Last month I had the opportunity to interview some great indie artist all around the United States. One of these artist was Jai Cletz, hailing from Puerto Rico. Jai Cletz gives us a look on being an independent musician from Puerto Rico.
How did it all start?
I got a guitar when I was around 15. In November 2005, I went to a friends house-party and a band was playing some punk covers. After their set, I jumped in (because I had just learned how to play some punk-rock). With their drummer and using the female lead guitarists guitar I started jamming. The next day, the drummer and myself started our own punk band called SABARAKATIKI. Later, the lead guitarist from the other band joined our band just hours before our first show in January 2006. Our first show was at Commonwealth High School. They were hosting a "Battle of the Bands." We participated even though we didn't have a bass player. We found our a bass player later in 2007.
What are your Passions ?
My passion was mostly fueled by knowing people didn't believe in me because I was doing something different from stereotypical music from Puerto Rico. I was scoffed at both in the underground music scene and Reggaeton scene. I just focused on finding the good and bad things in different music genres and making my own blend. I also like to dance. Most of the rocker kids in Puerto Rico do not like to dance, so I use that to my advantage when I create my music. I'm always striving to be an inspiration to others.
Advice for musician or artists?
Let me see, what I can say that hasn't been said in the past? If you like a lot of things ,try to embrace them all and combine them into one, at least musically . It’s been helping me a lot for now. Also, it helps if you have a team that is heading for the same or similar goals with you.
Favorite things about music?
Making girls dance(laughs). The girls I've met love or like to dance to music. It’s amazing how with dancing you can connect without saying any words, "Just ride the rhythm.”Another thing I love would be basically blazing and listening to music. That has helped me hear, feel and turn the passion I feel towards my music. Also learning new forms of music, which pushes me to constantly listen to what others are listening to.
When you are not making music what are you doing for fun?
If I'm not making music I'm trying to find a way to travel to see and discover how other music scenes around the worlds are doing. But mostly I just hang around with my homies because honestly there is nothing else to do in Puerto Rico without your homies. Also mostly helping my homies or family members around with chores or whatever they need. Currently I'm on tour with one of my field entertainment groups around the U.S. Looking for local underground venues in every city I visit.
Who are your influences?
Video games, especially games from the Nintendo N64, Most of my electronic projects have been inspired from songs from video games like Golden Eye and Banjo Kazooie. The soundtracks from the Tony Hawk games were also big for me, as were the Grand Theft Auto games. The SF-UR station in San Andreas helped me mold my early electronic tracks. Also being raised in the middle class in Puerto Rico I was exposed to variety of latin music (Merengue,Bachata,Salsa,Boleros,Ballads). My mom always listened to latin music when she cleaned the house on Saturdays. I also love traditional Chinese music.
If you had the opportunity to start over, what would you differently and why?
Hmm if I could start over, I would had made my shows and music career more organized. I've made hundreds of songs and only a few had been made public. I would not be ashamed of using all of my good and bad potential on writing music. I would have had a stable job from the beginning to help me manage money better. I'm just improvising on the road, like most of us have.
Tell me about your new projects and which direction you are heading.
I'm in a state where I want to try to interface my guitar compositions into my electronic projects. This is one of the reasons I went and studied sound engineering. I wanted to improve the way I make music. I am also working on collaborating with other genres so I can keep learning and grow in music. Lastly, possibly learn how to play more instruments and incorporate more vocals on my future projects.
What are some of your greatest challenges in your business?
Everybody can relate to money, the shows do not make a lot of money. Money is needed for equipment,travel,merchandise and studio time. This can be a challenge for band members without the same goals as priorities can misalign.
When have you been most satisfied in your life?
I don't know, the fact that when you start a musical project like a band and all the members are getting along with a good flow and goals. Also seeing the ones that didn't support you liking your music and seeing others around them supporting my music. I know it sounds like vengeful satisfaction but it feels good having them see you making it but the way you as artist wanted. Lastly the fact that people like it! I love it and makes me excited because I'm not used to getting things right and music has helped me find a way that I can.
Tell me about a project or accomplishment that you consider to be the most significant in your career.
One time I got a call out of nowhere that a radio station wanted to play my band on the air. It was weird that a punk song hit the radio in Puerto Rico, but it was a good opportunity to expose people to other forms of music that is being created. The song was Cuadritos, and it was from our first EP. “SABARAKATIKI.” The song was a mix of flamenco and funk riffs,flowing into punk/Hard core punk. The lyrics were from a song written for a project I had to make for a geometry class. Later after the vocalist recorded the song, we found out she had sung the drummer's phone number in the recording.
Also, I found out people across the UK and Italy loved my songs and distributed some of my electronic music. At one point people were asking me to sign up for their labels... Even got my music placed for background music for a short film and some documentaries. I know it is not much for some but for me coming from an island were my kind of projects were not praised because they are different from typical genres. It just means I can pull off a challenge and it makes me warm that people love it. Like there was a time one guy recognized me while I was playing Grand Theft Auto 5 online and said: “Oh my! This is Jai Cletz!? I love your mixtape." That made my day.
What does your latest EP mean to you? In what state where you when you where putting it together?
Well, I felt like I had to do the EP because I had a lot of songs and I was disorganized. People kept telling me, "Why don't I make an album or EP?” so I did. My latest album “Tirimba Tirimba” was a collection of the latest songs that I had made.
When it comes to connecting with your fans, is there a platform that you prefer?
I like to use SoundCloud,Spotify,Facebook and Instagram. But I connect more when I'm playing live back at the venues in Puerto Rico. I also like connecting with fans when I travel and visit different venues.
Do you play an instrument and if so, which is your favorite song to play on it.
Actually yea.… I have 6 guitars: A Fender Stratocaster that I bought from Costco with a cool ass humbucker. A Miami pink Dean 88 that an aunt from New York sent me, which I want to fix. A Marca Diablo electric guitar and 3 First Act guitars. Also a small accordion to play merengue , a metal flute, a guira, a bongo, a random drum set founded in a corner on a street back home. Finally, a Chinese erhu(violin)
Is your family musical?
Actually yea, everyones grandparents in Puerto Rico has congas(Laughs loudly)
Were you influenced by old records & tapes? Which ones?
Yes! I used to own the "Black or White” Michael Jackson cassette. My mom smashed it on the floor one day when she got angry in a supermarket parking lot. Also “The Noise Live” and “The Noise 6” cassettes. Lastly the “Darkest Side Of The Moon” by Pink Floyd.
Do you teach music?
I'm really bad at teaching anything! If I can suggest on how to start learning guitar it would be to learn tab. Practice until you can play a song from different positions.
How do you handle mistakes during a performance?
Hahaha man.. Mistakes? I just go with it and recognize them, people need to know that it is just playing live and things happen. Just have fun with the awkward situations.
In your own words, how would you describe"Music From The Heart”
Music from the heart? It’s just music you create and feel. It’s something you have an urge to record. Make it so people can hear it and see how far can it goes.
Listen some of Jai Cletz's music here!