Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kamikazee: Tattooed Love Boys

ONE of the highlights of the annual Dutdutan tattoo fest is the multi-band concert that features both rock and hip-hop artists. A featured performer in this concert is Kamikazee featuring its, uh, "highly-decorated" frontman, Jay Contreras.

Back in 2006, I wrote about this band for the Manila Bulletin. Back then, they were smokin' hot with their breakout sophomore release, Maharot that featured several big hits including concert staples like "Chixsilog" and "Narda." Even with the huge exposure that turned the band into a household name, they wouldn't release their follow-up release, Long Time Noisy, until three years later.

Here's a slightly revised version about what I had to say about the band back then:

Kamikazee sends everyone else running for covers

JAY Contreras performs with the same gung ho spirit and reckless abandon as the World War II Japanese suicide pilots that his band was named after. Beyond the kid’s countless tattoos, the wavy long hair and the trademark goatee is a poker face and mischievous grin that seems to tell all of us, “I got you all figured out.”

Well, Jay and the rest of Kamikazee (Jomal Linao and Led Tuyay on guitars, Allan “Bords” Burdeos on drums and Jason “Puto” Astete on bass) do seem to have everyone figured out these days. The band has scored two consecutive hits (“Narda” and “Chixsilog”) that most, if not all of us, can’t help but sing or hum along with whenever and wherever they're played. They also have a wildly anticipated live show that is almost always the highlight of just about every major rockfest that they find themselves booked in including last year’s Studio 23’s Myx Mo, the 2005 NU Rock Awards (where they bagged the Best Live Act award) and just recently, the latest staging of Pulp Summerslam at Amoranto Stadium.

And if that wasn’t good enough, their latest CD, Maharot (which means flirty) features no less than veteran actress and recent FHM cover girl Eula Valdez on the CD cover sleeve. In probably one of the most memorable album cover art in recent history, it has Eula standing like a goddess beside the cherubic-like boys in all their half-naked and heavily-tattooed glory, as if these guys just died and all went to Kamikazee heaven. Some guys simply have all the luck, huh?

It wasn’t always this way for the UP Fine Arts contemporaries that started six years ago sans Jay with the name Green Leafy Vegetables. Later changing it to Kamikazee Corn Flakes, they eventually settled with simply Kamikazee.

Although they were actually noticed and signed by a major label that released their hastily-put together debut CD, it was a bad time for Kamikazee or any other band for that matter, to make waves, as jukebox balladeers like Renz Verano and acoustic popsters like Nyoy Volante were the flavors of the moment then.

“We were in a hurry to finish that album, ” Jomal recalls. “Most of the songs were also in English and were actually written in the studio during our recording sessions. We didn’t put much thought into it.”

“Hindi bumenta!” as Jay himself would often exclaim onstage is what pretty much summed the ultimate fate of that CD. Be that as it may, the album still scored three NU 107 radio hits in “Ung Tagalog,” “Girlfriend” and concert favorite, “Chinelas” and established a cult following of sorts for the band, who loved the band’s unique and often rollicking fusion of punk, metal and yes, comedy. A hilarious cover of Britney Spears’ cheesy hit, “Lucky” led to the band’s an equally funny animated music video that later snagged the Best Music Video plum at the 2003 MTV Pilipinas Music Awards.

After that, their recording career read like a telegram. Nothing followed. In radio lingo, dead air. Any other band would have packed up their bags and called it a day. Not Kamikazee. Like the Energizer bunny that they can be easily compared with, they just kept going and going and going.

“There was a time when we actually played to an almost empty crowd,” Puto recalls. “We were playing in Oracafe one night when there was a heavy typhoon. Isa lang ang tao dun but we still played a whole set for him and he was very happy he came that night. Sabi nya sa amin later, sulit na sulit daw yung gabi nya.”

The band’s perseverance eventually paid off and a second chance came when they were asked to be a part of Rok On!, an album featuring music inspired by Ragnarok, the phenomenal online role-playing game by Level-Up Games. Kamikazee’s contribution, “Chixsilog” was easily the most popular song in the CD.

“Yung Chixsilog eh tungkol sa mga lalaking gumagamit ng babaeng character pag naglalaro sila ng Ragnarok,” says Jay. “Ginagawa nila yun para may makilala silang gamers na type nila.” Oh, chicks with eggs, huh?

In any case, the band found its second wind and the next thing they knew, gigs are once again aplenty and another major label, Universal Records gave them a crack at a new full-length release. And now we have Maharot.

“We were going to call it Jomal Pogi sana,” Puto and Led choruses. “But we stuck with Maharot because it’s the word that what we think encompasses what the album and the music in it is all about,” counters Jomal. “Mas masaya kami with this CD kasi mas gigil na gigil kami, mas napag-isipan at mas nagawa naming yung gusto naming gawin dito.”

Despite its references to Mars Ravelo’s now immortalized superheroine, Jay says “Narda” can easily be about any guy who find it hard to be within striking distance to the girl of his dreams. “Kaya nga sabi namin sa kanta, ang suwerte naman ni Ding,” Jay continues. “Kasi nga, the kid is the only guy who can get close to Narda. Pinapasan pa siya pag nagiging Darna na, di ba?” With not just one but two versions of the song (and two music videos to boot), Kamikazee is finally a household name thanks to this irresistible powerpop ditty.

Still, naysayers are quick to compare their humor-laden rock with that of Parokya Ni Edgar, something that the band has no problem at all. “It’s true that Parokya ni Edgar has been a big influence for us as is the band Cheese. Barkada naman namin sila and we hung out together a lot so we don’t mind being compared to them. Sobrang idol namin sila eh.”

As for the choice of Eula Valdez, who incidentally is a self-proclaimed rock fan herself, the band admits that the former Bagets star who is now a mainstay of prime time soap operas is a long-time crush. “Like Pia Guanio,” Jay quips. “She was very glad to do it as she said in her FHM interview. She was excited to be a part of the project and she actually watches us whenever she can. We’re textmates na nga eh.”

“Hindi naman mahirap isipin na crush namin si Ms. Eula eh. Kahit naman kayo, sir, nagagandahan sa kanya, di ba?,” Jay teases with that mischievous grin on his face again. You know, come to think of it, I always did have this schoolboy infatuation on the one time Amor Powers. Well, what can I say? I told you these guys have us all figured out.

Watch Kamikazee's video of "Wala," a single from current album, Long The Noisy:

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