Four days after Linkin Park’s lead singer Chester Bennington died on July 20, 2017, Filipino metal band Slapshock was performing in Cavite when they decided to pay tribute to him.
Slapshock performed Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer” to a pogoing crowd.
A few days after the show, I spoke with Slapshock’s vocalist and lyricist Jamir Garcia about the tribute.
“That’s an interesting choice for a song to perform for a tribute given its sense of being on the edge,” I pointed out.
Garcia grinned: “I know. Sometimes, expressing yourself in music isn’t enough.”
I didn’t press for him to elaborate.
Three years later, November 26, Garcia, in an ironic twist of fate, died. Just like Bennington did. And I couldn’t help but think of Slapshock’s song, “Get Down” from their third album "Project 11-41" (that happens to be my favorite from their discography).
In the song opener, Garcia wrote:
“Too many people, too many sequels repeated so many times.
But I still won't be able to put away my people's trouble.
I'm dealing with evils who think they're the kings and nobles.
To them we're like animals who get beat up.
How many times we gonna gamble?”
In the third verse, Garcia went on:
“So just glide and start reminiscin'
I'm so sick and tired of bein' a victim of everyone's criticism
So better listen, this generation has been infested
With a lot of wrong information.”
Eerily, it reminds me of Linkin Park’s “One Step Closer” that goes:
“I cannot take this anymore.
I'm saying everything I've said before.
All these words they make no sense.
I find bliss in ignorance.
Less I hear the less you'll say.
But you'll find that out anyway.
Just like before.
Everything you say to me
Takes me one step closer to the edge,
And I'm about to break.
I need a little room to breathe.
'Cause I'm one step closer to the edge,
And I'm about to break.”
Twenty-three years after Slapshock formed, the band has come to an unlikely end with internal turmoil and now Garcia’s death. Yet prior to all this, the band had not gone gently into the good night.
Over that span, they had put out seven full-length albums, two extended play singles, and three compilations. Their live shows continued to be packed with their popularity showing no signs of abating.
In fact, in December 2017, Garcia remarked, “What is incredible about what is happening to us is we are performing for a second generation of fans; kids who weren’t even born when '4th Degree Burn' (the band’s debut album) was released in 1999. We look at the people moshing in the front row, and they are kids. We’re blessed.”
Like their fans, Slapshock had shown a remarkable ability to adapt.
When rap and nu metal seized the alternative music scene by the jugular in the late 1990s and battered all opposition into submission, the local music scene followed suit in the Philippines with bands like Cheese, Greyhoundz, and Slapshock at the forefront.
While Greyhoundz and Cheese (later Queso) were uncompromising in their sonic assault, Slapshock did not step off the gas pedal but took a different track.
Slapshock already had two best-selling albums to their name -- their debut "4th Degree Burn" and "Headtrip" -- when they performed with alt-rock heroes Rivermaya during their Live and Acoustic Show at the Music Museum in May 2002. Slapshock appeared on Rivermaya’s album performing three tracks – “Slap vs. Freak,” “Agent Orange,” and "Madapaka.”
It is an unlikely pairing outside the now defunct NU Rock Awards. In fact, the only other time there was such a disparate live album was "Soundcheck: The Live Recordings" that featured Greyhoundz, Wolfgang, Razorback, and comedy rock band Da Pulis.
Even as the "Live and Acoustic" album was released on compact disc and video compact disc two months later, Slapshock went into Rivermaya drummer Mark Escueta’s home studio to record what would be the demos that would make up their third album, "Project 11-41."
“Ang galing! The band recorded everything by heart even without Jamir (who was in the United States),” recalled Escueta.
When Garcia returned, they recorded the album with Rivermaya’s Rico Blanco as album producer (with Escueta performing percussion on a couple of tracks).
The result was a slick and melodic nu metal album-- and arguably their best effort. The experimental album came out in August 2002 with tracks that proved to be classics such as “Get Down,” “Queen Paranoia,” and “Numb” to name a few.
The songwriting and overall band performance was Slapshock taking their music to a higher level.
This was the band at their best. They had won back-to-back NU Rock Awards for Artist of the Year in 2001 and 2002. "Project 11-41" was also nominated for the Awit Awards’ Album of the Year.
And they released one hit album after another. Among all the local metal bands that came up in the late 1990s, they were the one with staying power.
From new metal, they switched to metalcore. They recorded the "Night Owls EP" in the United States in 2014 with noted System of a Down’s Shavo Odadjian and rock producer Terry Date, as well as John Greenham whose work on Billie Eilish, Ice Cube, and Katy Perry among others has made him one of the most sought after music mastering engineers in the world today.
Recalled Slapshock’s manager Kevin Arnedo: “'Night Owls' was our first US record deal. We were pressured to write songs because we had a deadline. Chi (Evora) worked on his drumming because we knew Terry Date and Shavo were going to be working with us. We arrived in the US with the songs not fully formed. Jamir used the storage room of our Los Angeles apartment to record his vocal tracks. This was the hardest record to make but it was the most fulfilling.”
"Night Owls" is a milestone in Filipino rock music history as it pushed the envelope on production and collaboration.
Arnedo also pointed out Garcia’s propensity for working under pressure. “During the 'Carino Brutal' EP recording, Jamir spent a whole day writing the lyrics. Then in the evening, he was laying down his vocal tracks.”
The band was looking forward to the recording of their eighth album when their recent troubles hit a boiling point.
“It’s a tough way to end,” lamented one fan who worked closely with the band and yet refused to be identified. “Hopefully, the good times will overshadow everything else.”