Had goosebumps reading this article from Inquirer.net. Raimund Marasigan talks about the Eraserheads reunion, his differences with Ely Buendia, and Jazz Nicholas coverving everything the Heads couldn’t cover.
THE DRUMMER WILL DRUM: Raymund Marasigan
By Gang Badoy
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—After the reunion gig, did you realize that you missed each other?
Is it really impossible for you to get back together as a band?
Right now? I think that’s impossible because I think we’re very happy and satisfied with our respective bands. And also because the Eraserheads is too big, too difficult to handle, plus we’re all having fun with our respective bands. Speaking for myself, I am extremely pleased with all my bands, there’s no room to take care of a big band like the ‘Heads. It’s a lot of responsibility. One gig nga lang, sobrang daming makikialam, kokontra. And it’s great that I can do anything in Sandwich, Cambio, and Pedicab. Financially, we’re successful. Artistically, we’re free and musically, it’s very satisfying. The relationship is tight, more (like a) family than bandmates, actually. This is exactly how I wanted it after the ‘Heads. The ‘Heads is one big lesson, for me. I don’t mind playing Eraserhead shows, now that we’ve played together. Maybe just not on a regular basis. I don’t think I can handle it. Physically, emotionally and psychologically.
Was it too stressful for you, the dramatic last few weeks before the reunion gig—with all the changes in the plans, production and promoters?
The most stressful part about that was that I couldn’t announce to friends and family details about the concert. They were asking questions mostly directions—on how to get the tickets, etc. That was what mattered to majority of the people. Many didn’t care if it was to be produced by Marlboro or the DOH or whoever, the original promoters relayed that by Aug. 1 all details would be set. So I promised everyone I’d keep them posted. Eh Aug. 25 na, wala pa ring final plans. So I was getting stressed with that, I got sick, even got a fever because of that. Otherwise, everything was ready. The band was prepared, the production was ready but none of us could send any details if it was pushing through or not. But at the back of my head I was thinking, everyone should relax, it’s just a concert. The country has bigger problems like the peace in Mindanao, ‘di ba? But that was just me and I don’t like worrying about the technicalities and etc. I’ll worry about the music but not the mechanics of a concert, so that stressed me out. I guess when Sony BMG took over and “saved the day,” I really wasn’t interested in the legal-speak, I just wanted to know details so I had something to tell my friends and my family at that point because this was a few days before the playdate.
You keep saying that “it’s just a concert” but obviously it’s not just a concert to many people. And you know that it’s not just that to many of us in the audience.
Yeah I know, I know. (laughs)
But you know, during those few days, that’s also when I heard about Ely’s mom passing away. After that, I surrendered na. I knew that this was as far as our control goes. If Ely decides not to play, no one will question him. None of us will. So at that time, I knew that I just had to go with the flow. The passing of Tita Lizette trumps everything. In fact, at that time all the stress I was feeling about the arrangements and everything else disappeared at that point.
Of course, because there was a higher order to follow.
Oo nga! Suko na ako. We will all respect Ely’s decision, I know I will. In my experience, when my dad got sick, I dropped out of the last leg of the Eraserheads’ US tour and they all respected that. Whatever happens, at that point, will happen. And I knew I had no control over anything anymore. We visited her in the hospital and then the next day she passed away. So Buddy and I paid our respects, we went to the wake. We had known Tita Lizette for over 20 years. Not just in the context of the E-heads career but even since our college days. And then it was taking its toll on Ely, who hadn’t slept in weeks, weeks! But he never tells anybody. I don’t think any of the band members asked him if he was going to play. I didn’t think it was right at all to ask him that. He just showed up during our sound check and we finished it and then showed up the next day. But he had every reason and right to decide otherwise. I’d respect that, of course.
As we all would’ve.
Oo, dapat lahat naman eh. Basta I decided, I will be the drummer and I will show up when required. And if Ely decided not to show up, then I would follow that direction. No explanations necessary.
During performances, there’s usually one band member who will give cues when to start. How was this performance managed among you since the relationship isn’t exactly smooth?
As the drummer, I usually give the cues, I count off. Most of the time I need to look at every band member before I count off. For some reason, Ely wasn’t giving me a signal per song if he was ready or not. I wasn’t sure if it was an act or because he was laboring or the pressure or the now-famous chant, which I later on found out was “group hug.”
Oh no, kami ‘yon! We started it during the end of the first countdown.
Yeah, I know! Later on I found out it was you, guys, my friends nga, but from my vantage point I couldn’t understand it. I kept looking at the set list if it was a title of a song. And I was trying to figure it out. Until I asked someone and I was told it was “group hug.” Maybe it was that. I didn’t need to figure it out because after every song I just counted the beats per minute in my head and worried about the next song. By that time, Ely wasn’t giving me cues so I thought maybe he was already having a tough time just handling his physical feeling. So I just looked at his body language and whenever he looked ready from the back, I counted off. I didn’t rush nor slow down.
I was telling my friend that it was so interesting to see four guys “head-on dead-pan” thousands of people, since no one onstage was reacting to the chant. Libo-libo kaming halos hindi ninyo pinansin!
(laughs) The Eraserheads was never really into the “talk to the audience” type. We never did that. That was never part of our act, really. Ever since. Even in college. If you remember, we didn’t have audience rapport. In UP, during our E-heads career, never, never did we do that.
No talkies, you mean? No spiels?
None, purposely. No. Never. Ely’s wit was always sarcastic and the way you saw us in Kamia (a UP Diliman dorm) back then, that was it. That’s how we’ve been. We were never “hi, hello!” You know? Even Sandwich is not like that. We just play. Eraserheads is like that. We just play.
Did you even notice some dead air? What was going on in the stands, did that even have an impact on you during the gig?
I did pay attention! In fact, it was great to see the faces in the crowd. But you see, preparing immediately for the next song, that’s just my “auto-pilot.” That night I kept reminding myself to “Get the groove steady, Raymund, gotta relax.… you’re too excited, you’re hitting the drums too hard…”
Wait! If you were excited, then that means being there was a very good thing for you!
Of yeah! It was good, it is good. And besides, there’s a Sandwich rule that whenever I play, I give it 110 percent or Diego (Castillo) will kick my a**.
But that’s Sandwich!
But I’m Sandwich!
Oo nga naman. But this is E-heads!
Yes! But even in Pedicab, he will still give it to me if I don’t give it my all. So when I signed that contract, I said yes, I will give 110 percent—and I did. And I will give the people watching what they deserve. Everything. Except the show biz part. I don’t do that. I don’t think any of the Eraserheads does that. Nobody has done that. I’d give the music and the performance my all—but not the show biz part.
Anyway, I know that you switch roles in a lot of bands. When you were onstage that night, did you say to yourself, “Ah, now this is E-heads.”
Of course. When I’m on the drums for E-heads, I’M THE DRUMMER OF THE E-HEADS. That’s it.
No cross over?
None. Actually at the first part, I put on the wig to celebrate my look during the first years of the E-heads. The day before, Mary Lou (Malig) and R.A (Rivera, Pedicab) dyed my hair green to celebrate the era of “Sticker Happy.” I didn’t dye my hair two days before the gig because I didn’t want to go to the wake of Ely’s mom with green hair, I didn’t think it was respectful. So we did it the day before the gig. That’s to celebrate ’97 “Sticker Happy” years. Then Mads of Furball lent me a wig to celebrate naman ’93 Heads. You have to write all of this down, Gang, because this is important. So I was up there as ’Heads, no doubt. Yeah, I was the drummer of Eraserheads.
So, you were paying tribute to the ’Heads…
With your hair…?
How much of your present-day bands did you bring with you guys onstage? Did you guys at least talked about what to wear on the night of the gig?
Ay no, we don’t talk—the ’Heads don’t talk.
You don’t talk about even those details?
Sa Sandwich, we can talk about hats and shoes all day, coordinating etc. Sandwich will talk about everything . . . but the ’Heads? No. We don’t talk. We just play.
Was it always like this? Let’s say, from day one or did this happen slowly?
I think from day one. We don’t talk a lot. But we gelled together because we played music, especially when we play music. For example, our first rehearsal recently, after six years, if I’m not mistaken, we ran through more than 20 songs. And I didn’t practice any of the songs. I physically practiced the drums but I didn’t rehearse the songs. I had to work on it, on my method. I knew it was very different playing for an arena compared to Saguijo. That’s like the difference between a marathon and a sprint. Different muscle groups. So I worked on that. The technique, stamina, breathing, all the technical aspects of drumming, but not the E-heads songs. But when rehearsal day came, and there were some song changes and Ely would call songs and Buddy and I would just play it. I was laughing most of the time. Hopefully no one took offense to that. I only laughed because I realized after six years I could still play the songs.
People generally have a belief that a band plays well because of a certain chemistry among its members.
Eraserheads has chemistry, no doubt.
And its chemistry lies in…?
I remember listening to the recording of our rehearsals, it was a bit eerie because no one was talking but playing was definitely good. I’m not sure, but there’s a different chemistry for every band. Kami, we have it when we play.
That particular night, who did you play for?
That night? My friends. I saw everyone in front. And I was really looking for you guys and then I see familiar faces and they’re singing along with us… That’s it! And my friends are my family, you know me, Gang, you know me well enough that my friends and bandmates are my family, too. And when I see a familiar face having fun with our music, that’s it. Tanggal pagod. For that night, yeah, that was it. I played for friends. I play for the fans too, make no mistake, but for that night… or any night, it was family and friends talaga.
Did you seriously think that this was just going to be a gig, and that you were gonna walk away from it unchanged?
Let me backtrack to the beginning. Remember this “reunion” was years in the making. Negotiations started way back. And put it on record, that in my case, it was Darwin and Marlboro who succeeded in convincing me. I never had the inclination to do a reunion gig. I always asked, “What for?” Everything I want to do in my life I’m doing in Sandwich, Pedicab, and Cambio. Why mess with a good thing? I knew if I said yes to the ’Heads it would be more than just a yes.
Too many consequences?
But this couldn’t have been just a gig. There must’ve been something different. Something must’ve changed in you after Aug. 30.
What do you mean by change?
Inside you. Surely something cramping inside you clicked back into place.
No. Nothing changed.
But you see, when I signed up in Eraserheads, I knew I’d be part of the ’Heads forever. I knew what I signed up for. As Sandwich, I can walk in the mall, walang pumapansin. When I signed onto this, I was Eraserheads again. People would stop me sometimes and ask me, “Kailan ang reunion? Kailan ang concert? Saan?” Pero okey lang ‘yon, I knew that was part of it. At okey lang talaga ‘yon, kasama ‘yon.
How come even musicians in the scene, mostly Rock Ed volunteer musicians, are very careful when they ask about the reunion? Seems like everyone tiptoed around me saying, “Gang, ask Raims naman kung tuloy ang reunion gig.” Pabulong pa minsan. (laughs)
Because Ely and I were very vocal about the split-up. And many of them know that Ely and I haven’t communicated in six years. We had personal differences.
And those personal differences were over, under, and beyond ‘being in the band?’
Yes, they are personal. Exactly that. And I will still not talk about it in public.
Good. Now, is it fair to say that you all gave equal share to make this reunion happen?
For this show? I think the four of us gave all that we could. I even think Ely gave more than anybody else, given the circumstance. I think he gave more than what was asked of him. Hindi kasali ‘yung tyempo ng pagkawala ni Tita Lizette sa kontrata, ‘yung health din niya. But he gave it his all, too.
This is not exactly a question for you, but I’m wondering why he didn’t decide on postponing the concert? I mean, his Mom just passed…
I think, in my opinion, he did it for his Mom. Because his Mom was always in the shows. She produced many of our shows. Tita Lizette was really into the ’Heads, more than all of our moms. But she really produced shows, she was really involved. So yeah, he probably went on with it to honor his Mom.
So, if by some miracle you reunite and produce another album, do you think it will sound the same or different?
I think it will be a lot different, but I don’t think we can stand each other for that long period of time, enough to record an album.
Did it ever cross your mind to include your present-day bands as front acts to this gig?
No. Personally, no. The people came for the ’Heads. If they wanted to see the rest of our bands, they could see us wherever else we play. We’re all still around anyway.
Anything else you want to say?
Yes, I want to give credit to a group. They took in a lot of pressure and bad raps, they took a lot of sanctimonious raps, so I want to credit Marlboro/Phillip Morris for getting all four of us together. You see, Eraserheads is not a single entity, it’s four individuals plus plus. I hope you don’t edit this out, this is the truth. Even if they gave into pressure in the final hour, they still got us together, they worked for this and they pushed this together. It was as simple as the DOH not giving them the permit because of a law. I really think the fans, regardless of their stand on the tobacco law, should really thank Marlboro for making this possible. I mean, really. Please don’t edit this out, we really have them to thank. Just as much as we thank Sony-BMG, MTV or Radiohead Productions. It was never about advertising cigarettes, I think. It was a lot more than that, alam nila maraming mapapasaya, kasama na kami doon! And I think it was proven last Saturday.
Seems like there are so many people crucial to this event. Like you said, it was four individuals plus plus…
Ah wait! No, make that five! Alam mo, we used to have a session keyboardist, the late Noel Garcia. So for this one, when we were all asked—separately, ha—who we wanted to work with us onstage, we all chose Jazz Nicolas (the drummer of Itchyworms). He’s brilliant. Many people thought we sequenced music playback but that’s not true. Everything we couldn’t cover, Jazz took over. Keyboards, back-up vocals, back-up guitar and the tambourine—sometimes he’d play all those sabay-sabay! Ang galing talaga. The first time he sat in, he just knew all the parts. It was a joy to play with him on our side, really.
Do you think it’s because Jazz is a ’Heads fan himself?
Maybe it’s that, but I think fan or not, he’s a musical genius. I worked with him in Project 1 and many other collaborations and I’m a fan. I’m a fan of his work. So is Buddy, he’s worked with Jazz, too. He is amazing and crucial to the whole event. People should know that.
What was the moment you remember most from that night?
When the crowd started counting down and we were under the stage. I actually banged the drums when it got to one. I wasn’t supposed to, but I just had to, I had to release the energy. I could feel the love, it was pure love, nothing negative. I could feel it in every pore, I knew there was going to be a video thing first and other things going on, but I just had to crash on it. In my head it was, “Let’s do this!” You know, and If I didn’t do that, kakailanganin kong tumambling, kung hindi sasabog ako. I couldn’t contain it.
If all factors fall into place, Ely back health-wise, you’d do this again, right?
Definitely. Me, personally? When he’s ready, I’d probably talk him into doing it again. I’m sure he wants to finish what he started. I mean, finish the full show, he’d want that. Because Ely worked so hard, as much as everybody did in this show, ‘di ba? I’m sure he set aside feelings about everybody also, we really all worked hard to get this together. So yeah, for as long as health-wise he’s clear, I’d like to do this again. I want to finish what we started. I want Ely to fully recover soon and talk him into finishing it. We don’t talk a lot but I want to talk him into finishing it. I’m sure that’s what Ely wants to do, too.
A music writer texted me just now, “What was the real reason you broke up? Are the stories going around even remotely close to the real reason?”
May kanta kami diyan, “’Wag Mo Nang Itanong.”