Sunday, October 17, 2021

Interview with Jorel Torres of Dalisay by Dave Wolff

Interview with Jorel Torres of Dalisay by Dave Wolff

Dalisay was founded by whom and what inspired him to start a band in the first place? Is there a significance to the name Dalisay that you would like your supporters to know?
Dalisay was founded by me, Jeffrey Batoctoy, Elpidio Fuentebella, Jet "Kiko" Bartolome, and Simon. All of us have already been with other bands before. The way I see it is that, for me, my goal was for my proses/poetry to be heard, for the rest is to showcase their talents in music, and as a whole to create songs that we can call our own.

Although Dalisay formed in 2006, their debut demo "Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw" wasn't released until 2018. Were there any reasons for the delay?
There were a lot of factors. In the early years, maybe we were too naive back then thinking opportunity would come to us freely. Although we had already written a few songs back then, we were more focused on gigs. At that time we already wanted to record and release a demo; we were plagued with a lot of lineup changes as well as commitment, financial, and logistics issues until the recent lineup. With the latest lineup, the recording process has accelerated significantly. Commitment plays a huge part in it.

Did you play most in the Philippines or also in neighboring countries? At the time, how many songs were written?
We were a very obscure band in our local scene. We only played small local gigs. But it would really be nice to play in neighboring countries, or any other country if given the chance. There were about ten songs that we had already written at that point. The lineup changes were brought about by many factors but they were mostly commitment issues. As far as I remember, there were more or less twenty former members already. We even played a few gigs with a noise experimentalist before, Inconnu Ictu.

How receptive of the band were fans of extreme music in the Philippines then? Did you build a fan base easily in those days?
When we started, every time we were playing gigs, I could see people with their faces looking like "what the fuck is that?" Afterwards, one or two would approach us saying good things about the performance coupled with the remark "that's different, who are your influences?" That was consistent in every gig we performed. Back then, our sound was a bit different than what it is now. It was more spontaneous and jammier. Crustier, maybe. And it had a more grindcore feel to it. Plus, I think the way I spewed out the words was not that usual. I can't say we built a fan base back then but I felt that we planted a seed.

How much has the venue scene in the Philippines changed while the band was active?
Trends change but I think the scene was basically the same until the pandemic came and the gigs ceased. Though, since technology is getting better, it's relatively easier now for bands to record and release materials.

How well established was Inconnu Ictu when you played with him? Do you still correspond with him today?
The sound went crazier when we met and joined with Roger Lopez a.k.a. Inconnu Ictu for a period of time. It was a one man noise project. He had these analog stompboxes, teramine, and circuit bended electronics, producing these wall of formless weird noises. It added that psychedelic/industrial feel to our sound. He was established in his scene, but of course that scene is way more obscure than extreme metal in my opinion. The collaboration was short lived but it was fun. Unfortunately we don't correspond anymore. I don’t know why. Maybe time just ate it away like a faded memory.

While you were performing and building your fan base, how often did you need to hire new band members? Were those lineup changes detrimental to the band or did you bounce back quickly?
Of course, every time we lose a member is painful, but these changes helped us evolved into what we are now. We must give credit to all former and current members for shaping this sound. The 2018 demo was originally unintended. The lineup back then was me, Mark Saguibo, Philip Lopez, and Elpidio Herrera. We were supposed to finish recording all the seven songs for our debut album "Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin" and release it but it got stalled a few times and we were only able to finished recording three songs until Philip and Gio left the group.

When you finally recorded the demo, did it happen at the band's home or in a professional studio?
Recording on a professional studio was expensive, and was on a per hour basis. With that time pressure, you sometimes lose focus and become prone to errors, thereby extending the recording time and spending more than you intend to. Another problem is that we didn’t have a car back then and the nearest recording studio was not that near us. So we had to commute back and forth along with our instruments. It was really a challenge. We resorted to recording by ourselves renting a rehearsal studio, Stuff Of Legends studio. It was cheaper but still quite expensive and time pressuring. At that time, we didn't realize that we could record it in the comfort of our homes, which we did when we finished recording the debut album. The pandemic somehow helped us realize that, considering the lockdown here in our country.

How much pressure was the band under, time-wise, to record your demo at Stuff Of Legends studio and release something you’d be satisfied with?
I don't think I can quantify that. But imagine, you have to balance your time at work, which basically eats up five days of your week, your time for your family and loved ones, maybe a little resting time for yourself, then your time for your music. Something like that.

Do you have the same lineup that recorded your debut demo “Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw” or did you hire new members since then?
The songs on the "Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw" demo were recorded by two different lineups. The title track song "Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw" was recorded by me on guitars and vocals, Michael Angelo Ramos on bass, and Elpidio Herrera on drums. It translates to "Into the mouth of madness". The song is about vagrancy, solvent abuse, and succumbing to madness in trying to escape the bitterness of reality. It was inspired by the vagrant psychotics and street children snorting solvent as a way to escape hunger, which I regularly saw in the streets of Manila when I was in college.

How much exposure did the band receive if they promoted “Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw” independently/DIY style?
We decided to self-release the demo with what we have already finished and included a live version of "Hamog". It had a great reception to those who were able to discover it, which includes you, Asphyxium Zine and John Sorrel of Morgue Rot. But the coverage was too miniscule since not so many people have already seen or heard of us before. The 2018 demo was re-released early this year in cassette tape format by the local label, Metal Choice Cut Records. It helped us reached more people and we were very grateful for that to MCCR.

How did you hook up with Metal Choice Cut Records to re-release the demo? How hard is the label working to promote it?
It was our former bassist, Andrew Estipona (Ganid/Dead Humanity/Sodomized Assault) who hooked us up with Rommel Malunes of Metal Choice Cut Records. I thought this would be a good refresher and promotion since we are also planning to release our debut album on the same year. Though it was clear to us that MCCR doesn’t market or promote their releases the way other labels would do but it did helped our music reached a lot of metalheads in the country who never have heard of us before.

List the songs appearing on “Sa Bunganga ng Pagkabaliw”. Who in the band wrote them and what was the inspiration?
"Botod", " Ang Libing na naipundar ni Jetro R Soler", and the live version of "Hamog" were all recorded with me on the same duties, Philip Lopez on guitars, Mark Saguibo on bass, and Elpidio Herrera on drums.
"Botod" was the second song we wrote back in 2006. It talks about greed, which not only our oppressors possess, but all of us do. In my opinion, we just have to be aware of it, of course restrain it, tie it in chains, and tell it to fuck off.
"Ang Libing na naiupundar ni Jetro R Soler" translates to "The earnt funeral of Jetro R Soler". In case you are wondering who that is, well, he's me. Jetro R Soler is an anagram of my name, Jorel Torres. He represents my fear of dying without leaving a good blot on the world. The song speaks of a bleak funeral of a man, who was left by his family and lived and died extremely poor. Both on account of his own fault.
"Hamog" is what we call street children here in the Philippines. The song actually originated from the first song we wrote back in 2006 entitled "Larawan ng Pilipinas" or "Portrait of the Philippines". It was also inspired by the streets of Manila where street children, vagrants, snatchers, and prostitutes dwell. I changed it to "Hamog" because I thought it might be taken out of context and the subject is too limited to sum up and be called "Portrait of the Philippines". When we revised this song, we linked it to all our other songs, and the children mentioned in this song then became the main characters of our debut album “Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin”.

Numerous Filipino bands talk about the poverty in their country. Has the band heard from any listeners who have said they have a better understanding of it now?
I think it’s natural for artists from third world countries like us to speak of not only poverty but all those social horrors, injustices, and hypocrisy in our society, although we have different takes on it. Listeners expressed appreciation over the lyrics because I think they can relate to what the songs were speaking of. I don't know if one does possess a better understanding of poverty over another but we are all aware of it, and to most like me, have seen or experienced it firsthand.

How does the band convey their feelings about poverty after seeing it firsthand in the Philippines?
Poverty is a sickness. It shouldn't be there but you have to acknowledge that it's there and that the condition is not mild .It has to be fought by a combination of a lot of things: through education, through working hard for your family and loved ones, by trying to ensure your kids don’t end up becoming the victim neither becoming the future oppressors, by speaking and doing something against social injustices, crime, and corruption, by not falling prey to those who claim to support the poor but are actually capitalizing on poverty.

Metal bands are often thought to have little influence on fighting poverty. However, since your lyrics are aimed at those who listen to your music, do you feel you are making a start that will eventually lead to positive change?
I hope so, otherwise these songs will be in vain. Our goal is to stir the hearts and minds of people, to think to themselves how do we get out of this situation.

How do underground bands and zine editors in your country able to sustain activity amidst the day to day poverty?
Don't get us wrong. Poverty is rampant but not everybody suffers from it. Most artists have the money to sustain their passion, some don't.

Besides that the band was able to record all the songs they intended, how is “Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin” an improvement from your debut EP?
Besides commitment and productivity, the quality of the music has significantly improved, most especially the drums. Don't get me wrong, Elpidio did a great job on the earlier recorded songs especially on "Ang Libing na naipundar ni Jetro R Soler" but Jux is a beast of a drummer! Technicality, speed, and ferocity-wise, the drums are a huge improvement. I also feel like Mark's basslines shines on the most recent recorded songs. We made sure on the mix that the audience can hear clearly the amazing work Mark has done on these songs, those beautifully crafted basslines that terraformed the songs.

What role does Jux and Mark's experience in other bands play in how closely they connect with Dalisay's music?
Jux and Mark are heavily influenced by Thrash. They would always say - "let's go faster than that!” And I believe that is what listeners can expect from us on the follow up album.

On what label did you release “Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin” when it came out? Encyclopedia Metallum says it was released on Screaming Skull Records but I wanted to check with you.
"Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin" was released by Surrogate Records (Ukraine) on CD format, and by Screaming Skull Records (Norway) on cassette format.
Are Surrogate Records and Screaming Skull Records doing a good job helping the band find new listeners in their respective countries?
I think so, and we are grateful for both labels in having faith in our opus, even if it's in a language that not many can understand.

Is the band interested in distribution deals with labels in other countries, such as the United States, Mexico, and Australia?
We’re hoping for that opportunity. Our goal is to spread our music and the stories they carry to as many people as possible.

Are your streaming and social media sites generating interest in countries where the band is not signed yet?
We have some positive feedback already from zines/blogs from other countries. I think that is that one of the good things about globalization and the internet.

While the pandemic continues, is the band collecting equipment to record at home? When and how will the band record new material when the time comes?
We are planning to upgrade our gears to achieve a better sound, if the situation permits it. Nevertheless, regardless whether we upgrade or not, what is important is that we finish the next project on the quality parallel to this debut at the minimum.

What musical and recording equipment does the band have to work with at present?
We're just utilizing our instruments and interface for recording. I'm not a heavy user of effects. I just have my dirt pedal and a noise gate. Mark's and Jux's are basically the same. Bass, drum kit and interface.

Back to when you were working with Inconnu Ictu, are you interested in returning to that psychedelic/industrial sound he helped to accentuate in your music? Or if you wanted to expand your sound, would you dabble in something else?
I don't think so, but that doesn't mean that we're closing our doors on that possibility. On the song "Ang Trahedya ng Dalisay at Ketungin" we tried to dabble into the seventies progressive rock sound. Maybe we can explore it further, but we don't want to force things. We'll incorporate whatever the next songs will require of us.

In other words, you and the band are more comfortable with being "natural progressors" than forcing growth for the sake of being “open-minded”?
Yes though that doesn't mean that we don't put effort into becoming better at our craft. We just don't want to incorporate elements that are nonsensical to the songs for the sake of being different.

In their own way, the band blends thrash and death metal well enough. What has made this fusion unique so far, and how will you continue to blend them together in the future?
Thanks for that compliment. A lot of bands have done it really well like old Sepultura. I think the use of our mother tongue has a lot to do with why we sound unique. It gives the sound that element of exoticism.
We'll still do the same approach as we move forward, which is bringing in elements according to the need of the songs and not for whatever reason outside that.

Sam Dunn’s “Global Metal” documentary shows how much metal bands in many countries are incorporating native languages, native traditions and native myths into their music since the 90s and 2000s. Do you think metal will continue to grow in this direction? Where will Dalisay fit with this dynamic?
I hope so and I hope it gets faster. There are many shades, elements, & cultures, that are yet to be dabbled into by this extreme genre. Dalisay is honored to be a part of it.

-Dave Wolff

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