Sunday, May 4, 2014


Mikah "Phat Beatz" Azurin
I found out last night that Mikah Azurin of Brimstone in Fire passed away recently. I don't know the whys or wherefores - I'm not sure it's any of my business, frankly. All I know is that he's gone.

I met Mikah for the first time near the end of 2011, when Brimstone played a show at Headstock Bar in Marikina. I was slightly awed by Brimstone in Fire - they were pillars of the "lokal" scene, and even though they were only a few years older than me, they had been writing songs and playing shows before I ever heard the term "death metal". But despite their OG status, they couldn't have been nicer guys.

A few months later I sat in on a recording session for their Live + EP. I was blown away by Mikah's confidence and experience, which shone through in the way that he played. Afterwards, as the band sat together joking around, I pulled out my cheap Sony MP3 recorder and did an impromptu interview. It was the first time I'd ever interviewed a band, but it couldn't have gone smoother. 

I was immediately struck by the yin and yang of Brimstone's two founders: Don as the imperious, precise guitarist, Mikah as his jazz-leaning foil. In the interview, Mikah explained the dynamic as such:
Don plays the way he plays, I don't force him to play any differently. Because if I did…well, one: He wouldn't agree; and two: It would sound like a jazz band. So it's a mix, it really meets in the middle.
Mikah wasn't your typical metal drummer, and his unique style was integral to Brimstone's sound. It's become something of a cliche to refer to metal bands as "jazz-influenced", but in Mikah's case it was true - he referred to Roy Haynes as one of his heroes, and played the snare like a jazz drummer.

Mikah always came off as thoughtful, intelligent, and good natured. He had a playful sense of humor; indeed, goofy ball-busting was part of Brimstone's group dynamic. On one drive to practice, when discussing his live drum and bass band Helen, I teasingly said that his appeal with the opposite sex was due to his "phat beats" - the term stuck, at least within the band. I never found out what he thought about the nickname, but he seemed amused by it. [He was less amused when I referred to Helen as "chillwave" - I had no idea that it was an actual genre.]

The last time I hung out with Mikah was after a Brimstone practice, when he was creating a new character for a role-playing game. Even in his approach to RPGs, he was thoughtful and methodical. It occurred to me that he was one of those guys who probably excelled at whatever he put his mind to.

Hanging out with Mikah and the rest of Brimstone was always the highlight of my trips to Manila. I didn't know him that well, and I can't pretend I was one of his close friends - but I'm going to miss his intelligence and good humour. I had been hoping for a few years to sit down with him and Don to do an interview about the roots of the metal scene in the Philippines - I regret that I didn't push harder to make it happen. But that loss is pretty shallow compared to what his loved ones must be going through. My condolences to his friends and family.