MANILA, Philippines – I’ve known Karl Roy for a long time. I can’t say I rolled with him like a real close friend but what little time we spent together talking about music and life was enough.
My opinion of him never changed from the first time I met him to our last conversation. He came into the world fully formed, and left it the same way. All it took was one glance at him, onstage, and you felt you knew him.
He was open, generous. Believed a hundred percent in what he was doing. Offstage there was little difference. He was one of the few rockers who did not need to put on a persona. He was the real deal.
I first heard of his unique name and talent in the early nineties at the Old Club Dredd in Timog, Quezon City. Advent Call was his band. They were the tightest around, the kind of band other bands loved to watch.
I was always impressed with their undeniable chops and professionalism even if some of their song choices were questionable. They were mainly a cover band back then, and in the burgeoning alternative rock scene’s proud climate of independent creativity and nascent narcissism, this was sort of frowned upon.
They were branded a “chopsuey” band, not altogether flattering, but when they played, even the detractors shut up. Besides, Karl always put his own inimitable stamp on every song, be it a new wave staple or a classic rock nugget. They never sounded like copycats.
And nobody realized it was just a taste of things to come.
Adding a lot of live experience to one’s belt never hurts, and in the rock scene, as in all of show business, bands are required to put in their time, or pay their dues as the wisdom goes, or you’re nothing.
But more importantly, it affords an opportunity to develop your own style, find your own voice.
After years of amorphousness Karl was finally ready to let his freak flag fly with P.O.T., commanding the airwaves with his own brand of Pinoy funk and soul. They had a huge hit with “Yugyugan Na,” which, with its inescapable hooks, swampy groove, and irresistible all around good vibes, not only singlehandedly buried his showband past but placed him in the pantheon of great OPM singers.
But there was a truth to his music that precluded any harebrained notion of commercial success. It was a welcome diversion, but not a means to an end.
Music to him was sacred as life itself. He found its fullest expression in his last complete band, Kapatid.
Consisting of mostly musicians from the South side of the metropolis, i.e. Parañaque, Alabang, and Laguna, Karl the Manila resident would bunk with his bandmates for weeks and even months, never flagging in his commitment to the music.
I was at that time also starting a new band, and we would bump into each other because his guitar player was a mutual friend and bought almost all my old Eheads-era guitars.
Karl and I would jam and exchange ideas. He would often ask me with the utmost sincerity, “how do you write songs?” Of course I couldn’t answer adequately. I don’t even remember what I said. But I tried my best. Some mumbo-jumbo about setting parameters no doubt.
But the answer was never important. The question was. And as long as I live I will keep trying to answer Karl’s question. – Rappler.com