As the Korean music market begins to receive more international recognition, the local band scene is looking to rise up and represent the next generation of Korean music. This is the 10th installment of a series of interviews with Korean rock, acoustic and alternative bands. ― Ed.
Whether it is escaping the clutches of death during stage malfunctions to taking the risk of debuting modern rock styles in the Korean music scene 17 years ago, during the era of H.O.T. and the start of the K-pop generation, the rock trio of Delispice has one of the most illustrious careers in the Korean rock industry.
Members Kim Min-kyu, Yun Jun-ho and Seo Sang-jun may not been in their 20s anymore, but they claim that their maturity only restricts the content of their songs, and not the ability of them to continue making music.
“We certainly have been around for a long time,” said lead vocalist and guitarist Kim during an interview with the band members at a cafe in Hongdae. “I think one of the only differences that I realize is now that we are getting older, our songs are starting to focus more on the subjects of the past and cherished memories.”
Inspired by Steven Spielberg’s classic time travel trilogy “Back to the Future,” Delispice released its latest three-track EP “Time Machine” in March with the lead track, “You and My Delorean.”
|Delispice. ( Musicabal)|
“In the album we really wanted to focus on the subject of time, which is why we chose the theme of time travel,” Kim explained.
“Also, unlike our past albums, where we recorded each layer of our tracks separately, with this album we wanted to do something a little different,” he added. “So we decided to get the band all together in the recording studio and recorded us as one to give the album more of a live sound quality.”
Kim said that in the mid-’90s, he was finally determined to get his music career off the ground and decided to go searching for a fellow bandmate who shared a similar passion for non-mainstream rock music.
“A long time ago, before everyone had computers in their houses, we all went to Internet cafes to access computers,” Kim explained. “And back then there really wasn’t much you could do on them, so a lot of people used computers as a beacon for public messaging. ... So I wrote on this community board that I was searching for another musician to start a band, and that’s how the two of us (Yun) first met.”
In 1997, the duo decided it was finally time to introduce a little bit of Delispice to the Korean underground music scene.
“It was really random how we came up with the band name. Contrary to what some people may think, it really doesn’t have any special meaning. We just like the way it sounded,” Kim said with a laugh. “At first we thought it would just be temporary, and we had no idea we would end up sticking with the name for as long as we have.”
At that time, modern rock was virtually unknown in Korea. Idol pop groups such as H.O.T were dominating the mainstream, so the bandmates didn’t have the highest of expectations when they released their debut studio album “Chow Chow.”
“When we were just starting out with our first album, we didn’t really think about becoming a professional band,” he continued. “All we really wanted to do was make an album and see how it went.”
Upon receiving a plethora of favorable responses from the public after their debut and quickly noticing that they had already began to garner a fan following, they realized that becoming a full-time rock band could actually be in the cards for the musicians after all.
“After releasing our first album, we said to ourselves, ‘Maybe we can actually make it in the music scene,’” Kim added.
The members explained that one of their keys to success is maintaining a wide appeal by delivering music and messages that the masses can relate to. The band’s songs have a cafe music-like quality that resonates well with fans of all ages and backgrounds.
“I remember a while back there was this survey, and our song ‘Confession’ was voted as the No. 1 song people want to hear while sitting in a cafe,” Kim said. “I think it’s this sort of comfort that we bring with our music that makes us different from other rock bands out there today. ... We tend to sing with a lot of compassion.”
“I think that there are a lot of bands out there whose songs are only able to appeal to people who are already into band music,” said bassist Yun. “But I think our music has that sort of personality that allows it to attract to more general audiences as well.”
Now nearly two decades later, Delispice is still one of the most relevant bands today and soon has plans to release its eighth studio album.
While many bandmates claim that their first time on stage or the release of their first album is one of their most memorable moments as a band, the long-time veteran rockers of Delispice shared that in their 17 years of performing, the band’s most memorable moment on the stage actually occurred at one of their most recent performances.
“I had a near-death experience on stage not too long ago,” said Kim.
At a live show a few months back, Kim said, the stage was so loud that he could hardly hear himself sing let alone any other outside noise; because the obvious loud noise that goes hand-in-hand with performing a rock show, the singer only learned that a mishap had occurred by looking at the crowd’s faces.
“In the middle of one of our performances I looked out at the audience and I noticed that suddenly all of their facial expressions turned and people’s jaws just dropped like they were in shock,” he explained. “I thought to myself, ‘Oh My God, am I playing the wrong notes or something?’ But then I looked down and I noticed that right next to me, there was shattered glass all over the stage floor.”
As part of the band’s show, they had a large disco ball hanging above the stage that somehow detached, plummeted and shattered mere inches away from where Kim was standing. “It’s crazy because I didn’t hear a thing,” he said. “It was horrifying then, but when I think back on it now it was one of those funny rock ’n’ roll experiences.”
“But I am sorry to say that because of this traumatic incident, we have vowed to never include a disco ball in any of our future performances,” Yun added with a grin.
Delispice is slated to headline with a disco ball-free live show on May 31 during the Greenplugged rock music festival.
By Julie Jackson (email@example.com