Pump up the amps, plug the guitars and let’s Rock n’ Roll-A A +A
Friday, September 13, 2013
THE quest for the perfect gift for the Commander started months ago with an inventory of the things he loves. A simple man with simple pleasures. But simple doesn’t necessarily mean available. And simple doesn’t necessarily mean cheap.
On the other hand, as I have proven many times in the past, the universe has a way of conspiring with me whenever I set my mind on something.
And thanks to Vader, I found IT.
The shop (located at the 3rd floor of Porta Vaga Mall fronting Music World and when you use the Cathedral stairs entrance it’s immediately to your left; you won’t miss it) was named after the movie “High Fidelity” starring John Cusack, according to the owner Manuel “Jonathan” Bayquen.
“It was adopted from the novel of Nick Hornby with the same title. I love the movie.”
Tee for t-shirt, which is what the shop mainly sells. The Vader tshirt on display caught my eye and what caught my eye next was a miniature guitar with a camouflage design.
And my heart was stolen.
Jonathan sells collectible miniature guitars which he imports from a neighoring Asian country.
“I used to be a member of the band, Precious Apple, where I played the bass. This was in the early 90s and we used to have gigs at Perk and Music Magic.”
In fact, record labels Vicor and VGA took an interest in the band and asked if it could relocate to Manila, do the gig scene for the meantime while waiting for a record deal to come through.
“But we were hesitant. Moving to Manila seemed intimidating. No relatives, starting over. Me and my band members, we decided instead to finish our studies.”
After two years of being together, the band broke up.
Jonathan finished Electronics and Communications Engineering at the St. Louis University. Currently he works as a machinist at multi-national company MOOG.
Two years ago, on a trip with his wife, they spotted tshirts with fun designs and both thought it will make for good business. But it wasn’t destined to be just yet.
Last year, on a return trip to the Asian country, they spotted the miniature guitars and it literally struck a chord in Jonathan’s heart being the musician he is.
“We talked to the owner of the shop and learned he exports his products to the United States and United Kingdom but did not have any other clients in Asia.”
The husband and wife then decided it was high time to put up a business of their own. Tshirts and the mini guitars.
“I’m a diehard Metallica fan. Everything rock.”
And it was evident. He was wearing an Aerosmith shirt.
“I got this when they came here for their concert. They gave a great concert but too bad I wasn’t able to watch Metallica when they did their tour of Asia. They only got as far as Singapore.”
And when asked why metal?
“There’s a different artistry involved in rock music. From the lyrics to the arrangement of the song to the individual skills of the members of the band.
“You can’t find these in pop, especially in songs being produced nowadays. All they do now is push buttons to produce the sounds they like. Where’s the passion in that?”
Jonathan’s two kids, 8 and 4, will probably learn to play the guitar as well, he said.
“But not yet. The other is too young while my older one is a little on the shy side. But I’m hopeful they will both learn. After all, music is a big part of my life and therefore a big part of their life.”
Keep rockin’, rollin’
Jonathan has big dreams for his store.
“Oh, my wife and I, we know we’ll meet challenges along the way but we’ll try our best to work it out. Putting up your own business takes a lot of courage and I’d like to think I have lots of that.”
The couple came up with a capital of P300,000 to start the biz.
“Most of it went to improving the store. What use would our unique items be if we did not have the ideal place to sell these?”
There are pastels of album covers, which his sister draws, on sale, too! Jane (Jonathan’s trusty assistant) revealed Jonathan does sketches as well but are not on display yet. Obviously, artistry runs in the family.
And the Bayquen couple plans to bring in more merchandise.
“But not far from the things we are selling now. They will stay true to the things I love – music, Bruce Lee.”
Does he still have dreams of making it big in a rock band?
(Laughs). “Right now, I’m in a band with my co-workers. We play during corporate affairs. How far this will go nobody knows. But I’m happy to be on the bass again. I think almost everyone, at one point in their lives, dreams of becoming a rock star.”
As for the camo designed miniature guitar which stole my heart - there was only one ‘rock star’ I had in mind for it.
It was late 2011, I think, when Wo shared he wanted to go to Singapore and watch his fave band, Iron Maiden, in concert.
His desire went unfulfilled (Iron Maiden closes its yearlong world tour this month in SoAmerica) but that conversation is not forgotten.
Iron Maiden is a staple in my playlist now, particularly the albums “Brave New World” and “Powerslave”.
For a woman who grew up with the standards (Mathis, Bennett, the Frank) and the eclectic sounds of her father (from Linda Ronstadt to The Ramones) Iron Maiden has rooted itself in my psyche. As if I have been listening to them all my life.
Metal, I have found, is not the deuce it is portrayed to be. Metal is fierce, reflective, deep, independent. All the things I believe I am. Or at least strive to be.
And while I may never be half the fan he is, perhaps Wo will look at me one day, realize his influence and say, “I’m proud of you!”
He follows and writes passionately about his music.
I heard the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction” and the Kink’s “You Really Got Me” on the radio when I was 4 or 5. Made me jump around even if I had no idea what was going on. Never looked back since then!
Of snobs and geeks
I can totally connect with Jonathan’s affinity to the movie “High Fidelity”. I have the original DVD and a CD of the motion picture soundtrack. In the movie, there’s this scene with the main characters:
Louis: I don’t have that record. I’ll buy it for forty.
Louis: Now, why would you sell it to me and not to him?
Barry: Because you’re not a geek, Louis.
Louis: You guys are snobs.
Dick: No, we’re not.
Louis: Yeah, seriously, you’re totally elitist. You feel like the unappreciated scholars, so you s**t onto people who know lesser than you.
Rob, Barry, Dick: No!
Louis: Which is everybody.
Rob, Barry, Dick: Yeah.
Louis: That’s so sad.
Snobs and geeks? Maybe. But this is what sets the FAN apart from the casual listener. The real ones are dedicated to a band/song/album. In my case, I geek out on 3 items in a piece of recorded music:
1. The instruments used to record the album. Take for example the band’s Accept’s “Balls to the Wall” and “Metal Heart”. At the back of both albums, they list down the instruments played during the recording of every song!
2. Album producer: I bought albums of artists I have not heard of only because I liked the ‘sound’ of a certain producer. For example, I am not a huge Bon Jovi fan but I got their “Slippery when Wet” album because Bruce Fairbairn produced it.
3. Album artwork: I bought albums of bands I never heard of mainly because I liked the album artwork. Some unforgettable covers for me are Motley Crue’s “Too Fast for Love”, which I immediately recognized as their take on the Stone’s “Sticky Fingers”; Slayer’s “Show no Mercy”; the Clash’s “London Calling” – all that aggression and rebellion in one black and white photo; and Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades”.
Before you conclude that I’m stuck in a classic rock time warp, I still discover new music only because the artwork appealed to me.
This is how I got into bands like Korpiklaani (folk/metal band from Finland who will give you the urge to dance around a fire; Black Star Riders; White Wizzard; The Sword; Turisas (another band from Finland who makes me want to ride into battle atop my steed with my sword pointed to the wind); and the current darling of my iPod, Russkaja (a blasting polka, ska, rock hybrid).
Some album covers are just so awesome! So you’re hoping the music would be awesome, too.
I like all Iron Maiden covers except “Fear of the Dark”. The writer above “loves” Eddie the head, IM’s mascot, because "he is everything music must represent: expressive, raw, stripped." Megadeth’s “Peace Sells”; Judas Priest’s “Defenders of the Faith” (Maan liked this one saying, “It can’t get any more metal than that”) and “Screaming for Vengeance”.
V and Les
Maan asked me why I have a certain fondness for the Flying V and Les Paul. “Edgy design vs the more classic design,” she said.
Both Gibson models are used by my 2 favorite guitarists: Michael Schenker (formerly of Scorpions) for the V and Randy Rhoads (who played with Ozzy Osbourne and for Quiet Riot) for the Les Paul. Plus I like the tone of Gibson guitars – solid and crunchy yet fluid, smooth.
Of course I could strum the standards: “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zep); “Holiday” (The Scorpions); “Temple of the King” (Rainbow); and “Soldier of Fortune” (Deep Purple).
But the first I learned to play convincingly was Schenker’s lead break on the song, “I’m Gonna Make You Mine”. This guitar solo distillates the reasons why Schenker kicks my ass everytime.
His lead breaks are like songs themselves. Like a song within a song. There’s an intro, a build up, he then kicks it up to a peak, sustains it, then brings it back down and he ends it with a proper outro.
Rhoads also does the same approach but with the same grandness and epicness of classical music. Rhodes also excelled in dropping quick, skull crushing riffs or 4 to 6 note solos at the end of song verses.
Rabid rock/metal fan
Back in the day, there was no Internet. The only way to track your favorite band was through a copy of Jingle magazine or those imported from the US.
Jingle covered the scene and the culture as a whole. This was great but the chances of the magazine featuring your favorite band of musician were slim. If you had the cash, you could go for the US mags.
Of course, me and the boys, we did not have the cash. The cash that we had was set aside for beer.
But as a real fanboy, I simply had to get these commemorative issues of magazines that had posters of Rhoads (this was a couple of months after he died in a plane crash in 1982 while touring with Ozzy) and extensive interviews where he dissected his playing and the equipment he used.
From the racks, magazine number 1 went down the left leg of my Levi’s 501. I went back a week later to ‘liberate’ magazine number 2.
But my conscience came along for the ride but with my ‘creativity’ riding in the back seat. My solution was simple. I peeled off the P30 price sticker from another item, peeled off the original price sticker (P120-P150 from what I remember) from the magazine and slapped the P30 tag on it. Instant discount!
I love metal and rock not only because it’s fun, loud and aggressive but because there is a lot of bravado and confidence in it. It’s something I can totally relate to.
It is precisely for this reason why I despise 90s grunge music, particularly the band Nirvana. Their music and lyrics are so negative!
Music is also supposed to be fun! Rock and metal are fun. Grunge was not.
That’s why grunge is dead!
Rock and metal are still alive and well.
At the end of the day, it’s all about the attitude in your music and the hardcore fans can tell if a band is real and sincere.
And the camo designed guitar? Yes, Maan did well on that. (Maan Cacdac & Wo Rosete)
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on September 14, 2013.