Except for an unaccounted minority that has made efforts to broaden its musical perspective by scouring cyberspace for iPod-worthy artists, the only recognizable artist the Philippines has experienced when it comes to Danish music, sadly, is Michael Learns to Rock.
The Asteroids Galaxy Tour’s performance in a recent festival doesn’t even figure significantly, since only a few people saw it.
Last week, however, Vokadin, an up-and-coming punk rock band from Denmark, made it to our shores for a series of gigs around Metro Manila, offering an aggressive kind of music that is more biting than what most of us are used to.
Vokadin was formed in Copenhagen in 2010. The band released its self-titled debut EP under its own label Against Your Records the following year. 2013 marked a major feat for the band with the release of “My Fix Before Yours,” its first full-length album.
With band members Mads Aarby (vocals, guitar) Oliver Hunter (bass, vocals), Sonny Lembke (lead guitar), Kasper Rasmussen (rhythm guitar) and Max Wincentz (drums), the album was recorded solely on analog equipment and released exclusively on vinyl.
The band had to literally engage in manual labor for the album to be finished. “We had this deal with a man with a studio, a really old analog studio in Denmark, in the same building as our rehearsal room,” recalls Lembke. “And we had this plan to make this album. We actually had to work it off on a boat; we painted his for like 250 hours, I think, so we could have this album finished.”
The album contains 10 tracks that evoke a punk and grunge feel, serving a cocktail of ’70s and ’90s noise-driven rock.
Right off the opening track, “Wild Youth,” the aggression kicks in, and you’ll feel the need to bang your head and hurl your body in different directions.
It sets the mood for the rest of the album, a pumped-up mood that stays even as you slow down a bit and groove to the album’s title track, or succumb to the plump bass intro to the infectious but explicit “Sirene.”
Vodakin is not for everyone though. If you’ve never bothered to listen to Nirvana, Fugazi, Rage Against the Machine or Sonic Youth, and if your ears are not accustomed to screaming vocals laid against layer after layer of distorted guitar shreds, pronounced bass lines and pounding drum work, then listening to Vokadin might not go well with your delicate taste. \
But if you enjoy doses of aggression channeled into making heavy, uninhibited rock music that boasts of thoroughly executed instrumentation, then Vokadin might just be what you need to awaken your senses.
Vokadin attributes the theme behind “My Fix Before Yours” to humanity’s hedonistic pursuits, which, for some, involve drug abuse. Even the band’s name, which is an altered fusion of the words vicodin and vodka, sounds like an addictive substance of some sort.
“Crack Cake” and “Koke” are two of the band’s earlier songs that made it to album, and, based on the titles, it’s easy to conclude what these songs are about.
And while drugs are a topic that only a few would want to talk about, it is not something that would make Vokadin shy away from a discussion. Hunter says, “It’s taboo. You’re not supposed to talk about it, but everyone does it back home.”
Aarby, the band’s front man, admits indulging in substances at the time the album was recorded. “It’s just how it is. In that year there was a lot of crazy partying. Of course we’ve grown a bit older now. It seemed to be a good idea, the right time, in a way, to capture that kind of life we were living.”
Despite everything, you have to give these guys credit; they are every bit as independent as you can get. Producing and releasing albums on their own is one thing, but going on tour and coming to the Philippines without support from a promoter is another.
Their do-it-yourself approach has apparently rubbed off on how they do things. Without the need for royal treatment, they have managed to haul their own equipment to gigs and get around Manila riding taxicabs for transportation.
“We decided to go to the Philippines and play because, of course, we were invited here for this tour. We wanted to discover how rock and roll and punk sounds in the Philippines and Asia, to see the rock and roll scene from a different level. We know the European punk scene, but this is a new country. It’s always nice to get inspired, leaving your daily activity and get away for a while,” Aarby says.
If you’re up for a hard-hitting dose of punk rock and grunge, you might as well catch Vokadin while the band is still here. It has been playing in local bars in the past week, and is slated to perform in a round of gigs in Cebu in the next couple of days.