MANILA — Punk Zappa has aged like most of his fans and his hobbies aren’t limited to listening to the radio, reading the song hits and eating bloody fishballs. Most recent, he got seriously into painting.
Punk Zappa, of course, is the 1990s alter ego of lead guitarist Marcus Adoro of the Eraserheads. The name is a parody of legendary American musician Frank Zappa, known for his experimental, free-form, improvisational compositions.
Punk Zappa is the name of the speaker doing the rapid-fire monologues in track fillers “Punk Zappa,” “No Royalty Album Filler No. 9” and “Prof. Banlaoi’s Transcendental Medication After Every Six Months” from the Eraserheads’ second album “Circus”.
The monologues are satires on the exciting lives of young die-hard, rock music fanatics in the 1990s, who unknowingly, by hating hip hop and breakdancers, have created social divisiveness among the Filipinos. It was, well, Marcusian.
About two-and-a-half decades later and now dealing with middle-age headaches like most of his fans, Adoro paid tribute to his Punk Zappa persona with an art exhibit.
“I started painting sometime in 2004 pero hindi ko natutukan dahil busy sa maraming bagay, kailangan ng oras talaga. Noong 2019, nagpunta ako ng Amsterdam. I was able to visit art galleries and got inspired by the masters like Van Gogh and some classic art. Pagbalik ko dito, inspired na ako,” he told ABS-CBN News in a recent interview at the newly renovated Tago Jazz café in Cubao, Quezon City.
Titled “Punk Zappa NFT Gallery, The Art of Marcus Adoro,” his artworks were on display for one-day only on June 23 at Tago Jazz but can still be accessed on the website, punkzappa.com as more works are being released in the coming months. The exhibit was a project of GIGILx, the metaverse affiliation of independent ad agency GIGIL.
Getting into painting wasn’t something that came later in life for Adoro. He said the hobby started way back in college at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. Among local artists that inspired him, he cited Manuel Ocampo and Romeo Lee.
“Sa UP pa, karamihan mga taga [College of] Fine Arts mga tropa ko. Yan sina Romeo Lee. Nakikita ko sila, parang ang sarap ng ginagawa nila.”
Adoro recounted how he immersed into surfing culture in San Juan, La Union, starting in 2000 and why eventually it became his home for the next two decades. He took a break from the band scene when the Eraserheads finally called it quits in 2002.
He eventually returned to the big city and became busy with his own group, the folk-reggae Markus Highway.
“Buhay pa rin ang Markus Highway”. ‘Yung unang album na inilabas sa vinyl, ‘yun ang cover,’ he said, pointing to a self-portrait of him holding an electric guitar on a corner of Tago Jazz. “Pagbalik namin [sa industry]Markus Highway pa rin.”
Despite forming his own group and jamming with other bands, for millions of music fans Adoro remains one-fourth of the most influential and popular rock band from the 1990s.
He was with Eraserheads’ bandmates Buddy Zabala, Raymund Marasigan and Ely Buendia from 1989 to 2002 living the celebrity rock star dream and after the breakup, he toured again with them for the subsequent multi-million peso reunion concerts here and abroad.
Eraserheads hasn’t been playing in the Philippines together as a group in the last six years. The last time we can think of was for a private event, without tickets sold or live broadcast that followed. It was for the launch of a new logo of a major telecommunications company in 2016, where they played a full set composed of 13 songs, plus five for the encore, or a total of 18 of their more popular songs.
Much earlier, there was the spontaneous three-song gig in another private event, the launch of the special travel issue of the monthly glossy, Esquire magazine. The cover photo has Adoro, Zabala, Marasigan and Buendia crossing the Abbey Road in London like in The Beatles’ album of the same name.
The rare Eheads mini-reunion performance happened in a five-star hotel in Makati City sometime in September, 2014, the same month the magazine came out. They sang “Sembrek,” “Alapaap” and, naturally, “Magasin.” It was very memorable for everyone because it was also the last time they released news songs, “Sabado” and “1995,” recorded in a CD that came with every copy of the magazine.
Adoro happened to own hundreds of copies of those magazines at home and by some twist of fate, they were instrumental for him to take painting seriously. When the pandemic struck and all live shows migrated online, Adoro painted a lot.
“Noong start ng pandemic, naglinis ako ng bahay, andami kong mga magazines na Esquire. Nasa cover kami [Eraserheads]. Tapos pinamimigay ko lang. May isang copy, nilagyan ko ng doodle. Pinost ko sa [social media]. May nagkagusto. Tapos gustong magpagawa. Then someone said, ‘bakit di mo damihan [ang paintings]?’” Adoro told ABS-CBN News.
Like most artists in isolation, the pandemic lockdowns fueled Adoro’s creative output.
“Kasi nga pandemic ang daming ka bull-s**t-an nangyayari sa paligid so gusto ko mag-escape sa painting. Mas gusto ko ang painting kasi tahimik sya eh. Wala siyang tunog pero ang daming info binibigay sa ‘yo. Sa art scene, parang ito ‘yung gig. Hindi lang live kang magpipinta.”
Besides the Esquire magazine cover photo, Adoro also painted versions of the “Ultraelectromagneticpop” album cover.
The whole collection was called “Eheads Cover Versions.”
“It kept me occupied noong two years [of hard lockdowns]. I’ve been painting, hindi lang Eraserheads but other stuff as well,” he added, referring to the Markus Highway album cover discussed earlier.
What made Adoro’s paintings unique besides the very personal subjects is that they’ve been made available to collectors through NFTs or non-fungible tokens.
For those unfamiliar with it, NTF art, based on an earlier report by ABS-CBN News, “allows artists to create digital copies of their masterpieces which are essentially one of a kind. NFT art can be bought and tracked through the internet using blockchain technology.”
Adoro said: “There are 20 plus versions of this and the first NFT is called Cover Versions, and naka-print rin sila sa calendar. I thought of another way of presenting some 12 pieces. It’s called the 2022 Eheads Calendar. Letting people know that I paint and for the Eheads fans, I made 222 pieces of this only. This also comes free for every NFT that you buy.”
Collectors can avail of other perks from owning an art piece like free lodging in Adoro’s vacation house called Sakubo (loosely translated “at the nipa hut”) in San Juan, La Union. Adoro will also give personal free surfing lessons.
During the Tago Jazz launch, we delved more on Adoro’s lifestyle as painter.
“My house in La Union was supposed to be my studio but ironically during the pandemic, I stayed here in my condo unit in Cubao because, well, art materials are more accessible because of the malls.”
His pad also served as his studio and pointed out the advantage of being in mere walking distance from Tago Jazz.
He explained how he’s more comfortable in using oil though sometimes, he paints with acrylic. “Pero mas gusto ko nahihirapan ako eh. So, OK ang oil.”
If he’s inspired, he can finish a painting in one to two weeks. He’s been painting a lot everyday so that his body has become attuned to the routine.
“Parang nag-adjust na’ yung katawan ko eh”. Nag-acclimatize na sa gusto ko, which is ‘yung paglabas ng araw, gising na ako.”
Unlike the years when he’s active in the band scene, going home just a couple of hours before sunrise and waking up noontime or early afternoon, nowadays he’s up at around 4 am
“Gising na katawan ko. Ready na ako, nagkakape ako, pagbukas ng araw, ready ko na lahat. That’s when I start painting. Pero ‘pag lubog ng araw, toma na ako para makatulog na agad.”
We told him how some musicians who also delved into painting during the pandemic lockdowns have dropped their vices and other bad habits, especially smoking.
The signature Punk Zappa humor would come out: “Ako, dumoble yosi ko. Mga two packs a day, kasi pag-lapag ko ng stick habang nagpe-paint, nakakalimutan ko then ‘pag binalikan ko, upos (cigarette ash) na lang. Hindi ko sya [smoking] natigilan kasi ‘yun daw pangontra sa COVID, totoo, na-establish ‘yan ng isang French at isang British na painters.
But he still surfs in La Union for the necessary physical exercise. “Though not as crazy as before.”
He was still able to write, produce and record a solo album titled “Mr. Kubido,” in two weeks of June 2020, and released on his You Tube channel. “Noong simula ng pandemic wala ako halos pino-post pero noong hard lockdown, nagawa ko ‘yun.”
Composed of 12 new songs, the “album” has been made accessible for free in the last two years and earned positive feedback from listeners.
When he paints, he said he has to have his favorite songs playing in the background. “Mas gusto ko bebop na jazz. Mga upbeat, minsan Rolling Stones, Lou Reed, Velvet Underground, ‘yan mga ganyan, lilipad talaga utak mo eh.”
He assured in the Esquire cover paintings, all of the four Eraserheads members are well represented. He has created all the possible scenarios of them crossing the Abbey Road. One has them dressed in summer clothes carrying surfboards, beach volleyball, water jug, a big tuna to grill.
Another has all of them dressed in Christmas-themed outfits with Christmas characters like Santa Claus and Bruce Willis (because of his “Die Hard” films). One has them dressed in Batman characters. A painting titled “Pet Shop Boys” has them crossing the street with dogs, cats and a carabao. The one titled “Panic (-buying) In the Streets of London” has each of them pushing grocery carts. And so on.
These are just among the initial 21 of the many Eraserheads cover artworks. On the Punk Zappa website, he said there’s more to come in the next few months.
“This is the best time to invest. If you buy, parang nasa meta-verse ka na. Meron kang virtual na original na artwork.”
Adoro’s personal life has been a rocky roller coaster ride. We won’t dabble much on the controversies but when asked about his inspiration in the paintings, he said: “Mga mahal ko sa buhay. Inuuna ko muna ‘yung mga mamagandang pangitain. Gusto ko i-document mga mamagandang bagay.”
We can’t help but ask why is he not with Ultracombo anymore, the Eraserheads “tribute” band he used to play with former bandmates Marasigan and Zabala?
“OK naman kami nina Raymund”. Nag-usap din kami ni Buddy noong miting de avance,’ he said, referring to the Leni Robredo-Kiko Pangilinan final major rally in the last national elections.
“When I joined Ultracombo, si Raymund ‘yung namamahala dun.’ Parang kinoha lang akong guest lead guitarist,” he added, in jest.
The multi-million peso question that every OPM fans usually ask before an Eraserheads member: “Does he see a possible reunion concert?”
“Ahhhh. Lahat naman, lagi-lagi parati namang may offer. Si Darwin ang tanungin mo,” he said with a smile, referring to Darwin Guerrero of Soupstar Entertainment, the management firm that handles Sandwich and Ultracombo, among other bands. In our separate conversation with Guerrero, he told us he was the one who handled Adoro’s business deals in The Final Set, the last known Eraserheads reunion concert in the Philippines that happened on March 7, 2009.
As for handling his own career and band, Markus Highway, Adoro said he has another management group.
At Tago Jazz launch, after a short “speech,” Adoro sang with the band and ended the night with his version of “My Way”.
His whiskey-fueled voice croaking as he struggled with the lines, “Regrets, I’ve had a few…”
Punk Zappa lives.