Blue Screen Life (BSL) is a blog in Korean about music, fashion and life. It is run by KY O.N.O, the founder of Korean hardcore label GMC Records, and Geon, the vocalist of Busan based hardcore band All I Have. This interview was originally published in Korean in January this year. It has been translated by SangHa of strange seasons and is posted with full permission from BSL.
Korea’s hardcore scene is still small but there are some great active bands and the scene is continuously evolving. Here is a band that embodies the evolution of Korea’s hardcore scene and has recently released an official album. It’s taken them 10 years to record this album. The Ghost is enough to prove that evolution. In their words about the band and the album, wit and seriousness coexist.
BSL: Hello, we are Blue Screen Life. Combative Post (CP from now on), congratulations on the new album release! For listeners who may not be familiar with CP, please introduce yourselves.
YJH: Hello, we are Combative Post. We have released a full length album after a previous single album and an EP.
CJM: We are Combative Post, a band that pursues melodic old school hardcore. Vocal Hwang Kyu Young, guitar Lee Il Woo, bass Yeon Je Hak, drum Cho Jin Man are the members, and we try hard to produce great results as we are pursuing a genre that isn’t common in Korea.
BSL: The band has a long history. Please talk a bit about the previous members and the current members of CP.
YJH: I formed CP in 2006 with Hwang Kyu Young, who was doing his military service with me, and Han Sang Joo, the guitarist of Sweet Guerillaz whom I exchanged letters with. We were sharing ideas about cool music we would like to do after finishing our term. At first Yang Jung Mo from Sweet Guerillaz helped out with the drums, and when we were recording the demo, Ryu Myung Hoon from 13 Steps helped us with the drums. After Han Sang Joo left the current guitarist Lee Il Woo joined, and after Park Sang Hoon joined us for drums we immediately released our EP. However, he had to leave right after releasing the EP due to personal reasons and we couldn’t perform much, which I still regret to this day. Since then we’ve had constant troubles with the members. During our hard times Kang Yuna, the drummer of Noeazy, helped us as a session player, but after Cho Jin Man returned from Vietnam in 2011, we have maintained a stable lineup.
BSL: The beginning of the band was in Cheongju and CJHC (Cheongju Hardcore). Currently all the members live in the greater capital area, has the band changed anything at all since moving to Seoul? Unfortunately, most of the members from MF Crew* and musicians who formed CJHC 10 years ago have moved to Seoul. What does CJHC mean to CP?
YJH: At first, all the members resided in Cheongju, and back then MF Crew was incredible. Even now we perform with pride. One thing that changed after we all relocated to Seoul is that it’s easier as we are often performing in the capital area. Another great thing is that we get together to drink more often.
CJM: Hwang Kyu Young and Yeon Je Hak tell us that they learned hardcore through going to MF Crew Shows. Of course Lee Il Woo and I are not from Cheongju but we grew CJHC together and we feel pride in that. We are also very happy that the hardcore kids who used to come to the shows are now our members. To CP, CJHC has helped us form this band and symbolizes a Mother Earth figure. It might sound cheesy but this is what I think.
HKY: It’s what changed my thoughts on music through my late teens and 20’s. I was influenced by 13 Steps, Nahu, Attacking Forces and all the bands that have since disbanded to create CP. I am still reminded by the passionate Cheongju scene when I listen to their music. Quite nostalgic.
BSL: Talking about The Ghost album, when considering only the Townhall Record releases, it’s a masterpiece that could be considered a turning point. It’s thanks to the album’s great quality and the melodic old school sound that didn’t exist in Korea before. What’s something that you considered the most when recording the album?
YJH: First of all, the new songs we performed while practicing were really good. We made it our goal to record those songs in the highest quality for the album. We also paid a lot of attention to the singalong aspect of the vocal’s rhyme and live.
CJM: You are flattering us. We started working on The Ghost 2 years ago. At the time we focused on moving forward from the initial EP style. The EP emphasized complex melodies, and we tried to find ways to create songs that were more straight forward, rhymes in lyrics and vocal lines that will be suitable to sing along to, and although we had trial and error but experimenting with the vocals.
BSL: You recorded the album in MOL Studio, and of course Lee Il Woo and Cho Jin Man have worked with engineer Cho Sang Hyun for their other bands. When working with CP recordings at MOL Studio, what was the most satisfying thing, or any happy episodes?
YJH: MOL Studio’s engineer Cho Sang Hyun paid special attention to us as if we were his band, so we could make a better album.
LIW: I feel most comfortable because it’s a place I am familiar with and an engineer with whom I worked numerous times. But when recording, there’s a lot of tension so it doesn’t feel comfortable at all, which helps us focus on recording. And as he edits with a big heart… Jin Man is… I am very truly thankful as a band member.
CJM: I’m always thankful for the best product he helps to create. MOL Studio’s biggest benefit is that it creates a sound that fits each band’s personality. This is why I am always satisfied with the work created at MOL Studio with Cho Sang Hyun. I am also sorry that I am always making more work for the engineer. One time, mm…. we recorded the vocal melody, but it was off and didn’t go well with the song, so we recorded it again by screaming and Cho Sang Hyun told us that ‘it was much better’.
HKY: My parents brought me into this world and Cho Sang Hyu recreated me. I want to thank engineer Cho Sang Hyun..
BSL: One thing that stands out from CP’s new album is the lyrics. “Greet the End” showcases lyrics that are perfect for the album’s tension and atmosphere. The title track “The Ghost” has very generic hardcore lyrics. I get the feeling the lyrics are following hardcore traditions while being original. How did you write the lyrics, and what are the messages you are trying to convey through the lyrics?
YJH: All the members shared ideas when it came to the lyrics. They went through numerous editing stages, we would edit after rehearsing, we worked thinking that lyrics should flow well with the music, and because of that we clashed numerous times. When we were monitoring the album we thought it was the best back then but realized that we made the right decision to change that part.
LIW: When I write while playing the guitar, I think of how the syllables and chorus should work. And I leave the writing to the other members, since they are all better at English than me… If they think of something different from my syllables and it works, we go with it, but when it’s different we compromise. In the end I’m happy with the result.
CJM: I have never worked so hard on lyrics before. The basis for most lyrics were done by Yeon Je Hak and Hwang Kyu Young, and we would all look over it together and decide on the most recognizable words and flow. There was a time when we spent over an hour trying to figure out one line. The message usually stems from anger stemming from Yeon Je Hak’s everyday life. And while tweaking we would change it to ‘the world is difficult but we will overcome because we are hardcore’.
BSL: Lee Il Woo on the guitar is a member of the groundbreaking band Jambinai and a member of 49 Morphines which is the biggest influence on the Korean screamo/post-hardcore scene alongside Hollow Jan. All three bands boast emotional chords and song structures that touch people’s hearts, where do you get the inspiration?
LIW: When I get stuck writing a 49 Morphines song it becomes a CP song, or when I’m writing a Jambinai song and think it’s not very good it becomes a CP song.
BSL: How do you complete your songs? Do you put it together while rehearsing, or does someone finish it and arrange it?
LIW: On this album, I wrote all the songs except “Fade Away” which was on the EP. I record the song at home and send it to the band members. Then we get together and work everything out. We don’t record the vocals initially so we just pay for the rehearsal fee.
BSL: if you have any albums you listened to a lot as reference while recording this album, what were they?
LIW: Sang Hyun listened to a lot and struggled… I heard that he even referenced Lamb of God.
YJH: It’ll probably differ for other members but I listened to Comeback Kid and Down to Nothing. Also this is weird but also Linkin Park.
CJM: For me, Comeback Kid’s Symptoms + Cures, Terror’s Live By The Code, and a few grindcore albums that made me want to create a chilling sound. And the result was more than I expected so I was very satisfied.
HKY: I listened to Verse’s Aggression until my ears started bleeding.
BSL: If you could think of any, what are some foreign and domestic bands that could be compared to CP and why?
CJM: Difficult question. The popular opinion around is that we could appeal to fans of Endzweck and FC Five. But recently I think CP is more similar to Comeback Kid, Down to Nothing, Verse and Champion. Could be because our melodies have become more straightforward. There are so many great domestic bands it’s hard to pinpoint just a few.
BSL: The majority of the members have been active in the hardcore scene for over 10 years. And two of the members have been with GMC so you could look at CP in multiple positions. Could you comment on the Korean hardcore scene, and talk about how CP has contributed to the scene?
LIW: Even 10 years later, there aren’t that many bands being created. Kyu Young is almost 30 and he’s still one of the youngest. It’s the sad truth. CP’s album may not be as hardcore as it could be. But I would like listeners who may not be hardcore kids to still listen to our music and develop an interest in this kind of music.
YJH: I want this album to become the opportunity for people to enjoy our music and come to more shows.
CJM: I think Korea’s hardcore scene is going through a transitional period. It can’t be denied that the Korean hardcore has improved because of GMC and Townhall’s coexistence, I felt that the so-called ‘third power’ bands have really pushed forward, through their shows. Banran is the most exceptional band out of them all. Additionally, I think young bands like Find The Spot and The Kitsches are worth looking out for. The Veggers has a very punk approach but they have a very close relationship with hardcore punk, as could be shown through their covers of Gang Green. In metalcore, bands like Remnants of the Fallen and Eighteen April have shown development and direction. We can’t stop the scene from segregating with the diversification of the music. When it comes to punk and metalcore CP may seem very neutral, but with this kind of sound I hope to spread the hardcore culture.
BSL: What is the most important to you when performing or that you want to show through your performance?
YJK: A lot of action and precise performance. I always tell myself that the audience comes to see a performance, and not to listen to one, and I am always nervous because of that.
CJM: I tell the band members to ‘be crazy about music’. I believe that we can truly show a great performance when the members go crazy on stage.
BSL: What does ‘hardcore’ mean to each of the members?
YJH: For me it’s what gets my life going. This band got me through some really hard points.
CJM: When I was young I used to say ‘the reason I live day by day’ but these days I don’t know what hardcore exactly is anymore. But one thing is certain – it’s one of my favorite things, and if hardcore is the reason that propels me to live to the fullest in order to do music, it’s definitely something precious to me.
HKY: Alcohol. I can only think of alcohol.
BSL: The album booklet is also Hwang Kyu Young’s work. Is there a concept or an intent with the album booklet?
HKY: I wanted to subtly show the album’s theme, The Ghost, without being too direct and obvious. After various considerations we decided on the current design. It’s not that we tried to do an illustration, failed and decided on the current design, no. *^^*
BSL: CP started out as a local band and now all the members live in Seoul or the greater capital area. You must have a lot of feelings for the local scene. Do you have any thoughts on improving the local scene?
LIW: Since being local you can have support from the locals, if you want to earn that support you need to practice, play, and be active passionately. In the end it’s the passion that matters.
CJM: Writing good songs, showing great performances, creating good albums and showing improvement is the best thing.
BSL: What are your plans for a tour after the album release?
CJM: Currently we are planning Busan’s Bullshit Fest on December 28 and an album release concert in Seoul on January 11. We are also planning gigs and album trade with foreign hardcore bands.
BSL: Current top 5 songs playlist** for the members?
– Vassline – “Red Raven Conspiracy”
– Vassline – “Fall of Fortuna”
– Noeazy – “Genocide”
– FC Five – “Generations”
– Comeback Kid – “Manifest”
– Converge – “All We Love We Leave Behind”
– Wormrot – Abuse
– Disfear – “Live The Storm”
– Memphis May Fire – “The Sinner”
– Mono – For My Parents
– Verse – “The Selfless of the Earth”
– Thursday – “Running From The Rain”
– Your Demise – “Miles Away”
– August Burns Red – “Fault Line”
– August Burns Red – “Provision”
BSL: Thank you for the interview. Any last words?
LIW: Come to our shows!!! (with money)
CJM: We’ll try hard to become a good band. Please keep supporting us.
HKY: We’ll become a long-lasting band that creates a lot of good content. Thank you.
* MF Crew is short for Mooshimcheon Fuckers Crew, Mooshimcheon being the stream that runs through Cheongju. 13 Steps, Nahu and Attacking Forces were all members of the crew.
** If you have Spotify you can listen to all songs (except the one from Noeazy) through this playlist.