Posted on July 20, 2017
Cha Cha : This is our precious vocalist Hun Joe. In the early days of The Monotones, we had a really hard time finding the right person, but once Hun Joe joined the band, it immediately felt like he fit in and made the band complete. I think the band has become more musically stable too, since he joined. It’s all thanks to the mighty Hun Joe.
Hun Joe : This guy was also really hard to find and is now a very important member of the band. Those of you already familiar with the story of how The Monotones came to be will already know that our original bass player quit the band, leaving me, Wookno and Cha Cha to carry on as just a three-piece band. Ha Sun-hyung here joined us as a session player and ended up playing our showcase concert as well. Then around June last year, he became a full-time member of the band. He has been a full member for around a year now. He’s the youngest, and a great bass player who also dances really well!
Ha Sun-hyung : This guy next to me has been playing drums with The Monotones since Day One. He was one of the founding members of the band along with Cha Cha. His name is Wookno. He is the member of the band that provides us with the most ‘healing’ power, meaning that he always makes us feel good. Everytime we practice he brings along delicious things for us to eat. He’s the spiritual leader of the band and has a real hidden talent on the drums.
Wookno : Looking good in his red jacket over here is Cha Cha, the guitarist for The Monotones. He is now living his third music career through The Monotones after having previously played in legendary bands No Brain and The Moonshiners. He is the leader of the band. Was that too bland of an introduction?
Cha Cha : Well, at first…. when the Moonshiners split up I just messed around for a year or two, but after that I kinda got the urge to do something musically again. I was bored… and so I had the vague idea of forming another band. I have been playing music in Hongdae for around 20 years now, so, rather than having a specific genre or sound in mind, I just figured I wanted to gather some cool people together and see what happened. I don’t think of The Monotones as any kind of imitation of the stuff I was doing before. We are always in the process of evolving, always in the process of looking for new styles to play. I think that Ha Sun-hyung joining the band made us complete in some way. We’re having an adventure right now, but I think that we’ll have lots of cool new adventures in the future as well.
Cha Cha : With regards to the atmosphere of the band, I think I would say that the band is much more energetic when we play live these days. I think that before, when Park Hyun-jun was our bassist, he and the other members who have since left had a strong aura and charisma around them. However, none of them were particularly lively people. Since Sun-hyung joined the band, however, it seems like it has taken on a more lively and energetic feel. I think that has had an effect on the kind of music we produce, and I think it will continue to influence the stuff we produce in the future.
Cha Cha : In my experience, if you just say, “right, let’s sit down and make a song”, then there’s a good chance nothing will come of it at all. More often than not, music just seems to come out more by chance than by design. It might be that I’m in a good mood while I’m taking a shower and I start humming a tune or something; I might end up with a good melody for a song. Most of the time I don’t get the overall idea of a song in one go; I just come up with individual parts one at a time. They are like the building blocks to a song that I develop over time. Anyway, that one part, the starting point of a song, is really important to me. The impressions and melodies that appear when there’s a sudden change in the flow of my emotions are really important to me. Whenever those moments happen, I record something on my iPhone or write stuff in my notepad. That’s when the work of making a song really starts.
Hun Joe : Firstly, the main structure of the song is pretty much always composed by Cha Cha. However, he’s not someone who can transcribe music or anything like that. For example, when it comes to the drum part he might explain what he wants by saying, “hey, in this part make the drums go boom boom dak boom dak boom”, or something like that. Then the drummer will be like “ah, OK. He wants it to feel a bit like that”. It’s the same for the bass: he might say, “this bit should be like, dum dum-de-dum”. Then we all give it a try and individually flesh out our parts of the song.
Hun Joe : Yeah, loads. I think we could make an expression about it: ‘One Day, One Wookno’ or something like that. Wookno seemed to have at least one slapstick comedy moment pretty much every day while we were out there. We would just be walking down the street or something and suddenly he had tripped on a paving stone and almost fallen over.
Wookno : The sidewalks in the UK are not all that well-maintained, I’ll have you know!
Hun Joe : I thought it would all finish once we arrived back in Korea. However, on the day we arrived back, we also had a show in Hongdae. So after we arrived at Incheon Airport we only had a few hours before the show. We were standing outside the terminal in the smoking area and said, “Right, we better get over to Hongdae, then”. Wookno grabbed the cymbals and they all came spilling out of the bag making a massive clanging noise, and startling everyone around us. Anyway, while we were in the UK we played a lot of shows; we were playing twice a day on occasion, so we didn’t have much time to sightsee properly or hang out really. We just went there to perform.
Cha Cha: Among all the fun things we managed to do on the trip, one was that we got to see lots of the famous landmarks in England. Places like Big Ben, Abbey Road, and so on. We got to take some pictures at all those cool places.
Hun Joe : Abbey Road was loads of fun! There are so many people on the crosswalk trying to take a parody picture like The Beatles album cover. On days when the weather is good, people even bring their own fishing chairs to sit on while they wait in line to take the shot. But in the UK, it’s a bit different to Korea. At the zebra crossing (crosswalk) cars must stop if people are waiting to cross. But the people taking pictures don’t want the cars to stop; they want the car to move on so they can get a better shot with the road clear. We had some luck though: we managed to take a couple of pictures and get it all done in about 30 minutes!
Ha Sun-hyung : What else is there that comes to mind? That amplifier going through security at immigration?
Cha Cha : Ah, I have this small guitar amp that I took with me so we could use it on the tour. It always takes ages to get it through security at airports. To make matters worse, the name of the amp is 'DUAL TERROR'.
Hun Joe : Of course, all the airport employees knew it was just a guitar amp but … you can see right inside the amp. You can see the tubes inside and also the words DUAL TERROR written there as well. Even the font looks a bit ‘terror’-like. They kept putting it through the x-ray machine again and again.
Cha Cha : For me, it was probably our show at the Queens Hotel for the Great Escape Festival in Brighton. That hotel is an historic place in Brighton. We played our showcase gig there and the reaction was so much better than I had expected it to be.
Hun Joe : Lots of my friends from the UK came to see our performance that day. They are all like 6 or 7 feet tall! They are all big boys and they stood right in the middle and danced around, giving us really good support. The last time we played a big show in Korea, we played a cover of ‘Disco’ by Pulp. We thought people would like it, but they didn’t really seem to know the song and there wasn't much of a reaction. However, when we played it in the UK, people were singing along for the whole song, verses and all. The showcase gigs had really tight schedules compared to the other shows we played, but even there we got asked to play some encore songs too; it felt really good to get that kind of reaction!
Ha Sun-hyung : The night before we played at Liverpool Sound City, I went to check out the stage we were scheduled to play on. It was really dusty and the wind was blowing hard; it felt almost like we were in a desert. I had a beer to help my parched throat, but the sand had even gotten in the beer … I remember it was like drinking dirt beer. … The next day while we were playing on the Pirate Stage, we pretty much had to eat that sand while we were playing as well!
Cha Cha : I saw bands from Brazil, Belgium, the UK, the USA, and of course, I saw the other bands from Korea who had come over too…I think it’s probably a bit childish to analyze who was better or anything like that; however, after watching the Korean bands out there I think it is fair to say that they all hold their own compared to bands from other countries. It feels to me that we are not behind in any way, either musically, visually or energy-wise. All the Korean bands were amazing.
Hun Joe : I watched MAMMÚT and Ásgeir at The Great Escape... honestly, I really like Ásgeir’s music but live, it was not ‘all that’. Perhaps it was because of sound difficulties in the club, but either way, I was a little bit disappointed. It wasn’t like what I’d seen on all the Youtube videos I watched. In the case of MAMMÚT, I was only familiar with their recorded music, I hadn’t seen any live clips online or anything … so this was my first time to see them live … wow! When I got there, there were about 300 people waiting in line already. Their performance was amazing, too.
Wookno : I also came across a memorable bandl. We played with a band called Sister Mercedes at a club called Nambucca in London. Their songs were really good. They were a bit like The Beatles in some ways and a bit like Hybrid in other ways; anyway, they were really great…it felt a little bit to me like they were one of those bands who are really fucking good, but spend their whole careers happily playing their local scene and nowhere else. There are some bands like that in Korea as well. They only play out in the smaller cities, but they are amazing!
Hun Joe : I also feel like lots of foreign bands came to check out The Monotones. At the Queens Hotel show I mentioned just now, Cha Cha’s amplifier malfunctioned, so he could not play anything during the last song. Nevertheless, the atmosphere at the show was really good. There’s a British band called Demob Happy. To give you some idea of who they are, they’re a band who would probably be playing at 1000 - 2000 capacity venues. The guitarist of that band came to see us play that day. He really enjoyed our show, but sadly we didn’t have time to say hi to him. Later, when we finished the show, we went to watch some other shows and have a beer. At that time we bumped into the guitarist's girlfriend. She said "Stay here for a second, don’t move!" and then she went and brought her boyfriend over to us. We talked about a bunch of things, and he said, "Your guitar effect pedal is like a spaceship." Anyway, there were several episodes like this, so it makes me think that foreign bands liked our music as well. A few bands even suggested doing a tour together in the future.
Cha Cha : Just to emphasize once again, we have seen loads of amazing bands from all around the world, but I think that the bands working out of Korea hold their own in terms of originality and energy. It feels like we are all on the same kind of level.
Hun Joe : Cha Cha probably pulls the best poses. He is the most photogenic of us all.
Wookno : We found out who was the best photographer while we were over in the UK; it’s Hun Joe…
Hun Joe : Eh, me? A while back I had a massive photography failure… I was taking a picture of Cha Cha and I somehow managed to make him look like he was only about 150cm tall. After that, I practiced taking lots of pictures from a low perspective in order to make people look bigger. As far as taking pictures goes, I actually think that everyone in the band has their own unique good points with their photography styles. Firstly, Cha Cha takes really great candid pictures. Pictures that are just right for Instagram. The pictures I take are more thought-out and carefully planned. While we were in the UK this time Sun-Hyung was carrying around his Gopro and shooting video all the time. It gave the trip a real sense of sincerity. Wookno always has a big interest in food, so he always takes good pictures of food. Also, he’s the best at adding filters to the pictures to make them look better.
Ha Sun-hyung : Also, Wookno will just keep taking pictures until they look ok, even if it takes 50 or more shots… he keeps taking them until they look natural.
Wookno : Cha Cha can’t take a photo to save his life. He can’t even take a good selfie.
Ha Sun-hyung : We didn’t really plan to do anything in particular. I wanted to go somewhere on holiday, but couldn’t find the time. Then we got this opportunity to go on tour and visit the UK for the first time. My roommate gave me this camera as a gift ages ago, so I thought I’d better make good use of it finally. Also, I took it because I wanted to keep some kind of record of our trip. I started shooting footage as soon as we arrived at Heathrow Airport in London. As soon as I started doing it i began to feel some kind of sense of responsibility. I had not thought too deeply about it until I started filming, but then I felt like I didn't want to miss anything and found myself shooting as much as possible and as best I could. When I got home, it turned out I had shot about 60GB of material. I’m editing that footage now to make a video of sorts.
Cha Cha : The Foo Fighters and Liam Gallagher are idols of mine, I have been listening to their music since high school. It’s a real honor to be able to share the same stage as them. Of course, I do feel there’s a bit of pressure on us as it’s such a big show, but it’s not so bad. More than feeling the pressure, I’m excited about and looking forward to the show. Also, we will get to see them performing right from the side of the stage! I’m really looking forward to that!
Hun Joe : I shared the article about the show on Facebook, but of course my friends abroad cannot read the Korean text. The only thing they could understand was the names of Foo Fighters, Liam Gallagher and our band, The Monotones. I got a lot of messages and calls from curious friends! They were all like, “Are you guys supporting the Foo Fighters?”. It’s going to be crazy hot on the 22nd of August and there are going to be a lot of people there as well...I imagine the organisers will prepare well for it all. Anyway, we’ll be doing our best on that day to provide a performance that ramps up the heat even more! I think we do the whole rock ‘n roll thing pretty well. I grew up in the United States and I think that Cha Cha takes a lot of influence from UK music when he writes his songs. I think that our mix of US and UK styles will be a good appetizer concert before the main show.
Ha Sun-hyung : It’s really cool to be able to play at the Olympic Stadium.
Cha Cha : I don’t think the size of the venue really matters really, it’s just gonna be a really great show, so we are gonna go there and play our best. We’re confident enough in our ability that the scale of the concert will not overwhelm us.
Cha Cha : Actually, there’s a movie called ‘Quadrophenia’. I was reminded of it while we were over in the UK, so I watched it again recently. It’s a British movie from 1979. The Who took part in the production of the film, and wrote the soundtrack as well. It’s not exactly a music movie per say, it’s more a movie about British subculture. It’s a youth movie. I really like it.
Hun Joe : For me, if we’re talking about movies about a certain musician, then I really like the movie ‘Walk The Line’. It’s about Johnny Cash, I love it! If we’re looking at movies that are not about any one musician in particular, then ‘Almost Famous’ is a movie about music. It’s really good.
Ha Sun-hyung : I saw a movie recently that was called ‘Miles’. I liked it a lot. Mainly because the actor was so good at acting. His voice sounded a lot like Miles Davis’ voice. I was really surprised.
Wookno : My favorite music movie since I was a kid would be ‘Hedwig and the Angry Inch’. I have regularly watched music-based movies, but I don’t think there are too many movies that are both exciting and honest at the same time. This is because to get people to see the movies, they have to make them quite dramatic, so I think they tend to lose a sense of reality somewhere along the way. Because of that, I don’t watch too many music movies these days... I do think the movie ‘Frank’ was pretty good; it was straight-up and quite honest. I liked it because it had a bit of a B-grade movie feel to it.
Cha Cha : In my case, I’m mainly just chilling at home. In the past I would have gone out to meet my friends and go drinking in Hongdae, but these days I have two dogs and I spend a lot of my time with them. I don’t really like going out and just leaving them at home on their own, so I spend a lot of time playing with them.
Hun Joe : I live right here; this practice space is part of my house! I recently finished paying off the debt on a drum kit I purchased. Now it fully belongs to me, so I’m practicing the drums a lot these days. This mixer right here we brought in Pyeongtaek. Sun-hyung drove and Cha Cha came with us to collect it. The twin reverb behind me over there we brought back with us from Seattle; it’s super fucking loud. I’m the rhythm guitarist in the band, so my sound shouldn’t overwhelm the lead guitar sound, right? So Cha Cha suggested we get another one for him, so we purchased this box amp here on another 12-month installment plan, and we just finished paying that off too. Sometimes I come in here on my own and in secret play his new amp as well! Haha! Also, the bass here was Sun-hyung’s but it’s really pretty, so I bought it off him. Last year at our showcase concert we all had a go at singing a song. While Sun-hyung was singing, I played bass, and it was really fun, so I’ve been practicing bass a lot too. I also spend a lot of time playing with my dogs. This place has a lot of nice walks to take the dogs on. That’s how I spend my time, a simple life.
Wookno : What about your drinking?
Hun Joe : I’m always drinking, that goes without saying!
Ha Sun-hyung : A few years ago, I lived in a different part of Seoul called Haebangchon; then, around a year ago, I was living back at home with my parents. I moved to this area as well, a few months ago. I live really close to Hun Joe... I really like living in Yeonnam-dong. I feed the cats on the street and sometimes I meet Hun Joe to hang out and drink together.
Hun Joe : You never suggest grabbing a drink together … it is always me inviting you out for a drink!
Wookno : I spend my time watching movies, watching concerts, drinking and practicing. It’s always the same.
Cha Cha : Wookno is probably the busiest person in the band. He’s always out and about meeting all kinds of different people. I dunno what he’s planning, but it must be pretty big!
Wookno : All my friends keep asking me if I’m going to set up a label or something...but I don’t have time for that, I am just trying to be a musician.
Hun Joe : Right now, it would be my drum kit! I vacuum this place every day. I don’t need to do it really but I always feel like I want to make the place shiny and new. I didn’t realise it, but now I clean so much I notice that there are lots of pits of dirt on the carpet around the drums. I think it’s the bits that come off the drum sticks. I clean up that stuff every day after I practice. It’s lots of fun having all this stuff here!
Cha Cha : I couldn’t keep it up! I couldn’t do it, but I made a new promise to myself a few days ago. I realised that it was impossible for me to give it up completely, so I’ve decided to only drink when necessary. I’m not going to drink just for the sake of it.
Hun Joe : But every time we drink, there’s a reason!
Cha Cha : But I have really reduced the amount I drink, right, guys?
Hun Joe : Yeah, to be fair, you have reduced your consumption quite a bit. However, when you made that decision you did also say there would be one exception. You decided that whenever you ate skate you would also drink makgeolli. Also … every time you meet Captain Rock from Crying Nut, you always drink a shitload. And … you know it isn’t possible to go to the UK and not drink, either. You have to drink the beer over there; at the end of every day we all got together and had a few drinks to bond with the team. Sure, each time … there was a reason to drink, I guess. I guess that there was no unnecessary drinking!
Cha Cha : That would be Wookno. He combines his full time job with his music life... He wakes up early every day and lives a very well-regulated life. Everyone else lives a shitty life.
Ha Sun-hyung : I went to sleep at 10AM earlier today. I was editing all night!
Cha Cha : See, like I told you, a shitty life.
Wookno : What are you talking about?
Hun Joe : The rest of us don’t do anything, we just piss about.
Wookno : You all do other work! You do translation stuff and he takes pictures for fashion magazines!
Hun Joe : We do a few part time things every now and then, but mainly we like pissing about.
Cha Cha : Wookno.
Hun Joe : Me too, Wookno.
Ha Sun-hyung : Yeah, same for me. Haha! Sorry, mate.
Cha Cha : I think that he’s the kind of guy that would just cut you out of his life if he was pissed at you, without a doubt. So far, we’ve never got to that point with each other. It’s difficult to read his moods sometimes. He tries to suppress his emotions somewhat. Everyone has their vulnerabilities, but in Wookno’s case he is harder to read than other people. He’s hiding behind some kind of veil. That's a part of his charm.
# Apart from the instruments you play in the band now, is there any other instrument you would like to play?
Hun Joe : I have two other instruments I would like to play. At the moment, I’m the main vocalist. But some time in the future, it would be cool to make a Beatles-style song with dual vocals. Also, I used to play the guitar a lot more, so I feel I would like to concentrate on guitar a bit more as well. I was listening to the Sonics the other day; they had a really cool sax solo in one song. When I was young, I used to play the saxophone. One of the cover songs we play actually has a sax solo in it, so I think I might buy a sax and start practicing again. If I can regain my skills then perhaps I can play the sax at a gig in the future?
Cha Cha : I’d like to give the keyboards a try. Also, the traditional stringed instrument from India, the sitar. I’m thinking about trying to learn that as well.
Ha Sun-hyung : I’ve had a dream since I was around 25 years old: there’s a synthesizer sequencer thing that is about the size of a closet. I’m a bit of a nerd, so I like messing about with things like that.
Wookno : One of those things with loads of wires that you can pull and and plug into different sockets?
Hun Joe : You’d need about $450,000 for one of them, wouldn’t you?
Wookno : No chance of that happening in reality I’d say... he has loads of dreams like that. I would like to play bass. I think that the bass fits best with my personality. The bass sits there quietly in the background, filling in the spaces where others can not.
Cha Cha : Isn’t that the same for the drums?
Wookno : The drums need lots of active movement. It’s embarrassing!
Cha Cha : We’re always thinking about the next album, I think the second album is almost more important than the first. However, I really don’t wanna rush it in anyway. Honestly, we had originally planned to release something this year; in fact, we made an announcement about it. However, I think it’s likely to get postponed now. The most important thing is to release something of high quality, so if we can guarantee that, then it will keep getting pushed back. I think it would be cool to be able to release something that’s an extension of the first album in some way.
Cha Cha : Right. Ah, and also …. we have been given an opportunity to go over to Israel for a festival sometime in November as well.
Hun Joe : That hasn’t been confirmed yet, has it?
Wookno : Confirmed, it’s confirmed.
Hun Joe : Is that right? Sweet! We are going to Israel!
Cha Cha : I’d like to say thanks for always supporting us, and sorry that the release date for the next album keeps being later than planned. Keep an eye on us and please keep supporting us.
Hun Joe : I think we’ve been playing shows every month since we formed, so there hasn’t been much time going by without us having an opportunity to meet up with our fans. However, over the summer, we may not be able to meet too much, because, apart from the shows that have already been organised, we’re going to concentrate on making some new music. But anyway, we will still be active across our social media channels, so we can still all keep in touch. Please keep an eye on us; we’ll be working hard making some cool new music.
Ha Sun-hyung : Be it making the new album or playing shows at home and abroad, the four of us will keep working hard and keep doing our best. I hope that you keep sending us your love. Thank you.
Wookno : Make sure to check in regularly with DOINDIE as well. They have lots of great information on the underground / indie scene here in Korea. Make sure to support all the independent music in Korea, please!
Interview : Minjip Kim
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/themonotones
Instagram : https://www.instagram.com/themonotones_official/
DoIndie : http://www.doindie.co.kr/bands/the-monotones-de231e75-bd7e-4a52-b123-b0fc834e10dc