INTERVIEW | Alzheimer Animals
Punk Rock Band
Jon Twitch (Broke in Korea Zine)
Just as everyone was fawning over the latest The Kitsches album, I decided to ask Kitsches frontman Jaehyeon about his other band, Alzheimer Animals.
Alzheimer Animals is a greatly fun band, full of energy and enthusiasm in place of talent. Joining Jaehyeon is drummer Jeonghyeon (also known sometimes as Yang Pong Pang, an active member also of Green Flame Boys, TalkBats!, General Crisis, and Korose, as well as previously playing with the Kitsches and Shining Cocks), and bassist Jaehyeong, who claimed the only other band he’d eve been in was Blackpink. But Alzheimer Animals sounds much sloppier than any of these bands, with clumsy musicianship, “oi!” chants, and an immature attitude. And that just makes them even more fun.
While drinking outside a convenience store after their show at Hippytokki on July 3, they told me Alzheimer Animals is their attempt to make a “middle school band.” But in the interview, it became clear exactly what their idea is behind the band.
The following is republished from an interview by Jon Twitch in issue 29 of the bilingual Korean punk zine Broke in Korea, released November 2021.
Photo Credits: Jon Twitch
Unite Asia: First, let’s talk about the band name, which is usually translated to English as Alzheimer Animals.
Jeonghyeon: The name comes from a quote from Nietzsche (Broke note: but which one couldn’t be confirmed). It has a different meaning from “Alzheimer” in English, but it means to forget, so we adopted it. Jeong Jaehyeon was inspired by Nietzsche’s saying “Happiness: being able to forget…” so “Alzheimer Animals” became our name.
Jaehyeong: If you translate the name to English, it becomes “creature of oblivion,” but that sounds more like a goth or metal band, so we didn’t use that name.
Jaehyeon: It was originally going to be “Oblivious Animals,” but when we participated in the “10-Minute Show,” Dong-woo (the show organizer, probably best known for Scumraid and Slant) wrote it as “Alzheimer Animal.” But that felt right, so I decided to use it that way.
Jaehyeong: The way it feels roughly put together is very funny and I think it fits well with the band image.
Little did Nietzsche know that he’d be inspiring bands in South Korea in 2021!
Unite Asia: What does Alzheimer Animals add to the scene here that it was lacking before?
Jeonghyeon: Bands like us have definitely existed in the Korean scene. But what’s different from them is that we’re not good at playing instruments. And there’s despair and lyricism…Anyone can play punk.
Jaehyeong: Our value lies in being really bad. There are bands that do really wanky guitar solos and they’re just big-mouthed poseurs. It’s an insult to authenticity. It’s funny to not be good at it. Fucking bastards. Jaehyeon doesn’t even know how to play “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” I don’t know either. This is authenticity. One of the characteristics of punk is amateurism, anti-playing, and Jaehyeon is the kind of guy who can’t even change the strings on a guitar himself. It is difficult to say he can play the instrument. This is taking punk a step further. This is the way of Alzheimer Animals.
Unite Asia: I heard you guys are trying to be a “middle school band.” What does that mean though?
Jaehyeong: I joked that “we are a little bit worse than the band you made when you first heard the Sex Pistols in junior high.” It’s not really true, actually, not a little bit, but not a lot.
Jeonghyeon: Calling it a “middle school band” could mean we are saying the ability is at the middle school level, or it may mean it has that purity.
Jaehyeon: Except for Jaehyeong, we are all in bad positions. Just like I play guitar, and Jeonghyeon plays drums (actually, Jeonghyeon is a professional musician). The easiest explanation is clumsiness. It gives us an excuse to be clumsy. We aim for the clumsiness and innocence of middle school bands. Just as those school bands cover Nirvana while covering Flower, we are pursuing “no boundaries” and freedom.
Unite Asia: What were you actually like in middle school? And how long ago was that?
Jaehyeon: In my school cleaning time, I would listen to Seo Taiji’s “Ultramania” while mopping and headbanging. At the same time, I was into hip-hop, so I printed rap lyrics on A4 paper for memorization and sang them.
Jaehyeong: I was an edgy memelord who listened to adults and only looked at the internet and comics all day long.
Jeonghyeon: I’m 30 now. I’ve been in junior high for about 14 years. I was a virgin and otaku who listened to brutal death metal and electronic music.
Unite Asia: When/how did you get into punk? What was your first show?
Jaehyeong: When I was at a Christian elementary school I got to hear about Marilyn Manson thanks to all the opposition, so when I was a precocious middle schooler I heard Sex Pistols and got interested in punk, then I heard No Brain and Crying Nut and then I saw some people suddenly take off their pants on TV, and I wanted to buy a Rux album. It seems my first time seeing a punk band was at Ssamzie Sound Festival in 2005. After only listening to albums at home, I started going to see shows in 2014 starting with (a show at Space Moon supporting a conscientious objector).
Jeonghyeon: I think the first band that got me interested in punk was Sex Pistols when I was in middle school. At that time, I wasn’t very impressed, but I took more interest in something that happened on TV later, and I went to actually see a show. The first punk show I went to was at Skunk Hell in 2007, and I was 17. Rux, Galaxy Express, and National Pigeon Unity played.
Jaehyeon: I think it was when I was a 20-year-old university student that I had an opportunity to start a small band called Raver&Dust. I also met Gunhong (Kitsches) there. I don’t remember my first show. At that time, I enjoyed seeing Grand Mild and Rocket Diary at Club Spot.
Unite Asia: Jaehyeon, I’ve noticed in your performances, whether the Kitsches or Alzheimer Animals, you do a lot of self-harming, like punching yourself and strangling yourself. What is going on with that?
Jeonghyeon: I’m curious too.
Jaehyeon: It’s a bad habit I picked up in the Kitsches. Maybe it’s because I’m excited or trying to get excited. I’m going to fix it. (The strangulation stuff might be like Find the Spot’s Changeun.)
Unite Asia: I know you guys all have other bands, which I think are all still active. Would you consider Alzheimer Animals a side project? You’ve already each built up other bands with all their songs, so why would you want to start over with something fresh?
Jaehyeon: I want to be in all the bands. For me, Alzheimer Animals is not a side project at all, but something serious. I want to continue like now. I think there’s definitely something that only Alzheimer Animals can do.
Jeonghyeon: I don’t have side projects. All of them are main projects for me. The joy of doing what you want is the driving force behind doing new things.
Jaehyeong: Me…I have no…other bands.
Unite Asia: What are your plans for the band after the pandemic?
Jaehyeong: It’s our goal to disappear with COVID-19.
Jaehyeon: It’s not much different because we weren’t popular before the pandemic anyway. I’m going to keep singing and recording.
Jeonghyeon: I intend to get together and have fun drinking.