Chris Gavino is a man living his dreams. A native of the Philippines, he’s currently heading into his senior year at George Mason University. After college, he’ll be continuing his musical career. Many of you may know him better as Manila Killa, one half of Hotel Garuda, and a founding member of Moving Castle. At the age of only 22, Chris has accomplished quite a lot and he has no intention of stopping, because as the song goes he’s “feeling 22”. With his tracks going viral garnering millions of plays on SoundCloud, Moving Castle continuing to rise rapidly in popularity, and playing at festivals such as EDC Las Vegas as Hotel Garuda, we can’t wait to see where Chris is heading in the future.
A few weeks ago, he played a secret set b2b at the Moving Castle Virtual Summer show at Slake alongside Jai Wolf after great sets by AObeats, ROBOKID, Hunt for the Breeze, Yung Wall Street, and TJANI. I got the chance to sit down with him during the show for a quick chat.
To start could you tell us a bit about your background and how you got into making music?
When I was a freshmen high school, I had no idea that you could make music on your computer. I went to school in the Philippines, specifically Manila, and we have this Battle of the Bands event. So this kid named Nathan (Dave) was performing off his laptop and I had no idea you could do that. After that, I tried making music on a computer myself and that was that.
Wow, did you have any classical training?
Not really, I played the cello for a couple of years, but I was never interested in learning the theory. After that, I played the drums and the guitar for a little bit, but I was never really serious about music back then. Once I learned you could make music on a computer, I watched a lot of tutorials on YouTube and that’s how I learned.
When did you move from the Philippines to the US?
I came to the US for college. I actually bounced between the Philippines, the US, and Indonesia because of my dad’s job, but I stayed in the US for college, which is where I really started taking music pretty seriously.
I was in Radford University in Virginia and then I transferred to George Mason in DC after two years. Once I transferred to DC, that’s when things started popping because I started meeting people, going up to NY, and that’s where it happened.
But now I’m always in NY. I’m in LA for the summer, and I go back to school in August since I have a year left. So going into my last year.
Didn’t know you were still in school! Do you study music?
No I don’t, I actually study business. Last summer, I was in New York interning for a large business firm and at the end of the internship they gave me a full-time offer. I went back to school and thought about it for a while but decided that music was my calling so I had to pursue it.
Skrillex seems to be a pretty big fan of MOVING CASTLE, he wears the shirt pretty often and there’s a bunch of music from you guys released on OWSLA.
Yeah, Skrillex fucks with all of us. He actually called me up and invited me to hang with him in Atlanta and do this music video once. Jai Wolf also got that official remix with him for “Ease My Mind” and my The M Machine remix got released with OWSLA. We’re just developing relationships with them and we’ll see what happens from there.
You’ve mentioned you’re from Manila, how’d you come up the full name?
Yeah I grew up in Manila. That city means so much to me, that’s where I discovered electronic music. The Killa part, well it rhymes [laughs], and I figured I needed a catchy name if I’m going to do this.
So tell me about starting MOVING CASTLE!
There are four of us who started MOVING CASTLE. So ROBOKID contacted AOBeats and told him he wanted to start a collective and then AOBeats contacted me and ask if I wanted in. I said hell yeah and then contacted Hunt For The Breeze. So the four of us were pumped and were like “let’s do this.” From there on, we did not expect any of this. This shirt. Our showcase at SXSW, where Porter Robinson and Sweater Beats also played. Its all pretty crazy.
What’s it like being surrounded by so many talented artists?
Being around these people, it’s kind of intimidating because I’m just this kid from Virginia who makes music in my bedroom. I literally make music on my bed. To hear that Skrillex fucks with my music and to hear all these people supporting me, it’s really intimidating but at the same time it’s really inspirational.
So, it seems like MOVING CASTLE has a lot of Japanese Influence, can you tell us more about that?
We were trying to think of a name originally. We were thinking of what influences us and what comes to mind when we’re trying to come up with a name for a collective, and we all really like Miyazaki so we named it after Howl’s Moving Castle.
Also, ROBOKID fucks with Japanese culture so hard and AOBeats is half Japanese. I love how Japanese people will do whatever they want, while in the states people are caught up trying to seem cool and what not. But the Japanese have a culture of if you like something you’re going to do that. We really love that so we’re going to keep going in that direction with our music.
Tell me about Hotel Garuda and getting booked for EDC Las Vegas!
Yeah, Hotel Garuda is a side project with my friend Aseem. We met during middle school in Indonesia but lost contact for a few years, then one day he hits me up and tells me he wants to make music. I asked him what kind and he told me house music. I was looking for an outlet for house music for the longest time, so we started making house music and all of a sudden we’re playing together at EDC Las Vegas. After that, we just kept going and we’re living together in LA over the summer.
How would you say your Hotel Garuda style differs from your Manila Killa style?
Manila Killa is definitely the more experimental side. It’s what I fuck with more organically. So, Hotel Garuda is more house, I’ve liked house music for a long time since hearing Daft Punk in 2007 when I decided I wanted to make some music like that.
In addition to Daft Punk, who else would you say are big inspirations?
Rone, who’s from Europe, not a lot of people know him but his music is really tight. Besides him Justice, Busy P and the Ed Banger crew, the 2008 music was a huge influence on me, Kygo, Porter Robinson, of course, he’s so great because he was making electro and then all of a sudden decided he just wants to make what he wants. The Worlds album was amazing. I still listen to it to this day. I also really love Flume, What So Not, and all those guys.
What about your favorites to listen to?
I usually listen to music on the airplane after I’m just coming off a show. So after hearing so much electronic music, I just want to steer to the right. I love Bon Iver, Taking Back Sunday, all the retro music we used to listen to in middle school.
How would you say your sound has evolved since you started?
Honestly, I just like to make what I’m listening to at the time. A few years ago, I was making disco house, I loved listening to Duck Sauce, A-Trak, Oliver, Fake Blood and all those guys. After that, I started listening to other music.
At that time, I heard Cashmere Cat’s remix of “Do You…” and I thought whoa. I 100% draw a lot of inspiration from Cashmere Cat, Lido, and all those guys. Cashmere Cat is an inspiration because he started on SoundCloud and now he’s doing all these huge things. The Internet is an incredible tool, without the Internet I would not be where I am right now. If it weren’t for the Internet, a lot of us wouldn’t be here and there would not be a show playing right now dedicated to MOVING CASTLE.
So what’s your creative process like?
Usually I like to work under vocals, I do a lot of remixes so hearing the vocals I start to visualize the direction I want to go into. I put out the vocals on Ableton and start building up from that.
What's your favorite remix that you've done?
I made a remix for Flume three years ago for his song “Sleepless”. Not many people know that remix, but once I made that remix I was convinced I could do this.
What was your reaction when your remixes of Dawn Golden and London Grammar blew up?
That literally came out a year ago and I wasn’t expecting anything. Every year on my birthday I put out a song and I released the Dawn Golden remix for that, so it was wild to see that so many people liked it.
One last question, what are some of your future plans?
Well I’m going back to school for my last year so I won’t be playing many shows but in the meantime I’ll be working on my EP. Once I’m done with school, we’ll see what happens, definitely start touring more.
Thanks for doing the interview, looking forward to your set man!
Of course, thanks to you too!