From sticky summer heat to torrential rain, we’ve officially made our way into a new season while still holed up in quarantine. A lot has happened these past five months, and in a time when we can’t find comfort in the people closest to us in-person, we’ve found different ways to connect with one another online outside the realm of DMs and grainy video calls. We’re checking in with a few of the country’s wave-makers to see how they’re holding up and what their day-to-day routines are looking like now. Normally always on the go, now they have no choice but to sit still and answer some of our questions.

This is Lockdown Sessions.

Jorge Juan B. Wieneke V, more popularly known as as similarobjects, is an electronic musician and producer who, among many other things, is also one of the founding members of beatmaking collective and music label BuwanBuwan Collective, one of the founders of virtual club Club Matryoshka, the head of production house Kindred Productions, and a teacher of Electronic Music at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde. And with more projects and titles under his name, it’s no surprise that life under lockdown is just as busy as it was before the events of March and the months that followed.

Where are you currently locked down?

I’m currently locked down in Makati with my family. Haven’t been out of the house since the start of quarantine.

Describe a usual day for you before the lockdown started.

A usual day prior to this lockdown would start with a meditation session, and then I’d proceed to go over my planner to figure out what needs my attention for that day as I log down on my to-do list. And prior to GCQ, I was trynna get into the habit of exercising too (but that’s all gone to shit now lol).

My typical days would be me oscillating between managing my day job as a music educator, a freelance film scorer, sound designer, and my work as a musician and community work via BuwanBuwan Collective and Club Matryoshka.

What are your days like now under quarantine?

The idea of time is vague to me now. The pandemic blurred the lines between work and leisure so working hours have been crossing over to the hours I’d usually be spending on downtime. I spend most of my days sitting in front of a screen for roughly 12 hours straight with occasional breaks. My days are filled with calendar alarms, Zoom and Google Hangout meetings, and Discord voice chats.

Business has been good for the audio company I run (Kindred Productions) and our virtual venue Club Matryoshka has picked up some steam due to the pandemic, and a new collaborative decentralized radio project called Manila Community Radio has just been rolled out a few weeks ago. I guess it’s safe to assume that I’ve been keeping busy and things have been accelerating for me during this time.

It’s been well past 100 days since quarantine started. How are you holding up, and what have you been doing to keep yourself sane?

I’d be lying if I were to say I’ve been keeping sane, haha. To be quite honest, I’ve been constantly losing my mind. It’s a mix of cabin fever, depression, anxiety, and being trapped with some relatives that will naturally result in some tension. It’s also hard to stay sane in a country with a fucked up political climate. But regardless of these, I have been trying to keep sane by meditating and attempting to balance work with play. Video games have been keeping me sane, and I’ve been playing a lot of games (aside from Minecraft) with the Club Matryoshka team, and it’s safe to say that my company of friends and loved ones have been keeping me sane.

You started Club Matryoshka, a virtual club hosted on a private Minecraft server, around this time last year as a unique alternative for underground musicians and artists to share their work with audiences all over the world. How did you come across the idea of creating the space, and how has it evolved since you first launched it?

I’ve always looked towards the internet as a way to free ourselves from the limitations set upon us by our geography or culture. Early run-ins with avatar chat platforms like The Palace chat and Second Life have played a big part in my affinity for virtual spaces and URL events like spf420 and streaming channels like LeMellotron and Boiler Room have definitely been clear influences in creating our own platform.

Photo credit: Club Matryoshka

But a bigger inspiration for creating Club Matryoshka were the struggles we were facing as musicians that felt a bit out of place in a scene that didn’t seem to favor or accommodate us as we’ve always been an odd fit. Club and scene politics are a thing regardless of if people acknowledge it or now, and we wanted to dismantle these backward systems/structures by creating a space where we can play by our own rules and even recontextualize what club culture is for us. The space for true hybridity didn’t seem to exist so we wanted to create it. 

In a scene where what you played had to rely heavily on how many people it would draw to a venue, it was hard for me to continue running physical events and booking foreign acts without losing money. I wanted to escape headliner culture, Western worship, colonial mentality, crab mentality, gatekeeping culture, and other limitations of a physical space bound by a game I refused to play.

It almost felt like we were being forced to be part of a culture that didn’t feel like it was ours and I always believe in creating something new to free us from the limitations of the past.

I just always felt that such a space could exist despite a lot of inner and outer voices discouraging me. We just wanted to create a space we could truly be free in, regardless of gender, race, and music preferences.

Minecraft just so happened to become the platform for Club Matryoshka because of its flexibility and accessibility and, to be quite frank, we never expected it to be anything because the first event was actually an inside joke between us gaming friends, and we just decided to make it a thing because of the success of the first event. It had been a thing on our minds for a while to create that kind of virtual community, so we just decided to push on when things fell into place. It just made sense to pursue a Minecraft community with a shared passion for music.

With the whole world locked down, Club Matryoshka is a safe space needed now more than ever by people who want to share their music, listen and dance, and interact with others in a time when they aren’t able to do so in real life. How has business on the platform been/changed since quarantine started? Can you talk about the different events you’ve held/are planning while in quarantine? 

The support we’ve been receiving during the lockdown has been unexpected but amazing. We’ve been receiving so much positive feedback and comments from people all over the world, and we’re also able to operate now in a more sustainable way because of all our patrons that actually fund our operations. It’s amazing to see people back us up to see our vision come into fruition, as it’s not just funded out of our own pockets anymore but backed by an international community of people who have a shared love for what we do.

Not only are our operations covered by our patrons, but we actually manage to get our team paid for some of the shows we throw, so it has been a huge help to some who have been laid off by their jobs. It’s definitely proving to be very much a REAL thing when a lot of people still choose to dismiss or look down on it as a medium and platform. Not only that, but we do get to help out the artists who perform on our platform by getting them paid for their performances too. Whoever thought we could create a decent, sustainable ecosystem out of virtual clubbing, ‘no? I never knew either, but here we are.

There’s a lot going on right now other than just the pandemic/quarantine. Has any of it affected your work or how you work?

Lately, I’ve been greatly affected by the politics in the country and the global issues we’re facing at the moment. To be honest, just hearing about all of the disheartening things happening everywhere has been leaving me depressed and paralyzed. I’ve been finding it harder and harder to get up and make things happen. There’s so much to get mad about but I also do find myself being deeply affected. It sometimes feels like the world is crumbling and is proving to be hopeless. As an effect of that, I just can’t find it in me sometimes to create or do things anymore. It’s definitely tough mentally. But I still fight it.

How has the pandemic affected local musicians and DJs right now, especially when it comes to live music and gigs?

Well, it’s definitely taken a huge hit on the music industry and nightlife. All of my friends who own venues, restaurants, or bars are having to close down or find other ways to keep the business going, and it’s so sad to see such places disappear or struggle. But on the other side of things, it’s inspiring to see a lot of the scene come together and find ways to help each other.

Projects like Club Indoors have allowed musicians and artists to continue hosting shows from home, and more and more streams and fundraisers have been proving to be successful. This pandemic period has also led to the birth of Manila Community Radio, which is a community radio “built for the community by the community,” of which I’ve been working on together with UNKNWN Manila, Transit Records, and Ikigai Radio. So I guess despite all the shit happening, it’s also very inspiring and refreshing to see everyone’s sense of resilience and solidarity during these weird times as we’re all quickly adapting.

From a musician’s perspective, do you think this pandemic will change the way music is produced and consumed even when things go back to “normal”?

I think this pandemic will change how we look at things forever. Of course on the surface, this long lockdown period will result in normalizing a lot of the online/stream shows that people used to look down on. And with stricter hygiene and safety protocols to be implemented moving forward, a lot is uncertain and we can’t really tell when “live shows” will resume. I’m pretty sure it’s not going to go back to how things were exactly, some things will definitely change.

And of course, music is a reflection of what’s happening around us so I feel like the type of music and content being produced and that will be produced will definitely reflect the overall energy of the times. The notion of DIY has also become more and more accepted by people these days, and I feel like this will greatly affect how things are even after this whole COVID mess is over. But more than that, I feel like we’ll all emerge from this stronger, more solid, and more unified as people and as a community.

What’s the first thing you’ll do when this is all over?

First thing I’ll do is ask my girlfriend out on a date. (laughs) I haven’t seen her since the start of the pandemic and I miss her so much! I miss romantic dinner dates and movie nights with her more than anything! After that, I’d probably wanna go out of town. I miss nature, mountains, and the beach. 

Do you have any words of advice for musicians or anyone struggling right now under quarantine?

I guess my only advice is to look at this time as a crucial time to reflect, reassess, and think about what is essential and what is important to you. It’s a time for change, restructuring, and evolution. Try to see the silver lining, or the new opportunities and lessons being presented at this time. There’s definitely a hidden message as to what we’re supposed to learn individually right now.

For the readers, I put together a playlist of artists, both foreign and local, that we’ve managed to platform via Club Matryoshka <3

Check it out below:

Art by Zaid Al-Shaheed

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