This was the intro lines of my favorite Eraserhead’s song Para sa Masa. A song that I would like to sing on a grand finals in a musical variety show if given a chance. This song somewhat reflects the Eraserheads itself, as a band, as an inspiration for other bands and as a Philippine icon in the music industry especially in the Philippine alternative and rock and roll music.
It is perhaps a tribute to Ehead’s music and the band’s ruggedness that the country’s music industry has a breath of fresh air in the midst of well-groomed balladeers, belters and crooners at that time.
Their songs reminds us of the simplicity of life, hanging out with friends like the song “Overdrive” love and breakup in “Pare ko” hope in “Para sa Masa” and the spirit of Christmas in “Fruitcake.”
Dubbed by Erwin Romulo, the Esquire’s editor-in-chief as “the greatest rock and roll band we’ve ever had”. Their music and their life was idolized and hailed by all walks of life up to now. Their music at their times is the standard of music. Indeed it is the golden age of OPM alternative rock that gave way to other bands and other songs that makes our music industry more colorful.
Composed of Ely Buendia, Raimund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala and Marcus Adoro, the band derived their name from the movie “Eraserhead” by surrealist director David Lynch. The band started in the University of the Philippines, Diliman Campus where they first find their first followers by creating their own materials.
But while undeniably being ardent music fans, the quartet’s desire to form band also stemmed from shared adolescent yearnings, something that have to do with their shortcomings.
“We form a band so that we could attract girls sa campus,” all four took turns in saying years later, “hindi kasi kame marunong mag-basketball kaya banda nalang.”
Finally with a stable line up and definite band name, the band then confronted a daunting problem realizing that they were not good at playing covers.
So they decided on focusing on creating original piece, “After all, if we committed a mistake, no one would recognize it since they don’t know the song,’ rationalized Ely, who embraced the songwriting his responsibility more seriously that time. And the first song that catch the attention of their fellow schoolmates is the song “Pare Ko” – a straight forward ditty about spurned love, laced with obscenity and street-smart lyrics.
The band even concentrated on creating their own piece, new materials and style. It was in Marasigan’s townhouse in Candelaria, Quezon where the band recorded a nine-song demo tape in a garage. The group wanted to commercialize their cassette demo by shopping it to record labels, clubs and radio station however they were rejected and accused that it was not pop enough for public consumption.
After which, the cassette demo was re-record and mix with the help of their friend which happens to be a professor teaching humanities. The better versions of the demo songs was named Pop-U, an insolent response to those radio stations and record companies who turns them down.
Ely Buendia became employed as a student copywriter in BMG Records where he worked at day and wrote songs with his band at night. Later their songs caught the attention of BMG A & R Director Vic Valenciano. BMG gave E-heads songs a try and the band finally signed for a three-year record deal.
In July 1993, the band released their debut album entitled Ultraelectromagneticpop!. This was also the time when the Eraserheads mania was born. The hits that will make a huge wave in the Philippine music scene. Their first album sold 300, 000 by the end of the year and became sextuple platinum.
In October 1994, they released a follow-up album entitled Circus that eventually turned Gold in just 30 days with 200,000 copies sold. The album aptly describe the band itself since their debut.
The band opened the year 1996 by creating a new record in the history of music scene once more with their third album Cutterpillow which was launched in an open-air concert. The album turned gold even before it hit the record stores.
Their fourth album Fruitcake is the only concept album of Eraserheads that is been released in 1996. It is also their official Christmas album and was accompanied by a separate storybook with the same title. This album was also followed by the release of cassette EP version which was also released as a CD. This album was the longest in terms of duration, lasting 73 mins.
The fifth album Sticker Happy which was released in 1997 is musically, the most heavy as the band brought to the fore various guitar effects purchased during their New York visit. The tracks to this album was very much influenced by mid-90s techno.
In 1999, the band released their sixth album, Natin99 and the band’s first album that came out of a non-linear recording approach. Most of the musical parts were recorded separately in their respective studios and pieced together by the band and producer Robin Rivera.
In March 2001, the seventh and the final studio album featuring Ely Buendia as the lead vocalist, Carbon Stereoxide was released under Sony BMG Music Philippines Inc. it feature a theme darker than the previous albums. The album contains 18 tracks and was released in both CD and cassette formats came with a free VCD featuring the making of the “Maskara” video, behind-the-scenes footage and interviews.
“Ilang taon na rin ang lumipas, mga kulay ng mundo ay kumupas, marami na rin ang mga pagbabago, di maiiwasan pagkat tayo ay tao lamang, mapapatawad mo bq ako, Kung hindi ko sinunod ang gusto mo.
It was in mid-March year 2002 when the band’s lead vocalist Ely Buendia decided to left the band for unknown reasons. Speculation arises on why does Ely quits the band, some says that success and fame went up to his head.
But Buendia in his interviews pointed to business matter as the cause of the their break-up, in an interview in PULP Magazine, Ely’s wife and manager, Diane Ventura claimed that the break-up started with a miscommunication between Ely and the band’s roadie. Ely in his interview remember vividly the ugly business that led to the breakup. Ely added that “I just wish those people hadn’t involved Diane and our family”.
It was Sunday, Diane recalled, they were on our way to my family’s house in B.F. Paranaque when all of a sudden they got a call from rodie, Sammy saying that they were
already late for a gig. The two were very oblivious for the mall show that day, the couple insisted that it must be the responsibility of the rodie to make sure that the artist must be well informed of all the details of their show, they must have been confirmed at least a day before through text messages or handouts.
Still the mall show was pushed through causing them to come late, but everybody was already giving Ely a cold shoulder amidst their effort and the family gathering that they have missed.
Since the verdict was already up, the next day Ely decided to take up the ‘unprofessionalism’ issue on the management with the manager, Butch Dans. But Butch didn’t further investigate, he just took his employees word for it. His exact words to Ely were, “it’s his words against yours”.
The rodie insinuated that the couple were told about the mall show but they were probably under the influence of drugs that night at the bar. But Diane deny it, in fact she was being treated for cancer at that time.
But what struck the most for Ely and Diane is the other three (Marcus, Buddy and Raimund) who happens to be Ely’s friend corroborated the statements of the rodie. Ely felt so disgusted by it that he decided to give the other three the dose of their own medicine. He even quit the band just through text message saying “it’s already time to graduate.”
There was no sense of staying and continuing the band where members stab each other at the back. It was never like a competition for Ely because he always wanted it to work out. His priority was the band not himself, you don’t form a band and then go creating rivalries, Diane added.
It was observed earlier that Raimund is treating Ely more like a rival than a bandmates. Even when performing Raimund always seemed to be either trying to show off or upstage Ely. But because of their long friendship, Ely chose to work it out and still kept him in the band.
That interview in the PUPL magazine by Diane and Ely was to defend their selves from the vicious attacks that they received following the band’s break up and finally to shed light on what really happened.
Buddy Zabala confessed in an interview that disbanding is not been far away from the member’s mind. He said that there were many occasions when they have been disbanded but did not.
In an interview Raimund Marasigan said he was eating in a mall, when he heard of the news. He said he was “semi-surprised” and wondered if Zabala already knew about it. Adoro told of the story now famous among Eraserheads fans about Buendia’s cryptic text message. He said Buendia stated in the text message that he had already “graduated.” Adoro quipped in the same interview that it was natural for Buendia to graduate first, since he was in batch ’87 of their college, while the rest were in batch ’88.
Adoro expressed the belief of some people that the band was getting too old, and that it was “selfish” for the band to continue and it’s time for other bands to shine.
In the same interview in PUPL magazine Diane wishes the other member to stop their resentfulness and bitterness towards Ely and don’t forget the friendship that the quartet had formed for over a decade. “You are all talented, and Ely believed in all of you”, Diane added.
The band made it clear, though, that Ely’s departure from the band wasn’t in any way violent and that there was no shouting or any confrontation involved.
The three remaining Eraserheads members decided to continue. Within a few weeks, the new “Eheads” debuted at Hard Rock café featuring a female singer guitarist, Kris Gorra-Dancel, from the band, Fatal Posporos. However, after a few months, Adoro had quit the band as well. The remaining members of the Eheads added Diego Mapa and Ebe Dancel to their lineup and renamed their band “Cambio.”
Just a few years after the breakup, tribute albums and books were released in honor of the band but many questioned whether it is the right time to release a tribute to a group that had just disbanded four years ago, with its former member still active in the music industry.
It was finally in August 30, 2008 at The Fort Open Field, Taguig City when the Reunion Concert was finalized. However the concert was cut halfway through a planned 30-song set list as Buendia was rushed to the Makati Medical Hospital after experiencing chest pains.
Buendia had a slight attack because of stress due to the recent passing of his mother and their sound check for the one night concert lasted till 3 in the morning. He was later transferred to Philippine Heart Center on August 31 after being treated at the critical care area at the Makati Medical Center emergency room.
Sony BMG reported that Buendia was stable after suffering from hypokalemia. The next day Sept. 1, 2008 he underwent his third heart angioplasty surgery the operation was successful and Buendia recovered fast. Later on he was discharged from the hospital.
On January 10 at a column in The Philippine Star, it was announced that the continuation of their previous reunion concert would happen on March 7, 2009 which was confirmed by Marasigan.
The band went onstage for their second reunion concert dubbed as “The Final Set” on March 7, 2009 at the SM Mall of Asia Concert Grounds in Pasay City. There were approximately 100,000 people attended the sold-out concert.
Aside from the reunion concert in the Philippines the band held several out of the country reunion-concert tour in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Jersey, Toronto, Dubai, Singapore and London.
September this year, in cooperation with the Esquire Philippines, the band conducted an experiment on how they will be sounding today.
The result is a two-track CD that comes with the September issue of Esquire. The first song is called “Sabado,” a pop ditty about the joys of the weekend co-written by Buddy, Raymund and Erwin Romulo, the editor-in-chief of Esquire Philippines.
The song has all the trademarks of classic e-heads songs – breezy, weekend-drive-in-the country melody, relatable and unpretentious lyrics, and a delicious, roll off-the-tongue chorus and hook.
The second track “1995” is meanwhile a Lemonheads-esque throwback to the band’s dalliances with punk. It’s a bit grittier that the sunshine pop of “Sabado”, and unsurprisingly, sprung from the head of Ely along with Erwin.
Both the songs are like time machines that transport longtime Eheads fan from the halcyon days of hanging out with friends and campus days. The band may have collectively aged in years, but their prowess remains undiminished.
“Ito ay para sa mga masa, sa lahat ng binaon ng Sistema, sa lahat ng aming nakabarkada, sa lahat ng mahilig sa love song at drama, sa lahat ng di marunong bumasa, sa lahat ng may problema sa eskwela, sa lahat ng may problema sa pera, sa lahat ng masa.”
The band’s straightforward lyrics and catchy tunes captures the attention of the nation. The image of the band members wearing t-shirts, jeans and sneakers captivated the attention of young generation.
The new generation of young listeners who were looking for role models to call their own and the band’s arrival is the perfect timing and the perfect model to end the 80’s era. This time it was the 90’s era, it was the time to out all the flamboyant and glam of the past decade, the new generation were craving for something more real and honest.
The music of the band tackling the usual adolescent concern in their music such as the campus life, unreciprocated love, friendships, vices and other mundane subjects with an easy to jive lyrics makes the Eraserheads sensation amongst the youth.
As the band grew more their music matures as explained by Glenn Tuazon, the release of the album Fruitcake and the significance of this album may have been lost to their fans in 90’s because the fans are bewildered by the band’s music maturity.
Put together the album Fruitcake marked a decisive turn in their career. They became experimental in branching into a sprawl of styles. Placed in context, the Fruitcake was part of a conscious effort of the band to move away from the Philippine FM Radio and into the greater Asian market, and possibly farther than that. They even released an album that targets to market outside the country by creating more English songs.
But they have failed to lead their fans in their changes, instead the fans demanded for the old Eraserheads. There was a sinking feeling that the band was no longer playing ‘our song’ but theirs. The band seemed to retrieved to their fans in the next album Natin99 and the ‘Eraserheads mania’ was back.
Eraserheads for us fans is like an angel sent to earth from heaven, their songs inspires us in some ways. We learned to appreciate our Original Pilipino Music (OPM) and have proven that Filipino’s can create their original music in our own language.
The only band in the country that is been loved and cherished by the younger generations and will be by the incoming generation. Their music will live with us forever because their songs unites us in a ‘magical’ way.
We are all fans of this band. The simplicity of their work and look and the pride that they have bought to our culture and our history was incomparable. They are indeed an icon in our hearts.
Esquire Philippines September Issue