Arja Wawo-Runtu | Deep Sea Explorers

by the partae

How did you start in music?

I started getting interested in music at a very young age. There has always been a draw to it for me, but it wasn’t until I was a teenager when I decided to take it seriously. I was very fortunate at that time to stumble into an extensive collection of classic records from the likes of David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Velvet Underground, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Beatles and all the rock & roll giants, the list is almost endless. Didn’t take long before I became obsessed, figuring out my favorite musicians influences and finding out who they’ve influenced. I decided to go all the way, like Charles Bukowski said “If you are going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start.”, and so I did.

I started as a band manager for a high school band, learning about how bands work, it didn’t take me long to start my first band, I was going back and forth Jogja, Jakarta and Bali at that time learning how to play music. The first band in Jakarta became a learning experience; we cut a few singles that opened up to other opportunities. I disbanded the group in 2010 due to personal reasons and started Deep Sea Explorers in 2012. We went to cut our EP that won the national Independent Cutting Edge Music Award (ICEMA) and the 2016 Hard Rock national battle of the band. We are currently in progress of recording our debut concept album, due to be released sometime this year.


Please give an example of your music writing process?

Music writing is at times a delicate process, sometimes it feels like I am tuning in to a subconscious radio station. It can be difficult when you are not tuning into the right mind. But when the time is right, things can come naturally. Although I have to say that I am more of a songwriter than a guitar player, meaning I can play simple progressions and write lyrics for the songs. From there I take the song to the group for suggestions, second opinions and elaborate on how I feel about the song direction, from there the group can work on the music in its entirety.


How did you start in music and art direction and what does this role involve? What are the most memorable projects have you worked on?

I started in music and art direction by default, I grew up in a family that is surrounded by art, my grandfather was a photographer and all around art entrepreneur, my grandmother was a painter and a designer, my father is a self-taught architect and an antique collector. So it was pretty natural for me to take this direction growing up. I am currently working in Hank’s Pizza and Liquor as an Art & Music director, my role is to curate for DJs, Musicians, artists, photographers and so on. Other than that I throw independent art exhibitions under Cross Collaboration, a pop-up gallery event that I started recently, I also organize live music and dj events for fun. The most memorable projects I’ve done this year was between this collaborative electronic psychedelic band called Grandfather Medicine and my last pop up exhibition at Square One, Sanur.

Grandfather Medicine was a music project started by Andriesh Gandrabur, an electronic music producer from a label called Gamelan Records in Moscow. We had 10 musicians playing live instrumentations of electronic music and a group of Traditional Gamelan players collaborating for a few songs; it was a really great experience.


You’re the lead vocalist for Bali, Indonesian band Deep Sea Explorers, how did the band start? 

Deep Sea Explorers started in August 2012, the group started when I was contacted by Hendro who once filled in as a bass player in my previous band project. He asked me if I’m interested in starting a new project with him. He introduced me to our drummer Palel and our guitarist Momo. Since then we’ve been very good friends, playing in various places around the island and touring other parts of Indonesia to promote our work when we have the chance.


What are you working on right now?

I am currently working on several projects. Including the Deep Sea Explorers debut album. Other than that I’ve been working as an independent art curator and event organizer for Cross Collaboration; a pop-up art event for the young emerging artists in Bali.

I’ve also taken up a position as the music and art director for Hanks Pizza & Liquor in Seminyak, managing events for live performers, djs, artists and photographers. On top this I’ve also been very motivated to start my own independent movement, finding whatever ways I could help to raise fund for various humanitarian and environmental causes across the island. What else? I make art and do some freelance graphic design for art and music events.


What is your gear setup?

Boss VE 20 Vocal effects, Shure SM 47 and 48, a simple and practical effect for equalization and precise reverb or delay.


What do you like to do outside of music and does it affect your music?

I like to do art, graphic design, organize exhibitions, study films, photography, architecture, interior design and most things that relates to creativity. It keeps me busy, happy and inspired.


How would you describe your music genre?

So far I don’t think I will be limiting my music to a certain genre, although there are certain characteristics of music that my group is greatly affected and inspired by individually. We are pretty open to play around with our musical direction as we grow. For our debut album, we took a turn to make a concept album that is inspired by Blues Rock, Surf Rock, Grunge, Psychedelic Rock, Punk Rock and a little bit of this and that.


Do you know any music theory?

I find myself more of a subconscious theorizer. I did start playing guitar by learning classical, but it didn’t last very long. My girlfriend was a classical violin student, so she’s been helping me by teaching me this and that. Palel and Hendro, my band mates are currently studying music in The Art Institute of Indonesia, so they’re way better at music theory than I am.


What are your plans for the future?

My plan is just to continue doing what I love doing, work hard and see where it takes me. I want to gain more experience playing music and travel the world.


What are you listening to at the moment?

I listen to so many things, as I don’t limit my musical taste to a particular genre. If it’s good, it’s good. Recently I’ve been digging Dorothy Ashby, Sun Ra, Francis Bebey, Fela Kuti, a little bit of Hip hop, Post Punk and Classical at home. When I do go out I like to listen to a lot of my friends DJ, Archie, Trigan Young, Dr. Kessler, Doctor Yez, Seabass, Kai, Dubwill, Syviov, Sylvie Foret, Mistral, Kasimyn, Los Brengos and a lot of other talented DJs picking songs for me.

Side note: This Frankfurt producer DJ ATA and Rico Loop played a killer set for the closing set of Air Festival this year.


Who are your top 5 influences and icons?

There are too many to list into five, but if I have to say, it would be David Bowie, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain, Peggy Guggenheim and my grandfather Wija Waworuntu.

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When are you playing next?

Deus Ex Machina on Sunday the 30th of April and Old Man’s Friday, May 5th, the rest of the dates will be announced in the Deep Sea Explorers Facebook and Instagram page.


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