US-based Filipino-born musician Paco Arespacochaga has kept himself relevant as a member of a hit band from the 90s, and proven his podcasting skill with Paco’s Place.
His triumph should be partly attributed to his natural ability to inspire with how he speaks and interacts with individuals. On top of that, he espouses a grateful nod to individuals who helped and circumstances that led him to where he is now.
The drummer of Introvoys and lead singer behind the classic song “Line To Heaven” is a success story who climbed his way up from being a wide-eyed teenage boy watching gigs of new wave bands. He was a regular cool-dude skirt chaser who eventually began chasing a life-changing dream with his unquestionable talent and great perseverance.
When he landed in the United States years after making it in the Philippines as a musician, Paco had to work at a warehouse to make ends meet. He is now a beloved member of the Filipino-American community, known for his admirable behavior as a bandleader and life coach.
The Teddy Diaz experience
“It was 1987, one year pa lang buo ang Introvoys noon, and we were watching The Dawn sa SM North Edsa. I saw Junboy’s pedal na nakabaklas (while they were performing) so inayos ko ‘yun, at nakita ako ni Teddy Diaz,” recalled the accomplished and inspirational professional.
He was referring to JB Leonor’s drum pedal and how the late great guitarist of The Dawn spoke to him after the gig. The latter got curious about Paco’s fledgling band. For the next encounter they were picking him up to watch their rehearsal.
Paco amusingly remembered Teddy “dolphin diving” into the car where they were packed like sardines. In the studio, the standout rock star of the era clad in white shirt and marine cap jammed with the still-nameless Introvoys. They played his band’s signature song “Enveloped Ideas.” Onlookers, not realizing it was actually Teddy who was in their midst, praised them for giving justice to the song note-for-note.
“That one moment in time changed my view of what I wanted to do,” Paco said, “All of a sudden nagkaroon ng mission ang pagbabanda ko. Prior to that, pambababae lang ang gusto kong gawin. After meeting Teddy Diaz, gusto ko nang magkaroon ng impact sa mga tao.”
Imagine if Paco did not follow his instinct, and just let someone else fix Junboy’s pedal! One act of kindness virtually led him to a kind of life essentially rare for a Filipino-born musician.
Teddy obviously saw something in Introvoys that he would watch their gigs and coach them. Once or twice he insisted they play “China” (That hit by Red Rockers) and led the audience to dance.
Hottest drummer, reluctant singer
It took a few more years before Introvoys recorded their debut album. But things began falling into place. They did a cover of “I Go Crazy” (Flesh For Lulu), played in ten shows promoting an 80s movie and which enabled them to attract fans, and landed on a compilation album. By the time they became a headliner of a popular annual school activity, they were finally promoting “a brand new album” (a phrase they keep using for years to convince fans or themselves that they have made it). “Back To The Roots” included their breakthrough hit “However Which Way.”
“Naging mission namin sa Introvoys na sumikat para basagin ang stereotyping sa bands. Kami ‘yung banda na hindi nagda-drugs at sporting clean cuts,” Paco shared.
When “Will I Survive” and “Di Na ‘Ko Aasa Pa” became major hits in the early 90s, or when Ely Buendia and his gang were still just a “combo on the run,” they were no doubt the biggest band in the land. Paco reluctantly lead-sung on “Line To Heaven” which he wrote for his parents – a move that practically turned him into the hottest drummer in the Philippine band scene. Yeah, hot enough to win the girl from Smokey Mountain named Geneva Cruz. The song was so special it gave him a movie contract as he and Geneva eventually named their son Heaven.
Paco’s colorful journey did not end when Introvoys’ 90s heyday stopped. He visualized a future that places him on US soil, vowing not to return until he has good news to tell his bandmates. He still wanted to break new grounds.
From uncertainty to glory
Paco flew to the US. But in two months’ time, like a punchline in a comedy flick, he was performing at some place in California oddly not knowing what tomorrow brings. Once again he needed a Teddy Diaz-like figure to help save the day. There, as fate had arranged, entered jazz singer Louie Reyes who was dining in and watching him entertain people.
The highly respected Awit Award recipient whom Paco didn’t know personally recognized him. It was she who initiated that her lawyer assists Paco in obtaining a visa for extraordinary talents like him.
“Pinatawag ako ni Louie Reyes sa table nila, then sinamahan niya ako sa abogado niya to help me,” Paco noted.
He showed an extra smile of gratitude: “Pano ko hindi ipe-pay forward ito, when someone you don’t know personally did it to you? One year sa pagbabanda, may Teddy Diaz na dumating. Two months pa lang ako sa US, may Louie Reyes who reached out.”
Paco, who temporarily left Introvoys in 1996, urged his former bandmates to also relocate to the US so they could reunite. They did, and by the mid-2000s they’re back to being Introvoys. Some years later, their previous tag had to be tweaked to something describing them as the Number One OPM Band In North America. Not bad for a bunch of 80s new wavers who started their run humbly rehearsing somewhere in Nepa Q Mart, Cubao.
Line To Helping Others
Knowing first-hand the benefits of righteously living the American Dream, Paco has consistently urged other musical artists to see life beyond fame in the Philippines.
There had been signs that the voice and image of the now-familiar Paco’s Place podcast was meant to fly out of “Maynila” which in the Introvoys song of that title is described as a place where someone will “makakahanap ng magagandang babae.” One time someone from a carinderia handed Paco a calling card and boasted he could contact the person who is a relative working in the US. Fast-forward to an important day when Paco needed to convince an immigration officer that he’s famous and worth the label “extraordinary alien.” Guess who had the power to tell the officer that Paco deserved approval? You got it. It’s the one whose name was written on the calling card!
Sounding still amazed after all these years, Paco exclaimed, “Paano ako di tutulong sa ibang tao, guys? Pano ako magyayabang na ginawa ko ito on my own? Wala akong ginawa on my own.”
Paco once shared tips to rapper Andrew E. who wanted to tour the US. The latter promised to return the favor and called him one day, asking if he could drop by Paco’s Place to do a podcast episode. That particular interview generated the highest views for Paco’s Place entries, so far, which resulted in a really good income for the drummer who can sing, host an online show, be a good husband and father, and serve as “Pacoach” for fans, artists, random people with hopes and dreams, and any drummer who needs a pedal-fix, for that matter.
Paco’s strong sense of gratitude urges him to repeatedly and animatedly share cute stories of his colorful past that pictured him as a struggling, yet motivated artist. You can retell them “however which way” and they’ll still come out inspiringly fresh. These anecdotes are worth revisiting over and over because of the fond details that make them breathe through like beautiful scenes straight from a well-directed light-hearted movie. For all the cinematic glory of moments where Paco came to “arrive at a decision,” everything happened for real, reminding us all that he made it “through this life somehow.”