I became a member of a band quite by accident. It wasnít some pre-pubescent fantasy that drove me to pick up an electric guitar. When I was a kid, my standard answer to the query what do you want to be when youíd grow up was that I wanted to be a scientist. I actually remember fantasizing boiling colored chemicals in my own basement lab with a multi-armed robot as an assistant. Please donít laugh.
I think it was all some freakish twist of fate that I ended up where I am: the lead vocalist for Sheila and the Insects.
Point of fact, when I was invited by Ian to join the band, the first and only band I had ever been part of until now, I couldnít sing shit and I couldnít play the guitar to save my life. I remember back then, I had somehow managed to learn the harmonica albeit crudely but that was it. The singing I did if you could call it that, was merely a weak offshoot of the vocalization exercises in grade school music class where the only motivation to sing well and on key was to avoid catching the teacherís attention. I never did master the scales then but I did become very proficient at lip-syncing.
In short, I had little talent nor potential to speak of if at all. The only reason, I learned much later, why Ian thought I should front his band was because he thought I was tall enough. Simply put, he just didnít want his 6 foot lanky frame to stand out too much on stage. Probably a minor motivation was that he thought I had the right voice quality he was looking for: baritone with good enough diction. Never mind that I had never picked up a microphone other than to deliver political speeches in campus. Never to sing.
And thatís another thing. As a very visible student leader, (I was the student council president in college) and student activist back then, I didnít exactly evoke Ďrock coolnessí. Imagine loose batik polo shirts and a Mao cap as part of my daily wardrobe. And donít get me started on my footwear then. If I was playing in a world music band, it would have been almost agreeable, yet far from it, we were actually playing covers of mostly British new wave acts. I was totally clueless. Worse, I didnít know it. Then again, isnít that what clueless means.
But I decided anyway that Iíd give it a try. I jammed and pretty much made a fool of myself and the band on our first few outings. On our early gigs, half the audience must have been snickering while the other half, probably couldnít figure out if we were serious or trying to be funny. I sucked, period, and I know this for a fact because I still have tapes of our old recordings. One of these days, Iím going to sneak out to the dirty kitchen and burn all of them once and for all lest they slip into the hands of blackmailers. Ah, but did we have fun back then. We all thought we were the greatest undiscovered band in the whole world. Yes we sucked and we hadnít a care in the world, and we stuck it out.
The years went by quickly enough. Along the way, I learned a few crude things about the workings of the guitar fretboard enough for me to construct chords, compose licks and, eventually, to write songs. Surprisingly, I also improved my singing slowly but surely enough that I worried less and less about flying tomatoes. False or otherwise, my confidence grew.
Now, years later, we have a fourth album available in stores all over the Philippines. Our songs are being played on radio and our videos are in rotation in music channels. Weíre not rich but believe it or not, we actually have fans now. I guess I turned out ok.
Maybe in the end, it was the right attitude that made all the difference. No matter how much we sucked, we never did quit. Back then, it wasnít about making a hit song or showing off killer guitar moves on stage. It was all just about having a good time. It still is for us. I think thatís why weíve lasted this long. 13 years in the same band is a long time, right?
Now, is there a lesson in all this? There could be. Hereís my take on all this: Life turns up so many unexpected junctions down the road. You make a left and you could end up in a rock band; or you make a right and you could end up the president of the republic. But rather than doing the right thing for the wrong reason and becoming a politician, isnít it better to do the wrong thing for the right reason to end up a musician?