Unsure about his future Josh was looking for direction. The handpan helped defined a new path and began to change his life. From player to tuner to maker, hear the remarkable transformation story of Josh Rivera as he unveils his new handpan brand to the public: Veritas Sound Sculpture.
Sylvain: Hey, it's Sylvain and this is the handpan podcast.
Sylvain: This may seem like an odd introduction for this episode, but bear with me here. It will make sense. I want to talk about YouTube for a moment. If you've listened to this podcast at all, you've heard multiple mentions of YouTube as the way many of us discovered the handpan and developed a passion. YouTube was a new distribution model. Unlike traditional media like cable TV or radio, which need their content to appeal to a broad enough audience, YouTube allowed for anyone to share their art, however specific or niche it may be. The point is YouTube at first was not about financial viability. It was about the simple joy of creating. It gave people a voice and man, I mean, do you remember these early years on YouTube discovering and marveling at the Epic and hilarious and just overall remarkable things that everyday people do. Now, it's interesting to me that the beginning of YouTube coincided with the arrival of the Hang from PANArt. Obviously we know that YouTube largely contributed to catapult the Hong from a quiet local invention to a global phenomenon, but I think there's a deeper parallel here, maybe even a cultural shift, just like YouTube allowed for anyone to share their art unlike traditional media, the Hang allowed for anyone to create music and like traditional musical instruments. The result: we discovered hidden treasures that we would have otherwise missed. And these hidden treasures aren't events isolated in time either. No. They shape our lives. In a world of cause and effect. Some of these hidden treasures had an effect far exceeding their cause. Josh Rivera is a prime example of this and I am delighted to bring Josh back to the podcast to tell you more about his personal story and also to catch you up on what he's been up to recently. So here we go.
Sylvain: Josh, welcome back to the podcast.
Josh: Yeah, thank you. Thank you. Nice to hear you again.
Sylvain: Yeah, I know you're my first repeat guest on the show.
Josh: That's a huge honor on this episode, that's for sure.
Sylvain: Yeah, I feel like it's a celebration.
Josh: Yeah, it is. A lot has changed over the last year.
Sylvain: I know. And that's kind of what I want to ask you about because you've had a really busy year. So last year you and I did an episode called the art of blending. We talked about handpan tuning how artful and organic and just fascinating it is. But in that conversation we didn't actually get too much into your own story and that's kind of what I want to do today, sort of leading back up to this milestone, this big announcement that you have to make. But I think it's necessary to draw that picture to sort of build that backdrop before we can get there. Does that sound okay?
Josh: Yeah, yeah. No, that'd be great.
Sylvain: Yeah. So I know that you go way back and so I definitely do want to take some time to like talk about what you've been up to recently, but I thought, um, why don't you do a quick chronological timeline of your history with this instrument? How did it all begin?
Josh: Oh, uh, long story short would be a 2006. It was about when YouTube came out, I believe, maybe somewhere close to there, maybe 2004 or five at the earliest or so. And I was always a a percussionist in a world drummer. I was got really obsessed with a, actually when YouTube came out it got pretty obsessed with tabula and watching darbouka players from all over the world and just having my mind blown by what people are just doing in their homes that aren't these big famous people on stage that was just blow me away that the, I don't know, I'm just a person who can sit down and just like, this is what I do and I'm going to share it with you on YouTube. And it's some of the most amazing things I've ever seen. You know, outside this professional world of musicians, you're finding all these people that they just do this stuff every day in their own houses. And I was fascinated with it. So I got lost on YouTube for a lot hours, hours on the weeks. And, um, so then one day I was looking up tabla performances and came across a player that was playing the Hong Kong and the pan art Hang and I got incredibly lost as you can imagine. And went down the rabbit hole of trying to say, basically I am going to do whatever it takes to buy this instrument. It's just going to happen. I'm getting one today. And a lot of us know, especially especially like you and I being at the very beginning of this, we realized that that wasn't exactly so possible. Um, so by the time, you know, it took me, it totally took me about three days to even find out what the instrument was. Um, lots and lots of research. Later I finally found it and found the forum or the original forum, um, that was all about the hand pan and all his handpan enthusiasts. Um, at the time there was no handpan. It was just the Hang and so at the all these hung enthusiasts and I got directed towards Ron Kravitz, uh, through the forum and Ron Kravitz said his, he can't help me out. At that time, but he directed me to a gentleman in Canada and I sent him an email and he's gave me his email address and told him email and right away because he's going to be going to Bern too. Um, I apparently, I guess a panel that used to just open up, um, periodically to sell instruments, they'd have people out and it was like a big, um, almost, you know, just kind of like a big gathering, you know, people would show up and they'd get to pick their instruments. They would, jam, hang out was like the original hand pan gathering. Right? Yeah. And so he said he goes there to help, um, help out with the English speaking, uh, for the people that come out with, from around the world. And that if I emailed him right away I could maybe get on his list before he went. So I sent an email, told him I was incredibly interested. Uh, what would it take to, to get ahold of a, of a Hang and I kid you not? I had no, I had just sent the email, I clicked send and I got a phone call within maybe two minutes maybe, and it was so fast and it was him. And he just said, Hey, I am leaving for Bern next week. I have one spot left on my list. Um, I can bring back a handful of instruments to sell as a kind of a thank you for helping out. And I've got one spot on the list, so I need to know pretty much right now if you're serious about this and if so I need you to send as much money to Switzerland. And I'm sitting here just thinking, I was like, no, this has gotta be a scam. It's gotta be someone just sitting around waiting for some guy like me to come along, send an email, and then just get an easy check from this guy. Right. And, and I still would hit and did it like, uh, I was like, sure, okay, bye. You know, like whatever it takes. And so I wrote a check and I sent it off and I, well, I, I remember I turned around and looked at my wife and I was like, Oh, we've got to talk. I just committed to something that might be a little bit unorthodox, but, um, so yeah, I had gotten really lucky. I sent the check to Switzerland and three months later I got to pick the scale, um, which, you know, nowadays, and as you can imagine, I was at the very, very, very end of when they ship them out and getting to pick the scale that they were going to build for me was another, uh, another rarity. And so, um, yeah, I got to pick the scale. And so from the day I first saw the home to the time it was in my lap was actually about three months. And that was back in 2006. And so the way everything kind of fell fell into place. It was almost just like this natural progression that was kind of just. It felt like this was my, this is my new path, if you will. And everything from there, from the time that Hang showed up, I kind of feel like it kind of took over the rest of my life in a, in a really good way. You know, this, um, I had, I was kind of in the middle of life where there was a lot of directions trying to decide which direction I wanted to take for my future and what kind of things I to do and what kind of jobs I wanted to have or what was it gonna be. And I was kind of struggling actually, you know, there's like, we all go through that period, you know, we have those periods in life where you really want to have your purpose and your goal laid out for you in a way and not necessarily laid out for you, but you really want to know what that is and when you're trying to search that out and you can't find it, it's a really, it's a really difficult time. And, um, I was really, really just kinda confused and lost and it came along and the next thing you know, it changed my musical approach and understanding. Next thing you know, I was performing a lot with it. Next thing I knew I was traveling with it. And then next thing I know I was meeting all these people from around the world and it just kind of, it, it just kind of was that object that helped define a new path. And so, um, yeah, that's kind of my quick, short little story on how, what my history is with the Hang.
Sylvain: yeah. Yeah. What I, what I love is the transformation. I mean, there was a clear before and after and obviously it took, you know, 13 years between the time that you discovered the Hang and, and where you're at today. But, um, yeah, I mean, I, I love what you just shared that you, back then you didn't really have a clear sense of direction for your life and, and that this instrument has played a big role. Um, and it's been really neat to, to see that, um, solidify and sort of morph into, uh, what seems like from the outside your life's calling. I mean it seems like you were made to do what you're doing when you first discovered the Hang and then handpans. Did you know from day one that you would be tuning steel or, or would you have never imagined that that's the direction your life would take?
Josh: Oh, no, I, there's no way I would've ever, if from the first day I saw the Hang, you know, even the first day I played it, there was never an inkling that this would be something I would get into my, my, my dream. When I first got one, I was like, I want it to be pretty much like I wanted to be like David Cooperman. You know, I was like, I want to play really well, I want to practice and I want to perform and all that stuff. And um, yeah, in the end I just found out, well, Hey, I don't have the, I, I didn't have the degree of passion to practice like you need to. And I found that my, my, my joy on the, on the handpan was because I had studied tabla and I'd studied darbuka and I, you know, there's so many right ways to do it and so many wrong ways to do it. And when I first saw the home, um, it just felt like a completely blank clean slate for something that I didn't feel like I could do wrong or I could do right. And it was just something that just sounded amazing. I could just sit down and truly enjoy myself without having to thinking, you know, thinking to myself like, what would people say about it online? And I remember the very first YouTube video I ever posted. I mean, it's quite, I'm playing terribly on it really. I'm hitting it hard. It's blaring out at me. I mean, I'm doing all the wrong things, but, um, you know, I, that's, I had like what I, especially at that time, I didn't realize this could be a thing. I think I had like 30,000 views on that video and I was just like, what? And I look back at it now, I'm like, man, that was some really bad playing, but it didn't really matter because nobody knew any better. You know, it was just a really cool new instrument. And then if someone was just having fun and that's how all those videos were at the beginning was just, you know, it just, it was just a neat new experience and there was no judgment. It was just like, wow, that is amazing. And um, yeah, yeah, some simple, simple times, you know?
Sylvain: Yeah, definitely. And to a certain extent, I think that's how it should continue to be because we put these expectations and fears, comparisons. Yeah. And actually something that I often talk about, uh, mentioning you is that whenever we're at a gathering and you're performing, you're always improvising. And to me, one that's super refreshing because you play something that's totally unique and new. Second, it takes a lot of courage to, um, put yourself out there and, and to create in the moment. So all that to say that I just think that your history with the instrument is such a good, um, example. It's such a, you're such an ambassador for this art form. And, and I also love that, um, even though you've evolved into being a super human, um, you know, we can still relate to you because you're also a handpan player and, uh, you experienced the simple joy of creating. Um, so, and I, and I'm gonna build a little bit more suspense here before we get to the, the big announcement. But talk to me about the years with Mark at Saraz. Uh, does the volume kind of being thrown into this, this, um, company that is one of the world's best handpan, uh, makers, um, that produced a lot of handpans. So we went from total scarcity to having your hands on a lot of instruments. What was that like personally?
Josh: Oh, it's quite, it was quite intense as you can imagine. Um, I had started to learn to tune about maybe a year before I joined them. And so I had gotten to the point where, um, I was decently being able to, you know, control frequencies and, um, not struggling too hard to get notes in a tune, but, you know, it's still definitely very green, very new to the forum. And so when I joined Saraz, a market actually just hurt his back pretty badly. And so he has tuning was kind of out of commission to a point you can only do so much. And you know, there was altogether maybe five or six employees maybe at that time. Yeah, maybe even six or seven employees. And so, you know, as you can imagine, if tuning stops a lot stops in the whole company. And so when I jumped in, it was pretty much trial by fire. Um, I, you know, to get me warmed up, they created a chromatic set, which, uh, you know, Mark was always has. His dream was always to try to build his chromatic sets. And, um, so we are diving into that because there was an album being recorded, um, with EW. Harris out of New York. Uh, he was coming up to do this album, uh, which was a wonderful album. He's such a good, talented musician and writer. Um, and so we were creating this set for that album and, um, it gave me a chance to tune pretty much every note that they, um, that they did. And that's where I was created. And so I tuned all the notes, um, pretty much right off the bat. And, uh, and granted it was like before all this, you know, there was a build up to the job and I had, you know, he had had me out doing one of the festivals and, uh, let me spend, uh, was hangout USA and I spent maybe a couple of days afterwards spending time with him and just talking about tuning and talking about the whole company. Is that something I would be interested in? And of course, of course I was. And so he's said, why don't you come back in October and spend another week with me? We can do tunings, see how things go. And, um, after all that, you know, he was, he's like, you pretty much. You've got, you know, how to tune and you've got a job if you want it. And living in North Dakota, we're like, yeah, done. Let's move to Asheville from Carolina where it's beautiful and the weather's much, much nicer and a, I get to work with this awesome company and these great people. And um, so yeah, so it was, uh, it was really intense to move out the, to quit the job and have our whole family move out for this really interesting new medium, uh, where, you know, it's, it's not like going to become a doctor becomes something, you know, or, or any other job that seems much more traditional. This was a very outside the box kind of a thing to jump into. And so there's always that little bit of fear. And then, yeah, it was pretty much going into tuning for customers and, um, having people, you know, there's names on these instruments. This isn't just me sitting in my basement anymore, you know, hammering and there's actually a name on it and this is going to go to someone. And, um, so it was very, it was incredibly exciting and incredibly intense and I had lots and lots of meltdowns where I was just terrified or not being good enough, terrified at not. Uh, you know, like not learning enough to, to be better and all kinds of insecurities that come out of this. Um, but I think tuning steel in general is a very, uh, I think I said it in our last podcast, I feel like it's like into a mirror at all times. Um, it just, uh, reflects a lot where you're at when you're working in a steel, you know, if you start having emotional, if your emotions get too heavy, there's probably something going on you to step back from and the steel will let you know that really quickly. Um, and so there was a lot of change in the air. And then we kind of slowly but surely kind of fell into more of a, a normal, um, groove with each other. And then, um, yeah, it was just, I think, I think in that my entire time there I tuned, I don't know, uh, maybe around 300 shifty, about 350 instruments, um, in the course of about, uh, almost four years. And so, you know, and not, not, not, not, you know, a ton of time, but if I add up all the retunes as well with that, those four years, I mean, I pretty much, I feel like those four years were nothing but tuning. So just tuning in, tuning in, tuning. So, um, it was an incredible experience. I got to cut my teeth in a lot of different ways, um, through, you know, just developing, uh, the Saraz with Mark and then doing retunes on the side for other, for other builders and everything. It was this four years. It's four years of intense education.
Sylvain: Yeah. And so throughout that time, you continued to, uh, come to gathering during and to contribute in all sorts of really cool ways. Like you came up with a wax as a substitute for lubricants like seal 1, or frog lube that would have a tendency to dampen the sustain of instruments. And, and then parallel to that, you started your tuning business, Rivera still tuning. So I was that one more step towards sort of owning up that work and making it even more personal. Now. You were the name, you know the business that people were interacting with.
Josh: Yeah. Yeah. That's a, those it's kinda funny cause everything, all, all of the, Oh, like both of those things, the wax development and then Rivera steel tuning weren't anything that necessarily came out of long time, um, thoughts and aspirations as much as they were kind of just reactions. And so the, the wax came from the reaction of having, um, the, uh, a couple times where Saraz had gotten incredibly muffled and it didn't happen every single time. It would just, you know, sometimes it would happen and that was realized. It's like, well, I don't want it to ever happen. And, uh, once we kind of figured out that was what was going on, I just tried some things and um, tried different formulas and luckily it worked. And so the wax kind of was born out of a reaction to, you know, these negatives that I was seeing enough times when you, when you, when you oil that, you know, three instruments a week, three, four instruments that week, he starts to kind of, you know, you just kind of pick up on these differences. It would sound great. I had oil and nothing. Let's try something else and Rivera Steel Tuning was kind of a reaction as well to a market changes in, you know, the world growing, growing exponentially in the hand pan, building with different companies, able to so much mass produce these days. Um, it's kind of, you know, it gets really scary for a new builder or a, or even existing builders. It becomes a very scary thing. Um, it, you know, it's kind of threatening in a way. Uh, you start to kind of just get a little paranoid that how's this going to affect sales? Will I be, okay, will I still be able to put food on the table. And I had been doing so much retuning and I realized I really enjoy it. And so I decided to, um, if there's going to be this many hand pans in the world, um, there's gonna have to be people that know how to service them and you know, a luthier if you will for, for the hand pans. And, um, so I figured I'd go ahead and just put that out there and start having that as something that could help just keep a, keep myself on my toes. I think turn, tuning other people's stuff can be incredibly, incredibly, um, uh, eyeopening when you start seeing how many ways there are to get an instrument back into tune. And then in how many ways people build. And sometimes you see some of the, I've, well, I've seen some of the weirdest instruments that went dialed in can sound surprisingly nice. You know, you'll see this like really odd shape that you're not used to or these really odd ways of getting it. There are different kinds of steel and every once in awhile you're, I'm shocked at how nice it can sound. And so, um, it's uh, it always key and it keeps you thinking outside your own box and it's really easy. I think one of the hardest things about building is it's really easy to fall into a rabbit hole that you know, you, it's hard to tell if it's the direction you want to be going or if it's just the direction you're in and almost stuck in or not. And so I think doing retunes on other people's instruments and it's kind of helps keep that fresh and just kind of helps you always keep your focus on your ears more than, um, your experience per se. And, um, so yeah, both of those things kind of just, again, nothing I would have ever really thought, Oh, one day I'll be doing this. It was just kind of like, this seems to make sense right now. And um, and I'm really enjoying it, so I might as well just push it one step farther.
Sylvain: Yeah. So now we're here and that next step was for you to start making your own handpans.
Sylvain: So you just made the announcement at reminiscence, the Hampton gathering, the remarkable hand pin gathering that you and chef de David Galleher put together. It was an amazing time and you revealed to us that you had been working for five or six months really hard and building these amazing instruments which you brought, which I got to try. Um, and, and so here is this new chapter. So man, so first congrats. Um, tell me about the Veritas sound sculpture.
Josh: Yeah. So yeah, that's um, gosh, yeah, I started to really want to after I think, I think the retuning business actually is the one that really started opening my eyes to having an idea of what I wanted to hear after playing so many different people's instruments and looking under the hood and understanding more and more and more about the steel. Um, I really started to know what I was more attracted to. Whereas, you know, before I never really knew what I liked or what I was looking for. I'm more more, I was always reacting to what I didn't like in the instrument and always trying to be like, okay, well, like, here's this issue. Let me try to fix that. And then you fix that and then you kind of move on to the next issue and all that stuff. And this many years later I started to kind of see what I like and um, it just, I started, you know, kinda in the back of my head formulating what I would, what I would do if it was me. I'm doing it from start to finish and what I would like to hear and feel and all these things based on the experience of so many different people's instruments. And so, um, yeah, I came up with the idea, the idea of, you know, building Veritas the name actually came, my wife, uh, came up with that because we, it's something I've been thinking about for quite awhile. And naming your instrument is a really, really hard task. I didn't realize if all of the things, I mean, building an instrument is hard. Coming up with a name for it was almost even harder. And, um, Veritas came from Marie. We woke up one morning and she was like, what about Veritas one? It kinda sounds like your last name or their, you know, that kind of plays off Ri-Veritas. And I was like, Oh , that's fun. And, um, she's like, you're very honest person. You tend to sometimes be maybe too honest and you know, so Veritas in Latin means truth and, um, you know, trying to push for a true sound, you know, this sound that I am truly attached to. So there was a lot of meaning behind a truth hand pans, which is a true sound sculpture, which is basically just trying to stay, I don't know, I'm trying to space to stay transparent and honest about the instruments of belt or quality about what the intention is, what the purpose is and all that. And, um, and it's something that I think has spent years developing and, uh, was, you know, I think I feel ready to kind of put that into practice. And then also the V for Veritas. Um, I was going on my fifth year as a professional tuner, I guess, uh, it would be if that's usable in the word professional or not, but the, um, I have five years of tuning and so, um, so there's a larger V in the, uh, in the logo and that that represents the number five, which again, yeah, like I said, it's just the five years of development and um, yeah, so it all kind of just tied together. And it's funny cause even when she first said, it was like, I don't know. And then it just stuck. And the more we dove into it, the more meaning we found behind it. And, um, yeah, that's where it came from is uh, what was that one morning of just really intense chat with my wife. So it was really nice.
Sylvain: Well, it's a really cool name. And um, I mean it's so powerful that all your experience, not only tuning with Saraz but also retuning dozens of different hand pan makes, really informed what you wanted your secret ingredient to be. And, and, and not only is it a true experience, but you're remaining true to yourself. And I think you know what you're looking for. Um, talk to me about who this instrument is for?
Josh: Sure. So this is where, this is where I probably still find myself as I build in more like finding myself in a deeper, deeper understanding of what I'm going for, which, um, it's really tough. So the part I get excited about is learning how to build for the individual and what I'm starting to learn. The more and more I play these instruments and the more scales I play as that. And a lot of ways certain scales are asking for a certain sound to a point. So if I have a person that wants, say, like a, a C# Celtic minor and they just want seven notes, chances are that person really, really loves a nice open, blooming long sustaining sound because that scale isn't, isn't, um, musically challenging. It's not one that makes you have to stop and compose. It's one that you can really just get lost in. And then if I have someone that were to order, say a, an F# Romanian hit jazz, you know, 16 notes, um, chances are that person is going to be a pretty percussive or be very compositional or both. And with a lot of half steps in it, like a head jazz has or a lot of, you know, these harmonic minor scales have a lot of these half steps. It's really hard to have a long sustaining stainless steel sounding instrument with all these half steps going on. Um, because now you're having a lot of dissonance sustaining for seconds at a time. And, um, so I find that that kind of a scale sounds, it's, at least to me, you know, it's like, obviously it's always kind of like, this is what I'm perceiving is probably happening, so therefore I just need to go for it. And my perception is that every time I play a scale, like an F# Romanian Hijaz with 16 and 17 notes on it or whatever, um, I really like it to be a little more staccato and you know, still gonna have some sustain to it and everything's gonna still gonna have like a nice balance to it, but it's going to be probably more subdued, subdued because that kind of for, you know, certain kinds of players. It's the player that's being accentuated more than the instrument. So the person, you know, a person that's been a, you know, a master percussionist would want to, I want to hear as a percussionist myself, I really want to hear what their hands are doing without the, um, the sound and sustain and bloom of the instrument. Taking that over and a, and vice versa. You know, a person that's really looking to just sit down and express themselves in a really meditative way or you know, and still may be able to do some percussive stuff. I might want a different kind of an instrument. And so I'm kind of in this place of trying to understand, I've spent a lot of time building a, you know, I was in those couple months before I, uh, released everything at or talked about it and brought it up to reminiscence handpan gathering was that I was building some really short sustaining instruments and then some really long sustaining instruments and trying to understand can I, can, can I to an extent control that, um, and then understand what scales kind of lean towards a certain sound and then what kind of player leans towards what that is. And is that something I can, you know, honestly provide an offer or, or not. And um, so yeah, I'm going now the next that's kinda feels like the next rabbit hole is, is just understanding what, what is it going to be that it brings out the player and not so much the instrument taking over. You know, I really, I feel like this instrument is really expressive of who's behind it. And I think in some ways the instrument, um, if it's built, you know, I, I, I mean, I could be wrong. This is always personal opinion of course, but sometimes I think there's a, there's a leaning towards the instrument kind of taking over the player. If you sit down with it and instantly just brings all this sound out, it's amazing. It's a really cool shock and awe feeling when you first sit down with it. Um, but is that gonna stifle the player and hold them back or is it gonna bring them out? And I think that's really important to understand as a player looking for a new instrument is, um, which one brings the most of you out of it and is the instrument actually shadowing over that person? And it can from there. I sometimes I'm like, I don't know. I can just rant forever about what I could think about it. But that's pretty much the mentality I have when I'm sitting down behind an instrument or if I'm trying someone's out is that, you know, what does it do for me and, um, does it make me want to sit down and does it start just there? There's certain instruments that, you know, that feeling when you sit down in your hands just don't want to stop going. And um, through everyone it's different. And the idea, I think one of the hardest things I had to mentally prepare myself for was that inevitably I'm probably not gonna be able to make an instrument that is for everyone, you know, the, the idea to walk away from this idea, um, drive to be like, I want to build the most universal instrument. Um, versus the one that I guess, you know, you can, I can only do as good as I, I can for what I know and what I know. I like his kind of, um, scale dependent I guess.
Sylvain: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. And I think you and I had chatted about this idea that if everyone likes you, no one will love you and sure. And it sounds like you're really pushing custom-made hand pans to the next level. A handpan tailored to the player, a tambour, a sound texture tailored to the sound model. I mean this is all really remarkable and it's, it's cool. I don't think I have heard this, um, from anyone else yet. So I'm really glad that you're exploring the Avenue. Talk to me about, um, kinda the months leading up to this, this launch. Did you keep it entirely private? Um, what are some of the roadblocks or lessons that you learned through this phase of sort of pre launch?
Josh: Hmm. Well, um, I guess right now I've been, it's almost, it almost feels like I'm cheating cause I kinda feel like a little too relaxed about everything. Um, I've, I've been happy to take my time. Um, I've been really enjoying not having pressure. And so this whole time of building, no one's been asking me for anything or wondering when anything's gonna be ready or really, like I haven't had any kind of push permission all besides what I put on myself. Um, the biggest push I felt was actually getting ready for reminiscence so I could show, you know, I wanted to bring something nice. But I just started building my own instruments three months before that. And so I was hammering like crazy, trying to learn as fast as I can. So I at least have something decent to bring there. And um, so now that that phase is over and I've kind of got that, that, that fear and worry about presenting myself for the first time out of the way, um, now it's mostly just been kind of casually getting, getting my more of my, um, my mentality in line about what I want to, how I want to sustain as if let's say, you know, let's say best case scenario, say it's successful, how do I want to sustain that and what kind of things should I watch out for and what kinds of things do I want to make sure I know? What kind of traps do I want to not fall into? Where can I say yes and where do I wanna say no? Um, kind of getting, getting that mentality side. Um, as you know, I know I've been fortunate to be friends with a lot of amazing, incredible builders and I've gotten to see, you know, where the pain comes from and where the satisfaction comes from. Um, and a lot of different ways and a lot of different avenues. And so trying to cultivate that information into, um, into what I would like to be and what I think I could sustain being. And so that's been kind of the last couple of weeks while I slowly but surely get, um, uh, I, I've been, you know, I've been building up my Instagram page just to, cause when I released, um, when I released this and make an official notification about it, it'd be fun to have people to see that this isn't just a, Hey, I've got an instrument check back in a couple of months. I'm getting going. It's more like, Hey, this is what I've been working on and now I'm ready to share it and hopefully have an actually experience for people to have. You know, there is going to be you, there'll be about 50 or 60 posts on Instagram already ready to be shown and my YouTube page will hopefully have, um, you know, quite a few or a build up of videos to check out and the podcasts, you know, it'd be listening. It'd be nice for people to sit down and be able to listen to this and have a nice just presentation that this wasn't just thrown out there to get, um, instant attention or instant gratification. This is really kind of something that I wanted to present as a lifestyle. This is something that I've been doing all my life, but now it's just me and it's really scary in ways, but also you can kind of see there'll be a history to a small history already that you can kind of check out and spend some time with in, in ways get to know me. Um, without, without just kind of being like, you know, cause this really hard. Nowadays there are so many new builders out. How do you, how do you even stand out or how do you approach this, uh, this new market? And I think for me it's the, the hand pan is not going anywhere. If anything, it's just obviously you're getting more and more popular. And so there was no rush to hurry up and be the, you know, hurry up and put my name out there, hurry up and be the new builder. Um, it was been really nice just to sit back and be like, this is great. The hand pan interest is growing. Um, we can actually in ways relaxed in that way. Uh, it sounds a bit counterintuitive, but I think in ways it's a, it's a good way to actually step back and just know this is great news and now it's more time to focus on, on how, how do you want to present yourself and how do you want your instruments to be in? How can you, what can you dial in to, um, to present this? And so it's been, it's been in ways very, very easy to sit back and kind of put it out there because it's been, I think it would have been terrifying if I would just put myself out of line and say, before I even had instruments built, if I, you know, if I had five people as for an instrument, I'd be freaking out because I'm like, well, I don't know what I can build yet cause I haven't done this for very long. I've only built four instruments. But you know, now it's, now I'm hitting up to around. Um, you know, I think, I think I just glued the 15th instrument and, um, which still, you know, in the grand scheme doesn't sound a lot. But, um, I do have the, um, 300 other ones before me and a couple of hundred retunes with that. And so it's been, but the learning curve has been offset a good bit. And I've got some great builder friends that, uh, have shared a lot of knowledge with me and I can't be more appreciative, um, than that. But, uh, yeah, yeah,
Sylvain: Yeah. It's cool to see that you're, you know, relatively relaxed about it. And I think it's fair because it's return on investment, right? Like for over a decade, you've been investing into your own skills but also the community. And, um, and you know, if you look at, um, the reminiscence handpan gathering as a beta test for the very test sound sculpture while beta worked really well, did you have your first customer there?
Josh: I did actually. Yeah. I sold my first instrument there and to a very, very old and dear friend, uh, in the hand pan community, uh, Danny Sorenson was the first one. And I kind of feel like in ways it's like a good omen, you know? So, um, and since then I've actually sold, uh, two more just, um, a couple instruments have been sold and locally. And so it's, um, you know, even before the announcement, before the reveal, it's been nice because it has been, it has been actually kind of happening. And so, um, I'm enjoying, I think I'm trying to enjoy this quiet time because, you know, again, if my dreams come true and I'm, I'm successful at this, um, I can see where the stress could get a little bit higher if I'm not careful. And so I'm kind of just in that place of trying to enjoy the present moment where things are kind of quiet and just kinda just work at a very, very, very casual pace.
Sylvain: Yeah. Well it's, it's cause for celebration. Um, I'm rejoicing with you because I think this is awesome. I mean, you've built so much relational equity with everyone and we're just so happy to see you, um, kind of take this step of faith, but also, um, just take this rightful next step in, in your journey. And um, and yeah. So where, um, where does it go from, from here? I know you're going to hit a couple of gatherings to try to present your work to handpan friends around the world. Tell me about that.
Josh: Yeah. So I'm excited to, I'm going to head out to a hangout UK and actually next week with my good buddy David Gallagher, who makes the Makai and him and I, are going to fly out there and hang out and I get to bring in a two pygmy out, which I was really excited about building because the, this instrument, the one that kinda helped me learn, you know, this is kind of like an a to take me, I'm going to build with this style and you know, my F sharp Romanians, I like to build this style or something. And um, so I get to bring that instrument. I was just kind of a turning point for me in my, in my understanding, my builds. And, um, after I returned from there, I'm hoping to have just some more, more videos I can add to, um, my, my YouTube and Instagram pages, uh, just to help people see that, you know, again, when this is all released, that, um, yeah, I hear that here they're being played out in the actual wild. Here's some real people playing them. Um, and, um, other than that, I'm getting the a, I'll have a couple of instruments. Um, if they're not sold by the time I released all of this, um, uh, they're going to be sold or the one that I'm calling the journey pans, which, uh, are some of the instruments I was building leading up to reminiscence hand pan gathering that were not, they were there not bad enough to throw away. Uh, they're not, they don't represent what I was going for, but in no way did I feel like they were, there was, there was a few that definitely went straight to the garbage, but, uh, but there's a couple, there's a couple I, I've dubbed a six of them. Um, but a dub the journey pan series because the nice instruments, they're not exactly representative of what I was going for. Um, and those will be sold, um, quite quite cheaply, um, in the coming days, uh, the website and everything. Um, I wanted to stay away from, um, uh, crowd funding. I, I didn't want to get into that realm. I feel like this is something I've done for too long, uh, to come out and ask for, um, money to help me do it. Um, and so I wanted to, you know, when you've, I think I've put in about $30,000 into my shop and the steel, I got like a year's worth of steel. And so like the investment in the time off from work has been intense. And so, um, the way I figured could I could be supported that way was instead of, you know, having someone send money to me and not know what kind of builder all be, I could actually just spend that time quietly building and then present a couple of instruments that like these journey pan series that can be sold cheaper to help just kind of buffer that, you know, four to six months of very low, very low income. And um, and then still be like, here's where I'm at and here are these instruments available for cheaper, so you're investing in me without, and you're actually getting something out of investing in me by buying these instruments. And then you know, where I'm at. And it just felt like a better approach to that. And so I have a couple of those that'll be traveling with me to, um, possibly steel mountain. I haven't a hundred percent sure that I'm going to make it out there or not. But um, yeah, so for the most part, um, I'm going to hang out UK for a presentation. Other than that, just trying to get my last um, nuts and bolts put together for the website. Um, I think I'm going to be putting some of these just on my Rivera steel tinning website. Um, I don't really plan on relying on the website necessarily as much for sales. Like I don't really plan on posting them all in there all the time. So I'm kind of in this gray area on how want to go about the sales. But right now it's been organically happening where I had someone show up for a retune, they played one of my instruments and luckily they loved it and they bought it right then. And I've had one other person actually order a custom made instrument, which is neat too. And then some people bought them at the gathering, some kind of, right now I don't really know how I'm going about it as much as I'm just kind of flowing with it as it, as it goes. And so
Sylvain: Yeah. Well we're, we're spreading the word. I was interviewed on another podcast, uh, just a couple days ago, uh, hosted by someone that, you know, I think from Pan Oz. His name is Michael Barticel.
Josh: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Wonderful guy.
Sylvain: Yeah, totally. And I'll have him on this podcast soon, but um, I may have revealed to him and his audience that you had just launched your brand.
Josh: Oh yeah, no, that's a wonderful, uh, Tim, Tim, uh, Tim Tom. He was one of the organizers of that festival. It was just to me is like, Hey, can I, can I announce it to everybody? It was like, give me, give me just a couple of weeks cause I'm going to have all the stuff publicly. I, the only people, I've actually, the only time I've gone online and said what I'm doing has been for reminiscence and for hangout UK, the two, um, you know, the two I was getting ready to go to and um, it's been, it's been fun actually just to kind of let it leak out in a natural way. And um, I haven't really hashtag on anything Instagram and it's already kind of, um, growing slowly but surely. And um, so no, I, I'm, I'm really appreciating that the, this natural organic way of letting it kind of spill out, um, because I am kind of at that point where I'm a bit tired of challenging myself and just building for myself and, you know, building whatever I, I think is hard to do and whatever I've never done before, just so I can have the experience. I am, uh, when I finally got my first, um, request for a scale from a person, it was really, it was an incredibly, uh, satisfying feeling to sit down and hammer with, with an intent, with a person in mind. And I'm, so I'm kind of at that point, I'm really excited to be building for people and I'm not just, I'm going hard at the R and D phase. So, yeah, I, uh, I appreciate anything that you leak. It's really nice, especially coming from you. It's, um, you know, it's a huge honor since, I mean, again, you know, as much as, as long as I've been in this, I've known who you were this whole time. And it's really fascinating to see that you're still diving deep into this and taking it to new levels. And every time I've seen you at a gathering, you really, truly, passionately sit down and talk to people on, on a very deep level about the hand pan and so many ways, whether it's, you know, from the business side of it or the spiritual side of it and the human side of it. And it's, um, yeah, yeah, it's great to see and be part of that with you.
Sylvain: Well, I appreciate that. And, uh, actually from a selfish point of view, it's just really neat to have handpan maker friends and to get an insight into what you're going through. Making these instruments that we once thought were impossible to build. And I still think I could never do it, but it's incredibly valuable and enriching. Uh, even I as you know, as we wrap up this call and I go tap on a hand pan, like it's cool to know that Hey, my friend Josh makes those and it makes it relatable and meaningful and so I really appreciate you taking the time and man, I just wish you so much success and fulfillment in sharing what you've built, what you've made with your hands. Um, and we'll, I'll, I'll put all the links in the show notes of this episode, but I guess for now we can redirect folks who want to learn more too. Riverasteeltuning.com. Is that right?
Josh: Yup. Yup. I'm there. And I guess by the time people probably hear this, um, the Instagram page for Veritas sound sculpture is up in as well as there is a YouTube page for your test sound sculpture as well. Um, so I'm hoping by the time this, this episode is out, I somewhat have my ducks in a row and uh, those three places will be, um, yeah, yeah. Nice place to get to get to know me I guess.
Sylvain: Cool. Awesome. Well Josh, thank you so much again. So good to chat with you as always, safe travels, uh, to hang out UK. Say hi to Rob and Kelly for me.
Josh: I will, I will when I really appreciate it as well and um, yeah, I can't wait to join you again for the next episode.
Sylvain: That sounds great man. All right, take care.
Josh: Yeah, you too.
Sylvain: Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed hearing from Josh again on the podcast. I think it's really incredible to see his progression from player to tuner to maker. You hear me joke about him being a super human now that he makes handpans, but the truth is Josh is so humble and down to earth like so many other hand pen makers that I'm really glad he's doing this. I'll admit sometimes I fear where the art form is going. When I see ads of anonymous hand pans sold to anonymous people through anonymous systems when it's been so meaningful and personal up till now, but then I remember that there are so many good people doing good work in this space, like a coalition of players and makers working together to preserve what's made this instrument so special to us. Hey, can you believe this is episode 20 of the podcast? There are many more voices I want to introduce to you over the months and years to come, but let me say thank you for being here and thanks for listening. Podcasting is interesting. There's no back and forth. You can't really interact on Spotify or iTunes. So I created the handpan podcast community, which is a Facebook group, not meant to replace any other handpan related group on Facebook, but it's just a place that's available when the time comes for any question or discussion about something you heard on the podcast. As a reminder, you will find show notes and merge at the handpan, podcast.com that's it for this episode. Thanks for listening and talk to you in the next one.