Hit by the smell of freshly brewed tea and the sight of decorative lights upon entering Urban Ritual—a cozy boba and tea shop in Hayes Valley, San Francisco—we immediately had to gather ourselves to remember what we were there for. As my team of friends poured in and set up the equipment, I deliberated how this interview should and would play out until the very moment we actually met rising DJ Christine Gan—AKA BUNS (a name that’s short for bunnies, not the bread!)—and did our impression of tongue-tied introductions. However, within minutes of acquainting ourselves, the awkwardness quickly melted away and was replaced by both curiosity and action. Once all was settled, we began our interview with BUNS.
A level-headed individual with a sense of humor and a touch of quirkiness, Gan currently works in the tech industry in the Bay Area in design and is considering the idea of becoming a DJ full time. The Asian-American DJ is currently based in the Bay Area and is a fan of a variety of music genres. However, she especially likes trap music and mentioned a few artists such as Troye Boi as well as an Irish DJ whose mixes inspire her and give her “feels”. She noted that surprisingly, many of her fans are European (specifically Irish), which struck her as surprising, but she’s especially grateful for that support from such a welcoming community.
When asked about her favorite music scenes, Gan nostalgically reminisced upon her warehouse concert days in Europe. She described it as an authentic and fun locale where people just came to enjoy music. Within the Bay Area, she noted that 1015 Folsom—a local nightclub in San Francisco—was one of her favorite places to frequent for their diversity in music and artists. She also name-dropped a few other locations that we’ve never heard of. When Piter and I, who are also Bay Area locals, asked if she would consider them “underground” music scenes, she smiled. To her, she admitted, they weren’t.
For all those interested in infiltrating the music industry, we also delved into how Gan started out in music: getting the details of when she started mixing and how she first got her equipment. In college, Gan noted that “getting away from stress was listening to music and going to concerts with friends,” from which her love of production grew and led her to pursue music further. She noted that is was difficult to get the equipment and the means to create, especially when plagued with the typical “broke college student” budget. She exasperatedly expressed that she would often borrow equipment from friends or find ways to rent/borrow whenever the opportunity presented itself. An important factor for her during this period of time was her involvement in Alpha Kappa Psi (AKPsi)—a nation-wide business fraternity—that really helped her connect to a community that supported her music and where she made life-long friendships. Gan’s involvement in the frat was pivotal to her pursuing the things she loved.
When we asked her about how her Asian-American identity played a role in her involvement in music, BUNS expressed that it has affected her journey significantly. She agreed with me that the music industry is considered a largely unorthodox and “risky” career path for many Asians.
“[My parents] were like ‘focus on studying,’ and so the privilege for us is that we have the opportunity to seek our self-fulfillment.”
Gan brought up the pyramid of self-fulfillment—a popular theory in psychology depicting the “Hierarchy of Needs“— and noted that many immigrants, including her own parents, struggled with the lower tier of the pyramid which involved food and necessities as well as security: that became their means of self-fulfillment. On the other hand, many of us born in the following generations were granted with more opportunity and privilege, struggling to try and touch those higher parts of the pyramid: love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. For Gan, her self-actualization came from making music.
“[The Hierarchy of Needs] is really relevant to even us in the music industry or [those] pursuing design, pursuing the arts…if that’s our means of self-fulfillment, it’s really hard to get the generation before us to understand that [pursuing this path] means self-fulfillment.
Honestly people with our privilege level—we’re going to be okay. We were never going to have to fight for food like our parents did. So for us, the next step is searching…really delving in.”
As a fellow Davis alum to Piter and I, Gan related to the college—and even more so, the post-graduate—experience seamlessly. She noted that she struggled with Asian-American expectations in choosing her major, mentioning she was torn between choosing a secure, redeemable major versus an art-related study.
In college, I was like “yeah, econ…I’m not feelin’ it. I’m just going to add design back into my major.”
And after college, she struggled with the infamous “post-grad” blues for at least a year. She admitted that it took time (at times a lot of it), connection, and introspection as to what the individual wants out of life, especially because you don’t really have the set schedule, structure, or expectations that higher education provides. The three of us agreed, “it’s really up to you” on how you want to live your life after college.
After discussing these deep questions about identity, we decided to brighten things up with a few fun questions. Her favorite emoji? The crying one (😭😭😭). Gan describes herself as a very empathetic and emotional being who used the versatile emoji to express many of her emotions: happiness, thankfulness, sadness, etc.
As for her favorite food? Shredded cheese.
At the conclusion of the interview, I felt refreshed—not just from the boba that we’d been sipping on during the talk! It’s not often that individuals have a thorough, intellectual and open discussion touching on topics like the psychology of Asian parenting, barriers to Asian Americans in creative fields, and getting starting in the music industry. Gan is so easy to talk to; she’s a fun person to get to know and has so many interesting thoughts pertaining to her own experience thus far in the music industry. From even our brief encounter, it’s not difficult to tell she is a genuine person with an admirable passion for music.
This interview occurred in-person on September 29, 2018 at Urban Ritual Cafe in San Francisco.
Special thanks and shout-out to Jefferey Leung (Photographer & Videographer), Rafferty Leung (Equipment Set-up), and Jeremy Dang (B-Roll Videographer)! This interview would not have happened without them working tirelessly in the backdrop and changing SD cards in the camera endlessly!
Of course, special thanks to Christina Gan for making time for this interview in her busy schedule and for her patience with the entirety of the process!