from BusinessWorld (June 2002)

The Heads Rock (and Roll On)

For starters, here's the irony: "It might be long before we get another surprise from them" was my closing line in my review of the album "Carbon Stereoxide", which the Eraserheads released in 2001. Well well, surprise-surprise.

For the diehard E-heads fan, the news of the bands' break-up was so tragic that there was a significant sense of loss. With all due respect to the fans, it really was such a huge and sad thing. The music of the Eraserheads is so classic in the sense that it reminds us of carefree high school days and of tambayan songs that weren't corny.

But in reality though, the break-up was bound to happen. Buddy Zabala admitted, "Ang dami nang instances na dapat na kaming nag-disband. Or ang dami nang circumstances na going towards disbandment na. I count three or four…and we've never disbanded because of so many things. Basically, because we like what we're doing. We have fun doing the songs in the studio, promoting it, performing live. Lahat may element of fun…"

Maybe too much fun. As Raimund Marasigan confessed, "For the past few years, the past few albums—nag-cru-cruising lang kami. Wait for the shows. We rehearse twice a year." Buddy agreed, "Familiarity breeds contempt. Ano kasi eh, complacency rin…It's bound to happen, we've been doing it for 12 years. So you get used to things...All of a sudden, something happens totally unexpected…ako, di ko na-expect…Shocked ako—what's happening, diba?" The guys wanted it clear though that "There was no big production when Ely left. Walang sigawan…walang confrontations."

Marcus Adoro summed it up best when he pointed out, "Yung attitude ng banda, sabi ng mga matatanda na, selfish naman kung hanggang matanda na kayo, ganun pa rin."

"Wagka sanang magtanong at magduda…"

The best thing about the Heads' reaction is that they're being realistic. Although at first, there were "mixed emotions," according to Raimund. "Una, negative diba. Pero…sinusubukan namin positive yung negative. Kasi kung negative, pwedeng wag na. Wag na nating ituloy, umuwi nalang tayo sa probinsya" (Buddy: "Sige!" Raimund: "Teka! Soli ko lang CDs mo.") "Pero baka pwedeng positive kaya sinusubukan naming positive yung maging effect. Ibig sabihin magtratrabaho kami…" Buddy claimed, "We've rehearsed more this month than the past six years"— especially since they had to up the chords by an octave to accommodate the voice of the new Eraserhead, Kris Gorra-Dancel of Fatal Posporos.

"Ngayon, parang bagong band, bagong songwriting experiments so medyo exciting, medyo nakakapagod, medyo masaya. Medyo fresh," Raimund said, which was very much apparent on the evening of April 19 at the Hard Rock Café in Makati, where the guys introduced their new lead singer and performed two of their new songs. In a month, the "new" Eraserheads had come up with 6 new songs. So, oddly enough, Ely's goodbye episode must have the best thing that ever happened to the guys after all. "Everybody gets a kick in the ass," Buddy said, going on to explain that "Everybody's forced to work, everybody's trying their hand at writing…at making music. It kinda speeds up the growth process."

"Dahil ang puso ko'y walang pangamba…"

Raimund did a private text survey among their friends and came up with a divided result—half encouraged them to go on, the other half advised them to give it up. A particular columnist of a widely-read broadsheet even suggested that the guys should just disband. It's been 12 years, after all. They already have a revered place in the history of Filipino music and society. But the most irritating thing about it all, probably, is how some people initially pulled back their support for the Heads because, for them, Ely Buendia IS The Eraserheads.

"Yung ganoong klaseng assessement, warranted naman yun eh," Buddy said. "Kasi, Ely has been writing…for the longest time. He really is a gifted guy...Kung mawawalan ka ng lead songwriter sa band, that spells a lot. Those are big shoes to fill. So, we have our work cut out for us. We don't try to let those things get to us. Because, people will always have their own subjectivity about it."

Raimund went to prove that sack of truth. "If we believe that ganun nga yung case, siguro Heads lang yung banda namin. Diba, we won't be doing anything else kung wala kang `self-preservation instincts'. Si Marcus nag-produce ng album. I worked with Sandwich. Buddy's been producing albums for other people. We've been playing for all the 
other bands."

Suddenly, Kris is put in the spotlight. Can SHE fill in Ely's shoes? Undeniably, Kris is a talented songwriter as well. The guys deserve a slap on the back for making a good move. For starters, Kris should be commended already for working as hard as she did during the month before she was finally introduced. Secondly, it's cute to see Kris still gushing about being an Eraserhead. She had the widest smile, tinged with a shower of kilig, when she said, "Kami po ang The Eraserheads" at Hard Rock. And lastly, Kris has an appeal that is riddled with candidness—not to mention the fact that she's one hot momma—that really got the crowd glued to the band.

Kris is living the dream of so many, and she had almost missed it by a wink. "I heard about it (Ely's adios) nung tinawagan ni Raimund yung husband ko (Vin Dancel of Twisted Halo). Naglalaro kami ng baby ko dun sa tabi ng phone, tapos…nakita ko yung sobrang surprise ni Vin. Siempre nakinig na'ko kung anong nangyayari. Tapos nagulat ako…speaking as a fan." Raimund said he originally intended to invite Vin to be their new lead singer, but "mahal." (Buddy: "Mahal talaga yun. May lawyer's fee." Kris: "Eh kung ako, di nyo na kailangang magbayad!")

But in fairness to Kris' musical talents, it really was a stroke of genius that was immediately put into play. Buddy relayed, "Kasi for the past two shows, wala si Ely. We had two shows, we had to finish our commitments—one in Ilocos Sur, one in Baguio. So, rush rehearsals and everything. We got a session drummer and we got Rand to play guitars, so si Raimund nag-front. After two shows, Raimund decided to play drums." Raimund said, "The drums part for the Eraserheads' music) was designed to be played by me, so I want to play it. Just get a new singer…" Right after his phone conversation with Vin— Ting! The proverbial lightbulb lit up. "Tinawagan ko si Buddy. Sabi ko `Buddy, si Kris kunin mo. Tawagan mo.'"

Sure enough, Kris is having the time of her life. "Sobrang ibang-iba maging Eraserhead kaysa sa [Fatal Posporo]. I feel pampered! Not because I'm a woman, but because yung management nila iba mag-alaga. Rock and roll!"

"Na tayo'y mabubuhay ng tahimik at buo, Ligaya"

So, rock and roll, the Eraserheads did. The change was well-received and a lot of enthusiasm has been reborn in their fan base. The band displayed a hefty pack of talent that made for a really good show.

It's mostly interesting to see that the three original Heads in the new band have been together since their late 80's college dorm days in U.P. Raimund reflected, "That (friendship since college) contributed to us continuing kasi, kahit na nag-iba-iba na kami ng barkada during the Heads, meron pa rin kaming common college friends na nagkikita once or twice a year. I mean, mas barkada kaming tatlo. I'm sure may connection din yung barkada ni Ely at ni Buddy, yung barkada ni Marcus at ni Ely. So meron din kami yung kami lang tatlo…nagkataon lang na si Ely yung umalis." "Co-inky-dink," Buddy chimed in.

So, enough about Ely. The new Eraserheads is busy with interesting experiments. As an example, Raimund pointed out that "We've never written for a girl's perspective…it's our first time, kaming tatlo at si Kris siempre. She's been writing for herself." Buddy added, "This is the first time she's gonna be writing from a guy's perspective." 

Raimund recalled, "May inimbento kami ni Buddy na lalaki yung lyrics pero pambabae yung kanta. Parang bading minsan, pero astig eh." (Marcus: "So, ngayon yung bading rock.") "Or si Kris— switching of new lines from classic songs, nag-iiba rin yung perspective diba? Pag kumanta kunwari si Kris ng `Magasin', tapos lalaki yung kinakantahan nyo, parang iba rin yun diba… strangely familiar, but with a twist."

The guys will, of course, still play the old Eraserhead songs we went through high school and college with, and loved. But for how long will they keep it up and will they try to come up with a somewhat new image? Buddy said, "We're pushing on for another 6 months. Realistically, 6 months, to see if it works." "Ibig sabihin, we'll try to record an album, we'll try to play more shows…and still try to play music and make music," Raimund explained. "If that doesn't happen in the next few months, we'll be realistic and do whatever. Pero diba, it's worth the shot." "Ako naman ngayon, mas forward-looking," Kris said. "Sana matuloy, na sana ok yung response ng mga tao." 

This time, it really won't be long before we get another surprise from them.

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