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.)

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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Fight or Flight – or Why I Hate Being Too Nice To A Fault

[Please understand the context: I live in the Philippines where the gap between the rich and poor is very wide. There are families who live in isolated, guarded subdivisions all over Manila who are as rich as Donald Trump (or even richer), and the poorest live in shanties in polluted rivers, or squatted land in the outskirts of the metropolis. My family are somewhere between white collar and blue collar — we can afford a few luxuries like eating out in nice restaurants once a month, and we can travel abroad if we save up a month’s worth of pay, but we have yet to afford a house or a car. We’re renting at the moment until we can find better sources of income. Labor policies are not enforced well in this country, and the government and big business in Manila is run by several families who were mostly descendants of the Spanish and American colonists’ collaborators who want to keep the power and money to themselves– very much Latin America but with an Asian social sensibility, and a decrepitude that rivals the poorest parts of India. To be fair, I live in a beautiful country. You will find good people and amazing nature the moment you leave Manila’s borders, but Manila and its prevailing dog-eat-dog city culture will make a New York mugger blush.]

There are times when I hate being polite to a fault. Some people take it as an invitation to be rude, pushy, and abusive. It’s not that I envy assertive people, but I wish I was less nice, because my being too nice is becoming an inconvenience and I can’t seem to do anything about it. Evolution seems to have favored rudeness over decency, because being an asshole gets you to have your way with the world.

Society rewards imperiousness, while nice people who can’t help being decent and diplomatic are being treated like doormats. When I encounter an extremely rude person, I get into this fight-or-flight mode that takes weeks to shake off. It’s a coping mechanism that was instilled into me in childhood, after spending the first sixteen years of my life dealing with homophobic bullies in school and in the neighbourhood.

It doesn’t help that I also grew up with an abusive stepfather who made it a habit to beat me up since I was seven, and a then-abusive young mother who can’t control her temper. In fact, I spent most of my childhood being beaten up, and it has turned me paranoid and suspicious of people.

While I’ve made a conscious decision to be a more enlightened parent, I still have to deal with a lot of pent-up frustrations when other people invade your personal space and disrupt an otherwise quiet daily life with their petty scruples.

But we could also just be in the wrong neighbourhood. It’s one of those days when you wish you were Donald Trump (without the tackyness and bad hair) and can afford to buy any house you like, like buying candy from a store. Seriously, you don’t want to be me, the way I am at this moment.

New Release from CERUMENTRIC – old songs, remastered

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Old songs from 2009-2010, not included in official album releases but occasionally appearing in various artist compilations. Remastered and edited. This release is a precursor to the upcoming CERUMENTRIC album, which is currently in the works.

SUNSET DAYDREAM: A Summer Mixtape

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The CERUMENTRIC track “There Goes The Floor” is featured in this summer mixtape by Ian Urrutia of Vandals On The Wall, a music blog featuring quality indie music from the Philippines. Download for free via this link.

SUNSET DAYDREAM: A Summer Mixtape.