The Diegos and their music

by Katherine Visconti, Princeton-in-Asia Fellow

Posted at Feb 16 2011 10:22 AM | Updated as of Feb 16 2011 11:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - On Tuesday, February 15, Tease featured musicians Diego Mapa, 30, and Diego Castillo, 35.

Diego Castillo and Diego Mapa, a.k.a. The Diegos, refuse to be limited to a single music genre.

Castillo is the lead guitarist and backup vocalist for Sandwich, a popular Filipino rock group.

Meanwhile, Mapa has a music venture to suit each of his tastes. There’s Cambio his hard pop rock outlet, Pedicab, his new wave dance outlet, Eggboy, his solo electronic outlet and Monsterbot, his outlet for noise.

Together the men form a DJ duo called The Diegos that refuses to be limited to a single genre. They easily transition from classic rock, like The Beatles, to electronica, like The Chemical Brothers.

Becoming 'The Diegos'

A mutual friend, milliner Mich Dulce, first invited them to DJ together. They told her they didn’t know how to DJ but they knew how to press play. They brought their CDs and switched from one song they liked to the next. “It actually wasn’t terrible,” they agreed now.

After that encounter, they pursued DJing independently. But Diego Mapa and Diego Castillo were booked together so many times, they decided to help promoters publicizing via text and just became The Diegos.

At gigs, one Diego lays down a song. Then it’s up to the other Diego to figure out the best ‘beat match’--a way to meld the beats of 2 songs together so the crowd feels like they’re dancing to one continuous song.

Castillo said, “I won’t lie. Straight DJing sometimes can just be boring. You only need X amount of hours. It’s like you’re on autopilot already, unlike playing live… (where) you can do whatever the hell you want at a certain point.”

 But Castillo said the live beat matching takes on a different element all together. The Diegos get to go off tangent. They spontaneously build off one another. “We try not to plan anything,” they said off the cuff but in tandem.

Castillo makes his living entirely from playing music. He said, “In a Third World country, what we do is insanely lucky. Even in San Francisco, I can’t just be in a band and make money. I have my cake and eat it too. We both do. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t feel lucky.”

Castillo's work always related to music. Before he became a full-time musician, he worked at a record label for 5 years, at MTV as a screenwriter, and at UNTV as the director of "Manic Pop Thrill".

Mapa writes jingles on the side of his band gigs. But he said, “The fact that I’m still playing and already have a family, that’s my success.” He thought he would have to quit 5 years ago when his son was born.

Doing their own music

Castillo and Mapa pride themselves in producing original music. Castillo said, “There are a lot of bands here (in the Philippines) but there might be a handful of bands that are more adventurous than mainstream rock.”

He cites the local Pinoy '80s band Violent Playground as a decisive musical influence. They came to play at Castillo’s high school when he was only 14. They were the first band he saw live. They were the first band he heard playing their own music. And they hit a cord. “I thought if they can do it, maybe I can study to play guitar and do my own music.”

Castillo said, “I figure if you do a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, they’ll always beat you because those are the Peppers. There will always be a band out there that can play it better than what you’re playing… They (Violent Playground) took it a step higher and said, 'We’ll screw covers. We’ll just do our own songs.'”

Mapa claims inspiration from the Eraserheads. The Diegos like how the iconic Pinoy rock band played about brownouts and other topics Filipino kids can connect to.

After the Eraserheads broke up, Mapa was able to help the band. He joined the remaining members so they could finish the countrywide tour they had already committed to. The new lineup became his current group, Cambio.

Now he said, “I like being in a band because that’s what I love to do. I like to play music. I like to DJ. If I can earn from this, I’d rather do it than be at a day job. I tried that before, a day job. But I think I’m earning more doing the thing I love. When you’re doing what you’re good at, I think that’s where you’re going to earn."

Tease is hosted by Ginger Conejero and Quark Henares. It airs on Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. on ANC and replays on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. and Sundays at 9 p.m.