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.
“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.
“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.”
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.”
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 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.”
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.