Posted on May 12, 2015

Interview

The lights come up on a dark stage in a basement indie club to reveal three figures. The row of people standing in front of the stage seems to be waiting eagerly, while a few members of the crowd linger in the back. After a nod from the bassist (tall, lean, dressed all in black) and the frontwoman (sporting long, blonde hair and exuding a unique rock n’ roll style), the drummer gets the set started and it only takes a few chords before everyone in the room has their eyes and ears focused on the stage. The band is Wasted Johnny’s, and their grungy, bluesy style of rock has been turning heads and commanding the attention of indie music fans since 2011. Wasted Johnny’s are one of those bands that seem to impress everyone the first time, and always keep them coming back for more. DoIndie had the opportunity to sit down with Angie (vocals, guitar), Nils (bass) and Young Jin (drums) one evening to discuss their music, their history, and their much-anticipated first full album. Read on to get to know this incredibly talented band, and “Get wasted!”     

# To get started, could each of you please introduce another member of the band?

Young Jin : Angie was a vocalist in a high school band, and when she was 20 she moved from Busan to Seoul and through trial and error played in a bunch of different bands. She wanted to make her own band so she worked hard to make some songs. In November 2011 she met Nils and Wasted Johnny’s was born.

Angie : Nils moved to Korea and ended up living in Seorae Village (서래 마을)  with his family because of his dad’s work. In the Autumn of 2011 he was attending a French school when he saw a poster I had put up hoping to find a bass player. At that time he couldn’t speak any Korean, but one of his Korean friends told him what it said, and he dropped me a message and we met up. When we first met he had just graduated from high school.For the first year we were playing together, he was also attending a Korean Language school and art academies in Apgujeong and Hongdae. These days his parents have moved away and Nils is living alone in Korea. He is currently a design student at Kookmin University. He works hard for both the band and his studies.

Nils : Young Jin Kim! He is from Gimcheon. His family all work on a farm..

Young Jin : What? My family don’t work on a farm.

Nils : He has loads of muscles, and he has played music for a long time. He played in a lot of other bands as well. He really loves blues. He is also the oldest member of the band and he eats a tonne of food.

Young Jin : We are not fucking farmers!

# How did you (Angie) and Young Jin  get to know each other?

Angie : I used to see Young Jin in bars a lot. He is from Gimcheon, right. My parents are also from there. So, some time ago when I was drunk I kept on saying ‘My mom went to a womans high school in Gimcheon’ over and over again and we became friends. Anyways, we used to see him a lot in the bars and became close. At that time it was just Nils and I, but Young Jin did two or three gigs with us and became a full-time member of the band. He has been with us pretty much right from the start.

# Your unique style of grungy blues rock has had people rocking for a few years now. Do you think your style and/or sound have changed a lot since the band’s formation? If so, how?

Angie : Before I met Nils I was advertising for a bass player who liked blues and rock n roll music. Actually, at that time Rammstein was one of the most important bands for me. Anyway, I had liked them since I was young and as time had gone on I had kept listening to them. Both Nils and I like a ‘dirty’ sound. Stuff with a garage, punk or rock n roll feel. When Young Jin joined we started thinking more blues, garage and rock n roll. Actually, I think that the genre of rock n roll really came from blues music, so these days, when I introduce the band I just say we are a rock band. I think it is a more suitable way to explain us.

# What does your band name mean? How did you come up with the name?

Nils : At first Angie just wanted to call the band Johnny’s. ‘Johnny’ is a name that appears a lot in blues music you know. But, I didn't think that was much of a name really. So I suggested calling us Wasted Johnny’s. I said I thought it sounded more interesting.

Angie : The first time I heard the word ‘wasted’ I was like, what?!?! But Nils told me it meant ‘drunk’ or ‘fucked up’. So I said ‘nice, I like it’ and from that moment we became Wasted Johnny’s.

# Your first EP came out in 2013. What can fans expect from this new album? How is it different to what we heard on “Get Wasted”?

Young Jin : It is way better than our EP. We put lots more money into it for one. We made the EP just to get some exposure really, but with this album we really want to show everyone what we are about. But I think our music is probably pretty similar still.

Angie : The production techniques are probably about the same. The first time around we really had no money. But we felt that we had to release an EP and so we did it without much cost at all. Now we are signed to a label and so compared to before we are working in a much more comfortable environment. The label has their own recording studio so we don’t need to worry about studio time so much.

# I heard there are a lot of tracks on this CD, 13?

Angie : Yeh. One of the tracks has a Korean version and an English version. There is a hidden track on there too, when people listen to that they are probably gonna be like ‘What the hell is this?!’ It is a track we don’t really play live and one that people won’t really know well. Overall, the EP was just something we wanted to make without giving it much thought. But we have put a lot of effort into this album. Also we have all put a lot more time and thought into the arrangement, producing, and sound balance as well, and we have got better at that I think.

# Do you tend to put most of your efforts into playing live? Even when you are recording?

Nils : The old EP we recorded really cleanly. So our live sound was really different from the recorded sound. I think this new album has more of a live feel to it than the EP. I like that fact a lot.

Angie : Usually when bands record, they stop playing live right? But I really hate taking a break from gigs so we kept playing shows all the way through the recording process. Up until just before we started mixing we were really busy, a little bit worn out perhaps. On the other hand the live shows kept the feeling of having fun strong. We didn’t really focus on one or the other. We worked hard on the recording for the album and also had a lot of fun playing live shows too.

# Was it not hard to be recording and playing lots of live shows at the same time? Or would not playing any shows have been hard to cope with?

Angie : I’ve never really taken a break from playing live shows, so I don’t know.

Nils : I think when we record I need a break really. I believe if you concentrate 100% on the recording process it will show in the results. That is the one thing I would probably want to change about the band.

Angie : Next time we record, I think we might end up playing a few less shows then!

# ‘We Are More Than Just Lovers’ shows a softer side to Wasted Johnny’s than most of your songs. How did that sing come about?

Angie : I wrote that song a few years before Wasted Johnny’s started. But I never had an opportunity to show it to everyone. I was a little surprised at how many new fans said they liked it. I made the song after I broke up with a guy with whom I had had a shitty relationship. My mind was all over the place, it is a song with pretty but sad lyrics.

# You said you wrote that song before you met the other members in the band. Do you think you have changed a lot since you first got together?

Angie : Basically speaking so long as the bass chords match up Nils plays what he wants to play, Young Jin as well. He plays what he wants. But It is important that we are all on the same wavelength when we play, so we tend to practice a lot. I guess the other two have changed a lot since we started out playing together. In my opinion we have got a whole lot better.

# Do you guys fight a lot when you write new music?

Angie : Nils and I fight a lot! There is a big gap in age between us and Young Jin. I’m the leader of the band really I guess, but when the three of us are together Young Jin assumes the role of leader a lot. If I bring a song to practice Young Jin makes the rhythm, Nils adds some melody, as do I. So of course we fight about that a lot. Whenever I think I am right (and Nils is wrong) I always look at Young Jin and he tells us his opinion. Very occasionally there are times that Nils and I are a bit childish when we fight. When we just hang out we have no problems but when we are writing we fight a fair bit.

Nils : But I think we need that kind of fighting. It makes the songs better and helps the band develop.

Angie : Even after a fight, once a little time has passed under the bridge we always make up with each other.

# Angie, recently you played the DoIndie secret show as a stripped down solo set (together with the Teddy Boy’s drummer). You vocals sounded really great like that. I think everyone really enjoyed seeing a different side of you. Do you, or any of the other members in the band envisage doing more solo still in the future?

Young Jin : It is an aim of mine. I want to make my own band. But I’ve done nothing to realise that dream yet.

Angie : Young Jin really likes country music. He sings well too.

Young Jin : If i put some effort into finding members or setting something up it would probably work out, but I’m still not sure. I don’t know if I would play drums or sing.

Angie : When we were invited to play that stripped down acoustic set all the other members were really busy so we couldn’t do it together. So I asked a drummer friend I’m really close with to help me out. At the moment I don’t really want to do a solo thing. If possible I want all my songs to be Wasted Johnny’s songs. Honestly speaking, I don’t think I’d have enough time to do a solo project anyway. Actually, I probably could make the time but I won’t want to use my energy elsewhere at the moment, but the occasional solo show is ok.

Nils : I’d like to make a grunge or electronic band. Something like Glen Check but at the moment my hands are full with school and this band, so I don’t have any free time. At the moment I’m putting all my efforts equally into those two things.

# Wasted Johnny’s also went to the U.S. on a trip with PSCORE in 2013. How did your connection to the organization and that trip come about?

Angie : PSCORE is an organisation in based here in Korea. They are a human rights organisation for North Korean defectors, in the past they organised lots of charity concerts. Right from the beginning we played loads of their parties. At that time PSCORE became part of the UN and they were looking for bands who could play shows for them. The concept was to write a song about peace and love, as an audition almost. So we went down to their practice space and played one of our songs as an audition, and they ended up choosing us! When we arrived at the airport we ate some spaghetti and went into the UN offices. We ate some food there and were shown around. We went over there and played the shows together with an American (based in Korea) hiphop band called Samba Mamba. We played shows in 4 different places, Washington Square Park, Bowling Green Park, Club Pianos & South Kent Boys School. We were there for eleven days and ten nights in all. There were loads of problems on the tour. After the soundcheck at one of the shows, we had everything set up and ready to go but it suddenly started raining. Also one of the park rangers told us we had to turn down the sound because it was too loud. When we played another show in a park it rained again! It was very frustrating. We played one show in a club and asked them to have a drum set ready for us, but when we got there, it was only the drums. No cymbals. So I told Young Jin to go and buy some or borrow them! Thankfully a friend of mine had come to one of the shows a few days before and seen how stressed I was about it all. He promised to help out if we ever needed it. So he borrowed and paid for, out of his own pocket, some cymbals for us from a recording studio he knew. After the show we saw someone selling roses on the side of the street, and I said as a joke ‘buy me some roses’ … and he did! To this day I haven’t thrown them away, they are still in my room! haha Anyway, it was a lot of fun.If we ever go again, we would probably have to prepare a bit better.

# If you get invited to play abroad again, would you go?

Angie : Today, a man from Japan sent us a facebook message and said he wanted to see Wasted Jonny’s play over there. I sent a reply saying we would make it happen if he paid for our flights and hotels! His reply was ‘it would be quicker for me to just come to Korea to see you then!’ haha. Of course, we always want to go. I guess it would be a lot of fun. Basically, if our costs can be covered we would go anywhere.

# I believe the song “Run Away” was written around that time. Can you describe inspiration behind that song?

Angie : It wasn’t written in New York. It was the song we wrote for the audition. Like most South Koreans,  before I wrote the song I knew there were lots of problems in North Korea but didn’t really think of the human rights issues there all that much. But, I like documentaries so I watch a lot of them. There are a lot of documentaries about North Korea and so after watching them I began to think about it more. Around that time we also started playing a lot of PSCORE shows and so I began to get more interested in it all.  We had to write that love and peace song for the audition, so I worried about that a lot. Usually when I write lyrics, I write about my own experiences. This song was about people in North Korea, and not about myself so I spent a lot of time fretting about how to express everything. I watched a lot of documentaries / programs about North Korea. When I wrote the song I was imagining what it must feel like to be those people.

Nils : You can hear that song on the new album.

# What’s up next for Wasted Johnny’s?

Angie : Our album comes out on the 20th of May. We have our CD release party on the 22nd. It is a free show! We also won Hello Rookie in May so we have some stuff to do related to that as well. Our recording for Hello Rookie will be broadcast on the 21st. It wasn’t planned to coincide so well with our new release. But the fact it is broadcast the day after we release our new album is really lucky, so it has worked out really well. I hope that lots of new people get to know about us. I feel like once we have released this album it will open up a lot of opportunities for us this year. I want to keep playing lots of club shows and I’d like to go and play in lots of other cities as well. I also want to take on some new challenges, like getting on some of those audition type TV programs as well. I’m also putting in a lot of effort to get us into some festivals. Our plan is to make a lot of new fans. Of course, after some time we will try to write a new album as well!

# What are your thoughts about these ‘talent’ programs?

Angie : We don’t have any of pride issues about appearing on these audition programs. My dream is to be a rockstar. I will do anything to achieve that dream, other than illegal activities and suspect promotional type things.

# Tell us about the album release show. Anything special in the works?

Angie : We have some special guests and we will be giving out some prizes as well. First prize will be the opportunity to hug Young Jin [laughs]. I’m just kidding. Hopefully we will be able to play the full album for everyone. We have waited a long time for this album as well.

# What do you think about the current state of the indie scene in Korea?

Young Jin : Because we only really joined the scene in 2008 we don’t know really. But since that time I think it’s got harder for bands to make a name for themselves. There are more shows in the media that bands can appear on but the aims of those programs have changed for the worse since they started out. In the past if you played well in the clubs you would get lots of opportunities, but these days they have dried up a lot. Only certain bands playing specific genres get to play on the big stages these days.

Angie : Firstly there are loads of bands. I have loads of friends who want to be playing shows. Lots of bands do get to play shows but there is a big gap between those who do and those who don’t. I feel sorry about that. There are lots of difficulties in the scene but the clubs keep fighting on, and I am really thankful to them for that. If there are no clubs, then there is nowhere for us to play. I am not really sure what the best way forward is for the scene, but anyways, we are having a great time being part of it all. I really support DoIndie. Indie music is really important. But compared to about 10-20 years ago the word ‘indie’ has really changed in its meaning. If you think of the past definition of indie, it’s hard to think of many bands here who fit into that definition. I think it is really important for bands to make all their songs themselves with no financial support. But actually we can think about it a different way as well. I think those people with enough capital could invest in the indie scene and help the culture flourish. Also, people like you guys at DoIndie who support the indie bands are really important. Without that kind of support there would be nothing for bands to play for and the scene would die.

# Any last words for our readers?

Young Jin : Live a fun life.

Nils, Angie : Rock N Roll! Play hard!

_____________________________________________________________
Interview : J-Myon Kim, Eunji Kim, Jamie Leigh Gilbert (신수미)
English Translation : Patrick Connor / Doyeon Lim
Edited by : Jamie Leigh Gilbert (신수미)
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http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/events/wasted-johnny-s-1st-album-release-show

Date : May 22nd (Fri) 19:00
Venue : Club FF
Door : FREE

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

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/WastedJohnnys
Twitter : https://twitter.com/Wastedjohnnys
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/wasted-johnny-s

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