Posted on March 07, 2017

Interview

# As is traditional with a DOINDIE interview, please can we start by each of you introducing the person sitting next to you to our readers.

Kyu Kyu: The person on my left is Streetguns vocalist Cheolsu. He is my actual blood brother. Ah, and of course, he’s a great singer on stage, isn’t he? Sorry, I have nothing funny to say! I’m not really a very good talker, I’m afraid.

Cheolsu: This is Roy and he plays the contrabass in the band. He wears his hair down these days. Yeah, that’s enough about him.

Roy:  Sitting next to me is Tiger. He looks a bit like Yogi Daniel. He plays guitar in Streetguns and he composes almost all of the music for the band as well. He is our pillar. He has a super placid temperament.

Tiger: This is our drummer, Jeff. He is a drummer who loves to play a good, meaty, double time groove. Please make sure that goes in the article! The Streetguns sound centers around his drumming. He is really talented; you could stick him in any band and he would kill it.

Jeff: This is Kyu Kyu. He is the lead guitarist of the band. He is the youngest member of the band, but when it comes to performing or practicing he often leads in terms of the overall sound or in what direction the song should go. He’s good at speaking, organising things and … he is a reliable kind of guy. So, whichever way you look at it, I think that the band has been doing better and better since Kyu Kyu joined us.

# How did you all meet each other?

Cheolsu: Well, Tiger was the one who got it all started, so perhaps it’s best if he talks you through the history of it all.

Tiger: Well, it’s a long story because we have a long history … It took a long time for the five of us here to come together and form the band. Come to think of it, it took around 20 years. Where should I start? Hmmm … How about from The RockTigers? Before Streetguns I played in a band called The RockTigers; I was the guitarist and vocalist. At some point, some of the members left the band and that is when I recruited Roy. He was in his twenties back then and was originally a guitarist. However, I asked him to play bass in the band. I think we played in that band together for about 10 years. During that time the drummer left and we picked Jeff to replace him after some auditions.

Jeff: Auditions!

Tiger: Auditions. It is important to note that we picked you from auditions.

Jeff: I was picked from over 180 people!

Tiger: Umm, it wasn't quite 180 people, Jeff! (everyone laughs). I think it was more like out of 4 people. So Jeff came into The RockTigers after beating 3 other people to the job. At some point it became time for The RockTigers to call it a day and split up, and that is where that band ended. I wanted to change things up, so I went on the lookout for a new vocalist. We didn’t hold auditions; we chose him especially. At that time Cheolsu was playing bass and singing in a band called ‘끝내주는 오빠들’, and I had been keeping my eye on him for a while as a potential singer for my new band. We got him in the end, and that’s when we started as Streetguns. We played like that for about a year and then our guitarist left the band. We needed to find a new guitarist pretty fast, then Cheolsu told us that his brother played guitar. He told us all how good he was and so we said ‘ok then, bring him along’. He came and it turned out that he really was good, so he ended up joining the band too. He didn’t come in via auditions either; he was parachuted in and forced upon us via his brother! That’s a bad thing isn’t it!?!? Ha ha! Anyway, that's how it happened.

# As you mentioned there, before Streetguns, there was The RockTigers. You began that band in the 1990s, on a kind of mission to introduce Korean audiences to rockabilly music. What led you to that mission?

Tiger: I don't think we ever set out with that mission in mind. I think that because we were the only people playing this kind of music that people around us would say 'ah, these guys are trying to introduce a new kind of music to Korea'. That’s probably how that started. But honestly speaking, we never felt like we needed to introduce this kind of music to our country or anything like that.

Cheolsu: I don’t think there is anyone here at the moment that would say they feel it is their sense of duty to introduce this style of music to people.

Tiger: It is a fact that no one else was really playing this kind of rockabilly music here in Korea. That was true back then and it still holds true today. Rockabilly is a very rare kind of music, but the reason we started to play it (and the reason we still play it today) is because we really love it and we and we really want to play it. We are not doing it as some kind of mission. But when I think about, I do have some kind of desire to spread the rockabilly word. This is something I truly love doing, so of course it’s nice to be able to share it with others. I guess that over time, perhaps, we have developed some sort of sense of duty to help share this kind of music around.

Jeff: It’s pride. We are proud of what we do. We are the only band doing it here! 

# The RockTigers were very popular among foreign audiences, especially with Americans (perhaps unsurprisingly, as the genre originated in the US). Streetguns, on the other hand, seems to be significantly more popular with Korean audiences. What changed?

Tiger: When we do these interviews, almost everyone starts off by talking about The RockTigers. We do too, when we are writing our band bios, etc. It’s almost unavoidable I guess, but to be completely honest, we don’t really like it. When we first started Streetguns, I thought it would just be a natural extension of The RockTigers. However, if you compare the music we played back then with the music we play now it’s impossible to think of us as anything other than two wildly different bands. The music is really different and I think our image is also really different now to what it was back then. I think that is the reason we appeal to different fans these days. 

Cheolsu: I was never in The RockTigers. So, talking from an outsider's perspective, I think that the band now (Streetguns) has lost some of its ‘western’ feeling. I think when you were in The RockTigers it didn’t really feel like a ‘Korean’ band as such. Your performances on the stage, the songs and the music style all had a certain ‘foreign’ feel to them. But now, I think that feeling has disappeared to a certain extent and the Streetguns’ music and stage demeanor feels a bit more like other Korean bands’.

Tiger: I think that The RockTigers pursued and fitted nicely into one specific genre. Whether we are talking about the culture, sound or image, it was always The RockTigers’ aim to try hard to perfect that true rockabilly style. However, the main goal of the band now is to get people to empathize with the message in our music, rather than aspiring to perfect one certain genre of music. So now, rockabilly is just a tool through which our main goal is to empathize with people. It feels really different now to how it did in the past.

# You guys were the first ever Asian winners of the Hard Rock Cafe Hard Rock Rising award. How does that feel?

Cheolsu: It feels … well, great! It’s good because we get loads of additional benefits from it!

Roy: When we first entered the competition, we could never have imagined in our wildest dreams that we would win it.  

Kyu Kyu: We couldn’t believe it.

Roy: It was bewildering, wasn’t it? None of us could believe it had happened. We were swearing a lot. Shouting things like, ‘Who are these fuckers telling lies? Lying bastards!’ As time has gone by we have had a lot of benefits from it, for sure. We even got to go play in Panama a little while ago, I think that that is when it really sank in that we had won. It feels like we have achieved something and that we are doing better and better.

Cheolsu: Seeing as it’s over now, I don’t think it’s right to just dwell on the happiness of it all. I don’t want it to just end with that, I hope that lots of other cool opportunities continue to come from it.

# Tell us about your experience on your trip to Panama for the finals of Hard Rock Rising. How did you find the audience response there? What was your best impression of the trip?

Cheolsu: We pretty much just went there, played the show and came back home. The only thing that really sticks in my mind was the really long flight. It took 24 hours just to get there.

Tiger: Didn’t it take about thirteen and a half hours just to get to New York from Seoul?

Cheolsu: Also, we are a bunch of smokers, and of course airplanes are no-smoking environments. So that was super hard.

All members: Ha Ha Ha!

Tiger: There was some kind of conference happening at the Hard Rock Cafe in Panama. It was a conference with people from all over the world, which meant that there were not really many people from Panama in the crowd. I think the only local people from Panama were those who were working at the Hard Rock Cafe. Most of the people in the crowd were from other countries, but the reaction they gave us was really good. We sold pretty much all of the merch we had taken with us. However, I don’t think we really got to enjoy Panama the country. We did do a little bit of sightseeing, but the whole schedule was set around the conference, so we didn’t really have time to explore much by ourselves. Anyway, it was our first time going over to Latin America, it was a really interesting place. And fun too ...

# What other benefits have you gotten from winning the Hard Rock Rising competition?

Tiger: Firstly, now we can say that our band are the winners of the 2016 Hard Rock Rising competition. That is like our band title now; honestly it’s probably the best thing to have come out of all this. When we tell people, they are all, like, … how can I put it?

Jeff: We don’t look like amateurs now?

Tiger: Right. We look like we know what we’re doing now.

Jeff: You’re making us sound cheap. We are not very eloquent! 

Kyu Kyu: It makes people look at us twice.

Jeff: Why can’t I think of anything cool to say about this …

Cheolsu: Ah, also in April we will go and play at Macau’s ‘Hush!! Full Music’ Festival. I think that there were a lot of bands on their list, but they chose us because we had won the Hard Rock Rising thing. They are treating us especially well because of it. Another good thing is that Hard Rock Cafe will keep on promoting us now as well. I think winning will be really helpful to our future development as a band.

# Right, let’s get talking about the new EP. Is there any reason you only released an EP as opposed to a full album?

Tiger: Is there a reason?

Cheolsu: Because we didn’t have enough songs for a full album. 

Roy: Well, it is partly due to the songs, but not only that. Part of the prize for winning the Hard Rock Rising competition was to make a CD. However, there was a deadline for that and we didn’t really have much time to spend on writing songs, so we decided to go with only the songs that were all done and perfectly ready to record. Of course, there are some songs that didn’t make the cut too. Anyway, we just decided to make an EP with the songs that were good and ready to go. 

# Is there anything in particular that you would like the listeners to focus on when they listen to the EP?

Tiger: This EP is the second release for us since we changed from The RockTigers into Streetguns. We had been playing as Streetguns for around a year when we released our first full length album, since then we have been doing a lot of things. At some point we realised that the most important thing about music is getting the message within the song across to people and getting them to empathize with it too. This EP contains the songs we made since having that realisation.The first time people listen to our music they usually say something like ‘ah, rockabilly music is really fun’. Most people say that, but personally I hope that from this album forward people really take in and read the story / message within the songs. Of course, our music is really fun to listen to, but within that exciting and fun rhythm I hope that people can find a little something extra by taking in the message as well. Someone we know listened to these six songs recently and said that he thought that it felt like he had read a book of poems.  It made me feel really good to hear those words. I thought ‘ah, this person is listening to the songs how we imagined people would’. I hope that the people reading this interview enjoy the rhythm and excitement of the songs of course, but I also hope that they listen to the story and the message within the songs carefully as well. I think that if you do, you will enjoy our music even more.  

# The lyrics in the song ‘꽃이 져서야 봄인 줄 알았네 [I Only Realised It Was Spring When The Flowers Wilted]’ have a somewhat autobiographical feeling to them. Have you guys ever had any experiences where it was only after the fact when you realised how amazing they had been?

Cheolsu: There are too many of those moments to count! 

Roy: More than that … after we had finished this song I began to think that I shouldn’t worry so much about getting older, because it is never too late. It is not too late to do anything, even now. I think that we should make the most of life at every moment.

Cheolsu: You have a really positive outlook.

Roy: I am always telling people around me to make sure they notice it is spring before...

Tiger: Don’t wait until it’s too late!

Roy: Live life to the fullest, right now.

Jeff: This advice applies to everything, doesn’t it? To your friends, your loved ones, your job…

Tiger: The question you’re asking is, what have been some special moments or turning points in our lives, right? It’s a little bit strange, but since splitting up with an old ex-girlfriend of mine I often think about why I didn’t try harder to show my love for her. I think the lyrics talk about that situation a bit. 

# The first track on the EP is about a time machine. If there was some way you could use a time machine, is there a musician you would like to meet or a show you would like to see?

Roy: A text book answer would be that I want to meet people who were relevant to our music style back in the 50s. Famous musicians like Elvis Presley and Eddie Cochran. I’d like to see their shows and have a jam with them. I think all musicians have a hero they’d like to meet.

Jeff: I would love to play a show with Shin Hae Chul. He was my hero when I was in middle school. Right from when we were doing The RockTigers and then with Streetguns I have always been confident of (and working towards) getting to share a stage with NeXT sometime… it was a real shame that he passed away like that. So, if I could ever go back in time, I’d go back and make sure to play a show with Shin Hae Chul.

Cheolsu: Honestly speaking, I have never thought about where I might like to go back to if I had a time machine. I don’t really want to go back to any time before now. Mainly I like to look forward to the future. 

# You already explained this on your SNS pages, but for those who might not have seen it yet, can you please explain a bit more about the song “결론은 버킹검 [The Answer is Buckingham]”?

Cheolsu: That song turned out way better than I ever expected it to. Of course, when we wrote it we worked hard on it and tried our best with the arrangements, but compared to the other songs I thought it was quite weak. However, after recording it in the studio and finishing it up I took a listen and thought, ‘hey, this sounds pretty damn good’. I will let Tiger tell you more about the song’s content.

Tiger: Cheolsu was talking about just the overall sound of the song. But, for me, I don’t think you can ever separate the sound from the content of the song. In conclusion, I think that the reason the song turned out so well is probably because the the message conveyed and the sound of the music itself come together really well. If you just look at the lyrics in isolation, it’s not a pretty song. In the past, when people couldn’t give an answer to a question or solve a problem, they would just say, ‘The answer is Buckingham’. I made the song as a kind of joke based around that. There are lots of people who don’t know what the hell I am talking about, though. It’s a joke for the older generation, I think. Young people today are always drinking, talking and worrying about stuff, but there is no solution to many of these things. The answer is Buckingham. However you look at it, it is a really sad song, but with a good old lively rockabilly groove to it. It has a minor chord though, so it fits well with the message of the song. 

Kyu Kyu: For me personally, when I listened to this song, I had a strong feeling of how our music is changing. The arrangement and the playing style are quite close to that of the original rockabilly music; however … it has something a little different about it too. It was really fun to write it.

# Who is the person in the band with the most ideas when you are going through the process of preparing an album?

Cheolsu: We all share our ideas. It’s not possible of course for everyone to be 100% satisfied with every little detail, but so long as we can find a point where we are all at least a little bit satisfied … then it tends to work out ok.

Tiger: I write a lot of the songs, but saying that, it’s mainly just the lyrics and an overall sketch of the song that I make. After that, the flesh of the song is added by everyone else in the band. I love the process of jamming together, sharing opinions and ideas on how the song should develop. For me, that is what band music is all about. Without that merit you don’t really need a band, I guess. Also, these days everyone seems to be making all their music on computahs!

Cheolsu: What is a computah?

All Members: Ha ha!

Tiger: If you just do everything on a computer, then soon you won’t even need bands anymore. The charm or merit of a band is that it involves a bunch of people getting together to flesh out a song. That’s it.

Roy: The funny thing is that Tiger thinks and works in a bit of an old-fashioned way. He still makes his songs by singing and playing into a little recording device. It is not an ideal way of showcasing a song to the rest of the band. People don't really do it like that anymore, do they? Even if it’s just for a demo track, most people hook up a mic to a computer and record it like that; not Tiger though. He is more of a classic kinda guy.

Tiger: I have a kind of belief in that method. Music made on a computer is like a completely blank piece of paper to me. The most important thing about a song to me is the person or people who made it. The computer should be used only to help where necessary, to add a bit more flesh to a song. If you have a band, then you don’t really need to use a computer. If you do use a computer, in my opinion it tends to make the song worse. A band is a group of people working together to make something.

Cheolsu: There are good points to his methods for sure. The songs he brings always sound way better once we start playing them together, compared to how they sound on the recorder.  Much better.

Tiger: ...Anyway, what on earth were we talking about? Ah, right. Sharing ideas with the rest of the team is one of the best things about a band, because if you don’t do that then you don’t really need to be in a band. I think everyone in our band gets to put in their own ideas. 

# Have you ever written any lyrics for one of your songs that were so good that even you thought they were perfect?

Cheolsu: Tiger writes almost all of the lyrics.

Tiger: I wrote the song ‘냉장고를 부탁해 [Please Take Care of My Refrigerator]’ in one go. That song is one of the most authentic songs I have ever written and I think the lyrics are great. That's my personal opinion, anyway.

Jeff: I think that out of all the six songs on the EP, the one with the most memorable lyrics is ‘The Answer is Buckingham’. The song has the lyric ‘비운 술잔만큼이나 많은 고민들 [you have as many empty beer glasses as you do worries]’ in it. Personally, I think that one line explains the whole EP rather well.

Roy: Tiger looks like someone who always says loads of funny things, but in reality he really likes books and reading poems. So, if you take a look at his lyrics, there are lots of poetic lines in there. It’s quite surprising.

Tiger: At some point back in Korea’s history there was a style of poetry writing called Sijo (a traditional three verse poem that is sung out rather than simple readout). I think that a song is basically a beautiful poem with a melody attached to it. I wish that all the songs in the world had meaningful lyrics like poems do. These days, I don’t think there are too many great lyric writers out there. There are just lots of songs with good hooks. Of course, there are good points to those kinds of songs too. But that is not the style of music we are striving to make.

# Roy, a question for you. Why did you choose to play the contrabass? Also, you seem to be able to move it around with such ease for such a big instrument; how do you do that?

Roy: Well, firstly … I started using that contrabass when we changed our music style from rock ‘n roll to a more rockabilly style. It actually happened right when we came back from playing a festival in Japan. For the kind of music we play it’s actually quite normal to play contrabass. The contrabass is pretty scarce in Korea, so I had to search around for information on it. I am completely self-taught. As for picking it up during shows, I guess I do it when I get an adrenaline rush. It feels much lighter then. For example … 

Tiger: You mean when there are a lot of girls in the audience? 

Roy: When there are lots of female audience members, I wanna make sure I look good.

Tiger: He suddenly gets stronger.

Roy: It weighs about 12kgs I guess.

Tiger: It’s hollow inside, so actually it’s not as heavy as you might think.  

Roy: In reality, if it’s a show without much energy in the room it can be quite hard to swing that thing about, but I always try to make it look effortless.

# How important is your “look” (fashion, hairstyles) to the band? And how long does it take you to do your hair before a gig?

Roy: It’s impossible not to talk about The RockTigers in this instance. At that time we all had really big “Regent” (pompadour) hairstyles like Kyu Kyu’s. It fitted the feel of our music really well. But these days, we’ve changed our music style a fair bit. So, to match our new music our hairstyles have become a little more natural looking, I think. There are no special restrictions on hairstyles or anything though! That said, we are musicians who like to put on a show. I said we have gone a bit more natural, but that doesn’t mean we will turn up to play a show in slippers or anything like that. We put in a lot of effort to put on a good show as well as a good performance for people.

Tiger: What Roy is saying is that because the music we make changed, so did our fashion style. I think that is an important point, because a band’s fashion is one way of showing off their true identity. Personally, I think that if a band cannot express their identity through their fashion, then they are probably not really all that great of a band. I think that other bands should put more effort into this kind of thing as well.

Roy: I think our fashion fits in perfectly with the kind of music we are playing at the moment.

# Tiger, you run Rock Shop (a clothing store in Hongdae)--how is that going these days? Why not tell our readers a little bit about it?

Tiger: What can I say about Rock Shop, let me see... I have really enjoyed this kind of fashion style for a long time now. I got into the music and from there I got into the fashion, and now it is my job too. Well, it’s like my second job, anyway. It started off as an internet store, and we now have an offline shop too. People seem to really like the offline store. When I say that people seem to like it, I don’t mean that we are doing a roaring trade. I just mean that people seem to be excited about being able to experience this kind of culture and fashion. I have been having fun selling stuff at Rock Shop for about two years now, but sadly we had to close the shop down last year. The reason being the same reason why many businesses are closing down in Hongdae: high rent. But we are working on setting up in a new location. We have found somewhere suitable across from the main gate of Hongik University. It is in a side street behind Lotteria (a fast food chain).

# If you could collaborate with any artist who would it be, and why?

Jeff: I always talk about this kind of thing, I think I would like to collaborate with The Barberettes just once. It would be a really retro-style collaboration. For Tiger, it would be with Mad Clown (A Korean hip hop artist).

Tiger: Me? What?

Jeff: Hip hop!

Tiger: I saw that hip hop talent show ‘Show Me The Money’ once …. Usually when people watch that stuff, they get really into it, even if just briefly. I did too; for a short while I loved it. I even started rapping to my wife when I would ask her about dinner or something. I’ve gotten over that now though, thankfully. I think the whole country seems to be into hip hop at the moment, so I have a bit of hostility towards it now. Like I said before about liking music with a strong message to it, rap music does have a strong message in the lyrics to the songs. So I thought at one point that I would like to give it a try, but I think the method is a bit different to what I like.    

# In the future, how would you people to look back on Streetguns?

Cheolsu: I hope that there is one song that people immediately think of when they hear the name Streetguns. I think that is one of the best things that can happen to a musician. I want to be that kind of band.

Tiger: I hope that people think ‘ah, Streetguns songs contain a really strong message and I can really empathize with their music’. In the past my aim was just for the band to be super cool. But now, rather than that, I want people to to see us as a band who are telling their own story. 

Roy: It is similar for me too. I hope that we become one of those bands where people are like, ‘it’s those guys, you know the band … the band that sing this tune {hums track}’ and then the other guy is like, ‘oh yeah, those guys’. I want our music to be stuck in people's heads, in a good way of course.

Cheolsu: They never refer to us as ‘those guys’, they just call us sons of bitches.  

Tiger: Right, most people just call us that. Those fuckers. Ha ha!

# What do Streetguns have in store for the rest of 2017?

Cheolsu: We don’t have any plans. All bands always do the same things, don’t they! Make some new songs, research some methods of getting more exposure (big and small) for the band. Then there’s always practice and rehearsal sessions and other stuff happening to keep us busy. Anyway, we don’t have all that many concrete plans … we do have a confirmed slot at that festival in Macau in April or May for sure. So far in 2017 we have already had a showcase in Korea and a show abroad as well. It has been a good start to the year, so we'll just see what the rest of the year brings and hopefully there will be lots more good stuff to come.

Tiger: Like Cheolsu said, I think that the only thing musicians can really plan to do for the year is to work really hard at making good music. But I do think that these days it is important to consider how people are feeling. The general atmosphere in Korean society is pretty dark at the moment. There is an overall feeling of frustration out there. Because of that, there are not really all that many big events around to play at. I guess that it doesn’t feel like the right kind of time for people to be having fun, listening to music. If I could wish for just one thing, I would wish that only good things happen this year, so people can have fun and get back into listening to live music. If things get better then people will start coming out more looking for the great live music that artists are preparing. We just have to concentrate in having it all ready for them.

Roy: I think that Streetguns have been getting better and better each year since we formed. So, I don’t know exactly what it will be, but I want us to have some kind of achievement this year and of course that the band will get even better. That’s my aim.

Jeff: In 2017 we will try hard to play at lots of new places, not the venues we always play in. So for that reason I hope that we fuck up a lot. 

Roy: Why do you want to mess up? You need to stop messing things up!

Cheolsu: I don’t want to make any mistakes!

Tiger: We have been fucking up for 20 years, it’s enough! 

Roy: We have messed up sufficiently by now, we don’t need to do it any more.

Jeff: I mean that I hope that in 2017 we get to play in lots of new places and then we can use that experience as a cornerstone to build on for the following year.

Cheolsu: Are you not looking too far ahead?

Roy: We are already in our bloody forties. Christ.

Jeff: Have you only just realised it was spring after all the flowers wilted?

Roy: Ahhhh, right. Yeah, you’re right.

Tiger: Right now is the important thing.

Kyu Kyu: I hope that we can get rid of all the regrets we’ve had over the last few years. Musically speaking, that is. Clearly we’ve learned a lot over the time we have been together and we have had lots of good ideas too. I hope that we can put all that into use and achieve as much as we possibly can.


Interview : 임도연 (Doyeon Lim)
English Translation : 패트릭 코너 & 임도연 (Patrick Connor & Doyeon Lim)
Edited by : Rock N Rose


For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/thestreetguns/
Twitter : https://twitter.com/thestreetguns
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/street-guns

Bands

Streetguns

Comments

comments powered by Disqus