Seoul doesn’t know what hit it. Nor does SXSW, Dallas, or Oklahoma, for that matter. Fresh from an extensive US tour and the release of their new EP Black, South Korean trio Apollo 18 has left a trail of delightful post-hardcore damage across the global full of brutal screaming and ruthless rock ‘n roll.
The group became MTV Iggy’s Artist of the Week at the very last second, and they were full of even more surprises in this interview. Read what Apollo 18 bassist Daeinn Kim has to say about Nirvana, K-pop, and getting flashed in Tulsa.
You came in for the Artist of the Week win at the last minute. Was it a surprise?
We were more surprised to be nominated for Artist of the Week! We’re happy that we won and we’re grateful to everyone that voted for us. Thank you! We listened to the other acts that were in the running for Artist of the Week and thought they all sounded really good. We felt honored to be listed with so many other talented artists.
Okay, first things first, let’s talk influences. Name the bands that made you want to start a band.
I don’t know if there were any particular bands that made us want to start a band. We just thought playing music was cool and started Apollo 18 for fun. Before Apollo 18 I had a solo project called Jellyboy. I hired Hyunseok (guitar) and Sangyun (drums) to be live session players for Jellyboy. We had great chemistry and wanted to make a new band together, but they had to complete their mandatory military service first (all Korean men must spend nearly two years in the army). We began making music together as Apollo 18 as soon as they were done with the army.
There were bands that made us want to learn how to play music when we were younger. I really loved Nirvana in high school and wanted to play guitar like Kurt Cobain (I only began playing bass when Apollo 18 formed). Sangyun watched Seo Taiji play live on a TV program and thought that the drums on the song sounded really cool and wanted to learn how to play like that. Hyunseok started playing guitar after watching a video of Megadeth guitarist Marty Friedman.
Your new EP Black has more dreamy post-rock parts than your earlier stuff. Are you exploring or is this a new direction for you music?
We’ve been incorporating elements of post-rock into our music since we started Apollo 18. Our first album, Red, has a few post-rock songs on it. Most of the music on Black is heavy and noisy. Black has one post-rock song on it, “Deadend,” but that song is more hard than dreamy to me. Our song “Warm” from Red is more of a dreamy post-rock track.
Can you tell us anything about the new album you are working on? Will it be very different from Black?
Our next release will be a full-length album. We’re just starting to write the music for it now. We’d like to release it in June or maybe July. The album will have 10 or 12 songs on it.
Like our Red, Blue, Violet, and Black discs, I think the new album will mix hard rock, post-rock, hardcore, math-rock and maybe a bit of pop and psychedelic bits too. All members of Apollo 18 have different tastes in music and we’ve always tried to incorporate parts from all the different styles we love when making new music. We’re considering adding some new instrumentation like maybe keyboards or synthesizers to a few of the songs to add an extra dynamic to them. We’re also talking about making proper lyrics for one of the songs. Our other tracks with singing on them just contain vocal melodies, mumbled words, or screams from me and Hyunseok. If we do make lyrics, I’m not sure if they’ll be in Korean, English, or Konglish!
What is the hardcore scene like in Seoul?
With the exception of K-pop, most of the music scenes in Seoul are small. There are a lot of good indie bands playing all styles of music in Seoul’s Hongdae district, though. Although our music does contains some elements of hardcore, we’re not a hardcore band so we’re not a part of the hardcore scene. Seoul has some cool hardcore bands, though. We all really love the Seoul hardcore act 13 Steps.
What is the best place to see live music?
I like Sangsang Madang. It’s the best venue in Hongdae. It has a large stage and really good sound and lights. It has proper dressing rooms too, which is something most live clubs in Seoul lack. Badabie is a really cool place too. It’s really intimate. When we play there it feels like we’re in our practice room. The venue is kind of shabby looking and the sound isn’t so good, but the energy in the room is f#cking great! A lot of indie musicians and indie music fans in Seoul have a lot of respect for Badabie.
What city that you have played in has the best rock scene and why?
When we’ve toured in other countries, we usually only get to spend a few days in each city so it’s hard to really learn about the local rock scene in just a short time. That being said, I thought the rock fans in Taipei were amazing. They were super energetic and passionate. We played at a music festival called the Beastie Rock Festival in Taipei last summer. Although the audience was unfamiliar with Apollo 18 when we started our set, so many people were screaming, dancing, and even moshing while we played. We were blown away by the great reaction we received. That day we sold out of all the CDs we brought with us.
What was the most memorable thing about last year’s US tour?
Our American tour was a blast! We played 16 gigs in 13 days so it was really busy. The police showed up at one of our gigs in Austin during SXSW because of noise complaints. They arrived about a minute after our set finished, so it wasn’t a problem. After we played in Tulsa, Oklahoma the bartender told us we were great and then flashed us! She was an older woman so were really surprised. All three of us just stood there and had no idea what to say or do. That would never happen in South Korea.
We were really excited about eating lots of American food before leaving. Most of the food was too salty for us, though. So we spent a lot of time searching for kimchi and other Korean food at grocery stores in all the cities we visited. We were all craving real Korean food by the time we landed. The first thing we did when we got to Incheon airport was eat!
Bloggers rave about your live show. What’s the secret to blowing an audience’s mind?
There’s no secret. We just try to do a good job and enjoy ourselves onstage. If we’re into the music and having fun, then audiences will do the same. A littel bit of alcohol always helps to raise the energy and excitement levels (for audience and band alike) at gigs too!
Tell us, are you named after the movie Apollo 18 or are you named after the actual cancelled moon mission?
Neither! Our name was kind of chosen by accident. Hyunseok was wearing a T-shirt that said “Aloha ’76″ on it. I misread his shirt and thought it said “Apollo 18.” I thought Apollo 18 sounded cool and would be a good name for a band. I asked the other guys what they thought and they said they didn’t care and that any name was fine. After we adopted Apollo 18 as our moniker we searched for it online. We learned about the cancelled moon mission then.
If you got the opportunity to live on the International Space Station for awhile, would you go?
No! I’m actually really afraid of flying. I love touring in new places, but hate getting on airplanes to do so. I’m really interested in outer space, but I love looking at it while standing on the ground.
You won Rookie of the Year from the 2010 Korean Music Awards. Is it unusual for a band as loud as you guys to be embraced that way?
It’s a bit unusual. We’re not three handsome guys that sing pop music and dance so we were a bit surprised when we won the award. Things in Korea are starting to change a little bit, though, and people are slowly becoming more open to different kinds of music which is great to see.
Apart from releasing your next album, what is your goal for 2012?
We’d like to tour in Europe this summer or fall. We had great experiences last summer in Japan at the Fuji Rock Festival and in Taiwan. We’d love to get back to both countries and gig in some other areas of Asia as well.