Monthly Archives: March 2014

March 22: The Geeks, Startline, and 4 Brothers at Shake Shop

The Korea Gig Guide co-presented concert series Shake Shop takes place tonight at Club Freebird.  This month’s show features The Geeks, Startline, and 4 Brothers all collaborating with the bellydancer Eshe and her Navah troupe.

The Geeks

Undeniably one of the country’s top hardcore talents, The Geeks are finally preparing to unveil their long-awaited sophomore album.  The band’s 2007 “Every Time We Fall” debut was a critically acclaimed affair, and fans have been eagerly awaiting its follow up.  While no proper release date has been set yet, according to Geeks’ vocalist Seo Kiseok the disc will definitely be out sooner rather than later.

“We’re working on a new album and it will come out this year for sure,” says Seo.  “It will come out in Korea through Townhall Records and overseas on Think Fast Records.  We just finished mixing and the artwork.  Now we’re working on a release timeline.  We’ll announce our full plans soon.”

Last year saw The Geeks doing an American tour and performing at Texas’ massive South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival.  Although the members of the band all have very busy schedules with work and family commitments, the group are hoping to play some international concerts in support of their upcoming record.  No gigs have been confirmed yet, but Seo says the US, UK, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Japan are “top priorities” for The Geeks and are on their list of places to try and make it to.

Hardcore and bellydance are not a combination most people would expect to see, but for Seo that’s what makes The Geeks collaboration with Eshe and Navah at Freebird tonight so interesting.

“The Geeks are all about pushing the limits and living life to the fullest,” Seo says.  “We like to push the envelope and move the needle. This is an extremely great opportunity that will enable us to try new things and progress as a band. I never thought we would be invited to collaborate with bellydancers.  This is just so amazing!

“One of my favorite hardcore bands 7 Seconds says, ‘If we can walk together, why can’t we rock together?’  Our music and our performance is known for its unmatched high level of energy, which I think can be well translated into the main essence of dance.  And the lyrics for one of our new songs were inspired by the German dancer and choreographer Pina Bausch. So I think us and the bellydancers have a lot in common. This collaboration is going to be cool.”

Startline

Formed in March 2013, melodic punk trio Startline features members of Gumx and Copy Machine.  The ambitious act issued their first EP last September, the six-cut “Light My Fire,” and in November flew to Indonesia to participate in the Asian Beat Grand Final 2013.  They placed third in the competition, and drummer Choi Gun was crowned best drummer at the event.

Looking to further build on last year’s momentum, Startline will put out their full-length debut this spring.

“We’re planning to release our first album in May,” says Choi.  “We’re going to record it in April and it’s going to full of great punk songs with awesome lyrics.  We have so many ideas we want to try and are still deciding which songs should go on the album.  We’re working really hard right now and will continue to challenge ourselves to create great stuff.”

Like The Geeks, Startline are excited about teaming up with bellydancers tonight at Club Freebird.

“We’re very open minded to all new experiences,” says Choi.  “We know Eshe and Navah have been doing great things with a lot of great bands so we also want to try working with them.

“We have lots of fast songs.  We’re going to play them like we normally do and see where the bellydancers can lead us.  We think art and music create really good energy together, so tonight should be a lot of fun for everyone.

Poppy vintage rockers 4 Brothers will round out the bill for Shake Shop Vol. 13.  The band are gigging in support of their 2013 full-length, “The Riot of Decadence.”

Shake Shop Vol. 13 takes place on Saturday, March 22 at Club Freebird. The show starts at 8:30 pm and the cover charge is 15,000 won with one free drink. Eshe and Navah will perform alongside The Geeks, Startline, and 4 Brothers.  For more information, check out the show’s Facebook event page here.

Here are the set times for tonight’s gig:
8:30 4 Brothers
9:15 Navah
9:30 Startline
10:15 The Geeks

Shake Shop 13

Heimlich County Gun Club CD Release on March 22

If you haven’t heard the name Paul Bricky before, then that’s on you.

A Korean-American army brat, Paul has been part of the Korean music scene since the ’90s. He once ran away from his home on Yongsan Garrison and lived in Skunk Hell in their original location closer to Sinchon. He played guitar in Rux for a while, and played drums in Beef Jarkey, the original band of Kingston Rudieska vocalist Suk-yul. After leaving for a couple years, he returned to Korea in 2005 and joined Suck Stuff, leading them through a period of great songwriting and taking them in new directions never before explored by Korean punk. Then, right as Suck Stuff was building momentum, right after getting signed to Dope Entertainment, he married his girlfriend Yumi, enlisted in the US Army and left Korea in 2007.

hcgc_playground
Heimlich County Gun Club at the Play Out Festival in Hongdae Playground last year.

“I don’t think anyone joins for any single reason,” Paul told me in a recent interview. “For me the overiding impetitus was simply that I was a reasonably healthy and fit young man and my country was at war. I wanted to be a medic; I wouldn’t have done anything else.”

Five years passed, he survived basic training and served as an army medic in Iraq. Then in 2012 he was transferred back to Korea (assignment of choice!) where he found the scene had changed drastically.

Paul and Yumi in 2012 after returning to Korea.
Paul and Yumi in 2012 after returning to Korea.

“The Korean scene as a whole has largely left me behind,” he says. “The old friends that I counted as brothers don’t return the respect they demanded and received when I was younger. The younger people in the scene are unaware or uninterested in the contributions that I have made. Watching your influence fade is a very tough pill to swallow.”

suckstuff_jonghee
Paul did a reunion show with Suck Stuff which also saw his former bandmate Jonghee from Rux on stage.

After a reunion show with Suck Stuff and a few acoustic gigs, he started Heimlich County Gun Club, and his wife joined Chanter’s Alley. “For a while I had made up my mind not to start a band,” he says. ” As a foreigner band it’s difficult not to be a gimmick or a clown within the Korean scene or you focus on playing to the foreigner crowd which is often more interested in socializing and getting drunk rather than listening to live music. But I caved.”

Heimlich County Gun Club in Mullae.
Heimlich County Gun Club in Mullae.

Perhaps soaking up some country influence from his time in the army and life in Mississippi, HCGC has a definitive country sound to it. What’s more, it showcases Paul’s outstanding talent for songwriting, rendering real-life experiences in straightforward lyrics.

“I write tons and tons of songs,” Paul says. “I am in the low hundreds when it comes to songs that I have written. Some of these were just a few phrases that I liked, sounded semi-poetic or made an interesting statement effectively. I didn’t do as much writing as usual in the States. I was usually busy fishing, hunting, or working in my garden or yard. Some definitely were written in Iraq or at least I got the ideas in Iraq but for this album lyrical-wise I would say that about 60% of it was written shortly after I got here.”

The songs on HCGC’s new album, Stars and Streetlights, range from nostalgia about the old days in Hongdae, to his time spent in the US, to his experiences at war in Iraq. No matter what he’s singing, you can tell it’s about something that he has personally lived through.

“You know something, I find it nearly impossible to write about something that I haven’t personally experienced,” Paul explains. “I take songwriting very seriously and it is difficult for me to really insert myself into something so light and produce a well-written piece. I have been trying to write a song, just like a joke sort of, about Strelka and Belka, the first Soviet space dogs to return to Earth. I just thought that it would be fun to try and I can’t seem to make it work. At the same time I haven’t been able to write a song for my dog Sukie who died earlier this year. The song ‘Peace and Plenty’ draws some influence from the relationship that I had with my father who also died earlier this year.”

Paul's dad managed to see Paul on stage in 2007.
Paul’s dad managed to see Paul on stage in 2007.

Paul was originally supposed to only stay in Korea for a year, but that ended up becoming two. Next month, his time in Korea comes to an end and he’s moving to Oregon.

“If I had any say in the matter I would not have come back to Korea,” says Paul. “One thing that I envy about most people that I know is that they have a hometown. I want to put down roots someplace and Korea is not that place.”hcgc_poster

You can pick up a copy of the new CD at his Saturday show in Club Spot, where HCGC will share the stage with eight other bands from the Korean scene. The 15 000 won cover price includes a free CD and a raffle ticket for a chance to win one of Paul’s own homemade cigar-box guitars.

“It’s well time for me to bow out and yield the stage to the newer groups and for me to carry on to different grounds,” says Paul.

RSVP for the show on Facebook or preview the album on Bandcamp.

Dr Ring Ding did an impromptu performance at the one-year anniversary celebration of Jamaican jerked chicken restaurant Zion Boat in Hongdae.

Korea + Germany = Jamaica?

From left: Seok-yul (Kingston Rudieska vocalist), Jeongseok (Kingston Rudieska trumpeter), Dr Ring Ding, Tehiun (Tehiun & Purijah guitarist/vocalist
From left: Seok-yul (Kingston Rudieska vocalist), Jeongseok (Kingston Rudieska trumpeter), Dr Ring Ding (Germany), Tehiun (Tehiun & Purijah guitarist/vocalist

It’s still too rare that Korea’s indie bands connect with the outside world. Which is why it was so great last summer when German dancehall/ska/reggae juggernaut  Dr Ring Ding for the Jisan Rock Festival, where his band Dr Ring Ding Skavaganza shared the stage with Korea’s own Kingston Rudieska and Japanese ska band Doberman.

“Dr Ring Ding, along with the Skatalites, has been my favourite for more than ten years and still one of the musicians who influenced me,” says Oh Jeongseok, Kingston Rudieska’s trumpeter. “Ever since I first loved ska I’ve loved his music, so I never expected to meet him for a performance and make an album together.”

“I had heard of Kingston Rudieska before,” says Dr Ring Ding. “Joep van Rhijn [former Kingston Kitchen bandmate, from Rotterdam Ska-Jazz Foundation, now located in Daegu] gave me their CD and I was amazed. It’s wonderful how they play. I really love it.”

Dr Ring Ding did an impromptu performance at the one-year anniversary celebration of Jamaican jerked chicken restaurant Zion Boat in Hongdae.
Dr Ring Ding did an impromptu performance at the one-year anniversary celebration of Jamaican jerked chicken restaurant Zion Boat in Hongdae.

Before returning to Germany, Dr Ring Ding spent a day in the recording studio with Kingston Rudieska. “I think Jeongseok said while I’m here we might as well record something,” says Dr Ring Ding, who is not  a real doctor. “While the others [in Skavaganza] were sightseeing, we went to the rehearsal studio and rehearsed.”

“Because of our busy schedules, the album was recorded in one day,” says Jeongseok. “Before recording Dr Ring Ding and we had a few hours of rehearsal and decided what we should play.”

What started as a one-song recording quickly turned into a four-song EP, and with an additional dub put together by the good doctor, they produced Ska ‘n Seoul, the first ever Korean/German ska collaboration.

With four songs and an additional dub track, this EP represents Kingston Rudieska at the top of their game, and you can tell they’re having the time of their lives with Dr Ring Ding as he shows off his vocal prowess. The album includes a cover of “Johnny Come Home” by the Fine Young Cannibals as well as a climactic rendition of the classic spiritual “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” with Dr Ring Ding playing the role of the preacher and Kingston Rudieska as his flock. There are also two originals, with Dr Ring Ding taking center stage on “Your Sweet Kiss” and sharing the mic with Kingston lead vocalist Seok-yul on the sugary bilingual tune “Bad Company,” a reworking of an old Dr Ring Ding recording.

drrdkrsThat album comes out this week. Dr Ring Ding is back in Korea to promote the album, and if you missed his impromptu performance in Zion Boat last Saturday (pictured at the top of this article), don’t miss him this Saturday at a joint concert in Sangsang Madang. “Dr Ring Ding will play many classic songs and play together with Kingston Rudieska,” says Jeongseok. “It will be a great one-of-a-kind performance.”

For his second time in Korea, Dr Ring Ding has left his regular band at home, instead opting to fly solo and have Kingston Rudieska as his backing band.

“In the reggae/dancehall world that’s a common thing to do,” says Dr Ring Ding, who has previously done a similar thing with bands all over the world. “If you see the old Reggae Sunsplash concerts there are backing bands for eight or twelve solo artists. So that’s easy of course. One person has to travel and meets with a band that knows exactly what they’re doing and what the solo artist is going to do.”

This visit also takes Dr Ring Ding and Kingston Rudieska on a press junket through Korean radio and TV, as well as this humble website. Their album will be released on Kingston Rudieska’s label Rudie System, and will also get international distribution.

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This Korean/German ska collaboration is a historic first for Korea as the country begins to find its musical voice on the global stage, and is sure to win over anyone who hears it.

Bands: Dr Ring Ding, Kingston Rudieska, Rude Paper
Venue: Sangsang Madang
Date: Saturday, 15 March
Start time: 6pm
Advance tickets: 35,000 won
At the door: 40,000won

RSVP on Facebook or buy tickets through Interpark.

Smacksoft to Bring True Korean Post-Punk to US

By: Tom Rainey-Smi​th

From the streets of New York to the underground clubs of Seoul, Smacksoft frontwoman Bo Ryung Whang has been fashioning her own blend of electronica-infused post-punk since she first started performing in Seoul in the late 1990s. Smacksoft was established shortly after, taking on its current form in 2007 when Bo Ryung returned from a stint at art school. Her whispery vocals betray a rawness and honesty that reflect her unapologetic commitment to creating self-expressive art.

Smacksoft 3

Smacksoft  released their fifth album titled Follow Your Heart at the end of 2012, which earned them a nomination at the 2013 Korean Music Awards for “Best Modern Rock Album,” and is planning to bring out their sixth full-length by the middle of this year. The band will join other Korean acts including Crying Nut and Jambinai  at Texas’ South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival next week before heading off to California and then on to Amsterdam. In order to raise funds for their upcoming tour, the band will be performing a special tour fundraiser gig on Friday, March 7 at Nest Nada in Hongdae.

Korea Gig Guide had a chance to interview Smacksoft’s frontwoman Bo Ryung to ask her about the evolution of Smacksoft and their upcoming tour.

Smacksoft 13

Q: What is the meaning behind the name Smacksoft?

A: The sound of the words “smack” and “soft” both sound like they feel. I like the inherent duality in putting these two things together.  For me, they represent an anti-violence and anti-authoritarian attitude. I like mixing these punk/anarchy and pro-peace ideas together. It is confrontational and serious but also has some humor to it.

Q: Tell us about your journey as a musician from your early days in the punk scene to the present. How has your sound evolved?

A: I have always listened to and played music, painted, drawn, and written stuff – whatever was a meaningful expression of myself at any given time.  I don’t follow trends or what other people are doing, but I am definitely inspired by things that are happening around me and collaborating with other musicians and artists. I think the biggest evolution in my music has occurred through technology – the amount of control I can have in the production and editing as well as playing has allowed me to exercise greater authenticity in my work.

Q: You’ve played many shows in support of various social causes such as “Rock and Resistance: Against the Naval Base on Jeju Island” and “Solidarity for US Military Camptown Women’s Human Rights.” What is your motivation to support these causes?

A: I simply believe it is the right thing to do. Human history is full of violence, war, and suffering, but it is just as equally full of beauty and kind acts. I think sometimes it’s hard to remember that we have the power to change things positively if only we will speak up and get involved.

Q: It can be quite difficult trying to survive off your music alone as an indie musician in South Korea. How do you manage?

A: It is difficult to be an artist.  There’s definitely a reason why everyone says that.  But, honestly, I never really thought about it too much. It wasn’t a question for me of whether or not to live a creative life. I just did it. I’m not really alone as an indie musician, there’s a whole core group of people working to support and promote the indie scene in Korea from venues like Club Rainbow to people who listen to our music. To make ends meet I might teach art, sell some of my paintings, or do other things like that.

Q: Do you have hopes of releasing a new album in the near future?

A: Smacksoft plan to release our sixth studio album in June. And, I just released a solo EP on February 27.  It’s called “As If Nothing Ever Happened.”

Q: You recently shot a beautiful new video for Dreamer of Myths. Tell us about the experience of filming it.

A: It was really cold but really fun. We had a great crew. The video for “Dreamer of Myths” presents my thoughts and ideas along with the music. I am wearing a mask with words – rage, betrayal, feeling lost, loneliness – and when I take that off and burn it, I felt this emotional release of actually letting go of all the human fears and suffering that we create for ourselves.

Q: You toured the US back in 2012. What was the highlight of that tour?

A: Definitely just seeing the States and getting to drive through the country was a highlight. Also, we met some great musicians when we played in Chicago at Transistor and Reggie’s. One band, Evil Twin Sister, their guitarist Mario had a friend who had just seen us play in Tijuana, Mexico so he had already heard about us – that was exciting. Playing in Tijuana was also an amazing experience. And, even though our music is mostly in Korean, people still responded to the music, which was very moving for us.

Q: What can US-based fans expect from you at SXSW?

A: True post-punk music – not the “indie” packaged, soul-less music produced by following some kind of set formula. I think we’re all going to have a great time getting to share our music with a new audience.  I think they’ll love us!

Q: Lastly, you’ll be collaborating with the belly dancer Eshe and her Navah troupe this Friday night to raise money for your trip. Tell us what is it like to take part in these kinds of music-dance collaborations from the band’s perspective.

A: Clearly, music and dance go together well – it’s a natural collaboration. I think working with any artists expands the whole creative process.  I think it shows us all what is possible and creates a wonderful experience for all of the participants regardless of whether they are dancing, listening, playing, or doing something else. Performing live is really the best feeling there is.

Smacksoft Fundraiser

Smacksoft’s US tour fundraiser show takes place on Friday night at Nest Nada.  The show starts at 8 pm and tickets are 20,000 won.  Apollo 18, Rainbow99, and bellydancers Eshe & Navah will also perform.  For international fans, here are Smacksoft’s overseas gigs in March and April:

March 13 Austin, TX @ Icenhauer’s (SXSW)
March 16 San Antonio, TX @ Limelight
March 20 San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall (CAAMFest)
April 12 Amsterdam, Netherlands @ Sugar Factory (PMPS Fest)

Jambinai and Idiotape Team Up for Seoul Show before Their US Tours

By: Tom Rainey-Smi​th

Korean indie acts Jambinai and Idiotape are preparing to take on Texas in March where they will join more than 2,000 bands from 60 countries at the South by Southwest (SXSW) Music Festival. Before they head off to the States, the two bands are performing a show this Sunday (March 2) at Club Ta in Hongdae. Check out Korea Gig Guide’s interviews with both bands, along with their American tour dates, below.

Jambinai
photo by RIchard Yoon Chan

Fusing elements of metal and punk with traditional Korean music, Jambinai have spent much of the past year showcasing their talent around the world. Recently billed by MTV Iggy as one of the top 10 international acts not to miss at SXSW, this post-rock band are pushing boundaries and winning a diverse fan base with their unique sound. With an EP and an album under their belt, they are currently putting together material for what will be their second full-length release.

The Jambinai experience is hard to define. Their sound might be best described as listening to Meshuggah while walking through Seoul’s Gyeongbok Palace at night on acid; their deeply layered and darkly beautiful songs will leave you in an altered state. As guitarist and piri player Lee Ilwoo explains, their sound has evolved from a longtime interest in traditional Korean music and hopes to take listeners on a unique journey. Read our interview with him below.

Tell us about your musical influences and how you came to create such a unique sound.

Lee Ilwoo: We all have been playing Korean traditional music since we were middle school and high school. And we’re also fans of lots of other types of music too like hardcore, punk, metal, tango, modern classical music, and many other styles. I think we combine all of our different musical tastes to try and make something new using the instruments we’ve been playing since we were kids and teenagers.

Do you approach your music as an attempt to break through stylistic boundaries or as more of a process of drawing on and fusing together different but established styles?

Lee Ilwoo: I guess we kind of do both of those things when we make music. It’s not something we do consciously, though. We just try to make the music we want to make using the instruments we love and feel really comfortable with.

Jambinai’s music is a collaborative and deeply artistic experience. Describe for our readers the process of song writing.

Lee Ilwoo: I usually come up with the framework for our songs. Then the other members add to the framework and help modify it with their traditional instruments.

You recently showcased some new material that is still as of yet unnamed. It is sounding deep and dark. Is there a specific theme or feeling that you’re going for your next album?

Lee Ilwoo: We want to try and describe feelings that represent the present. Something that has never been known before because no one has recognized that it exists. But actually it has existed the whole time. And when it is finally discovered, people will be shocked. Kind of like what happened with the coelacanth fish.*

What should concert goers expect from you at SXSW?

Lee Ilwoo: They should expect to see a band who can’t speak English well playing heavy music using instruments that they may have never seen before. We’re playing three official showcases at SXSW and two unofficial gigs during the festival as well. We’re excited to play for new audiences and hope lots of people come out see us play.

Here are Jambinai’s March US tour dates:
March 11 Austin, TX @ (7:30 pm) Elysium (official SXSW showcase)
March 12 Austin, TX @ (3 pm) International Day Stage Austin Convention Center (official SXSW showcase)
March 13 Austin, TX @ (1:30 pm) Hotel Vegas (Levitation Austin)
March 13 Austin, TX @ (12:00 am) Flamingo Cantina (official SXSW showcase)
March 14 Austin, TX @ (3:15 pm) Spider House (The Texas Rock N Roll Massacre 2)
March 16 San Antonio, TX @ Limelight

* The coelacanth fish was thought to have been extinct for 66 million years until one was eventually discovered in 1938.

Idiotape

Electro-rock trio Idiotape are no strangers to SXSW having first performed at the festival in 2011. This award-winning electronic act – which is comprised of producer and synthesizer player Dguru, synthesizer player Zeze, and drummer DR – has been pumping out the beats since 2008 when they formed in Seoul. Since then they’ve ripping up dance floors, performing to crowded audiences at a number of Korean and overseas festivals. They recorded an EP in 2010 and put out their first full-length album the following year. The band mixes synth-driven rhythms with a classic rock feel achieved by live drumming.

Not only do they promise to put on a dynamic and electrifying show, but also plan to showcase some new material for the first time when they hit Texas. As the band explains, they are an act that must be seen live to be really understood.

How would you describe your sound? What original elements do you bring into your music that makes it your own?

Dguru: We play dynamic synth-driven music will real drums. We’re kind of like an electronic rock ‘n’ roll band.

Zeze: Maybe electronic shoegaze would be a good description? We play electronic music with electronic instruments, but our mindset is based in rock music.

DR: I think we make rock music for the 21st century.

What are your musical influences?

Dguru: I’m influenced by the music and different sounds I hear everywhere I go. I think drawing is how we see, poetry is how we speak, and music is how we hear. When making music, I try to make sounds based on what I’ve heard or imagined.

Zeze: I’m influenced by the people I meet, by time, and by space. I’m really influenced by the different seasons too.

DR: My musical influences come from past memories of gigs I’ve played and how the audiences reacted at them, and from concerts I’ve seen by other bands.

Idiotape has established a solid following both locally and internationally. Do you think Korean indie music gets the recognition it deserves outside of the country?

Dguru: I don’t think it gets enough recognition yet. But that’s slowly changing. When we went to SXSW in 2011 there were only five Korean acts playing at the festival. This year there are 15 Korean acts. I think this is a really good thing and it could signal the start of a new beginning for the Korean indie scene.

You’ve played SXSW before. What are you most looking forward to about this year’s event?

Dguru: I’m looking forward to getting to know other musicians from around the world. I think we can learn a lot from watching other acts perform and getting to know them.

Zeze: The last time we went to SXSW, I was nervous and made many mistakes because it was our first overseas tour. I want to try and enjoy the festival more this time around.

Besides risking addiction to the music and involuntary body shaking, what should fans expect from your SXSW show?

Zeze: We’re going to play a new song at SXSW which we’ve never played before. People at SXSW will be the first ones to hear it.

DR: They should expect to get to experience the “real” Idiotape. I think you can’t judge our band based only by our albums. Idiotape is a band that needs to be seen live to truly understand us.

Here are Idiotape’s March US tour dates:
March 11 Austin, TX @ (11:30 pm) Elysium (Official SXSW Showcase)
March 20 San Francisco, CA @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall (CAAMFest)

Club Ta Poster

Jambinai and Iditoape will play a show together on Sunday, March 2 at Club Ta.  Ynot? are also on the bill.  The show starts at 6 pm and tickets are 15,000 in advance.