Talking art with Juan Wauters is refreshing. Taking my call from outside his house in Queens, New York, he explained how everything and nothing is art. The former The Beets frontman has embraced the business-side to being creative, and is forging plans to bring his North-American Poetry to the next level. We spoke about crazy people, performance art and being friends with The Beatles
Phone Interview by Sander van Dalsum. Photos shot by David Brandon Geeting in New York, USA.
‘I write a song about something that I have an issue with and that song will last forever.’
Hey Juan. Did you draw as a child?
Yeah, a lot! And I still do. I would draw the things that I imagined. I don’t exactly remember what, but I would just create landscapes with people. When I grew up, I kind of stopped drawing. But when I moved to New York I picked it up again. I mostly draw people that I imagine look good.
Like a potential trophy wife?
Yeah, I draw women that I like; I draw pictures of men that I like too. I like to draw their style, the way they carry themselves. It comes with different scenarios. Let’s say you want me to draw an ambulance hitting someone walking on the street, I’d like to draw that too. Just to see what comes out, you know?
You’re outside right now. Is there any art around you?
New York is a weird place. The architecture is really nice, the way the city is organised, how the people dress up; it’s all pretty artful. But in general, I don’t really like to go with the word ‘art’. Because once you say, ‘This is art and that’s not,’ you start qualifying things for irrelevant reasons. I like to think that everything is art. And also nothing is art, you know?
Name one thing that isn’t considered art in general, then…
That’s hard to say. There are some crazy people here in New York. They probably don’t think they’re creating art when they go all wild on the streets, but if you put that in the context of a gallery and called it performance art, people would probably go crazy over it.
So what makes an individual a decent artist?
To me, what’s really important is that someone’s personality comes through. That doesn’t mean you have to write songs that are about yourself, but mainly that something beyond the technicality of playing an instrument or making a painting shines through. Sometimes when I hear music, I find it hard to link it back to a person. I listen to The Beatles a lot. They are my friends. I know them really well – or at least I think I do. I can hear it in their music.
How would you express yourself if you weren’t allowed to write music any more?
Perhaps I’d start making movies. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. I would maybe get into painting, but music has been good for me. I write a song about something that I have an issue with and that song will last forever. I can remember where I was when I wrote any of the songs I’ve written so far. By listening I can remember how I was feeling at the time, how I was doing. It’s a very personal way to archive your feelings and visions. I’ve embraced my personality as a musician.
Are you a businessman when it comes to selling your ‘product’ to the ‘consumer’?
I would say that I’ve been trying to think about it. You know what? In the past, I never paid attention to this. I wasn’t interested in possibly making a living from it. However, one day I decided to give myself the chance to see if I could do it and to be honest, thinking about the business side of the project is just as important as the performance side of the project. I think I’ve been doing quite well at it based on my background in music. However, I see that there’s a lot of room for me to expand and keep on learning. Even though at times it becomes frustrating, thinking about the obligations of the business has been pretty joyful and enriching.