We had a long, intense and interesting chat with Soolee about his impressively rich artistic life, the techno scene in Asia, and his upcoming news.
- Hi Soolee, thanks for taking time to answer our questions, can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello, I’m Soolee, living in Seoul, South Korea. I teach electronic music in colleges and academy as a Ableton Certified Trainer and Roland Aira artist in Korea. I’m a professional musician here for compose music for famous film, music awards in Korea also consulting music for brands.
- You’ve started your career several years ago, what have brought you to Techno?
I started Computer music 21 years ago, DJing for 11 years now. Luckily I had great Electronic music education on my background. When I listen some sounds I can make it. It’s not really difficult for me but didn’t really know what I want to make in my early career of producing. I grew up in a small city in Korea and didn’t really have much chance to listen to a great variety of records unlike in Europe.
About 12-13 years ago, I used to live in New York to study Sound Design in NYU SCPS and I was really inspired by the educational system (that’s why I became a music educator). By that time, some of European people bring me to go to Detroit and I was really inspired by the structure, arrangement, Djing Technology, Sound textures of minimal techno. I kept trying to make this kind of sound and started DJ after this amazing experience. However, it wasn’t easy for me to understand what Dance Music is. It took me ten years to find my music style.
“It took ten years to build a Techno music scene in Seoul”
- The Korean techno scene gave birth to a lot of artists, but few Europeans know how Koreans live techno on the spot, how did the scene change since your beginnings?
I wasn’t living in Seoul when Techno music started in Korea so i don’t know exactly how it started in Korea. However I heard many stories about the beginning of Techno music in Korea from my favorite Electronic musician in Korea. It started about 20 years ago and it was stopped by some issues. I started DJing when I came back from NY but few years later, massive EDM came in and Techno scene wasn’t really represented in Seoul for a while. It was really difficult to survive with underground music. Many Techno DJ changed their music towards more friendly styles like EDM, House, Tech-house and some promoters asked me to play much friendly music style but Techno is the music I wanted to do.
I used to run three clubs in Seoul and the last one was two and half years ago. Then finally many groups, venues, DJs appeared and finally we have a real underground Techno scene and it’s growing very fast. It took ten years to build a Techno music scene. DJ [Unjin] and Me are the longest survivors and still very active but [Gazaebal], [Mohabi], [Transistorhead], [DJ Yeonjun] (1st generation) are doing amazing techno-related music until now. I have been inspired by those musicians and still learn a lot from them.
- You are actually running two labels, resident in Seoul, resident on a radio show, you are also a prolific producer and also a remixer, you just made a Taiwan tour and meanwhile you are very active on social medias. Eluding the fact that your life seems very busy, what is the activity you prefer the most? And why?
I’m a very very energetic person and have different background with most of DJs and producers in Korea. I used to study programming for music and Media Art using MaxMSP from [Gazaebal] of high-end Media Art project [Tacit Group] quite long time. It changed my brain system like a computer. I’m good at multi-tasking, making plans, finding solutions.
During the ten years of my DJ career, I had to learn myself for design, promotion, music directing, bookings, DJing, Agency, label works without anyone.
I still feel I need to learn more about label business and network so I made plan to move to Europe next year to learn about label works. But I will come back to Asia and want to contribute in the Asian underground music scene. This is my main mission of life.
- Can you tell us more about your hybrid and live set setup on stage?
I have stopped hybrid and live set because my music kept on changing and was quite doubtful about if my hybrid and live sets are really intended for the dancefloor. Now I think I found my style on production and Djing. I’m thinking about my new live setup but still not sure about hybrid set.
I also have many other projects like [Future Jazz] (Contemporary electronic jazz), collaboration with [Pudditorium] (contemporary classical electronics with piano and strings) and my new ambient music project [Heterónimo] for live set as well.
“I want to contribute in the Asian underground music scene. This is my main mission in life.”
- We learned on social medias about your collaboration with Apple Music, specifically a multi-styles 6 hours set in a Seoul art gallery, congrats! Can you tell us how did it happen, how did you prepare it and how was it?
Since Apple Music started, my life is really happier than before. I also had an interview with [Magazine B] about music industry and Apple Music. I discovered fresh new music, new artists and music I used to listen through Apple Music. The art gallery “CollagE” is a really well designed space. They asked me to play normal DJing but when I visited the space, I had great idea to play a longer set like a musical journey.
I used to use my iPhone and iPad with Wifi connection at the gallery. (It’s very important to make phone doesn’t ring during play!) However I can’t play music in both devices at the same time. (It automatically stops when I play with another device) So need to very careful on changing tracks but I also play with Vinyl and CDJs together when I started play little bit of dance music later.
From Classical music (Baroque, Classic, Romance) – Standard Jazz – Blues – Hard Rock – Alternative – Disco/House/Techno – Ambient – Early Electronics – World for 7 hours. I also had a strong inspiration from Heavy Metal, Death/Black/Gothic Metal but didn’t play those music for considering the concept of brand and the space.
It was an amazing experience to listen to comfortable music in a well-designed space with a nice cup of tea. After I’ve finish the set, I realized that there was so many tracks I couldn’t play because 7 hours was really short. We’ve agreed to play another show again.
- Let’s talk about More than Less & Less n Less Records… since 2012 those projects evolved a lot, how do you feel about it?
First of all, I started [Less n Less] as an agency to make bookings for clubs I used to run. Later it became the first Techno podcast series in Korea for three years every week with worldwide/local artists. However media is changing, the club has closed and I tried to continue the project as a label as well, and now it is a PR agency for promoting Asian underground Techno artists and events.
I’m still doing many experiments with [Less n Less] but [More Than Less] is the first Korean Underground Techno Record Label with Vinyl releases. I always wanted to make a good label and export Techno music made in Korea because we were always just importing techno music from outside. For me it took long long time to start a proper Techno label. I asked many things to foreign artists I’ve booked and they gave me many advices. I didn’t even know how the promo is working for releases and DJs. For me More Than Less is really the result of all my effort about my passion for many years.
So far, it was just the first step and I’m planning to launch another label next year. I will keep trying to make a better label and want to introduce amazing talents from Asia.
- One of the aims of Less n’ Less is “building a strong Asian Electronic Music Network along with Japan and China”, how far do you feel this aim has been achieved after years of working?
I’m influenced by so many Asian philosophy and cultures like Chinese Confucianism, Buddhism, Meditation. This Asian culture inheritage is always with me and my music.
Last year I’ve discovered amazing DJs in Asia. For example, DJ Nobu, no need to explain, Al Burro is the one of top DJ in Asia, Iori, Diskonected, Unjin, Wata Igarashi, Hironori Takahashi, Haruka` are really unique, beautiful, intelligent artists. Takaaki Itoh, DJ Yazi, Katrina, Eexxppoann, Shao, Lukas, KLLDR are expending much more energy into Techno music as well. My best Asian friend, Zhiqi is most big inspiration for me to aim all the projects in Asia and many young talents are growing up very fast.
Asian clubs need to support more Asian DJs. There are many advantages like reducing booking fee, friendly network with neighbor cities and many reasons. They are amazing artists but some of them are not just well promoted. That’s the idea [Less n Less] aiming for electronic music in Asia.
- Earlier this year, you’ve started a new project called Domenta alongside 2 other DJs and producers in Seoul, Hyenam and Polarfront. Can you tell us more about this project and collaboration?
They are good talents. Hyenam is a good DJ, enthusiastic Vinyl collector and Polarfront is professional producer like me. They are really pure into music itself. We do Live set and DJ set from start to end. It’s a very interesting project, I make plan for a night and read floor, discuss with them to play best options to audience. I feel like I’m a basketball coach sometimes. We are planning to release albums and doing concerts. We play Vinyl (which is quite rare in Techno in Seoul) covering wide techno music like Acid, Detroit, Minimal, Deep, Ambient, Hard, Groove, German Techno for entire night.
There are two more members, Bouddhica and STILLM45 (photograph). Buddhism is big concept of Domenta, for example I design for artwork with Digital Mandala and Korean Buddhist Temple sounds.
- Any news about an upcoming release in the near future?
New vinyl album will come out from More Than Less with my amigo Joton. I made a 9 min long remix and I like it very much. DJ Nobu also had amazing remix for this album. I have quite many unreleased tracks like the “Unreleased Track” from my mix on your podcast. For now I tested those tracks in the club and keep fixing sounds. Thinking about how to release those tracks.
- What kind of non electronic music do you listen to usually?
Phill Niblock, Tim Hecker, Henrik Schwarz, Alva Noto, Kraftwerk, Brian Eno, Rhyuichi Sakamoto, Terry Riley, Sven Kacirek, David Behrman and many others but I also enjoy classic, Jazz, Rock, Blues, Chill hop as well.
- What new artists/labels would you recommend to check out at the moment?
Neuheimat and Alex Tomb & Marianne was quite new for me and really love their music. Hydrangea and Agnosia from Dust Rec. are doing really beautiful sounds and ideas as well.
- Finally, will you come back to France soon?? It’s been a while!
I played Lille3000 few years ago and I can’t forget the amazing French audience. Not much planned but probably I will be in Europe in August and yes definitely will be in France. Hope I can play some events.
Thanks a lot Soolee, we hope to see you very soon somewhere!
Love and respect