Watch: BillboardPH ON Record– Nights Of Rizal

There are musicians who love rocking out in a band and there are those who choose to be surrounded by electronics. Then there are those individuals who transition from one approach to the other, nearly abandoning their old organic ways in favour of a new fresh path (and no bandmates to hold hands with, musically speaking). Sonny Moore, for example, was vocalist for the post-hardcore band From First To Last and released two albums until he decided to pursue electronica and dubstep. Today, he has 8 Grammy Awards under his current guise: Skrillex.

photo by Jillian Fontanilla
Nights Of Rizal photo by Jillian Fontanilla

Migi De Belen is, in a sense, a kindred spirit of Moore. As Nights Of Rizal, he explores electronic textures and looping in contrast to his previous stint as a funk/rock vocalist for Splitcide. Nights Of Rizal is featured on our newest episode of BillboardPH On Record. 

De Belen explains what his venture is all about and why he decided to be a one-person band.

Who/What is Nights of Rizal?
Nights of Rizal is a solo production and live act. As a singer-songwriter I started out as lead vocalist of a funk-rock band (named Splitcide), then later became a solo guitar-based performer (eventually becoming part of the 1st ever Elements National Songwriting Camp), then out of necessity I switched to a laptop and DAW (later joining forces with local beats playground BuwanBuwan Collective). Only 2-3 years into electronic music production did I begin adding vocal parts to the beats.

How do you describe your music?
The way the music is made informs not just the sound quality of the work but also how I approach writing a song. It’s DIY, there’s a lot of looping, cutting and pasting. I use a lot of cheap/freeware virtual synths and drum machines. Despite the use of technology the sound is quite raw. It’s not dance music for big room clubs, rather it’s for grooving in your bedroom with your headphones on, eyes closed after a long day at work. Genres could be anything, but my approach is to approximate (using my DIY tools) the electronic music I like listening to: house, wonky, LA beats, UK garage, dubstep, drum and bass, trap, chillwave…

Migi De Belen aka Nights Of Rizal. Photo by Jan Parma
Migi De Belen aka Nights Of Rizal. Photo by Jan Parma

How did you discover electronic music?
I would always listen to electronic music for reference since I used to play a lot of funk rock. At the time rock acts like Incubus were incorporating electronic elements in their sound meanwhile electronic acts like Prodigy and The Chemical Brothers were doing electronica with a rock approach. But in terms of actually writing electronic music, I found myself in a situation where I couldn’t get my hands on a guitar. All I had was my laptop, and my roommate (Malaysian beatmaker Adam Kasturi) happened to have a copy of FL Studio. Out of desperation, and with only a typing keyboard and trackpad, I began churning out my first beats.

What have you released so far?
I’ve been posting sketches, previews, and remixes (notably for Ourselves The Elves and Ang Bandang Shirley) on soundcloud.com/nightsofrizal. I also made public my first ever short film score via nightsofrizal.bandcamp.com. So far I’ve released two EPs, Collected Beats (2011) and Karma Zero (2013), the latter being named number 1 EP of 2012 by a certain popular local music blog.

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Upcoming projects?
I am working on a double EP titled summer/salt to be released in two parts, on the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2017. Though the tracks will be available online, the artwork and design will play a big role in how listeners would enjoy the music. summer/salt will also be supplemented by at least two music videos.

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