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Satchmi Stories: Kurvine Chua

by Queencee Quitalig
November 2016

Most people agree that music carries on where words fall short. This is especially true for Kurvine Chua, a film student who claims that music is at the core of everything that he does. Apart from being the inspiration for his craft, music is the expression of stories untold, a reminder of odd yet meaningful experiences, and, basically, the unobstructed point in this chaotic universe where everything somehow makes sense. And, to him, there is no better way to experience all of this than spin a record.

So, when did you start collecting records?

I started in high school. I started because I was getting sick of everything in the world. I wanted something to feel, to hold, touch. But not only records–CDs and other physical formats where you can actually see the album art, etc.

Was it a personal decision? Like, no one really influenced you to collect records, etc?

Ironically, the Internet influenced me. I was just browsing around. I saw this record being played online and I was like, "Ooh, that's so cool!" Before I started with vinyl records, I started with CDs. I started with CDs as early as grade school. My first CD was a Fall Out Boy album, Infinity on High. And, from then on, I got hooked to the physical format. So, vinyl was, naturally, the next step after that.

Do you have albums in CD format that are also in vinyl?

Yeah. Even in cassette. Like, I have one of each format. Especially if I really, really like the artist – like Goo Goo Dolls' A Boy Named Goo, in all three formats.

So, what's the importance of the CDs here on your shelf? Why are they displayed like that?

I actually change them every now and then. The CDs there represent the state I'm going through right now, the emotions bubbling up inside me. Angst and stuff like that. But these ones, they've been there for some time. I haven't changed them since a couple of months ago.

Are you planning on changing it soon?

Ah, yeah. Last year, Up Dharma Down's Bipolar was there and, yeah, I don't really understand. My feelings guide me.

Can you name some of your favorite records?

Right now, I'm really into Topshelf Records stuff and pop punk stuff. 'Cause pop punk is actually getting really big, even though it's not being evident by the stuff we play and the radio these days. Like, we have bands like Real Friends and, then, we have really cool Lo-Fi bands like Teen Suicide and Elvis Depressedly. They also get influences from the 80s and stuff like that.

I've been listening to a lot of The Hotelier lately 'cause their latest album, Goodness, is really, really good. It's such a humanist record and, when you put it on, it can take you back to this certain period of your life – I mean not in this lifetime; a certain period in your life when everything was more free, more nature-y. You really have to put it on to understand what I'm talking about. I have also been listening to Jimmy Eat World's new album, Integrity Blues.

Tell us how Satchmi has also somehow influenced your vinyl collection!

A lot of my records—I think half—are from Satchmi or some sort of event like Hi-Fi where Satchmi is in. I've been getting stuff from Satchmi even before there was a store, like from AstroVision. I remember one of the most iconic records that I got from Satchmi was the The Academy Is…'s Fast Times At Barrington High. When I saw that, I was like, "Oh, my gosh! I didn't know that existed in vinyl!" After that, I got it straight up; because that record's really a huge part of my growing up days.

Do you follow a specific arrangement for your vinyl collection?

It used to be alphabetical back in my old house. But every time I would alphabetize it, it always gets messed up. So, I just gave up halfway, and I was just like, "Okay, I know they're there, in my heart. No one else can figure it out."

[Laughs] Since you're still studying, how much of your budget or your allowance goes to records? See, this is such an expensive hobby. So, how do you keep up?

Well, if I don't get from my dad, I actually do freelance stuff, too. I score films. I score music for films, but mostly just thesis films right now 'cause, y'know, a lot of my friends and their connections in college are like, "Oh! You score films! Can you score my stuff? How much are you gonna charge?" Since I'm one of the few people doing that in film, I can charge a high price and they probably don't have a choice but accept. [laughs]

You also make your own music, right? Can you tell us more about your craft?

Yes. With music, I'm largely influenced by emo pop punk scenes like, ah, The Promise Ring and, ah, Sunny Day Real Estate, a lot of second-wave emo stuff. And, if you listen to my songs, you'd notice that they're very, very, ah… 'I hate the world! There's a better place out there, beyond this dome we're trapped under!" Something like that, and very existential stuff. And they're also very inspired by existential stuff – Franz Kafka, Murakami, a lot of philosophers.

Without art, without music, I don't think I'll be here today. It's really helped me. There were a lot of times when I can't express my feelings to people because, sometimes, the people are part of the dilemma. You know those random dark thoughts that make you want to curl up in a ball, and you start thinking what reality is even? "Everyone I'm looking at is just a figment of my imagination." So, with music, I'm able to express all of that – all that angst, that pent-up anger. Not just anger. Sometimes, I'm also happy.
[laughter]

So, what are your happy records? What is that you always listen to and you're like, "Yeah! Life's so good!" [laughs]

The records that people would think are unhappy are happy for me. But if we're talking about happy-happy, I guess, John Coltrane's My Favorite Things. Jazz, yeah. That reminds me of a bright, sunny place. But, for some reason, it makes me tear up, too. But, I think, they're tears of joy. Because happy records also have the power to make you cry. The Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream makes me happy. My Chemical Romance's debut album makes me happy. A lot of Drive-Thru Records stuff make me happy. Have you heard of the The Starting Line?

Yes!

Oh, my gosh! Okay, we were talking about happy stuff but I suddenly remember this memory that's making me bubble up inside. I was in this restaurant in front of this building. I was bawling my eyes out 'cause I got cheated on. Yeah. And, that was one of the records on loop. And there was this one track there; the lyrics go like, "He loves you. Who loves you more? To let you go." Then, enter drums. At the time, it wasn't happy. But looking back at it now, it's actually very happy. It actually serves as a great inspiration. Especially for my music, and for stuff I write for film or even just random Instagram posts.

Going back to your music, did you ever take lessons? I mean, I see you have a keyboard.

Oh. My keyboard, I actually use that for production. I don't know how to play the piano. Well, I do know how to play an instrument — the guitar. For the guitar, it's mostly self-taught and from people I hung around with back in Xavier. They'd always bring their guitar; so, we just jam and stuff. 'Cause when I entered college, everyone was holding a camera every day. No one really brought the guitars anymore. A lot of the music I listen to, I just search for chords, and YouTube and a lot of books from the library and cross-referencing them to videos and CDs. It was really difficult 'cause a lot of people either have a lot of friends they can actually jam with regularly or their parents are musicians and stuff like that. You really need determination 'cause, sometimes, it's just easy to give up.

You're a film student. Can you tell us how music has inspired your creative process in terms of making films?

When I was younger, before I enrolled in film-making, I used to have a particular song and I would turn that song into a film. That's already happened. So, when you press play for the film, the music starts playing and, since I didn't have any characters at the time and it's only me I had, I was also the editor, etc back in Grade 7. Even the camera, I only had a webcam at the time. So, a lot of cheesy songs when I was in Grade 7 – The Click Five's "Jenny," and MCR, of course, Fall Out Boy. Then, there comes a time when you feel like you can't do anything, you don't have the creative juices to continue making films anymore, and you're just not good enough. There are these albums and songs that you put on and then you feel like you can do anything all over again. You feel like you're 15 again. Heartbroken and stuff. 'Cause, sometimes, the world will get you down. Actually, I could honestly say that music is the very foundation of everything I do. Be it film, theater, not even just art. Like, just getting up, or breathing. Music is at the core of it all. I'm really thankful to music for that. Without music, again, I would be dead.

Apart from music and films, can you tell us more about your other interests? Or do you have other hobbies also? Books?

Oh, my gosh! Yeah. A lot of my favorite authors are Japanese 'cause there's this way about their writing that Western authors just aren't able to grasp most of the time. As I said a while ago, I'm really fond of existential stuff, but not really the Western existential stuff; more of the Eastern stuff, more of the in-tune with nature or more of loving life but wanting to be not here at the same time. I really like Kazuo Ishiguro—he's British, but also Japanese. Haruki Murakami, of course. Banana Yoshimoto.

Yeah, I find Japanese writers really philosophical.

Not just Japanese, though. There's this one book I'm re-reading right now. It's called I'll Be Right There, it's by a Korean author – Kyung-Sook Shin. The prose is so on-point. You gotta read it when you have the time. But there's this one Murakami book that I really love. It's my favorite – South of the Border, West of the Sun. Unfortunately, it's not with me right now 'cause I lent it to someone; but I don't talk to that someone, anymore. I'm planning in getting the book back soon. It could be a segue to a conversation after two years. [laughs] I really felt like I was living in the character. I've read it a couple of times. It's one of my favorite books. It's about this character who is searching for this girl that he lost. Then, this girl mysteriously appears one night at a bar, and the appearances start to happen more and more. They strike up a conversation 'cause they used to be best friends during childhood. They listen to records together. I think there's this Nat King Cole record that they listen to together but they grew apart as the years went by. And, then, bam! The girl is back. Towards the end of the book, they go all out towards each other, but the guy wakes up one day and the girl is not there anymore. And, then, Haruki Murakami doesn't explain how the girl disappeared. Like, she just vanished. And even though that doesn't make any sense in this reality, it makes a lot of sense. I mean, for me, it made a lot of sense because I was able to feel the emotional connection, that pain you feel when something just vanishes and you can't explain why. [laughs]

Okay. Let's talk about your tattoos. What was the first one?

The first one? I actually got three at the same time. 'Cause I was really excited. One, this hot air balloon. Two, this music tattoo. But the first was a compass. Yeah. I got my first one when I was in first year in college. I've been planning to get a tattoo ever since I was in high school.

I noticed that you have maps pasted on your wall. Do you also travel often?

Yeah, 'cause it adds to the whole existential vibe. I constantly get that thing where you suddenly find yourself having an existential crisis… so I really have this strong connection to nature. I feel like nature-exploring, travelling, going to new places heal my soul, you know. They heal my emotions, my innermost being.

What would you advice people who are interested in collecting records? What would you suggest to a beginner?

Don't start collecting just because it's the hype or because you think it will make you look cool. Collect because you're in it for the music. I have nothing against collectors who buy and never play or never open it, and they just hoard so that they can sell them in the future. I have nothing against them; but, then, personally speaking, you should play records as much as you can. Play them until it wears out or you pass them on to your future son, future grandson, or future daughter, future granddaughter. Collect them because you're in it for the music, you know. So, the records, play them like they're one of your friends.

Why vinyl in particular?

Well, other formats, too. But, then, with records, they're big. I mean, I love CDs and cassettes. But there's just something about records that allows you to have a deeper connection with the music. For one, the sound quality. And, then, the warmth. People also say that a lot of new pressings don't have the same quality of the old ones anymore, 'cause they are processed using digital means. Also, it's not just about the records themselves, too. It's also about relating with people. Instead of going to your laptop, swiping and stuff, you actually have these records and, sometimes, you can even trade with your friends like, "Oh, I have a Joy Division record. Do you want it and I'll have your Siouxsie and the Banshees record?" have your Siouxsie and the Banshees record?"

Satchmi Stories: Kurvine Chua from Satchmi Team on Vimeo.

Photographed by MV Isip
Video by MV Isip
Words by Queencee Quitalig

Satchmi is located at the 4th Floor of the Mega Fashion Hall in SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.


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