similarobjects Shares His Rise as a Power Player in Manila’s Electronic Music Scene
Originally published on STATUS Magazine, December 2018
They say that those who can’t do, teach, but SIMILAROBJECTS is living proof that anyone can do both with the right amount of drive and passion.
Jorge Wieneke V a.k.a similarobjects had a good feeling about pursuing music from the get-go. Maybe he realized it when he used his first paycheck in grade school to buy a Yamaha light up piano, or when he asked for violin lessons that never happened, or that one time he purchased the MTV music maker game for the PlayStation to try and make short loops of music on it. “I think I always had a thing for music,” he recalls. “As a child I’d be annoying everyone by singing and dancing, mimicking songs from cartoons, movies, or television. My parents always said I was a rather curious and mischievous kid so I guess I that’s where I used to always spend my energy on.”
“[Electronic music] just gave me a feeling of self-satisfaction that I couldn’t get anywhere else.”
Now at 29 years old, his constant wondering of the unknown has brought him to places he only imagined as a young boy. As a passionate creative who divides his time between producing solo music, educating the youngsters under his mentorship program, and leading his collective-turned-community, he’s been regarded as one of the pioneers of the electronic music scene resurgence in Manila. “I got slightly serious about music in highschool when I joined an emo/punk band as a singer/songwriter, but only when I started producing electronic music for my solo projects did I really fall deeply in love with music,” he shares with us. “It just gave me a feeling of self-satisfaction that I couldn’t get anywhere else.”
But before all the recognition and praise, his deep affinity with music sprung from the expansion of his listening habits. From what he calls “cringy acoustic singers” to industrial ambient, he notes the influences of TOOL, A Perfect Circle, Radiohead, Bjork, Nine Inch Nails, Aphex Twin, and Flying Lotus in the cultivation of his sound. “As I got older my senses continued to refine and I just developed a more intense desire for digging, which ended up pushing me towards multiple musical directions at once.” He continues, “I guess what shapes my music is my constant thirst for more and I guess that’s why I’m pretty scattered in terms of styles or genres. I find it hard to stick to one thing.”
Fresh off a quick trip from Berlin for the Red Bull Music Academy 2018, similarobjects talks to us about his roots as an electronic music producer and how he became a household name in the Manila music scene.
When you made the decision to be a creator, what was your first step?
When I decided to really take on this path, the first thing I did was to think about what it is I wanted to make. At the time I was listening to a weird/eclectic combination of things so I couldn’t really figure out how to put all my influences together, but somehow I ended up making really weird ambient music using either the family desktop or my mom’s laptop. Shortly after, I wanted to try making chiptunes or video game music but couldn’t get my hands on the actual gear for it, so I settled with making music using computers till I ended up picking up synthesizers, grooveboxes, and samplers. After that I just started letting the gear dictate what I’d make.
“I think that the moment people think they’ve pinned my sound down, I actually might have moved on to my next incarnation.”
As an experimental artist, would you say that you’ve found your sound?
Despite some people claiming to be able to pinpoint what makes a song sound like “similarobjects”, I honestly don’t think I’ve managed to cement myself a sound yet. I feel like it’s a constant work in progress and it evolves with me over time, and it’s hard to actually catch. I think that the moment people think they’ve pinned my sound down, I actually might have moved on to my next incarnation.
Talk us through your creative process. Is there a tried and tested method when it comes to creating a similarobjects track or are you more open to attempting new things?
I don’t think I have any formulas or templates in making music. Every time I open my laptop or sit at my workstation there’s always a new starting point, meaning to say I always work from a blank project and it always leads to different outcomes, so the creative process evolves as well. Maybe I’ll have go to instruments every now, and then but no two songs for me were created in the exact same way and I think that’s the beauty of it. Sometimes people ask me how I made a song and sometimes I can’t even answer or explain [laughs], because once I get into my level I just tap into a state of constant doing and the music seems to write itself.
Many consider you a veteran and even one of the pioneers of the resurgence of Manila’s electronic music scene. How did you start playing shows and gaining an audience in a city where electronic music isn’t as prolific as independent rock or pop?
When I started, it was really difficult to get shows or to play the proper shows for the type of music I was making. Like you mentioned, most venues catered to rock bands and most clubs were mostly Top 40 or party venues, so I relied mostly on the internet to spread my music. I joined various email groups and posted my work on some forums, but wasn’t really into heavy self promotion. I was actually really insecure and shy about my work but would frequent a lot of the underground electronic shows in Manila—among some were hosted by Caliph8, Red-I, Tengal or Mulan; during that time it was held either in Cubao Expo, Fete Dela Wasaque, Fluxxe or in B-SIDE. I also met a lot of like-minded people by going to these shows and eventually landed a booking to play in SUBFLEX which was considered “Manila’s best kept secret”. They would throw some interesting underground electronic shows at the time and this inspired me to improve and evolve further as a musician. After that I continued to get bookings and eventually decided to put up my own shows.
You used to teach Electronic Music at your alma mater of De La Salle-College of St. Benilde and you set up the Cosmic Sonic Arts music program. As an educator, how do you help hone your students’ talents and distinct sounds without making sure you’re not creating a similarobjects clone?
To be honest, I think even if I gave all my students the same tools and taught them the same techniques I used, they’d still end up with different, varying and unique results. I mean there’s just so many factors in life that affect our creative decisions that I don’t really think I’d be able to make copies of me even if I wanted to. With that said, I’d like to think that I’m not just molding them to be like me but in fact to make my students better than me.
“I’d like to believe that music has the power to heal ourselves and others. I hope to pass this gift of healing and for them to slowly wake up to themselves in the process. I see music as a method to self-discovery, introspection, and evolution, and I’d wish to share this with all my students.”
With your experience as an educator, what do you hope to pass on to your students?
I’d like to believe that music has the power to heal ourselves and others. I hope to pass this gift of healing and for them to slowly wake up to themselves in the process. I see music as a method to self-discovery, introspection, and evolution, and I’d wish to share this with all my students.
Apart from teaching, you also founded BuwanBuwan Collective. How did the idea of forming this collective come about?
I met most of the BuwanBuwan homies on MySpace, and some at the underground shows I used to frequent. We then started getting to know each other more and found common love for the type of music we were all doing but we were always an odd-fit for the venues in Manila, so we decided to get together to form a group. We couldn’t find enough gigs/venues that welcomed our music, so we decided to create the context for our content by organizing our own shows which we called Bakunawa. At these shows, we didn’t have to limit ourselves to genre restrictions and we could curate the spaces in a way that highlighted the music so it was great to be able create a platform for this type of music. Eventually it grew into a net label where we could release music we liked. I think we were just lucky that it turned into a community of its own. It was basically born out of the need for a home and a safe space, and I’m just glad that nowadays it’s actually considered to be one.
You’re an educator, collective head, and artist. What’s your secret in balancing your time?
Meditation, veggies, and a journal.
“Before RBMA, I honestly wanted to leave Manila and see what was out there in the world for my music. Now I realized I’m more intent on staying and am more curious to see what good my music can do for my city.”
What is the biggest lesson you learned at RBMA 2018, and what skills or etiquettes from the program do you want to bring into practice in the local music industry?
Before RBMA, I honestly wanted to leave Manila and see what was out there in the world for my music. Now I realized I’m more intent on staying and am more curious to see what good my music can do for my city. Apart from that, I learned to never give up on a vision and to trust in the way I hear things.
As a staple in Manila’s music scene, what words of wisdom would you give to the budding artists trying to break out of the mould?
– Don’t believe everything you see online/TV/news.
– Learn to think for yourself.
– If you see a group of people flocking somewhere, run the opposite direction.
– Produce more than you consume.
– Don’t give up on the sounds you hear in your head. There’s a reason you hear things the way you do.
– ALWAYS DIG DEEPER.
– It’s not always about the numbers.
– Painted cakes do not satisfy hunger.
– The world within > the world without.
Written by Sophie Caraan
Photographed by Miguel Alomajan
Makeup by Anne Pascual