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Q&A: Jam 88.3's Russ Davis On Releasing A Pinoy Indie Vinyl Record, And Hosting This Generation's Version Of NU's 'In The Raw'

'Given the opportunity to do a vinyl record compilation, we wanted to make our efforts count&mdash;and give collectors, fans, and new fans a wide spectrum of today's local independent music.'<br /><br />
by Gelo Gonzales | Jun 15, 2015
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If you're a fan of Filipino indie music, you've most likely heard of this little gem:

That is the cover of the album Fresh Filter Volume 1—a record that compiles some of the best tunes to have been broadcast on the Jam 88.3 radio show "Fresh Filter." Premiering in October 2013, the show has become a major mainstream avenue where local independent music artists can get their stuff out—apart from the customary ways they release songs on the Internet. In today's radio landscape, the show comes out as this quirky, idiosyncratic village whose bards go by equally quirky names such as Ourselves The Elves, Flying Ipis, and Moonwlk to name a few.

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And its town crier? That title goes to Fresh Filter host, Russ Davis, who curates what gets played on the hour-long show running from Mondays to Thursdays, 5 to 6 p.m. Davis recalled that the show's lightbulb moment came when he realized that there was no show "solely dedicated to the thriving local independent scene." A year and a half since its debut, the show has grown from a weekly affair to its current four-days-a-week timeslot. Now, it has resulted in the birth of a real, live vinyl record; a plaka you can actually hold in your hands because as Russ puts it, "It's always more special when you can hold something in your hand, admire it, and collect it."

Fresh Filter Volume 1 was launched at the Satchmi store in Megamall last May 22, and has since been toured in pocket gigs in Saguijo last May 29 and A-Space Manila last June 12 and next, next week at Cubao Expo on June 29. The record is limited in quantities (get yours now at the Satchmi store or at the gigs!), and goes for P1,499.

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To tell you more about the record, the process of selecting the artists included in the record, and to address comparisons to another radio show that once championed up-and-coming musicians, we've interviewed Russ Davis himself. Read it below!

FHM: First, a backgrounder. When and how did "Fresh Filter" start? 

Russ Davis: The show started in October of 2013. I had just joined Jam as a regular DJ (sometime after a roughly two-year stint hosting the once-a-week Asian music radio show "Blood Type A' from 2010 to 2012), and when coming up for ideas on what to do with my show, I realized that there had been no show solely dedicated to the thriving local independent music scene. In the beginning, I only did it once a week for one hour, 5 to 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. But in 2015, I expanded it to four days a week, still for one hour each day, 5 to 6 p.m.

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How far has it evolved? Are there goals that you’d like to attain in the future, in terms of where it stands in the landscape of radio?

RD: The only goal really is to bring these artists and our local independent music to a wider audience. I believe it remains to be, probably, the only mainstream media-based show catering to this particular music scene. Doing it four days a week has proved to be sustainable. I am actually able to premiere new songs every week, and put them through a radio-type rotation and airplay frequency before they are replaced by more new songs—as opposed to the internet, where local independent music tends to be released and played out more quickly. In terms of where it stands in the landscape of radio, I just hope other stations start listening to this scene a little more closely and help support this music scene as well.

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NU 107 had "In The Raw" before, which also featured new artists. Do you welcome the comparison? Would you say that "Fresh Filter" is sort of its spiritual continuation? 

RD: Sure, I welcome it. I owe Francis Brew, and my start in radio to the folks at NU107. I was a DJ there as well from 2005 to 2008, albeit a couple of gaps in between where I left briefly. But I do make the distinction that "In The Raw" had Francis featuring not just up-and-coming independent bands, but also complete unknowns and beginners. A big part of his show used to be that he gave actual technical advice to artists that he would play.

I, on the other hand, only play stuff which I already think is good. I think everything I feature is of a certain level of quality already. I can't give technical or songwriting advice like Francis. I only know what already sounds good—to me, at least. But yes, to say that its the spiritual continuation is flattering, and many people have been telling me this in so many words as well. I feel the pressure every time people make the comparison and tell me that what I'm doing is necessary and important.

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What can you say about the young, indie musicians of today and the formerly-young, underground musicians of yesteryear? What things do you notice about Pinoy indie music’s evolution from the early 2000s to today?

RD: I think that this generation definitely has more tools available to them in terms of technology and the Internet. These have enabled almost anyone who wants to start making music make the songs available for anyone to hear. I would say as well that we have a much more varied range of music being produced by today's independent musicians.

While they are just as trend-based as the independent music that came years before, there's just more of it now, and it seems to be even more attuned to international tastes. The scene today is fantastic. There's so much talent. Another thing you can also see is more music being made by very young artists, as a direct effect of having the technology so accessible. On the flip side, this also means there is much much more to wade through and choose from if you're in a position like mine. But having more options is always better anyway.

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Now, you’ve released a record—which you describe as a record that “presents the most relevant local independent artists today, and is an example of how we can and should put a premium on such artists' work.” A great amount of talent passes through your show day in and day out. So, how were you able come up with a final lineup of who to include in the record? What were your categories in selecting the artists? 

RD: It was very hard to choose the artists because this obviously meant excluding many of them too. As I said, everything I've featured on the show is already very good in my opinion. But when the opportunity came along to pursue a project like this, it was a necessary task to try to put together a track list of artists which reflected as many of the facets of the current local independent scene today—and I think we succeeded.

We're very proud of the songs we put together for this vinyl record. I didn't have specific categories in mind, but you will notice that we have everything from rock, folk, electropop, indie rock, pop rock, electronic, and even disco influenced stuff on there. Not to mention Bullet Dumas' utterly unique but undeniably Filipino sound. 

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The record features 12 artists, all of whom fall somewhere
in the spectrum of what's categorized as indie music.

Was there a conscious choice to make sure that every genre/subgenre was well-represented? 

RD: Given the opportunity to do a vinyl record compilation, we wanted to make our efforts count—and give collectors, fans, and new fans a wide spectrum of today's local independent music.

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Why did you choose to release this record on vinyl? With the format you chose, what were you hoping to say to the prospective audience of this record? 

Well, as music fans know, vinyl is making a comeback. It's come full circle again. Artists all over the world are releasing on vinyl again these days. People who take music seriously, or are dedicated fans of particular artists are starting to once again gravitate toward physical music products and merchandise. And having songs by our local independent artists on vinyl gives fans this option and puts a real value on their music.

I believe the statement that we are trying to make is that there is a market for this scene, and is definitely worth investing in. It's always more special when you can hold something in your hand, admire it, and collect it.

Are there plans to release the record on another format? 

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These songs have been released and have been available on the internet for a while now, and they can be streamed or downloaded very easily. Putting it on a digital format such as CDs or USB flash drives would almost be redundant. As mentioned previously, the point is that fans will actually willingly invest in the music that they love, despite it being actually free to listen to elsewhere.  

It says on the record “Volume 1.” Will there be a Volume 2? 

Let's hope so! It's the first of its kind, and it would be great to have more in the future.

How can we get a copy of the record?

We have one last event remaining, which features the lineup on the record: the finale at Cubao Expo on June 26, which will feature the entire roster from the album. These events are free of charge! People can buy the record there for P1,499. If there's any left afterwards, they will be sold at the Satchmi store (our sponsor) in SM Megamall. But I encourage people to get their copy at the two remaining shows, as it's a limited edition!

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