Thursday, June 11, 2009
People from around the world who have visited the Philippines experience one of two things. They have had either a great experience of its people’s hospitality, its pristine beaches and surf spots and its tasty food or have been traumatized by the heavy traffic, pollution and life-draining humidity with a sprinkle of a military coup de ’etat and mass revolution every now and again. Some of them stay for the rest of their lives, others become frequent visitors and the rest take the next flight out.
For former The Breed and Battery guitarist Michael Turner, who was born in Dayton, Ohio and raised in cities and suburbs up an down the east coast of the United States, going to the Philippines was probably like taking a trip to Mars. Passing through our country only as a training jaunt for a future humanitarian mission to India, Turner did not know that his higher power had a Pinoy Rock side trip planned for this musician who made a significant mark in the local scene during the late 1990’s to the early 00’s.
Now living in Tallahassee, Florida, Michael Turner continues to spread the Good Word, have fond thoughts of the Philippines and play a whole lotta rock n’ roll. The Pinoy Rocker shot a few inquiries to one of Pinoy Rock’s great American allies.
The Pinoy Rocker: What was the first instrument that you learned to play.
Michael Turner: I started taking piano lessons in the first or second grade and moved to drums from there.
TPR: When did you start playing the guitar?
MT: I started playing guitar when I was 9 or 10 years old.
TPR: What was the moment when you knew you wanted to play music?
MT: Probably when I heard the first Beatles album at about 5 or 6 years old.
TPR: What was your first guitar?
MT: Some kind of Yamaha acoustic guitar.
TPR: When did you form/join your first band?
MT: My first band was in junior high school, ninth grade. We were called Cannabis.
TPR: What bands were you listening to when you were in your first band?
MT: Aerosmith, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Kiss, The Doobie Brothers (pre-Michael McDonald).
Michael Turner playing with Salem's Lot, circa 1985
TPR: When did you come to the Philippines and what were the circumstances that brought you there?
MT: I came over in June of 1995 to get some training on the way to India to help with orphanages. It was also kind of a cultural bridge instead of going directly from the U.S. to India.
TPR: How did you hook up with The Breed and eventually join them?
MT: I was part of a bible study group that had meetings at the NU 107 office and I heard that Charlie Y. (Ysmael) needed a guitarist for his band. I went to the audition, played and sat down with Charlie and their band manager afterwards. They told me I got the gig and we were gonna play a show in the next week!
TPR: What did you think of Filipino musicians when you first arrived in the Philippines?
MT: Wow! Freakin' amazing!
TPR: How did Battery evolve from there?
MT: We re-negotiated a crappy deal with Dyna Records to a better deal and rocked out! We went on to record "Amusing Ourselves to Death" with Maly Andres producing and got some really good feedback in local press, etc..
TPR: When Battery released its debut album, you were labeled as Christian Rock. Did you feel comfortable with your music being given that label?
MT: Yeah, because they had already done that with "Amusing Ourselves to Death" which actually had a lot of stronger lyrical content.
TPR: The local rock fans easily accepted you during your stint with The Breed and Battery. Did you feel accepted?
MT: Definitely. It was crazy! I remember my first gig with The Breed. It was just nuts! We even played some old cover tunes 'coz I had only practiced with them only one or two times.
TPR: Does your past experience in the Philippines still influence you as an artist?
MT: Yes. It really gave me great confidence.
TPR: Any memorable gig from the Philippines?
MT: One of my favorites with The Breed was in Bohol playing along with Wolfgang. Just an awesome time. With Battery, the MTV Music Awards and The Pulp Summer Slams were always cool. There are really too many to mention.
Battery version II, circa 2000
TPR: One of your most memorable performances was playing the Philippines' national anthem (Lupang Hinirang) on electric guitar at the first Pulp Summer Slam. What was the genesis of that idea?
MT: All of these great guitar players were backstage before the show and someone asked, "Who wants to play the national anthem?" Nobody answered. I actually had been learning it on my own so I volunteered. I think that was my most nerve wracking performance ever. A foreign guy playing the national anthem of another country!
TPR: What artists do you consider influential to you as an artist?
MT: Pretty much everything I hear has some influence but in the early days it was Todd Rundgren, The Beatles, The Doobie Brothers, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Kiss, AC/DC, Judas Priest, UFO, Ted Nugent, Aerosmith. Nowadays its stuff like the Foo Fighters, Stone Temple Pilots, Thin Lizzy, Disturbed, Paula Cole.
TPR: How did your Los Angeles band, Love & Death form?
MT: I was in Hollywood playing a bunch of solo acoustic gigs and getting tired of playing quiet music. I played guitar for awhile with a hip hop band called Four 19. Then, Miguel Ortigas (Razorback, The Breed) moved to town and we formed Love and Death around 2004. Perf de Castro played with us for a while and he and I switched up on bass and guitar until he got too busy with classical gigs and we found Weng Lakanilaw (Fights Without Loss) to play bass.
Love & Death (Weng Lakanilaw, center, Miguel Ortigas, right)
TPR: Did you record any Love & Death material?
MT: Only on practice demos. I'm doing some of the material with my new band.
TPR: What is your band now?
MT: The band is called Glasgow Kiss. We've had about 4 practices. I am writing the originals and we are playing covers to get paid in clubs here. I did a small stint in Tallahassee as a bassist with a guitarist friend of mine.
TPR: What are your top 5 best albums of all time?
MT: That's a tough one. Here goes:
Something Anything - Todd Rundgren
Captain & Me - The Doobie Brothers
Powerage - AC/DC
2112 - Rush
Strangers in the Night..Live in Chicago - UFO
It could change next week but those are classics.
TPR: How did the Filipino environment and way of life affect you as a musician and songwriter?
MT: It really kind of freed me up as a writer and an artist, I think. There is so much variety and also an openness to all kinds of music back there.
TPR: You’re known as a hard rock/heavy metal guitarist. Are there any other genres of music that interest and influence you?
MT: Oh yeah. I love classical music and pop music as well as bluegrass and gospel music. I even like country music these days. I have some studio work on some soul and R&B stuff too.
TPR: Now for some guitar talk. What is your present gear?
MT: A Gibson Flying V, Epiphone Les Paul, Hamer Stratocaster. The V has DiMarzio pickups and the Hamer has both EMG and DiMarzio pickups. I also have a Tacoma acoustic guitar that is awesome!
I just got some new amps. A Vox AC130 combo and a Peavey 100 watt Valveking. I have a 4x12 Marshall cab. I also still utilize my Dunlop Wah and my Digitech RP2000.
TPR: Are any of your kids following in their father’s rock n’ roll footsteps?
MT: They like listening to rock music but none of them are real excited about the work it takes to be a musician at this point.
TPR: Do you still have any musical aspirations?
MT: Yes. To be a recording artist here in the U.S. and a successful song writer.
TPR: Will you ever be visiting the Philippines as a musician again?
MT: I sure hope to!
at 6:45 PM