April 18, 2007

Nostalgia Manila Exclusive Interview with Roger Rigor of VST & Company Part 2

First off, Mr. NM, I'd like to extend our thanks to you and your NM followers…isa ka sa mga tinatawag na "pathfinders" dahil sa ginagawa mong pag-preserve ng ating mga nakaraan. Pag may paglilingunan ang mga kabataan, mas-madali ang kanilang patutunguhan…and finally, just to quell the persisting talk, Mr. NM is not one of the guys in the band…he is totally independent of VST & Company---creating blogs is out of our league, given our age and our generation. May edad na kami!!! --Roger Rigor (VST & Company)


Did you sometimes feel that you were in an aquarium and being pigeonholed as a pop idol even though you are more than than (VST members were not just pop idols, they were all accomplished creative people behind many other aspects of the music and entertainment industries)? (Question from: Wendell Capili, Australia)

Did we feel like a fish inside an aquarium? Of course…I think many personalities who’ve made it in show business realize this as both an "upper" or a "downer", ika nga…siguro, mas mahirap kung nag-iisa ka. But for us, dahil isa kaming barkada who were all shoved into the experience, together as naïve and neophytes at being the center of attention, it was fun and a learning process at the same time.

Yes, for most of us, we already were in the realm of the business, sa background ng happening. Being so, we had seen many instances where those few who were in the beginning stages of Pinoy pop music had their share of attention and screaming fans (i.e. Guy and Pip, Rico J., Basil, APO, Freddie, among the few). But, for us to be the center of a storm when disco was at its peak, this caught us totally by surprise. I don’t think we were expecting this kind of response, especially for a band. I mean, there were great bands before us who we really admired and looked up to, ika nga. So, we were somewhat caught off-guard by the way it turned out. Which was rather new and exciting… Kaya, sakay na lang kami nung nangyari na nga…

Mahirap po ba noon magdate ng hindi taga showbiz? Paano po ninyo namamanage ang inyong privacy? (Question from: Remmy, Mandaluyong)

Unang-una, tungkol sa pag-di-date, dahil nga hindi naman kami yung tipong "dating type"…what I mean by this is, bihira kami as individuals, to go out "on a date"---unang una, hindi naman kami yung di-kotse type, or the moneyed type…kung lalabas man o papasyal man, it was always as a group: kapit bahay lang namin noon ang Greenhills Shopping center at iba pa ang happening noon sa Greenhills, especially nung maluwag pa siya. You see, where we lived sa "461", it was even called a "barracks", kasi nga puro boys at ang happening was at the house. People would come and enjoy a relaxing afternoon, or an evening of darts, good pulutan and some great singing…that was our "date". Doon kami nakaka-kilala ng mga dumarating na kasama ng mga kaibigan…actually, 461 was already like a "homegrown" pub…so, at the time we were at this "celebrity/popular" mode, it was of course, a challenge to not be recognized when having to be with someone---usually, this would be during pre- or post-concert or TV appearance situations. Still, the best part of the day was ending up at our usual "hangout", which was at home, and that was considered our date...okay naman, dahil parating masaya ang happening sa 461. There was never an incident that we would look back to and be sorry that it happened.

Sino ang iba ninyong barkada in the music industry? In showbiz? (Question from: Evelyn Roque, Quezon City)

Marami kaming barkada sa showbiz…and with respect to the recording industry, kakaunti lang noon ang mga personalities on a contract. So, we practically knew everyone, as the industry was still at its early stages. The guys would be the "studio rats", having sessions in stretches that would start in the morning and end in the wee hours of the next morning... I was involved in the birthing of the Metro Manila Pop Music Festival, as a Project Coordinator with the Popular Music Foundation of the Philippines. Looking back, I believe this was the linchpin that finally launched the decade of enduring and memorable Pinoy pop music…of course, the very few who started it, (JDLC band, Hotdogs, Cinderella, Guy and Pip, etc.) were considered the pioneers until the potential of original Pinoy creativity bust open with Freddie Aguilar's underdog performance, in spite of Ryan Cayabyab's and Hajji's grand prize piece. Not to forget, too, that the seed had been planted even before the bands and personalities I mention above became who they were. The combo era of the 60s, both in Manila and Olongapo, played a major role in the development of Pinoy Pop.

For us Little Baguio boys, I could only refer to Vilma Santos then as our first legit "barkada" in the film industry, dahil nga sa una naming sine was with her. She was "kalog" and really very smart. I am not surprised that as a mayor, she is able to pull it together. Of course, si Pip was already a friend of the guys kasi nga ka-basketbol na namin siya even before the VST days. And there were many others who were mga batikan sa larangan ng pelikula that we met along the course of time.

What does VST really stand for? I've heard several versions and they're most likely rumors lang. Ano ba talaga ibig sabihin ng VST? (Question from: Armand, Cubao)

As this question has become the trivia of Pinoy pop music it seems, I am not sure if I'd be in the position to state it here kasi nga we always had this agreement that it had to come from everyone…I can say this much at this point, though: there is the serious meaning, which would be the "real" meaning, I suppose, and there is the group's "popular" meaning, that was joked upon during the early days before we finally went out in the open.

Were there any things you had to give up before becoming a member of a highly-successful musical group? (Question from: Aurelia Francis, Chicago)

Perhaps the only thing that we had to give up when we were finally launched into the realm of popularity was, at that time, our sleep time! Parati kaming puyat! We had to sneak out to Baguio one time just to finally get away from the heat of everything, literally and figuratively... wow, doon lang kami naka-tulog ng husto, and had a normal day of waking up after a good night's sleep, normal na oras ng pag-kain at tulog, with time to read a book, write some letters and have some real good talk among each other... this precious time took us three days and we were back on the fast track again as we headed to a concert at one of the provinces.

At this level of the profession, Time will always be precious. Wala na nga kaming oras para maki-halubilo sana sa mga kaibigan, friends and even close relatives. The three years we were at it was like a ride that allowed us little time out to rest.


However, in the long run, wala naman kaming pinagbago sa aming pagta-trato ng buhay. We’re still the same ole guys, nothing that expressed overblown egos or what ever you might get into with such popular attention…it was just that malakas lang ang hatak ng unan sa karamihan sa aming Little Baguio boys... other than that, after all that fateful "ride" everything's thankfully been the same.

How did it feel to have your other brothers in VST? (Question from: Jimmy Dizon, Makati)

When Jun Medina left, the group has had two sets of brothers: Val and Vic Sotto, and of course, myself, Spanky and Male Rigor. However, the other two 461 boys, Monet Gaskell and Celso Llarina, and even Jun Medina, were like brothers to us three already. Jun and Celso had lived with us at 461 many years before the VST came to be. Monet, however, though he lived not far from us, he was just as frequent at 461 like the rest of the guys, also years before VST. Of course, the feeling of having brothers is like having someone look after you when things get out of hand sometimes. It would be Spanky who would always remind us of schedules and timing, while Celso would be the guy who would always be reminding us about our musical consciousness especially before and during performances. We would always be mindful of how each one of us would behave especially because life in the limelight is life under a microscope, so to speak. Spanky is the eldest among us three and Male the youngest. Looking back, I think we felt a lot more secure than others mainly because all through out the experience, we were all really tight. Friends and brothers alike.

When did you know that VST had become popular? What were the signs of fame? (Question from: Melanie, Los Angeles)

Wow, the "signs of fame"... it always brings a smile to us when we reminisce about the day we finally realized that the "party has begun"... it was one morning when the "461 barracks" woke up with the tune "Awitin Mo". It was being played on the radio... not long after the first one was played! Apparently, the request for it was flooding that particular program... and that went on and on through the whole day, it felt good. That was the day when the telephone at home also started to ring... and ring... and ring... for three years!!!

Of course, going to our usual hang-out at Greenhills, Uni-mart, or Virra Mall was becoming unsettling because we'd go out for our thing and people would start running crazy, and before you know it, you realize everyone around is looking at you!...it was great to know that people like what your had done but then, as the days and months wore on, the commotions became too much and we realized that it can get dangerously out of hand...

Why did Jun Medina leave the group? How did Vic Sotto come in the picture? (Question from: William Chua, Paranaque)

Jun Medina left the group to finally heed the call of the U.S. He immigrated to America with his family who had petitioned him. And that was the point when Vic came to the picture. It was a great fit since Vic, being Val and Tito’s brother, was part of the barkada anyway, and he actually had been leading the vocal track of the songs ever since...

Other than what is common knowledge, what is it about VST & Company that fans should know about? (VST & Company members were not just pop idols, they had other individual and collective contributions to the Philippines music industry that many people do not know about; members' involvement as composers, musicians, producers, etc. with other artists' records, performances, etc.)

What other things about VST fans should know about? (Question from: Emer, New Jersey)

There are quite a number of them, but perhaps the one that stands out would be the fact that the group had actually made it internationally though the band stayed put at home. The song "Awitin Mo", we found out much later, was a regular tune at the famed Studio 54 in New York City, and that it was one of Diana Ross' favorite disco tune at that time... We, or maybe to be more specific, the recording big bosses in Manila, did not venture and strike the "iron while it was hot", so to speak, and the story for local Pinoy music would have been much different in the context of international recognition. One has to think though, since most of the members then were active producers and music industry innovators, whether it was possible to leave the country and do some stint abroad while the local industry was experiencing the hottest decade of Pinoy music ever.


We have had visitors from other Asian countries who would argue with us if we truly were the original band since there were bands in their home countries who were playing our songs in their language and were very popular….some even thought that WE were the copycats…international fame would have probably been possible then, what with the strong impact of Freddie’s "Anak" (which, by the way, was produced by bandmate and guitarist Celso Llarina)…we can only speculate at this point, but the signs were obviously strong and positively on our side...

Can you share a moving, happy, or memorable experience that VST fans don't know about? (Question from: Wendell Capili, Australia)

The memorable experiences of VST---there were tons of it….and one here comes to mind at one of our first of many school appearances: We were invited to grace an event, I think it was, and render a song or two at a university in the very heart of Manila... it was a day show and the university performance hall was packed…it was great... the students were enthusiastic and were really into it. We obviously revved up the event. And then it was time for us to leave. But, as it was becoming a common situation, we couldn't, as a group, get free from everyone trying to have one last autograph... and besides, we couldn't find our van, which apparently got stuck because of the growing crowd outside. Everyone wanted to see what the heck was going on inside, with the screaming and all. Our student contact started to pull us out of the crowd and asked us to follow him. As soon as he saw a clearing from the wall of people, he began to run and we, at first unwillingly, started to run after him (which we knew was not a good idea)…and soon after, a big crowd started to run after us (again, which we expected)!!!

We had a previous experience before this that stuck to our minds, when things turned uncontrollably dangerous…and so, while running we told the guy to find us a place to hide!...
Running across an open field, we went to one building, ran upstairs and looking back, we saw this big crowd of young students (maybe high school students out on recess, maybe) still after us, not very far behind... the first door he saw he opened and he shoved us seven guys into this dark space and immediately shut the door…we then realized we were shoved into a janitor’s storage closet----brooms, walis, pails, trapo and all! But it was too late.

We were cramped like sardines but we all felt we couldn’t get out either. Not now! We finally heard all the running outside, the sound of a stampede of people, screaming and laughing and shouting, "Andoon sila, andoon sila!!!... dali, dali!!!" Until it finally subsided…we waited what felt like a good twenty minutes before we opened the door and saw that the hall was without a soul... we got out the back door of the building (funny, but they were all unlocked!), and our student guide (all winded and smiling, bless him!) was there with the van and off we went, waving to him a thankful goodbye…sweaty, cramped, but so relieved.

A note about situations with fans though, so that it doesn’t seem like we don’t really want to stay and mingle with them. We actually do. In fact, when we did have the chance, we would really have a great time, just talking and getting to know one another. But, there came a point when this was becoming too risky, simply because of crowd control. When you get cramped in with tons of people around you, it could get dangerously suffocating, most especially if there are younger people around, like kids. And we’ve seen incidents like these happen before, and even lately still.

What made being part of VST exciting? What made the group so special? (Question from: Ronnie Santos, Quezon City)

What made the group special? I could only say that at that point in our lives, it was really just a matter of time before we as a group, would actually share the big stage, so to speak. This is because singing was already a part of the barkada. We all started singing at a very early stage in our lives: during the combo years, and the early recording years, in church, at weddings, and even at a wake. We would sing as a group even when no one wanted us to…but, that was because the gang was just having a good time together. When we had the chance, we’d go out and watch other bands play. We love to watch bands from Olongapo, who are actually the unsung heroes of Pinoy music. One particular band stands out when I reminisce about these bands: The original Electros with Ernie Delgado, who eventually formed another great group, The God’s Ego---they were to us, the best Filipino tribute band ever.

And that is why the VST experience was special…and it still is. The energy that was reminiscent of the group continues. The creativity of making tunes, the hardships, the fun and the revelations that followed…all were part of that truly unique experience of guys just having fun with music. We even took a chance one time to sing an a-capella piece of a classic tune "Red Roses" at one of our school visits! It was a lifestyle and a state of mind, all rolled into one. It was a way to express the sentiments of a generation…and most of all, the group and its sound was, generally speaking, truly appreciated by the general public. We couldn’t thank the public more. One way or another, we became part of their growing years.

If you could do it all again, would you do it? Would you change anything? (Question from: Sandy Ancheta, Laguna)

If we were to do it again, would I do it? Would I change anything? Yes, I would do it again. No, I don’t think I’d change anything. But definitely, the time we had was worth the experience. The wisdom that it bestowed upon us was truly humbling. There were some really eye-opening events that would make this interview longer than it should be. Perhaps, in time, it would be possible for us to relate each and every single one of those. Just hang on tight as we should be able to make something of it not in the distant future.

I hope I was able to answer and share some of these thoughtful questions. Thanks again for the opportunity. More power to Nostalgia Manila!!!!


Don't forget to check out the VST & Company Photo Album at maraming mga photos na siguradong hindi mo pa nakikita.


Also Read: Nostalgia Manila Exclusive Interview with Roger Rigor of VST & Company Part 1

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20 comments:

Totoy Time Machine said...

Great interview! Sayang, hindi nasagot yung meaning ng "VST".

In the 70s, we frequented Jakarta, Indonesia because our grandparents were expats there and we were pleasantly surprised that VST was very popular (along with some other Pinoy artists)with the Indonesians. We even visited Indonesian family friends at their home and found them listening to VST casettes. Yung Indonesian maid namin laging nagre-request ng pasalubong from the Phils. na casettes ni Rey Valera. One time nagsho-shopping kami sa popular department store dun eh ang pipe-in music si Eddie Peregrina. Aliw na aliw kami!

Nostalgia Manila said...

Totoy Time Machine,

Yeah, the Indonesians are very fond of OPM.

As for the what the VST acronym stands for, legendary producer, composer and musician Snaffu Rigor (brother of Roger, Spanky, and Male Rigor) has actually shared some insight on this enigmatic subject. Everyone grab your pens and take notes! ;)

Not many know that Vst & Company was Tito Sotto's baby project. It was his idea to roundup the 461 boys and form a supergroup for Vicor Records. This group would include (already seasoned musicians) Spanky Rigor and Celso Llarina, both would also become main producers of the VST project. Spanky and Celso were already known in the industry for being members of superband Blackbuster and Cinderella.

Tito had envisioned VST to be a group like no other, a supergroup! There are a few interpretations of this acronym, shared by a few close people in the music industry. Here are a few:

1) Vicor Super-Team!
2) Vicente Sotto the Third! (Tito Sotto's name)
3) During interviews and appearances, the question would always pop up, and the members would reply "Very Secret Talaga!"

Of course these three meanings of the acronym are what we would call the more standard or popular ones known to industry insiders. BUT, the group also had a more personal meaning for the acronym (Roger Rigor mentions this in the interview) and is only known to the group members themselves.

Tito and the boys believed that the group's name had to have all the right elements for luck and success. The number 7 plays a big key in this. "VST & Company" is composed of 7 syllables. Company is made up of 7 letters. If you use the traditional Filipino superstition of "Oro, Plata, Mata" on the number seven (VST & Company syllables), Oro (meaning Gold) falls on number seven. And finally, VST & Company naturally had to have 7 members. And as fate would have it, there were indeed seven very close friends who were all destined for legendary success. ;)

Ayos ba? ;)

wendell said...

ayos na ayos!

PinoyHarbinger said...

only in nostalgia manila. grabe astig!

Nostalgia Manila said...

Wendell,

Maraming salamat sa iyong questions!

PinoyHarbinger,

Good to know nasiyahan ka! ;)

Anonymous said...

Former VST member hopes for reunion

An ex-member of the legendary vocal group VST & Co. thinks that their act disbanded prematurely and that the best way to scratch that itchiness is to do a reunion album. This was how Monet Gaskell, one of VST’s highpitched singing vocalists, seemed to imply during an exclusive chat with the Manila Bulletin, as he recalled their heydays. “Nabitin kami no’n,” he said, referring to their three-year run to fame and fortune, from 1978 to 1981, which had them singing to the tunes of now-classic OPM masterpieces. The 54-year-old former group singer personally feels the best was yet to come for the gang who popularized disco music with the irresistible pop touch of OPM. He feels that they were into various musical influences themselves that had they been given more time they could have ventured into other stuff. “I personally feel I wasn’t able to deliver my best. In case magkaroon kami ng reunion album at gagawa ng mga bagong kanta, I’d love to explore pa,” Gaskell noted. The only VST member who didn’t experience having his own family, Gaskell recalls the good old days with fondness both for their music and camaraderie. He shared that VST just happened and even themselves were not aware of their success at first. Gaskell said he had befriended the musically-inclined Rigor brothers before the group was formed and later got hooked with the talented Sottos upon the creation of the group which, according to him, was actually tapped to counteract the famed Boyfriends act. There were three Rigors in VST, namely, Spanky, Roger, and Male. Sotto brothers Vic, who usually did the lead singing, and Val, along with Gaskell and guitarist Celso Llarina complete the lineup. Vic and partner Joey De Leon (officially not a member of the group) co-wrote most of their hits such as “Awitin Mo, Isasayaw Ko,” “Disco Fever” and “Ipagpatawad Mo.” “Hindi ko na nakikita si Vic sa ngayon at dinadalaw ko na lang paminsan-minsan si Val,” reflected Gaskell, now a freelance sales agent who lives with his mom in Parañaque. He is said to be one of the three highpitched voices filling up the distinguished VST harmonies, along with Vic and Spanky. As for the often-asked meaning of the VST acronym, Gaskell’s version is that, the three letters stood for Vic, Spanky, and Tito (Sotto) who he said brainstormed the birth of the act. Queried about his thought on current acts reviving VST songs, he said he heard a couple of renditions he found good enough. He has this thinking that preferences in music are mostly subjective, or in other words, he will always go for the kind of music before because it was his time. VST & Co. released about five albums during their active years. Gaskell would rather think of their disbandment as a natural end, especially that what’s more important to him is how they managed to enter the scene at the very right time when ‘Saturday Night Fever” was a hit. At present, a couple of the VST members are residing in America, while the group’s lead singer is quite miles away from the rest of the group in terms fame and celebrity status. As one-third of the legendary Tito, Vic, and Joey, Vic Sotto not only conquered Philippine TV as a host of Eat Bulaga, he also took the box office throne several times as main star of family-oriented movies. Without needing to admit, Gaskell reverted back into a normal guy who can walk in the crowd without being noticed he was part of that big-time group. The thing is, though he may be walking not too tall, he still cares to dream big even beyond his control. For sure he’d be happy to see a VST reunion becomes a reality one day.

By YUGEL LOSORATA

Saturday, April 21, 2007
http://www.mb.com.ph/ENTR2007042192291.html

PIN0YFLAVAS said...

I WAS WONDERING IF ANYONE KNEW JUN MEDINA (ORIGINAL MEMBER OF VST. CO)DIED OF LIVER CANCER. HE WAS LIVING IN SAN FRANCISCO. I WAS HOPING THEY HAD A REUNION AND DEDICATE IT TO JUN MEDINA!!!

Neo said...

Grabe na ito.... Part -2 galing talaga ng NM... Walang katapat...
pero gusto ko rin mag pasalamat kay totoy time machine for a great back trackkkkkkkk...........nabasa ko about sa gusto ng reunion ng isa nilang band mates....well hindi malayong mangyari yon.. at also i will crossed my fingers isa ma kuna pati paa.. sa mga darating pang interview's about VST..

Wish ko lang sana Si Tito Sen...

More to come NM.....

Neo

Anonymous said...

We have all heard the meteoric rise of VST & Co. but I am also curious about the events of their last year together and the eventual disbandment. After all this is still part of the VST story. Thanks.

Maryanne Moll said...

One of these days, I am going to just drop everything, and then read the entgire series of the VST features. I've been dying to do that for the longest time!

Of course, lately all I have time for is an hour or two of playing hooky (in adult terms, running off to join one of Carlos Celdran's walking tours) and then I have to go back to work again.

One of these days... Itaga nyo sa bato!

JON said...

nag enjoy akong basahin ang part 2 ng interview with Roger.

Galing talaga ng VST!

Anonymous said...

natatandaan ko nagreunion sila sa eat bulaga siguro mga 2 or 3 kanta ang ginawa nila kya lng bitin sa interview parang wla lng tsaka hindi kumpleto mga 5 lng yata sila eh kasama si vic tapos pinakilala sila ni ni joey at yun mga ginagawa nila.

Nostalgia Manila said...

Anonymous,

They actually had a full on reunion in 2003. They performed sa Eat Bulaga, at kumpleto sila lahat. They did a medly of their hits, about 5-6 songs I think it was. That was the first time na kumpleto sila since they went separate ways in the early 80's.

Xerex_Davao said...

To NOSTALGIA MANILA... im a fanatic fan of VST&Company. Da Best talaga ang NM kase dito ko nalaman ang mga roster ng grupo. Dati si Vic & Val Sotto at Spunky Rigor lang ang alam ko ngayon lahat ng myembro na.

NM, last kung nakita na nag perform ang VST&Company parang reunion na rin ata yun sa EAT BULAGA last December 2003 (kung di ako nagkamali) excited ako sa mga oras nayun kase makita ko muli ang mga idol ko.

At lalo akong naexcite ng tinanong ni ANJO YLANNA sa grupo na ano ba talaga ang ibig sabihih ng VST. Val Sotto answered "DI PWEDENG SABIHIN KASE MEDYO MAY PAGKA BASTOS" akala ko sabihin na nila hehehe. bitin tuloy ako.

Once Again Thank you and More Power to NM.

Anonymous said...

Does anybody out there know Roger's email address?

Hope Roger gets to read this...

I'm Cecille Ty-Gonzales

Nostalgia Manila said...

Hey Cecille!

Shoot me an email at nostalgiamanilamail[at]yahoo[dot]com and give me your email address. I'll get in touch with Roger and I'll have him contact you. ;)

Anonymous said...

yEah Reunion Kayo Tapos Yung Mga Family ng mga nawala ninyong kaibigan sa VST and company guest niyo sila Hinde ba name ng mga babae ang meaning ng VST??? hehe!!!

Jaizon said...

Does anyone have any information on Jun Medina? Please let me know. I know he passed in the 90's but if anyone has any info on him, it would be GREATLY appreciated!!!!

-Jaizon

Anonymous said...

Mr. NM, Roger was my batchmate at U.P. I was trying to get in touch with him for the longest time. Please pass on my email (evisenio@yahoo.com) so he can drop me a note. Roger, just in case you are reading this blog, this is Ely a.k.a. The Pink Panther ;-) E-mail me.

The XCoder said...

Ang galing! Nakakamiss ang mga panahon.

Its simply awesome and cool!



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