The Eraserheads needs no introduction. Having conquered the music scene since their breakthrough in 1993, the members Ely Buendia, Raimund Marasigan, Buddy Zabala, and Marcus Adoro have songs that hit a nerve with Filipinos.
In the wake of the Eraserhead’s breakup in 2002, the track “Para Sa Masa” from the album “Sticker Happy,” was considered by loyal fans as the band’s unofficial valedictory song. Written by Ely, many people interpret the lyrics as if it were a love letter with thinly veiled admonition of Ely’s melancholia for the band’s effort and failure (?) to lift the masses and their musical taste.
It seems obvious in the line: “Mapapatawad mo ba ako kung hindi ko sinunod ang gusto mo?” Followed by a quick left hook: “Pinilit kong iahon ka, ngunit ayaw mo naman sumama.”
More than a decade after it was released, Ely revealed in an exclusive interview with Bulletin Entertainment that “Para Sa Masa” is his least favorite song from their canon. In fact, the singer-songwriter said he will never sing it again.
Acknowledging the huge role played by the “masa” to their success, Ely said that now, he finds the song “condescending.”
“It’s like, ‘Hey, I’m holier than thou,’” he said in Filipino. “Honestly, I’m embarrassed of that song. It’s pretentious. It’s like me telling the masses, ‘I am your savior, but you don’t want to be saved.”
He said he penned the song during this “weird time as an artist.”
“(At the time), the whole circus of media started to get into me. I just didn’t know what to write anymore. And I started blaming the audience for not being in tune with what I’m doing.”
Soon, he realized that’s not how things work. Truth is, he can’t force people to like everything he does.
“Eventually, I told myself ‘What gives me the right to say that (on ‘Para Sa Masa)?’ I was full of myself.
Collectively calling out the masses on their taste (in music) was in bad taste. I regret doing that. I will never perform that song again,” he said.
Still, Ely remains admirable. Despite his stature in the industry, he is humble and unpretentious.
While many young artists are seemingly overwhelmed when they meet him, sure that he has the answer on everything OPM, Ely would be first to tell them they are wrong.
“I can’t give them anything because I’m still learning. In fact, I’m insecure with my capabilities as a solo artist. That’s why I always play with bands,” he humbly said.
This is one of several reasons you don’t see him mentoring aspirants on shows like “The Clash” or “The Voice.”
“I won’t do something like that. It’s not me. I’m not comfortable doing it,” he said.
Ely’s label Offshore Music has been around for a while now, but it only had its “coming out” party a few days ago.
Ely shared that two years ago, six professionals – including two full-time musicians – became partners at Offshore Music. Additionally, Ely takes on the role of sound engineer and executive producer during recordings.
How is he as producer? Ely said it helps he and one of the Offshore partners (Apartel drummer Pat Sarabia) are musicians themselves.
“We also produce music so it makes sense that we would like to collaborate with our artist,” he said. “But you know, even in the early days, when we were doing our own demos, we were producing those songs ourselves. So it’s not really hard for me (to wear the producer’s hat).”
He is not the type who meddles with artists down to the last note. He gives suggestions only when asked.
“I just provide them the proper atmosphere to be creative,” he said.
As far as the business model is concerned they are pretty much old school. Ely is aware though that some things don’t work anymore, like consignment and selling of records in stores “because there are no more stores.”
What are the metrics for success in this age?
“Streams. Sales. You can track that because of the digital downloads. Then there are the charts. That’s what I meant when I said that there are things that stay the same. That’s how you gauge an artist’s success,” he noted in a release.
He stressed that radio is not out of the equation.
“Yes, they can survive without the help of radio. They can be big in their own way online but radio is still important. It is something that will take you to the next level,” he maintained.
Among the artists in Offshore’s table are The Late Isabel, Jun Lopito, One Click Straight, Eyedress, and Ely’s band called Apartel.
Ely has a recording studio called Crow’s Nest, where their artists record at times.
“Most of my artists have their own studio. But the best way to do is have them record in my studio since I know the ins and outs, and I know how to get the sound we want,” he shared.
Offshore focuses on vinyl releases.
“I am fan of vinyl. I love the distinct sound that I hear when I listen to a vinyl record.” (With report from Jojo P. Panaligan)