Posted on May 19, 2014

Interview

With their psychedelic guitar riffs, hard driving bass lines, straight ahead rock drumming and haunting melodies, Asian Chairshot  exploded on to the Korean indie rock scene in 2011. After two tours in Singapore, the trio is gearing up for Liverpool Sound City and a subsequent tour of the UK. Each Wednesday at Strange Fruit (in Hongdae, Seoul) they have been playing a series of weekday fundraiser shows to support the tour. Strange Fruit was chosen as the location because of the band’s connection with the owner, as well as the sound and size of the venue being good for weekday performances. Asian Chairshot (Drums : 박계완 [Kye Wan Park], Guitar : 손희남 [Heenam Son] and Bass/Vocals : 황영원 [Youngwon Hwang]) were nice enough to sit down with Doindie for a while after their most recent show and answer some questions about the band, their upcoming album and their upcoming tour. After the set, we started with beers and then talked influences. Youngwon cites early Korean rock influences like Joonghyun Shin, one of the early legends of Korean rock, as well as bands like 들국화 [Chrysanthemum] and 산울림 [Sanullim].  Heenam, on the other hand, is a big British rock fan, and considers Radiohead one of his big influences (something any Radiohead fan will notice when hearing him play). Meanwhile, KyeWan (who is always trying to make us laugh), impressed me with his knowledge of Girl’s Generation (with a dance) and other pop groups; though he says he has no interest in any of the Kpop boy bands.

 

How did you meet?

KyeWan : Heenam and I have been friends since we were young.
Heenam : KyeWan started this band.
KyeWan : Then we met Youngwon, and he is like our mentor.

Why did you start playing your instruments?

Kye Wan : Women. Women like drums. So I started drums to make the girls love me. The first time I saw drums, the looked cool to me, I thought girls might feel the same when they saw me play. Sadly, in the real world, it has not quite worked out like that!
Youngwon : Me too. I also wanted to meet girls, so I started by playing guitar. However, my guitar skills weren’t good enough, so when I saw the bass, I thought, “Yeh.”
Heenam : I used to listen to K-pop. When I heard rock for the first time, I was blown away. I started to love rock music and I really want to make other Korean people have that same feeling.
Kye Wan : Actually, I think the drums have soul. They are the original instrument, like barbarians.
Other Members : Liar!

How would you define your style?

Asian Chairshot : Our music has a psychedelic sound blended with old Korean style melodies. We try to express Korean sentiments through our music. It kind of developed over time as we tried different styles and got used to working together. We are obviously affected by Western culture, but we wanted to put a shade of Korean musical elements into our style as well. So our unique style comes from blending both western and our own Asian influences. If we had just played western style music, it wouldn’t be so unique.

Why do you, Youngwon play barefoot?

Youngwon : Shoes are uncomfortable for me, so I don't like to wear them. At first, when I moved around on stage, I felt like I might fall over, however I’ve gotten used to it now and I don't feel so uncomfortable. It has kind of become my style. So now, every time I play a show, I go barefoot.

How was working with Eshe and Navah (belly dancing group) at Shakeshop?

KyeWan : It was so sexy. I was a bit embarrassed seeing them so I kept looking down during our performance. I couldn’t concentrate at all, so I made a lot of mistakes.
Asian Chairshot : We all made many mistakes, but “KyeWan” made A LOT of mistakes!! ;)

At your EP release party, you did a set of Galaxy Express covers. Why did you decide to do that?

Asian Chairshot : We really love Galaxy Express and at that point they were going through a really tough time. We are really good friends with those guys so we played their songs at our show to support them and show them some love.

What can you tell us about the title track, Mask Dance, from the Mask EP? What does the song mean to you?

Youngwon : 'Mask Dance' is an homage to the Korean-Traditional Dance "탈춤, [Tal Chum]". In spite of life being hard, people tried to find laughter in their lives by dancing in smiling masks. However, we think it is a bit of a farce, through the mask, they are smiling, but underneath that mask their hearts are so sad. We tried to put the wisdom of our ancestors into the lyrics. Additionally, they (the local farmers, etc.) seemed to have a hard time like African-Americans.

What about the upcoming album? How was the recording process different from your previous EPs?

Asian Chairshot : This album was produced by Jeff and Ryan (of Smashing Pumpkins), but the earlier EPs were made completely by ourselves. We didn’t really know what we were doing. However, Jeff and Ryan know a lot about producing. The one problem we encountered was communication. They can’t speak Korean, and we can barely speak any English. In the end though, it didn't matter. The music was all that was needed.
The new album is complete and will be released in mid / late May after they return from the UK.

You have mentioned relating Korean history with black struggles in America in your lyrics, can you elaborate?

Youngwon : In the past, as you know Korea was a Japanese colony. I think, much like the blacks and their struggles in America, Korean people have suffered a similar history of suppression and aggression. That is why I relate them in my lyrics.

Who are your favorite Korean indie rock bands?

Asian Chairshot : Galaxy Express is a really good band and their live shows are always awesome. We like most of the bands we play with. We learn a lot from everyone.

What was your most memorable show as a band?

Asian Chairshot : Mu:Con (a music festival and conference organized by KOCCA and the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism), the first Singapore tour, and the Jarasum Jazz Festival, we really had a lot of fun there. That festival was our first performance, so we didn't have a whole lot of material or experience.

What was the experience of touring in Singapore like? How do you expect it to compare to the UK?

We have toured in Singapore twice now. We had a lot of fun the first time, so we thought the second trip was going to be just the same. However, it didn't turn out quite as well as we had expected. There were a few difficulties during that second trip to Singapore. As we mentioned before our English is not really good enough, so it was hard to find solutions to problems when they arose. For example there were some technical problems during our set (ear monitors not working properly, strings and straps breaking etc). At home in Korea, it would be easy to overcome these small issues, but not being able to speak English very well made it so much more difficult for us. We had to stop our set once and end another set early. After that tour, we made up our minds to do our best every time we performed and to never take shows / tours lightly. We are treating the performances in Singapore as a steppingstone for our trip to the UK. It is very exciting. We will do our best, and we most definitely will not be under estimating it. We have learned from our mistakes in Singapore. Anyway, we are gonna have a great time.

What are your hopes for the UK tour? Do you plan on singing any of your songs (or doing covers) in English?

KyeWan : We want to meet some UK girls. Or American girls like Gwyneth Paltrow.
Heenam : I hope our music will touch some people, even if it is just one person I will be happy.
KyeWan : I'd like a British girl to declare her love for me and tell me she wants to have my baby. Or that she wants immigrate to Korea just because of me. Sadly I'm sure it will remain just a dream ;)
Youngwon : My English pronunciation is not good enough, so I don’t want to sing covers or sing our songs in English.
Asian Chairshot : We are just going to do our thing. We're not gonna change anything, we will just rock out hard.

Finally, (for those of you who have noticed “Idolsta” written on the back of his bass) what is with the writing on the back of your bass Wonyoung?

Youngwon : It’s the name of my old band, from a long time ago. I’ve tried to remove it, but I can't.

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us :)

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Interview : Brian Gilbert

 

UK Tour Dates :

May 2 : Liverpool, England @ Korova (Liverpool Sound City)

May 3 : Liverpool, England @ Kazimier Gardens (Liverpool Sound City)

Liverpool Sound City : http://www.liverpoolsoundcity.co.uk/

May 4 : Chester, England @ The Compass

May 6 : Sheffield, England @ The Bell Jar

May 7 : Salford, England @ The Eagle Inn

May 9 : London, England @ AAA

May 11 : Bristol, England @ Pam Pam

May 12 : London, England @ Pipeline

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Asian Chairshot

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bandchairshot
Twitter : https://twitter.com/asianchairshot
Doindie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/asian-chairshot/

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