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" againthe 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.