A piece of a song, a lively performance at a gig or an extraordinary fan experience — with music in the very core of our beings, it’s not difficult to feel the exhilaration brought by tunes, words and more. The challenge, then, is committing to paper the memory that has amazed one so...usually in 700 words or less.
A music writer’s job is special: to report information of interest to music aficionados, to paint an entrancing picture of musicians and bands, to show what has been missed by pouting fans in events — not with a microphone, a paint brush or a reel, but with a pen. Through music writing, both the audience and the artists are given the opportunity to share their story in words that either are completely their own or echo the core of who they are and what they do.
The first-ever Bandwagon Conversations explore what goes in the mind of the word warriors who dare explore our local music scene. Prior to Saturday's discussion, though, we ask our panelists: what is the most memorable piece of music you've written to date?
"Over more than twenty years of writing about music, I've had many memorable experiences, like being asked to rank the Eraserheads' LPs for Bandwagon, or The Strokes' Albert Hammond Jr. waking me up one morning for a phone interview. I've done quite a few of these "phoners" with international acts for Pulp, but one that particularly comes to mind was with the guitarist of Flyleaf, whose representative called while I was still in a cab en route to the office. So I had to put the phone on speaker and record our conversation with a microcassette recorder, while I was in a cab. The driver then realized that I was a writer."
Jason Caballa has written about music professionally since 1998. He was Music Editor for PULP Magazine from 2005 to 2011, and content editor for Pinoytuner.com from 2011 to 2017. He has also contributed music articles to Mabuhay, Rogue, Bandwagon Philippines, and more. He also currently plays guitar for Pedicab and Cheats, but he considers himself to be more of a music fan who just happens to play in a band.
"Memorable? Hmm. Writing about the Rizal Underground in 1994 at the height of the popularity of their debut album. 'Sabado Nights' was a massive hit. I [...] covered the band from a practice session to a meeting at the offices of its record label, Polycosmic, to a gig at West Avenue where it was packed with over 400 people. The article was long and written not for a newspaper. I followed the band around for three days before writing about this. I remember Rizal Underground's lead singer, Stephen Lu saying, "Pang Rolling Stone or Spin magazine yung article at hindi pang-dyaryo." It was a behind the scenes look at a band that had hit the big time.
"[Other memorable articles include] a recent interview with Slowdive's Nick Chaplin that got a lot of reads, retweets, shares and comments from fans all over the world as it was also a behind the scenes look at the band where they are going, an article I wrote on taking the Beatles tour of Liverpool and London and my life in New York City (I lived near John Lennon's old apartment), some commentary about the local music scene and the lack of talent fees for bands that many a musician and band retweeted and offered their thoughts on the state of the industry.
"I also wrote about Broken Social Scene in 2010 during the launch of their album Forgiveness Rock Record. I got to interview the band about it and they shared the article."
With over 25 years experience in advertising, corporate communications, and print, radio, and broadcast journalism, Rick Olivares has been doing television and film work in the role of writer, producer, and director. He is the pen behind 'Bleachers' Brew' on Business Mirror and has contributed articles on music, sports, travel and other lifestyle to prominent news outfits, such as ABS-CBN News, Philstar, Rappler, Philippine Daily Inquirer, FHM, Men's Health Magazine and more.
"I'd like to think that, since I don't contribute as often as I used to, most of my recent articles are quite memorable. However, since I have to at least choose one, it's title is 'BTS explores self-image, the cost of fame, and acceptance in Map of the Soul: Persona.'
"BTS is one of those artists that reeled me back into Korean music (after years of neglect due to focusing on other genres) and reflected an image of reality, youth, and self-love.
"Years ago, I wrote an article about BTS' hip-hop roots, and it was my first article about Korean music. Then, I watched them live during their WINGS concert in Manila and interviewed fans from the Philippines and overseas. The connection was surreal and every color of K-Pop shone brightly from the sea of lightsticks that filled MOA Arena.
"When I wrote about Persona, it was a culminating activity and extensive research assignment that granted me the opportunity to write about music beyond the words and sounds. There's a prelude and denouement in every story, and people need to start a discussion or expound a concept in detail because music is always more than what you hear. It's a message waiting for a response."
PB Hermoso is a full-time copywriter and graduate of De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde with a BA in Multimedia Arts. She started as a writer for the features section of her high school’s publication and continued as a staff writer for The Benildean. During the previous years, she sharpened her skills in the field of music journalism through her experiences and contributions for companies such as Amplify, Driven Manila, Locked Down Entertainment, Satchmi, and FILSCAP. She has been a contributing writer at Bandwagon Philippines since April 2016. When she’s not writing, she’s either spending time with her cats or making a good cup of tea.
"If [it's an] interview, probably the one with Liam Gallagher. I got to interview him just before the Oasis show in Singapore in 2009. It turned out that was one of their last-ever shows together as a band. If music-related coverage, it has to be when I covered Lollapalooza in Berlin two years ago. It was memorable because it was probably the biggest festival I've ever attended. And I think I was the only music journalist from the Philippines covering it then. But if it's just a general article, it's probably my piece about music criticism (or the lack of it) in the Philippines that was published in Esquire. I was surprised that it gained so much traction and people really responded to it. I got a lot of both positive and negative feedback then and even until now, because I still encounter it on social media when a prominent personality re-shares it."
PJ Cana is currently the Associate Editor of Esquire Philippines, the local edition of the popular men's fashion and lifestyle platform. Before that he was Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Philippines and Lifestyle Editor and Senior Writer for Forbes Philippines. He has been writing about music since the early 2000s, when he first started contributing to Pulp magazine. Either as a columnist or contributing writer, his byline has appeared in various other print and online publications, including Rappler, GMA Network Inc, The Manila Times and the Philippine Daily Inquirer. He has a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of the Philippines in Diliman and a certificate for a special course on Media Freedom and Responsibility from the International Institute of Journalism in Berlin and Hamburg, Germany.
"In 2015, Carly Rae Jepsen got to visit Manila as part of her Gimmie Love Tour, and we got to sit down with her to talk about her then-new record, 'Emotion'. I wasn’t that big of a fan back then, and within my circles, her music still didn’t have the cult status it enjoys now. We picked her mind and learned a lot about the making of this critically acclaimed album.
"I found that this is the sort of thing that I enjoy doing: getting behind the scenes or exploring the context of a cultural phenomenon – no matter its scale – or just any great piece of music, really."
Paolo Abad mainly earns his coin as a freelance video editor. He got his start in lifestyle and entertainment journalism by turning his concert-loving ways into work: as contributing writer and photographer for various online publications – including Rappler, CNN Philippines, and Bandwagon Philippines.
"It would definitely be the very first one I'd ever written, back in 2003. I mean, who would've thought a 13-year-old girl would get to interview Joseph Hahn of Linkin Park and for a publication like MTV Ink? That's where it all started really. Their Editor-in-Chief Kristine Fonacier told me then that I would one day work for PULP Magazine (MTV Ink's sister company) as a music journalist. They even gave me my own laminated press ID and everything! And it happened for real 9 years later."
Kara Bodegon is an author-illustrator and music journalist from the south side of Metro Manila. She would've been a musician if it hadn't been for her inability to focus on one instrument at a time, so she just ended up writing about people who could.
She's been writing for local and international publications (PULP Magazine, Juice PH, Yellow Pages, Billboard, Bandwagon Asia) and working behind the scenes at concerts since 2011. She did pretty well studying Multimedia Arts at De La Salle-College of St. Benilde but then graduated Valedictorian from her MFA in Creative Writing at Full Sail University.
When not writing or drawing, Kara enjoys playing video games, chowing down on pizza, worshipping heavy metal and Disney soundtracks, and wishing she could one day be a great white shark.
"[My] most memorable articles are 'Sandwich: This Band's A Party, Part I' (20th Anniversary Interview in 3 parts) and 'When fandoms become family, Niall Horan's Manila concert shows how.'
"I picked these interviews for very different reasons. For one, the interview was a very special opportunity because of the circumstances
around how I interviewed them. In the internet age, it’s easy to interview someone through the phone or through e-mail so being given the chance to sit down with them is a writer’s gift. Side note: Phone and email interviews aren’t less -- in fact, it gives interviewers and interviewees a chance to talk despite the distance.
"However, the absence of physical interaction is already one less element or material you can work with. Being able to sit down with Sandwich for the one and a half hours allowed me to have pseudo-passenger’s seat on what it’s like to be the band. The setting (SaGuijo) also allowed them to drop their guard allowed for old stories to come out, and so did their relationships with one another.
The willingness to share their stories is also a big factor and that’s something you can predict. The best you can do is to ask good questions and create an environment which they’d feel comfortable.
"In the end, I was able to write something that didn’t rely on their answers alone. I approached it in a very human interest way -- doing as much as I could to make the feature as intimate as possible and to make the reader feel like they were also at that table with us.
"As a fan of music, writing the Niall Horan feature personally mattered to me because the focus of this article was the fans. Yes, the setting was his concert. The skeleton of the article was the
concert but everything else that made the story what it was came from the stories of the fans and their relationship with the artist. The fans are part of the music and I’m glad I was able to write something that honors that. I’m a fan of music too-- I wouldn’t be a music writer if it were otherwise."
Isa Almazan is a Contributing Writer and Consulting Editor at Bandwagon Asia. As a researcher, writer, and producer for multi-awarded talk show The Bottomline With Boy Abunda, Isa was able to meet people of all walks of life such as Filipino Journalist Ellen Tordesillas, former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney, former Israel Ambassador to the Philippines Effie Ben Matityau, Novelist of Crazy Rich Asian Kevin Kwan, and singer Celeste Legaspi who popularized the classic Filipino song Saranggola ni Pepe.
The range of topics she was worked on to name a few are: Journalism and perpetuation of Fake News, Mental Health, LGBTQ+, and Philippine Taxation. She was also part of the team that put out ABS-CBN’s DocuCentral documentaries “HIV Rising” and “Hallyu and I”.
"Seeing the Foo Fighters in Singapore was hard to top. Though we were seated quite far and they were just ants magnified on the big screen at the venue, I didn’t mind because I was just happy to share the same air with them (along with thousands of people inside the stadium). Dave Grohl is really meant to stand in front of a huge crowd. He has this undeniable charisma that makes him one of the most formidable rock personalities of our time. Plus, I get to hear him introduce Taylor Hawkins as “the love of my life.” After the concert, when I got back to where I was staying, I remember taking a minute to sit on the curbside, smoke a cigarette and wrap my head around the fact that I just watched Foo Fighters. Writing about that experience was just me trying to make sense out of the exhiliration of seeing your heroes in the flesh."
Weng Cahiles has written music articles and reviews for Vandals on the Wall, Radio Republic, Restless Cities, and Rosarioko.com. Her concert coverage experience got her to write about Alt-J, Foo Fighters, Bon Iver, Death Cab for Cutie and Foo Fighters. Her first musical memory was getting her ears pierced while The Beatles’ Michelle is playing on the radio. She is also a children’s book author.