Teen idol-turned-producer, entrepreneur, and Wonderfruit co-creator Montonn “Jay” Jira is a man of many talents. Here he talks about his past, present, and future with Bangkok 101.
You’ve had a successful career in music by any measure, touring with artists like Justin Timberlake and Nelly Furtado and performing at Live Earth. What got you started in the stage side of the industry?
I have always thought of performance and production as different sides of the same coin. Learning to play an instrument early allowed for that side of music to take precedence. I only started recording and producing music after I had been in a few bands and wanted to record myself playing instruments and writing songs on my own. So from that angle, I started on the “stage” side quite a while before I got into the “studio” side of things. A natural progression was to get out and learn on the job, and so these opportunities came up for me to tour with some of the biggest acts in the world and play at the largest viewed concert event of all time and I happily took it.
You have a diverse background—producer, musician, model, actor, organizer, environmentalist. Do you have one role that you enjoy most?
Making music is probably what I enjoy the most, whether it’s doing it for myself or working with talented artists from all parts of the world. Everything else serves as breaks from the studio to allow for ideas to simmer and grow. With any creative endeavor, you need idle time to build and develop ideas. All my other projects allow for my “downtime” to still be focused on being creative in other fields.
How has your upbringing, having lived and travelled all over the world, shaped who you are today?
It allows for a much wider perspective of things in general. The same goes for knowing your history. Being able to experience the same type of happenings in different parts of the world gives you the choice of comparing and contrasting what you view as being relevant or important to you. I feel lucky to have been able to work and travel and be offered opportunities that seem unreal. It also means that I will need to continue to search for those opportunities to keep up with what it is I find satisfying.
Where did the idea for Wonderfuit come from, and how did it develop?
The idea for Wonderfruit came about when I was working on a campaign called Earthworks with my partner Pranitan. We wanted to launch a new “movement” with a small event, but were faced with roadblocks in terms of funding and execution. In 2014, Pranitan suggested that we open up our own company (Scratch First Co.) so that we would be able to source funding and put together this launch event. The idea grew from a small event in a park to one of the most talked about festivals in Asia. We threw ourselves into it not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. I’ve been involved in many events, music and entertainment related, from local music festivals to branded music campaigns and worldwide events, but nothing comes close to scratching the surface of what Wonderfruit provides in terms of content, experience, and messaging.
What makes Wonderfruit different from other music festivals?
Technically Wonderfruit isn’t a music festival. We have a very highly curated and expressive musical line up bringing some of the most interesting acts regionally, internationally, and locally to our stages, but we’re a celebration of the arts. Our weight in propelling our other pillars—Organic Farming and Feasts, Performances, Talks and Debates, Art Installations, and Workshops and Natural Adventures—plays an equal role to the music at Wonderfruit. In Thailand where people do not know of such festivals, we’re still categorized as a “music festival,” but underneath the lineup we’re much more than that.
Will there be anything new added to it this year?
We have a few things up our sleeves for this year. Some new structures, some expanded zones from last year, improvements on a lot of the facilities, land development and shade construction, re-creation of our stages and bar areas, with many new activities and workshops for all our attendees. The Living Stage is a work in progress and will continue to develop over time. We will be working with Joel, who had designed the buffaloes beside the Soi Stage last year.
What do you do to unwind when you’re in the city?
I don’t unwind in the city. I unwind when I’m at home, in the studio, or on the yoga mat.
What are you listening to at the moment?
All sorts. Basecamp, HWLS, Martyn, Valentin Stip, Chrome Sparks, Perc, Truss, Paula Temple, Ben Khan.
Are you working on any other projects?
Aside from the releases from my project Montonn & Hanna, I’m also working on a crowdfunding platform. Asiola.com is going to be an artist-to-fan platform that provides exclusive and highly curated experiences for super fans to interact with their favorite artists. Something new for the e-commerce world out here!