INTERVIEW | Kang Suji
Guitarist of Hardcore Band Turn For Our [Korea]
You gotta start by watching this short clip of Kang Suji ripping it up for Korean hardcore band Turn For Our:
As soon as we saw that video we had to hit her up with a whole bunch of questions. There is something about the power of which she smashes that guitar that we had to try and capture in words to show the young girls of the world that they too can follow a whole different path if they so choose. This world of hardcore, punk and metal belongs to each and every one of us regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation, and gender.
Her band Turn For Our recently released 2 intense brand new singles that you gotta blast while reading through the interview below. Without further ado…meet the amazing guitarist Kang Suji!
When did you start playing guitar and why did you start?
I started playing in depth during middle school years. This television show I used to watch gave some air time to different rock bands, which made me think being in a band would be awesome. I gravitated toward guitars since they were the most accessible for me at the time.
Do you remember which band it was on that TV show that you liked? Was it Korean bands or overseas bands?
I can’t remember exactly but it was a mix.
What do you mean guitars were more accessible?
Guitars are the most popular band instrument in Korea. Most people know what drums are but there aren’t that many houses in Korea that can handle all the noise. So for me, guitar practice felt easier. Bass seemed interesting but I wanted to play more notes simultaneously.
How did you get into hardcore?
My friend asked me to fill in for his metal band, and it was really fun. Playing with them got me hooked on different hardcore genres.
What kind of music did your friend’s band play? What hardcore bands did you hear first? What were your first thoughts when you first heard hardcore?
It was an industrial metal band like Rammstein. My first hardcore experience was through Terror, Get the Shot, Sick of It All, and other famous bands. I thought the lyrics were more straightforward and tough certainly more so than metal lyrics.
Do you remember who first showed you those hardcore bands?
So I started listening to heavy music after I started playing for my friend’s band. I usually listen to whatever bands my current band is influenced by. I think those influences shape the band’s direction. When I joined Turn for Our as a touring member, my playlists still had more metalcore or post-hardcore than old school hardcore. I thought it would be easier to play for Turn for Our if I studied what bands influenced them. I asked them which bands they liked and they recommended me a few bands to start with. This felt like a game tutorial. Now I know what styles of hardcore I really like, and without my friends in Turn for Our it would not have been possible. I’d like to thank them for that.
How did you learn to play?
I am not sure how kids learn to play in other countries. Here in Korea it’s pretty common to start studying music in academic institutions as a means to pursue music as a college major. That’s how I started. I thought it was the only way to ‘learn’ music.
Wow! Yes, that’s VERY different from many of us! Hahahahaha…So when you were in school they formally taught you how to play guitar?
Through private tutoring institutions. To get into a music major in music schools, you have to know the basics. Those places teach everything from techniques to theories.
Who are some guitarists that inspire you to play?
It depends. I’m into Reba Meyers now of Code Orange. SAME SEX! She’s so cool!
Yes she’s super amazing! What is it about her playing that you like?
Her stage moves, her playing style and her vocals.
How did you join Turn For Our?
They used to be a tour mate since their band and my old band were pretty close. They told me they needed a fill-in and I was happy to help them out. Playing with them made me love hardcore, so it was natural for me to accept their offer for a full time position.
Korea has a very LONG and beautiful punk rock and hardcore history. The first time my old band King Ly Chee played in Seoul was in 2000 and we played at a club called Drug and we played with Crying Nut, Johnny Royal. It was amazing and they were so incredible. What are some of your favorite Korean bands and why?
Didn’t know you’ve been to Korea! It’s amazing to hear that your band played with some of Korea’s legends. In 2000 I had no idea this type of music existed at all, so I found out about them way later through Youtube. My favorite Korean bands would be anyone who still keeps playing. Very difficult to pick only one of them. If I HAVE to pick one, it would be End These Days, which your website regularly features. They know what’s trendy in this music scene but they never follow it blindly. They have their own sound. Their live sound gets better every show, along with their stage performance. They make the crowd move. I think this is their strongest asset. They’ve been performing new songs recently and these sound very different from their last album. Looking forward to their new album. If you are a fan of ETD, make sure you come check their new songs.
So since Turn For Our is your first foray into hardcore, what do you find is different playing in a hardcore band compared to playing in a metal band?
Every band feels different but generally the songs are shorter and there’s less emphasis on technique, especially compared to metal.
What guitar and equipment do you use?
LTD Viper and Musicman Silhouette, with OD808.
In Korea, is it like the rest of Asia where band members just bring pedals to the show and use whatever amps are available at the venue? If you could choose your own amp to bring to shows what would you bring?
Most bands use the venue’s amps. We just bring our own instruments and pedals. People who can afford their own amps use their own, but my friends and I just use whatever the venue offers. I’d like to bring a 5150.
It’s hard not to ask about your feelings on K-Pop especially since the rest of the world seems to only know about K-Pop music but have never heard of Crying Nut, No Brain, Vassline, 13 Steps, Method, Nahu, all of these bands with lots of history. What are your thoughts on K-pop?
We do have some long-running bands in Korea. Some of the bands you mentioned have been defining their own genre since I was very little, so it would be difficult to categorize them within K-Pop. If you asked anyone about K-Pop, they’d think of pop groups, which pretty much have been dominating the Korean music industry. These pop groups are finely refined masterpieces of really big entertainment companies, so it’s difficult to compete with them on the same level. Rock bands here either don’t have a label or are signed to small labels, which means there isn’t much economic support for production or promotion. So I understand that K-Pop can appeal to global audiences, but it would be hard for Korean bands to catch up with that much production value or momentum. This doesn’t mean that K-Pop is bad–I think they are doing great stuff. They have to work super hard and give up their youth until they finally get some exposure. Only a very small percentage of lucky pop groups get some exposure, so most trainees never get to see the light. I admire how hard-working and devoted these people are. Gotta respect that work ethic.
Is it because K-Pop is so pervasive in every day Korean culture/life that there seems to be more and more people getting into more extreme music like powerviolence and grindcore?
It would be very nice for me, or any other musicians in this scene, to see that actually happen–to see people getting into extreme or alternative genres. But that is highly unlikely. Big media companies are still the strongest channel for music here, so most people find new music through whatever those mass communication giants introduce to them. The thing is, they don’t like our genre (lol). Korea’s music industry grew up too fast, so it skipped some era-defining genres in other countries. Genre scenes here have a very short history. Some bands and artists in the extreme scene still dream of becoming a main stream musician one day, but they too know it’s pretty much impossible. I think they keep playing for the values they stand for. I am one of them. I’d like to keep playing my own music even if it means I will never get a chance to join the main stream success.
Are their any bands with females that inspire you?
I don’t think having female member(s) really matters. I get inspired regardless of gender stuff. If I have to pick one, probably Code Orange.
I agree 100% – but it is still very cool to see different people on stage instead of the same guys singing the same lyrics about the same topics. Besides heavy music what other bands or types of music are you into?
Funk, melodic punk, R&B, hiphop, pop and whatever sounds good. No boundaries.
What can we all do to encourage more females to be involved in hardcore and punk?
I just got back from the Bloodaxe Festival in Japan. Japanese girls can really mosh. I could tell they were loving it. Made me think how accessible this genre can be. I don’t think hardcore is too difficult or scary for women. Just want to make sure to mention that to any fellow girls reading this. Feel the music and make some awesome moves. That’s all.
That’s a great point! Involvement doesn’t just have to be on stage, it can be in the pit, behind video cameras or cameras, managing, organizing shows, etc. Are there any woman in the Korean scene that you want to mention for what they do for the Korean community?
There aren’t that many girls in the scene so I can’t give a shout out to someone specific. I’d like to thank everyone who comes to see us. You are the best.
What are some Korean bands with women involved that inspire you?
Slant sounds really cool. They have a female vocalist. You should look them up.