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Queso are a Filipino Rock band who enjoyed mainstream success in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The band eventually broke up after the release of their third album but reunited in 2012.
At the height of their popularity Queso, who previously called themselves Cheese until 2003, were considered part of the Filipino Nu Metal genre. The band is best known for the single Mottaka, a song about their ideology of their friendship, from their second album Pilipinas.
The band’s former and current members all grew up in the local Rock and Metal scene and performed in different bands, i.e. drummer Robert Dela Cruz of Sky Church. The band’s singer Ian Tayao and guitarist Ocho Toleran each have strong backgrounds in collaborating in other projects and with different artists.
Queso’s sound, especially in their final years before disbanding, evolved and became more and more experimental, blending Rock, Reggae, Funk, Folk, Dub, and Jazz.
Album and Songlist
1. The Way
2. 10x Karma
4. Doobie Tunes 1&2
9. Few Seconds of Pain
10. Garden Flesh (In a Cool Dry Place)
6. O.J. 8graz
10. Guinea Pig
6. Gila E’te
9. Manila Ice
10. Sta. Maria
Queso are recognized as one of the most commercially successful Filipino Rock Bands in the 2000s. Their popularity, however, wasn’t the product of slick marketing or a producer’s conceit. During the band’s early years in the mid-1990s—a time when they still called themselves Cheese—their unpredictable brand of Rock music already attracted a dedicated following.
The band’s founding members are guitarist Enzo Ruidera and bassist Tuts Calinawan, who both wanted to form their own Rock band in 1994. Paolo Rosal subsequently joined as drummer to complete the rhythm section. Vocalist Ian Irving Tayao only joined after the original Cheese lineup splintered and guitarist Ocho Toleran, a.k.a. 8, soon followed. Toleran joined the band as a fan. A sound engineer educated in Sydney’s Audio Education Center, Toleran returned to the Philippines determined to carve out a career in music.
By 1996 the band’s classic lineup was completed and the band agreed to name themselves Cheese rather than stick with Flower Children, an alternate name they wanted to use but decided against. Tayao was on vocals, Toleran and Enzo Ruidera were on guitars, Tuts Calinawan was on bass with Paolo Rosal on drums. RT de Ano was Cheese’s original DJ on turntables.
Playing a chaotic and eclectic variety of modern Rock that emerged in the post-grunge 1990s, Cheese’s performance in the Manila club circuit cemented their reputation as a band to watch. Their popularity in venues like Club Dredd led to weekly gigs, often as frequent as thrice a week. Cheese’s other haunts included Mayric’s, Yosh Café, and Club Radio.
Additional shows in schools and public venues introduced them to a broader audience. Their first release, a two-song demo, reportedly sold well although the exact figures are unknown since only 500 copies were printed. Another account claims that the 500 copies were sold out on the night it was released during a Queso gig.
Shortly after releasing their demo in 1997, Cheese were signed by Warner Music Philippines. The band’s self-titled debut album was a critical and commercial success, with singles like 10x Karma earning the band airplay, headliner status, and name recall. Cheese’s prominence paved the way for multiple product endorsements.
Having broken into the mainstream, their self-titled LP gave them unofficial membership in the emerging Nu Metal genre and it wasn’t long before Cheese were considered peers to Slapshock and Greyhoundz, two bands whose own members would either collaborate and support Cheese in the future. Cheese were among the first bands to be included on the bill for the annual Muziklaban festival and band competition organized by Red Horse Beer. Cheese would go on to perform at Muziklaban almost yearly even when the band already changed their name to Queso.
By the 2000s Cheese already had the opportunity to begin touring abroad and performed at the Pusan International Rock Festival in South Korea. The band would go on hiatus for two years until reuniting for Pilipinas, their second LP for Warner Music.
Pilipinas was another success for Cheese and marked the peak of their careers. Their best known song Mottaka and its accompanying video are from the Pilipinas period. The music video for Mottaka popularized Cheese’s de facto mascot, a monkey in a ballcap. At the same time, however, the band’s lineup was beginning to feel the strain of touring and performing around the country. The band’s DJ, RT de Ano, was replaced by Bboy Garcia, an ex-member of Greyhoundz and Chicosci, before the release of Pilipinas.
To further promote Pilipinas the limited edition live concert DVD Cheese Live! Whatathoom was released in 2002.
When the band changed its name to Queso in 2003, their relationship with Warner Music ended. Robert Dela Cruz of Skychurch became the new drummer as well, replacing Pao Rosal.
From 2003 onward, Queso functioned as an indie Rock band. A DVD was released to fans titled Buhay Queso, a release that qualifies as Queso’s earliest biographical documentary and second live concert recording.
Two years later Queso released another self-titled LP on their own, recorded with the help of Eric Perlas, the co-founder of indie label Tower of Doom. The band oversaw every aspect of its production and release with distribution handled by the label EMI Philippines.
Irreconcilable differences and the band’s management during and after the release of Pilipinas would harm the lineup’s cohesion. Beginning in 2008, Ocho Toleran was the first to depart from the band as the other members became unsure of its future.
Tayao in particular explored new projects. He connected with like-minded musicians and resumed writing and performing. Tayao and the members of Queso all have a strong affinity for urban culture expressed in their attire, tattoos, a shared love for skateboarding, and even their sponsors like the shoe brand Draven. It’s interesting to note that Tayao used to function as Cheese’s unofficial chronicler known for writing extensive accounts about the band’s history and development on various social fora and websites.
Guitarist Ocho Toleran became the guitarist of the supergroup Franco in 2008. Also In 2008, Ian Tayao formed Wilabaliw with bassist Niño Avenido from Greyhoundz, releasing a self-titled debut two years later. In 2012 the last lineup of Queso would reunite and perform at Quezon City’s Amoranto Stadium.
In late 2012, Queso's reunion concert was featured for the second season finale of Tower Sessions, a web series produced by indie label Tower of Doom. Queso have since resumed touring.
Two years later Ian Tayao, Biboy Garcia, and Ocho Toleran would form a new Rock band called Armalite, recruiting bassist Michael Hocson and drummer Martin Gemina to complete the lineup.
In 2015, Queso were headliners for the Pulp Summer Slam XV music festival along with Slapshock, Greyhoundz, and Razorback.
Cheese emerged in the wake of the early-90s Alternative Rock genre and the band’s sound and image closely resembled and mirrored Deftones, Primus, Rage Against the Machine, Tool, Korn, System of A Down, Slipknot, and P.O.D. Other notable influences are Led Zepellin, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Dreamtheatre, Pantera, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Soundgarden, and Jane’s Addiction.
Despite these comparisons Queso today strongly insist that they are difficult to categorize or fit into a single genre. Their lyrical themes, on the other hand, involve personal reflection and their lifestyle choices. But some Queso songs are difficult to interpret based solely on the lyrics. When still known as Cheese, most the band’s composing and songwriting were shared between Tuts Calinawan and Ocho Toleran.
Cheese/Queso’s success never begat imitators, a testament to their originality and appeal, and the band were considered the third pillar or holy trinity of Filipino Rock’s most popular bands in the 2000s, with Slapshock and Greyhoundz completing the trivium.
The best descriptions of the band’s sound are songs that have hypnotic verses fused together with soaring vocal melodies. Queso are also unique for the narrative and musical complexity in each of their songs, with breakdowns, tonal shifts, and interludes often interrupting an individual track’s running time.
Ian Tayao - Vocals
Tuts Calinawan - Bass
Enzo Ruidera - Guitar
Ocho/8 Toleran - Guitar
Bboy Garcia - Turntables
Robert Dela Cruz - Drums
RT de Ano - Turntables
Paolo Rosal - Drums
CJ Olaguera - Percussions
Awards and Recognition
NU Rock Awards 1999
Winner Producer of the Year - Cheese , Maly Andres
NU Rock Awards 2002
Winner Album of the Year - Pilipinas
Winner Listener’s Choice Award
Winner Vocalist of the Year - Ian Tayao
MTV Pilipinas Awards 2002
Winner Most Stylish Video - Mottaka
Music Videos and Other Media
Official Music Videos
All photos sourced from: