BENCH MEETS Gio Limjoco

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Shirt by BENCH
Photography by Christina Zabat
Produced by Ina Jacobe
Shot on location at Cafe de Seoul

Manila’s music realm has become so diverse that even the quietest of personalities can sound out. True to his alias Shy Club, the music of DJ-producer Gio Limjoco isn’t the sort that inspires an emcee’s rallying call for shots at a club. Whether he’s tweaking “Yoncé” with a harp or mixing Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I had a dream” speech with TheXX, Gio’s tracks urge more mindful swaying than thoughtless pelvic thrusts. The body rocks less but the mind—and heart—certainly moves.

That local ears have welcomed his low-key sound may have played a part in the break he took from law school. Taking a year and a half off to focus on music, Gio hit the decks at nightspots like Black Market, a breeding ground for the more experimental stuff. Playing beats and melodies that evoke staring from a train, scenery blurring by, wound up a rightful remedy for academic burnout.

Before he heads back to law school this month, B/BLOG caught up with Gio to talk quarter-life crisis, the sad-bastard EP he’ll soon release, and using his law degree for musical good.

Hey, Gio. How was your summer?

My summer was pretty good. I spent a month in the States. I got to see my family there and I got to go to Coachella, which was pretty intense but I enjoyed it. Summer break for law students, you go insane sometimes ‘cause you really don’t have anything to do, you know? When you grab a law student and just put him back to doing nothing during summer, it kind of makes him go crazy a bit.

Was that your first time at Coachella?

Yeah, it was super overwhelming pero galing, the artists, production. I got to see Bonobo, one of my favorite producers. I’ve never experienced that spiritual high when you’re seeing someone for the first time and the music is also spot-on. And Americans in general are pretty crazy. When you go to Coachella, you’ve got all these people on drugs and going insane—all these Coachella douchebags. You know how Americans are, most of them are in your face.

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Did you hook up with any girls over there?

In the States? No, man. They’re taller than me. I’m Filipino-sized so it was pretty tough. And the culture is different. I just don’t know how to talk to American girls, dude.

(Laughs) Well, Coachella’s great but I’m sure you’ve noticed we’ve been getting some awesome bands in Manila lately.   

I’m so amazed at some of the acts I’ve seen here. Like The National, I never imagined in my life that they would come to Manila to play a show.

What about some local artists you’re excited about?

Actually, marami ring magaling na local artists. There are so many good local artists from different genres—alternative and indie rock as compared to hip-hop or electronic music. I’m still really an Up Dharma Down fan and Similar Objects, actually, who have been coming up with some really dope stuff. It’s really inspiring what those guys are up to.

What have you been up to? You were in Ateneo law school, right?

I used to be from Ateneo. I stayed there for a year and then I took a leave of absence and I just didn’t go back. I moved to San Beda. It was a quarter-life crisis, if I may say so (laughs). I think that I was just getting really burned out after my first two semesters. The readings were crazy. And I was also going out much more than I was in college. Alcohol was a stress reliever and whatnot. So I was like, ‘I’m not sure if I can handle another three years of this craziness.’ I told myself I’d take a break.

And then the DJing?

I started DJing right after I took a leave of absence. I was like, ‘I want to do something that involves music again.’ When I was in high school, I used to be part of a band, actually. I played rhythm guitar for this post-hardcore scream-o band called Bumping Into Trees. That was the start of my whole infatuation with music and playing live.

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What happened to that band?

At the time, I was also doing commercials on the side and it reached the point where my band mates were questioning my loyalty—if I was going to spend a lot more time with the band or if I was gonna do all these different commercial projects. They thought that I wasn’t giving enough time. I understand. They were really, really serious about it and maybe I wasn’t. Basically yeah, they kind of replaced me.

What got you into music in the first place? Older siblings?

Actually, it was my older cousins who influenced me. After they made me listen to all these bands—Nirvana, Oasis, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, all those old ‘90s bands—there was no coming back after that.

I can see that. Looking through your Twitter feed, I noticed you’re kind of a sad bastard. You’ve got references to Lost in Translation and Garden State (laughs).

(Laughs) That is true. That is some pretty sad shit. Actually, if you listen to some of the music I make now, some of it is pretty sad, as well.

I totally dig it. I was going through your SoundCloud and it’s not the usual bump-and-grind top 40s shit. There’s an intellectual aspect to it. Your name pa lang: Shy Club.

The whole idea behind that is I wanted to make low-key music. It’s not all up in your face. It’s very subtle. It’s stuff to make out or smoke out to, to chill to.

Are there tunes that rev you up to get down to work?

Yeah, I usually listen to Nicolas Jaar. He’s this electronic music producer who infuses Colombian percussions and very down-tempo bass music. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. He throws a lot of different elements together, from classic music to soul to blues, and he mixes it up into this very nicely arranged musical composition. It’s awesome to study to it.

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You know what I’m gonna do? I’m gonna catch one of your gigs and you should play that.

Definitely. The only thing about gigs is that I don’t think what I play is appealing in a mainstream club setting. I’m on a hiatus but I usually spin at EDSA Beverage Design Studio. In places more open-minded like Black Market or EDSA, that could work.

Do you have any guilty music pleasures?

I was a huge Backstreet Boys fan when I was a kid, I’m not gonna deny it. Not so much Boyzone. NSync was dope. Another guilty pleasure of mine is listening to rappers who don’t really make sense but ‘cause the beat is so nice and the flow is so tight, it still sounds good even if the lyricism is kind of not there.

Do you sometimes get out of your comfort zone with your music—maybe think about remixing Taylor Swift?

As long as there’s a section of a song that would be really nice to loop, mess around with, and build something around, that’s really dope. My sound depends on how my mood is when I’m making music. So of course, being the sadsack that I am, my music is naturally kind of melancholic. Like the Bloc Party mix that I did, that was pretty sad.

(Laughs) Of course. So when does school start?

It starts on the 23rd so I have a few more days. It’s a bittersweet feeling.

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What about DJing? Are you going to continue despite school?

Not so much DJing but still producing tracks. I’d much rather stay home and make music than mix other people’s music. There’s a different pleasure in doing that. Kahit wala masyadong may alam, as long you like the music you’re making. I think I’m gonna be collaborating with Mike Iganacio, one of my friend producers, and we’re working on a pure live set, just all original sounds. He was the guy who produced the dubstep track that the Cornetto commercial used. We’re gonna see if we can improvise and make the set more dynamic with two MIDI controllers hooked on two different laptops. So yeah, that’s pretty exciting.

Which tracks are you proudest of producing?

I always thought “Yoncé” was a nice track just because it kind of had that very chillwave yet bumpy feel to it with the harps and everything. It was a pretty fun track to make. The ones I’m really proud of, I actually haven’t released them yet because I’m trying to work on releasing a free online four-track EP. I still have those tracks on my laptop, still trying to work on them and make them better. I understand the music I make isn’t at the level I want it to be. But it’s inspiring when I listen to the earliest track that I made as compared to the latest track I made.

What is the general mood of the EP you want to release?

So far, the general vibe has been pretty melancholic. Beautiful in a sad way. You can get lost in the low frequencies and think about your life or whatnot. It’s not gonna be a party record where you have dirty bass lines and winding snares.

Do you feel like you’re eventually gonna have to choose between your music and practicing law?

I’m not trying to rush myself as a music producer. My priority is just passing the bar and becoming a lawyer but music will always be my escape. It will always be the thing I do when I need to express myself through sound.

In the future. I’m really open to the idea of making a record label and using that legal knowledge on intellectual property law to help me promote all these artists that I think are really dope. That would be the ideal scenario: a record label that puts out good artists and has enough money to support itself and grow.

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