Shekou Stars: Mind The Gap
UPDATE: As of May 17, 2016, Mind The Gap is no longer playing at The Stage. For more info, click here.
Mind The Gap (MTG) is not only the longest playing foreign band in all of Shenzhen, they are the first foreign band to have secured themselves a home here in Shekou. After eleven years of ingenuity, hard work, and kickass music, they've earned what most foreign musicians in China dream only of... a never-ending gig. As long as The Stage Live Music is around, so too will Mind The Gap be.
It wasn't always that way though. For over a year in 2014/early 2015, MTG found themselves floating around Guangdong province playing gigs wherever they could get them. They were a band without a home. By early 2015; however, an idea was gaining momentum. "We realized that Shekou is home and we had to come back," Albert Cabal, their lead singer and guitarist, tells me during an interview, "so we decided to invest in a bar." It wasn't long before a group of people who are now known as "MTG Friends" were pooling together their money to make this come true.
In May 2015, 11 years after they helped give birth to rock n roll history in Shekou, MTG returned! Together with the MTG Friends, they converted the former Blu Bamboo into what it is now, "The Stage Live Music." "Frank the Tank, one of the MTG Friends helped us come up with the name," said Albert Cabal, lead vocalist and guitar player at MTG, "and Ace Disgrace from Bolt Action drew up a The Stage logo for us. Marlon Villaverde came up with the new MTG logo too. This place is all about friends. Friends working together. They've all pitched in to have MTG back in Shekou."
It's truly inspiring to see what MTG has accomplished here in Shekou; not only for themselves but also for the local music scene. For those of you wondering what kind of people it takes to do this, let's take an inside look at the superstars that have helped to make live music in Shekou what it is today. We'll start with Richard Del Rosario, the longest running member since the bands inception in 2004 at X-TA-SEA Sports Bar.
Richard Del Rosario - Drummer
Musical History: "Ever since I can remember, I wanted to play the drums. Steven Adler of GNR is my greatest influence. It's because of GNR that I'm a musician. I asked my dad if he could buy me a drum set. He couldn't afford it. He said that if I wanted to play guitar he could buy me a guitar. But I wanted to play drums so I bought my own drum sticks. I practiced everywhere. On the sofa on my bed. I used to get in trouble in school because I would always bang everything. When I was 15 my mom gave me a month to learn drums from my uncle. After just one month I formed a band and by 16 I was playing in a bar on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. In 2003 I finally got an opportunity to go abroad to jam.
How He joined MTG: Richard came to Shekou at the invitation of a friend and in 2004 he met Paul Charlton, the original front man and founder of Mind The Gap, at a BBQ party by the Minghua ship. It just so happened that MTG was looking for a drummer. A few days later he auditioned at X-TA-SEA and was in the band.
Larry Cambronero - Lead Guitar
Musical History: Larry first learned to play the keyboards when he was eight. His brother Michael convinced him to play the guitar at age 12 and by 14 he was shredding it at the Subic Hard Rock during his summer breaks. His influences are Slash, Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, and John Mayer. "My house was full of music. My dad had his own studio when I was growing up. My godfather was a bass player and jammed with my dad. I played drums with my dad at 13 in front of thousands of people at a Christian gathering. We had instruments all around so it was easy to play and learn new instruments. The first song I learned on the guitar was Sweet Child o Mine by GNR."
How He Joined MTG: In 2006 Larry first came to Shekou to visit a cousin who was singing at The Terrace. A friend introduced him to Richard who was looking for a guitarist. Larry was playing in Dongguan at the time and was deciding between two other job offers in Hong Kong and Qingdao when Richard asked him to join MTG. Lucky for us, Larry said he received a sign that convinced him to join MTG. If you want to know what that sign was, you're going to have to ask him yourself.
Michael (Mick) Cambronero - Keyboards
Musical History: Mick started playing keyboards when he was eight years old. His influences were his father, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, and famous jazz musician Chick Corea. When he was 9 he played at a Christmas block party and at 12 years old won his first signing competition with the song "You Give Love a Bad Name" by Bon Jovi. He formed his first band at 16 and they played their first gig at an outdoor festival like a Mardi Gras; for 3 days, and later opened for Paul Sapiera's band "Rock Star" (one of the biggest bands in the Philippines). Since then he's been playing all over the world in places like Shanghai, Bahrain, Korea and Diego Garcia (a military based) in the British Indian Ocean with his brother Larry.
How He Joined MTG: The brothers split up for a while but in 2006, about one month after Larry joined MTG, Larry asked Mick to join on keyboards.
Albert Cabal - Vocals/Guitar
Musical History: Albert started playing guitar when he was 10. He saw his godmother playing a very old acoustic guitar and asked her to teach him. She gave him a chord chart and told him to read it and learn it. "The very first song that I really learned was Vincent by Don McLean. For six months I was just learning that song. The Beatles and Eric Clapton are also very big influence." When he was 12 he played at a funeral and impressed some neighbors with his plucking and they started playing together. By 14 he got his first paid gig at a pizza house and later started playing in bands until he became a sound engineer at the Hard Rock Cafe. One of the owners of Terrace was looking for a sound engineer in 2007 and met Albert and by July 2007 Albert was the sound engineer at The Terrace.
How He Joined MTG: After Paul and Janet left MTG in 2012 Albert was just finishing up his contract at The Terrace and was telling Larry and Michael how much he wanted to do more than just be a sound engineer. "I wanna jam," he remembers telling them in 2012. That was it. Shortly after, Albert became their new front man.
Benedict Fajardo - Bass Guitar
Musical History: Benedict started playing guitar at 11 years old. He heard Extreme's "More Than Words" and asked his uncle to teach him how to play it. When he was 12 he joined the Christian Youth Fellowship and became their official guitarist playing Gospel songs. He later joined his first band in high school. That's when his band mates gave him some Incubus and Red Hot Chili Peppers tapes and asked him to learn to play the bass. Within a couple of years his band was in the local battle of the bands where he won the "best bassist" award. Over the next few years his band went on to win more than seven battle of the band events and appeared on a popular TV Show called "12 until 1" where they won a huge cash award in a competition.
How He Joined MTG: When MTG was at The Intercontinental in Nanshan they were looking for a bassist. A good friend, Melo, who use to play at Enigma, recommended Benedict. Richard called him and told him to come down. Benedict was in Hefei but flew down and joined them for a set on February 11th, 2015 and killed it. He's been with the band ever since.
Michelle Fernandez - Female Vocalist
Musical History: "I started singing when I was two. My dad was a singer and my influences are Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Beyonce, and of course, my dad." Michelle's won many awards at singing competitions growing up and started singing professionally in a Top 40s Variety Band when she was 18. They played and performed at a lot of parties and eventually started touring throughout Asia; to Japan, Malaysia, China, Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau.
How She Joined MTG: Michael and Larry had their eye on a particular singer. In fact, they've been seeking her out for years but their stars were never quite aligned. Until one day Michael met with her during one of her visits to Shekou and asked her if she's willing to consider coming to sing with them when her current contract expires. "I'm flexible," she says, "both mentally and physically." On Friday July 24th, 2015, Michelle finally joined MTG as Female Lead Vocalist at The Stage Live Music.