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. 😉

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.)

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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Suddenly Clueless Blogger

I have a confession to make. I am Mr. Suddenly Clueless Blogger and I honestly have no idea what exactly to blog about, other than that I am an underpaid songwriter/musician trying very hard to enlarge his audience for the past five years. Other bloggers have advised that ‘honesty is the best policy’, but it only opened up more questions for me. How honest exactly? What should I be honest about that you, as a reader who might be interested in the life of a practically unknown musician living in the Philippines, would want to read and follow up on?

OK, maybe I should treat this entry like an introduction, as if I’m talking in front of a crowd. I engage in public speaking from time to time, something I wasn’t initially inclined to do because I am an introverted person forced to behave like an extrovert because of socio-economic pressures. Here goes:

My name is Erick A. Fabian Sr. I prefer to be called Erick because that was what my mother called me since I was small, even if my full name is Frederick. I don’t feel like a ‘Frederick’, I feel like an ‘Erick’ and that’s what most people call me now. I’m way past my mid-30’s now. It makes me feel old because I got old too early. The responsibility for my younger brothers fell on me at a young age when most kids at 10 years old concerned themselves with school and having friends and video games and robot cartoons. I did not have much of that growing up because my family could not afford a new TV. I watched TV in my grandma’s house, which was the one facing the main road in the old family compound.

I am happily married to a smart, strong, beautiful, and supportive wife and we have two boys. The younger one is currently 8 months old and I am the one staying at home to care for the kids while my wife juggles several consulting jobs. Yes, I’m an enlightened husband who does not care about traditional gender roles and I am not insulted or offended when people call me sensitive. I may look like I can beat up any person my size who pisses me off, but I’m quite a softie. I find it hard to say no when somebody begs for my help, even if I don’t necessarily like that person.

Other things you might consider before engaging me and my art:

1. I am a secular humanist and I am skeptical of religion and supernatural claims. I don’t go out of my way to disagree with people, but the moment they use their religious beliefs to compel me to do things that they find acceptable, then we have a problem. That includes using religious beliefs to influence public policy and law-making. I support a fully secular society that does not give favors to ANY religious group, whether that group is the majority or minority. Public good should be based on a neutral view that includes all members of a society.

2. I am against homophobia, sexism, racism, and any form of unjust prejudice, and I support LGBT rights and same-sex marriage, even if I am a ‘straight ally’.

3, I am very passionate about my music, so you will get to read about my musings and first-hand experiences as a gigging musician and producer.

4. I come from a low-income blue collar background, but because of university, and my earlier predilection for reading, I highly value intellectual discourse but hate flowery language. I love polite language, though, and I would advise people to learn how to speak politely.

5. While I have been aspiring to become a professional musician since I was 13, I wasn’t always active in music. The past 12 years or so were spent doing the following: writing/journalistic work, graphic design, computer tech support, sales supervisor for a defunct cellphone store chain, a Tower Records staff, project manager for a government-owned corporation, fine dining restaurant waiter, recording engineer, producer, event organizer, speaking engagements, etc.

Having taken that out of the way, here’s to more future posts about my life and viewpoints. Thank you very much for reading.