Karl Roy: chef, jazz singer, sweet soul

Francis Reyes sings “I Will Always Love You” to Karl Roy on Feb. 18, 2012. (Photo by Niña Sandejas, rosarioko.com) …It was mid-February backstage, barely a month ago. I wasn’t sure if he recognized me from the time we last saw each other in the Yahoo! offices five months before.

He stares me down head to toe, strikes a gay pose, and mouths the two words he and Jett Pangan borrowed from Luke Mejares which became our standard greeting for each other:

“Vahkklang toahhh!!!”

We give each other a big hug.

I take the stage for the night’s hosting duties as his band plugs in their instruments.  In equal parts jest and joy, I sing “I Will Always Love You” in his ear. He winces, laughs.

His band plays… and he is home.

What stroke?

“He’s absolutely on his way back,” I say to myself.
 
It was 25 years ago

In the late 80s, everybody talked about that energetic skinny kid fronting Advent Call who could whip a crowd into a frenzy. His sharp facial features made camera lenses love him back.

Even then, we knew he was - cliché alert - born to do it. His name alone sounded exotic.

Karl Roy.

I first met him 25 years ago at the old Rosie’s Diner along Makati Avenue. He asked about certain things that he assumed I indulged in. When I replied I wasn’t into those things, we both just looked away…mutually embarrassed.

From that first awkward meeting, we rarely exchanged anything but pre-gig hellos for many years until I received a call from P.O.T. guitarist Ian Umali who wanted to know if I was available to play guitar for the band.
 
Playing with Karl

As a huge fan, I was deeply flattered but would have to think about it for two reasons: one, there were tricky riffs that I couldn’t quite get under my fingers and two, I’m not sure if I could handle working with THE wild frontman who was notorious for… well, many reasons.

I couldn’t imagine playing beside the guy… but I did for two fantastic years.

He was not the aloof rock god I imagined him to be… well, at least he simply was not aloof. While many know of that raspy voice burnished by countless gigs, in conversation, he always spoke in gentle tones many decibels removed from his ferocity onstage. Off stage, he was the painfully sweet kind soul too often obscured by the elaborate tattoos he was almost as famous for.
 
Karl the chef

Around 2003, Karl paid me a visit in NU107. One of his housemates left, and he was wondering if I was looking for a place to live; during my tenure in P.O.T., he remembered that I would either shuttle back and forth from Lipa City or sleep in the station. I was renting a place at that time but I soon reconsidered.

Dena, his partner then, was a bit wary but Karl convinced her that I was no troublemaker. She had very simple, but very strict, house rules: no girls, no drugs… and oh, there were cats in the house. No problem.

It was hard to believe two rock musicians lived in the house except for Karl’s red Gibson Firebird on display in the living room. The neighborhood was quiet. 

Karl also cooked. And I mean in the kitchen. Man… the guy was a master. We’re not talking fried eggs here; he whipped  Mediterranean-style meals worthy of being on a five-star hotel menu. We joked that he should just retire and be a chef.
 
He could’ve been a jazz singer

We had many conversations, from spiritual matters, to personal issues, to wondering who was taller (him by an inch) and who was older (me by a year). It helped to discover that we were both Geminis, albeit at the opposite ends of the sign, and that we were actually related on his dad’s side and my mom’s.

When music became the topic, he would sing George Benson’s version of “Moody’s Mood” or Stevie Wonder’s “Knocks Me Off My Feet.” His voice was actually more naturally inclined to crooning; he could have been a proper jazz singer. He didn’t scream or growl around the house: he was always scatting. His phrasing was always swinging.
 
The light that burns twice as bright

In one of the key scenes in the movie “Blade Runner,” Rutger Hauer plays a replicant named Roy who confronts his “maker” Tyrell. The replicant wants to extend his life. His maker’s response:

“The light that burns twice as bright burns for half as long… and you have burned so very very brightly, Roy.”

The difference is that Karl Roy was no replicant. He was an original.

No. He IS an original.
 A true rock star, always and forever. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.comA wall of memories and well-wishes. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Drummers Paolo Manuel and Reli Mangubat doing Karl faces.(Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Esquire Philippines editor-in-chief Erwin Romulo with Nathan Azarcon of Hijo. Nathan was also Karl’s bandmate in …Ex-POT road manager Mike Sevilla, Francis Reyes and The Dawn’s Jett Pangan. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko …General Luna’s Audry Dionisio (right) with Sarah Gonzales (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Hank Palenzuela of BigSkyMind (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Jett Pangan of The Dawn. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Lamay at beer. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Last goodbyes (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Most of Karl’s friends went to BigSkyMind for “pagpag.” The belief is that one should not go straight home after …Mylene Dizon, Hijo’s Ira Cruz, Rico Blanco, Alex Cruz.(Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Photo by Nina Sandejas of rosarioko.comPortraits by Pilar Tuazon (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)POT’s Mally Paraguya and Ian Umali with Kevin Roy (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Reg Rubio,Marc Abaya, Basti Artadi, Pepe Smith, Ely Buendia, Karl. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)Ron Titular, Dominic “Papadom” Gamboa,and Angie Duarte-Syyap. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)The first of many pictures. (Photo by Nina Sandejas, rosarioko.com)
Francis Reyes wears many hats: guitarist, producer, arranger, music journalist, photographer and TV host. He once played guitar for the Dawn and was a DJ for NU107. In short, he is legendary. Like him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter and check out his Tumblr.
 
Read more of Francis’s blogs posts:
Why rock legends sometimes have to play ‘Dancing Queen’ 
General Luna is a rock band. Seriously.

Read more music blogs on OMG!

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Part I — Highway 54 Revisited: The making of '20/20'
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The Sounds Family
Lizza Guerrero Nakpil: Rock star tattoos
Johnny Alegre: Repercussions of the digital music age
Ex-EHead Marcus Adoro’s new book and music project
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