ESQ: You have a new tattoo?
RM: Two, from [Vegas-based tattoo artist] Chris Garcia. This one [indicates a keyboard/lightning bolt on his forearm], he did in L.A.— “Ano kaya, tattoo-han kita before the show?” “Sige, gawin natin.” Challenge accepted!
ESQ: So you were bleeding while you were playing?
RM: Oo, kinakabahan nga ako, baka hindi ako makatugtog kasi namamaga ‘yung spot. Pero okay lang naman. Medyo mahapdi lang. Pero magandang kuwento, di ba?
ESQ: Speaking of L.A., how was your recent Eraserheads U.S. tour, on the whole?
RM: Surprisingly easy.
ESQ: Why surprisingly?
RM: Kasi lahat ng U.S. tours ng ‘Heads...
RM: Disastrous is the word. Tama ka doon. Parang ‘di namin alam kung saan kami titira. Sinong susundo sa ‘min. Kelan dadating ang pagkain. Wala ‘yung equipment. May shows na ‘di pa alam ng venue na naka-book kami doon. Talagang horror stories ang dating tour ng ‘Heads sa States. Yung last tour namin, nag-aaway na kami at may sakit ‘yung tatay ko. Di ko tinapos ‘yung tour. Ganun ka horror story ang last tour namin sa States.
ESQ: But this time?
RM: This time halos areglado ang lahat. I was never really worried. A few visa delays, less than 24 hours kami sa Toronto dahil sa visa delays. Dumating kami on the day of the show so it was check-in, sound check, show, airport.
ESQ: How were the audiences?
RM: Yun ‘yung easy part. Kahit horror story ‘yung ibang tour ng ‘Heads, laging okay naman ‘yung show. That was the easiest part of any tour out of the country. Lalo na ngayon, alam ng fans na darating ka, nandun sila in full force.
ESQ: Kamusta naman ‘yung dynamics within the band?
RM: Well, we’re a little older, more mature, and we have other concerns. And it helped that we brought friends and family along. We weren’t really hanging out until sound check na, tapos show. Since the last show naman, everybody played more. So I was really surprised that the band played really really well. Better than ever. Of course Ely [Buendia] has been singing and playing guitar. Buddy [Zabala] has been busy. Tapos I took drum lessons [from Michael Alba] last year. Binack to basics niya lahat. Parang in-overhaul ‘yung makina ko.
ESQ: Any chance you guys are writing music together again?
RM: Not soon. Because everybody has a project going on. [I’ve got] several projects going on. Sandwich is going into the studio to record, tapos Pedicab just released a CD. Gaijin is mixing an album. I’m finishing an album with Yeng Constantino, and with a few other Ryan Cayabyab music campers.
ESQ: And that is why they call you “the busiest man in the Pinoy music scene.”
RM: I know Ely is doing an album with Oktaves and he has a movie. But Gaijin wrote a song for that movie. So we’re not working together, but at the same time, it’s… Buddy is doing a lot of projects, he’s touring with The Dawn and Dong Abay, tapos si Marcus [Adoro] may bagong libro. So mahirap, ‘pag mag-’Heads ka, hihinto lahat eh. So not soon, I don’t think. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we did something together. Even just one song, or an album.
I wouldn’t be surprised if we did something together. Even just one song, or an album.
ESQ: What’s the thinking behind forming and joining all these different bands?
RM: I think ito lang ang alam kong gawin eh. Hindi ko naman hinahanap, I don’t seek people to join bands, dumadating lang. So hey, why not. I don’t call people and say—I’m not doing anything, let’s form a band! Tapos di naman hectic. Ito lang naman ang trabaho ko. Full time musician. So okay lang naman.
ESQ: Your roles in each band are different—
RM: Oo, actually. Yun din siguro—“Uy, challenge! Puwede akong maging keyboardist, o producer ng gusto kong makatrabaho na artist.”
ESQ: In the future, do you think you’ll still be doing this, forming and joining new bands?
RM: I think so. ‘Cause even when I’m not forming bands, I’m forming bands for other people. Parang enjoy rin ako dun. Yung mix and match. “Uy, tawagan mo si ganito, kailangan mo ng drummer? Tawagan mo si ganito.”
ESQ: What do you like about being in Gaijin?
RM: Ibang-iba eh. [My bandmates], dahil foreigner, kahit dito sila nakatira sa Pilipinas, ibang-iba sila mag-isip, mag-articulate. Ibang-iba ‘yung accent nila pag tumugtog. Kaka-discover ko lang ‘to eh. Kunyari may tinugtog kami ni Shinji [Tanaka] na same exact drum pattern—iba ang tunog. Ganun rin si Jesse [Grinter], ‘pag may tinugtog kaming exact same guitar line, same strumming—pag tinugtog niya, iba talaga. Iba ‘yung hinga, ‘yung flow, so iba ‘yung music. Napaka-subtle. Naa-amaze ako doon. Tapos trio lang siya.
ESQ: Tell us more about how you guys work together.
RM: Si Jesse, na-discover ko na nama-match niya ‘yung hindi ko magawa, natatapos niya ‘yung musical problems ko. Tapos si Shinji naman, naa-achieve niya ‘yung sound dahil matagal na kami nagwo-work sa studio. Pag nagde-describe ng sound, naiintidihan niya ‘yun eh. Ang hirap bago nakarating doon sa point kami ni Shinji. Pero si Jesse, instant. Nakahanap ako ng match na match. Una kong ganyan si Buddy. Pag tumugtog siya alam ko na ang gagawin. Parang 90 percent ballpark. Si Buddy, first day sa dorm, nagja-jamming kami. Di nagkwekwentuhan, tumutugtog lang kami. Tapos hanggang ngayon sa stage, o pag nagwork kami kahit long distance—“Pare may i-email ako sa ‘yo, tapusin mo ‘to.” Pag balik sa ‘kin, exactly kung paano ko gustong matapos.
ESQ: What about Pedicab? What do you get out of Pedicab?
RM: I get to do weird things. Parang may lisensya maging weird ‘yung music ng Pedicab eh. And I can pile everything on, or strip it down, or give everything to RA [Rivera] or Jason [Caballa]. Actually, hindi ako ang nagsimula ng Pedicab eh. It was Jason and Mike [Dizon], tapos kinuha lang nila ako to play bass. It just so happened may bago akong analog synth na nakuha sa pier. “I’ll play bass only if I get to play keyboard bass.” Plus nobody does it.
ESQ: What about Sandwich?
RM: Well, Sandwich first before everything else. Barkada ‘yun eh. Well lahat din naman ‘yun eh... After the ‘Heads, nalaman ko na ‘yung secret. The secret of being in a band is your friends. Kailangan alagaan mo ‘yung friendship ng banda. Which is the biggest mistake of the ‘Heads. Hindi namin naalagaan ‘yung kami plus the crew plus the office. It just got too big; madami nang nakikialam. Yung Sandwich, kasama kami kahit hindi gig. Kahit Pedicab or Gaijin magkakasama kahit hindi gig.
ESQ: Do you have a favorite memory from pre-fame Eraser-heads days?
RM: Madami, siyempre. Of course natuto kami sa Club Dredd. They were the first people to accept us, the first people to hone us, to give us our values. “Don’t worry about the covers”—[in those days] to be a popular rock band, you had to do covers. Sabi ng Club Dredd, no you don’t have to do covers, work on your songs—they’re a little shaky ‘cause you can’t really play well, but work on them. Don’t worry about what’s in, just do whatever it is you’re doing, ‘cause we know you’re right.
RM: And you get to work with other people, even rock stars, but they would talk to you and give you advice and treat you as people, not as ‘others.’ And we’d see inspired performances as the ‘Heads. We’d open for everybody. Saya nun pare, although sad kasi wala kang kinikita, di mo alam kung magkakaplaka ka ever. But you’re working on songs. By the time ginawa ‘yung [Eraserheads debut album] Ultraelectromagneticpop, we had 30 songs—we had songs for three albums because of Dredd.
ESQ: Do you remember a moment when you thought, “I’ve made it”?
RM: Not really thinking “Wow, I’m made,” but once people start paying you and you don’t have to ask for money from your parents, that’s a good feeling. Naaalala ko ‘yun. “Uy, may budget.” Dati ‘yung budget sa Dredd pang-taxi lang, pang-uwi sa UP. But once people start paying you—“Uy, I can pay rent, puwede na mag-aparment, ‘di na kailangan mag-dorm or bedspace. Puwede na mag-grocery. Astig. May pambili na ng pagkain.”
ESQ: You’ve been in bands for over two decades. What do you think of our music scene now?
RM: This is the best time. I’ve dreamed about this era since the 1990s. Twenty years later, naiintidihan na nila ako. Wala ka nang papatunayan dahil alam mo tama ka. Naaalala ko, ‘pag may ginawa kami noong ‘90s, people would question us—bakit pinalitan ‘yung formula, mali ‘yan. Bakit nagjajam kasama ni Francis M, mali ‘yan dahil hip-hop. Pero ngayon okay na lahat eh. Pwede na akong maging Pedicab, Sandwich, or Gaijin. Walang magtatanong kung bakit. Understood. [Tapos ngayon] madali na rin ‘yung recording. Pwede na sa bahay at pwede na mag-collaborate. At least meron na akong konting leverage. Wala ka nang iproprove eh. Nagawa mo na eh. So pwede ka nang mag-explore ng lalo. So ito ang pinakapaborito ko. Ito ‘yung gusto namin. Noong araw, Dredd, Mayric’s lang. Pero ngayon—may eksena sa QC, Cubao, Makati, Marikina. Kids are playing music, forming bands, releasing albums every week, making videos on their iPhones or digital cameras, releasing them online. Independent albums are being released on vinyl. Sobrang saya ngayon. It’s your choice to be with a record company or not. You can do the record company way or the independent way. Okay lang ‘yun. People are touring. Tapos Tanduay is paying millions of pesos to bring five bands on tour sa buong bansa. Makakapanood ka ng top bands na halos libre. Tapos maganda ‘yung sound system, ‘yung ilaw, 45 minute sets...
"This is the best time for music. I've dreamed of this era since the 1990s."
ESQ: What do you like that’s out there now?
RM: Ang gusto ko ‘yung mga napapanood ko sa mga bars. Ang daming bago. Almost any day of the week. Anything from weird electronica or drums or really noisy instrumental rock or really mellow to live hip-hop. Dami ngayon, di ba? Tapos sa mainstream naman, gustong-gusto ko ang ginagawa ni Rico [Blan-co]. Yung concept niya na ati-atihan, electronica, live drums and costumes…
ESQ: Most people in the scene see you as a mentor or as an inspiration…
RM: Dementor, hahaha!
ESQ: Do you ever think about your legacy? Do you ever go, “Holy shit, I’m part of Philippine music history”?
RM: Hindi eh. Because I’m also the biggest fan. I really go out and seek. I think me and all my bandmates, we all go out. We go out of our way to find these bands, not just locally, but out of the country. In the States I watched eight or nine bands and we had only two weeks.
ESQ: I wanted to ask Atari what it’s like to have a musical legend for a father… [Atari, Raimund’s preteen daughter, who has been sitting quietly beside us through the whole interview, suddenly covers her face with her hands and shakes her head]
RM: [Laughs] I’m just ‘Dada.’
ESQ: Looking back at your career, what—if anything—would you have done differently?
RM: I would probably have taken charge and taken care of the ‘Heads more. And probably made better business decisions, and taken care of our health better. Sana nag-sports tayo ng konti nung bata pa tayo.
ESQ: And what’s in your future?
RM: Hindi ako malayo mag-isip eh. Gusto ko lang tapusin ‘yung mga ginagawa. Tapos onto the next one and the next. May mga plano ako, pero gawin ko na lang kesa sa ikuwento.