Interview with vocalist and guitarist Nonoy Padrejuan
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: September 4, 2022
The Philippines probably isn't the first place one might start searching for new metal bands. However, nearly every country has at least a small underground metal scene, though some may be more underground than others due to religious and government disapproval. This might be difficult to understand for those of us who live in more tolerant countries, but that is for another time.
Fortunately, The Philippines isn't a country in which a musician might lose fingers or a whole arm for playing metal music. I wrote the recent article dealing with the underground metal scene of The Philippines, I found many hidden gems that were simply screaming to be discovered by metal fans around the world. One band that struck me in particular was an intense 4-piece thrash metal unit named Paganfire, who have existed since 2003 and have released a respectable amount of music.
I contacted the band's head honcho, vocalist and guitarist Nonoy Padrejuan, and he was more than eager to tell his story both as a part of his band and the underground scene of The Philippines.
How's life far away from Finland, in the Philippines? Did you have a lockdown of some sort going on due to this darn virus?
Nonoy: Hey Luxi! As always it is a third-world struggle in our part of the world. Elections are just over, and the dictator's family is back! Fuck this shit!!!
Ask for the lockdown, yes, we did have our fair share of it, and even as things are being relaxed the Department of Health says cases are rising again. It just sucks to be stuck in this hellhole when things like this happen. We'll see what the future will bring.
HARD TIMES REQUIRE HARD MUSICIANS
We are here to talk about your band, Paganfire, which was apparently formed in 2003, right? What made you decide to form the band in the first place?
Nonoy: Okay, here we go. Jay and I started playing our favorite thrash anthems in 1999 and after some key lineup changes in 2001 we started to use the name Paganfire and there was no turning back! We formed the band to serve as a middle finger right in the faces of the so-called Manila scene as no one was playing true underground thrash, just baggy pants wearing pretenders.
Was it hard to find like-minded musicians to play with you who shared similar ideas about what Paganfire should be all about both music and image-wise?
Nonoy: Oh yes, it definitely was as everyone else was just trendy to the core. It was just fortunate that I was editing a zine, so I got to meet interesting people and this was how Alvaro and I met, via our zines. To me, things were more interesting pre-internet, because most who were into this subculture then were more genuine. And for the record, to this day we are still evolving as to what PAGANFIRE should be as times are changing and we need to survive.
How did the band name Paganfire come into being? Did you have alternatives, or did the words "pagan" and "fire" sort of click right away? Does the name have any deeper meaning or is it just a cool band name?
Nonoy: It was our old bassist/vocalist Dennis who thought of the name. He was into black metal and such, and since we were saw each other as total maniacs, we decided to keep the name. The flames of the ancient ones will always burn!!
EARLY INSPIRATIONS AND/OR INFLUENCES
What were some of the bands that you admired back in the day that were there as some of your main inspirations and influences?
Nonoy: Standard thrash metal stuff like Slayer, Metallica, D.R.I., Sodom, Kreator, Exodus and a whole lot more than I can't list without being boring!
As for Paganfire, some other common references would be Venom, Iron Maiden, Agnostic Front, Order from Chaos, Holy Terror, Demolition Hammer, Rigor Mortis, Celtic Frost, Sepultura, etc.
What was it like when you recorded your 4-track debut demo titled Tasteless Revenge in 2004? Can you still remember how it felt to get your first-ever demo recorded and out to the fans? Does that demo still makes you proud even today?
Nonoy: The first demo was Mabangis! Marahas!, a rehearsal demo, which was totally rough and raw. Tasteless Revenge is the re-recorded version of Mabangis! It has the same four songs but with a different sound. We were excited, to say the least, when both of these releases happened, and we were even more excited to spread them around. We will always proudly release demos as this is how we do it, as a true underground DYI thrash band. We write, record, and just put it out! As simple as that really.
Old Cemetery Records from the States reissued that demo in 2010, with your 4-track 2006 demo, Dudurog Lilipol! as a bonus. How did your cooperation with the label get started?
Nonoy: Let me correct you. Only two tracks from Dudurog! were on there and the other two were rejected mixes from the recording session we were doing back then. As always, I spread the material around and saw Old Cemetery and decided to contact them. We did a few trades first then I forwarded a promo pack and from there it got rolling. Hails to Chris and Old Cemetery!!
DO IT YOURSELF
Before we start talking about the band's debut album, released in 2013, you did a bunch of splits, demos, etc. between 2004 and 2012. I am curious to know why you did not put all your energies and time into getting your debut album released earlier than 2013? Was there a lack of label interest?
Nonoy: Again, as a tiny DIY band, we felt that doing all those splits and demos were a must. They were the only way to spread our name around as we never had MySpace or our own web site, so we just did the best with what we had (which were promo packs and a nearby post office), plus all the recordings are self-financed and we needed to get our money back to buy more beer!! You are partly correct because we were never trendy or decided to be the flavor of the month, so I guess labels didn't see a quick sell with us.
Your 8-song debut album, Wreaking Fear and Death, was originally released in 2013 and since then it's had a bunch of reissues. According to some information, the album was recorded at Sumata Studio, Quezon City, between October 2011 and June 2012. Since you guys were already experienced around the studio environment, I need to ask why it took so many months to get it fully recorded? You recorded the album in several parts, during weekends only? Is my assumption correct?
Nonoy: You are 100% correct. We only got to work on the album on weekends every two weeks when we got paid. Again, this is self-financed with a very tight budget as you can hear. We felt we were ready and thought we were a "band" good enough to do it, so we did.
How was your debut album received, specifically in your home country? Did the release bring some cool gig opportunities?
Nonoy: Overall, the response was just great! We were honored that the true maniacs of metal sunk their teeth into it! As expected, trendies stayed away which is always good. Perhaps good gigs happened as we played most cities that had metal maniacs and people in neighboring Malaysia invited us to play too, so I guess the album served its purpose to get the name out and make some headbanging action!!!
PLAYING LIVE IN THE PHILIPPINES
How is the club scene for metal hands in your country?
Nonoy: As long as you can pay the clubs you are playing, you are allowed to do so, just don't hope for a sold-out show. Audience turnout is always hit or miss. I speak for myself when I say we do it DIY; book the club, get a good backline, have like-minded maniacal bands to play with, have fun and get drunk. I know some bands get write-ups in some major newspapers, but it doesn't affect CD sales or show attendance. Tabloids are for gossips and sex scandals and will not be for metal... NEVER!!
You have played many gigs with Paganfire over the years. Is there one particular gig that has stuck in your mind for some reason or other and can you tell us why this gig was so important?
Nonoy: There are so many details embedded in my head about memorable shows, hahaha! We have seen a bit of everything; fights, idiot organizers, rockstar bands and other characters especially when we play other people's shows or those types that you get invited to, not unlike if it's our self-organized shows or gigs under the "Apoy ng Kamunduhan" banner. It's just good METAL and drinking fun, nobody's an asshole.
To answer your query, I would say that the gigs in other cities and Malaysia are all special to me because I never thought those would happen and we are eager to engage again sooner or later.
How is the pandemic situation in the Philippines nowadays? Are live gigs allowed over there at this time?
Nonoy: Right now (June 21, 2022) gigs are here again, and things are more relaxed than in 2020 and 2021. No more lockdowns or curfew at the moment, but still we are plagued by vicious third-world realities that seem to never go away.
Of all the releases you have done so far in the past 21 years or so, which of them are you most proud of and why?
Nonoy: I like them all but since you asked, I will try...
Mabangis! Marahas! demo 2004 – this is where it all began, a total middle finger to the face of all who crave overproduced trendy bands. True underground thrash.
Wreaking Fear and Death, our debut album, which further showed the true underground thrash metal that we are doing.
Of Deathblades and Bloodsoaked Paths..., the second album, done after a few years, due to numerous challenges including the pandemic!! A 6-track scorcher of true underground thrash metal done by maniacs for maniacs!
Tasteless Revenge - the rerecording of the debut demo which made the rounds years ago, our first studio outing, a lot of memories with this one, but that is for another day!!
Vehemence Ensue - another 4-track studio affair, with good songs but studio inexperience is very evident, but still a scorcher!!
All the splits and re-releases we have done as they are all testaments of true underground attitude and cooperation. Thanks to all bands we have done splits with, you all rule!!
The Philippines has a very fertile underground metal scene and, to me, it's a real pity that not so many metal heads abroad know much about it. Do you believe that due to its location, The Philippines' potential to produce quality metal bands is kind of left in the shadows as many see it as too much effort and time to invest money into the metal bands coming from your country, no matter how talented and skilled they may be?
Nonoy: Talent-wise, there is a lot to discover in this country of ours. Many can really play well. Business-wise it's a bad investment as in this place there is no support system for such bands. People won't go and buy your stuff, so obviously it can't be expected to move in other territories. Then if you consider the sociopolitical aspect of living here and how it reflects with the personas and their bands, it will be more disappointing. To me it will be better if Philippine Metal is left on its own as it has been. No boom. No groundbreaking anything, just a bunch of true bands and individuals lurking in the darkness of hell.
Besides Paganfire (of corpse!), what are some of the names in the underground metal scene of your country that people should keep their eyes out for? Name at least 5-6 bands that deserve more attention and respect in your opinion.
Nonoy: Another tough one! I will try; here we go again...
Corrupt Insanity - Main man Edward Santos (vocals and bass) is a true metalhead and has been at it since I don't know!!
Sacrosanct - Another long-playing act from Tarlac, Kaloy is also one mad motherfucker and that along should be reason enough for them to be checked out!
Amaranhig – Because they play old-school death metal the right way!!
Karimlan – I don't know what they are into. Is it black metal? Is it punk? Does it matter? Just check 'em out and be the judge!
All mentioned have releases that are somewhere in the underground. You should hunt them down. You won't be disappointed!
What things motivate you to keep the band going day after day, week after week, and so on?
Nonoy: Simple answer to this one is PASSION, nothing more!! As metal is life... no metal, no life!!
What would like to achieve in the future with Paganfire?
Nonoy: In the future we want to put out more albums on vinyl and to embark on a European tour. Seriously, I want rehearsals to be more often and to finally have a home recording set up in my house. Write, record, and release more thrashing metal madness is what we will do.
Hey, that's all I had in my mind for this conversation with you, Nonoy. Thanks for your time and wishing you all the best with any endeavors with the band from this day on. If you have anything to add, then be my guest. The rest of this space is reserved for you, bro... ;o)
Nonoy: No, thanks to you! For your interest with Paganfire and the Philippine metal and whatever it is that we have over here!! My apologies for the delay, also. Sometimes life gets in the way of metal, and I hate that!!
Good luck with all your endeavors and I hope your Philippine metal hunt will be fruitful. Our second album, Of Deathblades... is still up for download/streaming, just look it up!! Physical versions are still in the works, hopefully some will be out by the time this gets online.
Anyone interested with trades just drop us a line! Rip-offs, just FUCK OFF!! Contact us at: https://paganfire-ph.bandcamp.com or https://www.facebook.com/Paganfireph-107812518268313 KAMATAYAN SA HUWAD NA METAL!!!
|Other information about Paganfire on this site|
|Review: Of Deathblades and Bloodsoaked Paths...|
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