We had the good fortune of connecting with Juan Fernando Oña and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Juan Fernando, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
I didn’t know it at the time but on March 5th, 2020, I walked into the job site and found the job was cancelled due to the virus. Like many other folks in stages and events, our jobs were and still are, going to be amongst the last jobs to normalize. It wasn’t so much a thought process that lead me to launch Live Apparatus as it was a sort of calling by the times. It wasn’t just the lost jobs, our stages is what connects our artists to their fans. The need for a virtual venue and public access channel became blindingly clear to me. It just so happens that for all of 2019 I had already been developing streaming technology. At the time I had most of the gear but most importantly, I have friends and associates that have lent me or donated the missing pieces of the puzzle. A year ago a lot of folks though things would normalize by October 2020. I knew launching the channel was going to take months of work. If things were going to normalize by October, was it even worth it? A quick look at the political climate and an overwhelming amount of people who don’t take the science seriously, I knew we were in it for the long haul. I mean, what else was I gonna do? Sit around, make a garden and wait for the jobs to come back? Nah. So in March of 2020 I decided to collect unemployment, take out an SBA loan, call some friends, and dive in head first.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My art is my combined skill set and my skill set is a marriage of creativity and technical ability. My success is attributed to a stubborn, hell bent, determination to only do work I enjoy. I’ve always been more of a “Jack of all trades” than a master of something specific. I mean, until now ‘cause I’m pretty good at this streaming shows stuff. What I absolutely love about all of this is that it requires all of my skills, operating at full capacity, to pull this off and THAT is an amazing fucking feeling. When we go live, I get a high very similar to playing to a live audience. None of this is easy. To turn down a good paying job because you don’t like the vibe or because it doesn’t add to the bigger picture. To not know how you’ll have rent next month but you have to get that 3rd GoPro. To use most the emergency federal cheese on my non profit. Developing technology, getting everything to work together. lots of trial and error, not easy at all. If it was easy, it would be boring. I only do work I like because I like to pour myself into a it. I was never a good drummer by any stretch but no one noticed because I played like my life depended on it. If I made every snare hit sound like a gun shot, if I played so hard that my fingers bled, if I shook my head so violently that sweat goes flying in every direction, if I made eye contact with the fans and screamed the lyrics so hard that you could hear my un-mic’d voice over the band and audience, then maybe you won’t notice that I don’t really play fills or that I generally slow down around the choruses. And this is the lesson I learned when I first picked up a pair of sticks and is the lesson that is continuously reinforced with Live Apparatus, and is what I want people reading this to take away from all of this: There will be fuck ups but if you do things with love, people won’t notice or they won’t care…. hell, some will even join you.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Wow, you guys are making think back to pre-pandemic days here. Hmmm, where would I have taken a best friend before I was confined to solitude and lots of hair? Alright friend, so you’re getting off work on Friday, headed to Newark airport and I’ll see you at MIA, I can’t wait to see you and smell your weird head, check out this itinerary I made for us, don’t be a candy ass, we’re doing allllll of this: Friday: -Airport pickup at MIA -Nos vamos a calle Ocho for Cuban food and cafesito with the sounds of dominoes in the background. -We lock your bags in the van’s equipment cage and head over to Churchill’s cause Rat is doing some weird shit that night. -It’s also Artwalk so we can go walk around Wynwood, maybe checkout what’s happening at Gramps. -Sleep at my house that night, I have you all setup in the sound proofed live room cause I remember what it was like being roommates with you. Saturday: -You need some sun on that skin so after I make you breakfast, we’re going to the beach and getting churros at Manolo’s. -That night we’ll check out Poorhouse -If we’re not too tired we can burn stuff in the fire pit when we get home. Sunday: -If you’re still avoiding your family, we can go to my parent’s lake house and fire up the grill. Monday and Tuesday: We can go to the keys cause you have to see the 7 mile bridge. It’s a good couple of days to take off cause there ain’t much happening except Live Tuesdays but we can stream that from anywhere. Wednesday and Thursday: We are spending those days visiting my friends and other people I admire at their homes, studios, stores, and venues. This town and it’s scene is all about it’s people and the things they have built, so you have to meet some of these characters. Some stops include: The Shack North, Browner Sound, Dan Hosker Studio, Mr. Thrify, Fang’s Stage Coach, Sweat Records, Radioactive Records, The Bridge, Coral Gables Art Cinema, Frost Art Museum…There are so many others I want to show you, we’ll see what we have time for before I have to take your punk ass back to MIA on Thursday Night.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I couldn’t agree more with the sentiment of this question. Who deserves recognition here? Holy shit, everyone! In many ways, the entire scene has helped elevate this project. I would never have even been in the position to provide this service if it wasn’t for the years of support that our art community has given me. From booking my little bands, to folks giving me the chance I needed, or that boost of encouragement from a drunk fan when I’m starting to feel hopeless about our efforts. Shoutouts to people like Ferny Coipel of “The Shack North” and “Humbert”, Rat Bastard of “Dan Hosker Studio”, Lolo Reskin of “Sweat Records”, Rob Elba (Music Scene Patriarch), Dave Daniels, Nikki Bowe and Mr. C of “Churchill’s Pub”, Tony Kapel and Maite Urrechaga of “Pocket of Lollipops” and “Houndstooth Cottage”, Kevin Hart of “Mr. Video” out in Omaha, Jaquin, and without a doubt: my family. While it’s many folks that elevated this project, It’s my crew that helped me build this, they are the ones that keep the shows going. I’ve been friends, band members, and project partners with Omar Garcia of Browner Sound for over 20 years.He’s my brother from another mother, the Lucious Fox to my Batman and arguably my first man crush ever. He helps me fix and build gear and does all the live sound during the shows. Then there’s the host of Live Tuesdays: Erin Lee, who other than being an amazing human, is the actual catalyst of our show. I spent all of 2019 developing streaming technology for Erin’s show “Open Swim.” It was this labor of love that gave me the head start I needed to make all of this happen. A few times I have had to leave town on personal emergency and the burden of keeping the show going has often fallen on Sesha Ann Martin. If it wasn’t for Sesha some of our coolest shows would not have happened. We built a very safe and socially distanced workflow here. However, the person who probably takes the greatest personal risk is our cameraman Gabriel Sanchez who is the only crew member in the live room with the band during the performance. Other than Sesha saving my ass a few times, the other people responsible for our continued longevity are all the bands that have played here. With lights, smoke, and other trickery, we worked hard to create an environment for the bands that doesn’t feel like you’re playing to an empty room. I thought this was key to getting good performances. And boy have the bands noticed! The look on their faces after probably having played their first show in months, is truly the greatest gift of all of this. I might have thrown in the towel by now if it wasn’t for them.
Other: Venmo: @LiveApparatus