The restless Raymund Marasigan


MANILA, Philippines – A quick Google search will tell you that Raymund Marasigan is one of the busiest artists in the Pinoy music scene. He performs in five bands, produces albums for several artists, and plays a variety of musical instruments to boot. He is not your typical jack of all trades, and nobody can call him a master of none.

With everything on his plate, he has yet to find himself spread too thinly. “Steady lang ako,” he says, “I’m not that busy.” He’s just having too much fun.

These days, Marasigan is the frontman for rock band Sandwich, having taken over vocal duties since erstwhile vocalist Marc Abaya left the band. He returns to his first love – the keyboards – for dance rock outfit Pedicab, dabbles with the bass for Gaijin, and flirts with electronica and hip hop for Squid 9.

And of course, he still plays drums for the Eraserheads. The band that catapulted him, Ely Buendia, Marcus Adoro, and Buddy Zabala into rock superstardom still gets together every few months for their quarterly overseas performances. They just wrapped up a Dubai concert last December 27, and are gearing up for a London gig in April 2014.

But the busiest musician in the country cannot seem to sit still. He has always been trying new things, and at 42, there’s no stopping Marasigan from jumping from one instrument to another, whether it be center stage or back. 

From choirboy to chart-topper

Born and raised in Candelaria, Quezon, Marasigan’s first regular gig was held every Sunday – in church.

“I’ve been playing keyboards since I was 8,” he says. The Sundays of his childhood were mostly spent in church, with him as the choir’s organist. He had very little formal training, he says, if one were to count a few sessions from the Yamaha school of music, and could barely read notes. “I learned eventually,” he says, “but for the drums.”

Apart from the keyboards and the drums, Marasigan eventually learned how to play the guitar and the bass. He says he was initially supposed to pick up the bass during the early days of the Eraserheads, but switched with Zabala.

His collegiate years in the University of Philippines-Diliman paved the way for him to explore the burgeoning band scene, in a time when the trend was transitioning from the heavily stylized sound of new wave to the angrier, grittier lure of grunge. Life before the Eraserheads was similar to his life at the moment, as he jammed with different musicians as part of the band Curfew and sessioned for Buendia’s Sunday School.

These collaborations paved the way for the formation of what would become the most popular rock band of the 90s: the Eraserheads. The rest, they say, is history.

From beatmaster to frontman

Being with the Eraserheads did not stop Marasigan from participating in other music projects. He dabbled in hip hop through a short-lived project called "Planet Garapata" (which boasted a one-time collaboration with Francis Magalona) and provided samplers for the Sun Valley Crew. He formed Sandwich, another rock band, in the late 90s, and it continues to make waves in the rock scene two decades and 7 albums later.

He has reinvented himself from beatmaster to frontman, with his transition from drummer to vocalist, which many liken to that of Dave Grohl, former Nirvana drummer and now vocalist for the Foo Fighters. Marasigan takes it as a compliment, but Nirvana is not the Eraserheads, Foo Fighters is not Sandwich, and Grohl is not Marasigan.

One of his musical projects, Squid 9, explores the possibilities of electronic music. Playing a track from the upcoming album, scheduled to be launched in early 2014, he quips: “There were no guitars used in the recording of this album.” Marasigan enjoys experimenting and playing with samples, beats, and loops, and even creates remixes of other songs.

With an exhaustive musical portfolio, is there anything else he considers uncharted territory?

“I don’t think in terms of genre,” he says. “It’s all music to me, to us musicians. I’d be game to do anything music-wise, but I would not be comfortable doing jazz and classical music. I listen to both, but I just don’t have enough formal training to sound like a legit jazz or classical performer.”

He also admits his work on the bass still needs some improvement. “I’m a pretty terrible bassist,” he says, self-effacingly.

A musician in the digital age

There are some who lament the state of Philippine music, following the dearth of physical record stores and the current ubiquity of the K-Pop trend. Marasigan is quick to assuage their worries.

“It is the golden age of OPM,” he says. Having been a musician all his life – save for a short stint in a production house after the Eraserheads disbanded – Marasigan sounds very sure of what he’s saying.

“I came from a time when bands only had Club Dredd and Mayric’s to perform and maybe push their luck,” he says, referring to two of the major stomping grounds of the 90s gig scene in the metro. “Now you have Route 196. Saguijo. 19 East. And unlike during my time, when you needed at least P250,000 to record an album, now all you need is a computer and controller. And you have the Internet.”

He lived in a time when music was a tangible product, but unlike those who wax nostalgic over the art of collecting, he does not mind braving the digital shift.

“I don’t worry about it,” he says. “I just try to roll with the punches.”

He says that there are pros and cons, that the record companies no longer have the same budget, in effect being gradually stripped of powers they once had. 

“People might not be buying CDs as much as before, but your music reaches a larger audience because they’re downloaded and spread around the Internet,” he says. “As a result, we’re actually getting more shows, more people are getting to know us.”

Off the stage, into the trail 

The myths of the rock n’ roll lifestyle are outweighed by the realities Marasigan and his peers have to face. Health has become paramount to keep up with the demands of performing, a job he thinks is more taxing than playing the drums. The vigorous pounding is akin to a good workout, and drumming requires great stamina. Gigs can get exhausting, he says, so much that he had to start hitting the gym in his 30s.

He is particular about his health to some degree, partly due to the physically taxing nature of performing. He loves his wine, he loves his beer, but he does not smoke. He has 4 bikes, and he tries to bike at least an hour a day, whenever he can, whether it be around his village or at trails in and out of the metro.

His best friend Shinji Tanaka – drummer for Gaijin and sound engineer for both Sandwich and Pedicab – introduced him to the sport a few years ago, and since then, he’s been hooked. He has even finished an aquathlon with his triathlete brother early last year.

Biking with friends Shinji Tanaka, Robin Rivera, and Buddy Zabala

He has a 13-year-old daughter named Atari with Sandwich bassist Myrene Academia, and he now devotes his Sundays to his family. Father and daughter go on their bike rides. “It’s my way of peeling her off the computer,” he chuckles. “That, or we play ping-pong.” Parenting is another role he has to juggle, on top of his many bands. 

Marasigan’s playful nature makes the entire jack-of-all-trades act look fun. Cliché as it may sound, he says that everything he does is all for the love of music – even if it means he will rarely have the chance to sit still. –

Marga Deona

As Rappler’s senior producer, Marga manages the live broadcasts and distribution platforms of Rappler’s videos. She also writes about the intersection of technology, culture, and businesses, with the occasional sports and music features.