"I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
As far as metal goes in the Far East, there are a handful of scenes that exist and yet rarely get considerable amount of attention from outside of Asia, one such scene is South Korea. Dwarfed by the colossus of Japan, South Korea has a vibrant metal scene with a wealth of history behind it and it's thanks to bands like LandMine who are propelling it forward again. Having dropped their debut album "Pioneer's Destiny" this year, the Heavy / Power Metal quartet are sure to cause some buzz in the years ahead. GMA interrogated the guys and asked about the origins of South Korean metal music, the challenges bands face in the wake of the musical tsunami known as K-Pop and why it's highly unlikely (for obvious reasons) that North Korea will embrace metal music (we long for the day when it does).
For those who have not heard of Landmine, could you give us a brief history of the band? What does the band name mean?
"LandMine was formed in March 2012. In the early days of its formation, it released its first EP "Refect The Destiny" on May 26th, 2015, and released its single 'Brake From Route' on September 14th, 2018. Starting from "Pioneer's Destiny" on December 31st, 2019, the genre has been changed to Epic Metal.
LaneMine, which means "landmine", has a strong will to show the power of metal properly, like a landmine that looks calm but explodes when touched."
How would you describe your sound without the use of genre tagging, how did you come to create Heavy Metal music?
"Leader Suchan Yun majored in piano and French horn and is composing based on classical music. I think it is right to describe it as Epic Metal, which is a fantasy story that expresses epic poetry, even though it is far from the commonly known Baroque Metal. We were greatly influenced by the music of the famous Korean rocker Kim Kyung-ho and the first-generation Korean metal band Blackhole."
What do your parents think of your music? Are any of your family members musicians?
"My parents cheered for me without opposing my hobby such as music. My sister majored in piano."
How is the band coping during the lockdown in South Korea due to COVID-19?
"In line with Korea's quarantine system, most live performances are being canceled. However, it is showing fans a live performance through live broadcasting in a new way called home-live."
Tell us about the South Korean Metal scene, when did metal arrive in South Korea? Would you be surprised if North Koreans came across LandMine? In your opinion, would a North Korean metal band happen?
"Korean metal bands were born in the early 1980's, and many first-generation metal bands debuted in the late 80's. There were indie bands such as Black Syndrome and Black Hole and major bands such as Sinawi and Baekdusan.
I would be surprised if North Koreans discover our band. They also know that very few metal bands exist. Metal is banned in North Korea."
What challenges do South Korean metal bands tend to face in general? What does the general public think of metal music?
"Unlike in the past, metal in the Korean public is rarely popular due to the influence of idols and K-pop. We are trying to popularize metal, but it takes a lot of time and effort. Although each band is planning performances and looking for overseas performances, no one is active with COVID-19 in 2020."
For metalheads visiting Daejeon, what sights / attractions and bars / venues could you recommend?
"Daejeon is a bad town with nothing to play. Sungsimdang is the most famous bakery. I also recommend 'Sungsimdang'. But this is all."
Do you have any thanks or greetings you wish to send to friends, family or fans?
"It is a pity that COVID-19 did not allow us to engage in external activities this year. As soon as the situation is settled, I will greet you with a great performance on stage. Thank you."
South Korea is often overlooked as an emerging and strong metal scene in the Far East, of course the metal scene seems to have originated back in the late 80's with Sinawe leading the line, but on an international level bands nowadays are more or less confined to that part of the world. Wasp Sting Danger is a Crossover Metal band whose blend of Thrash and Punk is simply captivating, GMA spoke with the guys about the scene, their band, cultural issues and the recent meeting between the South Korean leader Moon Jae-In and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. We are still yet to find out if metal music has entered North Korea and been listened to by it's peoples - we live in hope.
Answers by (L-R): Seongwu (guitar), Zeztto (bass), Wesley (drums), Alo (vocals) & Woncheol (guitar).
"it is relatively hard to put on shows in South Korea. This, I think, is mostly due in part to the lack of a strong metal culture here."
For those who have not heard of Wasp Sting Danger, could you give us a brief history of the band?
SW: "After I found myself a day job in 2015, I put an ad online to look for band members. That's how I met the guys, except for Alo; my friend told me he knows this dude who broke a karaoke mic with his voice while singing metal, and there he was."
WC: "Yes, the ad was how I came to join the band in summer 2015. At first it was just SW, a drummer (can't remember his name) and myself. I used to be in a K-pop cover band before that, but it obviously wasn't the music I wanted to do. After talking with the guys, I felt that we had similar pursuits in music, so I was in. But the drummer quit before our first practice. A while later, the first official practice took place with SW, Alo, Shane (ex-drummer from Ireland) and myself, where we covered Napalm Death's 'Scum'; I've been the guitarist for WSD ever since."
Alo: "I was introduced to the band by SW's friend after I broke a karaoke mic while scream-covering Korean girl group songs on a very drunk night. After a few different attempts at music (pop, hip hop, alternative rock, musical theatre, etc), I wanted to be in a Woncheol (WC) - Guitar Alo (Alo) - Vocals Wesley (WS) - Drums Zeztto (ZT) - Bass Seongwu (SW) - Guitar band where I could experiment and create with different genres. After meeting SW and WC and sharing our thoughts, I was in."
SW: "Our first show was on summer 2016. I have been taking guitar lessons from Chuck Jenga of Fecundation (Korean technical / brutal death band), who liked my songs and introduced us to Lee Yuying of LxPxP (Korean grindcore) and Sulsa (Korean goregrind), who runs a metal venue called GBN Live House. On the first night, Alo was out of town because of his day job as an AD in film, and we didn't have a bassist; I had to play guitar and sing. Still, I felt like that day was the reason I had been alive."
WS & ZT: "Internet ad brought us here. ZT was the latest to join."
Who came up with the band name and what made you play Thrash Metal / Hardcore?
SW: "Actually it was our ex-drummer Shane who came up with the name. He went hiking on Bukhansan Mountain one day and just spontaneously sent us a picture of a sign that read "wasp sting danger". He was joking about making this our band name, and I seriously thought that it was a pretty funny and unique name for a band; after a vote, it really came to be. Musically, we were influenced by various genres: Thrash (Big4, Lost Society), Swedish Death Metal (At the Gates, The Haunted), Melodic Death (The Black Dahlia Murder), Metalcore (Darkest Hour), Hardcore Punk (Banran, No Turning Back, Things We Say, The Geeks, Comeback Kid). We wanted to put the things we liked from these genres all in one, somewhat random and new, but heavy as fuck.
Alo: "You could say that we were influenced by a whole lot of things. Us bandmates all come from different backgrounds, and we're taking that as our advantage. Genre-wise, it would be hard to put us in a single category, but I believe our experiments will lead us to something fresh, something sharp and entertaining that you could only experience through us."
ZT: "I just play for the sake of playing. I don't care about genre, I just love playing my instrument and being in a band."
You released your debut self-titled EP this year, what has the reception been like? Did you do a show in support of it? Would you / did you tour in support?
SW: "Bands like us rarely draw any attention in Korea. We were invited to do a gig after our EP release, but the reaction was so-so. However, the online sales are doing much better than expected. I guess it's because recorded tracks are more approachable than live performances. As for touring, it sounds a bit unrealistic for us because of our day jobs."
WC: "I would love to tour, but it's hard to take time off my job. However, if the touring country is close enough to Korea, I'd be more than glad to go."
ZT: "I'd go anywhere in the world for a gig. But, of course, my job comes first in priority."
Alo: "I would love to tour, but the country won't let me get out of Korea so easily. In Korea, every male adult is required to do a mandatory military service, for approx. 21 to 24 months; I still haven't done mine, and it's becoming a huge pain in the ass. Every time I want to apply for a passport, I have to run a bunch of papers and shit, and prove that I won't run away. But still, I'd gladly go through all that shit if its for a WSD tour."
Recently the North and South Korean leaders met for the first time, surely this would make most South Koreans excited to see peace is on the horizon? Could you ever see a metal band emerge from North Korea?
SW: "Many people are excited by the idea of Korean unification, but one of my friends pointed out that Trump is trying to retract American troops from Korea upon unification, which is in fact a possible threat on national security. I think that this is more persuasive. We have almost no access to North Korean metal, or North Korean anything. I think I have heard a North Korean death metal band before, but there's no way to check its validity."
WS: "It would be unbelievably awesome to see a North Korean metal band emerge from out of Pyongyang. What would be even cooler is seeing South Korean bands perform in North Korea first, and potentially have an influence on North Koreans to begin making metal music."
Alo: "I would have to go with SW's friend on unification. We were taught in schools to believe that "unification, coming together of the Korean people is our dream", but I think there's much more to think of when ending this politically and culturally complex state that Korea has been stuck in for over 60 years. If two Korea's do unify, it would be awesome to play in North Korea."
ZT: "Give me some of that TRVE Pyeongyang Naengmyun (cold noodles, traditional Korean food)."
What are the challenges that South Korean Metal bands face these days? Is it easy putting on shows, tours (both regional and international) and festivals?
WC: "Metal is very unpopular in South Korea, so a vast majority of Korean metal bands need day jobs to keep the food on the table. In a country with such a shitty work and life balance, that's the biggest challenge; but maybe it's the same for other countries too."
SW: "South Korean listeners don't appreciate metal. Our CD's won't sell and our gigs won't pay, so we all have to work full-time to survive. Being an artist in Korea is tough."
WS: "From what I've observed over the past three years, and also from what I've heard from those living here is that it is relatively hard to put on shows in South Korea. This, I think, is mostly due in part to the lack of a strong metal culture here."
ZT: "Fuck Korean music."
Alo: "Korean culture, even among Asian cultures, is very hierarchy-based, conservative and totalitarian. If a trend is set, it is considered the law to follow it - people take popularity way too seriously. Moreover, Christianity is the most popular religion here, which makes Korea pretty much a barren land for metal bands to grow on. But we wouldn't have started a metal band if we ever gave a fuck about it."
What do your parents think of your music? Are they into metal music?
Alo: "My parents came across one of our videos (this is how I found out my Facebook friends can see the shit I press like on), and now have started going to prayer nights on Friday to pray for my soul. Yes, they consider it the devil's music."
SW: "They often refer it to the sound of a pig being slaughtered. This is the norm in Korea."
WC: "I never let them listen to our music. When I was in my teens, they saw the artwork for Blizzard of Oz in my room, and they fucking hated it (they are Catholic). I have never talked with my parents about music since then."
WS: "My family doesn't like metal the way I do. They can't stand it for the most part. My mom, for the most part, supports it in other ways like feeding the band and showing up to some shows with earplugs at the ready."
ZT: "I'm not close with my family."
Do you feel that metal music brings people together regardless of religion, race, political beliefs, etc? And that it is one of very few interests that do so?
WS: "I find this question rather silly. The whole purpose of music's existence is to challenge people's thoughts and feelings while appealing to certain groups of people. All of it is subjective in nature. However, for the sake of this question, yes. I think the metal community is special in that because it is usually in small groups, we tend to hold onto it and hold it close. It very much is an open group to anyone who wishes to enjoy the same pounding excitement that is metal."
ZT: "There are plenty of idiots out there making heaps of shit about politics or religion. There's no need to say such 'idiotic' things in metal."
SW: "Yes. At least I think us bandmates have become good friends regardless of political and religious preferences."
Alo: "I believe the meaning of music lies in its being a communicator, or, like in the question, "bringing people together". Not just metal, but music in general. In music, sounds and rhythm are put in a specific balance and order to transfer a certain emotion / thought / or something in between: sometimes it overpowers common language, and moves us in a very primitive & intuitive way. As for metal, I believe there isn't a language as energetic and powerful, and the emotions / thoughts involved are also intense. This is probably why closer ties are formed among metalheads than fans of other genres."
What plans do you have for the year ahead and do you have any greetings you wish to send out?
ZT: "Thank you kindly for your attention. My plan for the year is to return to Azeroth 4 months later."
SW: "Best of wishes to everyone who's reading! I'm learning drums, and thinking of starting another band."
WS: "Hey y'all. Peace."
WC: "My plan is to keep WSD going, and do some side projects on grind, power metal, blues rock, etc."
Alo: "Thank you for the interview, and greetings to everyone who's reading! We are writing new songs whenever we can, and I hope we can finish enough songs to put together into an album by this year.
And.... Fuck personal plans. Time is overrated. Eat, drink and fuck more. Be happy. Peace!"