Bobby Padilla is a walking oxymoron.
Behind the drums, the 23-year-old skinsman, known primarily for his work with Hilera and The ButcherCons, is a monster. Whenever he's pounding the skins, Padilla goes about it with precision, dishing out complex drum rolls, adding that oomph that makes his bands' songs aggressively alive and ultimately leaving fans and fellow musicians alike gape-mouthed with awe afterwards.
But in circumstances away from the stage, the drummer extraordinaire assumes a low profile, oftentimes content with keeping to himself unless someone starts a conversation with him. He, unlike his older brother and Hilera singer/guitarist Chris, isn't the type who'd start conversations on a whim.
"Mahiyain ako eh," Padilla tells me a while back.
With his already impressive and continuously expanding resumé, coupled with his apparent disregard for any inhibitions behind the kit, it's a bit of a stretch for anyone to reconcile these two truths about him. But as I found out recently during an interview I did with him for DIGRadio.ph, the younger Padilla mentioned a few things that made reconciling those truths easier.
DIGRadio.ph: How long have you been playing drums?
Bobby: Nag-start akong mag-drums around 2004. Third year high school. Mga 15 or 16 ako noon.
DIGRadio.ph: Why'd you choose the drums?
Bobby: N’ung first time, gitara. ‘Yun talaga ‘yung inaral ko n’ung mga 12 ako. (I was still in) Elementary. Nakikita ko madalas ‘yung mga kaibigan ko, ‘tsaka sila Chris. Sinubukan kong mag-guitar, pero nahirapan ako eh. Nahirapan talaga ako d’un sa pagpapalit-palit ng chords, andaming tinatamaang nota. Tapos, n’ung isang beses, nanood ako ng concert – VHS pa ‘yun – ng Metallica. ‘Yun ‘yung first time kong na-in love sa drums. (Because of) Lars Ulrich.Fifteen ako n’un. Mas feel ko lang talaga ‘yung drums. Personally, mas feel ng katawan ko. Pag-upo ko sa drums, kahit hindi pa ako masyadong marunong noon, mas madali akong nakakakuha ng beats. Tuwing makikinig ako ng kanta kahit hindi pa ako marunong mag-drums dati. (Bobby taps on the table, reenacting how he tried to tap along to songs he used to listen to during his formative years as a drummer.)
DIGRadio.ph: What was your first band?
Bobby: N’ung high school, merong katuwaan lang. Tumutugtog lang kami sa isang event (ng school namin), yung Himig ng Kabataan. Every year, nagpapa-participate kami doon. Gitara pa hawak ko noon. Pero yung (seryosong) banda na talaga, Hilera na. N’ung lumipat kasi ako sa drums, sila Chris naghahanap ng drummer, so eksakto. Mga five months pa lang akong nagda-drums n’ung time na ‘yun. Ang nangyari, hindi sila makakuha ng drummer na stable hanggang sa sumuko na sila. (Chris said), "Eto na lang muna. Antayin na lang natin 'tong matuto." Naging mapagpasensya naman sila noon. N’ung time na yun, kung hanggang saan lang ‘yung kaya ko. White Stripes pa ‘yung peg ko noon (when I started drumming).
DIGRadio.ph: How was it when you were just starting out with the drums?
Bobby: (Smiles) Actually, ‘yung learning, d’un ako natuwa. Kasi, n’ung first time akong nagda-drums, tinuruan din ako ng kaunting lessons nung dating drummer nila Chris. Every time na lumalayo na ako sa notes, lalo akong na-e-excite, kasi ang dami kong natututunan. Parang never-ending ‘yung natututunan sa drums. Na-aliw lang ako talaga.
DIGRadio.ph: 2005 was the year you joined Nescafé Soundskool, right? Being a new drummer during that time, how did you feel with the knowledge that you were in a big competition like that?
Bobby: Ewan ko, n’ung panahon kasi na ‘yun, tugtog lang eh. Minsan hindi ko na napapansin na competition na pala. Gusto ko lang tumugtog. Minsan, kinakabahan sa simula, pero more on ang iniisip ko lang, makatugtog. Manalo (or) matalo. Tugtog lang ng maayos na set.
DIGRadio.ph: Who were your early teachers aside from your predecessor in Hilera?
Bobby: Wala eh. After n’ung tinuruan, wala na masyado. Mga tips lang. Halimbawa, si Raymund (Marasigan), binigyan ako ng advice sa technique, gan’un. And the rest, self-study, tanong-tanong. ‘Tsaka nakinig lang ako ng nakinig.
DIGRadio.ph: Who were the drummers you listened to most when you were starting out?
Bobby: Si Lars talaga. Tapos nakinig din ako kay Tré Cool (Green Day). Pero ang sobrang nag-inspire sa playing ko ngayon, si Stewart Copeland ng The Police. Ngayon pinapakinggan ko si Deantoni Parks (The Mars Volta).
DIGRadio.ph: Let's fast forward to today. You're only 23 and already, you are regarded as one of the best drummers in the scene right now. How does it feel to get that attention?
Bobby: (Chuckles) Ewan ko. Hindi ko gaanong nakikita eh! (Laughs) Tugtog lang. Wala namang "sinong pinakamagaling," gan’un-gan’un. Kanya-kanya lang talagang style, eh.
DIGRadio.ph: What collaborative projects outside of your bands have you participated in to date?
Bobby: Hindi ko alam kung ano ‘yung pinaka-una, pero naaalala ko ‘yung kay Rico (Blanco) para sa MYX Music Awards n’ung 2010 ata. ‘Yun, tumugtog kami d’un. Tapos ‘yung kay Ely, may banda kami ngayon (The Oktaves), tapos ‘yung maging part ng In Love and War (the collaborative album between Ely Buendia and the late Francis Magalona; Bobby played on the songs ”Hands On” and “Bum Ticker”).
DIGRadio.ph: How does it feel that the big shots are tapping you for your skills?
Bobby: Tuwing collaboration, sobrang kinakabahan ako. Pero once na na-relax na, ‘yun na. Sa simula talaga, grabe. Halos mamatay ako sa kaba minsan. Start pa lang ng jamming (Padilla then acts out nervous gasps for air), tapos game na.
DIGRadio.ph: What's your initial reaction whenever these big shots call you in for collaborations?
Bobby: Kinakabahan ako lagi sa mga ganyan, pare. Pero masarap, s’yempre. It's an honor na maka-jam sa kanila. Pero, tugtog pa rin talaga ‘yung mindset ko every time.
DIGRadio.ph: Do you still get nervous at this point when you get called in by musicians of that caliber for a project?
Bobby: Oo. Until now. Every time. Actually, kahit bar gigs. May kaba pa rin ako. Hindi nawala eh. Kunwari, relaxed ako (before playing), tapos biglang mag magsabi sa amin, "O, kayo na," biglang akong (Padilla acts out an expression of surprise and gasps for some air again, then laughs). Lagi ‘yun.
DIGRadio.ph: What's your mindset when you're about to sit behind the kit?
Bobby: Hindi ko malilimutan ‘yung sinabi sa akin ni Wendell (Garcia): "Hanggang saan mo ba kaya pasarapin 'tong drums na 'to?" Parang gan’un. ‘Yung palo, hanggang saan mo pasasarapin? Para mas malagyan mo lang ng feel yung pagtugtog. Pag mas ramdam mo, boom!
DIGRadio.ph: At this point, you are pretty busy as a drummer with Hilera, The ButcherCons, The Oktaves and your other projects. How do you manage to juggle all those at the same time?
Bobby: Actually, tinetext lang nila ako pag may gig. Minsan, pag may mga conflict, naghahanap ako ng sub para sa ButcherCons or sa Hilera. Pero buong oras ko naman, ‘yun na ‘yung ginagawa ko eh. ‘Yun na ‘yung work ko eh. Basta pag nag-text na sila, ‘yun na ‘yun.
DIGRadio.ph: What else do you do aside from playing drums?
Bobby: Rumaraket ako minsan na photographer. Pero most of the time, sa music din.
DIGRadio.ph: For how long do you see yourself playing music?
Bobby: Hanggang mamatay. (Chuckles) Forever.
Photo by Neil Dela Cruz.