Jambinai on blending Korean & western music styles to create unique post-rock

Courtesy of Nah Seung Yull

You may not know them yet, but Jambinai is a post-rock Korean indie band to take note of. The five-member group blends traditional Korean instruments with western rock to create hauntingly dramatic music. Inspired by the world around them, they’ve created a unique, experiential sound that sets them apart.

Though they’ve had countless acclaim in the past for their releases, Jambinai has never performed in New York City before. But on May 17, the quintet will head to NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge for their first ever Big Apple show.

Ahead of their NYC debut, Jambinai’s Lee Ilwoo and Kim Bomi did a Q&A with KultScene:

Thanks for taking the time to talk to KultScene. How’s everything going lately?
Lee Ilwoo: We are touring in Europe for a month and have a show everyday. It’s tough but really exciting.

You’re making your NYC debut next month. I know you’ve toured quite a bit, but how does it feel to be playing in New York?
Kim Bomi: I’m very happy. Because New York is the center of all culture, as everyone knows. So I’m looking forward to our first show in NYC.
LI: We have toured Europe several times, but this is our first time in NYC. So [I think that] just a few people are going to come our show. But we are going to do our best!

Any things you want to/do see while you’re here?
KB: I want to visit Blue Note [Jazz Club] again, personally. Actually, I went there seven years ago. I spent a lovely time there and I’ve never forgotten those memories. So I want to try again of possible. But I’m not sure because we don’t have much time. We have to move to Chicago the day after.
LI: After the show in NYC, we are going to have to head to Chicago immediately. So it’s so sad not to have some time in NYC.

You have a unique approach to post-rock that looks different from just about everything else coming out of Korea nowadays. How did Jambinai get started?
KB: When we first met, we just wanted to try make some new sounds. Because nowadays, Korea has so many bands who make some new blend [of] local music with western styles. But it’s not a good match for Korean traditional instruments. For example, in that music, Korean traditional instruments just follow or copy western [styles]. We thought about that, [and it’s] not good. So we talked about how can we find different way and better sound.
LI: I like post-rock music and I’ve [been] inspired from [it]. Some bands blend post-rock sound with violin, cello or other western classical instruments. It was so nice and fresh to me. Actually, I tried to blend Korean traditional instruments with rock sound so people listen to Korean traditional sounds, but I didn’t know how. But the bands who blend classical instruments with rock sounds gave me some ideas.

What’s your creative process like?
KB: In my case, playing the haegeum, I’m influenced by Ilwoo. Because he composes all [of our] songs first and then I have to arrange my part; [I] can blend good on songs [sic]. And sometimes I’m influenced by a movie or novel or other genres [of] music. Recently, I’ve read a novel. The name is “EXPANSE.” It’s [a] sci-fi novel. It was very interesting and I can use the feeling[s I felt from reading it] when I play.
LI: I’m inspired by many bands and Korean traditional music. Korean traditional instrumentation is really unique. By Western standards, some Korean traditional sounds are just noise or [have a] weird pitch. But that gives [me] many ideas to make us unique. And issues around me also inspired me.

“They Keep Silence” was one of NPR’s top songs of 2016, which the writer said it was because of the “righteous anger” the song evoked in relation to the Sewol Ferry, which was a national tragedy. Why do you think such a locally aimed song resonated with one of the US’s most prominent media outlets?
KB: Because the song’s story is just about humanity and justice. Even if you don’t know what that lyrics mean, the song has some powerful emotions. Because when we play that song, we pray for the [deceased]. I think that emotion has been passed on to people.
LI: There are a lot of English pop music fans in Korea. They don’t understand what that means, but they feel the image of the song. “They Keep Silence” has Korean lyrics, but I think it can give the image of the tragedy or make people feel sadness and anger, even if they don’t know Korean.

Why do you think now, almost a decade since you began, your sound resonates with people across the globe?
LI: I don’t know. Maybe [because] we use traditional instruments for post-rock and it looks unique. Many people are used to western instruments like guitar, piano, keyboard, etc. So, I guess people feel our instruments are fresh.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for the “They Keep Silence” video? It begins with a quote by Martin Luther King Jr., and then shows Jambinai playing, first calm and then eventually descending into more of a metal sound. What sort of feelings did you hope the video would evoke?
KB: We want to never again [feel] like this tragedy[sic]. So we want people remember the tragedy and think about justice, at least [the people] who listen to that song.

Though that song was extremely popular, are there any other songs of yours that you think new listeners would, or should, listen to?
KB: Recently we’ve [re]arranged our old song called “Paramita” from our first album. But you can only listen to this song at our show. So please come to our show!

Jambinai’s music is so tied to Korean sounds and history, so how will the recent political shakeup influence your music now?
KB: Actually I’m not sure. But we’ll always sing about justice [while] the world goes wrong. This is a basic duty of human beings.
LI: If something is going to happen, it’s going to inspire me to make music or lyrics.

Korean indie music is gaining in popularity, but what are some difficulties that you guys have faced as performers?
KB: It’s very hard to survive as performers only. I hope it gets better.
LI: The fandom of the indie scene in Korea is really weak and small. And many Korean people think that using acoustic guitars and singing a love song is indie. So if someone tries to make their own sound, it’s obviously very hard to live and play in Korea.

What do you think of the Korean music scene in general?
KB: Korea has many music genres in the indie scene, but most people don’t know about that, because media broadcasts only play K-pop. So I hope that [indie] will be broadcasted more widely.
LI: K-pop and K-hip hop are the best popular music in the Korea.

What do you guys draw inspiration from?
KB: All of this world!

Are there any artists you’d like to work with if you get the chance?
KB: In my case, personally, Thom Yorke. I love him.

What’s next for Jambinai? Are you guys working on any new music?
KB: Nowadays, we are talking about some new album casually.

The artist’s written responses have been lightly edited for clarity. Interview facilitated by 7000Miles.

Jambiani make their NYC debut at Le Poisson Rouge on May 17, at 7PM. Buy tickets here, and let us know what you think about the band in the comment section below. Be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

You too can be a k-pop producer thanks to Makestar [Interview]

makestar interviewEvery minute nowadays there’s a new service disrupting one industry or another. For the hospitality industry, it was Airbnb. For the taxi industry, it was apps like Uber and Gett. And for K-pop, it’s Makestar. The crowdfunding service is about a year old, but has already started to shake up the Korean entertainment industry.

Through a variety of fund-raising campaigns, running the gamut between things like photobooks for well-known acts to funding the debuts of rookie K-pop idol groups, Makestar has been giving the less-well-funded Korean acts a chance. K-pop acts like Crayon Pop, 24K, Nine Muses, Astro, and the recently-departed Rainbow have benefited from Makestar’s unique approach to connect, both financially and on a personal level, Korean stars with their fans. By having fans pledge funds ahead of production of an album or special project, Makestar is helping Korean entertainment companies ensure that there’s an audience for their production. And a profit.

According to Brian Kim, Makestar’s chief product officer, the company’s goal isn’t simply to fund K-pop projects, but actually better the K-pop industry. Makestar’s not just about K-pop, but it is the company’s main forum of business right now. They have also featured a handful fundraising campaigns on the site for films and musicals, but the majority of their current projects are geared towards music fans.

Also on KultScene: From ‘Genie’ to ‘Wolf’: Dsign Music believes the future of music begins with K-pop [INTERVIEW]

“We’re really focused on what the fans want,” Kim told KultScene over the phone, explaining that a lot of his job revolves around communicating with the pledgers. “We’re trying to make new opportunities for fans to have their voices heard a little bit more by the industry. I guess that’s the foundation where we started.”

Foundation or not, Makestar is definitely helping fans — particularly international K-pop fans — get their voices heard. Kim’s most notable example was a recent interview with Stellar that an Australian fan got to MC, which featured questions the fan had gathered from Stellar fans from around the globe. Practically unheard of in the K-pop world, the interview was part of a fundraising campaign for Stellar that featured fans spreading the word about both Stellar and the Makestar project. According to Kim, Stellar’s willingness to try new things with Makestar has helped the crowdfunding platform grow.

“Because of Stellar’s projects we’ve tried new things, like mashing up the fans dancing with Stellar’s music video and having it officially sanctioned and so on, to even basic things like Ask Me Anything kind of thing,” explained Kim. “We’ve tried new things where fans get to feel closer with them and [Stellar] have been very receptive.” Kim also added that the other Korean management companies have been more receptive of Makestar’s suggestions on whatever project they’re pursuing through the site as a result of Stellar’s example.

Even KultScene’s staff got on board: Joe showed off his production cred on Twitter earlier this year.


Convincing Korean entertainment agencies to try out Makestar wasn’t the easiest thing at the beginning, despite Makestar coming with powerful backing. The CEO, Kim Jae Myun, was a co-founder of FNC Entertainment. “He was the one who created CNBLUE and FTISLAND,” Kim interjected. Nearly a decade after FNC’s founding, Kim created Makestar to see if mass fundraising would work in Korea’s rigid entertainment environment. At first Makestar met with little success, but as the company started seeing success with their campaigns, entertainment companies started approaching the service about setting up their acts with a fundraising project.

Makestar’s success relies on the popularity of K-pop, and the relative small market that Korea’s estimated 300 entertainment agencies have to partake in. “Before Makestar, it was kind of understood, you know, ‘we just don’t have the funds, we don’t have the resources, that’s not the way it works.’” Single after single was the only way many small Korean agencies felt they could promote their act, hoping for a hit to compete with the bigger acts.

“A-listers will always be A-listers. They’ll always have concerts, big events, and their albums will do well. The name value itself will carry,” Kim explained, mentioning some of Korea’s largest entertainment companies like SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JYP Entertainment. “One way we discovered [potential] disruption was [by asking], ‘Is this the only way?’ If funds are a problem, crowdfunding can kind of solve that. If getting word out is a problem, the project can help with the premarketing and marketing, and we’re getting into postmarketing.”

Also on KultScene: This is the hardest K-pop quiz ever

International fans are very different than Korean fans, which Kim and Makestar are very conscious of when creating their campaigns. Boy bands will typically garner pledges primarily from middle-aged Japanese women, but well-known acts internationally, like Crayon Pop, will see about a third of their funding coming from the US and other English-language markets. Makestar’s services are offered in English, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, but they want to make it even more internationally focused. “American fans are very different from French fans because Americans and French people are very different,” said Kim. “What we’re trying to do now is involve fans in what we’re doing at Makestar, whether it be suggestions, whether it be engineering a project. So if you like BTS and you’d like BTS to run a project at Makestar, what would you think as a fan would be a really good project to run? We’d really like to start crowdsourcing those ideas as well because at the end of the day who knows better than the fans?”

Through a variety of campaigns and offering different rewards, ranging from production credit to meeting and spending a day with K-pop stars, Makestar guides the fundraising efforts of K-pop acts. Kim reassured KultScene that it was Makestar acting as a consulting service, not Makestar acting as a secondary managing company. “At the end of the day, the management companies have the final say as to how the project proceeds. Sometimes it comes out pretty much as we expected, but other times, because of some additions that the management company has made on a whim, basically, made based on nothing, we do tend to have burps here or there.”

While there may be slight issues Makestar seems to have figured out a way to ensure that campaigns succeed and they’ve had few failures recently, although a high profile campaign for Xia Junsu failed last December when it came about $300,00 short of its $838,000 goal. Garnering more than two times the goal isn’t uncommon: Stellar’s “Sting” album production project was funded more than 500 percent times the initial goal of $10,068.97, and brought in more than $53,000. The projects range varies, with smaller ones aiming for around $10,000 and larger ones by more popular acts, like Astro and Rainbow, angling closer to $30,000. Makestar recently saw its first crowdfunded debut from Momoland, who raised a little over $12,000.

What’s next for Makestar? Not concerts, said Kim. “We do have plans for concerts, but we do really want to make them special. We don’t want it to be just about money, money, money for [the stars] and the management company, because if that happens, we know that it’s not going to be a special occasion [for the fans], other than the concert. So we’ve been racking our brains about creating a project style where the stars can visit different corners of the world and have that special connection with the fans. We’re holding off on that.”

What do you think of Makestar and their campaigns? Reach out to them via email if you have any ideas about campaigns! And share your thoughts about this article, and K-pop fundraising, in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Run River North Is Walking To The Beat of Their Own Drum, All the Way To The Top [Interview & Review]

run river north, monsters calling home

KultScene sat down with six member Korean-American indie folk-rock band, Run River North (previously known as Monsters Calling home), before their set at Brighton Music Hall, in Boston, last Wednesday. The group is no stranger to the city, having already been here several times and had actually performed at the very same venue earlier this year in April. We talked about the weather, to which they were totally digging, performing in Japan, touched base on being Asian-American, and some other insightful topics.

KultScene: Our audience might not know you, can you introduce yourselves?

RRN: This is Run River North, my is name John, I play drums.
I’m Daniel and I play guitar.
I’m Sally and I play keys.
I’m Alex and I sing and play guitar.
I’m Jennifer and I play the violin.
I’m Joe and I play bass.

KultScene: You’re about a fourth of a way into your tour with “Finish Ticket” and “IronTom.” What’s this tour been like? Are there any funny/weird habits your bandmates have that you never noticed before?

John: I think we know a lot about each other, it’s kind of hard to find new habits that you know people have picked up. Being in a band, with this band, for two or three years of touring, you kinda get each other pretty quick but yeah, I think by now we get most of it. The tour has been great so far. I think it’s like our first, kind of like full support run with a band that is great. I mean, we’ve toured with great bands before too but this is kinda something that we wanted for a while, to tour with some like minded friends.

KultScene: What’s your favorite song to perform live?

Alex: “Beetles” is always my favorite.
Sally: “29” is fun because we added this crowd participation part, so we all sing together. It’s unique so we try to involve [the audience] as much as possible.

KultScene: In a recent interview, you mentioned that your first album was about looking back at the immigrant story. And in your most recent album, you guys talk about looking forward and finding your identity. Are there any themes or concepts you wish to tackle next?

Alex: I haven’t really thought about that. I don’t think the concept came pre-planned, it just naturally happened. I mean, it could go back, if the songs are good. It could go back to immigrants, it could go back to ourselves.

Daniel: The common thread isn’t predetermined. It’s usually just consistent and it just shows up at the end of the songwriting process, you just kind of see “oh, there’s a general theme here” and I think that’s what it’s been for two albums.

John: That’s kind of the beauty of making albums; you see a snapshot of that period, that moment and that phase.

Also on KultScene: 5 Rising Female Acts At Zandari Festa ’16

KultScene: You recently performed at SXSW this past summer. How was that experience in comparison to when you performed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”?

Alex: SXSW is an interesting set. There’s hundreds of shows going on at the same time so it’s not really like it’s your time to shine, it’s barely your time to shine and you just gotta play in front of whoevers in front of you and hope that someone’s there, but you can’t expect anything out of that. You just gotta go in there with low expectations and hopefully you’ll get a nice showcase and hopefully someone comes through. And for us, we were lucky this time around where one of our showcases, we got this promoter who does festivals in Japan, and because he was there, we were able to go to Japan. Those things are never guaranteed. And with Jimmy Kimmel or Seth Meyers that we did this year, there’s this focus of everyone watching you; there’s one mission and one opportunity, so it’s a little different I guess. SXSW just feels like doing a tour but a little more focused. You can’t really compare the two too much. Both are pleasant in different ways.

John: Our agent, our managers really set us up; there’s a path, a goal for each showcase. We wanted to bring different people to these showcases, so if you’re just an indie band with no fame, it’d be very difficult to stand out, but because we have such an amazing team behind us, they’re setting up all these paths and opportunities for other people to interact with us and I think that’s the key with SXSW. With Seth Meyers, Jimmy Kimmel and stuff like that, that’s more for exposure. All of this is going towards a plan, it’s progressing towards a plan to be more successful, to be more exposed to different types of people. So all of it is working for us.

Alex: There’s really no negative side to it.

KultScene: You auditioned for Kollaboration in 2011, I’m actually apart of Kollaboration Boston. How have you turned any initial failures ultimately into success?

Alex: That’s how we got started, actually. Kollaboration is a great way to play on stage, but it should only be a platform. And if you want to be an artist and want to perform, then you should keep singing. You should never let Kollaboration be your judge, unless you like being judged for your work like that in a competition sense, at least for our band, that’s not what we want to be doing. It was a great way to get started, it was a great push for us to say “okay, if we’re going to perform on a stage, what do we need to do so that..” you know, regardless if we get the money, it’s fine, but would people want more of us after that?

I think that if it’s your job and it’s your life career and to go around doing Kollaboration. That’s just not for us. I don’t really encourage that for people. If they want to better themselves in their art and use that then yeah; it’s another platform, and if it’s a cool stage, if it’s going to expose you to more people, especially in the Asian-American community where you can inspire people that way, then yeah, do what you can and be good at it. But I think the goal is to get the people that do the Kollaboration shows, to come out to actual venues, to actual shows that people do for a living and see what it’s like and that includes the audience as well, as the artist. Everybody, if we’re talking about empowering Asians, go to wherever everyone is doing shows, go to where there are galleries, where there are people who have been doing this forever I think that’s the main thing about Kollaboration, to be the gateway for those audiences or artists to go out there to support those who make music or make art.

Daniel: I think Kollaboration is a great service to the community; a great opportunity.

KultScene: What are you hoping your Boston audience will be like tonight? Is there a message(s) you want them to leave with tonight?

John: Personally for me, like any show, we want to create fans where people will see us 15 years later and say, “oh man, I remember seeing them in high school and I still love them” or the ones who will follow us no matter what, keep up with everything that we do, fans that will, you know, follow us on Instagram or Twitter, fans who just love everything about us. That’s our goal, to be loved; to be loved by hardcore fans who love our music, not just one song.

Daniel: I hope people leave the show inspired to pursue their craft, to just be good at what they do in life. Seeing six Koreans or Asians on a stage in a world that, you know — [some people think] it’s not our place to be here, I think, but I hope people feel encouraged to push through. For 45 minutes or whatever the show length is, they’ll get to enjoy our music for what it is.

*Interview was edited for clarity.

Also on KultScene: Rock Bottom On Top In London [Interview]

run river north, monsters calling home

And they did just that. Run River North gave an awe-inspiring show, performing what felt like a greatest hits/ repackaged masterlist set, with a total of eight songs. The sextet opened with bright lights and “Excuses,” (if this festive folky beat alone doesn’t get you hooked, then check out the music video, you won’t be disappointed). They hit the ground running! There was really no easing into it; RRN accelerated at high speed. This band meant business. RRN quickly shifted gears, transitioning from folk to rock and got the crowd bopping away with “Run or Hide,” which is off of their second album “Drinking From a Salt Pond” — definitely a crowd favorite.

Now, my personal favorite, “Monsters Calling Home.” Their debut/self titled debut album, “Run River North.” is about the “immigrant story.” Well, what does that actually mean, you ask? In case you read this far and still haven’t looked them up, the members of Run River North, Alex, Daniel, Jennifer, Joe, John and Sally, are all second generation Asian-American; it wasn’t planned, it kind of just happened that way. They drew inspiration for that album from their parents; parents who had to start over, “digging for worth, in land under a foreign sun” when they left their homeland. RRN has become a voice for a generation that’s kept quiet. They’ve become this light, for a community that thought certain instances were only happening to them and no one else. No one should ever feel like they’re the only ones experiencing some sort of turmoil, let “Monsters Calling Home” be your outlet.

One of my favorite things about live concerts is when the band performs not only their hits but also their b-sides. Sometimes, the b-sides are the best songs on an album, like “Superstition” and “Seven.” Run River North showcased such captivating harmonizations in “Seven” that it left the crowd breathless. Maybe it’s the countless years they’ve been together and all the shows they’ve performed, but the chemistry and dynamics between these six could make anyone envious!

Their last three songs, “Pretender,” “29” (as mentioned by Sally earlier) and “Anthony” were very interactive for the audience and for the band; RRN had the crowd singing and clapping along to the beat. Even had us with our hands up in the air at one point. There was a part towards the end of “29” where Alex and Joe were facing one another duking it out on their string instruments, then Alex leaned his forehead into Joe’s T-shirt and wiped all his face sweat on Joe. That’s how you know you’ve got a friend for life. They pulled out all the stops for their last song “Anthony.” Jennifer traded in her violin for guitar and, well, she absolutely slayed. I’ve seen a few photos floating around the internet of Alex’s hair, but since he had it tied up during our interview and throughout 90 percent of their set, when he finally released his luscious locks (I’m pretty sure this guy had better hair than most of the females in the audience), it was the final icing on the cake. Concerts can’t be entirely serious, right?

Even if you think folk, rock or that combination in general isn’t your thing, go and give Run River North a listen. Even if their style isn’t what you’re used to, their story telling through their lyrics should be more than enough to lure you in forever. And don’t forget to check out Run River North, as they tour a city near you!

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From ‘Genie’ to ‘Wolf’: Dsign Music believes the future of music begins with K-pop [INTERVIEW]

Dsign Music Interview Robin Jenssen

Fans can wax poetical for hours about the positive aspects of the music coming out of South Korea nowadays, but more than just avid lovers are looking to K-pop for its innovative industry. Music producers, songwriters, and industry insiders from around the world are turning towards Korea to see how they can get involved. According to Robin Jenssen, the CEO of Dsign Music, K-pop is seen by western producers as the entry point into the larger Asian music market.

“You have two-thirds of the world in Asia, why should you just stick to the millions of people in the US and Europe?” Jenssen asked during our phone call last week. “It’s a really small market. Everyone wants to be a part of that new [market]. When everything opens up [in Asia], it will be a huge thing for music.”

Korea and Asia as whole have already been a huge thing for Dsign Music, which has created hits for everyone from Girls’ Generation and TVXQ in Korea to EXILE and Namie Amuro in Japan to Jolin Tsai in Taiwan and, wait for it, Ricky Martin himself. K-pop fans owe a lot to Dsign, considering that the Norway-based production team created hits like Girls’ Generation’s “Genie” and “I Got A Boy,” EXO’s “Wolf,” f(x)’s “Rum Pum Pum Pum,” and Red Velvet’s debut single “Happiness.” Their latest Korean single, Baekhyun and Suzy’s “Dream” peaked at number one in South Korea and number three on the Billboard World Digital Songs chart. Dsign’s most recent Korean songs were featured on Apink and Red Velvet’s latest albums.

Also on KultScene: Meet iDR, The Producer Behind Some Of K-Pop’s Biggest Hits

But before “Genie (Tell Me Your Wish)” came out in 2009, Jenssen had no idea what was going on in South Korea, or the fact that Dsign would end up creating some of the most popular songs. “It was actually our publisher who called us one day and said ‘Hey, you know they still sell a ton of records in Japan and Korea?’ We were like, ‘we don’t even know what it is,’” Jenssen said with a laugh. “We knew where it is but we had no ideas about the music. We had no clue.”

After “Genie” topped charts around Asia, Jenssen and his team went to see Girls’ Generation perform at the Tokyo Dome. “We had four TV interviews while we were at the stadium and there were thousands and thousands of people walking around the stadium. Then we realized, ‘Okay, we want to do more here.’”

Jenssen also credited iTunes and Spotify for opening up Asian music to western listeners who had otherwise had little access to non US or European-based music industries.

Since then, Dsign has been integral to K-pop’s foundation. They work closely with SM Entertainment, which tends to work closely with many western producers, but have also produced music for non-SM acts like Lee Hyori (“Bad Girls”), Spica (“Tonight”), Rainbow (“Energy”), Boys Republic (“Video Game”), and 9 Muses (“Hurt Locker”). Jenssen runs the day to day business aspects of Dsign, but has plenty of a role in the creation of their songs; his voice can be heard for a split second at the very end of Girls’ Generation’s single “Beep Beep.”

When creating songs, Jenssen revealed that it’s not just music that international producers have to pitch to Korean companies, it’s the whole concept. “Music in Asia is all about the video, the dance routines, the marketing, and how you put the package together,” he explained. “A good example is [EXO’s] “Wolf.” You get all the kids in Seoul to go around with their hands up in the air making ears and howling ‘awoo!’ They sold a lot of merchandise based on that song because it’s a concept song. And you kind of understand everything when you see the video and see how everybody reacts to it. Other songs are also concept songs, so sometimes we’ll write down ideas for the video too to ensure that the concept sticks through to the end.”

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Jenssen emphasized that foreign producers are learning that K-pop is based around the synthesis of intense concepts with the rhythm of US music, like hip-hop and R&B, and the melodies of Europe, where electropop is still prominent. But it’s not just K-pop emulating western styles according to Jenssen, who highlighted Selena Gomez for pulling off the most K-pop-like sound in the English-language music market. “A lot of new stuff in the US now is sounding more like the K-pop we’ve been doing for like five years, with a bit more stuff happening with several more parts in the song. When we won the YouTube award for Girls’ Generation with ‘I Got A Boy’ it was described as the ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ of 2013 because it had all these parts in it. That’s something that K-pop is well known for.”

And Dsign Music believes that Korean music, and music industries throughout Asia, offers a new frontier in particular because of its immense export rates, which Jenssen said emulates the current model for English-language music. “Most of the income stream from the US artists comes from the rest of the world. Same with the UK. So the UK and the US have been always the winning part in the sales numbers because of the overseas sales just like Korea’s building its way to being the musical export market of Asia.”

As for Dsign’s future in Korea, Jenssen, unfortunately, said that they have more songs planned for later this year, but due to South Korea’s secretive approach to promotions he’s not allowed to give any details.

What do you think about Korea’s role in the future of music? Which is your favorite Dsign Music-written song? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook,Twitter,Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Puer Kim discusses her return with ‘Gem,’ inspiration & loving her body [interview]

Puer Kim Interview

Like a diamond in the rough, Korean indie singer Puer Kim released her maxi single, Gem yesterday (August 23). Her first new music since 2014’s Purifier, the sultry vocalist explored darker elements on the three jewel-inspired tracks. Although a short album, Gem displays a wide range of styles ranging from alt R&B to synthpop and explores themes inspired by the gemstones: “Pearl” reflects the desire to break free of the shell we’ve each found ourselves in, while the second track is about believing in our “Diamond”-like strengths and multifaceted positive qualities, and “Emerald” rounds things out as a symbol of love and understanding in relationships.

While busy with the release in South Korea, Puer Kim took a few moments to respond to an email interview with KultScene where she spoke a bit about Gem, her inspirations, what type of music she likes and would like to work on, and how she deals with body shaming.

Edited for clarity.

It’s been almost two years exactly since you released your last album, Purifier. Would you mind introducing yourself to KultScene’s readers who may not be familiar with you?
Hi I’m a Korean singer-songwriter, Puer Kim. Puer actually sounds like my Korean name Byul (별), which means star. And I wanna live purely so… I’ve been in [the] music business since 2011 independently. In 2013 I joined Mystic Entertainment.

Comments on "Pearls" MV

Comments on “Pearls” MV

Gem was released a few minutes ago and I just saw the music video for “Pearls.” The overall sound of the album is a bit darker, more electronic than what we last saw from you with Purifier and “Bank.” What made you explore such a widely divergent sound?
Well, if you knew my music before I joined Mystic Entertainment, it was whole lot darker, rough, [and] also had an electronic mood. This is not the first new thing but more like what I’m used to. [The] Purifier album was lighter and brighter [and] I did love that for that since I didn’t really do those kinds when I did my music by myself.

Comments on "Pearls" MV

“Bank” had a very bright music video but “Pearls” is nearly entirely black and white. What’s the concept behind the video?

You should ask my director for the better answer. Haha. This “Pearls” song is about a person who decided to break [out of] her so-to-think wrong environment and live her own life. So there are images of shaking and waking and breaking [and] also holding.

Also on KultScene: Music Video Director Ian Gallagher on Working with Neon Bunny for Free, Co-Directing WINNER, and Dreamlike Images

You’ve dealt with extremely heavy concepts, like the music industry in “Manyo Maash” and hard work. What’s the message you’d like listeners to take away from “Pearls”?
As a matter of fact, I don’t like to talk about the messages. You think whatever you want. You feel however you like. I’m the one who makes music and my listeners are the ones who get my music in their own ways.

I noticed that the video for “Pearls” was overrun by comments about your physical appearance. How do you deal with the scrutiny?
First of all, I swear that it’s my natural body. And I think it’s cute that people are amazed by it. I love my body, my everything, as much as my music. So people, you gotta listen to my music too! (ed. We think so too!)


Gem features three songs, “Pearls,” “Diamonds,” and “Emeralds,” and was inspired by Leo Lion’s children book, Frederick, right?
Yes it is. There’s a mouse named Frederick in the book. He’s an artist who saves beautiful lights (thoughts, inspirations) and share it when his friends need it. I want my music to be that light.

The LA-based rapper Demrick features on “Diamonds.” What was that experience like?
My producer [London-based] Postino knows Demrick. He introduced me. He actually introduced many rappers and Demrick was my first choice. Why? It feels just right to ask him for featuring. Intuitive decision! And after the recording I felt I was right.

Are there any other artists who you’d like to collaborate with?
I do wanna write lyrics for K-pop idols. My lyrics are known for their unique fun color.

The maxi single is all in English but you’ve previously sung in Korean. How did you come to decide to swap languages? Will we be seeing more Korean songs from you?
English is foreign to me. I feel like it’s a safe bubble. I can be more free [and] use lots of poetic licenses. Korean is my mother tongue. I’m most natural with it. It’s being free vs being natural. Which means both are nice. And I realized [a] funny thing since I started my music: listeners don’t understand my pronunciation either in Korean or English. I must have a bad tongue. And [the] Korean maxi single will be coming up soon too.

You’re Korean but spent time studying in the US at Berklee. How did that affect your musical style? You don’t exactly follow the typical Korean music trends.
Way before I moved to the U.S for studying, Korean songs that I was familiar with were hymns. I liked pop, jazz, and classics more. So it didn’t really change my style of music [that] I like and do. It has been like this as long as I can remember.

[ed. It’s unclear if she meant English-language pop, jazz, and classics.]

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What are your thoughts about the current state of mainstream Korean music?
I don’t really listen to the trendy music so I don’t really know. All I know is some SM [SM Entertainment]. Idol lyrics are so fun. That’s about it.

Aside from working on Gem, what else have you been up to during your break?
I sleep a lot and take a long bath. I do those very seriously. Is it funny to say that these are my true hobbies?

Is there anything else you’d like to say or any last words for KultScene’s readers?
The reason I do music and share it with the world is to let my listeners think of me. If you like my music and you can have a good time with it, that’s wonderful. I [would] like to be in your heart from time to time. So invite me.

Thank you so much for your time!

Take a listen to Puer Kim’s “Pearls” right here:

Have you listened to Gem? What do you think about Puer Kim? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Music Video Director Ian Gallagher on Working with Neon Bunny for Free, Co-Directing WINNER, and Dreamlike Images [INTERVIEW]

Ian Gallagher

Music videos are a huge part of what entices international fans to K-pop thanks to their accessibility online. The work of music video director Ian Gallagher is not exactly the dancing in box or love stories that are so typical to the genre. His work with the queen of South Korea’s electro-indie scene, Neon Bunny is some of the best in the country and shows an entirely more abstract image than the average K-pop music videos (or MVs as they’re commonly known).

In celebration of Neon Bunny’s return with her new album, “Stay Gold,” and his latest work on her video for “Room 314,” we caught up with Gallagher for an interview about his creative process. The director sheds light on his inspirations, his ongoing collaboration with Neon Bunny, working with YG boy group WINNER, and his work in film.

I’d like to start by asking how you got into film and music video directing?

I had two main interests in high-school, writing fiction and playing music. Playing in bands naturally led me to create images for the band, mostly cover designs and stickers, which led to an interest in visual arts. It was hard for me to stick to one thing though. I loved all the different mediums and how they related to each other, the differences and similarities. I wrote a lot of short stories and attempted a novel, while continuing to play music and study a bit of graphic design in college. It took awhile, but I came to the slow realization that films utilized all these different elements to create something else. I think this was like 7 or 8 years ago. I began writing screenplays and bought a cheap DSLR and went from there.

Were there any films or videos you had seen that made you want to do work in cinema?

The greatest push was watching Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Stalker.” It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. The film has a simple elegance to it, in story and in cinematography, yet it delves into some deep questions about being human. After watching the film I knew that that was what I wanted to do. To make something like that.

How did you end up working in Korea? Any advice for other foreigners who might want to do the same?

I’m a rare case actually. I’m half-Korean, half-American, and pretty much grew up in Korea speaking both Korean and English. [I] went to a Korean elementary school, but then went to an international school for high-school. So the culture of Korea is not foreign to me. I’m not exactly an expat, yet I’m not Korean. I’ve always been sort of in the middle of two cultures. My advice to foreigners is come on over, learn the language, be nice and have a great time. It’s a great place to work; a lot of interesting things are happening in art. I think Korea is just now breaking into a post-modern era, and it’s really amazing witnessing the change.

What’s it like to make films there compared to anywhere else you might have worked?

Koreans have the most intense work ethic I’ve ever seen. I love working with a Korean crew.

What is your process for directing a music video?

I have to love the song. I need to really feel something from the music. It’s a pretty simple process though. Once I have a song, I just listen to it non-stop and try to figure out a visual mood for it. Looking back on my videos, I think I’m more focused on capturing a certain overall tone than individual images. Especially for music videos, I try to mimic the process of writing music and go with what feels right at the time instead of anything too intellectual.

Your collaboration with Neon Bunny started in 2011 with “Together With Me.” How did it come about?

I think her first album had just come out and she already had another video. I heard “Together with Me” and loved it. So I e-mailed Neon Bunny saying I’d make her a video for free with no budget, and sent her the idea. I don’t know what she thought about me, but for some reason she accepted and it turned out to be great fun. I was still learning all the technical aspects of filmmaking and it shows in the video, but it was a blast to do.

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What made you continue that collaboration with Neon Bunny?

She’s a truly great musician. Her songwriting abilities are just amazing. It’s no easy task to create pop music which also has depth, it’s one of the hardest things to do in music, but Neon Bunny seems to do it so effortlessly. So I’m pretty much honored to be allowed to create videos for these songs. A music video is only as good as the music. Also, Neon Bunny produces her own music on her own label, so it’s really great to be able to make decisions without having a committee to water down the ideas.

How has your relationship grown over the years?

We’re good friends now. I think we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and that helps when we are trying to create something together.

What is your process for making a music video with her compared to with others?

Much more laid back. There’s definitely a trust that’s developed over the years. Shooting videos is usually a tedious and difficult process, a lot of stress, never enough money or time, but with Neon Bunny it feels like we’re actually having fun. For the video for “It’s You” we just travelled around various places in Seoul and shot whatever we felt like. There was an overall structure but instead of extensive storyboarding, planning, and having a big crew, we let it go loose and it was a lot of fun. It would be hard to propose shooting a video like that to another artist.

Your work with Neon Bunny, from the soft focus of “Together With Me” all the way up to the crystalline views in your latest work “Room314,” has almost always had an impressionistic quality to it. Is this a particular style you like and what draws you to it over a straightforward narrative?

I’ve never really been a fan of narrative music videos. Of course there are great videos that use narrative devices, but I like to be closer to the abstract nature of music. To me, it’s about feelings and moods, and a kaleidoscope of emotions. The nature of dreams also take up a large portion of my work. I love hazy ill-defined things, and it ends up in the videos. I’m not trying to create any kind of deliberate style though, I think it just happens because I try not to intellectualize the work and make decisions based more on instinct. Anything I do will inevitably have my stamp on it because it’s come through the filter of my brain, so I try not to think of any personal kind of style. The whole process is a discovery really, seeing what happens, how certain elements give unexpected results. This happens throughout the entire making of the video, from the first idea, to shooting, and especially in the editing.

Do you think it works especially well with music videos?

Yes. For films I take a completely different approach. Narrative films are about the story and characters, but with music videos it is a good opportunity for me to explore the more abstract and impressionistic aspects of filmmaking. The works of Stan Brakhage, Jonas Mekas, and Chris Marker have also been a great revelation and influence on my own stuff. In my mind it’s like the relationship between prose and poetry, and playing with the gray area between the two forms.

I also noticed a certain digital edge to a lot of your work. The affected colours of “Romance in Seoul” comes to mind, is that a conscious effort to replicate Neon Bunny’s electronic music?

I like to play with the imagery of more mainstream K-pop videos, and the idea came out of re-appropriating the super saturated color schemes of many of those music videos. Like a twisted version of a dance video, but still poppy and colorful to look at. The electronic aspect of the music definitely pushed the visuals in that direction. The basic idea behind “Romance in Seoul” was a fever dream recorded digitally and played back with glitches and errors. The dancers were amazing to shoot. All the dancing in the video was improvised on the spot.

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What was it like working with WINNER? At the time they were a potentially huge debuting group and you have the task of creating a video from an instrumental song of theirs, not exactly standard idol fare. Is your approach to a song like that different to something more straightforward?

Actually, the song was written and performed by Min Woo Kang, a really great electronic musician, specifically for the teaser video. There’s a bit of a misconception that it is a WINNER song. The co-director, Kim Zi Yong, and I decided we wanted to try something different with the music. Usually for teasers a song from the band is used, or a song is licensed. I think because WINNER was still in production on their album, maybe in the mixing process, it wasn’t possible to use one of their songs, so we decided to hire a musician to basically score the teaser. It was the first time we worked like that and I am really proud of how that came out. The song was written as the editing of the video was taking place, so the editing changed with the song, and the song changed to the edit if we needed anything at a certain part.

Working with WINNER was great. They are a great group of guys, really nice and very passionate about their work. I was pleasantly surprised to see how professional they were even though it was one of their first videos. In fact everyone over at YG was great, with more of a collaborative atmosphere than the other companies.

“The Visitor” is also another example of your impressionistic work, what sort of story did you try to tell with it, if any?

The story aspect came from co-director Kim Zi Yong. The basic premise is the end of a night of partying, with each member being in a different situation. My involvement may have added a little bit of that impressionistic aspect to it, but when collaborating like that it becomes hard to tell what element came from who. Those are the best collaborations too.

How was it working with Kim Zi Yong?

It was probably the most fun I’ve had. It’s great being able to bounce around ideas like a tennis ball, adding a bit here, changing some there, always coming up with something else that you couldn’t have thought up alone. We were good friends before working on the video so it just became an extension of that. Playing around with ideas and seeing where that leads. The editing was also collaborative, with each of us taking a pass at it over and over again, riffing on what the other one did. He’s a really great director and I’m always excited to see what he’ll come up with next.

I watched the trailer for you new short film “망” (“MAHNG”) and am very intrigued. Can you tell me a little bit more about that? Where can we eventually see it?

“MAHNG” is a period piece, and though it’s not based on anything specific, I wanted to take aspects of Korean folk tales and try to spin a new story out of that structure. The basic storyline is of a young woman who has lost her husband, and she drags his body across the land to a shamanistic shrine, and prays for the spirits to bring her husband back to life. At night, a spirit comes to hear her speak, but things don’t work out the way she wanted. We’re still in the process of sending it out to film festivals, but after that run we plan to put it up online for free.

Do you have a preference for making films or music videos?

Though related, the two are vastly different in execution so it’s hard to say which I prefer. Each medium offers something different in creative satisfaction. I’d like to eventually make feature films, but it’ll be a long and slow process getting there, especially since the films I want to make won’t fit perfectly in the mainstream. Music videos offer a great outlet for me, but I plan on doing more diverse work. More short films, more videos that aren’t exactly music videos but something else. The goal is to keep plugging at it and always having fun.

What are you working on at the moment?

We just finished a video for Neon Bunny for the song “Room314.” We’re probably going to do another track off the album but it’s still in the preliminary stages. Working on screenplays during the down time.

Thanks so much for the interview. Is there anything you would like add or ask in return?

Thank you for the interview. I think it’s great that you guys are covering some Neon Bunny related news. More people need to hear the music. Buy the albums. Support the artists that you love so they can make way cooler shit.

What do you think of Ian’s work? Share your thoughts in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

Seoul-Based Punk Band …Whatever That Means Talks Music & Multiculturalism [INTERVIEW]

Whatever That Means 2016

Like something straight out of the 90s, …Whatever That Means is a full-fledge punk band. With Korean, American, and Polish members, they take their influences from all over the world to express the emotions and disgruntlement of the generation. While they sing in English and about global themes, their songs are shaped by their home base of South Korea: “Peace of Mind (The Communist Song)” and “Asian Prodigy” reflect the socio-political situation in Seoul.

…Whatever That Means is set to embark on their 2016 US west coast tour later this month so ahead of their trip we spoke to guitarist Jeff and bassist Trash, who share both vocals and a marriage.

How are you guys feeling ahead of your US tour?
Jeff: I think we’re all just really excited to stop preparing for the tour and actually be on tour. There is so much work that goes into planning and preparing for an international tour, and at least for us, there is a huge feeling of relief once we’re finally sitting in the van, and our only responsibilities are to get to the next town and play a show. I can’t wait for that.

You were here in 2011. What’s changed for …Whatever That Means since then?
Trash: We’ve gone through several member changes since then. That’s the main reason it’s taken us almost five years to get back. Thankfully, despite all the frustration that goes along with searching for a stable lineup, we’ve come out the other side of it with the best lineup we’ve ever had. I think people who saw us back in 2011 are going to be surprised by the big step forward we’ve taken.

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You are all about punk, which isn’t exactly mainstream in Korea. What does punk mean to you?
Trash: Punk rock is about thinking for yourself, and living your life the way you think makes the most sense. It’s about questioning the things you’re surrounded by and forming your own opinions about them. Those definitely aren’t mainstream concepts in Korea.

How did you guys end up forming a punk band? Indie rock is hard enough in Seoul but punk…?
Jeff: Seoul has had a great, growing punk scene since the late 1990s. Trash and Daewon grew up in that scene. Bialy and I purposely searched it out when we got here. It’s a great community of fairly like-minded people. All of us had played in punk bands before except Bialy, who had always played in metal and hardcore bands. Coming together to form …Whatever That Means just happened kind of naturally.

You’re releasing a collaboration with the Seattle band Burn Burn Burn. How did that come

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Jeff: In 2011, we played at Nemesis House in Tacoma, Washington. It was one of the coolest shows we’ve ever played. Drew, Burn’s singer, and I struck up a bit of friendship that night and stayed in touch over the years. We’d talked a few times about releasing a split album, but when we decided we were definitely coming back to the US, we agreed the time was finally right.

With members from all over the world, what are the difficulties being part of a multicultural indie band in South Korea?
Jeff: It’s not as strange as people may think. I’m the only one who doesn’t speak Korean really well. Daewon is the only one who doesn’t speak English really well. There are certain situations where we’d all like to handle things differently than other members, but that happens in every band no matter where you’re from. When it comes down to it, we have all chosen to live and build our lives in Korea. Part of that is playing in the punk scene, so in the end, we have a lot more in common than we do different.

The indie scene in South Korea’s is clearly filled with a lot of talent but I’ve heard from several musicians that the support just isn’t there for non-corporate music acts. What’s your band’s take on things?
Trash: It depends what you mean by “support.” Are there corporate sponsors and big labels supporting the extremely talented independent musicians here? No. If that’s a band’s goal, then they’re kind of out of luck. But when you go out to a show and see all the kids that come out and spend their money on entry fees, CDs, t-shirts, and merchandise, when you see how many independent bands have crowd funded thousands of dollars to put out albums and tour, I’d say there’s a lot of support where it really counts.

Two members are married. Does that ever make for any difficult situations? How do you, or do you even, separate your personal and professional lives?
Jeff: This is always a very popular question, and the simplest way I’ve found to put it is that when it’s good, it’s pretty much the greatest thing on Earth, but when it’s not good, it can be the absolute worst. There was a lot more conflict at the beginning when we were trying to define our sound and learning the personalities and roles of all our members. These days, there’s not much conflict at all. And I think not trying to keep these different parts of our life separate is actually the key. It’s always important to remember that your band mates are your friends first and foremost. That becomes even more important when your band mate is your spouse, and you know that whatever is said at practice, in the van, or at home on the couch could spill over into any other aspect of life.

What does the name …Whatever That Means actually mean?
Jeff: Well, when Trash and I got married, we had a pretty normal wedding and reception. After the reception, we had a big punk rock show at our favorite club in Hongdae as the after party. At that point, Trash was playing in a band named BB Lucky Town. I didn’t have a band at the time, but knew I wanted to throw something together for that show. When my buddy Ric was making the poster for the show, I still wasn’t sure who I’d be playing with, so the poster listed all the bands and then at the end said, “and Jeff….whatever that means” and then once I’d put a lineup together for the show, we decided to call ourselves …Whatever That Means so we could pretend our name was on the poster. None of us actually liked the name. It was kind of a joke, and the band was only supposed to play that one show and be done. Now, it’s more than seven years later, and we’re stuck with it. Oops!

Are there any Korean artists you guys are fans of nowadays that KultScene readers should check out?
Jeff: Oh definitely. Some of our favorite bands in Korea are SkaSucks, Billy Carter, Chain Reaction, Burning Hepburn, and Animal Anthem. Everyone should definitely check out our label mates, Full Garage, too. Actually, as I’m typing this, they’re on a plane to the US for their first American tour. They’ll be playing all up and down the West Coast from July 7 through the 22nd. You can find those dates, along with our tour dates, on our label’s site.

Any last words for KultScene’s readers?
Trash: Thanks for taking the time to check out a local band from Seoul, Korea. Hope to see you
at a show!

Thank you, Jeff and Trash, for speaking with KultScene.

West coast fans can check out …Whatever That Means this summer as they hold a four-state tour:
July 23 Las Vegas, NV @ The Double Down Saloon
July 24 Fresno, CA @ TBA
July 26 Corvallis, OR @ The Interzone Café
July 27 Seattle, WA @ The Kraken
July 28 Tacoma, WA @ Real Art
July 29 Portland, OR @ Foggy Notion
July 30 Reno, NV @ PB&J’s
July 31 Berkeley, CA @ 924 Gilman Street
August 1 Los Angeles, CA @ The Redwood Bar

Are you going to see …Whatever That Means? What do you think of their music? Share your picks in the comment section below and be sure to subscribe to the site and follow us onFacebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr to keep up with all of our posts.

K-Pop Reactioner MRJKPOP talks YouTube, Producing, & Analyzing Korean Music

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If, like this writer, you were unconsciously reading the YouTube account MRJKPOP as Mr. J K-pop, you may be surprised to hear that M.R.J stands for none other than the show’s forerunner, Michael R Johnson. Johnson began his YouTube channel three years ago and since then has become one of the most watched reactioners relating to Korean music. Through insightful analysis coming from  his professional background and his highlighting of even the smallest details in new songs from South Korea, MRJKPOP has become a go-to for many diehard K-pop fans who want to get a deeper look into the music.

We spoke to MRJKPOP about his YouTube channel, being viewed over 13 million times, and a lot more.

KultScene: How did you start off as MRJKPOP?
I initially wanted to share K-pop with my friends, who had never heard of it, and also discuss the songwriting, production, and marketing aspects of it with others. As a session musician and songwriter, I constantly break down and analyze the music I am listening to in my head — always trying to learn something, get ideas and inspiration, and figure out how it was created in the studio. While I wanted to help promote and share this awesome pop music I had discovered from the other side of the globe, I figured that only a very small handful of “music geeks” like myself would be interested in listening to what I had to say, especially since my videos ended up being quite long.

What makes you pick a certain music video to review?
I have my own sort of criteria for determining whether I will spend the time to make a song review — since they take at least 4-6 hours each to create — but the main things it comes down to is if I personally am interested in the song, writers/producers, or group, if I think it is significant in some way in the industry, if I think a lot can be learned from it through analysis, and finally, if I actually have the time to review it shortly after it is released.

You do a lot of reviews/reactions, but also have done several interviews. How did you go about transitioning from consumer to producer?
I don’t really see it as a transition from consumer to producer — my review videos are adding a lot more substance and analysis than me simply consuming music, so even those already contain a lot of “producing” or “product.” Actually, this YouTube channel has always been a side project; I run a music production/technology and marketing company as my main thing — reviewing K-pop music on YouTube is just something that is a natural extension of the other things I do, and also intersects with my personal interests (yes, I actually enjoy listening to K-pop in my personal life). Before I ever started MRJKPOP, I was already creating and producing both music and video content for YouTube and elsewhere, so it’s natural for me to add things like interviews, collaborations, or original music content to the MRJKPOP channel.

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Videos from your main YouTube channel have been viewed more than 13 million times. What do you think people enjoy watching you so much? Did you expect the success?
That’s a really big number — and it still always surprises me when I look at my analytics. Like I said before, when I started the MRJKPOP channel, and even for a long while after it was up and running, I still didn’t think more than a handful of music theory buffs, aspiring producers, and musicians would be willing to spend 15 minutes at a time listening to me talk. However, over the years of feedback via comments and messages from viewers, it seems that people really do like learning more about how the music they like is made — they want to see what is going on behind that curtain, and see what makes the “magic” happen. I have some knowledge, skills, and experience in that particular area, so I think that is why people enjoy watching me explain some of those things in a way that hopefully people with little knowledge of recording or music theory can still understand. At the same time, I hope that even experienced industry veterans and artists can also find value in my videos and analysis — and I have gotten positive feedback from many of those people who watch regularly. I also say exactly what I feel and what I think about the music I am analyzing, and don’t pretend, hold back, or try to sugar coat anything, and I think people appreciate that honesty as well.

Watching your videos, it’s clear that you know a lot about music. What’s your background like?
I was classically trained on the trumpet and music theory by an amazing ex-US NAVY Band, Washington D.C. 1st chair trumpet player from the time I was about 10-17. He was an extremely tough teacher, but I still use things he taught me to this day in my everyday work, and even when analyzing music on MRJKPOP. I played in various bands, wind ensembles, pit orchestras, jazz bands, and combos all through school, and attended a visual and performing arts high school for music and trumpet performance. When I was about 13, I began learning how to do remixes and record music myself, and started piecing together my own small studio. By 15, I was recording local artists and bands professionally, as well as writing and recording my own music. Sometime around then, I picked up electric guitar, and taught myself to play — using the knowledge of music and practice habits I had already acquired from the trumpet. I also taught myself how to build and repair electric guitars and audio equipment and amplifiers around that same timeframe.

After high school, I transitioned to playing guitar more frequently, formed my own rock band, and continued to record and collaborate with other artists, while constantly building up the equipment in my own studio. I also began getting hired as a studio session guitar player, and started uploading guitar covers and original music to the Internet (as well as the early days of YouTube). That lead to collaborations and session work for musicians all over the world, like former American Idol contestants and YouTube musicians like Roomie, and eventually I was picked up by a studio working on music for major label projects, where I was a session guitar player, songwriter, and co-producer. I also continued to write and co-write music, and produce for other artists as well through my own studio. After a move to a different state, I continued my session playing, producing, and songwriting work, but focused on doing it through my studio and company on projects I chose to work on, which is what I’m still doing to this day. More recently, I am finishing a Music Production degree from the Berklee College of Music.

Many of us know you through your YouTube channel, you also run a production company, MRJ Studios. Can you tell me a little bit about what you’re doing with that?
MRJ Studios, Inc., is the music production, technology, and marketing company that I’ve basically been running since around 2003. It has been operating professionally since about 2005 as my personal music business, but was recently incorporated, so I have everything in place to continue to expand it. I offer a lot of different services through my business — from music production, recording, songwriting, artist development, session playing, and mixing to the marketing end of things, like social media presence, international promotion (especially for K-pop artists looking to expand their fan base in the USA), advertising, and more. I also offer a lot of technical services like computer systems setup, recording studio equipment repair and setup, consulting, and answering questions about how to accomplish various tasks relating to music, electronics, and the Internet. Video production and music analysis/consulting (much like what I do on the MRJKPOP channel) is just one of the many things my company can do.

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You’re extremely prolific, so can you tell our readers a little bit about what your work ethic is like?
I don’t mind working hard, but I have had to learn to really manage my time carefully. For the past year and a half, I’ve been attending Berklee Online, which is full-time and year-round college, doing multiple videos and other behind the scenes work that you don’t see for MRJKPOP, and also running my business — all at the same time. Prior to that, I was in college for engineering and business instead of music production, so it has been much of the same schedule for the past 4-5 years. It’s a lot to keep track of, but I feel like it is worth it to keep at it and working as hard as I can.

You have a lot to say about the present of K-pop, so where do you think the future will take the genre, its artists, and its fans?
I really don’t know what will happen with K-pop, but I think it can certainly continue to grow globally, and appeal to more and more fans. I really do think that K-pop can become much more prevalent and desired in the US market, and that’s something I’m constantly working to help out in any small way that I can. And as always, I’m looking forward to seeing what new music comes out of K-pop next!

What video did you enjoy making the most?
The videos I enjoyed making the most are the interviews — although they are probably the most work by far — and the few skits I’ve done were really fun too. I do like making the more technical videos too, showing production techniques and really breaking down how to make sounds that are used in all of our favorite releases.

Also, congrats on being featured by the Korea Herald! Is there anything else in the works that KultScene’s readers can look forward to?
I actually wasn’t aware of that until you mentioned it and I just looked it up… I suppose that it’s nice that they mentioned me, but some of the information isn’t correct, and that type of thing happens rather often. Surprisingly, I am hardly ever contacted or asked when I am quoted, summarized, or referenced in news articles. You’d think journalists would want to get accurate information directly from me, and I make it rather easy to contact me in many different ways… So thank you for actually taking the time to contact me for this interview!

Anyway, I’ve got a ton of stuff in the works all of the time — I really enjoy bringing new content to anyone who is nice enough to take the time to view it! I am working on some more interviews with KPop artists and producers, and I’m also working on a membership program for people interested in getting additional exclusive MRJ content directly from me, with a lot of other cool features included. Finally, I’m working on writing more original music that will be released or maybe even picked up by other artists soon!

And, finally, what’s your favorite song of the moment?
My favorite song of the moment is definitely Good Luck by AOA. I’ve been replaying the song and music video constantly since it first came out.

Thank you for talking to us, MRJKPOP! If you like what you see, make sure to subscribe to MRJKPOP on his YouTube channel.

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