What was your upbringing like? What was your relationship with poetry and music, and how did those mediums evolved and intersect throughout the years?
Reba: I grew up playing the classical piano as well as the violin, and when I was a teenager I picked up the guitar & played terrible songs in terrible punk bands. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence in and out of hospitals, & that’s how I developed my love of literature, too – books and records were quite literally, perhaps involuntarily, my only companions growing up. I’ve always written songs & I’ve always written poetry; I still remember spending hours penning the lyrics to a song I called ‘Not Rated E’ (yikes, right?) at 7 years old. I started producing about 2 years ago, while studying poetry in college, when I realized I wanted to extend my spoken word pieces beyond the page.
Historically, your music has been a supplement to your poetry. Now that it’s taking on a larger role in your compositions, do you feel like the themes you deal with are shifting?
Reba: Though my interest in producing began as a sort of cushion for my writing, I’d say this is no longer the case- many of my recent compositions don’t include spoken word at all. I don’t want to say I’m a musician before I’m a poet; I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. They need each other. I don’t think my ‘themes’ are shifting. I am still grappling with being sick, still learning how to have a body.
Do the samples you select have similar relevance to you as your spoken word?
Reba: I’d say yes, topically: I want my voice to situate itself in a mix as another instrument, a gash of sound. I select poems for songs based on their sonic qualities (their fricatives, sibilants, assonance, etc) just as much as I do their “meaning.” The same goes for samples- I choose carefully; everything resonates w/ me emotionally just as much as it does sonically.
Some listeners and critics compare your work to other artists who have a similarly abrasive sound such as WWWINGS, Rabit, or Elysia Crampton. How do you view yourself and your music in the context of the experimental club (if you can call it that anymore) scene, especially in relation to other artists?
Reba: I think it’s wonderful to be a part of this “movement,” if you will, and I draw inspiration from so many of the artists often grouped in w/ it, some of whom are my friends. I like that former ideas of what constitutes ‘club music’ are being challenged & rewritten.
What can we look forward to from you in the near future?
Reba: I’m playing a handful of festivals, touring, and have a second EP in the works.
Dave Rempis, a saxophonist and Northwestern alum, has performed and recorded with improvising legends such as Roscoe Mitchell, Joe McPhee, Peter Brötzmann, Fred Anderson, and Hamid Drake. In addition to his eclectic musical career as a stalwart of Chicago’s thriving experimental music scene, Rempis runs his own record label (Aerophonic), is the board president of the non-profit arts venue/incubator Elastic Arts, and is an organizer of the annual Pitchfork Music Festival in Chicago. We caught up on the phone during his brief Midwest tour this past week.
Many of the groups you play with have been long-time collaborations, the most obvious of which maybe being the Vandermark 5 (since 1998). How do the musical conversations of a group develop over time? How does the improvised vernacular grow and change?
Yeah, that’s kind of an essential linking point when you make (improvised music) bands like this. With groups that work in a compositional setting it’s like, okay you write a new group of compositions and that changes the sound of the band. With an improvising band, it’s different because nobody is writing the compositions and it becomes more of an evolution over time of how the group operates and works and interacts with one another. It’s a really organic thing, it’s not something that you can predict or control. And it also depends a lot from one group to another, based on what the individual musicians have been doing in their lives, musically, personally, professionally. I don’t know if you could say that there’s a particular process that unfolds every time with every band.
Does the group’s rapport influence the amount of preparation that goes into a performance? With long-time collaborators, does that level of comfort lead to more or less pre-show planning?
I think it’s a combination of both. With groups that I’ve been playing with for years, when we walk on stage, I know I can expect that everybody is going to be fully engaged in the improvisation. I don’t know what’s going to come out musically, but I do know that everybody is going to be paying attention to one another and dealing with each other in creative ways. We are always listening to different things and influenced by different things in our careers. And the people I work with are all accommodating to that, and are trying to deal with each other in new ways, basically. And that’s what keeps bands interesting. I know the people that I play with can play their instruments really well. So if I get on stage and all they do is play their instruments well, but it’s the same old stuff we’ve been playing for years, it’s not particularly interesting (laughs). That’s part of the challenge of pushing groups forward – dealing with those changes and not trying to just predetermine what your sound is and stick with that.
What about newer formations, such as the collaborations with Nate Wooley, Michael Zerang, or Elisabeth Harnik? What is the value/experience of these types of first time improvisatory encounters?
Some of those first time encounters can be some of the most exciting and revelatory ones because they’re so new and fresh. And there are encounters that happen once like that, and the next time you get together it doesn’t work. You just have to keep your sleeves rolled up and keep working on it because it’s a process–based art form, and that means you’ll have failures. I think any visual artist, writer, etc. can say the same thing.
You have played with improvised music legends like Roscoe Mitchell and Joe McPhee (among others) – what did you learn from how they approach and exist in the creative space? Were there particular things (or attitudes) that they demanded from you as a younger musician?
No, I wouldn’t say so. The thing that I think most improvising musicians want to hear from a new or younger collaborator is somebody who is really making an effort (whether they’re succeeding or not) to come up with some type of individual voice. There are plenty of good saxophone players who can sound like John Coltrane or whoever else. And I don’t think that’s particularly interesting, because Coltrane did that better than anybody ever will. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be familiar with it, or versed in it. But if somebody gets on stage and starts doing that in an improvised setting, forget about it (laughs). But if they get up and are really trying to do something new, whether they’re succeeding or not, even if there’s a glimmer of success, it’s positive.
As long as you keep pushing forward and keep working on your thing. This is a process-based art form and as long as you’re engaged in that process, it’s something you’re going to be engaged in for the rest of your life. It’s a musical practice, it’s a life practice, it’s an approach to life that people like Roscoe Mitchell and Joe McPhee have spent decades thinking about and refining and defining for themselves. And what those people respect in younger musicians is when people try to find a pathway of their own.
So, maybe just approaching that creative act from genuine and honest place?
Yeah, absolutely. And this isn’t specific to more modern improvised music; this is something very specific to jazz, since the beginning of the art form. People were expected and encouraged to develop their own voices. And that’s why Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins sound completely different. And they’re both incredible, when you hear them it’s difficult not to think ‘why would I play saxophone any different than that?’ I think at the higher level of jazz, that’s what people have been expected to pursue. And I think there’s issues with the academy that date back a long time, where you kind of have to codify things to justify your existence, to justify yourself as a professor or justify this as a study. If it’s always up in the air and always evolving, you can’t really justify your existence, or charge people x amount of dollars per year to come study it. But I do think that’s particular to the academy.
One thing that I’ve seen in the last 20 years in Chicago is a model of existence for both avant-garde musicians and people working in more traditional jazz. I feel like there’s been a lot more coming together of those scenes in the last 20 years, which is a really positive development because those things are helping to inform one another artistically but also structurally and in terms of how the music get presented and organized.
Out of curiosity, who are some musicians that you see bridging that gap?
Someone in the younger generation like Nick Mazzarella really bridges that gap incredibly well. Mike Reed is in between those two worlds in a lot of ways. Jeff Bradfield, Dana Hall, Clark Sommers. Greg (Ward) is an incredible example. An amazingly talented musician who can pretty much do anything. There’s an interesting moment happening right now, especially with Constellation, the Green Mill more and more so. Dave Jemilo, the owner there, has always been supportive of a lot of different types of music. Particularly in the last fifteen years or so he’s made some choices to bring in some more avant-garde type stuff. And that decision had has big ramifications in more straight ahead audiences and musicians paying more attention to some of that stuff.
That leads us perfectly into the next question! What level of engagement do you expect from your audiences? What (if anything) do you expect that they know about avant-garde jazz before entering the room?
I feel like most people who are open-minded who know nothing about jazz can come to a performance and hear something and be totally blown away by it if it’s a good performance. It happens that people hear something completely new to them inadvertently and are totally into it. Like right now I’m doing a Tuesday night residency at a bar in Logan called The Burlington. The first night we played there there was a rock show in the back room and we were playing in the front room. By the end of the night we poached about half of the rock crowd because people were like ‘What the hell is this? This is cool.’ I do like to think that it doesn’t require background information.
You run your own record label (Aerophonic) through which you release all of your projects. How does this model work for you? Do you think that these types of artist-run labels, which deal with distribution directly and allow for plenty of flexibility/creative control for the artist, are becoming more important in avant-garde jazz and experimental music?
Yeah, absolutely. It also mirrors what’s happening in the larger culture. Huge pop artists no longer depend on the media to interface with their fans, they do it directly through social media. That said, the music we do is not broadly based appealing music to a larger commercial audience. So for the most part we’re talking about selling records with numbers in the hundreds. For me, being able to actually reach all those folks directly. I mean – I’m the one on tour who’s going around the states or Europe, meeting fans, meeting the people who actually buy the records. It doesn’t make sense that a record label would be trying to leverage those already existing relationships between me and my small fan base. I already have access to those people. I feel like I should be the one reaching out to them, developing that relationship, keeping them interested in what I’m doing and keeping them updated on what I’m doing.
That makes sense. I will say that as a consumer and as a radio host, there is a certain curatorial association with particular record labels. Like I know when I see a new Clean Feed release, even if I’ve never heard of the musicians on the record, there’s a good chance I’ll be into it.
That’s one of the few labels out there that’s incredibly active in putting out really great stuff. I can’t think of any label nowadays putting out this kind of music that’s as active as they are. That’s really a great label.
You help to run Elastic Arts, a venue that functions as one of the primary meeting places and presenters of experimental music and art in Chicago. Elastic Arts is a non-profit – how does this organizational model feed and inform the institutions mission?
It’s one model of presenting this type of music in this day and age. The space itself actually started as a rehearsal space and recording studio for a group of about ten people. Around 1998, a number of them were Northwestern students, people who needed a place to rehearse and record their stuff. It kind of grew out of that. From the beginning there was the informal process of people having meetings weekly and talking about the space and how they wanted to use and develop it. By 2002, they made the decision to formally incorporate as a not-for-profit, which was a really great idea. It took quite some time to fully realize what that meant. In the last couple of years – my improvised music series at Elastic started fifteen years ago – we moved into a new space. I think that on its own has really energized the organization in a lot of different ways. I took over as board president about a year and a half ago and we have a really serious board of directors that are engaged in the organization and bring a lot of different skills to it. People like Michael Zerang, who has a lot of non-profit experience. Katinka Kleijn, who’s a cellist for the CSO is joining our board in April. We have a really fantastic group of people at the moment, and I think that is going to lead to some longer-term growth and sustainability for the space.
Being a not-for-profit makes it more difficult because there’s a process involved, there’s a board involved, and there are a lot of different voices that need to be heard. I think that really helps to strengthen the organization in the long term, because it’s not just one person’s vision, it’s the result of a careful process of discussion and deliberation and decision making.
Does the process of grant-writing (and the recognition of being awarded money) lead to more visibility for the type of music you’re putting on?
When it really comes down to it, the mission and the drive and the ideas behind the organization have to come from within. When you’re interacting with a foundation or a government entity, it’s really more about not taking ideas from them or playing to them. It’s about showcasing what you do, and convincing them that that is something worth putting money into. A lot of times people end up just chasing grant money and create programs that are going to win a grant. You have to have that mission and that idea before you start, and that has to inform everything about what you do. Ideally, it’s having a really strong vision and an intelligent staff that can present the meaning, ramifications, and value of that vision.
The focus of Elastic Arts has been providing a space for Chicago artists to develop their work, and to then take it out and present that to the world. In many ways, I think of us as an incubator space. At this point, particularly right now in Chicago, there’s an incredible younger generation of people interested in free improvisation, contemporary forms of music. There’s a really great pool of players, and I have to say that right now it’s really inspiring to do my series on Thursdays and see all these folks coming in with new ideas and new energy. Doing their own thing working with older peers. And that’s another thing about Chicago. Across the board in the arts, the city has that reputation as a place where people can come and develop their work.
We are here with Volcano Radar. The band is Julia Miller, Elbio Barilari, and joined today by Sam Bradshaw on Bass and Tim Davis on Drums. So what did we hear today?
2 original compositions, 1 song/poem by Leonard Cohen, and finally we ended with an open improvisation.
Tell me about that Leonard Cohen tribute arrangement.
Elbio: Well as you can tell from my accent I am not exactly from here. I’m from the south, but very south, like 10 thousand miles south, from Montevideo, Uruguay. And over there we have a very active Rock and Pop scene, as well as our own Tango and Folk music, etc. And I always loved songwriters like Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan, and I have been a fanatic of Leonard Cohen for my whole life. I was really sad when he died, and even more sad because he died in these circumstances. Julia came up with the idea of doing one of his songs, one of his most recent songs in this broadcast and I immediately said yes.
Julia: But there are not too many people who have the gravitas to do that song and really have the connection to it.
Was that the premiere here on Airplay?
Julia: Yes it was!
On that note, I’m wondering how you guys compose and arrange? Is it a very collaborative process?
Julia: Well those two compositions came from a live, improvised show that we did and recorded, with Tim Davis actually. We improvised those as a group on the spot and ended up forming them into tunes and have used them as tunes in various ways ever since.
Elbio: That’s one of the procedures. Julia and I are both composers, working with symphonic music and chamber music. And we do some structured music. But one good thing about this band is we don’t need to write so much, we write a lot for other things. In this band, what we normally do is bring in some little idea and develop the idea with the band or we just improvise something, we like it, and we try to repeat that and keep it.
I saw you guys are in the studio recording some new material. What projects do you have on the horizon?
Elbio: Yes, we have a few projects in the oven right now. I have been working with Paquito [D’Rivera] for like 15 years, 20 years in different projects – chamber music, Latino music. Finally, he was coming to Chicago and we decided to do a recording session and it went great. But, we still need to mix that one and work a lot in postproduction. But we have a live CD that we are trying to release by the end of this year, or the beginning of next year, most likely. And on March of this past year, we released our duo CD, called Electro Parables or Parábolas Electricas. That one is up and we got great reviews. It’s a record we did in-studio, Julia playing guitar and synthesized guitar and I’m playing all the things I play.
Julia: That was a long form, structured improvisation for us. So the whole piece, especially the first piece, Two Hundred Years of Solitude is one take and then a few overdubbings. No editing or breaking or anything like that, it’s all one large take.
We have it here in the stacks. Electro Parables is a great recording if you haven’t checked it out. I want to thank you for joining us, it was really a pleasure.
Julia: Absolutely. Thank you for having us, it was our pleasure.
Elbio: Thank you very much
Here’s our visit with singer-songwriter Ava Suppelsa. Ava, who grew up in Evanston, is a student at the prestigious Berklee College of Music ; but to hear her play, you’ll think you’re listening to a seasoned veteran of the music scene.
Listen to the interview here at The WNUR Folk Show’s website.
Q: What is your goal with the all vinyl tour?
Richard: You know there’s definitely a couple aspects of why we’re doing it. One of them is just to bring back the art form again because we felt like the art form was being lost, and its no disrespect against people who play on CDJs, we play on them and I’m sure we’ll go back to play on them. But there was just an art form that we felt was missing from DJing and kids that haven’t seen it. We also wanted to challenge ourselves again, mixing on turntables is no joke. The first day we decided to do this tour I hadn’t mixed on turntables in 12 years. I couldn’t even find my turntables. When I got on them, I was train wrecking, I couldn’t believe it and I thought what did we get ourselves into, this is hard! It took me at least a week to really get into the groove, because there’s a skill to that.
Bill: Exactly the same reasons, it’s the art, its exposing to a new generation, that’s really for me, it didn’t exist, the kids now days don’t have any clue about it. (Vinyl)
Q: What has been the hardest thing you’ve had to deal with in a set?
B:The hardest thing we’ve dealt with was in Atlanta last Friday, somehow between sound check between us, and doing the performance, there is a setting on the Pioneer mixer that compresses the output of the booth monitors. So were blasting the monitors, and we literally cant mix on beat when there’s compression, so were like what the hell is going on. So we had to DJ this whole set with compression in the booth monitors, that was the toughest thing at least that I’ve had to deal with.
R:Tough night for us, I mean we know when we play a good set, were our hardest critics. We record the set for ourselves, nobody else gets to listen to it, we listen back and say, alright we need to tighten that up, that could be a little bit better, come on Bill (haha).
Q: So you guys are like constantly practicing and listening in just to make sure?
R: Yaya and tweaking anything and trying out different things, lets try this lets try that.
Q: And you guys have been working together for over two decades? How did you guys meet?
B: I had booked up his group, he had a group called the movement, I used to throw parties as well and I booked them, then he actually booked me up for his club in LA, then after we performed he was like “yo do you wanna jump on?” And I ended up DJing at this club, and I’d never seen a club like this before it was called the Dome. It was a Saturday nightclub in LA with like 2000 people, Go-go dancers. We didn’t have anything like that in Chicago, so I was actually a little nervous like this is insane I’ve never seen anything like this. So they let me play for like 30 minutes or whatever, and we went back and fourth, where he’d bring me out or whatever and we’d start changing and exchanging records.
Q: When did you guys start actually getting together for gigs?
R: We did a CD we came up with an idea of House Connection, saying what if we both played at the same time on four turntables. At that time it was groundbreaking, because there were a lot of guys who would do a mix CD with one guy doing one CD and the other guy doing the other, so we thought what if we do the whole CD because our styles work. Certain things he compliments me on and certain things I compliment him on. There was something better with us doing it together, and that’s how House Connection 1 and House Connection 2 began and we started touring.
Q: How do you think your styles differ?
R: I think Bill is definitely into a funkier groove. I’ll try off the wall things sometimes, that may or may not work, but we both like the funky stuff. We also both like the excitement of playing a record that changes the energy of the room.
B: Ya what I think is that I’m a little more technical where he’s a little more creative. He wants to keep it musical or vocal, and I don’t care about that. So its good that we balance each other out like that, he’ll know if I’m getting to monotonous, or getting to hip-hoppy with vocals. He’s always interjecting and making sure we stay musical. So I think that’s a good balance. I always feel like it has to sound perfect and he’s like nah let it go! And sometimes he’s right sometimes it is better not perfect, its good to have that balance, and we think differently so its cool.
Q: What’s the best story or thing that has happened during a show?
R: I think every night has its great elements. I think the first few nights it was nerve wracking because we didn’t play on vinyl in front of the crowd with the monitors. I think about three or four shows in we started to get very comfortable and I think that was probably the best element. Like all right yo, we got this. It sounded great on paper but you don’t know until you actually go do it. In Houston a guy had a CO2 blast and I see him with one of the guns, he doesn’t think about it, and Bill has this record with a great drop. And he shoots the CO2 blast, hits the needle, and silence… I grab the mike and say “this is why we do it live for moments like this”. Crowd screams and Bill scratches it back in. But its shit like that, good or bad, that makes it real.
B: To top it off it was about 110 degrees, and during sound check our records were literally warping. We ended up putting a tent up so the records wouldn’t warp.
Q: Last question, what music do you recommend, where should new listeners start with House?
R: Bill has a really cool house label called Moody, I have a cool label called Soulmatic. There are labels like Infected, Dirtybird, Perfect Driver, there’s a lot of DJs that are pulling out some really cool sounds, Nick Rockwell is doing some crazy stuff. There’s a lot of really good house music out there right now. I think the most interesting stuff is house music right now. The most inventive people right now are people doing house and people doing bass music, those two things.
Meet Dhaea Kang – a Korean American singer-songwriter based in Chicago. She has been growing in popularity after winning an annual Asian-American talent showcase called Kollaboration Chicago. She draws inspirations for her songs from people whom she had shared significant moments and changes in life with, from living on her own for the first time to grieving the loss of close loved ones. She is always looking forward to meeting new people, both in her personal life and on the stage, who she can connect with through her music.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My name is Dhaea. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. I’ve been here my whole life. I guess more specifically I’ve been songwriting since my early teens. My songwriting kind of evolved from teenage angsty poetry that I put into [my] music.
Q. How did you start off as a musician?
I mean like most songwriters, I feel like I started off writing [music] for myself, by myself, and played for myself in my room and in front of the mirror. And I didn’t start playing out[side] until college. I think it was right when I turned 19, because that is when you are allowed to get into the bars for the Open Mics in my college campus. So I did a lot of that in college and it just kind of grew from there.
Q. What are the steps you take when you make a song?
It depends. There are one of several ways. One way is I try to just freewrite. So basically I just write whatever is in my head without even thinking about it, so a lot of it is just nonsense. After I write all that down, I tend to revisit it and pick up one or two lines that really resonate with me and try to build off of there. Another way is I play a melody that I really like or chord progression I like and I pair it with words. Other times a song just seems to come right out without me having to sort through the mess of the freewrite that I do. And those [songs] actually tend to be the ones I enjoy performing the most.
Q. What were your inspirations when you wrote your songs?
First one is Stairwell. I wrote that about a year after a good friend of mine in college passed away. The Stairwell, the title, is in reference to the stairwell of our dorm room where we used to meet up sometimes while I played music during the wee hours of the night. He would come sit with me and listen.
Next One is the most recent song I’ve written in completion. It was last April and I wrote it the night after my grandfather passed away. My grandfather and I were really close. He raised me when I was a kid. Even as an adult, I would visit him frequently. I was actually with him when he took his last breath and it was a pretty jarring experience, because I’ve never seen anyone take their last breath. [I have] never seen anyone die right in front of me. So the next night I was kind of thinking about that experience and reflecting on the other losses in my life, like my college friend who I was just talking about. I felt like Next One was my way of trying to deny the finality of death and just trying to hope for meeting up with someone who has passed away in another lifetime. (not shown in the video) I wrote [Let’s Go] in college. I think I was probably around 19. Like many 19 year olds, I was feeling really lost and directionless; I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. I was really confused and that is where that song came from. I still feel like that 6 years later. I still enjoy playing the song as it still personally resonates with me.
Q. What do you enjoy about performing on a stage?
I guess I enjoy the feedback I get back from the audience, especially when someone comes up to me and tells me that they really connected with my songs. I think it’s a very special thing because, as I said before, when I started writing, it was only for myself. It wasn’t [written] with the intention to share with an audience. So the fact that someone can relate to something that means so much to me personally is a pretty incredible feeling.
Q. What is one defining point in your musical career?
This past year, I was part of this showcase called Kollaboration, which showcases Asian-Americans in the arts, and I won the Chicago showcase. That was pretty unexpected for me, because I auditioned for Kollaboration during the time [when] I had taken a step back from music and it just wasn’t really a part of my life. I was immersed in other work, and I just auditioned on a whim. So the fact that I won was a really good feeling and I was really excited about it.
Q. What are your other hobbies besides writing music?
Besides work, I like to garden [in the summer]. I have a patio garden. I grow vegetables and herbs. I like to read a lot. I am a big reader. I like to write short stories. I used to. I should probably get back into that too. I like to hang out with friends [as well], pretty typical.
Q. What is your favorite track among the songs you have written?
I feel like my favorite song tends to be the most recent one I’ve written. So right now I would say Next One, because that’s the most recent song I’ve written. But I guess I’ll have to say Let’s Go. I feel like that is one of my older songs that is still in my regular rotation. I feel like a lot of the songs I’ve written at [a young] age – I can’t even listen to them. It’s just too cringy, too angsty, but [Let’s Go] in particular has lasted.
Q. Anything you want to say to your fans?
I would say thank you for listening. I really do appreciate it and I love receiving feedback about [my] music. So thank you. Thank you for tolerating my self-indulgent Facebook page.
Meet Philip Brett: a 31-year-old Irishman who has made a name for himself as one of the most prominent promoters of Korean indie music. As a founder and editor-in-chief of Angle Magazine, Brett has transformed the small website into an artistic collective responsible for hosting music festivals and connecting bands together. Find out how Brett stumbled upon the marginalized music scene and why he prefers K-indie to the faceless industry of K-pop.
Q. Where are you from, and how did you end up in Korea?
A. I’m from Ireland, from a town called Galway. I guess it’s one of the cultural hubs of Ireland. It’s got a pretty bustling music scene, so I grew up surrounded by all of that. I came to Ulsan about four years ago. I originally just came here to teach English, and then just fell into the underground music scene in the South. Through that experience, I got to know the bands and the artists, and we started Angle to try to support them.
Q. So how did you decide to get involved in the Korean indie music scene?
A. It started because I lived around Ulsan, which is a pretty industrial city, and there wasn’t a huge amount happening here in terms of culture. So after one year of living here, I started traveling around different cities like Busan and Daegu, where I found shows and got to talk to the musicians after their gigs. Getting to know the people was as important as getting to know the music. It was then that I found out something existed here. I think that’s the biggest problem — when any foreigners come to Korea initially, they’re aware of K-pop, but anything outside of that is a mystery. And even to the people living here as well, a lot of people aren’t aware of the indie music scenes. Because of my own experience with the music scene in my hometown, I could see the ways to help the scene grow more.
Q. So how did Angle Magazine come about?
A. It started in September 2013. It was only three of us when we started out — myself, a guy from Seattle called Joshua Hanlin, and one Korean friend. We did all the interviews, editing, translations, and we got everything together and put it online. From there, we just kind of tried to keep it rolling. Part of the initial [coverage] was isolated in Ulsan. If someone creative was here, they wouldn’t have somewhere to go and perform and show their work, so we wanted to give that space. We all wanted to have that space where people could say, “Hey, if I make this and put it on that site, then people can see it.” That was one of the initial ideas. The idea behind it constantly grew without us really planning to do that. It just kind of evolved naturally to involve Busan and Daegu in our first issue, and over the next few years it’s grown to cover the full southern part of the country. People have come and gone; everyone who works in the magazine does so on a voluntary basis — we all have other jobs, full time jobs, and some people with two or three other jobs. But everyone does it to support what’s happening around us. Even when we put on a show, we all go to it because they’re the artists that we want to see perform, so it is its own reward in that way.
Q. How did you come up with the name “Angle Magazine”?
A: I guess you can say that we wanted to give a new angle, a new perspective, of what is happening down here. The general viewpoint has been, “Oh, there is nothing happening outside of Seoul.” But Angle takes a different look at it from this side.
Q. What’s the indie music scene like in the southern parts of Korea?
A: I think the indie scene all over the country is pretty big, more so than the people involved in the scene itself might realize because it’s so divided. There’s a serious lack of connection between the cities. Now there’s a stronger connection, let’s say, between Daegu and Busan. A lot of bands in Busan will play together with a lot of bands in Daegu, but might not know about the other bands [in the other cities]. And that’s the same in Seoul and around the rest of the country. Each scene is isolated within itself. I guess the most important thing to hop in right now is to really bring them all together: having bands traveling around, playing with different people, and going to different cities to play for the audiences there. I think that is the biggest thing that is lacking in the scene here. Not the talent, because the talent and the music are there, but the commitment to go out and play somewhere else. From my own experience of looking at shows, there are a lot of bands who don’t understand the idea behind DIY tour. When they hear a tour, they think of nice hotels, they have to be paid for and looked after, rather than the DIY where you just go and play a show. Maybe five people show up and you sleep on someone’s floor, but you go, you get your music out there and you create those connections.
Q. So I guess media outlets like Angle Magazine is part of what helps bridge those gaps between these areas?
A: I hope so. For example, we host an art festival called Big Day South and we hosted it for the third year in a row. The first year, we held it in Daegu just as a one-day festival. And it’s not just music — we had live performances of dance, poetry, live art, music and various things. Last year, we brought it to Ulsan as a three-day festival that incorporated theater performance, poetries, performance artists, and live graffiti paintings out on the street. We had three days of constant creativity. One of the things I noticed from that experience was that one of the bands and one of the poets who performed ended up collaborating later, working together on one piece. So when we bring in people who don’t normally perform together and have them in the same setting where they can interact and get to know each other, hopefully it leads to more collaboration and cooperation in the future. That would be the goal behind our live shows.
Q. How would you define indie music? What differentiates indie music from K-pop?
A: Musically, very little. It’s more to do with your ethos: the concept behind it. I view indie as independent. Not necessarily a genre, but a style or a way of doing things. I would say K-pop productions will only perform shows on a huge stage for a lot of money, whereas an indie act — whether it is hip-hop, rock or punk — will go and play anywhere because it is what they want to do. They want to be out there and they want to perform.
Q. What draws you to the indie music scene?
A: It’s real. It comes from them. It’s something that they create. K-pop has nothing for me because it’s faceless. It’s faceless in that all of their performers get so much cosmetic surgery, or other stylings, and everyone looks the same. So it is essentially faceless. There is nothing there that is recognizable for me. The music is lifted straight from the pop structure that was created by international pop songwriters and producers like Max Martin. They took the exact same structure right down to what kind of eyeliners they should wear and so on. When they perform, you know it’s 100% manufactured and nothing is going to surprise you. Nothing is going make you just stop what you are doing and pay attention. But I can go to an [indie] show, and maybe it’s a band that I’ve seen a hundred times before, and I can still have that moment where all the conversations just stop and people just have a connection. There is something real there. It makes me sound very absurd, but I can’t think of a simpler way to explain it right now.
One other thing I loved was — when I was still getting to know some bands like Say Sue Me. I absolutely love their music. They are in the Electric Muse label. They released their EP in 2014 and an album last year. We interviewed them first at the start of 2014 and they played for so many shows for us. Part of why I love them so much is not just because of their music, but because of the people as well. The fact that you can go to a show to see a band with a great live show, and then afterwards you can just walk up to them, talk and get drunk together, it creates a much different vibe. Now that I think about it, a lot of the bands that I listen to are the ones who I’ve gotten drunk with before. You get such a stronger connection to the music when you have that personal connection as well.
Q. What’s the next step for Angle Magazine?
A: We’ve gone in a lot of different directions. We’ve created the online magazine that has been going on for more than two years now, but we’ve also held festivals. We’ve also arranged art exhibitions, released a charity Christmas album and collaborated with some artists to make t-shirts. They are screen-printed t-shirts featuring an artist’s design, and when we sell the shirts, the profits go to the artist. So we’ve continued to make more ways to support the scene, not just as an online site, but by actively being involved in the community. I think the overall goal is less of just maintaining a magazine and more of trying to build a community, trying to bring people together, trying to connect both the foreign and Korean scenes, and trying to connect the cities together. We are just trying to continue to create new ways to support indie bands and help them develop as they get their names out there.
If you want to learn more about Angle Magazine,
check out their website: http://anglekorea.org/
and follow them on their social medias:
Love X Stereo is a Korean electro-rock duo based in Seoul producing 90s’-inspired tunes. A budding international band, Annie and Toby have recently released a new single, “Hide and Seek,” and they’re about to release the Part.2 of “We Love We Leave.” I had a wonderful opportunity to interview Annie, the vocalist of the band. Toby plays guitar and base. Identifying themselves as the “ultimate 90s’ kids” in an interview with K-Sound, Annie says they draw inspiration from a wide range of music as well as happenings around the world.
How did you guys meet?
Annie: First we met in 2005. We used to play in a band called Skrew Attack, after Toby first made the band in 1998. He was around since the 90s rock scene in Korea. After I joined the band in 2005, we did pop punk stuff. We had a transition in our music style to do something fresh and new, so that’s how Love X Stereo started. Mostly, just two of us make all the sound and music.
Why did you pick the electro-rock genre?
Annie: Toby is a punk rock kid, and I love rock music, but we’ve been doing punk rock for a long time. It’s not going anywhere, so we wanted to do something really fun and new. That’s how the synthesizers came in – we went back to our roots and tried to figure out what kind of music we really like.
In the 90s, I actually didn’t like techno because I thought it was very cold. Back then when I was a rock lover, I didn’t appreciate it much, but now that I’ve grown up, and as I’m trying to do something fresh and new, we really appreciate this type of music, especially electro bands like New Order, The Prodigy, Underworld, The Chemical Brothers. Those types of bands still inspire us because they are still in the field competing with the youngsters. We’re trying to not just stay in the rock box, but also do something special. We listen to every type of music to get inspired, not just rock and electro.
Where do you get inspirations?
Annie: A lot of music inspires us I think, and also what’s happening around us right now. We watch the news, we listen to a lot of music. Whatever happens tends to be melted in music. Usually, our music roots are in the 90s. We are the ultimate 90s kids, so we alternate music … punk rock, techno … all those fun stuff that happened in the 90s.
Your music videos have great style. Do you direct them?
Annie: We don’t direct the music video. We just kind of respect all the directors’ opinions, so usually the directors choose how he/she wants. We might say one or two things we want to switch, but mostly, we just let it happen.
Just wondering – do you currently belong to any labels?
Annie: We are totally independent. We are still looking for labels, but haven’t found a good label that will appreciate our music right now. Still looking for it.
What would you look for in a label?
Annie: I would say that their ability to promote the music might be the most important feature. How they treat artists as well – that really is important for us too.
How do you promote your music?
Annie: I think social media makes it both easier and harder to promote music compared to the older days. It’s easier to use the gadgets and apps to connect with our fans, but it’s not enough. We have had three tours in the States. One was a longer one and two were little shorter versions, but I think, at the end of the day, you have to meet the fans, so we’re trying to do more tours. It’s kind of hard because we don’t have any support system.
Where did you go in the States?
Annie: In 2013, we visited eight cities, including New York, Toronto, DC, Cincinnati, Columbus, Detroit, Chicago and Boston. The tours were linked with festivals, so we went to CMJ music marathon, South by Southwest, Culture Collide and Canadian Music Week. Performing at a festival is always cool, but I guess it depends on what stage you’re going to perform on, and what kind of audience you have. It depends on that a lot, so I can’t say that it’s all good, but if you’re at the right time at the right stage, it’s really fun.
How does American audience compare with Koreans?
Annie: Korean audience is very conservative, and they do not react as well as we hope. Usually they identify our music as dreamy electro thing, but in the States it’s kind of different because the audience knows we are from the nineties, and what type of music we’re trying to do, and such understanding of music in general is much easier to reach out to the fans in the States or in the western region of the world. I think Koreans are very used to K-Pop, so it’s quite different.
What are your goals?
Annie: We want to establish ourselves as an international band. It will take a while. But ultimately you need to have a song that people recognize at the end of the day. So produce better songs, get it out there and connect with people. Try to tour as many as you can. That will get you to a certain point we might all satisfy. It’s going to take a while, and I know it’s a little risky at some point, but our goal was never to settle in Korea, but it was from Day One to get the hell out of here, so yeah. We’ll see!
Pre-order their next EP “We Love We Leave, Pt. 2” at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/lovexstereo
If you want to learn more about LXS, check out their website: http://lovexstereo.com/
WNUR: Can you explain your involvement with Foreign Family Collective, and how you represent yourself at large?
Big Wild: It kinda started when I was on tour with Odessa for the first time in February and March, and they like, that was when they were getting the Foreign Family idea started. And they asked me if I was interested in doing a release, and I already had this song in the works. I showed it to them and they really liked it, so I finished it up during the tour and it ended up becoming Aftergold. So it was a pretty smooth and natural process. And the exposure from it was great, it’s opened a lot of doors, and when I play that song in my set everyone recognizes it… as an artist, when you’re first starting out that’s so big to be able to get that recognition, cuz when nobody knows your music it can be tough to connect with people.
What’s the transition like moving to LA?
BW: We’ll I’m originally from Massachusetts. The weather is totally different, but the music scene in LA is really big, especially for the kind of stuff I do, and Electronic music in general. It’s really cool to just meet artists in the city and have friendships based on that. I really like living there.
Was it difficult to break into?
BW: A little bit, thankfully a couple people who were already there, 2 artists named Developed, knew about my music and invited me early on to a grilled cheese party. I’d only been there a couple weeks, and the invite was randomly on twitter, but I was like ok, and went to a really cool f*ckin party. Hosted like once a month with all these super big people. From there I linked with other producers, it was almost like an incubator for electronic music. So it wasn’t to challenging for me, I was kind of lucky.
How long have you been out there?
BW: I’ve been in LA for a year and a half, and lived in San Francisco for six months before that.
How was the scene there, was it more difficult because there may be less going on?
BW: It was definitely more difficult, the music scene wasn’t as big. But there are actually some sweet venues there. That’s where I first performed and first linked up with different musicians. It was kind of like when I started to break through a little bit and connect with people I needed too. The scene’s smaller, but there’s still so much you can connect with.
What’s your creative process?
BW: Tough to say, I play piano and drums, but I’ve been teaching myself. My real strength is producing on the computer and writing songs. I feel like I’m a songwriter at heart. For that you don’t necessarily need to be great at any particular instrument. What inspires that is hearing a song that blows my mind… I’ll just analyze it and draw inspiration from it. Take out elements of it and realize what makes this song so good. Not copy it but look at like the way someone does a piano line which has a lot of emotion and do something similar with the guitar. You can never had a fully original idea it’s always based on something you’ve scene, heard, or experienced before. That’s how it is with music. The real creativity comes with how you’re gunna make it your own. How are you gunna take that idea and make it something that everyone is gunna love too.
How did you start?
BW: I started when I was in high school when I was 13. I honestly don’t know what prompted me to do it. I think I was just getting really into Hip-hop and I wanted to start making beats myself. I just downloaded fruity loops and f*cked with it for a long time, and my music sucked for a few years. But I was learning how to build the foundations of a song, how to structure it. Coming up with catchy melodies. That whole process was really long but it was super motivating, because once people started getting into the music it motivated me to keep going. SO I’ve been doing this for a while, and it was weird to because none of my other friends made music…for the most part kind of a solo thing. In my group of friends I was just kind of the music guy. Which was cool, almost the fact that there wasn’t a scene in Massachusetts helped me out because I didn’t like, have competition. I was just exploring sounds. It was a great way to get confidence in my song writing ability without having someone saying ‘oh this sucks’.
How many years was the “meh” process?
BW: Probably 2 years, I also just didn’t know what I was doing. There were no tutorials for it, so it was like totally in the dark about everything. My sounds sucked, so I was slowly building up a library of sounds. Kind of like learning everything by myself and once I started to get a good sound pallet my ear got better. I would send out my beats, actually start to sell them online to rappers and stuff. And was like alright I think this is going somewhere. Wasn’t until college that I started to go the more electronic route, and make music that didn’t necessarily need a rapper on it, and could kinda just be on its own. And I started to get more experimental with it…In to college, I felt like I had enough chops to start making stuff outside of just one genre. That’s when this sound that I do now started to take form. “
What do you like and dislike about being an artist?
BW: Probably one of my favorite things is the freedom I have, I don’t have a 9 to 5 I work on music whenever I want to. And I have the great opportunity to be able to explore all these places. This year I’ve been around the country, to Canada, Lake Tahoe because I make music. That’s so cool, I feel like I have this ability. I can’t literally do anything I want, but I definitely have more freedom than a lot of other people. I love making it, and playing it for people, and seeing how they react.
On the flip side, touring for example it can be really hard to make music, because you’re constantly on the move. It’s like two different mind states, one is producing and making and the other is performing, and they really are different. It took me a while to realize, I always thought they were kind of the same, but the more I performed I realized it’s like a totally different mind state. “
In interviews do you ever feel like it’s the performance side of you?
BW: I would say, ya probably doing interviews is a little bit of a performance, I try and be as candid as possible but sometimes its like, its hard to be fully open all the time. That said it has been a great experience touring this year and helping me get more comfortable. Kind of like opening up to the crowd more, not having this face all the time, just being myself. It’s also hard when you’re starting out money wise. It wasn’t until this year that I was able to like, drop the side job… Now I feel that freedom especially because I don’t have to do that side job. You worked your job, got back home, was like ‘I’m tired’, but you had to work on stuff. That was really tough too.”
What is your average day like?
BW: When I’m not on tour my average day is basically like, get up, eat breakfast, walk to the coffee shop, get some coffee, and work on music. It’s pretty simple. I live a pretty minimalist simple life, live with my girlfriend, who’s also my best friend. So we’ll go out sometimes at night to friends, or people spinning in LA. When I’m on tour it’s a totally different thing. I’ll work on my set, perform at the show, and anything can happen after the show. For the most part, it’s a pretty simple lifestyle; its how I like it.”