

Given this, and the fact that it feels like people my age are posting pictures of engagement rings, wedding receptions, babies, and baptisms every thirty seconds, it wouldn’t make sense for me to further narrow down my chances by excluding people who don’t get why Henry and Glenn Forever is funny.

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I’m still not sure if this experiment of not caring about what people are into is working. Whether it’s because of general incompatibility, my issues with commitment, or the fact that I allegedly dress like a fucking roadie (true story), I haven’t been in a serious relationship in a while. I do feel like I need to rethink the importance of what people are into though.

To answer the question I posited at the end of the second paragraph on whether K-Pop fandom is really different from what I’m into: Yes, it is. While I appreciate the effort it takes achieve the perfection in your average K-Pop release, the contrived nature of the genre doesn’t resonate with me.

My taste in music was formed by the inherently flawed DIY aesthetic of punk rock, filtered through the decidedly ugly lens of metal. I inherently distrust the perfect and the beautiful. While having incompatible tastes in music (or film, or art, or whatever) personally isn’t a deal breaker, it can hint at possible difference in values.

In the movie version of the above mentioned High Fidelity quote, Rob (Gordon this time) prefaces the statement by saying that it’s shallow. Shallow or not, liking the same things at least creates the impression of a shared language with someone. Whether it’s real or not, it’s easier for me to feel some sort of connection with somebody who complemented my ratty Best Coast shirt when we first met or argued with me about the merits of Christopher Eccleston’s Ninth Doctor than someone who just spoke to me about politics, or traffic, or her horrible day at work.  In the end of, everyone’s still just trying to find a connection with somebody else.


We’re Better Than This

Or at least we’re going to have to be better than this. We’re going to be in the FIBA Finals in 2014. It’s a huge feat that many fans of this basketball crazy country have been waiting for. For years, we’ve been hanging on to the glorious past when we were perennial favorites in international competition. The last time we won a gold was in an Asian competition was in 1986 (or was it ’85?). To finally be on the same stage as the best players in the world is something that this basketball crazy nation could only dream about. Judging by how we did in the tournament though. We’re going to have to do a much better job once we reach the much bigger stage in Spain.

I’m not talking about basketball though. While it’s true that we were decimated by Hamed Haddadi, a third-tier NBA player who has averaged a measly seven minutes a game for his career (imagine how bad it’s going to be against Nene, Varejao, the Gasols and whoever decides to play for Team USA), it’s really our reactions to the game that were the most bothersome.
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My Problem with Palms

The self-titled Palms album made me realize that a lot of Chino Moreno’s side bands sound the same in the same way that Alice in Wonderland made me realize that I can no longer stand Johnny Depp in Tim Burton movies. Continue reading


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