On Saturday (October 11), local hardcore legends The Geeks are holding a concert at Prism in Hongdae to celebrate their 15th anniversary together.
And despite it being the seminal Seoul band’s birthday party, they are going to be the ones giving out presents! Attendees will be given a special Geeks poster and the first 150 people to arrive will also be given “Always Classic 2,” a cassette featuring one new song by the band and covers of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” and Pearl Jam’s “Spin the Black Circle.” The cassette is the follow-up to 2010’s “Always Classic 1” EP which saw The Geeks offering their own takes on tracks by the likes of Bad Brains and the Misfits. Along with the abovementioned gifts, The Geeks will have special T-shirts and buttons for sale too.
Saturday’s gig is also serving as the official release party for The Geeks’ sophomore full length, “Still Not in this Alone.” The long-awaited offering was issued in July through local hardcore imprint Townhall Records. The Geeks have already put out a music video for “Still Not in this Alone” cut “Defining Moments.” As a special treat they will screen their brand new music video for the album’s second single, “A Light in the Dark” for the first time on Saturday night at Prism.
KGG spoke with vocalist Seo Ki-seok about some of the band’s high points and low points over the last decade and a half, the making of “Still Not in this Alone,” and what keeps pushing them to make music. Although I’m not usually a big fan of Q&A style interviews, Seo had so many interesting things to share that it seemed wrong to just pick out a few select quotes. Check out everything that he had to say below.
What are some of the things you love most about being part of The Geeks?
I love the fact that we’ve been making history and we’re still making a difference in a relevant way. The philosophy of this band has always been to go for broke and give it all that we have. We’ve definitely taken the road less traveled by doing things that no other band in Korea had previously done, liking touring overseas at a time when most people thought it was not possible or crazy. I’m also proud that we’ve inspired and enlightened a lot of kids globally. It means the world to me that we’ve made a difference and still continue to do so. Most importantly, we helped build and grow the hardcore and punk scenes in Korea together with our friends.
You guys have been playing together for 15 years now. Can you still see The Geeks making and playing hardcore long enough to celebrate a 20th anniversary, 25th anniversary, 30th anniversary, etc?
Who knows? We never thought we would make it to 15 years! There certainly have been a lot of bumps along the way, but we’re still here and things are going well. In fact, we’re tighter than ever! I’m really hoping we can continue to make a difference in the future. And if we’re still around for our 20th anniversary, I hope I can still jump around as much as I do now because I’ll be 40 in Korean age then!
What are some of your proudest accomplishments with The Geeks over the past 15 years?
First, when Townhall Records approached us for the first time and we started to build a local hardcore scene together in our own way with new bands and new kids. It was a life-changing experience and was so rewarding. To me, that was the single most important thing we’ve ever achieved – Seoul city hardcore and Korean hardcore are in my blood.
I think my second proudest accomplishment was when Think Fast Records in the US approached us to do a record with them. They basically wanted us to prove that hardcore was worldwide and show how it is done in Asia. It was huge for us and the Asian hardcore scene.
Next on my list were our first and second US tours. We toured the US with some of the world’s leading hardcore bands such as Bane and Modern Life Is War and played shows with Have Heart, Champion, Verse, and others. And kids went crazy for us. The whole experience was way beyond our wildest expectations.
Another proud accomplishment was being able tour in other Asian countries like Japan, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. People there seemed to truly care about our music and the crowds were awesome. And it was also awesome to be a very active part of the Asian hardcore scene.
What have been some of your strangest, craziest, and weirdest moments with The Geeks over the past 15 years?
There have been so many insane stories. But many of those can’t be shared in public! One thing I think I’ll always remember was when our van was broken into in San Francisco. We played a gig there and parked our van in what we thought was a nice, safe area. When we woke up the next day, we discovered that the windows in the van had been smashed and that equipment, suitcases, and my laptop and iPod were gone. We lost a lot of things that were necessary for our tour and felt devastated. Oh yeah, and to make matters worse – that day was my birthday!
But thankfully the bands we were touring with and the kids at shows really helped us a lot. People let us use their equipment and a donation box was put out at each show. Some bands like Bane even gave us their pay from the gigs to help support us financially. Bane gave us a new bass too when we stayed at their house. We were amazed by the kindness people showed us.
Another thing related to that story was that our drummer’s asthma inhaler was in one of the suitcases that were stolen. We didn’t have a prescription to get him a new inhaler. And we didn’t have any insurance either and were poor as hell. His asthma kept getting worse and worse. One day we were in Chicago and he was almost dying. Expired Youth were playing with us and we told them about the situation. And their guitarist Shariq (Ibriham) goes “Wait, I’m a doctor. I can help you guys with that!” And bam, it was taken care of and we were able to get an inhaler. Shariq truly saved a life that day.
What things would you still like to accomplish with The Geeks?
We haven’t toured in Europe yet so that’s one of our top priorities right now. And we also want to gig in other parts of Asia and the US again. But scheduling is tough as everyone has full-time jobs. So tours take a lot of pre-planning but hopefully we’ll be able to make some things happen.
What important lessons have you learned about the music industry and being a band over the past 15 years?
Passion drives everything. And you need to work hard if you want to achieve your goals. It is easy to set goals. But continually pushing yourself to actually make those things happen is much more challenging. It’s important to love what you do and to understand why you’re doing it. Words are great but actions are what matters.
Please tell me about “Still Not in this Alone.” When was the album written? When was it recorded?
We initially finished the writing process in 2012 and started recording then. From there, we continue to modify and revise the songs as we moved forward. And for some of the songs, we decided to start all over again from scratch. Because of our busy schedules, we weren’t able to focus 100% on recording so it took a long time to finish everything. To be honest, it felt like recording would never end! You have no idea how happy all of us were when everything was finally done.
It’s been seven years since the release of “Every Time We Fall.” Was the major time gap between albums planned? Will it be another seven years before we hear a third full-length from The Geeks?
Those are good questions! No, it wasn’t planned. After releasing “Every Time We Fall” in 2007 we did a lot of touring and all started our professional working careers. Those things caused big delays in everything from planning gigs to writing songs. Some of us got married as well. One a personal level, I started a booking agency called Open Your Eyes and was pretty busy with that. I was also running a venue called Powwow with partners too. At some points during the gap, it was almost next to impossible to set aside some time to work and practice together. Actually, our original plan was to make “Still Not in this Alone” an EP. But we realized we had more songs than we needed for an EP. So we decided to write extra tracks and make it a full-length album. But then that took more time as well!
We certainly don’t have any plans for our next album yet. Right now we’re focused on playing as many shows as possible.
Listening to the finished album now, what are some of the things you like best about “Still Not in this Alone”?
We went through a lot when making “Still Not in this Alone.” In fact, we almost broke up while working on this album. We’re not in this for money. Instead it’s our passion in our music and beliefs that has pushed this band forward. There were some points when we were dead tired and wanted to stop. But those hard times reminded us of why we do what we do as The Geeks. Now we’re revitalized and stronger than ever. We survived and created the best album we’ve made to date.
With this album I think we’ve made progress but lyrically and musically. We’ve definitely stepped things up. We worked hard to ensure that we moved forward as a band but still kept our identity. This is not easy to do, especially in our genre of music.
What do you have planned for your 15th anniversary gig at Prism? Why should everyone come and get wild and sweaty with The Geeks on October 11.
We’re going to play a special set on October 11 that will include some interesting cover songs. There are lots of things going on this weekend, including a few festivals that feature a lot of other great bands. But I think our show is going to be something unique and memorable because it’s an anniversary gig and a celebration of a band that helped to grow and nurture the local hardcore scene. I think Saturday is going to be an amazing experience that won’t be duplicated.
The Geeks play on Saturday night at Prism in Hongdae. The show starts at 5:30 pm and will feature opening sets from Victor Ha (from Things We Say), All I Have, Animal Anthem, Startline, Asian Chairshot, Burning Hepburn, Burn My Bridges, and Rux. Tickets are 20,000 won at the door. For more information, check out the show’s Facebook event page here.