I was super lucky to meet Juan as part of CTM’s MusicMakers Hacklab this past January. A man of few words (at least in *spoken English) much of the way Juan carries himself as an artist lies in the way he builds his instruments and the soundspace he creates with his invocations and evocative drones. One thing I was reminded of over a kretek with Juan is that it’s really your whole body that you listen with when musicking. Incredibly apparent when watching Juan play.
Based on the same island my own mother is from (Borneo), Juan builds the instruments he performs with as not only artistic practice, but as a statement and message about the rampant ecological destruction of his native Pontianak.
In fact, his CD-R album Pesan dari Kalimantan is exactly that – a message from Kalimantan. Made with instruments he built himself, including a facemask respirator outfitted with custom PVC flutes as well as a percussive stringed instrument called the *Mu74n (built with wood sourced near his home), Pesan dari Kalimantan is a machine ride through a hazy inferno of deforestation, thick air and calls to prayer.
Juan was kind enough to answer some questions – as well as send us some new material he’s been working on.
*Bahasa is in italics.
MS: What is it like where you are right now?
JA: I came back from Europe one month ago and now I try to protect myself and stay at home. I live in Pontianak, Borneo, Indonesia and today my city is under lockdown. Many events have been canceled and a lot of event organizers and artists lost their jobs. One of the solutions in this situation is online work.
1 bulan setelah pulang dari Eropa, saya mencoba menjaga diri saya dan berada di rumah. Saya tinggal di Pontianak, Indonesia di pulau Borneo, yang sekarang sedang locked down. Banyak event cancel dan para pekerja seni seperti Event Organiser dan Artis kehilangan pekerjaan mereka. Sekarang salah satu solusi hanya bekerja secara Online.
MS: How did you get started making music?
JA: I started making music in 2006. The idea came from what I felt about my life at that time. What do I see? What do I hear? What do I smell? What do I touch? For me, my life is my experiment. I can get new experience from my experiments.
Saya mulai membuat musik sejak 2006 sampai sekarang. Ide datang dari apa yang saya rasakan dalam kehidupan saya dimasa sekarang. Apa yang saya lihat, apa yang saya dengar, apa yang saya hirup, apa yang saya sentuh, dan lain-lain. Untuk saya, hidup saya adalah experiment saya, saya dapat mendapatkan pengalaman baru dari hasil experimen yang saya lakukan.
MS: What does your studio look like? Where do you produce your music?
JA: I have a small private room for everything: work, personal practice, production of my music, eating and sleeping.
Saya memiliki ruang pribadi yang sangat kecil untuk bekerja, latihan pribadi, membuat musik, makan, dan tidur.
MS: What is your compositional process like?
JA: I explore and improvise, I practice and self evaluate my work, then I share my work with the audience to get their opinion and evaluate again.
Explorasi, Improvisasi, latihan, evaluasi, berbagi hasil karya kepada audience untuk mendapatkan feedback, evaluasi.
MS: What have you been listening to lately?
JA: For now I’m listening to traditional music and sounds of nature around my house.
Untuk sekarang saya mendengar musik tradisi dan suara alam di sekitar rumah saya.
MS: Who should we be listening to?
JA: Any kind of sound and music. Because that’s good for listening practice.
Semua jenis bunyi dan musik. Karena itu bagus untuk melatih pendengaran.
MS: What are your next projects?
JA: Solo album and Manangkata album (my interdisciplinary Art Project)
Album untuk karya solo dan album Manangkata (projek karya lintas disiplin seni)
MS: Is there bad music?