When you meet Chris Lopez a.k.a. DJ Moophs, you may mistake him for your day-to-day mestizo—stoic, inked guns a-blazing, brooding enough it's hot. But the Fil-Am's obviously beyond his looks. "Fame is a symptom of doing well and that's how it should be. One of the things that I didn't like so much when I first moved here [from the US] is the idea that if you're famous, you're that one thing," he declares.
First impressions may be what they are, but Moophs' own mark as a local musician is quite niche and hasn't unfolded completely just yet. He's got plans, though. At the heart of it, to Chris at least, fame isn't the aim as much as making good music is. He's looking at creative excellence as a lifelong pursuit, and so he brings about this passion in his new project Tarsier Records.
"I started with Star Music this year in February, and I don't even remember exactly how the idea came about. I was talking with my boss, Sir Roxy and Jonathan Manalo, and it just kinda came about. They wanted a platform for the international music scene and that's kind of my background," he recounts. "It took six months to get everything together."
When it comes to what Tarsier Records is at the moment, imagine a local hipster artisan music label with a range of talent as diverse as can be. This is what Chris has been hoping to build; a music brand that celebrates artist individuality while at the same time providing a sense of team, support, and room for collaborative work. All that happening on the inside carries with it the signal fire of OPM's possible global resurgence. Now, Tarsier Records carries nine artists in cycle 1, himself—a music producer—included.
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Chris is pretty darn serious about the path ahead for his baby music label. It is an exclusive music label imprint with Star Music for a group of musicians and singers with young and modern sound.
"If you're famous (here), you are expected to sing, dance, model, act as opposed to being really good in your (particular) craft, whatever that is and getting recognition because of that."
As far as Chris can remember, his love for music began with six strings.
"One of the earliest memories I have is my dad playing guitar as a kid and would just sit on the bed and listen to him. As soon as I got old enough, I decided to take guitar lessons as well. I guess I always thought that's what I wanted to do when I grow up."
He studied classical guitar from the age of seven at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He completed his BM degree in Classical Guitar Performance from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Almost five years ago now, upon relocating from the US to Manila, Chris took on the moniker “Moophs” in honor of his pet, a savannah monitor lizard of the same name who did pass away shortly after the move.
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When we pooled the talents' stories to feature their musical journeys en masse nearly every narration per interview had one common lead character, Chris. It wouldn't be inaccurate then to say that Chris is quite the chill ringleader and big brother of Tarsier's fellowship of nine. As a Tarsier talent himself, Chris often collabs with his fiancé, fellow Tarsier artist Xela (Alex Godinez).
Being an avid song arranger and producer means that Chris helps further the germination of creativity directly from the cycle 1 talents of Tarsier. Whenever sudden melodies or song ideas beset anyone of them, approaching Chris is the surefooted step for a potential track at day's end.
Chris shares, "Incorporating their sound, working with them, who are all so different, it has influenced my sound because whenever you collaborate with another musician and artist, it changes you a little bit. You learn from them, you switch juices. I'm really glad that's happened. Working with Sam, Kiana, Bianca, Edana, they are all different. It's broadened my horizons as a musician, producer, as an artist and a person.
Chris confesses that he isn't a songwriter as much as he is the beats boy and melody maker. "I wrote 'Phone Down' (for Sam Concepcion) but usually I'm more on the music. I'm not a singer and I'm not really a lyricist. I tried it, but I'm more comfortable in making the music and collaborating with a really good songwriter."
When it comes to bouncing on criticism and learning to deflect or respond to negative feedback, Chris believes even these types of comments or reactions are necessary in an artist's growth. "As long as it is constructive criticism, that is one of the most useful things ever. Because if you're surrounded by people who are just gonna smile and tell you that it's great and the best, you will never grow and you will never learn—especially when you are producing a song because you spend 40 to 50 hours and you heard the thing 100 times. You can't be objective anymore, you can't tell if this is good or not."
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Setting the tone in music quality, forming a showstopping team, and marketing and promoting each other ultimately leads to the one question: What is the dream? But Chris knows exactly what he wants. "Winning a Grammy. Tarsier is trying to be an international entity and have credibility on the international stage. That is the biggest recognition you can get. Of course, there are many stepping stones on the way to that and collaborating with international artists, playing shows in the US or Japan or abroad, all those things are marks of good feedback."
A near future plan they have is to give any aspiring musician or artist a chance to present their work. At the moment Tarsier Records may be short on manpower, but certainly not on passion, drive, and the desire to make a difference.
"Part of what we're going to do is for our website (when it's fully operational), it'll have a 'demo drop' on it. So ,anybody can just go on and drop an mp3 there to be submitted to Tarsier. We'll listen to it, and if it's good we'll talk to you and give anyone a chance."
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Produced by Julia Arenas | Creative Direction by Barry Viloria | Photographs by Vyn Radovan & Lui Jimenez | Makeup by BYS Cosmetics: Charlie Manapat, Maui Manalo, and CAS: Anna Patricia Andan, Noelle Tumacas, Jana Evardone, Evelyn Dischosa | Styling by Jhelo Cristobal @jhelocristobal, Tricia Ramos @TrishDenise, and Barry Viloria | Hairstyling: @VivereSalon
Shot on location at: Shot on location at Circuit Makati, Olympia, Makati City
Special Thanks to: Tricia Rodriguez of BYS Cosmetics, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Misa Ocampo of Circuit Makati, Lani Tabije-Bernal and Yanna Bromeo of Greenbulb PR, and Forever 21