Two New Songs, 10th Year, New Lineup And More

We had two new songs out last September 26th! That’s how we celebrated CERUMENTRIC’s 10th year.

The latest lineup consists of me on vocals, synths, and loops, and Migs Amper and JP Nufable, on samplers, keyboards, and effects, respectively. We are working on expanding into a fuller band-like setup as time and budget would allow. Our instruments are old and rickety, but we’re doing our best. Sometimes it works well, sometimes it doesn’t.

As we would like to get to know you and all the people who listen to our music, please do try to join us on Facebook and tell us what you think. Feel free to ask questions as well. I’ll answer them the best way I could, but please make it easy and comfortable for me — make your messages decent and polite, because that’s what I as a person and musician aspire to all the time. 🙂

We are thankful to Amnesty International Philippines for the opportunity to use our music to promote human rights. Mei and Mika of AI deserve medals for doing their best to organize this huge open air event in Quezon City Circle last October 15, 2016. Big thanks to Kris Tek of Killratio and St.Imier Resource Center-Cavite for getting us lined up with some of the Philippines’ best groundbreaking musical acts.

We are thankful to the people of Frequency Asia and Unite Asia for helping us get more listeners all over Asia. These are people who work thanklessly to get good music noticed, music you don’t get to hear on your TV or the shopping mall.
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We are thankful to Vandals On The Wall for giving objective reviews of our music and for getting our new songs heard by a bigger audience than what we can reach on our own.

Personally I don’t feel comfortable posting more intimate details in a public blog, but if you’re following our music, you’d have a slight idea where we are taking this boat. In the end, we are thankful that motivation comes back from time to time, even if we are regularly gigging as much as we’d like — because constant gigging and touring means broken instruments, and boy, have  I broken a few along the way, considering that most cheap electronic instruments have yet to reach the sturdiness and craftsmanship level of the guitar.

So anyway, that’s all for now. You know where to find us. 🙂
-Erick F

Fraud Police? Watch Out For The Age Police!

Next to the Fraud Police, I have this illogical feeling that the Age Police will soon come knocking.

He wants to drag me to this dimly-lighted cell and lecture me about this seemingly pointless pursuit of the age-old rock & roll dream.

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That I am too old to be doing what I’m doing now, accepting one scant late night gig after another (and another one in a year if I’m lucky), that I should leave it to the young, lean, beautiful ones to make songs about their youthful angst and discontent.

The Age Police taunts me that I am way past my prime, that I should be settling down to a regular job where you don’t have to make up little ditties about how angry you are with the world.

I will just let the lecturing run its course, and then when The Age Police is not looking, I will escape and run off into the wild once more.

I’ll get back to writing these little songs that very few would probably hear, until the next time he finds me hiding in this junkyard.

I’ll be found busy, stringing together rusty wires across a rotting board and fiddling with the bowels of broken toys just to make a sound and write another quickly-forgotten song.

I’ve evaded him for the past 20 years (I’ve had close brushes), but what else can I do? Making songs up has become a hard habit to break.

Musicians Should Learn To Laugh At Themselves For Having Crappy Influences

One time, I left my music player’s speakers on low while I was dozing off. I heard this one electropop-style song there and wondered, “What kind of shitty band is that and why is that shitty song on my playlist?” Turns out it was one of my old songs. I don’t remember which one, though.

Moral of the story: Musicians should learn to laugh at themselves and make fun of their own work from time to time. A good sense of self-deprecating humour keeps inflated egos in check. I am not special, I am not that good, I can only play chords with my left hand on the piano, but I’m just artistically stubborn. That’s how I keep making music over the years even if very few people listen to it, or even when I think it’s not that good.

The other day, I was reading this Noisey article called “EVERY INFLUENCE YOUR SHITTY BAND ISN’T ALLOWED TO HAVE ANYMORE“. While there is some truth to what the authors are saying (that many recent bands since the 90’s claim to have been influenced or inspired by the same books and ideas), I saw it as a humorous way to look at famous bands that this generation have given sacrosanct value.

Some people got offended for having their favourite bands made fun of, because said band XYZ cites ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and Orwell’s ‘1984’ as influences.

It’s like you can’t make fun of bands or artists for saying contrived things during interviews. As far as I’m concerned, overly-serious artists eventually get tiring and boring if they cannot even make fun of themselves. This is why I love Weird Al and the fact that Nirvana’s members found his parody of ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ hilarious.

To tell you the truth, most of my influences are not the ‘right’ ones. I tried reading ‘Dune’ but found it too slow and dragging. I tried to like Fugazi because you’re supposed to like them if you’re a ‘real’ punk rock kid, but it felt forced because my ears enjoyed Minor Threat, and found Ian MacKaye’s DIY philosophy more attractive than his post-MT music. I was the punk kid who liked U2’s ‘Joshua Tree’ and underrated prog-rockers King’s X. I learned more about guitar music theory from listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins than Johnny Ramone.

Not that people care about it, but some of my influences are:

1.Sound Of Music

2. KC & The Sunshine Band

3. early Air Supply songs

4. The Beatles when they started getting weird

5. an old mixtape of death metal bands whose names I did not bother to find out (but played loud for kicks in college to drown out the neighbours’ horrible karaoke)

6. every pop-rock song that is a version of Don Henley’s ‘Boys Of Summer’ (those chorus-y ringing guitars are ear candy)

7. 80’s Super Sentai music, especially the Choudenshi Bioman songs sung by Takayuki Miyauchi

I’m like that gourmet chef who prefers to just have an egg sandwich at home. In fact, as a longtime cook who has worked in fine dining in the past, I’d be a happy Filipino with lugaw and ginisang mais at home.

Every other musical or artistic influence is either minor or secondary. 😉

CERUMENTRIC is now 9 Years old, and I forgot all about it

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As my wife knows about me, I have a terrible sense of time. I’ve been so busy editing the new song, making some art, and doing an outline of my next write-up, alongside preparing meals and making sure the kids don’t get into any trouble, that I forgot yesterday’s significance:

September 26, 2015 is the ninth year since I took a few drumloops, cut samples using the free audio editor Audacity, decided to make electronic music and call this bedroom act CERUMENTRIC to deal with a painful tinnitus that lasted for two months. I was never expecting anything except to amuse a few friends and entertain my wife and son. Two full lengths and a some EP’s and singles later, I did not anticipate it getting nominated for awards, getting positive reviews, or performing alongside some of Manila’s best indie musicians. We even did self-financed mini-tours across and outside the Metro. It was a lot of fun being on the road.

To be honest with you, there are times when I wish I could just throw in the towel, call it a day, and make my life less complicated. Not that I’ve stopped finding joy in making music under this moniker, but it has its own blessings and curses.

I will reiterate: Off-kilter experimental synthpunk songs with English lyrics about existential dilemmas are not supposed to come from a stocky ‪#‎Filipino‬ stay-at-home freelancing artist dad from the southern outskirts of ‪#‎Manila‬. If it doesn’t follow the ‪#‎OPM‬ blandplate and there are no ‪#‎hugot‬ romantic lyrics about young love or nationalistic ‪#‎Tagalog‬ lyrics set to a danceable beat, then it doesn’t and shouldn’t exist because it will be ‪#‎burgis‬ and ‪#‎sosyal‬ and ‪#‎antiFilipino‬ and doesn’t contribute to ‪#‎FilipinoCulture‬. Your music career in the ‪#‎Philippines‬ is practically screwed unless you have external funding. As the pedestrian creature would tell us, “Walang mass-appeal ‘yan!” (That doesn’t have mass appeal!)

But I’m not doing this for money. I earn a living as a freelance writer and graphic artist. There are easier ways to make money. I’m doing this because it gives me meaning. There are still tons of musical ideas in my head that I haven’t tried. My gear is still slowly falling apart, but we’ve managed to get this far with this makeshift musical contraption despite the odds.

Perhaps I’ll quit next year on CERUMENTRIC’s 10th anniversary. Just maybe, I’ll change my mind again, like I do every other year, because something comes up and another strange circumstance grabs me by the collar and shakes me, telling me to stop being a fool. But I’ve been on this fool’s errand to a musical rabbit hole for years now, and I’ve somehow gotten used to this, that I just can’t imagine life without it. Thank you for reading, thank you for listening to the music, thank you for believing, thank you for riding along with the changes, and you know who you are because there’s not a lot of you, really.

Back With A Vengeance (A Momentary Break More Like) And Some Reflections

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Photo by Brucher Owens of GYHTS

So here I am, last June 6th, 2015. I took a very short break from fatherhood to play in a musician friend’s birthday gig.

It was great to be back, and it was more than exhilarating to see old and new friends and acquaintances. It seemed like it was only yesterday when we were all in our twenties, with big ideas on how to make our small part of the world more creative, more free, more to our liking. Suddenly a lot of us are venturing into more ‘mature’ pursuits. It’s a good reason to celebrate life and its momentary pleasures.

I’m done recording my vocal parts and doing the basic arrangements for the new album, but now here comes the blood-and-guts part: post-production and editing. The extended Manila summer isn’t helping much, and I’m covered in heat rashes daily. As I keep telling my wife, I may be as strong as an ox, but I’m a bunch of allergies waiting to happen anytime.

After hurdling previous tests of patience, here comes a new challenge: dealing with the complex emotions of a 12-year-old son and the explosive temper of a 1-year-old toddler. Good luck, says the career-minded, supportive and patient wife who leaves early every weekday morning to travel to work.

Each day is a reminder about how to appreciate what one has, despite the existential discontent and the temptation to give in to envy and resentment. I’m reminded that I should be thankful to live in a country where I can speak freely and do subversive art without being arrested (to some extent), but I also feel arrested by the fact that it is a country that can do so much more but wouldn’t, a country of complacency, where manicured mansions coexist with shanties within meters of each other, where the ‘have’s’ pass by the ‘have not’s’ with no bother in the world.

That environment, combined with the constant humidity, pollution, horrible traffic jams, commonplace crime, and sleeper subdivisions on the verge of becoming barbaric ghettos, contribute to the art and the music. It’s a world of extremes, both the stunning countryside beauty and the debilitating poverty, that I draw inspiration from.

Having said that, it’s a bitch re-learning Ableton Live after relying for more than five years on hardware samplers. My Roland SP808’s zip drive has breathed its last. Nevertheless, I am back, with a vengeance, with scores to settle, a new musical direction, and plans to make more art than I can possibly handle.

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There is a tiny part of me that wishes to relegate what I love to do to being a mere hobby, to make my life easier and less complicated, but I never really saw it as a hobby. It has always been a personal mission.

I make electronic music to make people nervous, as each snippet of melody is always threatening to explode any moment, volatile, potentially dislikable, especially when the local music scene teems with trendy/hip types who have embraced the irony like a badge of honor. It won’t make for more fans, but I’d rather be honest at this point in my life, even if it means offending sensibilities.

At best, I’m trying to exercise mindfulness, to savor each moment, to appreciate every effort by anyone who give their time to engage me in lovely conversations, and to those who take me as I am, a mass of contradictions, angry onstage but calm and awkward offstage. Thank you for bearing up with me and having me for drinks and company. You know who you are and I really appreciate your effort at going out of your way.

If you’re reading this far, thank you, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. I’ve been doing this since September 2006, and I have no regrets. The quarter-life crisis just makes me hell-bent in doing more to fuck up the status quo in my part of the world. There’s no more looking back, and it’s time to trudge on, mistakes and all, because I’ve survived the worst of times.

(Special thanks to Nono of Names Are For Tombstones for the awesome birthday gig, Glenn Dilanco for the video, Claire for seeing the show and giving me a ride home, and all the friends and bands who made this an enjoyable show. You all rock.)

Goodbye Max (And Reflections On Death)

Max the old dog just died three days ago, and I’m trying not to mourn because I am the one who has to do the dirty work of preparing him for burial and burying him in a place where he can rest and go back to nature with dignity.

I have had the secret job of being pet undertaker since I was in elementary school and that has taught me to remain detached for certain period of time, and to only mourn when no one else is looking, because vulnerability is a precious thing and I don‘t want anyone intending me harm to see. 

When my wife’s father died some ten years ago, I helped carry his casket to the airport early in the morning and helped ship it to his hometown in South Cotabato. I was the one tasked to break the news on the phone to his mother and brother even if they have not met me personally.

If this was the Harry Potter universe, I’d be seeing thestrals now and get to be friends with Luna Lovegood. So yeah, I am a really slow mourner and it takes a while for someone’s death to sink in my consciousness because death, whether human or non-human, is a constant in my life.

New single “Hypocrites” Out Now (and new poetry collab EP on the works)

Posting here has been few and far between lately as I am still having a Lent holiday hangover, even if what the family mostly did was have a short stay-cation. A college friend stayed with us for two days and it was a refreshing experience. Keats, as we call him, is a sign language teacher and a SPED educator. He is also an accomplished chorister and poet. We have been discussing collaborating on a musical spoken word project for several years, and it was decided that we might as well spend studio time and record him reading his poetry, to which I will compose some music. It will be released as a collaboration EP soon. You can read Keat’s poetry here: http://ravinglunaticverses.blogspot.com/

On the other hand, the new single, “Hypocrites” is out now on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Spotify, and Deezer for non-US users. Hope you all enjoy the music as much as I enjoyed working on it. 🙂

You can download the song for free by typing zero, but if you like the song very much, please consider paying for it in any amount. It will help me keep the domain for another year and maintain my site without having to rely too much on my limited personal expenses. Your kindness will help me keep making music, and the more support I get, the more music I can make. Let’s make it happen, fellow noiseninjas! (^_^)

Working On New Songs & Covers (Plus Free Demo Track)

So sorry to everyone reading this, I realize haven’t posted in weeks. I’m working on some new material for my upcoming EP, “Scheme Of Consciousness”, and I’ve done vocals for three songs so far. I’m also working on a cover song by a fave Japanese pop-rock band. Shuffling all these with being a full-time dad and husband can seem like a daunting task, but I’m not complaining. I get to be with my family everyday and do what I like while running our freelancing business.

Confession: I didn’t make the RPM Challenge 2015 deadline, which is the end of February. But I did finish an ambient/glitch/experimental EP for my side project Canfreed, with the album cover photo shot by the lovely Ayla Marie Martin from the UK-by-way-of-the-US.

Both the new single by CERUMENTRIC, “Hypocrites” and the new EP by Canfreed, “Metropolis Of The Lost” will be out on Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp, Deezer, and Soundcloud soon. Keep posted. 🙂

For the meantime, here’s the demo version of “Hypocrites” for free download: https://www.sendspace.com/file/kq2b5m 

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If you’re interested in knowing more about what I do in between the music, I’m on Facebook: http://facebook.com/cerumentric

I’m also on Twitter, but you probably know that already: http://twitter.com/CERUMENTRIC

I’d be stoked to hear greets from you. It’ll make my day. 🙂

Define Your Own Success, and Fuck The Naysayers

To those who keep telling me to never give up, thank you so much. You don’t know how much that means to me. I will be busy in the next few weeks squeezing in studio time in between taking care of my two asthmatic sons, taking care of an old semi-blind dog, and keeping our household running smoothly. I was told that if I’m lost, all I have to do is retrace my steps. Which is what I am doing now with my music.

Even if I play electronic music now and perform mostly with synthesizers and samplers, I am still a guitarist by orientation. Most of my songs are written as guitar riffs. As part of my step to recovery, I re-stringed my old classical acoustic, which I haven’t touched for a year due to depression and mental exhaustion with my job as a journalist last year. My trusty guitar has never left me, and has been my faithful songwriting companion, and I’m writing new songs with it now.

People I know always ask me why I can’t just be this or that, usually referring to several jobs I’ve held in the past 12 years, saying that I can do those jobs because I’m good at them, whether it’s being a sales executive, a computer technician, an office manager, a technical assistant, a sous chef, and a journalist. I just tell them that while I can do those jobs, my heart is always into music, and I’ll get strange looks as I’m crazy, if not head shakes because they think I made a terrible career choice.

I cannot gig or tour until the baby can walk on his own, and until the EP recording is done, and there is a part of me that felt lost since last year, not to mention that depression and financial difficulties got into the mix. We are now recovering as a family, my wife and our friends are helping me recover from my depression, so I have so much to be thankful for.

Plans are being made to get back on the musical track, and there is so much work to do (promote EP with press conference, do album launch, shoot music videos, make a covers album, enlarge local following, start a crowd-funding campaign, etc.). I need to be organized and my partner/manager is taking over that part of my life so I can focus on being creative and taking care of our kids at the same time. The Philippine music scene is very unpredictable and chaotic, and while not much can be said of its industry infrastructure, and not as established like the US and Europe, there is a musical culture, and people do spend money for music. In fact, Spotify is making a lot of promotions in the country and is establishing its hold since it opened its services to the Philippines last year.

I’m making the best of current limitations, which is what most people do anyway. I have to remind myself that I’ve come far already, and that I am seeing parts of my dreams years ago becoming true.
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Goodbye Cynics: Song Lyrics and Story Behind The Song

Goodbye Cynics
(words and music by Erick A. Fabian, Sr.)

Everything about what’s wrong with the world
Is everything that’s wrong with everyone
I am no exception

I am part of the problem
But don’t believe anyone
Who claims to have the answers

Crush the world
Inside my only hope

Shatter every misconception
By ignoring them
Keep on doing what works for you

Opinions are for the lazy
Who can afford to do nothing
Eloquent debates won’t change the world

But kindness will

(Copyright 2014 TicTiger! Productions)

This song was written in late 2013, right when I was finishing the last few legs of our series of gigs that lasted for three years. As with most songwriters, I write from what I feel more than what I think. At that moment, there was this feeling that I have spread myself too thin. After a number of performances that earned praise from accolades and new fans alike, I started feeling exhausted from gigging, going from one town to another by bus, hauling a suitcase full of instruments, and getting deadbeat gigs from asshole organizers and promoters.

I also had to deal with the frustration I felt with people in the social activism scene who spent most of their time arguing and debating over seemingly petty matters that are not part of why we were involved in social activism in the first place. I began to miss the activist punks of my time who, with very little planning and deliberation, can still set up successful events and activities that get to the point of what we were all about as promoters of social justice and human rights in the Philippines.

On my part, I’m also experimenting with the direction of my music. I feel like I have pushed the synthpop-meets-punk sound to the limit of my abilities as a musician, and I want to try unfamiliar ground. Or at least, I want to take something familiar and push it into unexpected places. We’ll see where the music will take us. I hope you’ll be interested enough to see it through with me.