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discover: MoonJune Records

By Anthony Garone

An international record label without bounds.

A LITTLE ABOUT MoonJune Records

Every time I saw something musically interesting on Facebook, I’d see the name Leonardo MoonJune Pavkovic. We were already “friends” on Facebook, but had never interacted. We had enough mutual friends that it made sense and we were commenting on a lot of the same posts.

Months later, Markus Reuter’s double-CD sampler, Fool of Music was available for free  on MoonJune’s BandCamp site , so I decided to do a little research and see what that was all about. It was pretty astounding. On the MoonJune website was a collection of names I’d never seen before playing astonishing music at extremely generous prices.

Leonardo was very friendly and fast to respond to my Facebook messages requesting an interview. In fact, he was ready to do an interview at 9AM the next morning!

Video

Here’s the video of the interview with Leonardo Pavkovic.

Interview Audio (Podcast)

(NOTE: hitting the “play” button requires a hefty download of the entire audio file!).

Or, download an mp3 .

Leonardo’s Recommendations

Here are some of the recommendations Leonardo made from his MoonJune catalog to get you started:

I’ll also add Markus Reuter’s Fool of Music  since it’s free and fantastic.

And TONS of music is available for free at MoonJune’s BandCamp site .

Interview Transcript

Anthony: Hi, this is Anthony from MakeWeirdMusic.com and I’m here with Leonardo Pavkovic from MoonJune Records based in New York City. Leonardo, thanks so much for joining us.

Leonardo: Hi Anthony, thank you very much for inviting me.

A: Can you tell me who you are and what you do and give us a brief introduction to MoonJune Records?

L: I’ve been running MoonJune Records and management since 2001. I am based in New York City and I started the record label by accident with the intent to help a couple of friends. I really didn’t know what I was doing except that I was helping my friends.

And then a couple of years later, because I started managing the band called Soft Machine Legacy , which is the continuation of Soft Works that is sort of Soft Machine but became Soft Works in 2001 with Allan Holdsworth , Elton Dean , Hugh Hopper , and John Marshall –the band then became Soft Machine Legacy with John Etheridge  coming in the band after Allan Holdsworth, who for whatever reason wasn’t able to continue with the band. Then I started booking this band in Europe and they needed a new album because we had a great album of Soft Works with Allan, but they didn’t do anything with John Etheridge in the new band, but they just changed the name of the band from Soft Works to Soft Machine Legacy.

Then in 2005, I actually started being a label even though I started in 2001, but I believe that in 2004–after 3 years–I really decided that this is what I should do. And again, my label started with the idea just to help my friends in a couple of bands I was involved with. And that’s what I’ve done for 15 years.

So far, I have 80 releases to my label and I also do management and booking. I work with a lot of artists not necessarily on my label. I book maybe about 3 dozen artists on a non-exclusive basis all around the world, mostly in Asia, Latin America, some in Europe and USA. I do some other things, but that’s basically what I do.

A: I know it’s very difficult nowadays to run a record label. Do you have a very dedicated fan base? Is it an act of love?

L: Yes, I have to underline something. When I started my label, my first releases were releases from bands that had a nice cult following. Two Italian progressive rock bands, Finisterre , D.F.A. , and my old friend, the legendary Elton Dean. Somehow I was able to get some decent industry success in a niche market with those albums. Then I released a tribute to Jaco Pastorius  helping a friend of mine who produced that album and then I started releasing albums by Soft Machine Legacy, Elton Dean and Hugh Hopper, and Italian progressive rock legend Arti & Mestieri , and Phil Miller .

In the beginning with the first 15 or 16 releases, I had albums that were kind of selling. Of course we’re not talking about huge sales, we’re talking about decent sales. Then I started releasing albums of literally-unknown bands from Indonesia, Spain, Italy, Canada, Brazil, Japan, and then many things have changed in the last 10 years in the recording business, but I don’t make a living from my label. It’s impossible. I make a living from other things, but I decided that I have to keep alive my label because it’s something that I like and, as I mentioned before, the label is based on music of my friends.

I don’t sign artists. There is no such thing where you’d send me a demo and I’d consider it and say, “Okay, I will sign you and I’ll give you a contract.” I don’t do that. I’m a completely unusual label, and again, I only work and release albums of my friends. We become friends for whatever magic reason. There is music happening and we record some albums and we say, “Okay, let’s release this album.” I’m very unusual and I’m happy to be that way because it doesn’t restrict me to obey certain rules of the music business.

Especially lately with Markus Reuter, who became a very close friend of mine. We have a very unusual way of promoting the music, which I started about 6 or 7 years ago offering free music through downloads and free music through downloads means reaching more people and, actually, we can make some money offering free music because people are really generous. They download it for free and making donations. We’re collecting more and more funds and we’re building a very solid fanbase.

Of course, I have a lot of fans of Soft Machine, John Etheridge, Allan Holdsworth. These are legends. And now, Stick Men . I’m just building the niche audience. I like to interact directly with fans and my email list is about 15,000 people that I collected in the last 15 years, which is through my mail-order company and collecting emails on the live shows of Soft Machine Legacy and Allan Holdsworth and other bands and simply people signing up for my newsletter and offering those free downloads and people are sending their contributions as they’re downloading.

So, that’s how I build my niche reach. Of course, I have national and international distribution, but in today’s age, that really doesn’t mean anything because there are no more stores. It’s very hard, but as I said, I don’t do this for a living. I’m just doing this because I love the music and they’re my friends and we are doing this together.

A: So, first of all, thank you so much for what you do. It’s awesome to see someone so passionate doing what you’re doing. It’s incredible.

L: It’s not just passion. It’s my duty. When my friend Elton Dean gave me a live tape of his tour with English guitar player Mark Hewins  in 2000 when he visited New York and I knew Elton since the mid 1980s. I met him in Italy and he toured Italy very often and we became friends. We were friends since 1986. When he offered me this tape and when I met a couple other Italian bands that became my fans, I said, “Okay, this is what I have to do.” They asked me for help and I said, “Okay, I’ll release these albums and I’ll see what I can do for you in the USA.”

That’s how it started and it’s more than passion. It’s also duty to help friends. We are all helping each other. Of course, we are living in very troubled times, not just in terms of the music business, but in general. Music is something that can unify people and make us happy and enjoy what we do. I think that’s something that will continue.

That’s why I am saying, no matter how the music business may be bad in the future, I’m the record label that will never ever fail or never go bankrupt because I don’t follow any rules that normally record labels are following. That’s why I will always exist. I might start releasing less albums, but I’ll be always there because of my very, very unusual way of promoting and distributing and selling this.

A: That’s fantastic.

L: It’s something that I learned. It’s not something that I said 15 years ago and envisioned. I decided 15 years ago I thought it would be something else, but this is something I have learned because I believe the way of promoting independent music from now is just making partnerships with musicians. We are doing it together. Of course we know that from some of this music we cannot be rich, we cannot make any living. But collectively if we contribute to the cause, something will happen. We don’t know.

A: Are you a musician yourself?

L: No, I’m not a musician. My grandmother was an opera singer. She bought me a guitar when I was 10 years old and she wanted me to become a musician because she was a musician. I learned a lot of music from her, especially classical music. But after 1 or 1 1/2 years, I resisted. I was 12 years old. I thought I had some other interests. I never played an instrument.

Also, I’ve never driven a car in my life. I’m very unusual. I’ve been married 23 years and I don’t have a ring. I just feel free. Once they asked Frank Zappa what kind of music he liked, he said, “I don’t know what I like because I have my own music. I don’t have time to listen to other music.”

But because I’m not a musician, it gives me complete and total freedom. First of all, to listen a lot to music. Musicians that are performing all over again, playing the same music every night, the same kind of music, and they’re rehearsing, and sound-checking, and performing gigs… I use that time to listen to more and more different music. And the fact that I’m a musician gives me opportunity to listen to music in a very neutral way. I’m not paying attention to technique, like if this guy is playing in this-and-that way, but just enjoying the music. For me, the music comes first and then technical abilities and everything else.

A: That’s great. So, what are your top 3 or 5 records that you’d recommend from your label for people who are looking to expand their musical horizons?

L: My upcoming record that I’m announcing today, one track, and announcing next week an album that will come out in late September, is a double album of Dwiki Dharmawan , an Indonesian piano player. On this double album he’s playing only acoustic piano. That’s probably one of the highlights of my label because it’s something very special. Dwiki Dharmawan is one of the nationally most well-known musicians in Indonesia and a very good friend of mine for 10 years.

We recorded this album in London last year and we are finally releasing it with some of the top musicians, my favorite musicians in the world, like Mark Wingfield , Gilad Atzmon , Gamelon Jess Jegog , and Nicholas Meier . That’s an upcoming release that I will promote starting today.

Regarding the older catalog, I’ll also mention a couple other Indonesian artists like simakDialog  double live album recorded in Baltimore on the first USA tour a few years ago called Live at Orion . It’s one of my favorite live albums in the past 20 years, not just on my label.

Another Indonesian guitar player, Dewa Budjana . His album with Vinnie Colaiuta  and Jimmy Johnson . That’s one of the highlights of my label. And then, I’ll also recommend The Wrong Object  band from Belgium led by a friend of mine, Belgian guitar player Michel Delville , is kind of–if you like Frank Zappa, Soft Machine, Magma , or Terje Rypdal , that’s kind of some of my favorite musicians. It’s very great experimental jazz rock. There are many albums. I have 80 albums, but I have so many albums that if I start mentioning albums, I’ll have to mention probably all 80 of them.

A: And the new Stick Men record?

L: Stick Men is not really a MoonJune album. It’s kind of a MoonJune album. It’s not 100% MoonJune because it started doing something very unusual. We released it by ourselves. It only came out officially in Japan. It’s an album that we’re only selling at our shows and on BandCamp. It’s a sort of MoonJune because I’m involved with the band, I’m their exclusive booking representative. It’s almost MoonJune records, but it’s not 100% MoonJune. Of course, it’s one of my favorite live albums and it’s simply amazing, especially–it’s very special because my old friend David Cross  is on it.

A couple of these Stick Men guys will be on my label. I will be releasing the upcoming new studio album of Markus Reuter in January with members of the Swiss avant garde band, Sonar . Tony Levin  is already on a couple of albums that I’ll be releasing very soon on the new Dewa Budjana album, Indonesian guitar player. He plays upright bass and we’re having a recording session this Sunday in the Woodstock area with a Serbian guitar player on my label who lives in Barcelona, Dusan Jevtovic , Spanish Catalan drummer Xavi Rejia . That’s Xavi’s album with Markus Reuter as a special guest, which means that all these Stick Men musicians are gradually moving to the MoonJune area first as session musicians.

In the case of Markus Reuter, I’ll be releasing his new studio album, and he’s also in a collective improvisational band with English guitar player Mark Wingfield and two Israeli guys based in London, bass player Yaron Stavi  and drummer Asaf Sirkis  and that album will come out in November. That’s another album that I will consider one of the highlights of my label in the last 15 years because, first of all, features some of my favorite musicians on planet Earth: Markus, Mark, Yaron Stavi, Asaf Sirkis Some of my favorite musicians. The music is just completely and totally improvised music, but it’s very melodic and very groovy and very jammy and I think it’ll blow everybody’s minds.

A: Excellent. Thank you so much for your time. I really appreciate it and I really appreciate what you do. Thank you for making Fool of Music a free download. I love it.

L: Thank you very much for inviting me. Hope to talk to you soon. I’ll see you in January, I suppose, in Phoenix.

A: That’s right. For the Stick Men show.

L: Last time I was in Phoenix was 20 years ago. Looking forward to coming back.

A: January’s a great time to come. Now [August] is not a great time to come.

L: Okay, thank you Anthony. Talk to you soon.

A: Bye.

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