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Finding home in music journalism 

By Kara Bodegón-Hikino Published Jul 29, 2022 7:27 am

It was the year 2002. I was 12 years old and skinny with my hair straight and parted in the middle. I didn’t dress well or eat my vegetables, and worst of all, I didn’t really care about my grades. All that mattered to me was music. Growing up, my brothers fed me a healthy diet of Jamiroquai, Spice Girls and Korn, and later Slapshock and Greyhoundz. But it wasn’t until I snuck into my brothers’ room to secretly drown in the down-tuned riffery, melodic and rap vocal trade-offs, and turntable scratches of Linkin Park that everything changed.

There used to be this local magazine called MTV Ink, the sister imprint of PULP. My favorite feature they had was called Fan@Ink, where fans interviewed members of their favorite bands. So I wrote to them. Little 12-year-old Kara with her first email address (anti_westlife247), sending a letter about how much she loved Linkin Park and why she should get to meet them. Honestly, I don’t remember what I wrote, but whatever it was, it was enough to grant me a response from MTV Ink.

Kara met Joe Hahn of Linkin Park for her very first interview.

Joe Hahn, turntablist of Linkin Park, was coming to Manila — and I was going to interview him. Saying I was excited would be an understatement.

I was nervous as hell. I actually didn’t even know what to ask. I prepped a list of questions on a yellow pad (one of them was “What do you think of MP3s?”) and just hoped for the best. When the day finally came, I met MTV Ink’s editor-in-chief Kristine Fonacier and, along with her team, scurried to Brother’s Burger for my interview. 

I kept staring out the window until, finally, there he was. Joe Hahn of Linkin Park — walking past the entrance and… to another establishment? Turns out, he wanted to get a foot spa first. We waited and waited until finally, Joe came in with squeaky-clean feet for my interview. And strangely enough, I didn’t feel the sucker-punch of nervousness I thought I would. Sitting there in a burger joint with one of the biggest nu metal artists in the world felt absolutely normal.

I was living the fast-paced life — a reality that many people only dreamed about. I was constantly lacking sleep but always believing the work was all worth it.

Shortly after my interview came out (I even got a coverline!), Kristine gave me my first press ID. She told me that, one day, I would write for them. And she wasn’t wrong.

Ten years later, I wrote my first article for PULP magazine. It was about my first PULP Summer Slam experience and right off the bat, PULP’s editor-in-chief, Vernon Go, offered me my first full-time gig as a music journalist. My life there was basically me flocking from interview to interview, photo shoot to photo shoot, concert to concert. No day was ever the same; you can certainly say that’s what kept it interesting. Besides the magazine, PULP also handles concert productions, so I’d also end up backstage for shows, working hospitality and at the same time chasing exclusive interviews with the artists whose names appeared on the marquee. 

PULP magazine

I was living the fast-paced life — a reality that many people only dreamed about. I was constantly lacking sleep but always believing the work was all worth it. This attitude stayed with me as I started my music blog, Karate Chops, where instead of writing my reviews, I’d draw them. Out of all the content I put out, the biggest kablam! would be my video interview series with my hero, Randy Blythe of Lamb of God. It turned out to reveal an honest and vulnerable side of Randy (and myself) as we talked about growing up, giving your all, and simply aiming to be a better dude.

I later joined the Billboard Philippines team, led by the fantastic Francis Reyes of The Dawn, and trailed local artists who started out as nobodies until they exploded into chart-toppers on the scene. It was then that I followed UDD as they returned to the studio for their eponymous album, witnessed The Itchyworms debut ‘Di Na Muli at PhilPOP, and flew out to Singapore to cover Periphery’s concert.

The struggle was real (and sometimes ridiculous) for many occasions. When it came to phone interviews (pre-Zoom era), I’d head out for better reception. They didn’t know it, but I was interviewing FINNEAS from the parking lot of a church, Mike Shinoda from my car at the mall, and Mew under the shade of a tree at the height of summer.

If this is something you hope to do one day, all I can say is: if you decide to reach out into this world, you’re never going to run out of places to call home.

What I love most about our editorial team at Bandwagon Asia, headed by the amazing Camille Castillo, is that we have a vision. With the content we have to put out, the work for such a small team could get tiring. My unsolicited advice: every story has countless angles. Skip the questions you know other journalists have already asked artists. Dig deeper. Get creative. And you just might find pure gold, like an interview I did with Rico Blanco, as we talked about how he coped, living by himself during the lockdown and how he wrote This Too Shall Pass.

It’s been a little over four years since my first day at Bandwagon. It actually feels a lot longer with the pandemic putting a halt to the music scene for a while back there. We struggled, but managed to find our footing by reaching beyond the obvious side of what a music publication would cover. We looked inwards to the people behind the scenes. 

We wrote about these unsung heroes — platforms like Kiswe that make livestream concerts come to life, set designers like Oh Ye Seul who create the wildest settings for your favorite music videos and shows, composers Eduardo Vaisman, Pedro Bromfman and Stephanie Economou, who shift the mood and raise the flag for diversity and representation in top-billing video games, and up-and-coming animators and illustrators like Deisa and Sofia who help make music sing visually.

Now, we’ve reached our latest milestone — one million page views in a month. It may not seem a lot, especially compared to mainstream publications, but it certainly is a badge of pride and honor to finally get to this place.

Another 10 years down the road, I still look back at the day I got my first-ever press ID. To the kid who waited for hours at a burger joint for her first interview. I still don’t dress well or eat my vegetables, but I wouldn’t have thought I’d get to do this for a living and for this long. If this is something you hope to do one day, all I can say is: if you decide to reach out into this world, you’re never going to run out of places to call home.