You had to know that yours wasn't the typical music industry startup story? LP:
Normally, labels will start like this: They have some capital in the bank or some wealthy business partners, they have an entertainment lawyer, they have an accountant, they have a marketing plan, they have a distribution company. I didn't have any of this. I only had some basic disposable income, which allowed me to pay some advances and cover CD manufacturing, and a lot of contacts (also thanks to Jim Eigo).
I "debuted" as a label at the progressive rock festival NEARFest in June 2001, where I had discovered D.F.A. the year before. I learned immediately that I was a "Mr. Nobody," which motivated me to promote my label ferociously.
In a matter of months, I developed an immense array of press contacts in both the jazz and progressive rock worlds. To capitalize on these new resources, I sent out hundreds upon hundreds of promos of my first three releases, to generate attention for both the albums and my newly budding company. All three albums received a great deal of critical acclaim and generated hundreds of reviews in more than thirty countriesespecially D.F.A.'s brilliant live album, which received an extraordinary amount of accolades, and from critics beyond just the progressive rock world. AAJ:
People almost always assume that musicians are expressing themselves through their recordings. But can record label owners and producers express themselves through their work, too? LP:
I've always considered life as a sort of improvisation. Life is like that famous collaboration between John Coltrane
and Rashied Ali
where Rashied Ali represents the beat of life in his drumming, and John Coltrane improvises on top of it (Ed. Note: "Interstellar Space," 1974, on Impulse!)
. That's primarily how I operate in life: I started with that sort of "organic" mentality. I never thought, "I will start a record label." Or, "I will get involved in music management or become a booking agent." MoonJune came into being from me simply helping friends, and managing to find my way through this initial phasewith some surprisingly good luck, and a strong dose of magic. I am a person who has doggedly pursued my passions my entire life; perhaps this small-scale launch's success had as much to do with hard work and determination as anything else, really. AAJ:
When did you begin to see the first returns on this hard work?
LP: In 2000, I had this crazy idea to help my old friend Elton Dean, to sort of reform or resurrect the legendary Soft Machine
based, in large part, on information I found on the internet about a "one-off" show of the Soft Ware project featuring Elton on sax, Keith Tippett
on piano, Hugh Hopper
on bass guitar and John Marshall
So I reconnected with Elton on New Year's Day, 2000, and in June of that year he performed in New York City at a jazz festival with drummer Joe Gallivan
, bassist Marcio Mattos
and saxophonist Evan Parker
. Elton stayed a few extra days at my place in the East Village, and he also met Jim Eigo. Perhaps acting on the good vibes of the situation, Elton asked Jim and me if we would be willing to help him with Soft Ware in the US. Elton asked me to talk to Keith Tippett, John Marshall, and Hugh Hopper, who I already knew from his visits to New York. They were all available and excited, except for Keith, who said he would consider it as a possible, occasional special project but not as a steady gig.
Keith's failure to make a solid commitment got Elton and I fantasizing about the fourth member. Mike Ratledge, the legendary Soft Machine keyboardist and one of my all-time personal music heroes, had made it clear that he wasn't interested in being a part of any recording or live performance music since leaving Soft Machine in 1976. We continued our thinking, dominated by a keyboard player to fill the fourth member role.
Later that same summer, I stumbled across three progressive rock festivals in the US. Around this same time, Andrea Soncini, an Italian journalist who handled the Italian progressive rock band Finisterre on his label and management and had been asking me to help get them bookings in the US, was supposed to meet me at one of these festivals. As it turned out, Andrea was unable to attend, due to personal reasons, and gave me his festival ticket. On that festival's opening day, the second band who hit the stage blew me away after only five minutes and in the break following their set, I met that band, D.F.A. from Italy, and congratulated them on their mind-blowing performance. Italian is my second native tongue, and we quickly fell into great conversation and friendship. We hung out together in New York City for several days thereafter. AAJ:
So that's festival one. Festival two? LP:
OK, so in September 2000 I attended ProgFest in Los Angeles, and got to catch up with several of my favorite 70s progressive rock bands: Italian legends Banco, French legends Mona Lisa, and Dutch legends Supersister, an old favorite of mine who I never thought in my whole life I would be able to see! Since we were in L.A., many progressive rock fans came to the festival from Mexico, and, out of curiosity, I began chatting with many of them.
I met another person at this festival who wound up being one of the key people in starting MoonJune. A guy who happened to be passing by suddenly entered into a conversation I was having with a few early Soft Machine hardcore fans. I guess we were talking loudly and proudly about Mike Ratledge, and that's how I met Ken Kubernik, who jumped right into our conversation. Ken and I went for a coffee break during another intermission and began talking about several of our favorite music subjects, such as Soft Machine, the Canterbury scene, British jazz, and much more, and during our conversation, I told him about Elton Dean, Soft Ware and Keith Tippett situation. Little did I know the fruit that this conversation would later bear!