Monday, August 13, 2007

Music Lesson #10

Listen to your dreams. Or watch them. Whatever. There's tons of good stuff you can get from dreams.
Like mind-blowing poetic imagery:
"I held a bowlful of angry bees
To the chrome-colored sky.
You were as huge as the sun."
Or crazy ideas for a music video like Michel Gondry's video for Bjork's Army of Me.
Or life-changing sexual epiphanies. Holy shit I'm in love with my best friend! And he's a dude!
And he's been dead for years!
Or song ideas. Like this dream I had where I'm waiting for the big red pay phone in front of my highschool cafeteria to ring. It rings and I lift the handset. There's a female voice at the end of the line. It's cool and seductive, like a spy's whisper.
She: I'm calling for the Philippine Diamond Miners' Bloc of the Philippines. We'd like for you to write a song for us highlighting the virtues of Philippine diamond mining. In the Philippines.
I: What's in it for me?
She: Money, lots of it. And eyes like sapphires.
I: Yes I'll do it.
And then I start singing this song into the handset, that's sort of floating in space. There's smoke coming out of the receiver.
She: Don't mind my smoking.
I: It's getting into my eyes, my sapphire eyes. It burns!
She: Love is like this. It turns in an open flame and is flavored by its own juices. Like a chicken on a spit.Here's the song.
"Diamonds
I
All these years
Collecting like graves in a battlefield
The manufactured lives we lead
Hearts and homes
When we're all gone they'll pile them up like stones
Here's the quarry of my soul
Chorus:
I mine the streets for diamonds
(I'm) simply not over you
I look inside my damaged mind
For things to do
I sail away to China
(I'm) simply not over you
Chasing stars on the horizon of
A country I never knew.
II
Summer days
Sitting with you waiting for rain
I've no more promises to make
Laying plans
Let's build them up and tear them down again
Waves crash into the sand
(Chorus)
III
Though I'm old
I still picture you, your eyes as black as coal
How I wanted you then
Disappear
Pave your way with lies and sow your tears
And I'll see you again
(Chorus)
I never knew...
Oh woh...You...
I never knew..."
Notes:

The reference to China is a little trick to make the song sound more new wavey. I remember standing in a cliff in the middle of an island in the Lijiang River, looking at the beautiful misty hills of Guilin, tapping my left foot to a steady beat while slowly sweeping my right hand, pointing at the distance, from left to right singing China! China! like the Red Rockers. Again the song is a love song about a breakup. But I wasn't writing about any particular experience of mine. I was in fact feeling rather well when the song came to me.
In other news, Los Chupacabras now has the distinction of being the only rock band in history with the most Palanca Award-winning musicians. First to win was our drummer Joel (for poetry, twice) and just now our guitarist Mikael Co (also for poetry). Bassist Carl is an-award winning fictionist and a guy with a mustache. I am a nothing but all I can think of is me. Bruises, bruises, bruises. (Hear Lisa Germano's Bruises)
Congrats Mike, or Kael, or whatever you call yourself nowadays! Congratulations land of dreams!

Music Lesson #9.1

I was looking up Elliott Smith's performances and interviews on Youtube and it reminded me how sad it was that he was dead. Great songwriter, great singer. Sometimes I'm tempted to think that you have to be as paranoid and drug-addled as he'd been to write stuff as great as Waltz 2, Roman Candle, and Angeles, the lyrics of which I am reproducing here for your viewing pleasure:

Angeles

Someone's always coming around here trailing some new kill
Says I seen your picture on a hundred dollar bill
And what's a game of chance to you, to him is one of real skill
So glad to meet you, Angeles

Picking up the ticket shows there's money to be made
Go on and lose the gamble that's the history of the trade
You add up all the cards left to play to zero
And sign up with evil, Angeles

Don't start me trying now
'Cause I'm all over it, Angeles

I could make you satisfied in everything you do
All your secret wishes could right now be coming true
And be forever with my poison arms around you
No one's gonna fool around with us
No one's gonna fool around with us
So glad to meet you, Angeles

Rest in peace Elliott Smith. Now on with our regular programming.

Music Lesson #9

They say that for security reasons you should not write a weblog when:

a. You've been out drinking by yourself on a Friday at Mag:Net watching poorly acted but well-meaning student films about anomie in the call-center setting;

b. And you then went on to 70s Bistro to catch The Jerks (which should get an award from some award-giving body of some sort) but you had to leave because they were taking so long to get on stage;

c. And you then drove home to finish a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc and watch 2 consecutive seasons of Peep Show, the greatest sitcom ever made. Ever;

d. And then, finding the Sauvignon Blanc empty, you take a crack at the Stoli and drink until you go temporarily blind and ask yourself, loudly, where did all the time go?

So you should not create blog posts if you had done all the above-mentioned things in series.

Which brings me to my song titled "Sheila Doesn't Live Here Anymore."

Here is my formula for new wave songwriting: Sadness about young love slipping away/ belief that young love is all-powerful + catchy riff + depictions of infrastructure (i.e. houses, buildings, monuments) = haunting new wave lyrics.

This song was written many years after a nasty break-up. I can't seem to write love songs about people I have not broken up with but there you go.

About songwriting though, the lesson I guess is that pick up what you can about any bad experience, throw out the garbage, and try to come out with something that can be universally understood. And nothing is an universally understood as heartache. And boredom and intoxication on alcohol.

Sheila Doesn't Live Here Anymore

I walk down past the street where you used to live
Nothing is the same as how I remember it
Whatever happened to the chapel, the grotto, the small grocery
Your body naked in the water, the color of my memory

The phone booth where I called to check
If you were alone
Standing there behind the door
Your clothes left on the bathroom floor

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

I'm counting all my days, never to be free
What's the point in hiding, you'd always know where I'd be
Our senior year you told me of your greatest fear
You'd end up like your mother
But I'm not your father

There's a place for you, you said,
Waiting to be found
Your friends all thought you weren't around,
Noone knew that you'd left town

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

I walk down past the street where you used to live
Nothing is the same as how I remember it
And where there used to be a chapel, a grotto
Stands a shiny shopping mall
The phantom breeze, the disappeared trees
I remember them all oh

But Sheila doesn't live here anymore
Sheila doesn't live here anymore

People change but I won't change I still love you
And people change but I won't change I still love you
Yeah people change but I don't change I really love you
And people change but I won't change I love you

Love you

Love you.

Seriously, you should go hear our band, Los Chupacabras, go at it. Mikael, Joel and Carl really do justice to all the new wave "weight" of the song. I couldn't have thought of a better arrangement myself. Await our album!

P.S. This entry has been edited the morning after I had written it intoxicated on various liquors and the sweet milk of my own tears. Inappropriate drunken rantings originally in the entry have been neutralized.

Music Lesson #8

July 8, 2007, Maximum Security Ward, New Bilibid Prison.

I am onstage with my band, Los Chupacabras. I look at the crowd, lifers all. Child rapists and murderers, they've been here for years and here's where most of 'em are gonna die. I take a sip of water nervously, step up to the mike and say...

No, not "Hi I'm Johnny Cash" but it might as well've been what I said. My Johnny Cash moment, singing my true crime badass street thug songs to my real fans -- badass lifers covered in tats, shirtless, blood on their hands. I wipe my hands and the stage blood comes clean off. I introduce our first song.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine named Iwa released his Palanca Award winning novel called "Mondo Manila." Khavn Dela Cruz was trying to make it into a film and he asked me to write a song for the soundtrack. I read a few pages from the book, sat down with pen and paper and wrote "Animal."

Animal

Gusto kong bumait pero yoko talaga
Ang pera kung di akin ay walang halaga
Small-time lang noong lumalaki sa riverside
Big-time na ngayong ang bisyo ko ay homicide.

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read:
The first line obviously makes fun of Death Threat's "Gusto kong bumait pero di ko magawa." I'm painting a picture of man who takes what he wants, pure streetbrawler id. Original gangsta. Riverside is what they call those slum settlements located near creeks. As for the "manong(s) kagabi pa nakatutok", it's a reference to sleazy old men who hang out in those bars in Timog frequented by young semi-professional hookers.

Handa mo na ang auto, tanggalin ang plaka
Para kung nagkagulo, wala silang suspetya
Pag punta ko sa Club, and VIP handa na
Kuha kayo ng chicks? Ang sabi ko YOU BETCHA!

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: Taking off your license plates during a frat rumble is a trick I learned back in school a long time ago. I got so used to it I'd even leave my car sometimes in the parking lot without plates. One time, walking to the parking lot, I found to my horror a bunch of cops standing around my car, shining flashlights and whatnot. Scary stuff I will not do again. Ever. Because it's bad.

Chorus:
Animal
Animal kang bata ka
Animal
Animal kang bata ka.

Gusto kong manggulo, gusto kong mangbandal
Gusto kong maging babae at sa St. Paul na mag-aral
Gusto ko maging barista, gusto ko maging artista
Parang yung kalbong intsik sa La Salle Sex Scandal

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: I remember in high school our prefect of discipline was named Ms. Delicana, a very stern woman (but fair too, to her credit). A lot of the boys would get called to her office on account of vandalism. I got in deep shit with her once when I destroyed a prize winning science project at the science lab with the help of a few friends. Yes, sometimes it takes several people to completely annihilate a science project made of cardboard and christmas lights. Anyway, after the vandalism shakedown some guys learned how to forge Ms. Delicana's signature and signed the armchairs in black marker "BAWAL MANGBANDAL - MS. DELICANA." That was pretty funny.

The St. Paul reference is on account of the old urban legend every Manileno boy knows. The guy in La Salle Sex Scandal looks chinese. Maybe he's not. The girl in La Salle Sex Scandal, the unwilling porn star (guy does her and then she does and gets done by a girl friend of the guy), is said to have committed suicide. But a source says she's alive and well and working for a bank in Makati. Wherever you are, I salute you!

(Chorus)

Ubos na ang kaaway ubos na rin ang laway
Binuhusan ko ng gas tinusta parang tinapay
Wala nang manghahassle, wala na ang sagabal
Tinawag ko si Amy at kami'y naghabal-habal.

Hala mga adok!
Hala mga pokpok!
Hala mga manong kagabi pa nakatutok!

Read: I was watching one of those murder documentaries on the Crime/Suspense Channel where the killer burned the bodies of his victims so they can't be identified. Habal-habal is a kind of public transport motorcycle in the Visayas where the passengers sit astride the motorcycle. Habal-habal, I think, literally means doggy-style. So the guy's saying my enemies be dead and I'm gonna call my shorty and do her doggy-style. Tada!

(Chorus)

Di ako gentleman di ka rin lady
Kung gusto mong subukan, halika dito baby
Di ako gentleman di ka rin lady
Kung gusto mong subukan, halika dito baby

Hala mga waiter
Hala mga bouncer
Hala mga dancer tinatawag ng announcer!

Hala mga waiter
Hala mga bouncer
Hala mga dancer tinatawag ng announcer!

Read: One of my dream jobs when I was young was to be the DJ at a strip club, call out the girls with my golden voice all like "And now, dancing to the tune of Bed of Roses, let's welcome Desiree!"

(Chorus)
Animal
Animal kang bata ka!

So there. After the show in Bilibid, at least three guys went up to me and asked me to sign their tits. Just like Elvis except not with hot groupies but with lifers, which was also cool. They promised that the next time I drop by Munti they'll have whatever I signed on their chests tattooed on them. I wasn't sure that time whether they wanted me to sign my name or the band's name so, if they are true to their word, they'll soon be bearing the peculiar tattoo "EASY! LOS CHUPACABRAS!!!"