Posted on June 02, 2015
Rock and Roll is an incredibly diverse genre of music. Even with the exponential growth in its ever expanding number of sub-genres, a defined musical category can rarely ever satisfyingly describe the sonic subtleties each unique band possesses. But occasionally a band comes along that so precisely matches a specific musical genus; you might as well put it in the band’s name. Enter Rock ’N’ Roll Radio. The four piece band, whose recent meteoric rise is a testament to their expert musicianship and professional commitment to their craft, fully encompass the Rock and Roll pathos. The only thing missing is the occasionally intolerable, occasionally hilarious swagger that often comes with the territory. These are the nicest guys you could ever meet, but don’t let that fool you. They are Rockers with a capital “R”.
Minwoo : Out of all the people I could have wound up sitting next to, I end up sitting next to the the one in the band I am the least close to! This fella is our guitarist and vocalist Naehyun. Jinkyu and I were working as technicians for YB back in the day, we met Naehyun when he came to replace Jinkyu who had to leave to do his military service. I didn’t know him all that well back then; we became friends when he was introduced to me by Jinkyu sometime later. I only really got to know him properly when we became band members together. Before that, he was just some rude technician guy to me. However, I had heard that he was a good singer. It was said he had a similar vocal tone to the singer from Incubus. After hearing that, I was really looking forward to listening to him sing, but man, was I ever disappointed! He comes across just like he looks--a gloomy fella--and he has a very distinct outlook on the world. He is the youngest of us all, but probably the most manly. He also has a really quick temper.
Naehyun : This guy here is called Jinkyu; he plays guitar and also sings in our band. I first met him when I was 19 years old. He looks bright and cheerful but he is the gloomiest person I know. He’s really delicate too. He’s nothing like me at all! He’s really girly, but I’m really macho ………. However, he is really good at making music. That’s what he deserves the most credit for. He can sometimes be really tiresome... but I like to think that it’s because of that delicate mind of his that he contributes so much detail to our music.
Jinkyu : Can I respond to that, please? I want to slag him off too! Ha ha! Anyway, this is our drummer Minkyu. I first met him when we were in high school. He was a massive X-Japan fan at that time. He even played in a similar way to their drummer Yoshiki. Since then we’ve been playing in bands together for about 15 years. Actually, he is probably a worse match for my personality than Naehyun is. Apart from music, I don’t really try too hard in many things, but Minkyu works really hard and is very thorough in everything he does. We clash a lot about that kind of thing. Also, he is not talkative at all, whereas I love talking! But, within the band we probably talk the most and are probably the closest as well. Ah, and … he loves drinking! He always wants to get better, so he does a lot of research into drumming techniques, etc. Most other drummers just focus on their own drumming, but Minkyu really puts a lot of effort into making his drum beats fit in with the feel of the music. He’s a real ‘band’ drummer.
Minkyu : This is our bass player and backing vocalist, Minwoo. I’ve already known him for 20 years, as we met back in elementary school. We met as neighbourhood friends and graduated from the same elementary, middle and high schools. We also went to the same university but both of us quit before we finished. I started learning the drums from the second grade of middle school and in the third grade I wanted to play with other people. However, I couldn’t find anyone who was interested, so I coaxed Minwoo into learning the bass, despite him having no interest in it at all. He is still not all that interested these days, so he doesn’t practice! He never practices but he has a feel for the bass and so he plays really well; it’s amazing. He is also a father--he shows his Superman powers by being able to play in a band and raise a child at the same time.
Naehyun : March last year was the first time we had been to America. We were really nervous about playing there because it felt like a big step for us. Before we went I felt great pressure about wanting to be better as a band as well as needing to get better at speaking English. However, once we got there, I realised that no one was interested in how good my English was; the only important thing was getting up on that stage and playing a great set as a musician. At that time I realised that language is not important, because music is music wherever you are. After that, I guess I would say that there really is no difference between playing here in Korea or abroad.
Minwoo : It’s just a good feeling to even be playing in another country. I wish we had prepared a bit more for it before we went. We could have tried to make more of the trip if we had, which would have been better. It was early days for us back then, so we didn’t do all that. But with that experience under our belts we are going to France a bit better prepared. We’re even going to do some recording while we’re there.
Naehyun : It feels a bit like the overseas fans focus on the music a little more. Actually, in Korea people often want a certain kind of ‘performance’ or to see certain gestures from the bands. Jinkyu does a lot of that kind of thing! But he didn't get the same kind of reaction from the fans in America, so he was a bit hurt about that. He tried it once, but there was no reaction from anyone! Fans abroad seem to be much more interested in how well the band plays together as a whole.
Jinkyu : In other countries, if they don’t like what they see, people will just leave in the middle of your set, but if they like it they buy all your merch after the show. There is one funny story from a show we played in New York. The audience was about half and half (Koreans and Americans). After the show the reactions from all of them were really different. The Americans were all talking about the quality of the music, while the Koreans were all just saying, ‘Wow! you guys look so good’ and taking pictures with us.
Minwoo : I’d like it if we went, and then could not return to Korea for the next 10 years because they liked us so much they wouldn’t let us leave!
Naehyun : We are going to France to record as well as play shows. The recordings are going to be produced by Modjo who are a French electronic / disco group who charted at Number 1 in the UK. Around 15 years ago they were about as famous as Daft Punk. I hope that our connection with them can get us some good gigs in France in the future.
Jinkyu : Right! If we are really lucky we may meet Phoenix as well. With a bit of luck loads of cool things could come out of the trip. The recording thing with Modjo came about just by chance, so who knows what else might happen or who we might meet while we’re there? I’m really looking forward to it. What I am looking forward to the most though are the French girls! Ha ha!
Minkyu : Especially the ones who are into the Korean Wave! I have to get married at some point, and that might not be possible for me in Korea! Ha ha...
Naehyun : I am just gonna tell them that I am friends with EXO, and show them my facebook profile to prove it.
Minwoo : Ha ha! We are not headline material yet. We still think of ourselves as being on the first step. We have released our debut album, so I guess we’re not rookies anymore, and we have moved up a level to join the other established bands. We played a shit load of shows as soon as we became a band. We wanted to play at every club possible so that people could become familiar with our sound. At that time you could go to pretty much any venue and see us play, which helped us gather a lot of strength and support. We won Hello Rookie (a TV audition show in Korea) and appeared at a lot of festivals, which was great for us. Many people say we have become much bigger. But for us, we only think of this as the start. People know our name but we won’t rest on our laurels. We will be concentrating on continuing to write good songs. In order to become headline material, this year and next year will be really important for us.
Naehyun : The whole thing was a fucking disaster.
Minkyu : We all felt hopeless after coming off the stage.
Naehyun : When the show finished I was thinking, ‘Ah, we’ve been completely ignorant about our abilities, we are shit’. We were set to be the first band on stage at 1pm and we sound checked at 11:30. That was also when the doors opened. People were pushing and shoving to claim their space right in front of the stage. People were even falling over. We were just rehearsing but there were already about 3 or 4000 people there. When we came back to play at 1pm there were even more people, there was a lot of fuss and pushing going on still. It was summer and really hot, so people were in a lot of discomfort and grimacing. They were already in a pissed-off state. When we got up on stage it felt like the crowd was saying, ‘Who the hell are these guys? We came to see Big Bang’. We played the full set in that kind of atmosphere. We knew it was rubbish, but we thought that after 3 or 4 songs people would get into it. But that wasn't the case. From the first note of the first song until the end, it sucked.
Jinkyu : The whole thing was a mess. At first we just put it down to the atmosphere and we were thinking, ‘Ah, it’s just that kind of crowd today’. However, Twenty One Pilots were on right after us. As soon as they hit the stage the whole atmosphere changed and everyone was suddenly, like, ‘Ooohhhhhh, wow!’ and super excited. At that point we thought, ah, this stage was too big for us!
Minkyu : Actually, at first we blamed the people watching a bit as well. We figured they didn’t know good music and were only into K-Pop. But then we heard this massive response for the other band and so we ran out to see what all the fuss was about. The reaction wasn’t just because they were here from abroad, they were really fucking good.
Jinkyu : We were angry at ourselves for having blamed the fans for not having good taste in music at that point.
Naehyun : Personally, I thought I sang really well that day. I was in really good condition and I performed well, but the aftermath pretty much resulted in a mental breakdown for me.
Minwoo : After that, we did a lot of research into that band. We watched loads of their shows to see what was different about them and us. We even held band meetings to talk about it all.
Jinkyu : We had played loads of shows in small clubs, but we were not used to playing on such a big stage. I guess you could say it was a step we needed to take in order to become a bigger band.
Minkyu : I regretted it a lot. As soon as I stepped on stage.
Minwoo : We played a show at a ski resort a couple of years ago. We wore parkas while we played, but Love X Stereo’s vocalist Annie went up in a sleeveless shirt. She looked great, like a pro! We were really impressed. So this time round, seeing as it was such a meaningful show, we decided to do likewise. ‘It’s ok’, we told ourselves, ‘we’ll work up a sweat while we’re up there’. It was a big mistake. The wind was so damn strong you could almost see it! One of the drums even got blown over.
Jinkyu : We had just got back from Jeju that day. We had sent all our gear back on the plane and when we went up on stage we discovered it had all been disassembled. Nothing was where it should have been. Actually, I guess we should have checked on it, but as soon as we arrived at the venue we had to play, so we didn't have a chance to. I did work up a sweat in the first few songs trying to get everything working!
Minwoo : It was really really cold, but I won’t forget the reaction from the crowd that night. It was great. Anyway, everyone knew we were up on the stage showing our support for a good cause, so I guess the response was even better. The only thing we can really do to support these things is play our music, so that’s why we went to play that night.
Jinkyu : There were loads of people there to watch the show, but they were really there to show support for the victims of the ferry disaster. A friend of mine asked me if I thought playing this kind of show might put us at a disadvantage in the future. I’ve thought about it and I think that supporting the victims of this disaster was the right thing to do, and even if some people don’t listen to our music because of that, I don't care.
Minwoo : We had just gotten back from America when the ferry sank. We were supposed to be writing new material at that time, but for a few months we felt too sad to do it. It was the first time I have felt like that. It was because of that feeling that we decided to take part in the concert. I never thought of it as a political thing at all. Of course we would never play a show in support of any political party. I don’t think there is any political message that bands need to spread with their music. However we felt strongly about this and so did everyone at the concert. If anyone saw that and wants to judge us for it, they are just someone who wants to express their opinion. I don’t worry about what those people say at all.
Naehyun : Everyone has some kind of political view. No one can escape the political situation they find themselves in.
Minkyu : What they say or how much they say is not really important. Anyways, bands perform in the public eye, so I do think they need to have principles and opinions about some things.
Naehyun : ‘Red Moon’ was written in around 2012, and at that time my sibling asked, ‘Is the song about Moon Jaein (a politician in Korea)? (Everyone laughs). The lyrics are about revenge. That was around the time Lee Myungbak (former president of Korea) had become a bit of a lame duck.
Minkyu : We don't really have any songs that are politically motivated, but the closest is probably ‘You Never Know’. We don’t really play it much. It doesn’t have a strong political message but there is a bit of a connection there.
Jinkyu : Actually, I wrote the lyrics to that song. You are right, there is a political link. Ha ha. I was a bit too scared to write about it directly incase they came and arrested me for it, so I wrote the lyrics with no specific subject to them.
Jinkyu : Actually, that is all Method acting. I am always pretty dark, and my feelings go up and down a lot. I probably make things difficult for the rest of the band.
Naehyun : If there is ever a fight within the bad it is usually between me and Jinkyu, or sometimes Jinkyu and Minkyu.
Jinkyu : Either way I am am always involved, I see! Ha ha. I think it is good to have these quarrels though. But the way you resolve these things is important. In the past I would get quite sulky about things. Once I was in that state, I wouldn’t say anything to anyone. Before I was in this band, I got kicked out of another one. Hopefully I’ve learned something from that experience!
Minkyu : Everyone knows this story now… originally we played in a band with another guitarist. We fired Jinkyu.
Jinkyu : I want to let everyone know more about this! You guys all fired me. I want to go on CNN and let everyone know about it!
Naehyun : You are the symbol of forgiveness.
Jinkyu : When they fired me I talked shit about them for ages. I had known them for 8 years at that time and it felt like the fuckers had slapped me in the face, I was really pissed off. When I looked back after a few years I realised they’d had no choice but to fire me. I began to understand their decision. When I met them again I found out they’d been badmouthing me as well!
Minkyu : You have to listen to both sides of the story. It was not just Jinkyu that had to forgive and forget. We had to forgive him too. At that time, clearly he had caused a lot of problems.
Jinkyu : But, you guys fired me, right? I never fired you guys. So you should be careful in the future! Ha ha. I got fired once, but never again! I have no fear of that anymore!
Minwoo : All the members of our band are over 30 years old, so we are kind of old timers in the scene. We were all pretty young when we fired Jinkyu. These days, whenever we have a fight we always think like this. Because our personalities are all so different we have to strive to understand each other and move on. Because we understand each other better we don’t really have those big fights anymore. Nowadays we are also always learning different ways to solve our problems.
Naehyun : The singer Jeon Inkwon once said, ‘Bands are like married couples’!
Minwoo : You guys have no idea about that! I know! (Laughs). I have to deal with married life at home and outside the home too! I have two marriages.
Naehyun : So, whenever there is a fight within the band Minwoo is the one to sort it out.
Naehyun : We never set out with the intention of making that kind of music. It just turned out like that really. Originally Minwoo and Minkyu were into that kind of music, so their bass and drum lines come out like that. I really like depressing and gloomy stuff, Jinkyu is very sensitive and talented. There is a wide mix of tastes in our band.
Minkyu : We all have different styles but we share songs we like with each other. When we were young we all liked hard rock and Japanese music. Over time we ended up listening to more European music and British rock and naturally became influenced by that music as well. On the outside of all this was Naehyun, who joined us later, bringing his own style with him, and we ended up as we are now.
Jinkyu : Usually it’s me and Naehyun; we have a certain style, I guess. We are both very different. Naehyun tends to be negative and a bit gloomier. Gloomy and a bit conservative. He has a very strong masculine feel. When compared to him I am a bit more emotional, perhaps I have more of a feminine feel. 90% of our songs have really sad lyrics. Other than the song ‘Ocean’, I’d say they are all like that. Ah, actually Minwoo has written some lyrics for the first time for the EP we are going to record in France.
Naehyun : There was no real concept for the first album. We made it almost unintentionally, as we ended up with loads of songs and stuck them on a CD. The EP we are about to record in France was planned out right from the start. Compared to our existing albums it has a more more dynamic and rhythmical feel to it. The fella who is going to produce it also makes music like that, it’s what he is best at. We thought if we made similar music and took it to him he would be able to help us out more. When we make the second album it will be different again, I expect.
Jinkyu : Actually, we don't have one specific thought in mind when we make music, we just make the music we can or the music we like. There is no one genre of music we set out to write, but I guess we mainly make dance rock music. Love X Stereo’s Annie probably defined our music best when she called it ‘Neo Psychedelic Disco’. We are debating describing ourselves that way the next time we play abroad.
Minkyu : When the credit card bills arrive. That’s the worst.
Jinkyu : I don’t regret a single thing. Even if I was doing something else, the money would be rubbish… I’m doing something I love and that makes me happy. However, when someone says to me ‘Ah, you are so lucky to be doing something you love’ I get a bit pissed off. Actually, saying that you are doing something you want to do is the same as saying it’s not hard. Anyways, I think I chose well.
Minkyu : Clearly there are some things that are hard, but it is never the music side of things.
Naehyun : I’ve lost loads of things because of becoming a musician. There are loads of things I have had to quit as well. But, whatever. A while ago I went to a fortune teller for the first time. I was told that from the the age of 26 or 27 to now would be the hardest part of my life. I took some solace from hearing that. For me, during those 4 years she was talking about I was doing the things I wanted to be doing and had lived well. I am not sure why, but when I was told that was to have been the toughest time in my life it gave me some strength.
Minkyu : It was a secret lineup, but SOMEONE kept talking about it and telling everyone.
Jinkyu : He said he didn’t know it was a secret.
Naehyun : Ah, yeah. That was me.
Minwoo : For us, weekday concerts usually mean concerts with no one watching. But there were loads of people at this one. It looks like people want to see gigs in the middle of the week as well.
Naehyun : Ages ago at Freebird they had a weekly weekday project called ‘Club Busking’, which was free to watch. The lineups were really great and loads of people would go and watch, 40 or 50 people would be there each week. Another weekday show I remember well was a show we did with Remains and Space Papa; it was a show arranged at the last minute. My tuning was off and the set was a bit of a mess, we were the second team on stage and there were 2 people there to watch. Remains finished and we started, and at the end of the first song 1 of those 2 people walked out. It was really discouraging. I hope that these midweek shows go well. If more and more people come during the week, it means more people will come on the weekends too. Compared to 3 years ago, loads of live venues have gone to ruin. There used to be loads of these midweek shows, but now there are hardly any.
Naehyun : I forget about them immediately.
Jinkyu : In the past I was really influenced by the bad shows. And then one day I thought that it was more important to put on shows that we enjoyed and my way of thinking changed a bit. Around that time loads more people started coming to see us.
Jinkyu : After we had played about 50 or so shows I guess. When playing shows the pressure started off. However, there are still times where the reaction from the audience is questionable. I try to erase those memories from my head. But of course, we always worry about how to make the shows more fun for the people watching too.
Minwoo : We are really sorry to those people who saw the shitty shows.
Minkyu : When you play a bunch of shows in a row that all go well, you begin to get a bit complacent. You get overconfident and perhaps don’t prepare as well as you should. At that moment the shit hits the fan. It’s a cycle.
Jinkyu : It is not always that way though. Sometimes we think we have played a shitty show and people keep telling us how good it was.
Naehyun : Right. And when we played the AIA festival, I thought we had nailed it …
Minwoo : I spend most of my free time exercising. I don’t have a whole lot of time so I can’t make it to the gym often, so I exercise at home. Apart from that, I don’t do much.
Minkyu : After practice I always ride my bike. I am under the Yanghwa bridge pretty much every day at around 9 or 10pm. Also, around midnight you will be able to find me in Yeonnam-dong drinking. So long as you drink when you are exercising, it’s ok, right? In the winter, I can’t exercise outside, but at the moment the weather is good, so I can. My hangovers now are not so bad compared to the winter hangovers.
Jinkyu : Mostly I watch entertainment shows on TV, and I’ve started exercising as well recently.
Naehyun : I just watch football and baseball at home in the evenings.
Naehyun : I can’t drink at all.
Jinkyu : I used to like it. These days though, I don’t drink all that much. I drank a shit load in the past, so it’s not all that much fun anymore. If any of my friends were drinking I would always go and join them but if there was anyone there I didn’t like … I wouldn't bother going. I reckon I have probably already drunk my alcohol quota for my whole life. In one sitting I used drink about 5 or 6 bottles of soju, and if it was beer I could knock back 20 pints.
Minkyu : If there is soju in front of me, I will drink it. I don’t care what the atmosphere is like. I won’t even speak, I will just drink it.
Minwoo : When I get the chance to drink I drink as if my life depends on it. If I don’t drink on those rare opportunities … then I can't drink at all. “Today is my drinking day!”
Naehyun : I like Galaxy Express and Goonam.
Jinkyu : Hey! You should choose just one!
Naehyun : OK, Galaxy.
Jinkyu : Then I choose Goonam!
Minkyu : Of course YB! I can’t leave them out. Actually, I don’t really like their music. Shit, leave that out. I shouldn’t have said that. I like the people. The band.
Jinkyu : No no, don’t take that out. He said it! Write it in massive font. I DON’T LIKE THEIR MUSIC, I DON’T LIKE THEIR MUSIC …….
Minkyu : Poong Ryu(풍류). DJ DOC (a Korean hiphop group)’s singer Lee Haneul’s mum runs that place. Lunch is really delicious and the booze and side dishes in the evening are great too. It is good value for money as well. You can find it right behind Rolling Hall.
Jinkyu : There is one place that all four of us like: it is right next to Mangwon station and it is called Mangwon Pork and Rice Soup (망원돼지국밥). Every time Naehyun eats there he says “This place should be given a prize for being so damn good”.
Minwoo : Our strength and stamina…
Minkyu : I’ve got more wrinkles developing near my left eye now.
Minwoo : As a band we have all gotten closer, more like a family. We talk a lot about our thoughts and feelings. Also, another thing that has changed compared to last year is that I have written some lyrics! That is a good measure of how much all of us have upgraded ourselves as people!
Naehyun : First off we are going to France and then we will release an EP in the summer or autumn. We also hope to do a Korean tour around that time as well. We hope to release a full album in the first part of next year too.
Jinkyu : In July we are playing at Ansan Valley Rock Festival and in August we go to Russia. Hopefully we will get to put on our own show as well sometime this year.
Jinkyu : Ah, it's a hard one. I think I said everything I wanted to. I should have saved a bit!
Minkyu : I actually really like YB’s music! I started playing music because of YB. I love the song ‘A Flying Butterfly (나는나비)’. Oh, and ‘Love is a Car Accident (사랑은 교통사고)’ too, it’s a masterpiece.
Naehyun : Keep supporting us please!
Minwoo : Ah, and everyone … make sure you get down to your local clubs! By doing that you will ensure that loads more good bands emerge. Don’t just follow us, please show lots of interest in the other bands that play. There are way more amazing bands around than you can imagine. Don’t take my word for it, get down to a club yourself and check it out.
Jinkyu : Frankly speaking though, don’t just go to any club, we would love it if you came to the club we were playing at! Don’t go anywhere else, come and see our shows!
Minwoo : And buy our CDs!
Minkyu : If you are well off in terms of data, make sure to stream our songs too. The one or two cents we make from that helps as well!
Jinkyu : Oh, wait! When you take videos of our songs … make sure you film me as well!
Minwoo : Sometimes, people just film Naehyun only. You can’t see any of the rest of us.
Minkyu : Yeah, if you do film only him, when you put it on Youtube please call it the ‘Naehyun version’ or something. Then we need not bother watching it! It’s a nightmare when I have to watch right to the end only to see that I don’t appear in it at all!
Jinkyu : Honestly, it is fine to just film one person, I’m not bothered by that. But I do wish people would refrain from making videos that make us look like a three piece band. I tend to be always moving around when we are on stage, but despite that, people seem to manage to cleverly avoid me altogether. It’s amazing! Make sure you publish that! Again, in size twenty font please!
Interview : J-Myon Kim, Doyeon Lim, Il Hwa Choi
English Translation : Patrick Connor
English Edited by : Rock N Rose
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