Who is Manila Killa?

By Iana Kozelsky

The body of a 22-year-old man fully submerged underwater in a bathtub filled to the edge. Four onlookers, also in their early 20s, watched the boy’s blonde hair float. One of them recorded it on camera.

Their bodies and the silence filled the bathroom in the rural Maryland home.

“OK,” the boy holding the camera said. “That looks sweet!”

Manila Killa, a 21-year-old music producer based in Washington, D.C., stopped recording the scene and reviewed the footage. The onlookers gathered around him and the camera, smiling and ready to continue shooting the music video for a remix by Manila Killa’s side project, Hotel Garuda.

The young producer started his music career by first playing the cello, then the drums and later the guitar. He started to DJ when he was 14 and began producing electronic music shortly after as Manila Killa.

“I wanted a name to remind me of home, so I picked Manila,” the producer said. “The Killa part comes from my friend’s doing. He thought it would catchy to have ‘Manila’ rhyme with something.”

Aside from his music alias, Manila Killa’s Filipino roots also influence his overall sound. Many critics categorize his songs under the “tropical house” subgenre of electronic dance music.

“It’s basically a genre that reminds you of the beach,” Manila Killa said. “Downtempo, relaxing and melodic.”

Being such a narrow label, the subgenre does not accurately describe all of his work.

A sampling of some of his songs on Manila Killa’s SoundCloud page evidences his versatility as a musician. His track with AO Beats “Waterside” is driven by a bounce with unexpected builds and drops under a dreamy melody.

Contrastingly, his remix of “Strong” by London Grammar is carried by smooth, clean piano chords filled with a refreshing amount of emotion generally lacking in many electronic songs. Neither would fall under “tropical house.”

Earlier this year, Manila Killa along with longtime friend and fellow musician Candle Weather started a duo called Hotel Garuda and mainly produce “deep house music.” They released their first track on SoundCloud, a remix of Disclosure’s “White Noise,” 10 months ago. It now has over half a million views and rising.

Hotel Garuda would not be possible without the Internet.

Manila Killa lives in the district and Candle Weather lives in Los Angeles. The two friends constantly send the latest version of their tracks back and forth and only see each other in person when they play shows in major cities together.

While they do not have the luxury of being in the same studio to work on songs, the duo take advantage of their double-coast presence. In one night, Hotel Garuda can play two shows in two cities hundreds of miles apart.

“It’s pretty cool,” Manila Killa said. “We can write a status on Facebook that says ‘Come dance with us tonight in California and in New York’ and our fans sometimes get confused but they come out and support anyway.”

Though Hotel Garuda has performed in Miami during the Winter Music Conference and in famous venues like Webster Hall in New York, Manila Killa still loves playing in his hometown where he finds a unique network of friendly support among promoters, DJs, club owners and fans.

“You’ll see the head of a production company in the crowd of a show ran by another production company and I think that’s really cool,” Manila Killa said.

Still, the artist continues to expand his global presence. Alongside friends and producers Robokid, Hunt for the Breeze and AO Beats, Manila Killa started a music collective called Moving Castle. The idea was spontaneous.

The basis was to bring together a close network of musicians and release songs in a record-label style. One year since its birth, Moving Castle now consists of over 15 artists representing three continents, a number of states and is followed by over 14 thousand users on SoundCloud.

According to its SoundCloud page, Moving Castle’s location is “INTERNET.” Manila Killa emphasizes the importance of the Internet and social media in the music world now.

“Without the internet, I wouldn’t be where I am now,” Manila Killa said. “It has let me reach an audience I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise, build connections and discover new music. It’s so important for my career.”

Both Manila Killa and Moving Castle boast a strong social media presence. The artists post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram several times daily. Their conversations have a unique character that includes making up words like “turnty” and “fam” that makes their followers feel like they are included in the seemingly exclusive and comedic group.

So far, they have received positive responses from their fans in this aspect.

Manila Killa claims things related to music comprise 90 percent of his daily life. The other 10 percent is for family, friends and school.

He is currently a business management student at George Mason University. His music career undoubtedly conflicts with his studies, but Manila Killa claims it teaches him to be better at time management. He realizes the importance of balancing both his studies and his music.

Looking five years into the future, Manila Killa predicts he will either be working a business-related job in New York City or traveling the world touring.

“My mind hasn’t been made up yet,” he said. “I’m excited for the future because I will continue to learn, in fact, I’m quite happy I’m still young as I have a lot of time to discover and learn about producing music.”

For now, the young musician is focused on working on his first music video. He developed the idea with his friends, a mix of producers, DJs, writers and filmmakers.

“Wait, the shot was too zoomed in,” Manila Killa said as he reviewed the footage he filmed. “Sorry, we need you to drown again.”