“this time please open your mouth and say something, okay?”

that was wong reminding me to not be too starstruck when i get to wilmslow road later. a while back, i was cordially introduced to melina william (she of tempered mental indeed) at laundry and all i could manage was a hello, followed by tumbleweed and the blowing desert breeze.

for the past ten years or so, i have gotten used to meet people in the industry thanks to my brother. my biggest high as a music lover was in 1999 when i actually was in the studio watching kadak laying down that short bass excerpt for doomsday out (the bit with the backwards guitar track in the background) at menora in setapak during the transcendence sessions (followed by… err, getting them to sign my copy of their debut record. have to lah).

when wong asked if i was gonna come to manchester early (ie friday, two days before the gig), the sensible side of me felt reluctant to do so but the fanboy side won. hey, if you had someone told you ed vedder doesn’t mind you hanging out with the band before the gig, you’d stay at home is it?

once again, the brother connection was a common topic again, as he had produced the malaysian version of the beijing olympics theme song at laguna. a case of six degrees of trabye? so, it was all “oh, abang trabye ye?” during the introductions at the meal.

i wondered how tired the bands must be as this was one week of them being on the road in england. jeremy little was chuffed with the open mic sesh-es that estrella managed to snag in london and brighton following sunday’s ULU show. “we had some interest from some guy at the camden open mic and we hope to be back probably in the summer for a festival date,” said jeremy whilst tucking into some naan and mixed grill. i have questioned, in the past and iedil from KNUKE knows this, the reasons for making all that effort to bring our bands to these shores. whilst the main london and manchester shows had a predominantly malaysian crowd, these smaller ventures into the local scene is one step in the right direction.

i have to add that i finally got to speak to liyana outside the eaterie. suffice to say the melina william incident didn’t happen again.

on the way to one of the student houses accommodating the bands, i played duan two demo tracks i had of sevencollar t-shirt from like a decade ago. duan was recalling the days of analogue recording sans pro-tools. “ni zaman ni just after leaving school record kat king’s… zaman-zaman soundgarden,” said duan whilst the car was cilok-ing the karachi-like streets of rusholme. ham was even more ecstatic. “what? we have a song called twice born man?! wow… an eight-minute sevencollar t-shirt song,” he said whilst listening to my iPod. keng later told me in those days they had another one that was ten minutes long. tool siut.

after breakfast at didsbury on saturday, i caught the bands doing acoustic seshes for manchester radio online. well, almost caught was more like it. by the time we arrived back in rusholme, estrella had just finished their sesh. i got to catch sevencollar’s sublime acoustic rendition of drones and their current single, wild child.

i asked ham about his impressive array of stompboxes (to paraphrase ili, effects sekampung) and enquired if he gets problem with volume drop. “memang ada especially line 6 filter/modeler ni. tapi the drop tak perasan sangat, pasal it stays on throughout the set.” ham also complimented on najib, the sound engineer at laguna, who helped him fine tune and define his current tone. and as for amplification? he swears on his point-to-point handwired ceriatone. he the man!

as the sevencollar chaps were ushered to the living room for their interview, we sat down to watch rashdan do his stuff (check it out here on rashdan’s myspacekawan punya pasal, aku up. hehe) impromptu on liyana’s yamaha dreadnought. liyana had been playing the guitar since she was twelve. she then went on to ask me which songs i liked from the estrella record. i had to admit that i felt i was put on the spot, and honestly told her the three singles (ternyata, stay and take it slow) they’ve put out were pretty much my favourites, together with heaven. besides, the first three were somewhat obvious tracks and i felt it was no surprise that they were released as singles. she promptly added, “i can tell what a person is like from his/her choice of favourite estrella songs.” it wasn’t a test, was it? heh.

the manchester chapter of KNUKE then proceeded to take the bands around the city centre (with a handful making a short detour to old trafford for obvious reasons). arnold was one of the 8TV guys and he took vids of liyana busking at st. anne’s, whilst the KNUKE guys were handing out flyers of the gig. it was somewhat windy and liyana’s voice was unfortunately drowned by the gusts and the nearby fountain to boot.

adil and pito are the percussive units (adil drums in SCTS whilst pito is pretty much the mike carabello of estrella) in the group. both are graduates of the music department at UITM. pito, apart from being a dab hand in card tricks, told me that he hasn’t always been a percussionist as he plays the electric bass. adil joined SCTS pretty much after moktarizal’s penultimate gig with the band. “aku kenal duan kat ITM (duan’s a music composition major). so, hari tu dia tanya aku ko boleh main drums untuk kitaorang tak. aku kena la lepas tu belajar macam lapan lagu untuk show!!” and he had been in the band since.

a late lunch at ning beckoned, as this malay-thai northern quarter eaterie was a co-sponsor for the manchester leg of the tour. we had decent portions (for a tenner! i paid for everything i ate, so don’t look at me as if i’m a freeloader eh. heh) of nasi with ayam kicap, salmon (besar) goreng and some bubur pulut hitam. if i’m not mistaken, a vegetable dish was sorely missed.

whilst sipping some sirap i had a chat with najib pertaining the backline for the show. “aku kalau boleh nak half stack, with a JCM900 head, untuk ham. tapi backline yang company tu kasi combo peavey classic.” now, any guitarist worth his salt would know what he needs onstage and it was obvious, following ham’s description of how najib helped him sculpt ham’s guitar tone, this guy is passionate and means business.

kalau JCM900 combo? 1×12? 2×12?” i asked.

tak boleh. kat london, aku kena naikkan monitors, pasal susah nak feedback kalau tak,” najib said.

he was right. go watch any live SCTS performance (i had to do this youtube style – never seen them before, meh) and you’d see the band’s utilisation of the guitar feedback. if you’ve ever played in front of a half stack with a 4×12″ marshall cab (let alone a full stack), you’d know why. lucky for najib, the backline crew for KNUKE managed to call the company in time so that he can have a look see what alternative they have.

as they left for rusholme (they had a break in the itinerary since the radio thingy was all done and dusted), i was somewhat stoked for the next day’s show. the KNUKE guys in manchester had to up the ante following the london debacle and i, for one, was waiting with bated breath as i drove up the A57 back to sheffield that afternoon.