slackerman interview

Setting the Scene with Slackerman

Welcome to the 14th edition of the IMF Artist Profile, a series dedicated to the Indie Music Feedback community. The goal of this series is to take a look at the personal lives of some of IMF’s biggest contributors, giving you a peek into who they are as human beings. We’ll pull back the curtain as far as our guests allow and hopefully we will all walk away with a better understanding of the music these individuals are creating as we learn more about them.

Enter the Slackerman!

Currently living in Dubai with his cat Yuki, Jay was born and raised in Manila, Philippines, where his family still resides. As a Senior Digital Content Exec of an Airline company’s Corporate Communications Department Jay mostly managed graphical, usability, and function updates for their website, as well as making and creating digital ad campaigns. In his free time, Jay is into comic books, cartoons, anime, action figures, scale models, general Pop Culture, creating digital media, graphic design, and making animation. He also plays basketball, cycles, and enjoys traveling. A slacker, he is clearly not…

Slackerman’s music is often extremely upbeat and has a distinct habit of being pretty light-hearted in nature. But don’t mistake that for something simple or watered down; Slackerman’s beats are often extremely layered and full of character and depth. Perhaps my favorite aspect of Slackerman’s production is his ability to craft a narrative within his music without any lyrics or vocals. Each song feels distinctly part of a larger picture. As a visually creative person, Slacker also consistently creates something visual to go along with his releases, which drives home the narrative and helps set the scene. Intentional or not, for me, Slackerman is one of the best producers to listen to if you’re trying to grind through some video games or if you have a long-distance trip to get through. Getting on a plane, hopping into a taxi, got a long train ride ahead of you? Put on Out of the Dustbin and let the vibe take over.

Now onto the questions:

Baaz: Your music has a very distinct presentation where it feels like background music to a film or television show. You’ve even made a series of music videos using archival footage for an entire album, which I absolutely love. When you set out to produce each song for this project, were you thinking about how that was going to look, or were you simply making the music and then finding the footage that it works best with?

Slackerman: First off, thank you for inviting me to this interview. This is really awesome!

It was a jumble of evolving ideas really. For a very long time, I have always thought of making something original that involves visuals and music. I’ve been struggling to find the right idea to execute it. But when I started the project, I knew that when I release the music, I should take advantage of also using YouTube as a platform. But midway through the production of the album, I realized that my ideas might take a while to accomplish since it’s going to need a lot of work to produce. Originally, the idea was to make music videos with friends… then self produce a series of animated videos… but being fully aware of how ambitious it was, I was estimating around at least a year of work and possibly a lot of man-hours, and even some expenses… Then the pandemic hit, so I just decided, “…screw it, let me find some public domain stuff that can go with this… for now…”

As for the video selection, I try to dig as much stuff as I can and try to find something that closely fits the visual narrative I wanted to show.

At least with Public Domain, it will still be stylistic and you won’t feel as bad if you decide to replace them with the real ideas you have in mind. I just cannot live with the idea of releasing the music without some sort of visual presentation.

Baaz: Have you always set out to produce music that could be used in films? It feels like all of your music is almost designed for it. Any long term goals of getting into soundtrack work?

Slackerman: Sort of. It is a conscious decision. When I listen to music, I always try to visualize it. I have this weird thing that if I cannot place a song visually in my head, I struggle appreciating or connecting with it. Some of the best stuff that has inspired me came from soundtracks.

When I was making “Attack of the Oversound” I needed a theme, some kind of an anchor or a direction. I didn’t want to make something that kind of feels like it was all over the place. I wanted to make something strong thematically and I wanted them to feel connected. So I kind of built a universe in my head around it and decided that it will be a comic book soundtrack. So each song was kind of like a scene from the comic book in my head. There were certain narratives that I was working on. One song is kind of like an awakening scene, one song is like a fight scene…

With “Shotput” I tried to continue the story, but it’s more like a loose continuation. Like a collection of pulp stories set in the same universe, I built from the first one.

At best, I would love for someone to pick them up and use the songs in a film. That would be really dope. Some people even told me that they all sound like they can be used for a game, and I am also perfectly fine with that as well. It would also be awesome if some songs can be used for some random anime intros. Those things are always cool to look at.

I might come up with a third album, but only when the idea is ripe. These two kind of drained me. But I am really happy with the results of the work. I don’t really aim to do soundtrack work personally. Long term, I just want people to remember the songs with a certain set of visuals in their heads. It’s much easier to remember something when there are visuals to go along with it.

Baaz: From the Philippines to UAE, you’ve lived in some pretty exotic and beautiful locations. Have these amazing landscapes and cultures crafted your music in any way? Can you tell us about some of the most impressionable moments or aspects of each place you’ve lived?

Slackerman: It’s two completely different worlds. The Philippines has a very rich music scene. During the 90’s, the Grunge era in the US coincided with the rock band revolution there. Since high school until my late 20’s, I was always around people who either knew how to sing or play an instrument. Being in a band or forming a band is still a thing there. There’s a rich and vast set of people who play covers and make their own music. And people are always curious about music. You will be constantly asked what you are listening to, and people also share a lot. There’s also a rich subculture where people line up bands of varying genres and make their own shows in bars. I have experiences in the Philippines playing in sad, empty venues.

Just a story I want to share, one of my heroes is my late uncle who literally passed away on top of a piano after playing a set in Cambodia. During a break, he complained of feeling tired, asked someone to grab some water, laid his head on the piano, and never woke up. I miss him dearly and wish I had a chance to play with him when he was alive.

It was a bit of a shock to me when I got here in the UAE. Maybe it was the timing or it’s just the culture. You are around people from different regions of the world, and the majority of them move to a different country after a few years or a few months. And it feels like people don’t really have time to sit down, take it easy and read a book. It’s all about the hustle and where to wine and dine on the weekend and what to buy on your next salary.

And it’s a bit of a tough crowd. Some people would know Metallica, but not Gin Blossoms. You try to make them listen to Nightmares on Wax, they would ask you to play some Kanye. Something like that… Although I have met some music creators, they are a very rare breed here. Also, almost every musician I met here either plays pure heavy metal or a DJ.

Baaz: Despite the extreme variety of your sound, you always come off as upbeat to me. I love that almost all of your music is extremely positive and somewhat light-hearted. Would you describe yourself in the same way? What motivates you to create your sound and how do you keep it so pleasant and fun?

Slackerman: After a long stint working in the corporate world, I felt a bit stifled. I self-studied visual design thinking I can break into the creative entertainment media field, but I ended up designing corporate websites. I realized I am not really a Jony Ive, but rather I am more of a Hanna-Barbera. And I think some people see that… I mean, I can talk about Citizen Kane, but I would have more fun talking about Wayne’s World or Airheads.

I used to write serious stuff, talking about serious personal issues, over time it just felt that I’ve just been complaining a lot… so I start to look at things in a different perspective and always try to find silver linings to every negative event that happens. Of course, I recognize that optimism can be a dangerous thing, you can be the most determined and positive individual, but that thing called “reality” can be a real asshole sometimes. But I always believe that it doesn’t mean things won’t change. I believe it’s much better to try to push back to give change a shot, whether you fail or not. Just don’t waste time though…

When it comes to this project,I like to take things to the “Big, dumb, ridiculously fun.” territory. I want to make music that people could easily connect to. I want to be as honest about it as I possibly can. And I want to have real, genuine fun with it. And I want people to have that very same experience.

Another motivation is, I also want to see a live performance with friends and a funky orchestra. I also have visions in my head of people dancing to the music and fire breathers or some circus clowns running around. I also want people to see how far and grand you can really take it when it comes to today’s available technology. From the technology of making the music to the technology of publishing it out there. There are practically no limits. Take advantage of what is available and free, go grand, and go nuts!

Baaz: When is the Slackerman comic book coming out? I think we all need it. No comic yet? How about the anime? OK ok ok, just an animated music video?

Slackerman: I don’t really want to get anyone’s hopes up, but a comic book or an anime is a definite possibility. It just takes a while to really get something going since it’s a one-man team. If all goes well, and as soon as I am confident that things are ready, I will make an announcement when the time is right.

Right now I am trying to complete an animated music video with Tone Deaf Jeff, and I think that will look amazing and really cool. Really exciting stuff and really something that everyone should look forward to. I also have one animated video in the works with LOHM, but that is also taking a while to complete… Overall these two projects are an exercise in learning how to efficiently produce the bigger ideas I have in mind that hopefully, we will see in… Another Day.

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