Interviewed by: Michael Winsall
Daniel Susnjar is a well-seasoned Jazz musician whose band, the Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group, recently won the Western Australian Music award for Jazz song of the year. Off the back of a national tour, we asked him a few questions on the state of local music, and any tips he might have for aspiring musicians.
Congratulations of on winning WAM Jazz song of the year! What do you feel WAM means to you and other local musicians?
Thanks! WAM is an organisation which supports WA musicians performing in a wide range of genres and using a variety of approaches. It is an integral part of the local music community.
Having played all over the world, is there anything you find unique to the music scene in perth?
The music scene in Perth is an incredible incubator of talent. Throughout my formative years in the geographic isolation of Perth, with only a limited amount of touring artists visiting WA at that time (compared to the amount visiting Perth now), myself and many peers sought to achieve musical standards inspired by the music being made in locations such as New York, Los Angeles and London. That was our yardstick. Looking back, I feel that music from the east coast of Australia was on my radar to a minimal degree. This is perhaps a good and bad thing, but I certainly had an urge to want to be based overseas for a period of time (Miami for 5 years) to gain further experience and to ultimately develop a more unique form of expression as a performer and composer.
Perth has seen a significant ebb and flow in small to medium venues lately. Apart from spaces to perform, is there anything else you can think of that would help aspiring musicians in WA?
I would say that goal setting would be a valuable skill to develop. That could translate into setting up a regional or national tour, applying to perform at a music conference, or shooting a high quality promo music video of your band’s strongest song. Basically, any activity of this kind can have a strong motivational and inspirational effect on you and your band mates. It’s up to you to decide which activity is most timely with regard to the further development and success of your band.
You’ve performed with numerous musicians, both here and abroad. What would you say is your favourite experience recording with another artist?
I’ve enjoyed many live and studio recording experiences for a number of different reasons. There are many factors which lead to an enjoyable recording experience and a high quality recorded performance. It’s truly impossible for me to sing out one particular recording experience, but a short list would include Chick Corea, Steve Miller, Pharrell Williams, Troy Roberts, Chad Bernstein and the Gabriel Alegria Afro-Peruvian Sextet.
Only a few days ago, the Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group filmed a live in-studio performance with an audience in attendance. This, to me, was a highlight because it demanded that I simultaneously apply a number of skill sets which were essentially developed in isolation.
So, getting back to the question about advice for WA artists, bite off a little more than you can chew!
Are there any local musicians/bands that you think are currently underrated?
There are many local artists which I really enjoy. Check out Ricki Malet, Luke Minness, Harry Mitchell, Jeremy Thomson, Zac Grafton, Iain Robbie, Chris Foster and Nick Abbey for starters. They are all award-winning, accomplished musicians who I have the honour of performing with in a variety of musical situations.
Are there any albums you’ve been enjoying lately?
Yes! My car’s CD stacker (old school!) currently features:
Billie Holiday- Lady in Satin
Prince- The Hits 1
Michael Jackson- Number Ones
Prince- Hit and Run Vol 2
James Taylor- Gorilla
Earth Wind and Fire- I am
What are your plans for the rest of 2016?
I’m heading back to Melbourne for a series of performances- including my Afro-Peruvian jazz Group playing on June the 8th at Paris Cat. I’ll be releasing my follow-up album in late 2016 and am working on releasing a series of educational materials focused on applying Afro-Peruvian rhythms to the drum set. I’ve also been presenting drum clinics as a recently-signed Pearl, Remo and Zildjian endorser.
You can see all of Daniel’s latest activities, and check out the Daniel Susnjar Afro-Peruvian Jazz Group at www.danielsusnjar.com.