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Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary

Chris M. Slawecki By

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AAJ: So it all started from that single cassette?

LP: By 1999, I was corresponding with a mail-order company called Vinyl Magic (now they're called BTF), occasionally buying albums from them. The company rep I communicated with had a love of tropical exotic countries, like myself, with interests in South America, Africa and Southeast Asia. One day, he mentioned that he had in stock a new CD by a band from Indonesia that he thought I might like. So I told him to put that CD in my order. A few weeks later, I was listening to the first album by an Indonesian band named Discus, released outside Indonesia through an independent Italian label, Mellow Records. Again, I was simply blown away by their self-titled debut. Being my typical curious self, I found two eMail addresses in the album's booklet and started corresponding with the band's leader and guitarist, Iwan Hasan, and the Indonesian label's owner, Chico Hindarto. I don't recall how or when, exactly, but sometime in the early Spring of 2000, I got an email from Iwan Hasan asking me if I might be able to help them book a gig in New York City. Discus had received a grant to perform in the USA, an invited performer at "ProgDay" in North Carolina and at a smaller progressive rock showcase in the Bay Area of California. People from the Indonesian consulate in the Big Apple weren't able to help Iwan, and he reached out to me. The band wanted to perform in New York City, regardless of the size of the room or audience.

Iwan Hasan was straightforward: "Maybe you can help us?" Of course, I accepted the offer to help my new distant friend, who just happened to hail from a remote exotic country which I always wanted to visit!

AAJ: Had you previously promoted any shows?

LP: I had never promoted any show, previous to that. I am actually not a promoter: although I have organized a few shows in NYC in recent years, I always acted as a "show facilitator," eventually becoming a "booking representative," or "agent," for many artists over the past fifteen years, some artists who recorded on MoonJune and others who are not associated with my label.

I told Iwan that I could help find Discus a show because I knew the booking manager at the Knitting Factory. So, I booked Discus in the small room at the Knitting Factory. In the meantime, I went to ProgDay (strictly as a fan), met Discus and witnessed their incredible live performance. Two days later they were in New York, and I watched them perform again at the Knitting Factory. They decided to stay in New York for several days, just to visit, and I became friends with everybody, they're some really nice people, but particularly with their sound guy, who turned to be none other than Riza Arshad of simakDialog. We clicked immediately. We have virtually identical tastes in music. Riza was also excited to learn that my favorite keyboard instrument was also his favorite keyboard instrument, the mighty Fender Rhodes electric piano.

Riza and I corresponded for three years. In July 2003, when I went to Indonesia for the first time, he was the first person to meet me there. Our friendship grew over the years. I considered him a close friend.

A few years later, July 2006, a few dozen people flew from Jakarta to see Allan Holdsworth perform in Singapore after his Japan tour, his trio tour with Jimmy Johnson and Chad Wackerman, his eighteenth tour of Japan but his first one with me. Riza was one of the Indonesians who came to Singapore. After the show, I also was honored to meet Dewa Budjana for the first time; I knew him by reputation, but never had the opportunity to personally meet him. While we were in Singapore, Riza shared that he had an album he'd like to release internationally, and asked if I could help him. He gave me the rough mixes when I returned to Jakarta a few months later. That's how I wound up releasing simakDialog's Patahan album on my label internationally in 2007. The group had already released four albums; I've since released three other albums by this truly phenomenal unit. I also helped him with two US short tours plus shows in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Germany. We had actually made plans for a third US simakDialog tour in 2018, on the back of a short tour in Brazil, only a few weeks before Riza's sudden, tragic death in January 2017.

AAJ: And that set your stage in Indonesia?

LP: Yes, Riza Arshad and Discus' label head Chico Hindarto were the first people I met in Jakarta in July 2003. Thanks to these two, I actually know "everybody" in the musicians' world in the Indonesian capital. Jakarta is a huge city, and it's located in the fourth most heavily-populated country in the world. While the people playing the highly-creative variety of music I follow represents a relatively small segment of the music industry there, it is a sort of "brotherhood" community, and they all know each other. In a matter of only a couple of visits to Jakarta between 2003 and 2006, I literally knew everyone who was a part of that world at the time. SimakDialog proved to be a springboard of sorts because I started to listening to the music of their guitarist Tohpati, a virtuoso player whose work as a band leader and director in the pop genre had gained him fame which extended beyond the jazz and progressive music communities of Indonesia. I then got to know Dewa Budjana, then Dwiki Dharmawan, and a couple of the younger guys. From there, I retroactively discovered the amazing '70's and '80's progressive music scene of Indonesia. Becoming more and more educated about the musical past of this fascinating country provided me with fresh motivation to seek out more still undiscovered talents. That's how it started. I currently have over twenty Indonesian releases on my label. While I never planned to have Indonesian artists when I started my label, as they were previously unknown to me, it "just happened" again—the unpredictable improvisations in life! Of MoonJune's many accomplishments, I am very proud of my Indonesian releases and of my special friendship with Dwiki Dharmwan and Dewa Budjana, two icons of Indonesian music.

AAJ: Have you ever met anyone else who works this way?

LP: I'm not sure. I really do not know. MoonJune Records never was my primary occupation. I always run my label as a "side project." I wanted to grow the label at certain points in my life, but I was always busy with my booking and consulting business.

Between the end of 2009 and the beginning of 2016, I ran with one of my best friends in New York, the legendary Derek Shulman, a consulting company called 2 Plus Music & Entertainment. Derek was the iconic frontman for the seminal 70's progressive rock band Gentle Giant, and then, from the early 80's, was one of the most successful music business impresarios in the USA. It was an exciting time. Among many other things we were dealing with, we represented in North America one of the most successful rock record labels of the past two decades, Frontiers Records. You might know them from their records by Little River Band, Jeff Lynne, BBQ Swingers , Styx, Toto, Yes, Asia, Joe Lynn Turner, Journey, Thunder, Survivor, Glenn Hughes, House of Lords, Crush 40, Hardline, Jeff Scott Soto, Whitesnake, Boston, or FM. We were involved with managing or co-managing a bunch of other artists such as John Sykes, Yoso (Bobby Kimball, Billy Sherwood and Tony Kaye), Jake E. Lee, Texas Hippie Coalition, Loudness, and a few other acts. It was a good experience in music genres that weren't my cup of tea, and after dealing for five years, six years, with the rock-n-roll circus world so far from mine, I decide to leave. But Derek still remains a very close friend.

AAJ: Looking back at this experience, what do you think it taught you?

LP: Again, I don't know, nor do I even want to know, the reasons why things happen. Of course, I can analyze things after they happen, but I don't want to be stuck having to do things in a certain prescribed way. I do things, and if I do them again, the results are always different. But I think that is part of MoonJune Records' strength. That mentality is what keeps the label's output fresh, vibrant and decidedly unique, I believe. In adhering to such a loose approach, some might think that my life is chaotic; after all, I find myself unable to do much of anything that would be considered "ordinary" or "organized."

I lived in Africa between October 1988 and March 1989 in two Portuguese speaking countries, Angola and São Tomé & Principe. Despite what was a rather brief stay, I still managed to catch malaria in the late February '89, and consequently suffered for months from a mild cognitive impairment, affected by speech problems, short term memory loss and an inability to concentrate when reading. I still have speech and concentration problems at times, but instead of an obstacle, I actually see them as an advantage because they have forced me to improvise in life and develop my innate survival instincts.

AAJ: What upcoming MoonJune artists should readers keep their eye on?

LP: I just released a couple of new albums: Dominique Vantomme's Vegir, with the legendary Tony Levin, Italian-Belgian guitarist Michel Delville, and Belgian drummer Maxime Lenssens; and LiveR, the new Slivovitz live album.

Dominique Vantomme is a pianist, keyboardist, composer, bandleader, music educator and producer, equally well-known for his work with many European pop and rock acts as for being the jazz piano instructor at the Kortrijk Music Conservatory in his native Belgium. I've known Dominique for years and have always admired his Fender Rhodes playing. Vegir is his international and MoonJune debut. It's psychedelic retro-futuristic progressive post-jazz-rock and showcases all musicians involved at the top of their game with the skill set, bravery and chutzpah to follow their instincts, and, in the process, allow the music to seek out and ultimately capture its own form. It slinks; it growls; it stalks; it devours! It grooves; it stutters; it holds you in suspense, then explodes! It's very exciting music for my taste, and you just cannot go wrong when Uncle Tony is on duty!

Slivovitz is a seven-piece band from Napoli, Italy, and a reviewer once mentioned that they "could eat Snarky Puppy for breakfast." It's not easy for artists to emerge on the international scene if they come from the remote corners of the world, far from the spotlight and unable to play gigs that bring significant exposure on a global level. Coming from Southern Italy, Indonesia, or Serbia is definitely a disadvantage to most any musical act. If they had the chance to perform at a major jazz or rock festival, I know Slivovitz would conquer everybody's heart. LiveR is ferociously formidable live album that deserves attention. These guys have a tremendous chemistry, huge imaginations and a tightness you don't hear in many progressive bands, these days. LiveR captures not only all of these great qualities, but it also displays the playful, joyous nature of the band; you can tell from listening that these guys are not only great musicians and a tremendous unit, but that they are just really having a good time doing it!

Currently, I am preparing to release the new album by Mark Wingfield, a gentleman who is not only becoming a close friend of mine, but is one of my favorite guitar players—and not just now, but maybe ever. I am not alone in saying this, and Mark is getting increasingly well-deserved recognition as one of the very true guitar sound and guitar technique innovators. The album was recorded almost two years ago, in Spain, at the magic settings of La Casa Murada, an eleventh-century mansion converted into a recording studio by the well-known Catalan bassist and songwriter Jesus Rovira. The album will be called Tales From A Dreaming City, and it will be more of a progressive compositional album. The last few albums we released from Mark were improvisational albums: Lighthouse with Markus Reuter and Asaf Sirkis; and a quartet album with Markus, Asaf and Yaron Stavi called The Stone House. I will be releasing several albums by Mark Wingfield; we're working on this one and we already have a few in mind that have yet to be recorded.

Then, two incomparable albums from Indonesian keyboardist Dwiki Dharmawan. The first one will be released later this spring and is called Rumah Batu, which in Bahasa Indonesian means "La Casa Murada," or "The Stone House." It features Dwiki on acoustic piano, and the usual suspects from recent MoonJune recordings, London-based Israeli expats Yaron Stavi on upright bass and Asaf Sirkis on drums; as well two formidable musicians whom I've long admired: the hugely-respected French guitarist of Vietnamese descent, Nguyen Le, and one of my all-time bass heroes, Carles Benavent. I can mention one curiosity about the great Carles: Tony Levin was interviewed some years ago for a major music magazine, and when the interviewer asked him who his favorite electric bassist was, Tony said "Carles Benavent." The interviewer responded, asking, "Carlos who?" My dream is to have one day a recording session with both Tony and Carles!

Finally, after many sessions and traveling together around the world, my good friend and fabulous Israeli-born British drummer Asaf Sirkis will release his MoonJune debut, an album titled Our New Earth featuring Polish vocalist Sylwia Bialas, English pianist and organist Frank Harrison and Scottish bassist Kevin Glasgow. My good friend and the legendary drummer Dr. Bill Bruford is a huge admirer of Asaf's work. Bill included interviews with Asaf in his latest book, Uncharted: Creativity and the Expert Drummer, and will mark the occasion with his MoonJune debut as the liner notes writer!

Due to my heavy traveling schedule, I will possibly release just one more album this year, the new album of the ultra-talented Serbian pianist and keyboardist Vasil Hadzimanov, whose MoonJune debut Alive (2016) received great critical acclaim all around the world. Also, I have an ambient duo album by Markus Reuter and Mark Wingfield "in the can," and a new studio recording by the Barcelona-based Serbian guitarist Dusan Jevtovic with Gary Husband on drums, Markus Reuter on touch guitar, and Catalan bassist Bernat Hernández. These will be my first two releases in 2019.

I am organizing another marathon recording session this coming May at the magic settings of La Casa Murada, the XI century mansion transformed in a recording studio, for release in 2019. A duo album of Mark Wingfield with Gary Husband on keyboards is a project I am looking very much forward to because Gary is a musical hero of mine, and one of my best musician friends, and a very special person to me. The three-headed beast Wingfield-Reuter-Sirkis will record their follow-up to Lighthouse, and will be augmented on a separate project by Gary Husband on drums—yes, two drummers—for another set of impromptu musical conversation. And finally, the phenomenal drummer Asaf Sirkis, will record his jubilee album to be released in March 2019, in celebration of his 50th birthday, in a core trio format with Gary Husband on keyboards, Kevin Glasgow on bass, and many special guest soloists.

AAJ: And beyond that horizon?

LP: It's an exciting time for me. After almost three decades in NYC, I am considering a move to Catalonia, Spain, sometime toward the end of 2019 or in early 2020. There is something truly magical about that part of the world, and I miss the Mediterranean flavor in my life.

Of course, since my life is characterized by an improvisational, nomadic spirit, something else could happen and wind up carrying me elsewhere. But I'm really feeling the impetus to pick up and move. My time living here in New York is drawing to a close, I believe. But due to my dynamic lifestyle, I will be often back in the Big Apple or in Indonesia, where I am developing a new business with a few international partners. Of course, as in all improvisations, something unpredictable can happen and lead me somewhere else.

To that end, it seems inevitable that I will have to sort of "downsize" MoonJune Records, and reduce the number of releases. It's not easy to be a one-man army booking dozens of artists around the world while running an indie record label in today's hostile music business environment. Other, real labels have three, four, five, or six people (or more) working for them. I have no such luxuries. I have no one but myself.

Currently, I am not in a position to take on any new artists on the label. I hope to dedicate more time, as much is humanly possible, to help wonderful musicians and good friends such as Dwiki Dharmawan, Mark Wingfield, Dusan Jevtovic, Dewa Budjana, Vasil Hadzimanov, Boris Savoldelli, Asaf Sirkis, Markus Reuter, Yaron Stavi, Beledo and a few others.

AAJ: Your comments on Cuneiform Records' recent announcement to take a sabbatical in 2018 to reconsider its business model?

LP: Steve Feigenbaum has been a very good friend for more than a decade. He is a remarkably passionate and brutally honest straightforward person, and a legendary figure. His label Cuneiform is truly one of the world's greatest. Steve's situation is very different. He's a real label—which is not to say that I'm an "unreal label"—but Cuneiform is employing people and embracing overhead and operational costs exponentially larger than mine. I cannot afford even the expense to pay myself!

Unfortunately, I believe that several other iconic labels will follow Steve's lead. I've heard that once Manfred Eicher decides to finally retire, ECM will stop releasing records as well. The end of an era? The world has changed and I am still trying to figure it all out.

AAJ: What are some of the reasons why records are not selling anymore?

LP: I don't think that streaming and Spotify is the only reason. I am not here to whine or tell stories about the unscrupulous business conduct of Spotify. Big business has always taken advantage of artists for their own gain. Nothing new. It's a business, we live in capitalism, and it's not gonna change. Many claim that Spotify and other streaming companies are not paying a fair share to artists and indie labels; so then I ask myself, what is "fair share"? To receive $169.10 instead of $16.91 for 16,000 streams of a song?

I have only one issue with Spotify. Consumers should listen the music only once for free. Their second time, they should be given the option to purchase a digital or physical copy of the album, or just a digital download of an individual tune. Streaming IS one of the reasons, but it's not the main reason. Consumers can find more music, support more bands, and create more diversity in music. I think the reason that music doesn't sell much anymore is because we live in a different kind of society today. There is oversaturation of the market. There are too many products available for the decreasing amount of consumers. One reason that I don't sell so many records is because I'm competing with thousands and thousands of other albums that are being released at the same time, and the average consumer has only so much money to buy albums. You cannot buy everything that comes out. Apparently, there are hundreds and hundreds of record labels just in the US now, releasing an immense quantity of albums every year, plus numerous artists are "self-releasing" albums on their own. The market is overrun, demand sinks lower and lower, with more and more new albums still being released.

We live in a big world, more than seven billion people. If you are an American jazz lover, for example, you might also be interested in jazz or progressive artists not only from major jazz countries such as UK, France, Germany, Brazil or Italy, but also from Indonesia, Serbia, Chile, Mexico, South Africa, Egypt, Finland, Mongolia, Fiji, Dominican Republic, Turkey, Camerun, Bangladesh, and other countries. Then you can oversaturate yourself acquiring more music from different parts of the world, adding to the music you are already consuming. Besides new releases, there are old releases, re-issues, used CDs, used vinyl, even used cassettes and eight-track tapes!

Let's not overlook the "Steven Wilson phenomenon": Remasters of the remastered remasters to be remastered and over-remastered; then even more remastered versions with so many bonus tracks, bonus discs, bonus whatever; then box sets, special editions, special packages, ultra-limited editions... People are buying for the eleventh or twenty-fourth or thirty-seventh time albums they've already heard so many times in so many different formats.

Then you have traditional old school fans who are still stuck with their 60's and 70's nostalgia, and who categorically believe, and wrongly, that there is no great music today, which is absolutely untrue. There is much more amazing music today than ever in the history of human kind, but no one knows it exists—independent masses confined to the extreme niche of obscurity!

How much money and how much time does a consumer actually need to buy even one album, let alone listen to everything available? How do consumers discover new artists? I know a music fan, a gentleman in his early sixties, who has collected music for almost five decades. His collection is gigantic, and he appreciates my label but has maybe only a few MoonJune albums. He said to me that he has reached a saturation point with "new music," and that he will not live long enough to catch up with everything that's around—he simply has no time. He has the desire but no time. He doesn't consume new music, or very very rarely. He enjoys living in the past and there is nothing wrong with that. But he is not into new music at all.

AAJ: Is it an issue of format, or of content, or of issues outside of music such as economics?

LP: People have gotten used to spending less and less for music. Those who do spend are clearly a minority, and they cannot buy everything and they don't have time to listen to everything. The reality is that the music industry today simply doesn't exist as it existed before. There are no clear-cut tools to promote the music: no magazines, no radio, no way to tell the world that you and your product exist outside of social media and the internet. Magazines and radio, both, are experiencing the same industry contractions that are decimating the recorded music industry.

The ramifications of this are that an overwhelming majority of musicians just cannot live anymore strictly from music; they have to do other things. Musicians from other genres may gravitate toward more commercially popular forms of music, hoping for some measure of success, but this would more than likely only happen for a few lucky souls.

Touring is also increasingly in "slow-down" mode; expenses are more costly than ever, while venues and promoters offer smaller guarantees and lower payouts. But who can blame them? In most cases, they also have to scrape to carve out a living, pay their rent and bills, try to survive. Throw in the "streaming fandango" and here we are. A rather bleak view of both the present and the future.

Maybe music should be free? Maybe musicians and independent labels are not supposed to make any money. Maybe that's the solution: Free music for everyone! Actually, I would like to release an album and offer it for free, just to see what happens. What else I can do when I'm selling a few hundred copies of an unknown artist from Bandung, Indonesia?

AAJ: Spotify and similar streaming services are not the prime suspects?

LP: I am not a huge opponent of Spotify and other digital streaming services, but I know that many people are. I actually like the idea. In the wake of the "digital revolution," I think it's one of the greatest innovations to emerge. Maybe the way it is done does not properly distribute income to artists, but in theory that is a very difficult thing to implement, honestly. It's a tough question, and a difficult dilemma to decipher, but I don't believe that streaming services are necessarily the only ones to blame for our present crisis. You have to hear music somehow, and let me ask you one thing: Where can you hear new music, if not online? In the extinct record shops? In the supermarkets or shopping malls? On TV or radio? What's radio today? Even truck drivers don't listen radio anymore. They play music from their iPods and phones. People listen to talk shows on radio, religious and political demagogues, but radio is not for listening to music anymore. In much the same way that Rolling Stone really isn't about music, anymore.

Things are changing. I just see it as a change in history. We live in a different era. Who's to say that music has to be the most important thing in your life? Who says that? For our generation, music was important; for me, most certainly. But maybe music is not supposed to be the most important thing; perhaps that mentality was from a golden generation, between the '60's and '70's, and it just continued over for a few decades. Maybe, in its present form, the music industry has somehow passed its "expiration date."

Today, music just doesn't matter to so many people. Its messages and its impacts just are not what they used to be. Life continues to change, and at a faster pace than ever before. A little over one hundred years ago, people used to ride horses or walk from one place to another. Now, everyone drives motorized vehicles and travels great distances in short time spans via airplanes.

When I was a teenager or in my early twenties, I used to watch every episode of shows that I enjoyed. I listened to radio. I bought thousands of albums. But as you hit your forties or fifties or sixties, you steadily buy less albums and you go to see less shows. The audience for this particular type of music is aging. There are very few young people to support the industry; most young people are into something else.

We are aging, and the habits of consumers are changing. There are many elements involved in why things are not well anymore. It's very difficult to blame any one thing. Of course, I am the first victim of such things. But should I be blaming Spotify or streaming services? No. That is simply how it is, for me. My music is for a very limited set of people, an aging generation, and young people are into something else. My son is nineteen years old. He's not into what I am doing. He has other interests. I cannot blame him. I grew up with my maternal grandparents, and my grandfather thought that The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were negative elements in society. We live in a new world order. We might complain and suffer but new generations are into something else. Are they wrong? I do not know.

AAJ: Younger generations seem more visual, but I also wonder about the sense of musical community that seems lost in its digitalization. When you download a song, for example, you don't get the notes of whose playing on it.

LP: I have a different perspective on that. I am a huge advocate of digital music. I get everything that you are saying, and I used to be of that same opinion. But, I realized one thing: I want to hear the music. To me, the greatest format is always the music, itself. And the fact that I am listening to music without any attachment to the physical format, without any attachment to a booklet or artwork or to liner notes, it gives me a pure contact and personal communication with the music. If I want to find out who played the bass or drums or piano, or who wrote the liner notes or who produced it, I will find that if I am a real music lover. That information is out there, it just might take a little digging. But the fact that I can listen to music that's actually devoid of a physical format is not an overwhelming "negative" for me; it gives me the purity of listening to music simply for the sake of listening to music.

That's why I have a huge issue with vinyl LP lovers, because, from my perspective, they're not necessarily buying it because of the format (after all, vinyl's sonic qualities deteriorate with each subsequent listening), but, maybe, just because they're nostalgic. They want to listen to the so-called "warm (analog) sound of the LP," put on an album side and listen for twenty minutes. I don't want to do that. When I listen to music, I don't want to have anything to do with that. I do not want a time limitation of twenty minutes, for example. If I want, I want to listen the music with no interruptions for four hours, or five hours, or ten. And to skip from one tune to another one (with just the click of a mouse or finger) if I want to. I want to enjoy the music. Not the format.

On one of my future Dwiki Dharmawan releases, there are tunes over 35 minutes. How the hell do you squeeze that onto an LP limited to twenty-three and a half minutes? Why butcher the piece of artistic expression to confine to a format that limits how much music you should put on one side?

Now, this doesn't mean that I do not like vinyl. Of course I do, as well as CDs. But my point is that any format is OK but the best format is the MUSIC. And people should buy any format they want. But my favorite is digital.

I am not a nostalgic person. Even though I'm a very romantic person in many ways, I'm not nostalgic. I like to project my ideas and visions into the future, not the past. I don't want to live from the past. That's why I love the digital format. To me, it's the greatest thing that was ever invented, with regard to audio reproduction. It's not for everyone, though, you know? I have 11,000 albums in my iTunes library. I have thousands and thousands of CDs, I do not have LPs, but I exclusively listen digital files. When I travel, I just put a lot of music in my iBook or iPhone or iPad and I travel. While traveling, I listen to music whenever I want and the way I want. I love that freedom.

Digital music matches my lifestyle. Everything is different now, and I actually like that. While I appreciate and respect the past, I am more interested in the future. I do not live from the past.

To be perfectly candid: Digital downloads on BandCamp saved MoonJune Records. If I was depending on physical sales, I would have been forced to end the label a few years ago. I do not care, at all, anymore about iTunes. I really like BandCamp, and think that it offers a superior set of options at a flexible price. As a businessman, I can change prices as much I want and as many times I want; it only takes me a few minutes. I like being able to offer deals and specials. I cannot do that with iTunes.

Despite this, also to be candid, sales continue on a downward spiral. Many albums do not produce enough revenue to cover basic production costs. I am not ashamed to say that I have lost money with MoonJune Records in the past four years. With all the wholesale changes in the record business over this time period, adjusting is neither easy or clear cut. That said, I have managed to sell a bit more digital music lately on BandCamp; and with more and more people doing that, it gives me hope.

Perhaps the importance of social media, especially in light of decreasing magazine sales and radio listeners, is the quintessential component of survival or success to small, independent labels such as MoonJune. It is the only free form of advertising other than word of mouth, but, in a world oversaturated with other media, it may also be the most effective.

AAJ: We've talked a lot about you and your music. What else would you like to share about yourself to close?

LP: In the summer of 1990, I opted for a drastic change and moved to New York City to restart my life from virtually nothing. At the time, I found myself unable to finish my academic, despite wishing to continue my postgraduate work in the field of Afro-Portuguese literature and history. I had some familial and other issues, plus severe speech problems and lack of concentration due to the consequences of contracting malaria. Reluctantly, I decided to quit searching for something more exciting in my life, in spite of the fact that I had excellent living conditions where I lived. I came to New York not as a typical immigrant searching for a better financial life, because I had a great and comfortable life back in Italy, but as an adventurous nomad. I was searching for something but had no idea what it really was. All I knew it was that New York City was the "greatest big city in the world," and definitely the right place for me.

Then I met my wife, a Chinese woman whose parents moved from China to Hong Kong after Mao Tse Dong came to power in 1949. My in-laws emigrated to Brazil in 1962 when she was only nine months old, so my wife is de facto Brazilian. Brazil is a country I always had a great affinity for since my childhood, and have visited many, many times, and I actively do a lot of booking business there. For all the 25 years of our marriage, my wife and I spoke Portuguese, which I have spoken since the early '80s, in our household. It's kind of odd: I was born in the former Yugoslavia and grew up in Italy; she was born in Hong Kong; and we speak Portuguese among us! Even with our 19-year-old son, who is an American born in New York City! As you can see, nothing in my life is "ordinary!"

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