Band Matters

For the past five years, I have had the privilege to fulfill a childhood dream of becoming a lead/rhythm guitarist for a heavy metal band. It all started at an unfortunate band practice in 2005, as my guitarist friend and I were looking to form a group covering Iron Maiden and Sepultura classics. The band came full circle when one of the drummers we’ve jammed with years before brought along his friend who was the vocalist of their previous band.

We all gathered and talked about jamming some of their songs until eventually, we shifted from their sludge metal sound to a more thrash, speed metal direction. It was at this point that everything fell into place. We composed a couple of songs (basically aping the twin-guitar melodies and tremolo picking that mid ’90s Swedish metal was heralding) and practiced them for a month before getting booked to nearby gigs here and there to fill out the slots. The first gig we played was at Purple Haze, Marikina and we performed at 3:30am in the morning while my entire family was there waiting for us to perform. Despite the hazy hour, the crowd seemed to have enjoyed the set, probably because they were blown away by the screams and growls of a  petite, female vocalist. It was a memorable gig that foreshadowed the things to come.

Along the way, we finally had a bassist on board, who was a very proficient lead guitarist in the mold of Zakk Wylde and Tony Iommi and was part of the one of the most underrated metal bands in the ’90s . Not to mention, he had an impressive collection of contacts to different event organizers that landed us more gigs we could possibly ever dreamed of.

The first couple of years playing in a band is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have undergone as a music lover. Although there is nothing more fulfilling that listening to Marty Friedman bust out his chops on “Tornado of Souls” or scouring the Internet using our 56.6kbps modem for obscure bands like Von, Anal Cunt, Fudge Tunnel, Fuck I’m Dead, Pig Destroyer, and others that have turned my world upside down, the experience of talking to other bands and receiving compliments from people who are equally passionate in the art encompasses everything that I have ever felt.

This is what made me want to be a part of a band in the first place. It’s not about getting drunk and acting like an asshole during gigs. Performing music is the residual effect of the love I have for the art, which has helped me overcome obstacles and problems in my life. People perceive these metal bands as noise or cacophony, but they do not have any idea how much it has helped me get through some of the depressing stages in my life. And I want to share it to everybody by making, or at least trying to make good music that strives to make people want to pick up an instrument and continue the legacy of music, not just as an aural experiment, but as a life-changing experience.

So why all this teary-eyed musing? Because after years of playing and performing with the band at different bars and regions in the country, I’ve undergone a serious loss of passion for the band. I’ve felt it in 2009, where different priorities and expectation have forced me to stop practicing with my guitar for a while. Once you start seeing the big picture after you graduate from college, get a job, and start saving money for your future family, suddenly the band immediately takes a back seat. Because of said responsibilities, I go into gigs late and without turning my guitar or warming up my fingers, which must have caused some of the terrible and most ear-splitting gigs we’ve had every since we formed. I do feel guilty about it, but even if I do practice and recall some of the songs days prior to our next gig, my other responsibilities overwhelm me and forces me to drop the guitar once again.

What made my loss of passion to music even harder is the fact that some of the other members are doing the same. Back when we started, I wouldn’t imagine them to have children at such an early age and constantly moving jobs to land a work with a high-paying salary. Although their shift of focus nowadaystowards family is understandable, it leaves the band with little functioning parts. I try to chip in and offer insight and some new riffs and material once in a while, but I know I can do better. Worst part of it is that I can’t give them that satisfaction.

Let it be known that I’m not planning to quit the band to take care of my own business. Oh, hell no. I’ve poured my sweat out, literally (the numerous sweat spots on the stage where I stood during the gig would be proof), and have been constantly embarrassed on stage a couple of times now. I have played gigs with a broken string, out-of-tune guitar, bad amplifier and I’m still standing.

Much of my memories regarding our band is filled with bane and frustration, but overall, it’s an old-fashioned romance of kindred spirits I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. I wouldn’t have been able to perform in front of thousands of people during the 2006 Muziklaban Grand Finals and rubbed shoulders with a lot of popular heavy acts in the country if I wasn’t part of this band. Not that these events are pivotal in making me soldier on with the band, but there is so much that has happened through the years that is difficult to leave behind. Being part of a band has become an indelible part of my identity, even though I don’t flaunt it like other people do, and to leave is to turn not only the page, but only in a new leaf. That’s not part of my plan, though. Despite my appearance and slightly conservative lifestyle, I still have that metal spirit that burns in me and I want to see it bear fruit with our band.

It’s not over.

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Christopher Jan Benitez

Freelance writer and content marketer by profession. CEO of GoSmrk, a boutique digital agency that focuses on helping online businesses by using the latest and best growth hacking techniques. Magical Tumbong is a place where he vents out about non-work related matters.

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