Posted on February 12, 2018

Interview

# Please introduce your fellow band members.

Geun-Hong: On my right is the drummer of ABTB, Dae-Hee Kang. I’ll simply say that he is the best rock drummer in Korea.

Dae-Hee: On my right is Lin Hwang. He is a rising guitarist of the era, and he can do anything! He even gave up his studies.

Lyn: I actually dropped out of high school, but still took the SATs. We all agree that I am the best-looking guy in the band, right? On my other side is the one and only vocalist of ABTB, Geun-Hong Park.

# The new year has come, but we mustn't forget to talk about the past year too. To begin with, in October of 2016 your first album was released, and in the following year you were nominated for the 2017 Korean Music Awards’ ‘Rock Album of the Year.’ What did the year 2017 mean for you guys?

Geun-Hong: Well, first, I have to talk about how my fortune turned out.

(All laughs)

Geun-Hong: Honestly, my fortune until the end of 2017 turned out terribly. I think we focused more on doing the tribute to Mr Joong Hyun Shin and singles in 2017, than working on an album or EP.

Dae-Hee: We organized many parts of our band career overall. In 2017 we engaged with concerns that arose while preparing our album in 2016, and by preparing two singles in 2017, I think we got to redefine our direction as a band. But I feel sad that we didn’t have enough performances. At least we got through many things, and that’s not bad.

# At the end of 2017, your singles ‘Free Rider’ and ‘Doublethink’ were released. For these two singles, Si On Yang of the band Iamnot participated as a producer. Why did you guys hire an outside producer, rather than producing by yourselves? Also, how do these two singles differ from your previous work, and do you think that difference may function as a milestone in ABTB’s career?

Lyn: While making the first album, we used to quarrel a lot, especially Dae Hui and Hyuk Jo. It was always like, ‘this doesn’t make sense,’ or ‘that doesn’t make sense either.’ But once a producer came in to mediate, all of a sudden things were peaceful. I think we became less emotional towards each other.

Geun-Hong: I first met Si On when Noizegarden’s new album came out. It was much later when I found out that he was also a talented producer. Of course, I’ve heard a lot of praise for Iamnot as well. So I thought someday it would be nice to work with him. As Lin just said, when Si On joined as a producer, our expenditure of emotion was reduced. We had spent too much time preparing our first album since we were so stressed out from all the quarreling. Definitely the process accelerated when Si On took a mediating role. One day was sufficient for preparing a song.

Our conventional recording process focused too much on every single detail. However, for our two recent singles, I can’t say we totally improvised, but we came close to it for the overall process, and became more open-minded. Whereas we were so systematically prepared for the first album, for these two singles we combined many improvisational elements--perhaps the fundamental elements necessary for a rock band. The reason the sound of ‘Free Rider’ turned out so heavy is that we tried to incorporate the raw sounds of improvisation, rather than processing the sound.

# So are you working on any new stuff?

Geun-Hong: We are currently planning on it. For our first album, I think we made an impression as a hard rock band. But the funny thing is, no one in our group likes hard rock. I would like to emphasize the many different musical elements of our band members. The British band Queen was beloved when displaying diverse musical styles. Like that, expressing a diverse musical spectrum is going to be the overall framework of our second album.

# Since this is our first interview session with ABTB, we must talk about how the band began. The band was formed in 2014 by Geun Hong, Dae Hui and Hyuk Jo. The band was very active in 2015, and the first album came out in late 2016. Was there any reason it took so long?

Geun-Hong: In the beginning, our guitar part went through many changes. Min Hyuk ensconced himself in the spot from the very beginning, but our lineup was only fully formed once Lin joined the group in mid-2015. The process may have seemed long, but considering many different circumstances, I think our output came quite fast.

# Lin Hwang joined the group afterwards. Did you go through any difficulties while establishing yourself in the group? Also, your musical career is short compared to that of the other band members. It must have all been a little arduous.

Lyn: There was an audition for the guitar spot in ABTB, and I was extremely nervous that day. But once I became a part of the group, they all took very good care of me. During jam sessions, I always think my ability as a guitarist is deficient, and therefore I should make more of an effort.

# ABTB’s attraction is that there are two young guitarists who have already accumulated a music career in the indie scene in the group.

Lyn: Min Hyuk and I show off different musical styles. I think thi difference creates a positive synergy effect. We take different approaches during our performance, but ABTB’s charm is revealed when these two different approaches join together to make harmony.

Dae-Hee: In the case of thrash or death metal, one of its true virtues is the sword-collapsing-like guitar performance, but we do not aim for that. To put it simply, Min Hyuk plays the guitar in a British style, and Lin plays in an American style. We all concur that ABTB’s attractive point comes from these two guitarists’ perfect match with each other.

# Then how did the three of you ‘old fellas’ come up with the idea of recruiting these two ‘young fellas’?

Geun-Hong: We simply sought good performers. Nothing else. When Min Hyuk first joined the band, his delicate playing created good balance for our music. Then Lin joined. While Min Hyuk is the quiet one who holds together the very core of our music, Lin is the one who flies everywhere. Although he freely plays the guitar, there are certain standards and rules in band music; but he does a wonderful job of delicately sticking to such an abstruse boundary. Also, once we had two guitarists, all the insufficiencies we had felt in the beginning were satisfied when preparing our first album. These two overcame so much adversity. If I were them, I would have run away on the spot.

(All Laugh)

# Then how does ABTB’s music-making process work?

Geun-Hong: Until the preparation of our first album, our bassist Hyuk Jo did most of the brainstorming. The rest of the band members simply added details to the ideas. I wrote the melodies and lyrics.

# I want to ask Geun Hong something. You were highly acclaimed as a vocalist already. But as you started working with new members, do you think you as a vocalist changed, in terms of style?

Geun-Hong: When I was a part of Gate Flowers, all the members worked within a ‘laissez-faire’ frame. Which means, even when I did whatever I wanted to do, nothing was a problem. But for ABTB, we receive all sorts of feedback from each other. As a vocalist, that feedback may sometimes hurt my feelings. However, that is not a problem at all. All those opinions are rooted in our consensus about making good music.

Lyn: Honestly, I saw many cases of sulking after small quarrels.

Geun-Hong: Well, if you put it like that, it looks like as if we have a lot of discord. But it is nothing like that. No one in our group has a belligerent attitude. So even if someone is in a sulk, that member still joins in the session. And when the session ends, the members awkwardly apologize to each other.

Dae-Hee: When we enter the practice room, there is always an ardent debate, but once we walk out, we all stay cool and forget about it.

# Hyuk Jo, Geun Hong, and Dae Hui. The three of you all had considerable careers beforehand. When you guys created this band, people said things like, “did their previous bands disassemble?” or, “perhaps ABTB is just a short-term project.” What are your thoughts regarding those doubts?

Geun-Hong: Honestly, I didn’t care about any of those. If I could someday rejoin my old group, that would be great, and if it is meant to be, it will happen. We formed ABTB not because we had trouble or discord with our previous bands. Now, ABTB is closer to my personal musical ideal. That’s why I want to focus on ABTB now.

# Your first album was close to traditional rock. It received acclaim from critics, but meanwhile must have been a risk for the band members. That sort of straight-edged rock music usually gives the impression of being a ‘relic.’ Nevertheless, the fact that it still incorporated contemporary elements meant it received positive reviews. What sort of efforts did the band members make in order for the album to come out that way?

Geun-Hong: I was actually waiting for that question. I had so much anguish regarding that. It is true that we had pressure to incorporate modern elements, especially since there are not many hard rock fans in Korea. Also, I felt a burden on my shoulders to show the same level of performance that I used to show in the bands I used to work with. Staying modern, playing excellently, but maintaining popular appeal at the same time. We had all these sorts of thoughts. Just like our name, ‘Attraction Between Two Bodies.’

Dae-Hee: Just as Geun Hong just said, we agonize over many different things consistently. In preparing the first album, the process was arduous, but once it came out, I felt at ease. It seemed that either going along with the trend or staying true to ourselves had been established sufficiently. Basically all of us decided to go with the latter, which we are good at.

# This question may be sensitive, but I’ll give it a shot. Currently the Korean music market barely offers a space for heavy music, but ABTB was formed by members who are nostalgic for and a bit obsessed with it. However, in 2017, heavy music had some fine results in foreign markets. Bands such as Metallica and Queens of the Stone Age were nominated as candidates for ‘Best Rock Song’ at the Grammys. In such an era, what are ABTB’s thoughts?

Geun-Hong: As a matter of fact, ABTB doesn’t aim to make heavy music. According to the standards of the overseas music market, our music may be closer to American modern rock. Or perhaps it could be called post-grunge.

# That’s true. Korean indie rock is in fact closer to pop music from the perspective of the overseas music market. Do you think it is a stereotypical error that most of your fans think of ABTB’s music as heavy music?

Geun-Hong: That actually doesn’t matter that much. Although we say our music is not heavy, they still enjoy and love our music. We are not some twenty year olds; we don’t get stressed over such matters. However, we are always concerned on top of that very boundary. If some of our songs with heavy elements get positive reactions from fans, we are concern about two contrasting things. It’s either, “should we keep doing this kind of music?” or, “maybe that will limit us; perhaps we should try something softer next time.” Still, the flourishing of heavy music is good news for us. That means we now have a bigger pie to share, and also more diversity in music. I think ABTB then has more musical liberty. Foo Fighters, for example: although I don’t personally like that band, they are heavy but also very popular. I think the reason that bands like Foo Fighters arose is that musical diversity has kept its place.

# Then what are most of ABTB’s lyrics about? What messages do you guys want to put out?

Geun-Hong: I almost always write the lyrics, but I get feedback through Google Drive. It is not essentially the feedback for the overall message I want to imbue. ABTB’s lyrics do have a tendency to satirize or adhere to certain social conditions, but they’re not political. I’ve always disliked songs that had political aspects. They are more like my personal stories. It’s about how I see myself as a douchebag, how I tend to step back and contemplate how everything’s going, and not be an ardent part of anything. ‘Free Rider’ is a good example. It’s a very private matter, but it has a background story. There was something that bothered me for so long. It’s not a mere narration of that subject, but rather I approached it in a way of thinking, ‘what if I told a story from the perspective of that very subject that bothers me?’ The protagonist of ‘Free Rider’ is that subject, not myself.

# Please tell us which song you think best represents ABTB.

Lyn: Definitely ‘Artificial.’ It is also meaningful because that’s the first song I did with ABTB. My personal best is ‘Hallelujah.’ I love the metalcore-style playing, and Dae Hui’s twin drum sounds.

Dae-Hee: I agree that ‘Artificial’ best represents us. Oh, and ‘Zeppelin’! The two of them, I think, best represent ABTB so far. Surprisingly though, ‘Love Of My Life’ is very fun to play.

Geun-Hong: From the perspective of the vocalist, I think ‘Zeppelin’ gets the best reaction among ABTB’s songs. I’m personally attached to the last track of the first album, ‘Complete.’ That song leaves much to be desired personally.

# I heard ABTB is going to release the first album in LP form. Judging by the number of tracks, it must be a double album. Vinyl is actually becoming very trendy today. Even some of the closed record factories are reopening. But I don’t think ABTB is a band that follows the trend. Releasing a vinyl record requires a separate mastering, and it’s also costly. Why did you guys decide to release an LP?

Geun-Hong: Isn’t vinyl a dream for rock bands? I thought only big bands like Led Zeppelin released  double albums. There’s a reason it is not cool… I feel sad that our first album didn’t receive too many positive reactions, in contrast to my musical satisfaction with it. So I want it to have an opportunity to be spotlighted by releasing an LP. It also includes the two new singles, which were only released as digital singles. It is meaningful that they can come out in a physical form.

Dae-Hee: Actually when we were mastering the first album, we did mastering both for CD and LP. Although we were not planning to release it as an LP right away, we wanted to do it some day, and we were prepared for it. I think now is that time.

Lyn: I first heard an LP when Dae Hui brought me to an LP bar. In the current era I think vinyl stands out more as merchandise, than as a medium of listening to music. To our generation, LPs are something new.

# ABTB had a showcase concert in December. How did that go?

Geun-Hong: End of the year concerts always make bands flutter. We hadn’t held any stand-alone concerts since the release of the two singles, and we simply wanted to make a fine conclusion to the year. Preparing a concert in December was definitely not an easy task. That was something we learned (smirk). We are always concerned about whether people will actually come to see our performance, but thankfully people consistently come to see us. It was an opportunity for us to realize that.

# You each work in different fields outside of the band (Min Hyuk is the guitarist of Bye Bye Badman, and Lin is the guitarist of Hash); how do the five of you guys arrange your schedules?

Geun-Hong: Like many other bands, we want us to spare at least one day just for ABTB. We each do our own assignments for our parts, and we share and develop them in ensemble sessions. Fortunately the periods when Hash and Bye Bye Badman were active did not clash with when ABTB had major performances. But that is actually an ongoing concern. It’s quite hard to perform as much as we want to. We are planning to add some variety to our performances, such as changing the format or doing new arrangements. That may make up for our expectations.

# Some of ABTB’s most memorable performances in 2017 were the tribute to Shin Joong Hyun and the concert with Free From All at CJ Azit. What was the process of planning those concerts?

Geun-Hong: In the case of Seung Hwan Lee, he contacted us to cast us as the opening band for his Free From All concert. Then, as we participated in the concert called ‘Fight Club’ at CJ Azit, we got closer to each other. Seung Hwan is simply amazing. The concept of a ‘senior’ in this branch of the music industry is quite abstruse. But, for the fact that he spends his own money on supporting younger bands, I personally admire him a lot. Sometimes I even wonder whether he is mental! For the Shin Joong Hyun tribute concert, every part of the process was made by CJ. Once we were asked to join, we all listened to Mr. Shin’s songs to decide which one to cover. Out of all those songs, I liked the song called ‘Think,’ and ended up doing it. As I listened to his songs once again, I gained more respect for him, and it was such an honor to perform that song on stage.

Lyn: As a guitarist, it was so amazing to see Shin Joong Hyun at the after party.

Dae-Hee: There’s a photo of Min Hyuk, Lin, and Mr. Shin together. These two guitarists look so cute in the picture.

Geun-Hong: He stayed until the end of the after party. I bet he is healthier than I am.

# This is the last question. What are ABTB’s plans for 2018?

Geun-Hong: For now, releasing a new album is my ultimate goal.

Dae-Hee: I pondered whether we should release an EP or a second full-length album, but I want to work on our next album. Soon, we will hold a meeting to brainstorm this year’s plans. After that we may choose our direction. I want to keep doing concerts. I think that’s the most important part.

Geun-Hong: I looked up my fortune, tarot cards and everything, and guess what? This year is going to be a great year! Last year I wrote several articles on my blog, got stressed over quarrels on SNS and what happened on my podcast. But after all I regretted that; I should have simply focused on music and thus actually produced something. This year I want to focus solely on music. That is my goal. No matter how minimal it is, if it’s something that’s related to music, I will do it.

<ABTB: Attraction Between Two Bodies>:

Digital: Naver Music | Bugs | Gene | Melon | M-Net | Olleh Music | iTunes (영국) | iTunes (한국) | iTunes (미국) | Spotify
Physical: Yes244‎ | Aladin | Hyangmusic | Interpark | Kyobo Bookstore | Hot Tracks


For more information on the band, please visit the following links:

Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/bandabtb/
Website : http://blog.naver.com/bandabtb
Instagram : https://instagram.com/bandabtb
DOINDIE : http://www.doindie.co.kr/en/bands/abtb

Interview: J-Myeon Kim
Eng Translation: Robin Yeongguk Jo
Editing: Rock N Rose

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