Manila Killa: from Basement Bangers to Spotify Chart Toppers


It's hard for us regular concert and festival goers to really comprehend life as a successful, touring DJ in 2017. Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat can only offer us a small glimpse into the lives of our favorite artists, but there are so many questions we fans have that are left unanswered! From "what software do you use" to "what's backstage really like," we are dying to know more about the super fab lives lead by artists today.

Lucky for us, we had the awesome opportunity to interview 24 year-old Virginia based producer Chris Gavino, popularly known as "Manila Killa," about his experiences growing up internationally, dominating his first ever headlining tour, new releases, and much more:

First off, congratulations on such an incredible tour. It’s been awesome to follow your success and on behalf of all of us at Electric Family: you are absolutely killing it! 

Thanks so much!

I can’t think of a more diverse and juxtaposed upbringing than growing up in both the Philippines and Virginia. As an individual coming from these two very different backgrounds, can you tell us a little about what it was like moving back and forth between these two places? What do you think you gained most from your experiences in both places?

Growing up in both areas has really shaped me as a person as well as an artist. I was forced to adapt quickly to the changing environments, as well as learn to meet new people really quickly. From the Philippines I definitely gained the most of an appreciation in the culture of my native people. As a Filipino who spent a lot of their grade schooling years in Virginia, it was really great to come back as a teenager and learn about where I came from. The Philippines is actually where a lot of my interest in electronic music began – I had friends with crazy eclectic music tastes so I was exposed to a lot of different things you didn’t always hear on the radio. Virginia is my home in the states so it’s sort of where I come back to recharge. I finished school year last year and am still based out of here – so when I’m not on tour or in LA working on music, I’m honing my craft in my bedroom.

Coming from this background that you have, I don’t doubt that your experiences within the EDM scene have shocked you in a number of ways. What has been the greatest surprise to you?

Seeing the very last Porter Robinson x Madeon Shelter show at Coachella was an amazing experience. I’m not going to lie – I cried halfway through the set. It was such an amazing thing to see that two artists who “came up through the internet” eventually rose above to the point where they got to perform the sunset slot at one of the most popular festivals in the world.

Your music carries very inspirational and uplifting tones. They are truly beautiful songs. Can you enlighten us about your artistic process? How are your songs “born”?

My songs are formed in a number of different ways. I don’t usually have an idea of how to start a song – I sort of just pour out whatever I’m feeling. There aren’t any “routine” or number of steps I take either. I build on a singular element and then move forward from there – whether it be a set of chords or a drum loop.

At what moment did you first realize your life had changed due to your popularity and fame? Do any particular moments come to mind?

It wasn’t a particular moment – more like a gradual buildup. I still don’t really think I’m that popular or famous at all… I’m happy that people appreciate my work but I’m definitely striving to be bigger and better. Although, every time someone recognizes me in public, or at the grounds at a festival or at a show, it’s a small reminder that people are actually listening to my music. That always throws me off a bit, but in a good way.

You’ve received quite the positive reaction from your “I Want You” tour that is wrapping up this week. How has this tour differed from those in the past?

I’ve never really had a “headline” tour. In the past, I’ve one-off dates together in a small time frame to brand those shows as a tour, but I never had the opportunity to do a proper, cohesive tour, until now. Now that I was out of school at the beginning of the year, and Robotaki was available to tour, we put our heads together to create a collaboration that extended outside of just making music together. We wanted to create an experience together and I think that’s the main thing that makes this tour different from my ones in the past – everything was thought out and planned properly through the help of synergy from my and Robotaki’s teams.

The shows you’re performing now are definitely larger than those you have performed in the past. It must be nerve-racking! Can you tell us about any pregame rituals you may have that keep you calm and collected before taking the stage? What kind of postgame rituals do you have? How do you celebrate? 

The crowds continue to get larger and larger, as I continue to get more nervous and nervous before each show. I was never good at psyching myself up for speeches done in school, and I’m still not that good at psyching myself up for shows. It’s all kind of a blur of nervousness and sweaty palms until my hands touch the equipment on stage at the beginning of my set. I’m yet to find any pre-show rituals that’ll calm my nerves, but talking to people prior to the show helps distract me a little. My favorite post-show ritual is heading straight to bed (haha).

You’re part of a very fun DJ “posse,” including Sajeeb Saha (“Jai Wolf”), Robby Hauldren and Freddy Kennet (“Louis the Child”), and Ethan Snoreck (“Whethan”). How did you all get together? How has having close friends, all around similar ages, who are also part of the EDM community, impacted you?

Every one of us met through the internet (although the LTC boys knew each other prior... through their high school I believe). But thanks to a site called Soundcloud, all of us were able to further connect and communicate with each other. Aside from enjoying collaborating and touring with each other, at the end of the day, we’re all just a big group of friends. We keep each other motivated and grounded, and push each other to continue thriving. The way having this group of friends has impacted me is that they also serve as a support system. The entertainment industry is no joke – there are lots of moving parts and lots of different directions to go in – these guys help guide me through it.

I’ve had the pleasure of hearing one of your songs to be released this fall with the wonderful Chelsea Cutler. Could you tell us about the process of working with her? What do us fans have to look forward to this fall in terms of new releases?

Yes! I’ve always been such a huge fan of Chelsea Cutler. Actually, I recently looked through my old iTunes library and saw that I’ve had songs from her since 2013. It was awesome to work with her because Quentin (Kidswaste) came to me with a beautiful sketch of a song. We worked on it more and then reached out to Chelsea, hoping she could put the finishing touch on the song. And that’s exactlllly what she did. She brought it all together and we couldn’t be happier to finally be releasing it. In the fall they can definitely expect this release! But other than that, I like to keep my plans hush hush. They just have to stay tuned for more.

In 2017, we are extremely fortunate to have so many talented EDM artists, each contributing such personal sounds to the EDM community. Who have been your greatest inspirations as a DJ? Have any specific DJs inspired your work in the past or today?

In terms of music, my greatest influences include Porter Robinson, Bon Iver, M83, Odesza, Caribou, Tourist, RL Grime, Anna Lunoe... the list goes on. All of these people bring a different vibe to the culture and it’s always been super inspiring to listen closely and try and analyze their songs. That way I can wrap all the inspiration I have received and try to express my art in my own way.

Being that you are such a young artist, and considering the state of the world right now, how do you hope to see your music impact young people during such socially and politically turbulent times?

Music can serve so many purposes. It can serve as a political statement to rise up, a scapegoat for those going through dark times, and a way of bringing people together. I think the most beautiful thing music can do right now is give people a glimpse of hope. That’s always been my goal in my music – growing up I’ve leaned on music to get me through rough times so I want to do the same for others - give people a sense of hope in my own music.

[End of Interview]

On top of attracting hundreds of thousands of Spotify listeners monthly and never ceasing to impress fans with entirely electric sets, many fans are surprised to learn that while producing dope tracks and working full-time MK was also balancing a full academic course load until last winter. He recently graduated George Mason University of Virginia with a degree in finance and is now beyond equipped to tackle the music industry 100% head on.

We are super excited to see what's next for Manila Killa as he wraps up his first ever tour and cannot wait for him to bless our playlists with new releases this fall!

By Kelly Moran


Check out his latest Flight Facilities - Arty Boy feat. Emma Louise (Manila Killa Remix)"