In Living Room with Jamie Aditya

16 June 2017 - His fondness to jazz music brings lights and cheers to Seaside Rendezvous, the opening party of Seasalt, a new dining destination at Alila Seminyak. Meeting Jamie Aditya is an experience itself – a charming personality, formerly known as an MTV Asia VJ yet a true musician at heart. For good long hours, we traveled to his first memory of early jazz sounds, discussed his albums and his decision to switch his musical direction, and almost got lost in his humor when talking about the current music industry. Surely it wasn’t just another day for us as Jamie brought the crowd to the center with Boogie Woogie and everyone danced the night away.

When did the first time you realise you love music?

As far back as I can clearly recall, music was always present in the house whether it was the soothing sounds of Sundanese Kecapi Suling music filtering through my grandfathers’ house where I spent my early years or or my father’s typical selection of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, early jazz or just the sounds of popular radio hits in the early 70’s. So I can’t pinpoint “At what point did I realise I loved music?” as it would be like asking me “At what point did I realise I loved taking a bath?”. It literally was and continues to be an everyday essential part of life for me.

What was your first instrument?

At around the age of 12, my father played a pivotal role in my musical journey by purchasing a “communal” acoustic guitar and placing it in the house for any of his kids to play. Shortly after, he paid for my classical guitar lessons from classical guitarist/composer Roelly Boediono at Farabi Music School. Dad would also take us kids to the cassette tape shop Aquarius/Trio-Tara in Blok M Jakarta every Sunday and encourage us to explore and expand our love for music. As a budding guitar player, Andrés Segovia, Jimi Hendrix , B. B. King and Randy Rhoads were my favorite guitarists!

Which musicians do you admire the most? Why?

I really admire Duke Ellington, Count Basie, B. B. King, Miles Davis, Sly Stone, James Brown and Prince. As not only were they masters of their respective instruments, wonderful writers, and arrangers who followed the minimalist approach of “Less is more”, meaning they could express volumes of emotion with a simple melody.
But, so too were they great band leaders. Keeping their bands in line and playing true to the chosen theme, vision and essence of their music. Being able to be firm in their leadership whilst earning as well as maintaining the respect of their band members in the process. Also, I’d like to add that they all had a deep understanding of rhythm and that only when the rhythm for a song was strong and in the pocket could then the melody and harmony really come into play! Respect!

What are you listening to right now?

Right now I’m listening to a lot of the saxophonists Lester Young, trumpeters Roy Eldridge and Buck Clayton, Blues singer Sam Chatmon, pianist/singer/songwriter Lil Hardin Armstrong whom I adore, the King Louis Armstrong, and singer Esther Phillips! All artists who you can hear deep Blues in the soulful way they play jazz or interpret popular songs from the early jazz era or up to the 60’s and 70’s in Esther’s case. I also love to listen to anything drummers Big Sid Catlett or Papa Joe Jones.

What are your dream collaborations?

I could say write and record with Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Prince, Fela Kuti featuring Louis Armstrong and Lester Young *laugh*, but lets concentrate on the living. I would love to do a project with Wynton Marsalis’s New Orleans Trad band, singing 20’s-30’s style Blues/Jazz duets with Mavis Staples. All songs would be new material written in the early Jazz style by Stevie Wonder, Sly Stone, and Quincy Jones. Oh, also Doctor John on the piano!

Your first album is very funky and modern while the second one sounds very jazzy and vintage. Any particular reasons why you switched to jazz?

My first album LMNOP, recorded in 2005 and released in 2012, is a collection of material I had been writing over a period of time from my mid 20’s to my mid 30’s where I was lucky enough to have had the space and time to work out personal issues pertaining to anger, self-hatred, and learning self-love. You know, personal growth stuffs. Well if I listen to the album, it reads like a therapy diary/logbook of sorts, as I can see in the songs distinct periods in my life and what I was going through.

As an idealistic 22-year-old in the New Order Indonesia, naturally I wrote a few songs like Alien, Ain’t The One, Comin Our Way, Old Enough for protesting the social and environmental injustices I saw. Also, the loss of my dear Mother to cancer brought out the existensialist in me through songs like Never a Thought and Again. Overall, my first album was therapy in a funk/soul/pop wrapping! Since I wrote, produced and played it on my own… it was a labored and lonely affair.

Whereas the jazz album I did in 2015 with my good friend and saxophonist/producer Kelland Thomas was a collaborative work. Rather than overdubbing and multitracking myself playing different instruments to sound like an entire band like the first album, this album was recorded with a band of Tucson’s finest jazz musicians “live” in the studio in one to two takes! I didn’t feel the heaviness of the first albums with all the umming, aahing, and splitting hairs over my original songs because I could now relax and concentrate on singing, whilst Kelland handled band direction and production.

The jazz album entitled Trad & Soul, a collection of 20’s-30’s jazz era, was very spontaneous in that took around 4 days! As a result, the music comes across as fresh, light, fun and not laboured at all! I feel playing someone else’s compositions is so much more fun! It frees you up from all that egos that emotionally ties you to every note of an original composition. No wonder Frank Sinatra and Elvis chose to sing other people’s songs which I totally get it.

What do you think of the current music industry?

In the business of selling music, more than half the battle is promoting and exposing as many people to your music. Now with the Internet, say YouTube, fan blogs, artist’s websites, social media… especially for independent musicians like myself, the Internet is the perfect platform for self-promotion. To state the obvious, the Internet has drastically changed the way people are introduced or exposed to new music and artists. Never before has your average music listener been able to leisurely access, discover, research, listen to, and watch performances from such a vast global selection of musical artists. Hit that search engine with some key words and voilà… a plethora of artists from different eras will magically pop up to look into. Just don’t forget to hit that “Like”, “Share” or “Dislike” button!

Also, one’s legions of loyal fans can even socially interact with artists through social networking and artist’s official websites. So from that aspect, it is a very exciting time for the industry. However at the end of the day, how well one does in most cases, is still up to how good the music is and how hard the artists themselves are willing to self-promote oneself through all the available avenues.

In the era of streaming services, do you think selling records is still the most reliable channel to generate profits?I suppose if you are signed to one of the giant record companies and they are pumping millions of dollars into your promotion through both new Internet-based avenues as well as the old-school traditional methods such as flooding TV and gossip magazines, big budget music videos, and crazy controversy… then, yes, I suppose it still is a reliable source of monetary gains.

For those who signed especially independent artists, playing live shows and endless touring is still and will continue to be, where the money is at, because the music going audience can only be fooled for so long before they realise you are not good doing “live”. And they lose interest and move on to the next big thing.

Interesting. What are you working on right now? What would your next album sound like?

Well, since my last jazz album of obscure 20’s and 30’s jazz songs plunged me into deeper obscurity than the songs I was singing… I thought I’d do another one! I will be recording the said album in Melbourne with a “live band” consisting of a brilliant crew of Melbourne jazz-head Usual suspects, put together by my good mate and musical director, the highly-talented multi instrumentalist, composer, and arranger James Mustafa. We will be doing more early jazz from the 20’s and 30’s. We plan to experiment with recapturing the primitive organic sound of the era, by recording the band members strategically huddled around a couple of strategically-placed ribbon microphones as they did back in the 20’s-30’s!

“How will it sound" you ask? Well that would depend on the level of hearing skills of the listener and the type of audio system he or she is hearing it through…but having said that, I should like to think it’ll sound fanjazztabulous!! We will be launching the dear wee album on the 15th and 16th of September 2017 at the Paris Cat Jazz Club in Melbourne. Should you the reader and longtime old time music lover happen to be there, come on down and shake a leg!

You’ve been playing and recording your music in Bali for several times, do you have plan to stay/live in Bali or collaborate with Balinese musicians?

Well, my family and I absolutely love Bali which is why we lived in Bali for 8 wonderful years. For now we have no plans to move back to Bali… but never say never! As for collaborating with Balinese based musicians? It would be a lot of fun to record something with my friends Marcello, Balawan, the Navicula mob, trumpeter Rio Sidik and the incredible Sanur-based piano player Indra Lesmana, along with drummer Sandy Winarta and upright bassist Indra Gupta! That would be a killer line up!

Jamie Aditya's music is available on iTunes and Spotify.