Bullet Dumas for my Valentine
Stefan Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - February 12, 2016 - 9:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Rising indie music darling Bullet Dumas has a monogamous commitment to his craft. You may have witnessed it during a couple of weekend nights or three at Mow’s or at Route 196. Red Horse-drenched voices from below the stage buzz to a halt the moment our folksy hero sets foot on the stage, his deft fingers strumming and plucking at his trusty guitar. His music harks back to Joey Ayala’s younger years. One may even perceive him as this generation’s male incarnate of the holy trinity: Cynthia Alexander, Ani DiFranco, and Alanis Morissette. Listening to him is basically aural sex.

So this Valentine’s weekend, we engaged Mr. Dumas in a soulful conversation. 15 minutes lang; walang malisya. Watch him drop the mic.

SUPREME: How exactly do you “court” the crowd? What do you think gets them hooked to your brand of music?

Bullet Dumas: I’m a huge music fan, too. Gusto kong napapanood yung artist na pansin mo yung passion niya towards their music or music in general. Pansin mo rin kung gaano siya katotoo sa craft niya — sincere and no gimmicks because the artist simply loves what he/she is doing. The crowd mirrors that and lets you know somehow that they are enjoying. Then the interaction of artist and audience simply happens.

We’ll update the stock slam book question: What is love in the time of indie music, millennial anguish, and — for a lack of a better term which I wish could be coined soon — hugot?

I hate that word hugot. Anyway, in general, I think love is the process of constantly improving your current definitions of it.

Lately, people have been easily offended by almost anything and everything, and probably for very good reasons. To what extent does political correctness figure into your creative process?

Ako, hindi ako masyado nagsusulat ng taboo topics. But if hindi ko maiwasan in the future, I will research a lot and try to tackle both sides. Say, puwedeng a la-musicale na Gollum being stinker and slinker than simply blurting out ideas.

Can you tell us more about your struggles as a freelance musician. What are the things you’ve seen change in independent gig productions, and for that matter, what do you hope to change in the indie scene?

It’s always the fee. Imagine the total earnings from the gate deducted by the bar’s percentage, then divided among the bands. Usually, if you’re a solo act, you get paid lower, and I hate that part. But as always, you understand dahil dapat ebribadi happy! Kung sa tingin mo di ka masaya sa prod na yan, subukan mo gumawa ng prod kung sa tingin mo madali. Kung kaya mo, eh di good job. But pay everyone well. Anyway, proseso lahat. Matinding pasensiya at pagpupursigi, at pagmamahal sa musika. Nakakairitang ulit-ulitin pero yun talaga ang puno’t dulo ng lahat. Frustrating pero masaya magmahal.

If you increase the gate fee, the tendency is you’ll have a smaller audience. Kailangan mong timplahin yung part na yun. But, never forget to always give them a show. Give them their money’s worth. There’s no big or small prod. Even the size of the audience doesn’t matter. Go out and have fun!

Then where do you personally draw the line between artistry and financial survival?

Difficult question. Hindi ko gagawin yun kung hindi ko feel 100%. I can look for moolah elsewhere.

Is there any truth to the speculation that indie prods tend to be cliquish?

There’s some truth to that, but I don’t really mind it. Of course, if you have a prod, you call the shots. Tumatagal ka sa industry by building relationships, and you would want to hang out with the people close to you. And then you make a little community in the gig scene, but every now and then, you tweak everything to improve it. You see, it is clearly understandable. Relax. If the prod wants to be known for a certain genre or a mix of everything, why not?

As a fan of your work, I think your peers can learn a thing or two from you. What is the greatest disservice an indie artist can make to his audience, one that is frequently committed by a handful of musicians?

Hmmm. Just don’t be an asshole.

Allow me to play Tito Boy Abunda, or in this case, Indie Garutay. In front of you is a magic mirror. If you could narrate your love letter to indie music and to its avid listeners, how would it end?

Maraming salamat. Kailangan mo yan marinig madalas. Kahit tayo lang ang may alam, wala akong paki. Dahil yun naman talaga ang pinakamahalaga. Alam mo at alam ko.

* * *

Block off February 13 for UP Fair Roots at the UP Diliman Sunken Garden. You can also catch Bullet at DAMA: 3D Anniversary Concert on the 19th at the Music Museum. Tweet the author @Watdahel_Marcel.

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