Buddy talks about the reunion concert as a “shared experience,” dead-air moments during the event, and congratulating Ely Buendia. Article courtesy of Inquirer.net.
THE BASS MAN HOLDS THE LINE: Buddy Zabala
By Gang Badoy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—How’ve you been since Saturday?
Ang weird. It hasn’t even been a while since the reunion gig happened and I already find myself trying to play it down in my head. I’d say, “It was just a gig.” But I’m thinking maybe it wasn’t just that. In fact, I still wake up in the morning and I say, “Wow, it really happened.” I think I’m not done processing it yet. You see, I was expecting it to be an experience for me, for myself. Pero sobrang daming tao doon and people’s energies were so high na it became a shared experience, eventually. ’Di ba? That’s the equation right there, I mean, sure, I tried to calm myself before going onstage saying over and over, “It’s just a gig, just more people,” then all of a sudden when I found myself there and in front of me was this sea of people then I realized, gigs are supposed to be shared experiences.
Did you expect it to be any smaller than that?
No! Or wait… I don’t know. It’s something like, I expected it to be a certain way, and then it does turn out that way but I’m still overwhelmed anyway. It was amazing. From where I was I couldn’t even see where the people ended. Maybe it was the lights, I don’t know, but as far as my eyes could see, it was people. So it’s not easy for me to downplay it now. I mean, I try to feign nonchalance sometimes but my grin gives me away. I was grinning all night. Till now, in fact.
That night, who did you play for?
My family of course. Earnest, Veda, my Mom. You know, whenever I perform, I try to single out people in the audience kasi I usually don’t know people in the audience, I’m used to playing for strangers. But this time around, wow everywhere I looked—it was familiar faces. Someone I knew from a band, a former officemate, then my Mom! Hey, my Mom! Ang saya talaga. When I got onstage, it was different. Not just the size of the gig but the energy level. The vibe was indescribable.
Right after you walked off stage, where did you go?
I went straight to Ely’s tent to congratulate him and tell him that he did well and I wanted to ask how he was feeling. When I got there he was already lying down and he had an oxygen mask and the paramedics were already checking his blood pressure. Then next thing I knew they had to rush him to the hospital. It was all so fast.
None. Zero. It was great.
Of course, people were asking, if everything falls into place. Will you do it again?
Yes. You see, I have this mantra that has worked pretty well for me, that I will play with anyone. So if I will play with anyone, then why not with old bandmates?
The proverbial question, do you see a possibility of getting back together, maybe record a new album?
I’m not too sure about that. But we never know, surprises come our way all the time. Malay mo.
Were the fluctuating plans stressing you too much? Or did you just let it whiz by you?
Stress? Yeah. Sobrang stressful. Going into a project, one has a lot of expectations, ‘di ba so you know that it’s going to be a really big show, a really killer gig, so and so number of people with all this equipment. Then all of a sudden they say they’re pulling the plug. How would you feel? Going into the whole project, ang taas ng expectations ko kasi mataas ang expectations ng mga tao. Even when I talked to Marcus or Raymund, even Ely, all of us were hyped, everybody was stoked to do this concert. Then all of a sudden right before the show it got cancelled then picked up by someone else. It was such a roller coaster.
So those details affected you?
Very much so. Can you imagine if it affected me, what more the people who were really engaged or involved in the planning? Maraming naghirap dito. The prod, si Raims, lahat. Si Ely rin. It really took its toll on him.
From what I’ve observed, it seems to me that you’re the peace guy in the bunch. The public airing of grievances was in full-swing at some point, that must’ve taken its toll on you.
When friends get hurt, everything gets personal. But…
Wait, did you just imply that the source of disagreement is mostly professional and it just became personal?
No, it was always personal. Kung professional ‘yon, napapag-usapan, there’s always a democratic way to solve things. Vote on it. If you get a tie, decide on who can vote to break the tie. Professional hitches are easier to resolve. But this has always been personal and that’s much more complex. Affected talaga ako noon, people were getting hurt. It was not as simple as a “can’t we all get along” type of moment. It’s not at all like that. It was more like a, “Wait, what’s his point? And what’s the other point?” Then all the points were getting lost. Things got out of hand and all of a sudden it got old. Napagod lang ako. And since I get bored easily…. I just let it go.
Good for you.
(laughs) I know, but if you’re asking me if I got affected badly… well, of course. I have friends who got hurt, my friends and family would ask me what was happening and I wouldn’t know what to say.
But isn’t it easier to play with a band you get along with?
Yeah, but even bands that don’t get along can still play really well together. Like I heard about the Police. They play incredibly well. People don’t go to watch the fighting, they come for the music, so you give the music. The fighting is supposed to be irrelevant.
Maybe it’s part of their creative process?
If the Eraserheads got back together, would it sound very different from before?
Better! If it sounds just like before then what’s the point? At least better than the last E-heads album, kasi that’s what we used to say, next song always better than the last. But then again, that’s just to our ears.
Now, let’s talk about the talked-about dead-air moments.
Oh, we were never the band that got the crowd on. If people really knew the ’Heads they’d know that’s how it is. And yes, we were never about engaging the audience. It was only about the music. That’s how we talked to the audience, I guess. That’s where the conversation was, through the songs talaga. I heard from someone that our concert was one big karaoke party. It looked that way from what I saw. People were singing along, on the tops of their voices. We were incredibly loud onstage and I was wearing earplugs, and I could still feel the audience singing. I even heard that some people were crying, literally, crying while singing. And wow, that was something else. That means something, right? The music meant so much to them that maybe the lack of talkies in between songs made up for it.
Bawing-bawi naman. I can bet that, at least 90 percent of people you know had the ’Heads album playing in their iPods the month or weeks before the gig.
(Laughs) Yeah, actually ako rin! I was listening to the ’Heads albums also.
Can you tell me about the “one big moment” for you that night?
For me it was really while the stage was being hoisted up, through the haze I was looking out and then saw all the people, all the faces cheering us on, I felt all that energy thrown my way. Wow. It was more than overwhelming.