Hometown Hotspots: Between the Philippines and the US with Manila Killa
Everyone knows that when travelling to new places, the best spots to visit aren’t the ones easily found on the web. It’s all about local favourites – those true hidden gems that make the place unique for its own inhabitants. In our Hometown Hotspots series, we’re catching up with musicians around the world to find those gems on a personal tour through their own cities.
There’s no hiding where Chris Gavino, aka Manila Killa, is from. His moniker is a representation of where his musical roots started from.
The producer was born in the US and lived in the Philippines during his high school years, during which he found his love for electronic music and even taught himself the Ableton! It earned him over 570,000 Spotify streams, billings on major music festivals and love from the internet.
In 2014, Manila Killa formed a house duo called Hotel Garuda and co-founded an independent record label Moving Castle.
After he departed from Hotel Garuda in 2018, he kicked things off with his debut EP titled 1993 the following year, which received critical acclaim from major publications.
Since then, his portfolio has included remixes for artists like Tegan and Sara, Chvrches and The Knocks, and performing at Ultra Miami, Firefly, Electric Zoo, 88rising’s Head in the Clouds, and so much more.
With a new album on its way, we spoke to Manila Killa, a rising name in the contemporary dance music scene, to find out everything from his favourite eatery in the Philippines to the one place he wishes would stay the same.
LIFE IN MANILA, THE PHILIPPINES
Credit: Manila Killa
Manila was where I grew up half of my life and where I discovered electronic music. I had just moved back to Manila for the beginning of high school and my friends introduced me to some artistes that I was familiar with in the past but never got into, such as Daft Punk, Justice, and MSTRKRFT.
It was at that moment when I fell deeply in love with electronic music and essentially is the reason why I’ve continued to produce in that style ever since.
What I loved about the people there was their open-mindedness towards arts and culture.
Everyone was confident in what kind of music, foods and arts that they enjoyed which encouraged me to look into myself and realise that I didn’t have to like what everyone else did just because it was part of the mainstream; these are principles that I carry with me today and influence what kinds of styles of music I make.
Manila was also where I experienced nightlife for the first time and realised the context in which electronic music should be experienced.
I remember missing an Above & Beyond concert, watching videos from my friends, and wishing I was there – not even as a performer but as an attendee.
It was that hunger to experience electronic music in a live setting that pushed me to look into producing my own music. One thing led to another and eventually, after moving back to the US for university, I had a little bit of knowledge in production and started my artiste journey in the US.
AN EATERY TO FEEL HOMESICK FOR: JOLLIBEE
The dish I’ll always crave is the Chickenjoy meal from Jollibee, served with rice and gravy. There’s something so simplistic about it that reminds me of home.
In the US it’s not common to serve meat dishes with white rice and as a Filipino who grew up eating rice with every meal, this dish really hits home.
There was one time when I entered a Jollibee to order lunch and a fan recognised me and we had a small chat. It was funny because although I was in the US, the workers spoke with a slight Filipino accent, and the fan I was speaking to was also Filipino.
At that moment I felt like I was truly at home around my people. It was a comforting memory that always reminds me of where I came from.
I don’t have a song that comes to mind when thinking about this place, but oddly enough the first thing that popped in my head was the Filipino national anthem (laughs).
A FAVOURITE PLACE TO PERFORM: SAN FRANCISCO
Credit: Steven Truong
I’m not sure why the people in San Francisco connect with my music so strongly, but it was one of the first cities I ever performed in, the first place I sold a show out, and the city that’s held my biggest shows to date.
The energy is different. It seems like they know every one of my songs and is always supporting me in my creative endeavours.
I recently learned from my family that they were actually supposed to settle down in San Francisco and not Virginia before I was born, so maybe there’s an unspoken type of connection between me and that city.
A song that reminds me of San Francisco is my very first original that I ever came out with, called “All That’s Left” featuring Joni Fatora. It’ll always remind me of the city because that’s where I first played it out and realised that the song was going to be something special.
THE GO-TO FOR LIVE MUSIC: 1720 IN LOS ANGELES
You’ll find all sorts of shows held at 1720 but my friends who run an event company, Brownies & Lemonade, are sort of famous for throwing secret shows at this venue, where the lineup is unannounced and you never know who will show up.
I was lucky enough to play here during the first show back from Covid-19 where they had acts like Zedd, Zhu, and Louis the Child perform. It felt like a reunion of sorts, almost like a landmark that we’ve gotten through a very rough time and we’re back in action.
The song “Only” by Zhu featuring Tinashe comes to mind here. It reminds me of that night because it felt like a warehouse party thrown by my closest friends. It was dark, sweaty, and a hell of a good time.
A SECRET SPOT FOR NEW VISITORS: PACIFIC COCKTAIL HAVEN, SAN FRANCISCO
I recently moved to Long Beach so I’m not that familiar with the area, but one spot in one of my favourite cities has to be Pacific Cocktail Haven in San Francisco.
It’s a special place because it reminds me of my girlfriend, who brought me there for the first time specifically to try the “Thrilla in Manila” cocktail where the main component of the drink is calamansi juice. It reminded me of home and felt really comforting to see that establishments outside of the Philippines honouring Filipino culture.
“Somebody Else” by The 1975 is the song that fits this place. This is a song that my girlfriend and I both love and might be one of our favourite songs ever. It’s low-key and emotional and the vibes of it remind me of her.
A PLACE THAT NEEDS TO STAY THE SAME: SAN FRANCISCO
Credit: Hardik Pandya/Unsplash
I honestly hope San Francisco stays the same. It’s a place that I owe a lot of my career to and always had a soft spot for it. I wouldn’t put it past myself to say that one day I’d like to live there as it’s just a beautiful city with great people.
“Cavalier” by James Vincent McMorrow is the exact song I’d want to be playing as I’m travelling across the golden gate bridge. It encapsulates the vibes that the city gives off and reminds me of all the special times I’ve spent there.
Check out Manila Killa's live set at Red Rocks Amphitheatre for Jai Wolf and San Holo Present Infinite Light.
Hometown Hotspots is created in collaboration with Secret Signals.
Writer | Kevin Yeoh
When he isn’t making sure Sound of Life stories are published in a timely manner, Kevin enjoys wandering aimlessly in Kuala Lumpur city, going down the YouTube rabbit hole and discovering new music.