Friday, November 14, 2008

NEIGHBORS LIVE at 6 UNDERGROUND (Radio Blogcast #18)

[BY JONEIGHBORS] I am not a singer. Yes I could carry a tune but to sing in tune will take lots of practice on my part. I used to be the front man of Neighbors for 5 years I think. You could never hear or see me sing willingly outside the band because I know I will not do justice on the songs I want to sing, plus I don’t want to end up dead after. You can only catch me singing if we’re inside a closed room, someone’s backyard and I’m fucking stoned or drunk, whichever comes first. I don’t even have any song writing skills also. There are so many things running on my mind, nothing gets written on paper. I attempted to write one song “It’s a Party”, the melody and the lyrics really suck; it became a running joke within the band. Now I know my limitations.

My part as being the frontman/vocals of Neighbors is somewhat similar to Phil Collins’ when he was with Genesis. Is it accidental or by default, I don’t know. After Wire Tuazon and Teng Alcantara left the band to pursue their professional careers, we became an instrumental ska band focusing more on the 60’s/traditional side of things. We focused on being an instrumental band because no one’s doing it during that time and we’re good at it. There were some tracks with words in it but mostly it’s all shouts and a little bit of toasting. No serious singing. The downside of being a 60s/traditional instrumental ska band is that people get bored with what were doing or they are just not ready for that kind of ska. Yes, we enjoyed playing Skatalites tunes, but sometimes there’s no point in playing if no one’s watching or appreciating the music. This happened before “Angono Ska Explosion”.

We huddled, drafted a plan and agreed to have someone front the band. We called up some friends, I think there were 3 of them, told them what the plan is and they agreed to audition. We gave them their study tapes and lyrics on some song we want them to sing, gave them about a week or two to study and scheduled the rehearsals after. They came on their scheduled audition, narrowed down to 2 singers. One is a best friend since grade school and the other is a friend of Gabby, our keyboard player. The first one Dee-e Samodio has been singing/fronting bands since high school. Actually he’s the one that convinced me to form a band when we were in high school. He’s more of a pop/rock aficionado and he can sing, also one good thing about him is his “showmanship”. Every time he’s up on stage he’s so fucking hyped-up and his one liners are so fucking hilarious. He’s like a rabbit on speed, man! The second one is Jonah, I forgot his last name. He told us that he used to jam or used to be a member of The Aga Muhlach Experience. We don’t know if he’s telling stories about that but we auditioned him anyway. We all agreed to let them sing on 2 different gigs to gauge them. The Set with Dee-e went well, it’s like clockwork. Jonah’s set was different. We were scheduled to play at the 70’s Bistro together with Put3ska that night and I can see Jonah is behaving differently. He was quiet most of the time and I can see that he was nervous. We had some beer and joked around at a sari-sari store beside 70’s before our set. Gabby jokingly told him “taena pre dapat maayos ang kanta mo sa Neighbors, dala naten ang Angono dito, kung hindi sibak ka agad sa banda hehehehe”. Everyone laughed including him but he knew that it was meant as a joke and a warning. We were scheduled to play in between sets of Put3ska, we went up on stage at 11pm. We did 2 starter instrumental tunes, “Jumpstart” by the Forest Hillbillies and “Skalloween” of The Skatalites and an original song “Sound’s Sharp”. Jonah was supposed to sing at the second bar of the song but no words came out of his mouth. We were all dumbfounded and looked at each other and saw him pale white and sweating. That went on for 2 stanzas before I went up to my mic and blurted out the words. Man, you could see his nuts going up his neck and if he was one weak person he’d faint of embarrassment. The set went well after that but he knew then and there that he was out of the band. Dee-e was the third man to front Neighbors but his stint with us was short-lived. We did about 4 scheduled gigs before leaving the band. His style was way different with the image and music the band is projecting during that time and he knew that we were going on a different direction compared to the other bands he fronted. It was 60% image and 40% music at the time. After the 4th gig he explained everything why he’s leaving the band and we told him our side. We agreed and respected his decision, no hard feelings between us and him. He would still jam with us from time to time on some occasion or host our monthly production “Rudies All Around”.

So we went back to the drawing board. We searched and thought of who is willing and fitting to front the band until everyone had an idea. Why not let someone within the band be the vocalist, it will not be hard for everyone to adjust because that person will know what to do. Everyone agreed with the idea after downing 2 “long-neck” bottles of Emperador brandy and on the third bottle they either voted or forced me to front the band. I agreed after finishing the 3rd bottle but told them that I’m not a good singer and it’ll just be a trial until we find someone more fitting to sing. Well…. it has been a 5 year trial of sorts. “Angono Ska Explosion” and “From Parquet to Concrete” happened, we had some out of town gigs and around the city and it was at that time that Neighbors really came out of its own and established itself as one of the best and respected ska band in the capital. I’m not saying that these things happened because of me, we worked hard for it and we believed in what we do. Everyone in the band did their part. You cannot buy respect, you have to earn it.

After five years, I passed the microphone to the new man Edward Merced. If he had joined five years earlier, we would have gone places. (World domination hehehe). He’s one hell of a singer and a well of a drinker. There were also internal changes during the time he joined the band, but that’s another story.

This live recording happened a year after Edward joined the band and it’s evident that the band has matured as musicians. We consciously dropped the posture and image of a ska band (suits, porkpie hats etc) and adapted a more casual approach on clothing since the second album. For us, music and the right attitude comes first before image. This live set was recorded at 6 Underground, Palanca st. Makati February of 2006. It was one of the best performances we had not because it was being recorded live but everything was just right that night. The place was jam-packed, nice sound system and equipment, cheap beer, very good atmosphere; close friends were there to support and share a laugh and there were a large percentage of women that night. Smoking was not allowed inside. The air inside smelled great, it smelled of perfume and powder and women’s sweat, it was sweet.

01 whats gone wrong
02 The Secret
03 Come On
04 Mama Used To Say
05 Untitled
06 Kundiman
07 It Must Be Love
08 Daytripper
09 Tequila
10 Relation
11 Problems
12 No Worries
13 Monkey Ska
14 The Clockworks
15 Monkey Man


Friday, October 17, 2008

From Parquet to Concrete: Neighbors' Second Album (Radio Blogcast #17)

(Neighbors character artwork by Ebok Pinpiño, appears on the second album sleeve)

[BY JONEIGHBORS] "From Parquet to Concrete" - wooden floor to the concrete stage, this best describe Neighbors' rise to the ska ladder, so to speak. The year was 2001 and the band is on its peak doing rounds around the city and in some parts of the country. Playing 2-3 times a week around the city with support from our good friends. The seed was planted a year ago and now the band is reaping the fruits. Playing helped us develope our style and sound. Money was not an option, all we wanted to do is play on small smoky clubs, have some alcohol and play harder with some good 'ol spliff on the side of course. The good old days man, it was fucking great!

This second album was released a year after "Angono Ska Explosion". The band's creative juices were overflowing and it was really hard to stop and not to do anything. After pushing "Angono Ska Explosion", the band went back to the drawing board and planned the next step. The first quarter was spent composing and rehearsing the songs. What we usually do is get together, talk about the format and style of a particular song and discuss them some more with booze and food on the table. A few days after that, we religiously rehearsed on the chord patterns, format, speed and some horn parts written on music sheets to guide everyone on the first 3 songs. Rehearsal starts with the rhythm section, vocals, then the horn parts, then we keep on playing the songs for 2-3 hours until we get the basic structure of the track. 3 more rehearsals after that then introduce the songs up on stage and in every gig. I think we made about 2 albums worth of compositions during that time frame.

Rudebong and Gabby Rojas our keyboard player and other chief composers were invited to join The Brownbeat Allstars, a few months after Myra left Put3ska in 1997 or 1998. Gabby left after 4 months and I was invited to join after. Bong and I sidelined with The Brownbeat All-Stars from 1998-2003. There, we met Rhanny Torres of "The Lost Boys" and "Ethnic Faces" famed as the bassist extraordinaire of Brownbeat. Neighbors would play alongside Brownbeat and he was impressed on our brand of ska. He encouraged the band to compose more and release an independent album and he would help to make it happen. I said to myself "puta! na impress si Rhanny Torres, record producer pa. SWERTE!" "Angono Ska Explosion!" happened and this second release.

(Some old posters and compilation album covers with Neighbors)

Rhanny was working with Alpha records during that time and asked us if we would like to be signed on a major label. The band had a very long discussion, weighing things, asking around and the possible outcome if ever we were signed to a major label. Personally I’m not that psyched about it because I don't like the business side of it plus the rules and protocols of the company that we have to follow and the idea of some big boss record owner to tell us what we should do with our music. It’s not “punk!” But I have to set aside my feelings on this one, my friends and the band comes first. Democracy is the rule within the band and respects each other’s opinion. I say, “Go with the flow.” 12 tracks were recorded at Pink Noise studios, engineered by the late Jeff Felix. It was a good learning experience. The technical side of recording and mixing songs helped us when we were recording our third release -but that is another story. We were listening to a lot of Hepcat particularly their “Right on Time” cd, Mongo Santamaria and Tokyo Ska Paradise during that time. We picked up some elements and style from them and customized it to fit the Neighbors way. We want to have the “Right On time” feel on this recording, not copying Hepcat but the way the album was recorded. We finished recording 6 songs in about 2 months. Rhanny did the rounds for any label but, didn’t bear fruit. After the band explosion of the mid 90’s, no label was brave enough to sign any new band particularly this kind of music the band offers. All the labels are cashing in on the “novelty” trend at that time; you know the Bayani Agbayani type of muzak. Rhanny gave us the first 3 finished songs and the rest; it’s still in the studio. We consider those tracks as the Neighbors lost tapes.

Plan B - we agreed to record some new sets of songs, produce an independent album and release it by the end of the year. 5 songs were made and were recorded and mixed at Cinematix Studios by Jess Felix, father of Jeff Felix. Same as the first one we recorded and mixed the songs Ramones style- recorded the songs for 12 hours; a week after, mixed and mastered the tapes for another 12 hours. Released the album on December 0f 2001 to a full house at Freedom Bar. Mission accomplished. Another indie album under Neighbors’ belt. NICE!

The first three songs were taken from the Pink Noise recordings –Simbang Gabi, Problems and Come on as the carrier single. With You, No Regrets, Untitled, The Look of Love and Magmamani were from the Cinematix sessions. Simbang Gabi and Magmamani are somewhat of a tribute to our symphonic and marching band roots. "Simbang Gabi" is one of the tunes the Angono National Symphonic Band plays when waking people to go to church for the early morning novena. "Magmamani" is a composition of the late National Artist for Music Maestro Lucio D. San Pedro, Gabby Rojas’ grandfather. We used to practice at their kitchen twice a week when Neighbors was just starting and the great professor was able to tolerate the noise we're making not in the punk or rock sense but it was loud. He would take time to go out of his music room to talk and joke with us while we take a breather.

Here is the Neighbors line up at the time of the recording and releasing of the album.
Marked as Mark II or Mk.II Neighbors:

Jon Capistrano –vocals/tenor sax
Gabby Rojas – vocals/keyboard
Bong Termulo – vocals/trumpet
Ronaldo Banaag –trombone
Madz Velasco –bass
Jaymer Hernandez - drums
Lawrence Intalan – guitar
Bodjie Villanueva-guitar *
(*Bodjie was not present on all recording sessions but he was transitioning to be part of the band after the sessions)

So boys and girls, we’re giving this to you for free. Spread the word. Enjoy! Cheers!

NEIGHBORS "From Parquet To Concrete"
2001 (Die Happy Records)

Simbang Gabi
No Regrets
With You
Look Of Love
Come On


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Neighbors who? (RADIO BLOGCAST #16)


“Neighbors who?” you may ask. People who attended the very early days of Club Ska, Standing Room, the 2002 NU 107 Summer Shebang, the Modern Movement, listens and watch to NU 107 In The Raw and DZRJ’s Soundblasters and Pinoy Rock and Rhythm regularly don’t really need to ask that question. But for you people who are just discovering the ska scene here in Manila, you might not heard of or seen the band live. The band is a ska act that has been about for quite some time and has played venues such as Mayric’s, Club Dredd, 70’s Bistro, Heckle and Jeckle, Hobbit House, the Music Museum as well as concerts such as Fete dela Musique, 1st Bob Marley Festival, Oooohh Lola! and also featured on MTV Siesta. And out of town gigs like Cebu, Bataan, Cabanatuan, Lucena and Baguio. All of the members are from Angono, Rizal and almost all of them have a classical music background, although not all are professionally trained.

Neighbors, an 8-piece ska band, were formally formed on August of 1995 although the original idea of forming a group was being kicked around as early as December of 1994. In May of 1995 they first saw Put3Ska at an Angono underground concert called “Subterranean Tour”. It was at this gig the idea to form a band became more concrete.

The band’s first gig was in, of all places, a strip joint! Called Café Angono, and the band at the time were known as Ska Bonanza. The band got a gig at UP, but unfortunately things did not go too well and they were dissed at the UP fine arts festivities. The band points out that at the time the UP students did not accept ska music. They didn’t have the slightest idea what ska is. But look at them now!

In late 1995 Neighbors met Put3Ska at Mayric’s and approached the band to jam with them. P3K did opt to let them play between their sets. Neighbors duly obliged and showed Put3Ska what they were capable of. They were suitably impressed and promptly had Neighbors included in a gig that was held in Club Dredd shortly after. The band, after another impressive performance (this time surprising Dredd’s management), was slated regularly to play at Ska Nights until Club Dredd EDSA closed in 1998.

[Gig at 70's Bistro, 1997]

[One of the band's early gig in Club Dredd Edsa, 1997.
See Myra (Skarlet) really enjoying the music!]

Their principal influences are Madness of the “Our House” fame, Hepcat, The Beatles, The Clash and the Almighty Skatalites, a pioneer Jamaican ska band formed in the 60’s. The band is also currently listening to other forms of music such as Latin Jazz, Bossa Nova, 60’s modern jazz, bebop and 60’s Soul in order to incorporate those elements into their music.

[First album recording sessions]

In March 2000, the band recorded most of their original compositions and released and later released an independent CD within that year. Called “Angono Ska Explosion”, it is their full-length debut album that includes originals, a couple of early Jamaican Ska hits and some Filipino classical tunes. The band was also nominated in the 2001 NU 107 Rock Awards but unfortunately they didn’t win, obviously a rock band won. The nomination was quite a surprise because it was not expected. They were home having a laugh with their drinking buddies when they heard the nominees announced.

[With Rhanny Torres and Mang Jess helping us out with the mixing & recording at Cinematix Studios in Pasig]

We thank Rhanny Torres, Mang Jess, Jeff Felix, all our friends and families for helping us record our first album.

We're spreading and sharing our original music to you for free, please distribute and share them without the intention of making money off of these.

This is just the first part of a series of Neighbors' recorded materials that we'll post here so watch out for more! Even if we wont be seeing Neighbors perform Live again for calling it quits, Still, there's more to come!

We raise our glass to one of the Philippine local ska scene's great ska acts!


Angono Ska Explosion – 2000 (Zoom Records)


Angono Ska Explosion
Dahil Sa'yo
Back To School, Forward March
Big Thursday
Dancing Mood
Can't You See
Clarence Thomas
Stop Making Love
Sound Sharp
The Clockworks


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Rude Maynila Hangover [Radio Blogcast #15]

[BY JONEIGHBORS] It's a good thing that I was able to file my leave last August 30th in time for Bisikleta Production's "Rude Maynila" at Ten 02 Bar owned by the couple Marben "Badburn" and Myra "Skarlet" Romero.  Man! It was just like coming home. Surrounded by like minded people and seeing new and old faces. Hilboy invited Soundblasters to spin some heavy tunes on the said event and we happily obliged. It's been about 3 years I think, that I was able to really go out, drink beer, see bands play and meet old friends.  Maru, Skarlet's daughter was wearing her fairy costume and I and told myself that it will be on hell of a night. I was right.

Rudebong and I were there to represent Soundblasters. We started spinning tunes an hour before the first band went up on stage. It set the right mood on the things to come that night. The show was hosted by Bing Austria of Juan Pablo Dream giving some few pointers about the scene. The first band was Pink Cow, after that and after a few buckets of booze, I don't know who came after. The place was jampacked! That bucket of Red Horse, 6 bottles of Cervesa Negra, 4 bottles of San Mig Light really hit us head on. After that, me and Rudebong was just having fun spinning and shouting and singing along with anyone up on stage. We went up on stage and jammed with one of the bands. I remember Steady Movin' Beat played some tunes from The Body Snatchers and got me in a dancing mood, and other bands with some of their mighty originals. Everyone is having fun with no aggro lingering in the air. After the show, we stayed for a little while and drank some more with friends. Boys from Coffee Break Island came to drop. Marben made his cocktail, it was red and good. Can't explain the taste though but it was damn good. Stopped by at Tropical Hut to load up some fried chicken and rice, went to bed at 5:30 am, had the worst hangover the whole day, went to work Sunday night with a sore throat. Got sick and acquired the flu from Monday to Friday. But it was worth it. Many thanks to Bisikleta Productions and Trash Radio Manila. Read more about Rude Maynila here and here.

Here is the playlist last August 30th. We were not able to play some other favorites but mostly all is here. This post is long overdue. Rude Maynila hangover as we say. More heavyweight tunes from your friendly selecters. Enjoy! Respect!

Radio Blogcast #15

Sly Special - Sly & The Revolutionaries
Revelation Chapter One - High Note All Stars
Marijuana in My Brain - Dillinger
Marijuana - Sly Dunbar
Madness - Prince Buster
I Fought The Law - The Clash
Latin Goes Ska - The Skatalites
Jah Caught Them Dub - High Note All Stars
London Calling - The Clash
It's Burke's Law - Prince Buster
Dubbing with the Observer - The Observers
Al Capone - Prince Buster
Skinhead Moonstomp - Symarip
A Shot In The Dark (Take 1) - Roland Alphonso
Scientist Ganja Dub - Scientist
A Solid Bond In Your Heart - The Jam
Skinheads Don't Fear - Hot Rod All Stars
Skinheads A Bosh Them - Claudette and the Corporation
Skinhead Speaks His Mind - Hot Rod All Stars
Can I Get A Witness - Owen Gray
Hooligans - Bob Marley and The Wailers
Speak Like A Child - The Style Council
Dance Wid' Me - Hepcat
Draw your Brakes - Scotty
The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow) - The Jam
2,000 Tons Of T.N.T. - G.G. All Stars
The Way You Do the Things You Do - The Temptations
Tek Dat - Hepcat
Heavy Beat - Sound Dimension
Fist of Fury - Prince Jammy
Jah Jah Dub - The Aggrovators
Green Onions - Byron Lee & The Dragonaires