Micro Get-to-Know is a regular COUNTERZINE feature where we interview micro-label owners about their goals, hopes, ethics, struggles, and of course, their music. Micro-labels are defined by COUNTERZINE as labels with small operations teams (and often just one individual) that specialize in digital and/or limited run physical releases. Our inaugural subject in this new series is Kurvine Chua’s Genjitsu Stargazing Society.
COUNTERZINE: How are you today?
Kurvine Chua: Hello! I just got back from work. Life has been pretty hectic lately, but thank goodness for music. Without it, I don’t know how I’d survive.
CZ: Tell us a little about yourself.
KC: My name is Kurvine Chua. I’m a 24-year-old musician and filmmaker based in the Philippines. I have a solo project on Z Tapes called Memoryville. I’ve got other musical projects too—selective hypnosis and agsit, to name a few. I work as Music Curator in a vinyl record store. I also founded the Genjitsu Stargazing Society!
CZ: In a broad sense, how would you describe the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?
KC: The Genjitsu Stargazing Society (or the GSS for short) is a DIY tape label and arts collective inspired by nature, existentialism, and punk rock. Most of us are based in the Philippines, but we also have musicians from Sacramento (killuv), Brazil (Linearwave), and Argentina (Rosedal). We’re a bunch of artists helping each other out. Our releases focus on cassettes—it’s a format we stand by.
CZ: What inspired you to start a tape label?
KC: I’ve always been a believer in the physical format. There’s something about it you can’t get from streaming. These days, a lot of folks can’t listen to an entire album, EP, or song anymore—I think that’s sad.
Since high school, I knew I wanted to start a music label of some sort; I just didn’t know how to go about it then. When I discovered the appeal and viability of releasing on cassette, I was hooked.
CZ: What are some of your favorite labels going today?
KC: A lot of tape labels have inspired the GSS. Z Tapes, one of my all-time faves, will forever be dear to my heart. Inner Ocean, Galaxy Train, Struggle Records, Doom Trip, Seikomart, Constellation Tatsu, and Get Better Records have been releasing tons of great stuff. Topshelf, Sarah Records (RIP), Tiny Engines, and Count Your Lucky Stars are record labels I highly look up to. There’s so much more; too many to mention!
CZ: How did you end up connecting with United Cassettes?
KC: I run United Cassettes Philippines! Filip Zemčík, who runs United Cassettes in Europe (the only branch at the time), had been online friends with me for some time. At first, we’d have casual chats about Z Tapes and music in general—it was only after a while we started discussing about expanding United Cassettes outside his country.
Everything we release on the Genjitsu Stargazing Society gets stocked in United Cassettes Philippines. I mean, it makes sense, because I’m handling both. I just try to keep the two brands separate from each other.
CZ: You ended up organizing the Philippines’ first-ever Cassette Store Day. How did that come about?
KC: Record Store Day is a thing here; I’ve always wondered why Cassette Store Day wasn’t. So much record stores have been popping up all over the Philippines, and that’s amazing! It’s like vinyl heaven here. As far as cassette tapes go, though, it’s only been vintage tapes, and that’s kind of frustrating. It’s like we forgot modern cassette culture was a thing. There’s always been underground labels here in the country releasing new local music on tape—Middle Finger, Nine Iron, Aklasan Records, etc. In terms of distribution though, it’s scarce.
I wanted to let people know modern tapes, both locally and from around the world, are still being made. In partnership with United Cassettes Philippines, the GSS invited some of our tapehead friends to sell new cassettes—an amazing local band called Twoshiba sold their new release, my friend Escuri sold his Japan-funded tape, my friend Francis of Struggle Records was invited, etc. etc. It was amazing! A lot of people showed up. Aside from the selling, we had artists with tape releases play their music live, too.
CZ: What are some of the struggles you face as a label owner in 2019?
KC: The greatest obstacle right now is money. I know what I want, and I have fuzzy ideas of how to go about those things—it’s really just the budget. If I had unlimited funds, I’d right at this moment increase my tape production quantity, promote our artists bigtime, fund tours, organize more gigs, etc. I guess I should take things one day at a time. I’m trying my best to make things work, in spite of a limited budget. A lot of what I earn from my day job goes into the GSS. I get hella excited every time we put out something new!
CZ: What’s the climate of the independent music scene in the Philippines like, and how does it impact the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?
KC: The music scene here is amazing! You’ll find all sorts of genres—punk, shoegaze, jazz, soul, electronic, hip-hop, you name it. Everyone here seems to know each other, independent or mainstream. There are also gigs happening everyday, and fans are passionate about what they love. I guess what I don’t like about the music scene here is the toxic politics/abuse (things you’ll find in other places too, sadly).
We consider the GSS counterculture in the sense we want to keep things as pure as possible. We’re here for the music, and music just is. Human politics can really suck sometimes. A lot of people here treat art like it’s some sort of competition, and at times, the noise gets too much. It’s not unusual to see an artist in the country lose sight of what made them begin in the first place.
Another issue rampant in the music scene here is harassment, sexism, and backstabbing. Those are things we want to stay away from. The GSS does not tolerate any of that shit.
We also want to be as inclusive as possible. We want to promote more women and LGBTQ artists (but that doesn’t mean we’ll exclude good men, too).
CZ: What are some of the Genjitsu Stargazing Society’s most recent projects?
KC: We recently organized an EP launch for one of our lovely artists, .wendil! It was held in Mow’s, a popular gig space in the local indie scene. A lot of our artists played for the event, too.
Aside from .wendil, we also recently put out tapes from Valiant Vermin, Pamcy, and Marty McFly. They’re all amazing acts you should check out!
CZ: What’s on the horizon for the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?
KC: A lot! We’re going to be on a plane to Cebu in a few days to further promote .wendil’s Nighttime Fire EP.
This month, we’re also releasing a new album on tape from a lo-fi/psychedelic artist. We’re also working on a new zine, launching sometime this year! More gigs, too. We’ll also be reissuing some of our sold out tapes.
Most importantly, we plan on trekking in nature soon—it’s one of our means to stay connected with the universe.
CZ: Are there any specific goals or milestones you hope to achieve with the Genjitsu Stargazing Society?
KC: Getting our artists heard more is an important goal! We want to eventually distribute what we release worldwide, and that’s gonna happen soon. We also want to hold regular gigs showcasing our roster.
Probably in the future, we could hold a GSS Festival of some sort. Maybe bring in some of our artists from abroad to play in the Philippines, along with everyone else. That’s a big dream, but who knows?
CZ: We asked you to make a mix of some of your favorite songs on your label along with a couple others. Could you explain some of your picks and what they mean to you?
KC: The playlist ended up with 14 songs. I wanted to capture the general vibe of the GSS in terms of music. We’ve released stuff from genres like lo-fi, emo, math rock, shoegaze, chiptune, and synthpop.
I threw in two non-GSS songs, too: tracks from Everyone Everywhere and the Hotelier. They’re two bands that have played huge roles in our lives. Both bands’ songs are nature-influenced and emotional—those are things that really connect with us.
The Genjitsu Stargazing Society Mix:
Featured songs (in order):
- “Love Language” – Twoshiba
- “Shiver” – Ozzga
- “Pink-Haired Rebel” – Memoryville
- “Lucid Dreamer” – Washington Drama Club
- “I Wanna Know” – Killuv
- “Maturity” – .wendil
- “Coochie Cringe” – Valiant Vermin
- “The Future” – Everyone Everywhere
- “Enin” – TIM ÄWÄ
- “i thought it would be nice to write you a song” – savedhistory
- “Opening Mail for My Grandmother” – The Hotelier
- “Coastline” – Pamcy feat. NiMa & Daniela
- “Alfonso: The Call of the Void” – TCKLDMNKS
- “Countless Times” – Brandon Cueto
This mix is also available through Spotify: