Dennis A. Amith interviews Elson Trinidad a.k.a. e:trinity (2001)

Photos courtesy of Elson Trinidad

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     Electronic music.  Who would ever realize just how much this technology would have its influence in the music industry.  Of course, earlier signs of electronic music can be heard before the 70's via the Beatles "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "For the Benefit of Mr. Kite". The masses got a taste of the genre  through Stanley Kubrick's movie "A Clockwork Orange" and from then, electronic music has permeated the industry and  inspired listeners throughout the world.

    A group called Kraftwerk popularized the electronic music genre in the 70ís.  At the time, if one thought of Asians utilizing electronic music to the extreme, Ryuichi Sakamoto and his group "Yellow Magic Orchestra" came to mind.   But for the Generation X, inspiration of electronic music has pointed to 80's groups such as Depeche Mode, New Order, Duran Duran and many others.  

     One of the people inspired by the music and these groups was Elson Trinidad, a Filipino American who loved music at an early age and knew he wanted to be involved in the industry..

     Over a decade later and through hard work and learning several instruments, Elson Trinidad is now known by the stage name, "e:trinity".  As a music producer and a musician with a mission, he combines electronic dance music with the traditional and indigenous styles from Asia.

     "Western music has been influenced by European, African and now Latin music, but not Asian music. I hope to help change that," contends e:trinity.

     But he insists his musical crusade is not merely a gimmick. "There are very few artists out there who are of Asian ancestry, much less Filipino" adds e:trinity "So I'm just trying to do my part, and show that we have our own style to contribute."

     His music style features drum and bass, techno, trip-hop, deep house and Y2K club sound known as 2-STEP combined with traditional and indigenous styles from Asia which makes his music globally appealing.

     He has released two albums "e:trinity" and "various shades of blue".  From his first album "e:trinity", the song "oginomatter" is based on ancient Japanese chants set to trip-hop loops and dub-influenced bass lines; "shi.bei.jiu" is a techno/trance version of a Chinese folk song, which features live er-hu playing by instrumentalist Barbie Chien; and e:trinity's flagship tune, "sinulog2000," pays homage to his Philippine ancestry, setting indigenous kulintang rhythms to drum n' bass break beats. 

     "It's an 'ethnotronic' sound," e:trinity says.  

     According to e:trinity, the more conventional-sounding tracks are veiled with references to his culture Ė listen carefully and youíll hear sounds sampled from familiar and obscure Philippine pop, folk and indigenous recordings.

     His music has also received airplay on radio stations nation and worldwide.  His music can be heard on Indie films such as "Much Adobo about Nothing" and the PBS documentary, "Kababyans: Filipino-Americans in New York".

     The impression you get from the musician is that he's very focused in his music. In his search for adapting musical styles, he has traveled all over the world and those travels are reflected in his music.  I recently had the opportunity to interview e:trinity at a Hollywood party.  

DENNIS: Were you brought up with a strong musical influence within your family?
I really didnít come from a musical family.  I donít know where it really started.  I didn't get iinto music seriously until I was 9 or 10. I would listen to the radio and I wanted to play the drums but my parents forbade that, but they did let me take guitar lessons when I was 10 years old.  A few years later New Wave and alternative songs like those from Duran Duran were popular .  I remember seeing those videos and seeing these guys playing the synthesizers and I felt that was cool and I wanted to do that.  So, I took piano lessons and got a keyboard for Christmas and thatís how it started.

DENNIS:  Were your parents the typical strict Filipino parents who wanted you to become a doctor or work in some high-paying profession?
e:trinity: They wanted the kids to go to college and get an education but they were very cool.  As long as we didnít get into organized crime or anything, they were cool.

DENNIS: How does your family feel about you involved in music?
e:trinity:  They are proud and support me.  When I started out, they bought me instruments.  I guess the whole deal is that they wanted us to get a college degree. I already got mine, but after that it was up to us what we wanted to do with our lives.

DENNIS:  When you were in grade school, did you feel out of place growing up since you listened to alternative music while many Filipinos were into the hip-hop scene?
e:trinity:  Oh yeah! I like hip-hop but not commercial or gangster kind. I was more interested in the underground stuff.

DENNIS:  How long ago did you decide that you wanted to make music a career rather than just a hobby?
e:trinity:  When I started, I didnít think about electronic music but in school I played the sax and a few other instruments.  I learned different types of instruments and I would just continue to listen to the radio and I knew I wanted to be a musician.

DENNIS:  If you have one word to describe your music, what would that word be?
e:trinity: "Unique". Because with a lot of my music, I'm trying to push unfamiliar sounds (Asian music) into familiar formats (electronica). I don't really see anyone else really doing that, at least not any Asian-Americans. And the reason why I'm doing that is because no one else really is.

DENNIS:  Do you want your music to be used in raves?
e:trinity:  I really donít go to raves but I go to clubs.  If people decide to listen or dance to my music, thatís great.

DENNIS:  What do you think of people who feel that they can enjoy electronic music more with narcotics like acid or E?
e:trinity:  I donít do drugs but if people depend on drugs to enhance their musical experience, thatís kind of sad.  Itís not really music anymore, itís something else.

DENNIS:  I would like to ask you about your take on three major issues regarding electronic music.  First, let's talk about commercialism.  Some people think that popular electronic musicians who become commercial sell out.  Do you think that's the case?
  Not really. I heard there's a famous electronica producer who's producing for `Nsync now. I'm not going to say that he sold out.

DENNIS:  So, if Christina Aguilera or Britney Spears people called you and asked for you to remix their songs, would you?
e:trinity:   I wouldnít mind making music them.  If they were into my music and wanted that kind of sound, I wouldnít mind working with them.

DENNIS:  Would you like to do remixes for popular Asian artists like Faye Wong, Kelly Chen. Ayumi Hamasaki or Hikaru Utada?

e:trinity:   Yeah!   I like doing remixes.  I have done a few remixes for several artists and I enjoy it.

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