The Queen of Rock

By Katherine Visconti, Princeton-in-Asia Fellow

Posted at Jan 25 2011 07:57 PM | Updated as of Jan 26 2011 03:58 AM

The Queen of Rock 1MANILA, Philippines - Before Lizza Nakpil managed one of the Philippines' best selling rock bands, Rivermaya, she had never worked in the music industry.

Nakpil started in music management saddled with what she called the double curse. She was an outsider, and she was a woman in a predominantly male industry.

Now, as manager of the hard rock group Wolfgang, she shares her insights into the music business on this Tuesday’s episode of Tease on the ABS-CBN News Channel.

Nakpil sees herself as a director overseeing musicians, the set, and even the last tuning of the guitars. For Rivermaya, she formed the band, reformed the band, and powwowed about the band’s musical direction with other managers.

Initially, industry professionals didn’t take Nakpil seriously. She still remembers her first meeting with many band managers. They tested her music knowledge with one question--where did The Police first perform? When she couldn't answer, they stood up and walked out.

It was in the early nineties that Nakpil heard True Faith's monster hit "Perfect." She recognized an alternative to the usual pop sound and a future for Filipino music.

"We have to have a band just like that," she told her director friend, Chito Roño. 

They called for auditions using a script Nakpil wrote herself, ripping a line from then blockbuster Dracula. "Do you believe in destiny?" ran in a single radio station from midnight to three am. "I said perfect, that’s when all the serial killers are awake."

She may have had little faith in the time slot that announced a hunt for guitar and vocals, but that one plug was enough to wake up a 20-year-old boy asleep in provincial Laguna. Rico Blanco became the keyboardist and songwriter for the band that would eventually become Rivermaya.

Nakpil and Roño formed a group and worked quickly to book gigs. Before they were able to perform though, Nakpil fired the vocalist. "Gorgeous kid, great vocals but didn't do the work. I kicked him out on an impulse," she said.

The impulse paid off.

The Queen of Rock 2Nakpil called in another kid she always saw hanging around the bassist, Nathan Azarcon. His name was Bamboo Mañalac. At the auditions, Bamboo was only through the first lines of 'Man in the Mirror' when Chito Roño called him an amateur and left. Nakpil ran after the director. She told Roño they would get him singing lessons. Bamboo, she said, had a unique voice.

Nakpil relies on her instincts. She knows other managers who listen to everything on air. But, she says, "I really do not listen to music as a recreational thing because... then you’re training your ear, you’re acquiring certain tastes, you’re not like a blank slate."

She believes, "If you don't have that expertise you're just going to go for what sounds good in an unforgiving way."

Femininity may be one half of a double curse, but there's also an advantage to being a woman. Nakpil says, "At the end of the day, every Pinoy is a mama's boy. There's something in there that responds to women. There's something in there that when they go for the kill, they may just pause and not go for it."

Nakpil recalls many rock concerts that have become violent. At one, a fan was forcing his way towards the stage in spite of angry security personnel.

Nakpil intervened, pushing concert security aside. She called her reaction an "alpha male move." She knows any man would have been thrown out of the concert for it.

"You can expect that even if you are a bitch, they are not going to slug you," says Nakpil. "In the Philippines they give that respect to women."