Q&A: Manila Killa is the Electronic Wunderkind Bound to Curate Your Next Festival Lineup

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Being championed as a wunderkind is in and of itself both a blessing and a curse. The weight and expectations associated with such a title can often be deemed to be far too daunting for the myriad of new artists who each year will undoubtedly be identified as the next wunderkind. However, when it comes to Chris Gavino, one can confidently say the artist more than lives up to the title and all its associated expectations. Gavino is known around the world as future bass producer Manila Killa, half of indie-dance and house duo Hotel Garuda, and founding member of the internet-born music collective Moving Castle. All things considered, these notable achievements would prove impressive for anyone in the world of electronic music and are even more astounding when viewed in context. 

Gavino managed to achieve these monumental feats all while still attending college full-time, where he was studying business management. Balancing both college and an ever-growing music career where he was asked to play shows across the country, Gavino chose the path most artists rarely do. The rising producer fully committed himself to both worlds, succeeding in further honing and developing his craft without sacrificing his academic pursuits. Now, with Manila Killa fresh out of college, there’s nothing holding him or his music career back, and he’s already making that perfectly clear right at the start of 2018. Take the producer’s just-released track with Nevve, “Everyday, Everyday,” which similarly to Manila Killa takes no time at all before delivering everything a fan of electronic music could conceivably ask for.

In the year since Gavino graduated from college and dedicated himself solely to music, it would be an understatement to say that he’s done amazingly well for him. He’s launched the collective’s inaugural music festival, Moving Castle World, showcasing some of the most promising rising stars across a range of genres, and is currently preparing to play a series of music festivals across the country as both Manila Killa and Hotel Garuda, the latter of which is currently making their way across Europe in support of Giraffage. 

With a fully unrestrained Manila Killa already making such monumental waves in 2018 without even a debut release, I had more than my fair share of questions for what the artist could possibly have next in store. So, I did the only logical thing imaginable. I chatted with the wunderkind himself to gain some insight into the beginnings of Manila Killa as an artist and what he has next in store for the world at large.

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OTW: Your name comes from the capital city of the Philippines-the country where you grew up and first discovered electronic music. How did that original discovery first come about?

I’ve always loved music and looking for new music. I had a group of friends freshman year of high school, one of them showed me Daft Punk and MSTRKRFT, and that was my first exposure to electronic music. I still remember; It was above the basketball courts when my friend handed me his iPod, because we were still using iPods back then, and he was like, “Yo, take a listen to this,” and my entire life changed. After that, I went home, and I started looking for Daft Punk albums and everything.

OTW: And when did you first try your own hand at producing?

It was actually about a year later, because later that year we had a battle of the bands type thing at our high school and someone performed with their laptop. I found it super crazy that you could do everything on your laptop. So, my friend downloaded FL Studio and let me use it towards the end of my freshman year. Then when I found out you could do it on your own computer, I went home, downloaded it, and just started doing it then. That was like 2007.

OTW: You’ve officially been out of college for just over a year now, what’s it been like being able to devote yourself completely to music?

It’s awesome. It’s amazing. I couldn’t ask for anything more, but I wish there was a little time to get my head together before I jumped into it. I graduated last December, and then I had SnowGlobe, Holy Ship!, I went on tour with Louis the Child, and for the rest of the year it was just touring. I honestly haven’t had a chance to really bring it in, but I have some breaks next year, so hopefully, I’ll be able to appreciate it a little more instead of constantly waiting for flights.

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OTW: Do you ever find it difficult balancing two projects that are both blowing up at the same time?

Yeah, for sure. When I was in school, it was kind of easy for me to say, “Oh I can’t work on this right now, I have school stuff.” So, it was easy for me to pick my time. Now that I’m completely free, I wouldn’t say it’s a little more difficult, I’d say it’s more liberating. It makes me feel more free that I have more time to choose when to work on Hotel Garuda and when to work on Manila Killa. I’ve been balancing those equally the past few years, so going into this fully, it wasn’t that big of a deal for me to make that transition to full time.

OTW: You think you’ll add any more side projects in the coming years?

Oh, trust me, I’ve been thinking about it. I definitely love making different kinds of music, so it’s definitely something I’ve considered, but I wouldn’t do that to Brett [the label manager behind Moving Castle]. He already has too much on his plate.

OTW: Speaking of Manila Killa side projects we may one day see, are there any genres in particular that you would be interested in experimenting with more?

Honestly, I’ve always loved to mix genres, so there wouldn’t necessarily be one genre that I would love to experiment in. But, If I could be using more organic instruments, that would be awesome. Guitars, drums, and even string instruments are things that a lot of producers don’t really have access to, because it’s so incredibly difficult to book a studio and book the players. If there was something that I would love to focus on from here on out, it would definitely be more organic instruments.

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OTW: 2018 is just starting and it’s already poised to be a massive one for you. You just embarked on Holy Ship! and launched your first ever music festival, Moving Castle World. How does it all feel?

It’s awesome. Once you’re in the thick of it all, you kind of get lost in trying to get things done, trying to work on the details and stuff. Sometimes I don’t take a step back and look at, “Woah we’re actually throwing a Moving Castle World; we’re actually doing something that we’ve always wanted to do.” Now, thanks to interviews like this, I’m able to reflect on stuff like that, because I don’t really think about it. Now that I think about it, I think it’s awesome that we’ve all been able to continually grow throughout the years. It had been difficult for a lot of us, because when we started off making music, some of us had jobs, some of us had school, and it’s really cool to see that most of us were able to stick together and really do our thing this year. I’m just overall super excited to continue doing a lot of collaborations. That’s something that we want to focus on within the next year, to really collaborate with each other more often.

OTW: So, looking back at it all, from your perspective, what events led you to become a founding member of Moving Castle?

Honestly, that was just the most random thing. It was literally just me and a couple friends. I was talking to AObeats for awhile online. At the time, I think what really led us all together was that none of us found a certain friend group that also produced music too. We were all kind of outliers in our own friend group at the time. I had friends who I was hanging out with who knew nothing about music production and AObeats had friends who knew nothing either. So, I think the important thing was that all of us found each other, because we all make music and none of our friends were really into the same kinds of things we were. That was the big step in us coming together.

OTW: Have you found that the collective route has provided you with a certain brand of freedom that you may have not found going down the typical label route?

I’m honestly not that experienced in the label route. I can definitely say that I’m happy that if I want to put a song out next month, I could just hit up our friends at Moving Castle and just be like, “Hey, I want this out in a month.” Whereas, if we’re doing it with a label, it’s a little more difficult. I’ve never been signed to a label, so I can’t say if there’s more freedom or not, but it’s working for me cause I get to put out stuff whenever I want.

OTW: Seeing the collective’s growth over the last few years, culminating in your own music festival. Is there now a new ultimate goal you have for Moving Castle?

Definitely. I know that one thing we’ve always wanted to do is curate stage lineups at festivals, and so this thing that we’re throwing at the Fonda is our way of telling everybody, “Hey we can throw an event on our own that’s kind of like a festival.” So, hopefully, this will open up more doors to being more involved in festivals. Also, just throwing shows outside of LA. LA is kind of our home. It’s where we all gravitate towards, but we would love to get out and play shows in Europe and Australia. Eventually, the goal is just to go global.

OTW: As a founding member collective born on the Internet, what do think has been the biggest time vampire, internet-wise, for you?

Oh man. Well, lately for sure, just stuff that I’ve been looking at or watching. Honestly, Youtube videos, man. Youtube is the bane of my existence, because you can watch anything on there, and I love watching cooking shows. So, most nights, I’m watching videos on Vice MUNCHIES and stuff. I also love film, so I spend a lot of time watching movies too. And then the third chunk of time is dedicated watching tutorials on how to get better at music. Those three are literally my life now.

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OTW: When making a track, what’s the process like? Are you sitting down thinking you’re going to make a Manila Killa track or a Hotel Garuda Track?

It’s always different, honestly. I’m trying to get in the mindset of not assigning what I’m going to make to one project, because in the past few years, I’ve been doing that a lot. I would start out with some house chords and be like this is straight for Garuda, or this is straight for Manila Killa. But lately, Aseem, the other half of Hotel Garuda, has been helping me get into the mindset of not overthinking it too much, because I tend to do that. If I opened up my program right now and started working on something, I would try and be in the mindset of, “I don’t know if this is going to go to Manila Killa or Hotel Garuda, but I do just hope it goes to one of those things.” It’s not really structured lately. It’s kind of just throwing random ideas together and seeing whatever sticks. I’m trying to approach it differently, because I’ve been producing the same way for the last three years, and I feel like I could do better, so I’m just trying new techniques now.

OTW: One track I have to say I find myself coming back to again and again is the cover of Caribou’s “Can’t Do Without You” that you did with Kidswaste. Mind talking about the making of that track a bit?

That was last August. Me and Kidswaste, we had always wanted to work on a song together. We had started a couple of other songs before that but none of them were sticking. This person introduced me the Caribou song, and I was like, “Yo, this would be perfect to cover, why don’t we put it out?” We started it, and then like two days later, most of the song was already done. It was difficult for me to stay in contact with Kidswaste cause he’s all the way in France, so our only form of communication was through Facebook messaging and he’s like seven hours ahead. But I’m glad we were able to pull that track together, because we had been trying to work on something for the past few months. Yeah, once I heard that song, and I was like, “We should speed it up and give it a different vibe,” he was already down. That was his first time singing on a track too, cause we couldn’t find the vocal track of the original, so we were like, “Should we just hit someone up?” But he was just like, “Yo, I’m just going to do it.” That’s the story behind that.

OTW: Speaking of interesting cover and remix choices you also did an Enya edit. You clearly have some pretty interesting listening habits.

So, the way that I was raised was that my parents never forced music on to us. They liked their oldies and that’s all they listened to. They weren’t interested in telling us, “Hey, these are some artists you might want to listen to.” So, I grew up on pop music and listening to stuff on TV. And the Enya song, it’s funny, because the reason why I feel so attached to that song is that there was one point in my life where we were going to the ice skating rink after school every day, because my sister was a competitive ice skater. Me and my brother would be bored there five days a week, so that’s how I learned to ice skate. But they would play that Enya song every day. So, around that time when I put that song out, me and Brett were like do I have anything unreleased that I can just throw out? I was like, “I have this Enya song that I can work on again,” so that’s how that happened. Yeah, my listening history is super random. I just pick it up from when I was younger.

OTW: Any other hidden talents beyond ice skating we should know about?

I used to breakdance in high school, but I wasn’t that good. I competed a few times but nothing ever stuck like music did.

OTW: How would you describe your relationship with music outside of producing?

I can definitely say I respect all kinds of music, because I know music is not easy to make. Like anyone can make it, but it’s not easy to make a hit, it’s not easy to make something great. I would say my taste is eclectic, but it isn’t too out there. I definitely appreciate Nicolas Jaar, but I can’t listen to German tech house for two hours. I love “Closer” by The Chainsmokers, but I also love Bon Iver. I really love music, because it gives me a home in different moods. If I’m really happy, I have a set of artists I can listen to. If I’m feeling really down, I have a set of artists I can listen to. If I want to feel inspired, I have a set of artists I can listen to. So, I think it’s one of the most important things for me. It’s kind of fluid with how I feel. There’s a mood for all kinds of music. It keeps me going.

OTW: So far you’ve managed to have a fairly successful career with only singles and remixes. Any plans in the future for a full-length or EP?

Yeah, actually, that’s what I’ve been trying to work on the past few months. I think it was time for us, we did the whole year touring and I’m out of school, so what else can I offer? I can finally say that I’m working on an EP for both Manila Killa and Hotel Garuda. That’s all I can say right now though.

OTW: Finally, who are your Ones To Watch?

Definitely everyone under my name on the Moving Castle bill. But honestly, those group of kids, I feel like they have a lot of promise. Outside of the Moving Castle family, I think bitbird is doing really big things right now. San Holo is doing amazing things with the crew he has assembled, they’re so talented. I would say those guys are definitely Ones To Watch.

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