Preaching life through electronic music
An electronic, eclectic trio emerges from
their workroom with an adult taste in songwriting and a truckload of gear.
By Girl Chakra
published in: Localvibe.com
December 9, 2000
"Tell me where I must go to find the self that I left behind? / Is
it burnt by the embers, buried deep in your mind?" -- from "Past
November" by CLONE
This is the first song I am subjected to in this tiny place which the
group fondly calls The Workroom. It is one of two rooms in this apartment
rented by bandleader Lionel and his wife, and is located in a 5-storey
apartment complex in San Antonio Village Makati. And it is hot. Hot enough
for the fan to be blowing full-blast in our faces, yet still have no effect.
___ I have been invited here as a witness to the bizarre chemistry that
has made three admittedly nerdy individuals create a musical unit that
is electronic but ironically, full of spirit. Seeing it firsthand is a
___ It boggles the mind how a band with only three members can have so
much stuff and bring it all out on the road for a gig. Then again, it
makes sense. In place of a drummer, they have four separate tone generators
that churn out drum patterns and sounds. In place of everyone else, they
have three keyboards, two MIDI sequencers, and three samplers. Oh, and
let's not forget the microphones. (Suddenly, they seem like antiquated
pieces of machinery.)
___ The band is halfway through the piece, a neo-Goth song crossing the
perimeters of Massive Attack and Moloko, and embellished with electronic
squiggles and squawks, when a knock on the door distracts everyone. It
is apartment security. Someone downstairs has complained about the bass
woofer being so strong, the room below us vibrates. The volume level is
turned down, as is the bass level. But the practice goes on.
___ It is a humid November evening, only 7:45 pm. And it still feels like
Welcome to the life of CLONE.
The easiest way to describe them is to say they are unwilling rockstars.
Lionel Valdellon (keyboardist, composer) is an online content editor
for a website development company, aside from being a comics artist (in
his free time) and a former LocalVibe columnist. Karlo Samson (keyboardist,
samplist) is a manager at a financial portal (also an IT business) and
rides his Vespa scooter around the country when he has time. Sheerin Castillo
(vocalist) is finishing up her masteral studies in psychology aside from
helping run a family business. They aren't the kind of folks who'd give
up their stability for a chance to sign a recording contract.
___ And yet, here they are, a decade since they were last teenagers, engaging
in the eternally adolescent fantasy of rock 'n' roll gigs and catharsis
through music. What for?
___ "There's a history to this. Sheerin and I started out in a cover
band called Anima," shares Lionel, for the umpteenth time it seems.
"We would play Earth Wind & Fire songs till our ears bled. Nakakasawa
___ "The band was great, the members were awesome musicians, and
we made us some money, but we weren't going anywhere as a band,"
adds Sheerin as she grabs more chips.
And so Lionel decided to do something about it: he'd been making electronic
music for almost an entire year before Anima broke up, and had lots of
little compositions. He booked himself a couple of gigs at OraCafe in
Quezon City and invited Anima's drummer Andre Quimpo to accompany him
live on drums. The result was CLONE. Karlo joined for the remainder of
the OraCafe gigs and Sheerin joined in time for the group's first major
performance at the Music Museum in August 1999.
So... Clone is a product of frustration? An outlet for artistes?
Karlo says: "Not that there's no frustration now, ano. I mean, we
play gigs for dead audiences with polite applause. We lug around our gear...
Imagine this ha? All our gear plus Lionel and myself-- that fills up a
whole car. Sheerin has to bring her car or she won't fit."
___ Lionel: "Actually that's why we don't play covers in CLONE. This
group was formed precisely to play the music that we want to make."
One other thing is obvious from the time at The Workroom. The three are
good friends. And highly intelligent. Result: their humor is twisted and
existential and damn funny. And they like spending time together. Conversations
naturally deviate from typical topics like music, MP3s and Internet to
how CLONE is actually a numerologically-sound name which might bring them
good luck, or how the problem with the Philippines is actually karmic
___ Turns out Sheerin is an amateur astrologist and palm reader. She takes
a look at the lines on my hand while the two boys go "Tsk tsk"
in their respective corners knowing that I'm in for something, though
I'm not sure what.
___ She tells me I am engaged in a stressful occupation and that my salvation
will come only by promoting CLONE to readers on the World Wide Web. Then
everyone starts laughing, including me.
The next week, I am present at their performance in Freedom Bar at a
variety show entitled Strange Daze. Apt title, I note. Because apart from
Clone's trip-hop/electronic new romantic musings, there is a prog-rock
band, an acid jazz/world group, a blues band, and Radiohead wannabes.
The trio tell me about the music they like listening to.
"Ako na siguro yung the most 'pop'. I listen to Julia Fordham, EBTG,
Patti Austin, Noa, Brand New Heavies, the Corrs, Amy Grant," shares
the bubbly Sheerin.
___ From Lionel: "Ako, all those eclectic trip hop /ambient techno
groups mixed with with elements of jazz: Moloko, Stereolab, The Orb, Orbital,
___ Karlo ticks off more on his listening list: "My flavor of the
month is an electronic group from Mexico called Titan. But I've always
liked Propellerheads, Hooverphonic, Morcheeba, Bjork, Portishead."
set up already and are waiting to start the night. Karlo tells me the
band requests as often as possible if they could be the first performer
if it's a variety-show type gig. This gives them the comfort of taking
10-15 minutes to set up their gear.
Lionel: The amount of gear we bring is terrible! Karlo: And we have no
Sheerin: And it's dark.
Karlo: And the damn fans can't keep their hands off our gorgeous asses.
All: (laugh uproariously)
Despite the number of times they explain how their set-up works, all
I am able to assimilate is this: half of their songs are totally MIDI--
meaning they press the PLAY button and improvise on top of the set song
structure. The other half is totally live, with all instruments being
played above an endless rhythm loop generated by the samplers.
___ An interesting way to play in this day and age of prefabricated pop
music by cloned teenage groups, and over-angsty rap-metal hybrids screaming
instead of singing.
___ "The only problem about being an indie band with an alternative
to the alternative sound is: There are hardly any gigs. And no high-paying
gigs," says Sheerin.
___ Karlo adds: "You know what's harder? Faking actual playing when
all we do is press PLAY. Heheheeh." "But at least, we call the
shots. People know up front that we won't play requests. They know we
play our OWN songs," remarks Lionel emphatically. "You have
more control with an indie set-up. You can call the shots. As a band we
like calling those shots, unfortunately, we can barely manage ourselves.
Skeds, priorities. Sometimes it's nice just following someone who does
all the booking for you... and then we can go: "I like that, I don't
like this.." Karlo shares: "Seriously, it's a lot more fulfilling
than playing pop crap."
___ Sheerin again: "It's fun and I agree with Karlo that it's fulfilling,
but I must add : it doesn't pay the bills."
___They all smile. And now I know why they wouldn't give up their dayjobs.
Clone is a project band, an outlet. A vehicle for expression. Therapy.
If it ever becomes a job, a little of the soul I detect in their music
may just erode.
PART 2 of the interview : Ready or Not,
Here they Clone.
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