[Interview Number 64]
This time, we get to know Death By Elephant. His track "21st Century Sarabande" is featured in the New Artist Spotlight Family of Playlists.
Link To New Artist Spotlight Playlists:
𝟭. Where are you from and what is your hobby?
I grew up in Bacolod, a small city in the center of the Philippines. For the past ten years I've Iived in Metro Manila, which literally has over 20 times the number of people.
I'd say making music qualifies as a hobby for me, since I don't do this full time. Other than that, I like watching old B-movies (the type of stuff you won't get on Netflix) and cooking. I used to run and take long walks around Manila, but COVID put a stop to most of that, for me.
𝟮. How did your get into music?
Like a lot of kids I had this hand-me-down acoustic guitar that I'd try to clumsily bash covers of popular songs with. At the time, I was really into Seattle Sound groups like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Soundgarden and also Radiohead, for some reason.
These bands were actually quite passé where I was at the time (the 90s to the early 2000s) and I didn't really gel with a lot of people in school over musical tastes. Stuff like Limp Bizkit was way more the speed of most of the people I grew up with.
Then I met this friend of a college buddy of mine at a house party who was a classically-trained guitar player. He taught me a bare minimum of basic theory at that party. Specifically how to improvise, what modes were, and what specific things I should practice to jam to any pop or rock song.
I swear that interaction was only about 20 minutes or so, but it changed the trajectory of my life forever. I pretty much quit playing video games, which I had been addicted to for years, and I focused as best I could on being better at guitar.
A few months later, my dad gifted me a secondhand electric and a multifx board. It was a good instrument, but it was right-handed (I play lefty because of a hand injury) and also had a Floyd Rose bridge, which is exactly the wrong thing you want to be handing to a beginner.
I saved up some money and bought a horrible, horrible bass. It was still right-handed, but it was also way easier for me to play as a lefty. To this day, bass is my favorite instrument.
Literally a week after that, I got invited to play with other college friends who wanted to start a band. One was a pop-rock cover group and the other one played black metal and death metal covers.
Even though it wasn't my jam, the metal group had regular gigs, and I grew musically with them. Franco, the drummer for that group also became a member of /collaborator with Death By Elephant, and he composed a song on the EP that just came out.
But after a year I was not super into doing covers anymore. To me, it felt like glorified karaoke, especially if it was done by the numbers.
Some time before I graduated, both projects just kind of fizzled out. You know kids. But I was really interested in writing my own stuff, so I basically just kept at it by myself. I didn't gig for about 6 or 7 years.
Then, in 2012, a work colleague -- probably because he didn't have too many people to approach -- asked me if I would be interested in forming a group with him and his friends. The vocalists we invited never did show up to the first few warm-up sessions, so he and the drummer finally asked me to sing as well so that we didn't waste the rental money for the practice space.
My voice wasn't suited for the Deftones covers we decided on. I couldn't even reach the low notes and I didn't know anything about singing or transposing vocals, really. So we did some improvisation and we came up with "Saturn Retrograde" on that session. Later, we came up with the name Death By Elephant.
From there, it's a long boring story full of multiple lineup changes, with me as the constant.
𝟯. Who are your biggest influences?
I already mentioned a few bands, but I think I've been a lot less interested in Grunge and Rock and Roll recently. I still really adore a few punk and post-punk groups like Gang of Four and I guess that comes out in some of my guitar playing. I also love effective lyricists like Morrissey and Ray Davies.
These days, I find that I like well-executed movie soundtracks, City Pop, some very stripped-down EDM.
I think I can hear all of those things in varying degrees in Death By Elephant's music.
4. What are you goals in the music industry?
I honestly have none! I guess recouping what I spent to express myself should be the bare minimum, but I really don't mind that too much anymore.
5. If you could choose a location to perform at, what would it be?
I've honestly never thought of this, either. I have extreme stage fright, which got worse when I started singing. I'd overprepare and take long jogs to help take the edge off. Big stages and bars are mostly the same to me in terms of terror level. Wherever my work takes me is enough.
6. What is your all-time favorite song?
This is just impossible to answer. It changes from day-to-day. Right now it's a toss-up between The Knife's Heartbeats and The Zombies' The Way I Feel Inside. I'm sure that answer will change tomorrow.
7. Most embarrassing moment?
Way too many to mention. I have Avoidant Personality Disorder, so even just answering this form is embarrassing in a way. If you notice, I avoid showing my pictures when possible, even if I know that all it takes is a quick search to know what I look like. I guess music is a way for me to work through those moments and stay level.
8. Proudest accomplishment?
I think being relatively healthy and being able to create music under my own terms that people (apparently!) enjoy is something that I could be proud about. Thanks to NAS, it's reaching more people than I thought would have been possible. The idea that I'd be reaching an appreciative audience overseas never did cross my mind, but I think that's pretty cool, too.
9. What is something about you that might surprise someone who knows you the best?
When I was a baby, my parents had a trained German Shepherd named Hamel watch over me while they did errands. Probably not a good idea and you probably can't do that these days without someone complaining.
𝟭𝟬. What is your dream collaboration?
If I could find a steady drummer with a minimalistic style that is down for improvisation who can actually show up at jam sessions, that would be all I need.
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