ARTSTRONG The multihyphenate force in hiphop How did you get started in music? My dad is a jazz musician so I’m musically oriented in a way, but I wasn’t really interested in music yet. I just incidentally started playing guitars without really knowing that I can actually play. So, by the time I started playing, it just built up. It just happened: I started playing bass, then drums, then keyboards, piano and a bunch of other instruments. I got involved into forming a band, joining a rap group. After learning instruments, I got involved in music production. That was approximately around 1995 with the True Asiatik Tribe for the Mastaplann album. Tell us about the band Third World Project. I became a part of this band called Third World Project after True Asiatik. We were really becoming something already by that time, but the band didn’t make it because of the rockstar complex in each of us. But, you know, that happens. The band didn’t work out but we became friends. We still know each other but nobody is a team player. After Third Word Project broke up, that’s the time people started to notice me as a solo artist. Then after that, I released my solo record with Warner Music Philippines and that turned me into a legend in myself. I didn’t expect that I’d be able to finish a record all by myself. It’s hard to do that.
How was the creation and development of that first solo record? Actually, I was stuck in a dorm. They (Warner) didn’t put me in a room or a real studio. They rented me a dorm and set up a system like this (pointing to his recording equipments) and I had to work 24/7 for 2 months and I had to finish it all by myself. The dorm was in Pearl Drive, in front of this school, UA&P. My neighbors were constantly complaining because I’m really noisy, but I said “Don’t complain! Complain to the label. They put me here!” That was worth it though. It helped me win awards and stuff. But it still got me into a whole new level. How do you write your pieces? I got three ways of writing songs. One is the freestyle writing that I do on the spot. There’s no thought process, just freestyle. Then the second one is what I call “the preparation”. I wake up in the morning and I prepare myself to write. I eat right, I have to think of a topic right and in the afternoon I start drafting. So that’s the thought process. I listen to some references, get some inspiration then write some more. The third one is when I have to write for someone. Like the jingles I did for Nestea and stuff, I have to adapt to what the client wants, not necessarily to what I want. Which sound describes Artstrong best? You gotta find ways to formulate new sounds and that’s what the other crews that came out have done and have conquered (doing it). They got to the top and they got appreciated. Even if we survive in being pure, this is what
the record companies are looking for. You can adapt and make it crazy. You can use the beats with the house music but make it jazzy then it becomes you. That’s what I do. I don’t limit myself to just being a purist. I explore. I think that’s what Artstrong is about. Which genres are your favorites to work on? Reggae, drum and bass, funk, R & B, soul. And jazz, my second nature. When they’re all fused together, it becomes hiphop. When Black Eyed Peas came out, it’s all about disco. So you can’t do anything, you have to adapt. That’s what we do. We adapt and become something else. But, of course, the purists ain’t up for it. “Forget disco, forget the drum and bass, forget the new sound and let’s go back to old school”, which is alright. When you go back to the roots, the roots ain’t gonna leave you. How’s it feel to win ‘Best Jazz’ in the 2005 Awit Awards? It got me scared, actually, because I felt like, man! Now, people are expecting something else. But I feel blessed, now all the struggles and the pain all paid off. All these learning processes, staying up 24/7- it was emotional. I just felt like I am committed into something bigger. How was it fronting for Nas? Nas is like the bomb! He made us step into a whole new level because performing in the Asian Hip Hop Music Festival was something else. This was back in March of 2008 in