Posted on February 16, 2015

Interview

# First, please introduce yourself to our readers.

권정주 (Jungju Kwon) : Hi DoIndie readers. We are AstrOnErd. AstrOnErd is an electronic act playing a kind of trance-progressive style of music. You could say the theme of our music is a kind of space opera. It is an honor for me to be able to do this interview with DoIndie, who work so hard to help develop the indie scene here in Korea.

윤재일 (Jae Il Yoon) : Hi DoIndie readers. I have been captured and held under duress by an alien from Earth. Under the instruction of the alien superintendent, I spend my time working hard making music beats. I am Jae Il Yoon, and I compose and produce the beats and rhythms for our team, AstrOnErd, while Jungju Kwon composes and produces our music.

# Your name is interesting. Are we right in thinking it breaks down into two parts, ‘astro’, referring to the universe, and ‘nerd’? What does it mean exactly, and why do you capitalize all the vowels when you write it in English?

Jungju : Actually, there is one overall story that explains our music. It is not a story about the present, but one set in space, way in the future… let’s say the year three thousand and something. The earth has changed into a harsh environment where mankind can no longer survive. It is a story about scientists and technicians who are trying to work out how to use their spaceships and pilots to find a habitable Earth (Earth mark II). AstrOnErd is not only the name of our band, but also the nickname of the main hero for the cover story of our album. Our hero of the distant future is a pilot of great strength and skill. He is currently on one of Jupiter’s satellite moons, Callisto, where he has just woken up from a state of hibernation-like sleep after a great accident-induced psychological trauma. Upon waking, he has not been able to speak at all but has become convinced that all the vowels in the English alphabet should be capitalised. As a result, on seeing our hero write the word AstrOnAUt, the artificial intelligence system for his spaceship’s central computer system has declared him a stupid nerd and given him the nickname ‘AstrOnErd.

In the song jUpItEr pArt2 on our recently released second album <sOlAr systEm>, the full details of our heros ill-fated accident are disclosed. It’s a really tragic story. It is a shame that the movie Interstellar came out recently because loads of people are now comparing our music and story to that movie… but actually we have been creating this story and our music since 2012. The Interstellar and AstrOnErd stories are almost the same, so it seems to me that seeing as I came up with the story first, I am Interstellar director Christopher Nolan’s superior. Hahaha. Now I feel like I know the meaning of the saying, “If you feel that you were treated unfairly, then find a way to get to the top”.

# So, the overriding theme for AstrOnErd is the universe, but what is it that bonds the two members of the band with this ‘universe’ theme? Is it because you too are from the outer universe?

Jungju : We used lots of words related to the universe and we talk about it a lot, but I don’t think the words we use are really good for representing what the universe is. Even the world’s most amazing scientists like Carl Sagan, Neil Grayston, Stephen Hawking, and Kip Thorne don’t know anything for sure. They are just presenting hypotheses on the subject. Of course, what they are saying is very persuasive and people tend to take that information as fact. However, no one has ever actually been to outer space to see firsthand the constellations and planets we love so much, or the black holes, etc. One of the saddest things is that when we express our thoughts and ideas about space, we use almost exclusively visual and physical means to do so, and a lot of investment has been made in that area of research. However, hardly any effort has gone into looking at the auditory expression of these thoughts and ideas. I hope that when someone listens to our music and closes their eyes, they naturally get an image of space in their minds. This is the image we are trying to create. I guess I’m saying I want to help people picture the universe with their own imaginations. So, when people try to express this area called the universe, we hope our music facilitates that. We are aliens, that’s right. We humans are 70% made up of the same organic matter that makes the stars. So if you look at the wider picture, we are all descendants from space, and as someone once said, we are all living here as members of the same space.

Jae Il : Ah. No, of course I’m not actually from outer space. Haha. Please don’t confuse our musical minds with our non-musically-connected ones. Haha. Of course, for me as well, right from when I was young I was fascinated by that big wide space called the universe. The great scientists of the world insist that their version of events is the only correct way to describe the universe, but I’m not so sure. I’m sure they are closer to the truth than the rest of us, but it’s all just calculations and numbers … it doesn’t seem quite right to me. In my opinion this massive space is not something that can simply be defined by numbers and hypotheses alone. There are no words that can define the universe exactly. We can only imagine the universe and hope that our music is a catalyst for people to imagine it too. That would be an honor to us.

# Can you describe to us exactly what kind of music you seek to make? What artists have you been influenced by? Also, we are curious … what do you think differentiates you from the many other electronic musicians out there today?

Jungju :  Our music isn’t just simply electronic music. There are already a galaxy of groups and producers from both Korea and abroad making electronic music. Between them all they have made loads of electronic beats and melodies. For our sound we have borrowed not only from that pool of music but also from rhythms, beats and sounds from across the developing countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. All these sounds come from Earth, but with these sounds we can express anything contained in the universe. Particularly if you listen to our new second album you will hear new sounds and cool stories. We don’t really have one fixed genre. Because we have been influenced by such a large number of musicians, If i listed them all it would take too much time so I will just talk about the ones that have directly influenced AstrOnErd’s music. Ennio Morricone, Franz Liszt (a pianist and writer who I really respect), David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Joy Division, Depeche Mode, Massive Attack, Justice, John Coltrane, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Juan Louis Guerra etc. I got lots of ideas and hints from these artists.

Jae Il : I really respect Travis Barker from Blink 182 and Mike Portnoy, who of course is held in such high regard by all percussionists. Also I really like the percussion sounds I hear in everyday life. We live in buildings in cities and so these noises offer percussionists like me a place of refuge when we want to take a break from the daily grind. Actually, for the most part our songs come from the mind of Jungju. It’s an exciting project to be part of, and it’s not just a first here in Korea, but probably a first in Asia as well. I’m not all that talented, but seeing as we are doing a ‘first’ in this field of music, it is a good opportunity to leave some kind of legacy. That’s why I got involved in this project. When you first hear the background for our music it might sound absurd, but as soon as you listen to the essence of it, your aversion will disappear. I think this is a great genre of music, and I am proud to be a part of it. I consider myself lucky to have a chance to share this kind of music with other people.

# How do the two of you go about creating your music?

Jungju : I use logic. Logic is a really amazing piece of software. Ages ago, when I made music in 4 / 5 person bands I couldn’t really express my musical character, but these days, using logic I’m always in awe of how much easier it is to express myself. I spend a lot of time watching documentaries about space, as well as listening to lots of music from movies about space. Also Jae Il is an amazing percussionist. I am always pestering 제일 to make more and more beats so we can keep putting out new music.

Jae Il : Jungju is the main creator and producer of our music, where as I am one of the performers of it. I concentrate on the essential sounds. This is the digital age and things are changing, I think people need to stop questioning computerised and digital music so much. Once a week Jungju comes round to my house and gives me a program which we use to make ideas and work out how best to add the percussion. We decide together which sounds fit best with which parts for each song. To record the material, we go to the studio together and I bang it out on the drums. Jungju takes care of the majority of the mixing, but we are always talking about it together, right up until the song is done. We don’t think of ourselves as separate musicians but as a team.

# On the first 'AstrOnErd' album the overall feelings of the track are quite trancelike, but the songs all sound like they are made up of a wide variety of different sounds. For example, track 4 sounds like it takes a lot of influences from country music, but track 7 on the album sounds like it’s borrowing from old-style brass instruments. It seems like you are like a mashup of different styles, would you say that is fair?

Jungju : First, let me say thanks for describing it as a ‘mash-up.’ It feels good to be described like that… it makes me feel like we are a sophisticated team! I think that if you use a wide variety of genres in your music, it helps make your music richer. We use a variety of instruments’ sounds in our music in order to help us express the big space we call the universe, but we hope people don’t think we are just using random instruments out of the blue for no reason. Our music is defined by a clear theme, so it is not simply a random mash-up of instruments and sounds. It is all put together in a well-organised mash-up of sounds in order to express in our own way our feelings about the universe. I’d love it if people thought of our music along those lines.

Jae Il : I think this is one of Jungju’s strong points, he combines different instruments and sounds really well. I am often surprised at how well some of the combinations work, and I really admire him when he puts all the songs together. I can’t say he is the best or the most unique / innovative at fusing these sounds together, but he is really skilful at making beautiful, well-matched tracks. I always want to give him a round of applause.

# What is the concept and direction behind the new album?

Jungju : At the end of the story in the first album our hero had finished exploring one galaxy and his journey had come to an end, so he has decided to try and fire his warp-speed system and teleport to another galaxy. However, there is a mechanical error with the system and rather than go where he wanted, he ends up staying in our galaxy - but it is a version of our galaxy set in the past. He has gone back in time to the 1960s. In the second album he is on a trip to visit all the planets in our solar system and bring back samples from each planet. It is this trip and this story that we are expressing with our music in the second album. The new album is musically a bit deeper than our first album. We experiment more with electronic music and also it contains more sounds from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

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Buy 'sOlAr SystEm' (Digital) :

Bainil (Free Download) / Daum Music / Naver Music / Olleh Music / Bugs / Genie / M-Net / Melon ← Click

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# Do you have any plans to perform soon?

Jungju : In order for us to perform we need at least 3 people really. To reproduce our music we need someone to produce the strings & synthesisers sounds. We are currently looking for another earthbound alien to join us. Our aim is to find another member, sort out our repertoire / set list, and be playing shows in late spring / early summer. We are hopeful that the new member will be a woman and that she will become the frontwoman of the band. I’m not keen on being the frontman because I’m not very good looking haha.  So, I’m worried my ugly face will ruin the mysterious atmosphere and entertainment that our music creates. As for booking all the shows we want to do, Jae Il is gonna have to work super hard on that. He lives in Seoul, and I don’t, so it is down to him! No pressure! Hehe.

Jae Il : I also play in another band, but I think AstrOnErd has a lot more potential, so when I meet other musicians I always tell them about AstrOnErd and show them our songs. They always say they would love to see us play live, which makes me feel good about the band. I wish we could quickly meet a keyboardist who can cover up our shortcomings. I don’t think we will have to worry too much about getting shows when the time comes. I hope whoever joins is super pretty, hehe. Of course, their musical ability is important, but it’s also important to be beautiful! Haha, we will make her a star! Come quick!

# Lastly, do you have any personal goals for the new year?

Jungju : Well, seeing as we have made this new album, my desire to meet listeners and fans at venues is really strong. Once this second album is out, I guess I will instantly want to work on a third album! Also, after getting ready to play live, I will be looking to book us lots of gigs, even if they are just small ones. I don’t think it’s important to talk about the aspirations I have because just talking about them will not help me succeed. I would rather just go out there and spend time introducing people to my music and then see what happens.

Jae Il : In order to help keep our country’s citizens safe and well, I will stay a loyal servant to my duty as a firefighter. I will also keep working hard to keep my dream of performing and making music alive. As Jungju said, we will be working hard playing shows to let people get to know AstrOnErd’s music. We will be doing our best to show all you good people what we can do!

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Interview : J-Myon Kim
English Translation : Patrick Connor & Doyeon Lim
Edited by : Heather Castille
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For more information on the band, check them out at the following sites :

 

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/jungju.kwon.5
Twitter : https://twitter.com/Indie7777
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/astronerd

Bands

AstrOnErd

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