Born in South Korea. Now in Montreal, Canada. GEUMEUM makes music and sometimes visual arts. He is mainly interested in an interesting sound on the spatial and textual level. I met him for the first time at Fonderie Darling just after is collaboration with Cha Ji Ryang for the project called BATS.
The album Night Vision Camera already existed for some time before its release on Kohlenstoff. Is it an album that you’ve composed for a long time too?
Night Vision Camera is something I worked on for about a year in 2017. Then, I took another year or so to make the visual component and come up with a live performance set up. I hadn’t found a good place to release it until now, and it is now happily with Kohlenstoff.
In addition to the more noisy / texturized sounds, there is a very melodic aspect in your music on this album. It’s hard to cathegorised your music, but how would you describe it?
I am not familiar with all the genres and sub-genres in music, so I’m not sure what category it falls under. I imagine it’s somewhere within the boundary of pop, folk, and electronic music, with a slight influence from sound-collage.
How did you work for the writing of Night Vision Camera? I sometimes have the impression that the pieces could be played on the guitar. When you start writing a piece, what do you start with and what creative tools do you use?
I initially started writing, thinking that I want to come up with some simple songs with guitar and voice. It somehow escalated into something more layered than what I planned in the beginning. With that said, I did start at least about half of the tracks with guitar and voice. Some tracks started with some bits and pieces of field recordings. Sonically speaking, this album is made up with guitar, voice, synth, and field recording samples.
I find that there is something very “romantic” in your music. Do you also consider yourself a rather romantic person?
By romantic, I assume that you mean to say that the music is rather emotional. I find that there is a kind of longing underneath most human endeavour. This longing for things that may or may not have form is the underlying generator of all kinds of emotions. I try to express this, as well as invoke it in the listeners. We all long for something. A lot of the time, we don’t know even know what, but we feel it nonetheless.
Who are your influences in general? What music do you listen to when you take the subway?
I don’t really listen to music routinely. But these days, I sometimes listen to Cornelius, altopalo, and Jonsi&Alex.
You were born in South Korea, but you moved to Montreal in the last years to study and develop your art practice. What brought / attracted you to Montreal first?
I moved here as a first year university student studying social sciences. All I had in mind at that time was to move to a bigger, cooler city than where I went to high school, in Auburn, Alabama.
In your step there is also the creation of visual work. Can you tell us a little about this approach and how it differs with the musical writing?
I started making the visual portion of the album, mainly as a means to augment the performance experience that I believed would have partially lacked the performative aspects (visually speaking), given the nature of pieces where I cannot ‘perform’ every instrument and sound. I had much help from my partner, Ivetta Sunyoung Kang, who is an interdisciplinary installation artist with a background in film making. At the time, we were deeply enamoured by the nature of lo-fi images created with films, VHS, analog TV, digital toy cameras, and so on. My approach in the making was to create an abstract image that could interact with the sound elements, and ultimately be recognized as one entity with them. The visual work for ‘Stream of Consciousness’ would be an example. Ivetta’s input gave them a bit more narrative, in a long-lasting, still-yet-moving scene of recognizable image. ‘night’s body, and her curtains’ is an example of this. In the end, the visuals serve as a bond for a cohesive, 50-minute-long cinematic experience of live music, where each track becomes a scene for one piece of visual-music.
Are you planning to settle permanently in Montreal? How do you find the arts scene here compared to South Korea?
I will be Canadian in two weeks. I may not always be in Montreal, but it will be my base for another foreseeable future. It is where I created everything I’ve created up until this point. I am not much of an expert on South Korean art scene, but it seems to share many of the same problems as the scene in Montreal: lack of non-governmental funding, limited market size, slow generational shift, narrow spotlight, and so on. With that said, both Seoul and Montreal seem to have beautiful things happening in underground scenes, and I hope that they will be supported and sustained.
What’s coming for you at the art level in the near future?
I recently released a poetry-music album under another project, Needle&Gem. This happened mostly in South Korea, and I am looking into presenting and selling the poetry-album in independent bookstores and pop-up stores. Otherwise, I am slowly getting back into another phase of making. I don’t know what I will be making, but it will be music.
Thank you GEUMEUM!