There are just some things that rarely last beyond high school years—even rock bands. However, Ian Sajo (vocalist) and Melvon Posadas (guitar)—along with former members Jerson (bass), Daniel (lead guitar), Makoy (drums), and Kutz (vocals)—seemed to be the exceptions; they formed Diet of Wormz back in 2002 and, unlike most Ilonggo bands who started out that early, they are still alive and kicking. More importantly, they are enjoying a resurgence of sorts.
The sound they deliver these days is a mix of their artistic influences and just plain, old creativity. Melvon now favours creations from noted movie scorers (not coincidentally, one of their most popular music videos is directed by award-winning movie director and documentarian, T.M. Malones), while Ian listens to all kinds of genres ranging from alt-rock to metal; he touts Rivermaya, Queso, and Parokya ni Edgar as huge inspirations locally. Both guys, however, keep groundbreaking German industrial metal band Rammstein in high regard. Despite all the stuff they listen to, they can surprisingly provide a unique ambiance that suitably complements their hard-edged sound.
Why should they matter to you, dear reader? It’s quite simple: they have been influencing a good number of young Ilonggo musicians, with many of them not even realizing it. Think about it: how many rock musicians do you know who have been able to embrace new sonic styles to be relevant with the times?
The answer: Diet of Wormz did, and all while they kept playing in near-obscurity. That should prove to be hardcore enough for anyone reading this.
Project Iloilo recently met with Ian, Melvon, and Mark Piad, their band manager, to evoke the past and present of the pioneering Ilonggo band (Jomarie Balani, drums, and Jerson Sulmaca, bass, were unable to attend the interview), and in good time, too; they’re gradually revealing preparations for a second album, from which they allowed me to listen in on some of their tracks (it rocks, by the way).
The band started out, like most of them do, as good mates. Just like any teenager with dreams of rock stardom, they decided to start Diet of Wormz for fun. They played covers not just from Rammstein, but also from other envelope-pushing rock bands like Marilyn Manson. The desire to be unique soon pushed them to start composing their own material in 2003. The raw recordings were made at home, then brought to Bacolod for mastering. The EP was released in 2004.
“During that time, the music industry was on fire. The support from the fans was really there,” Ian fondly recalls.
Despite surfing on a wave of success and notoriety, the support of local radio stations to push the local rock scene were barely existent. “If only they can air our music, the fanbase is there. But if a DJ wants to play that kind of sound, what would be the reaction of the rest of the public? Most of the general public would complain about the kind of sound played,” Ian puts it.
To put it in a little context: rock during that time was very popular. Bands from Manila like Queso, Greyhoundz, and Slapshock were all the rage. In relation to the industrial metal sound itself though, the vocals and screams sounded very rough compared to their more studio-polished counterparts (and of course, some local metal bands can also attest to this). So, while rock bands were in, local radios were almost neglecting to play materials from the Iloilo bands.
Despite all of those factors, they were riding on a wave of cult success. For one, finishing second place at Sigabong, then one of the premiere battle of the bands competition in the region, proved to be a fond recollection for them. Diet of Wormz charged with pride by playing alongside their idols and friends. Some of their peers might even be familiar to you: Point Click Kill; Candyflip; Four Horsemen; Bahaghari.
“The bands saw each other as equal, hanging out and drinking and playing,” Melvon says. While Ian added something about “chicks” that I won’t relay in this article because we’re a family-friendly online magazine, both men frequently used the word “brotherhood” to describe the local rock scene.
Diet of Wormz eventually started touring outside of Iloilo, meeting and befriending other bands in the wake of the big rock acts of the moment. Ian remembers the thriving activity: “It was great fun. The connection between bands gave us access to lots of concerts, the possibility to play our own creations”.
However, it was not without bad memories: during the time they played in a Manila bar in 2013, they were booked last. The crowd was wild for their local Manila bands, but when Diet of Wormz jumped on the stage, the only “audience” left are the waitresses and janitors already cleaning the place.
No one could be in a band for ten years and not suffer the consequences, of course. It was in 2009 when the band entered a “dormant” phase that only pushed them to join big musical events every once in a while; the reality of day jobs and other personal life urges just took priority.
But when they came back, they did so silently; in 2013, they recorded their first full-length album in a span of three months, and it was finalized at Backyard Studio in Cebu. The aforementioned T.M. Malones also shot their music video, as he was a fan of Diet of Wormz.
“Two hundred copies were made and were sold out the very night of the album and video clip launch at (the defunct) G-Lounge bar,” Mark recalls. Ian adds: “It was overwhelming since we released the album and the clip after all these years away from the spotlights, with a new lineup and new personalities”.
They’ve been present at many awesome rock events in the city since: Iloilo Summerslam, the Point Click Kill ten-year anniversary show, the Surebol album launch, and—the first salvo to have come from this present resurgence—the Ill City Indie Festival.
All the work and promoting does not stop there; for instance, the burden is mostly on Melvon’s shoulders now as he composes the tracks and submits them to the rest of the band to finalize. Ian then writes the lyrics. They generally speak of personal experiences (like in their song, “Insidious”) but, like good artists do, their works are always open to interpretation.
They may have been too ahead of their time these fifteen years ago, but they’re now entering an Iloilo that is more receptive to new musical experiences. Why not try giving them a chance?
Header photo by Zymachi Photography, RJ Villanueva, Diet of Wormz & Xtian Lozañes