Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Album Review: Coffee Break Island ****

If you still don't know who Coffee Break Island are, then you either live in a cave or have just come out of jail. As they are one of the top reggae/ska outfits and one of the hardest working bands in the country, CBI have finally come out with their debut album. Emerging from the Clubska Manila scene and having been on the stage and on the road since they formed in December 2001, their debut displays a well-oiled machine with all cylinders working at full speed.

All that experience has paid off with 14 well-crafted and superbly executed songs. The tunes run the gamut of roots reggae, 2 tone ska, 60's r&b/soul with a dash of blues and a significant sprinkle of good ol' rock n' roll that gives CBI their distinct style and sound. The great thing about this album is that with the help of their diverse influences, all the tracks are distinct from one another. This separates CBI from lesser talented reggae and ska bands that have only one or two good songs on their album and the rest sound the same. In short, this is the best Pinoy reggae album to be released since Indio I's only album more than ten years ago.

And it's the individual parts of the CBI sum that give this band their power. Vocalist/guitarist Paul "drunken master" Puti-an's raspy, alcohol-fueled voice (which reminds me of a young Frederick "Toots" Hibbert) gives the music a down-to-earth element. His lead guitar-playing is simple yet effective and he plays just the right amount of guitar licks without overpowering the music.

Puti-an is also a darn good lyricist in both Tagalog and English. From the crab mentality-jabbing "Gahaman", ("di ka pa namamatay bulok ka na"), to the break-up song "Let You Go" ("maybe if we're not together we can make ourselves alright") and the laid-back "Sweet Lovin" ("I'm gonna give you all my love until it's the end of me").

Paul Puti-an & Jun Nogoy (right)

Drummer Jun Nogoy lays down the steady and heavy beats with every whip-cracking hit of the snare drum and shifts to different reggae and ska rhythms as easily as he were changing his shirt. Bassist Romel Manuel carries the songs like Atlas carrying the Earth on his shoulders with his booming bass riffs and playing the vital "spaces" that is such an important aspect in reggae music. Raffie Miranda's keyboard work give CBI it's quirkiness and adds a sense of humor to their music thus keeping the songs from getting too serious.

With all this weak, commercial music being released in the Philippines for the past 5 years, it is refreshing to hear some good musicianship and song writing come out from the underground. Coffee Break Island deserve the recognition as a great Pinoy band especially with this master work. The album is available in Odyssey music outlets and at every CBI gig.

"GAHAMAN" music video

Check out their website at:

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SLAPSHOCK plays the Dubai Desert Rock Fest '08

Pinoy heavy hitters SLAPSHOCK recently joined some of the world's great rock bands for the annual Dubai Desert Rock Fest in the United Arab Emirates last March 7, 2008. This year's line-up included Korn, Velvet Revolver, Killswitch Engage, Machine Head, Muse and As I Lay Dying.





SLAPSHOCK are the first band from Asia to be invited to one of the best rock festivals this side of the planet. Past performers include Iron Maiden, Mastodon, Robert Plant, Incubus, Testament and Megadeth. Congrats Slapshock!

Sunday, March 9, 2008


RAZORBACK circa 1994 taken beside Kalye Bar in Makati. Their first album, "Hebigat Sounds Vol. 1" would be released a year later.
(left-right: Miguel Ortigas, Tirso Ripoll, David Aguirre, Kevin Roy, Louie Talan)

Thursday, March 6, 2008


DID YOU KNOW that the term 'Jeprox' was coined by the late Anak Bayan drummer and Pinoy Rock icon Edmond Fortuno? 'Jeprox' was a term used in the 1970's to describe male rockers who sported long hair and lived the rock n' roll lifestyle. It actually started as a shortened version of the phrase, "Jeepney Rock", which in itself described the classic and hard rock music that was being played inside local jeepneys at the time.


Mike Hanopol would later immortalize the term 'Jeprox' is his mega-hit "Laki Sa Layaw" in the late 70's. But it was the inventive mind of Edmond Fortuno who came up with the word which is now a part of Pinoy slang.

**It was also Fortuno's idea to write Tagalog lyrics with rock music which eventually evolved into Pinoy Rock. Pinoy rock bands of the late 60's and early 70's were only doing covers of foreign acts at the time and hadn't written any original material yet.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


The word ‘rehab’ can mean different things in certain contexts. It usually means another chance for wayward sons and daughters to return to society with a more stable state of mind. Back in 1980’s-era Manila, someone you knew about was sent to it’s grim facility in Bicutan after getting busted by his or her parents. Hollywood party animal Lindsay Lohan has frequent flyer miles in the local “LaLa land” rehab center while trouble-addled singer Amy Winehouse sang about refusing to go but ended up checking in to Hotel California anyway.

In this particular case however, the ‘Welcome To Rehab’ phrase represents the latest production outfit to hit the active local rock scene. With a number of “prods” circulating the Metro and various cities around the country and each showcasing a certain sub-genre of Pinoy Rock, ‘Rehab’ boasts their roster of old-school hard rock, blues rock and reggae artists. Bands that have rocked the ‘Rehab’ shows include surging up-and-comers Kastigo and Powertone, hard rock heavies Monks’hood and E.R.F., classic rockers Holy Water, Timog and House of Ravens, reggae masters Coffeebreak Island and Reggae Mistress and power trios Reklamo and Hilera. Even Pinoy Rock veterans The Dawn have graciously lent their time and talents to give WTR some much-needed street cred.



As others would use a production outfit to promote their own agenda and personal ambition, ‘Rehab’s’ founder prefers to be anonymous. So, for the sake of identification in this article, I shall name this mystery person ‘X’. “I don’t want to take any attention away from the bands. Because it’s all about them and not about me.” says X. “A lot of people, including myself have been complaining about the state of Pinoy Rock and all these stupid ‘pogi rock’ and ‘emo’ bands all over the place and no one was really doing anything about it. I just decided to put my money where my mouth is.”

These particular groups of Pinoy Rock musicians have always been “nomads” or “rolling stones”. Satisfied with just playing anywhere they’re welcome and doing things on their own terms. The sole mission of ‘Rehab’ is to “rehabilitate” Pinoy Rock. To unify these artists and to give them a home where they discover fellow artists with similar tastes in music. This creates new friendships, mutual admiration and respect and maybe even collaborations that lead to interesting music. It also aims to give real Pinoy Rock fans a reason to come out of hiding and be part of a vibrant scene that has been absent for quite sometime. “The bands are starting to respect and interact with each other and that is a very good sign for things to come”, ‘X’ enthuses.





Started in February of ’07 and going full throttle since October, the ‘Rehab’ shows have streamlined into a venue of blistering musicianship and unbound genius. This is the house where the almighty guitar riff reigns supreme and where expressive (but not self-indulgent) guitar solos are encouraged. Where booming backbeats pound the stage and where the low bass frequencies shake your internal organs. Although there is a deep well of talent that’s ripe for the picking, WTR still have high standards with regards to whom they give a precious 30-minute set to. “We help bands who have high aspirations and who aren’t just some timid musical intellectual who wants to play somewhere other than his bedroom,” explains ‘X’. “Bands who want to record albums, promote their music and tour the country and beyond are the people we want to help out by giving them a stage to improve their craft. Everyone who’s involved with us already have recorded demos and even independently produced full-length albums or E.P.s (extended play).”

And the fruits have been evident. Kastigo and Reklamo were both nominated for the “In The Raw” category at the 2007 NU107 Rock Awards, where the latter won. Hilera won the “Best New Artist” award. Holy Water
marks the long-awaited return of hard rock riff-meister Mike Bewer. Kastigo continues to tour their debut album and get radio airplay without the help of a major label while other bands are setting release dates for their independent albums as well. “These bands need all the help they can get to succeed in this commercialized business and WTR wants to contribute in any way we can”, says ‘X’. “Hopefully, with our experience and their talents, we can put real, hard, classy, sticky and sweaty Pinoy Rock back on the map”.

Aside from the major developments that some bands have achieved, a lot of promising talent is also coming out of the practice studio and on to the WTR stage. “King Antares is a really good band as well as Cosmic Love. New reggae group Lady i has a powerful female vocalist that’ll blow your brains out. Dr. Mindbender are a great live band too and are so entertaining to watch”, remembers ‘X’. “I hope they stick it out and keep improving their music.”




With all this positive energy abound, is there any downside to all this? “The downside is really the work you have to put in”, explains ‘X’. “Contacting bands and their managers is a tricky thing when it comes to scheduling. Dealing with some venues has been frustrating especially with venue managers or owners who give me attitude but have no idea whatsoever about live rock music. Makes you want to crack some skulls sometimes. Sitting through at least four hours of loud music can be taxing on the senses as well. But all the bands have been great, with their attitudes and their work ethic. And the music that comes out of these bands is awesome. So it’s all very much worth it at the end of the day.”

So what does the future hold for ‘Welcome To Rehab’? “I just want to keep it simple for now and keep rotating a group of bands that I especially like”, says ‘X’. “I do hope that more fans would come out and support these new bands. It’s really about building up a strong scene, creating great music and promoting real, solid talent.” See you at the next doctor’s appointment.


Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Coming back to the Philippines in late 2006 after four years would be an eye-opener I never would have expected. I realized how much I missed the different things I had taken for granted; the beautiful countryside on the way to the Batangas coast, the homely taste of lechon kawali and sizzling sisig that can’t be found anywhere else and the warm sound of the tagalog language filling my ears as I walk thru a crowded Megamall. As I slowly fall in love with my hometown, one thing was not quite right and sadly, it was the most important aspect of Pinoy life for me...the music.

I started hearing negative rumblings through different yahoogroups about the state of the local scene spanning three years since ‘03. Rants from every which way bashed and criticized the “acoustic duo” wave and eventually, it’s bastard offspring, the “pogi rock” genre that presently permeates the country’s popular musical landscape. The only thing going through my mind was, “what the hell is happening back there?”

When Lokomotiv did our Philippine tour last November, I had to see for myself how things really were. It didn’t take any longer than watching one hour of a local music channel to discover the horror that was only hearsay a few months earlier. Video after video of bands with names like Hale, Cueshe, Sponge Cola, Calalily and 6 Cyclemind filled the television screen as one word kept coming out of my mouth, “lame”.


Subsequent videos of a band singing about fake DVDs, a Japanese suicide bomber-named band doing an Apo Hiking Society cover and a group of former alternative rock purists turned bubble gum pop did not make matters any easier. Even if these videos were on the “rock” segment of the show, there was little distinction between them and the pop music that was coming on. I now understood where all the hostility from the rock fans was coming from and was myself getting agititated.

As the band tore through our gigs in different venues and festivals, I got to talk to a lot of our fans and most of them were thanking us for touring the Philippines ‘coz there was finally a real rock band that was playing actively on the mainstream track. I’d ask them why that was the case and they had answers like, “bands like Razorback and Kapatid don’t play much anymore” and “puro pogi rock na lang kasi sikat ngayon”. How could a whole successful pinoy rock scene from the 90’s just disappear into the underground in a matter of months? How could a whole country of rock music fans endure music that has no depth, no longevity and no cojones? Who could the PInoy Rock torch be passed to?

Everything that was getting attention was either too light & cheesy on the right or too aggressive on the left (a distinct characteristic of bands like Queso, Greyhoundz, Sky Church, Sultans Of Snap and Slapshock). No one was representing the middle ground and what everyone seems to underestimate is that the audience of that center is probably the biggest and the most loyal. The situation was finally taking shape in my head and I did not like what I was seeing.

So, whom do I blame for the chain of events leading up to this absurdity? Do I blame the A&R people of record companies who’ve signed these artists? Do I blame the older bands for being content with their status and aren’t playing actively anymore? Do I blame the fans for surrendering to age and conformity? Do I blame myself for leaving the country to pursue my personal aspirations? Reflecting on these thoughts, I decided that instead of pointing the accusing finger, I should be an instrument of change and help get real Pinoy Rock back on it’s feet again. But where would I start? How could I help? Where would I find hope?

Apparently, all I had to do was look into the underground scene for answers. Hanging out in bars around the metro revealed a slew of great bands playing their own brand of original Pinoy Rock that made the hair on the back of my neck stand. They were also armed with much cooler names like Urbandub, Salamin, Salindiwa, Milagros Dancehall Collective, Typecast, Southern Grass and Kinky Hooters. I would discover more astonishing performances in the next few weeks from Reggae Mistress, Coffee Break Island, The Mobsters, Powertone, Gasulina, Lahi and Kastigo.





My spirits were suddenly lifted as if my heart was jumpstarted by high voltage. I knew that my beloved Pinoy Rock is alive and was not going down without a fight. It was now clear to me that when everything seems to be decaying that is where great art is born. This is the genesis of a revolution and I am a part of it. There are uprisings happening all over the country in provinces like Laguna, Cavite, Cebu, Cagayan De Oro, Bulacan, Iloilo, Legazpi and more rock n’ roll rebels are joining the cause.

It’s only a matter of time that the underground will be contained no longer and the country will experience the great music that is being made right under their very noses. An earthquake has occurred and a new Pinoy Rock tsunami is coming. Take cover or be swept away.


A new Pinoy rock resurgence has begun and here is the first installment of underground bands that are waiving the flag for the cause. Representing Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao, these bands have only one thing in rock the nation. VIVA LA REVOLUCION!

Red Dela Peña - Vocals
Atoy Arce - Guitars
Laschober Gojar - Bass
Rayman Malaluan - Drums

Formed by guitarist Atoy Arce and naming the band after his rehearsal studio in Marikina Heights, Powertone started off by learning classic rock covers from Deep Purple, Dire Straights and The Knack. Garnering success in a number of local band competitions, the group has moved up from classic rock showband status to writing their own original material. Most notable at this time is the raunchy blues tune, “Kama” that is on their demo cd alongside the mid-tempo rocker, “Bulilyaso”. The group is presently doing the rounds of the Manila bar circuit spreading their rock n’ roll gospel while adding more original tunes to their repertoire.

Siopao – Vocals & Guitars
Ryan Padilla - Guitars
Melvin Lu - Bass
Monch Paredes - Drums

Being in existence on and off since 1998 from multitude lineup changes, hiati and a couple of disbandment, the reformed lineup of E.R.F. is totally new with returning original members Siopao and Paredes. Describing their music as “heavy-alternative”, E.R.F. unites a double-guitar onslaught with Siopao’s powerful and melodic vocals. Their first potential single and video, ‘Sinag’ brings back the hard rock stomp of 90’s rockers Candlebox and Faith No More. The group is currently producing their independent debut album to be released this year and are preparing for their follow-up video, ‘ The Marionette’.

Jeyvi Castillo – Vocals & Guitars
Cramm Ponce - Guitars
Aries Villariez - Bass
Paulo Sison – Drums

San Pedro, Laguna quartet Monks’hood was formed in 1999 and have been actively playing ever since. Going as far as reaching the grand finals of Red Horse Beer’s Muziklaban in 2005, the band are veterans of the Manila live band circuit. Their brand of Pinoy rock is a combination of heavy guitars, steady rhythms and the baritone voice of Castillo. Their first single, “D.Y.I. “ has gotten airplay on RJUR 105.9 and NU 107 and they are presently producing their debut album for a 2008 independent release.

Iking Rañises - Vocals & Guitars
John Comeros - Bass
Bammers Roa - Lead Guitars
Adrian Dal - Drums

Hailing from Cagayan de Oro and formed in mid-2001, Tabularaza became a finalist in the Muziklaban “Battle of the Bands” that same year. The band opted to skip the competition and went to Cebu to record their first 5-track self-titled E.P. and released it in early 2002. They’ve gone on to record two full-length albums; 2004’s “Diversity Issue” and 2006’s “SheWowAh”. Their music is laden with vocal and guitar hooks backed by a tight and powerful rhythm section and topped with Rañises’ melodic vocals and thoughtful lyrics. Tabularaza continues to tour the Mindanao region and regularly visits Cebu and Metro Manila. Southside represent!

Mike "Midnight" Puangco - Vocals, Guitars, Harmonica
Chris "Badfish" Tolentino - Guitars, Keyboards
Ton "Tones" Gregorio - Guitars
Erald Mendoza - Bass
Rhodson Sta. Maria - Drums

House Of Ravens is a blues-rock band based in the south of Manila, with its members hailing from Sucat, Alabang, and Laguna. 
Formed in March of 2006, the band is unique for their use of three, count ‘em, three guitars. An approach never before used in Pinoy rock and rarely heard in rock music itself thru bands like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Blue Oyster Cult and Molly Hatchet. Still a young band, HOR are honing their skills and perfecting this extraordinary and challenging concept. Success would result in a new and interesting Pinoy rock sound.

JR Cabansal - Vocals
Jam Pendon - Guitars
Jec Dan Borlado - Bass
Daniel Ascano – Drums

Coming out of the Iloilo underground is Christian rock band, M-Jah. This genre of rock doesn’t hold a lot of street cred because of too much “happy, praise the lord” rhetoric, but M-Jah (meaning Mighty God) keep it down-to-earth and on a more personal level. Naming themselves with God’s cool Jamaican nickname should give a good idea where they’re coming from. Heavy guitars, solid backbeats and melodic vocals on their song “Crimson Stain” sum up M-Jah’s sound. As part of the burgeoning Iloilo/Bacolod rock scene, the band has released it’s first independent album, “Cause And Effect” last year and continues to work hard, with other local bands, for more recognition of the Illonggo contributions to Pinoy rock.

Enos Pangan – Vocals
Marco Abelardo – Guitars
Den Madarang – Guitars
Chip Estable – Bass
Patrick Ronquilio – Drums

Reuniting in 2005 after various stints in high school bands in the mid-90’s, Abelardo, Estable and Ronquillo formed Lahi and enlisted Madarang and Pangan later on after the departure of two original members. With the desire to help the country’s hard rock scene spring back to prominence, Lahi employ the heavy riff techniques of classic rock and metal bands of the 70’s and 80’s while combining the melodic qualities of 90’s grunge and alternative music. They’ve already released their “Ang Simula” 5-song EP last year and have just finished production on their full-length debut album with an early 2008 release.

Bhava Mitra - Vocals, Mityapi, Plawta, Gangsa, Kubing
Bhakta Raja - Djembe, Udan-Udan, Gabang, P'tadjong
Saryo - Drums, Tukatok
Agit - Bass
Govinda - Djembe, Bidjang, Kubing, Budjong, Gangsa

Cebu-based Kadangyan continue the legacy of the Pinoy ethnic-rock movement started by stalwart groups Pen-Pen, Ang Grupong Pendong, Joey Ayala at ang Bagong Lumad and Pinikpikan. With members hailing from different regions of the country (Cebu, Iligan, Tacloban & Ifugao Mt. Province), this group could very well represent the Philippines’ diverse cultures and languages in one entity. They combine local ethnic instruments with western, eastern and African instruments and come up with rhythm-laden songs topped with hypnotic chants that puts its listener into a trance. Their busy schedule allows Kadangyan to continue promoting their ideals of peace, environmental concerns and universal humanism as well as promote a new appreciation for Philippine ethnic-rock music.

LC de Leon –Vocals, Guitars
Ciro de Leon - Drums
Mig Dayang Hirang – Bass

If there ever was a band whose name described their music, Reklamo is that band. Formed in early 2006 and consisting of seasoned session musicians, the group is solely dedicated to vent out frustrations, hate and envy towards anything and everything in the form of music. Though that style can get boring and annoying in the hands of inexperienced artists, Reklamo do a good job of augmenting their rants with quirky rock music that’s reminiscent of Frank Zappa, Primus and Mr. Bungle; sort of putting negativity on a silver platter. After the success of two rock singles, “Pat’s Problem” and “Three For One Hundred”, the band represented the Philippines in the World Battle of the Bands held in Singapore last November. They also won the "In The Raw" award at the 2007 NU 107 Rock Awards.