Kit Bungo Of ARMAGEDDON: The Lost Interview Tapes - Remembering The Greatest Obscure Band Of 70's Pinoy Rock
by Gregg Casis
"It has come to my attention the existence of a truly evil and corrupting influence over the young and impressionable minds of our society." (--President Ferdinand Marcos, Presidential Address, 1976)
Many Filipino Rock fans can name the legendary greats that helped shape Pinoy Rock Music. Comprised of bands formed during the mid 60's and flourished throughout the 70's, these bands left their mark in Filipino pop culture, and provided a profound contribution to OPM's golden era. Recognizable names such as "Abracadabra", Pinoy psych-rock's trippy drummer Edmond Fortuno's "Anak Bayan", "Bad Machine", famous for being the opening act for the Rolling Stones' Rizal Coliseum concert in 1976, Olongapo's pride "Horoscope", lead by drummer Lito Marcos, the "Drug Cult" band with Eddie "Manok", "Maria Cafra" known for their epic rock concertos with Resty Fabunan on lead guitar, and legendary music producer Snaffu Rigor on drums and percussion, and the crowning glory of Pinoy Rock, "Juan De La Cruz", with Mike Hanopol, Wally Gonzalez, and the larger-than-life persona of Joey "Pepe" Smith.
Pinoy rock was undoubtedly a huge staple throughout the 70's, although its impetus was not limited to mere commercial popularity. Away from the spotlight of mainstream music, underground bands proliferated spanning a rich genre of experimentational sounds. Formed during the height of the "drug culture", these rock groups seduced the youth with its rebellious subterranean sonics and howlings. Christened with more sinister band names in comparison to their commercial counterparts, with names like: "The Devil's Playground", famed for their deep psychedelic rock jams, "The Apocalypse Band" of lead-guitarist Sammy Climaco, "Empiyerno" of lead guitarist Rolly Roldan and bassist JC Aspiras, are samples of the alternative choice for adventurous music fans who were eager to venture away from the commercial acts that dominated the airwaves.
But the most treasured gem to ever come out of this period is an obscured mystery that is remembered by only a handful rock historians, true audiophiles, and industry insiders; a group called Armageddon. Hailed as the true harbingers of Heavy Metal (before it was commercially made popular by British imports), this menacing trio was feared by the public as the original horsemen of the apocalypse. The band's catalogue of music is as fascinating as its mysterious origins. Forged by an early childhood friendship between eccentric lead singer Levi "Leviathan" De Los Santos and fiery lead guitarist Kit Bungo, the group's rise to underground notoriety was greatly supported by what came to be known as their "invisible army" of fans; the group garnered so much infamy for becoming the only musical act to have been blacklisted from participating in local Filipino entertainment's commercial market structure - the reason being that they were classified as a "social threat" by the Marcos regime during the mid 1970's; "It has come to my attention the existence of a truly evil and corrupting influence over the young and impressionable minds of our society." (--President Ferdinand Marcos, Presidential Address, 1976)
Formed in 1973, guided by an omnipotent and unseen force that the founding musicians refer to as their true father, Armageddon (or "Geddon") capitalized on hits classified as demonic-sounding music by commercial radio station DJs and local music publications. Hellish tunes heavily embellished with frightening lyrics and song titles such as: "Hardin Ng Halimaw", "Kampon Ng Kadiliman", "Sa Dulo Ng Impyerno", "Ipapako Kita", "Sungay Niya Sungay Ko Rin", "Langit Sa Ilalim Ng Lupa", "Haplos Ng Apoy", "Mapulang Dagat", "Sunugin Ang Mundo", "Madilim Na Bukas", and the highly controversial "Ang Huling Araw" (censored by the National Board Of Censors months before its release) - invokes omenous imagery influenced by the cultural myths and superstitious tales embedded in Filipino folklore.
Although their legacy resides within the dark corners of the memories of those who remember their short-lived reign, the band's fascinating story of sorcery, sacrifice, and alleged devil worship, is encapsulated in one of the recently resurfaced interview tapes of Armageddon's lead guitarist Kit Bungo. An interview recorded during their 5th Anniversary US Tour in Michigan in 1986, by local Filipino radio personality Al Alcantara of DZHJ, Radio Bayan. The tape provides an intimate peek into the world of obscure rock legends that for many decades have been cloaked in mystery, until now.
Let us examine the band that Mike Hanopol refers to as "Black Magic", the tempestuous personalities that inspired Joey Pepe Smith to coin the phrase "Anak ng demonyo!"; this is the true story of Armageddon.
Kit Bungo Interview PART 1 - Track 1
Kit recalls the group's early formation days - rehearsing in a basement studio underneath a bakery in Cubao. Their fateful trip to bassist Rotsen's province of Capiz, where Rotsen receives his mystical name as a gift from the underworld, facilitated by a mysterious cult minister the band simply refers to as Tito Eddie. Details of the cult's cave of worship, and the group's induction into the world of mysticism and their monastic practice of the black arts.
Kit tells of his childhood friendship with lead singer Levi, and tells the story of Levi's extraordinary birth - feared by local villagers as an ominous event, and Levi's unspoken unearthly powers that led to the blinding of a Catholic priest, which later resulted in the banishment of Levi's family from their hometown.
Kit Bungo Interview PART 1 - Track 2
Details about the mysteries that surround the birth of Geddon's lead singer Levi - Kit retells the chilling tale of Levi having been born with unnatural growths that seemed to resemble devil horns, as well as the lead guitarist articulating the group's bond to Levi's alleged "father of darkness".
Kit Bungo Interview PART 2 - Track 3
Kit discusses the rise of Armageddon after being signed to the now defunct Orion Records (a then rogue subsidiary of Alpha Records) in 1976, via the label's talent scout Edwin Manalo. The group records the lengthy and self-indulgent instrumental epic "Ipapako Kita", which clocks over 3 hours of music, carving its own rightful place in rock history.
Their first hit single "Duyan Ng Demonyo" mesmerizes the public, but the cult classic "Blusang Itim" becomes an instant underground hit, selling an unprecedented one million copies, two thirds of which are accounted for by a Japanese bootleg sold to a small Japanese outfit via a deal unknown to the group's management at the time. This feat catapulted the band into an international cult phenomenon. Favorited among contemporaries such as Mike Hanopol (whom to this day highly respects the band for their artistic integrity and genious), the song paved way to inspire a feature film to be made a decade later by director Emmanuel H. Borlaza.
According to legend, Borlaza had acquired a copy of the song from a houseboy he had employed in 1984-1985, around the time Borlaza directed a horror short entitled "Baso", featured in "Shake, Rattle, & Roll" - it was said that the director became fatally obsessed with the track that it almost drove him to madness.
Unknown to many, the director had mysteriously disappeared from his home, only to emerge almost eight months later with yet another masterpiece. This elegantly filmed macabre love story is Borlaza's tribute to the tune that haunted his artistic desires. A bonafide boxoffice success in 1986, "Blusang Itim" starred 80's matinee idols Snooky Serna, Richard Gomez, and Joel Alano.
Kit Bungo Interview PART 2 - Track 4
Kit cites the highly controversial track "Ang Huling Araw", censored by the board of censors months before its release. The band's prophetic rise to fame in the year 1976 - Kit breaks down the year's mystical significance via the Numericon: a cryptic method used by 14th century mystics to foresee auspicious events with the aid of a medium. Rotsen challenges Levi upon the authenticity of his birthright as the true "Devil's incarnate".
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