APOLLO 18 Interview
I worked in South Korea as an English teacher for two and a half years from 2008 until 2011. It was a crazy experience that was both trying and amazing. While there I had a really hard time finding music that I enjoyed (as Kpop unfortunately reigns supreme), so when I stumbled across the ambient/rock'n'roll/post-rock/screamo 3-piece outfit known as APOLLO 18 I almost lost my mind. I've been jamming their cds ever since and noticed that very few people are aware of the band. Time to change that.
For additional information, live videos, embedded tracks and review, check out the (((((OPENmind/SATURATEDbrain))))) post here.
The point of my blog is to introduce new and influential bands, so which bands are you listening to and which bands influenced Apollo 18?
Hyun-seok: We’ve all been influenced by countless musicians throughout our lives. Each of us enjoys different styles of music as well. So there is no definitive shortlist of bands that have influenced Apollo 18.
Do you think you sound like your collective influences?
Hyun-seok: Um ... maybe? As I said above we all like different style of music. We like rock, punk, metal, hardcore, post-rock, shoegaze, jazz, blues, folk, electronica, pop, etc. With Apollo 18, we’ve always just tried to find a middle ground between all of the different kinds of music that everyone in the band likes.
What was the theme/concept behind the coloured albums?
Dae-inn: For our first three releases, the concept was that all three covers could be put together to make one image. That was an idea we came up with right when we formed the band. We decided that we were going to make three different albums over the course of a year and experiment with different styles on each one. And together they would represent everything that we wanted to do with Apollo 18. That’s why the covers fit together to make one complete picture.
As for the “colour” names ... well, we just needed something to call the albums! We named our first release Red because it was recorded in winter. Korean winters are cold, so the colour red made us thing of warm things. We named our second release Blue because we recorded it in summer. Korean summers are really fucking hot and humid so the colour blue made us think of cool things. Our third release was Violet. We named it that because that colour is a combination of the colours red and blue. It’s also Hyun-seok’s favourite colour. We were originally going to do away with the colour titles after those three albums. But then we decided to call our fourth release Black. There was no real reason for this, other than that the cover is black. Actually, our initial plan was to name that EP Gogol after the area where we also used to live. But in the end we went with Black. I’m not sure if we’ll name our next release after a colour or not.
What was the easiest song to write? The most difficult? Why?
*Hyun-seok: I think “Warm” from our Red album was the easiest song for us to write. That song was written really quickly and came about really naturally. One day I was playing guitar on Dae-inn’s bed. He liked what I was playing so he started playing along on his bass. Sang-yun was doing something on the computer but thought the music sounded cool so he came over and joined in too. The whole song was finished in probably less than an hour.
*Dae-inn: I think the hardest song to write was “Lygerastia” off of Violet just because it’s a difficult track to play.
When I first heard “End” and “Discharge” Envy (from Japan) immediately came to mind. What are your thoughts on that band?
Hyun-seok: We like Envy’s music, but we think it is different from ours. Envy are really good guys. We met them in 2011 at the Jisan Valley Rock Festival in Korea and at the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. At the Jisan Valley Rock Festival, they played right before us so we got the chance to hang out together. A few days after that, we both performed on the same stage at Fuji Rock, too. We were on at lunchtime but they didn’t play until the evening. But a few members still came over to watch us play, which was awesome of them to do. We hope we can hang out with those guys again one day in Korea, Japan, or somewhere else in the world.
You haven’t released anything since 2011, what’s been going on?
*Dae-inn: Our Black EP came out in November 2011. Since then we’ve played at a few major music festivals in Korea and have done several overseas tours. In 2012, we did a Canadian tour to play at Pop Montreal. And in 2013 we toured in the UK to play at Focus Wales and Liverpool Sound City, in Russia to play at V-Rox, in Taiwan to play at Beastie Rock Festival, and in China to play at the Canal Kylin International Music Festival. We released a new single called “Spontaneous Human Combustion” last May and Hyundai Card helped us make a music video for it. The song is short and heavy!
We’ve all been busy with other things too. Hyun-seok got married. He started his own company and Sang-yun works there with him. Hyun-seok began a small indie label last year as well called Gogol Records. Gogol Records has released albums by the Korean acts Romantiqua, Modsdive, Juck Juck Grunzie, and Yang Chang-keun so far. This past March, Hyun-seok also traveled to Texas to play at SXSW with the Korean screamo band Hollow Jan. Their guitarist was unable to go, so Hyun-seok filled in. Last year I released an EP with a side project I play with called Gage. And I’ve produced albums for a few other Korean bands over the last two years too.
Recently, Hyun-seok and I spoke about making some new music together. We’re going to hang out soon and talk about ideas for songs. We’ve got no timetable for when we’re going to start writing new songs or record. Things will be ready when they’re ready. But we’re both on the same page that we want our next album to be really, really good and professional. We want to take our time and do things properly.
*Hyun-seok: And if anyone in Korea is reading this, we’ve got two shows booked this month in Seoul. We’re playing at the Soundholic Exit festival on June 22 at Jasmil Stadium and on June 29 we’re playing at MUV Hall in Hongdae.
What are your thoughts on the Korean music scene?
Hyun-seok: The mainstream music scene is boring, but I think that’s the case in a lot of countries. The indie scene is small, but it’s continuing to grow. More indie acts are getting the chance to tour abroad which is good. There are a lot of cool Korean indie bands, so we’re glad that more people around the world are getting to hear them.
Screaming is almost non-existent in Korean music (from the stuff I’ve heard), how do people handle hearing your band for the first time, from what they’ve told you?
Hyun-seok: There are a lot of metal and hardcore bands in Seoul that do a lot of shouting and screaming. We’re not a metal or hardcore band but we do a fair amount of shouting in some of our songs. We tend to only hear from people who like our music, and they have no problem with the screaming. We won “Rookie of the Year” at the 2010 Korean Music Awards too so I’m guessing folks in the Korean music industry don’t mind a bit of screaming every now and then too.
You apparently played Hamilton in 2012 and I was unaware! I’m so sorry! Fuuuuuuck. Tell us about that experience and other tours you’ve done.
*Hyun-seok: We were invited to play at the Pop Montreal music festival in September 2012. We made a small tour around it and did gigs in Hamilton, Toronto and Montreal, too. We were in Canada for five days in total and played four concerts during that time so things were pretty busy! Hamilton was the first date of the tour. We were really tired but had fun there. We landed in the morning and went to Niagara Falls in the afternoon. Dae-inn had wanted to visit Niagara Falls since he was a child and watched Superman 2. A Seoul bellydancer named Eshe danced in our “Orbis” music video. Eshe is from Hamilton originally so her mom invited us over for dinner after we visited Niagara Falls. Then when we were stuffed with food we headed to our gig. The Hamilton show was at a cool club called This Ain’t Hollywood. We got to open for a great Canadian band named Mystery Machine that night. And one of my best friends is from Hamilton and his parents brought delicious homemade cookies to the gig for us! We loved our short time in Hamilton and hope we can play there again one day.
*Dae-inn: All of the overseas tours we’ve done have been fantastic experiences. We’re not a big band, so we’re really grateful that we’ve been able to gig abroad in the US, Canada, England, Wales, Russia, Japan, China, and Taiwan. Hopefully we’ll be able to share our music in some more countries next year, too.
What is your worst show experience?
*Dae-inn: That’s easy! It was a show we did at a club in Seoul called Sky High in 2009. Nearly the whole crowd left as soon as the band before us stopped playing.
*Hyun-seok: The equipment in the venue was terrible. The drums kept moving while Sang-yun was playing. It was just an all around shitty gig for us. As soon as we finished, we walked down the street to one of our favorite venues, a tiny basement club in Seoul called Badabie. The show at Badabie had already started, and we weren’t scheduled to play there that night, but we asked the owner if he could squeeze us in anyway because we all felt terrible after the crappy concert we just had. He’s a good friend of ours so he said okay. That show at Badabie was one of our favourite gigs. It made a crappy night turn into a great one.
What is your favourite song to play live?
*Dae-inn: “Iridescent Clouds”
*Hyun-seok: “High Stepper”
Can you please guide us through your musical history, starting with the first band that you remember liking to the newest band that you’ve discovered?
*Dae-inn: I liked K-pop when I was in elementary school, especially Byun Jin-sub. In high school I got into Nirvana and they are still my favourite band. Now I listen to a lot of Sepultura and a band I’ve recently discovered is Church of Misery from Japan.
*Hyun-seok: When I was in elementary school I listened to Mr. Children, B'z, and X Japan. In high school I listened to a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pat Metheny and other jazz music. Now I’m into the Korean indie band Goonam.
Do you think humans will be able to overcome the problems we’ve created and start making the world a better place, or are we kinda fucked?
Dae-inn: Um ... listen to “Heal the World” by Michael Jackson. He said things much better than we can!
What is your opinion regarding the last election? Are you a fan Park Gyun-hye? How do you feel about her father?
Dae-inn: I don’t like her or her father.
Where is your favourite place to go in South Korea to relax? Party?
*Hyun-seok: Jeju Island is the best place to relax. Hongdae in Seoul is always a fun place to party.
*Dae-inn: Jeju Island is a really beautiful and peaceful place. I love going there.
What is Korea’s most significant contribution to the world?
Dae-inn: Kimchi and Psy!
Are you proud to be Korean? If so, what makes you proud?
*Dae-inn: Sometimes I’m proud. Sometimes I’m not. Korea can sometimes be a bit messed up. Overall, it’s a good place, but it still has more growing up to do. Something that does make me proud is the fact that you can drink pretty much 24 hours a day here!
*Hyun-seok: I love Korea. It’s my home. Our country has some problems but so do other countries. And our government isn’t good but lots of governments around the world aren’t very good either. But Korea has good people. And we have really good food, too!
What is your favourite holiday and why?
*Dae-inn: Korea’s version of Thanksgiving, Chuseok. There is so much good food!
*Hyun-seok: The Korean Lunar New Year holiday, Seollal. There is so much good food!
What is your favourite movie?
*Dae-inn: Back to the Future
*Hyun-seok: I like Back to the Future 2. And Sang-yun loves Back to the Future 3! That’s what brought us together as a band – our love for the Back to the Future trilogy! Actually, that’s not true at all. But I kind of wish it was! Then we’d get a lot more Back to the Future questions in interviews.
*Dae-inn: The Korean show Muhan Dojeon. It’s known as Infinite Challenge in English.
*Hyun-seok: Game of Thrones
Dae-inn: donkaseu (pork cutlet)
Hyun-seok: naengmyeon (cold buckwheat noodles)
Toy when you were a kid?
*Dae-inn: A Mazinger Z toy.
*Hyun-seok: I didn’t like toys. I liked girls!.