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Leonardo Pavkovic: Nothing is Ordinary

Chris M. Slawecki By

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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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