Chris Gavino is a 25-year-old music producer based in Washington, D.C. who has taken the EDM world by storm under the name Manila Killa.
Last week, Gavino headlined McDonald’s “Rise N’ Rave” event at L.A.’s Globe Theatre, an early morning rave held to celebrate McDonald’s release of their new Triple Breakfast Stacks. Participants of the jam-packed breakfast dance party, organized in partnership with NextShark and ISA, witnessed the energy and soul the young artist brings to the dance floor.
If his chosen moniker is any indication, Gavino traces his roots to the Philippines where he was born and spent a great portion of his youth.
“It’s kind of difficult because I grew up, my entire life, all I knew was moving,” Gavino told NextShark. “I never stayed in one place for just two years.”
And while he grew up moving from the Philippines to different parts of the United States, it was in Manila where he was first exposed to the genre that would inspire him to pursue music full-time.
“Steve Aoki was one of my early influences way back when I was on MySpace. He was even one of the first people I followed on the site. I also listened to Kaskade, Daft Punk, and more recently, Porter Robinson. I was just really into dance music and those legends are the ones I still listen to.”
He shared that years before he was able to get his content on Spotify, he made his initial foray into music using MySpace, the premier social media platform in the early 2000s, and then eventually, SoundCloud.
“I got into MySpace right when people were getting off of it but I still saw it as a good tool for music. SoundCloud let me upload anything I wanted. I was remixing all these popular songs, putting my own touch on them. That’s kind of where it all started as people started listening. Then, I made the transition into Spotify when I started making originals and tried to do this a bit more professional.”
According to Gavino, getting his parents on board with his career choice took some years of convincing.
“Eventually, after seeing that I’m completely honest about my passion, we finally got along.”
He explained that since his mom used to be in the entertainment industry herself, she would always caution him against pursuing a similar career path.
“She’s a television host in Manila and when I started talking to her about entering the entertainment business she was like, ‘No, you wouldn’t want to be a part of it.'”
“Now my mom loves giving me advice and that’s also probably where I get the genes from cause my family, we’re not professional musicians, we’re not classically trained but I feel like we all have a good sense of what objectively sounds good. My mom does help a lot in shaping my music now.”
Gavino shared that being a Filipino American has its perks and its challenges but notes that the tough part was being right in the middle of it.
“It was tough culturally as people in the Philippines and people in America are different. There are differences in the way they do things and the music that they listen to.
“I thank my parents for keeping me well-traveled when I was younger because that helped me adjust to the cultural differences. Even though it was challenging, I think eventually at the end I was able to overcome those and get along with others.”
Gavino not only overcame the cultural challenges, but he was also able to traverse the entertainment industry without facing adversities many people of color usually encounter.
“While there have been many instances when people said no to me just because of who I am, that’s never really bothered me. I’ve just never thought about it. I always thought that music comes first and people will find out that I’m Filipino after my music.”
“I’m very aware of what it’s like to pursue something like this as a minority but I try to keep it art first, music first and worry about that stuff later.“
Despite having done numerous projects, collaborations with both established and up-and-coming artists and more music in the works, the young musician says he is still trying to figure out some aspects of his career.
“A lot of people are always striving to be on the spotlight but a lot of people don’t do once they are there is, ‘Yeah, all eyes are on you but what are you going to say with that attention?’
“While I feel that I’m approaching that, I’m thinking why I’m doing all this, why am I working so hard, and what am I going to say about it all? I’m still trying to figure that out but it doesn’t really bother me that I’m in the spotlight. I just hope that when people look up to me, I have something to say.”
While he is proud of his accomplishments, Gavino has remained humble and stays grounded when describing his success.
“I was just like any kid looking on the internet and just finding something cool. All of this just existed on the computer screen for me. That was a world that I just went to whenever I was alone and I loved it. It was always just that thing on the computer. I never really imagined it would take me here. This is so crazy.”
Assessing his current status as an artist, Gavino admits that he has yet to figure out his music and the type of sound he’s going for.
“I feel like I’m constantly evolving and changing and I feel like I haven’t reached the peak of my creativity yet. I feel like I’m still trying to find what my sound or my style is. I feel like it’s still early in my career. I still have a lot more exploring to do creatively.”
Featured Image via Instagram / manilakillamusic (Left