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.


From the Inside Out Chris M. Slawecki Robert Wyatt Soft Machine Walter Becker Donald Fagen Marbin simakDialog Allan Holdsworth Alan Pasqua Jimmy Haslip Chad Wackerman Tony Williams john mclaughlin dwiki dharmawan Ligro Agam Hamzah Dennis Rea Moraine Iron Kim Style Zhongyu Michel Delville The Wrong Object Machine Mass douBt Elton Dean Finisterre D.F.A. John Coltrane Rashied Ali Soft Ware Keith Tippett Hugh Hopper John Marshall Joe Gallivan Marcio Mattos evan parker Mike Ratledge Banco Mona Lisa Supersister Peter Hammill Mark Hewins Daevid Allen Gong Dave Stewart Allan Holdsworth PFM Tony Levin Stick Men Pat Mastelotto Markus Reuter Gary Husband Jimmy Johnson Scott Henderson Yes Nektar Hamiet Bluiett Ravi Shankar Black Sabbath Sun Ra Neil Young Jethro Tull Paco de Lucia Ella Fitzgerald Lucio Dalla James Last Orchestra Ian Dury John Lee Hooker Jimi Hendrix John Bonham Keith Emerson Jack Bruce Frank Zappa John Etheridge Dewa Budjana Tohpati Deep Purple Tommy Bolin Glenn Hughes Ritchie Blackmore Discus Iwan Hasan Riza Arshad Little River Band Jeff Lynne Winger Styx Toto Asia Joe Lynn Turner Journey Thunder Survivor House of Lords Crush 40 Hardline Jeff Scott Soto Whitesnake Boston FM John Sykes Yoso Bobby Kimball Billy Sherwood Tony Kaye Jake E. Lee Texas Hippie Coalition Loudness Dominique Vantomme Maxime Lenssens Slivovitz mark wingfield Jesus Rovira Asaf Sirkis Yaron Stavi nguyen le Carles Benavent Sylwia Bialas Frank Harrison Kevin Glasgow Bill Bruford Vasil Hadžimanov Dusan Jevtovic Bernat Hernandez Dwiki Dharmwan Vasil Hadzimanov Boris Savoldelli Beledo steven wilson The Beatles Rolling Stones


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