Collaborations can take on many forms. What role do they play in your approach, and what are your preferred ways of engaging with other creatives, including the artists on your label?
As a music producer, my collaborations with artists can take on many forms. For instance, if I am working with masters such as Andrew Cyrille or Wadada Leo Smith, after putting the project together, my work will mainly be focused more on the cosmetics such as the sound quality, editing, track selection, and sequencing. If I am working with younger musicians, very often, I am much more involved in longer pre-production work, such as figuring out the core musical concept of the album as well as arranging and composing.
As a general rule, establishing a good personal relationship with all the artists I am working with is very important and makes the recording process so much easier.
Take us through a day in your life, from a possible morning routine through to your work, please. Do you have a fixed schedule? How do music and other aspects of your life feed back into each other - do you separate them or instead try to make them blend seamlessly?
I don't have a fixed schedule, but in general, I do try to take care of all the label-related business work first, in order to be able to focus on more creative things, which is the aspect I am genuinely passionate about. I assemble projects, have discussions with musicians about musical concepts, and also try to listen to new music every day. On the lucky days, I will discover something I like for the label.
Can you talk about your first release for the label? Why does it feel special to you? When, why, and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Our first release is an album by the late pianist Masabumi Kikuchi, entitled Hanamichi – The Final Studio Recording. It is, of course, very special since it’s our first release, but what makes it very close to my heart is that Masabumi was a good friend.
I first met Masabumi in 2011 at a concert at the Village Vanguard in New York. I was amazed by his playing so, after the concert, I introduced myself. We immediately got along from the very beginning, and our friendship led to recording together. The musical results are incredible, to say the least, and we are so grateful that this was our first release.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music has been with me for all my life and has accompanied me through so many of the experiences I have had. I could easily say that life would be much lonelier without music. In this way, I think music could serve and heal people as a companion to everyday life, not only by filling voids but also enhancing and making things more colourful.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols, and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
As a person who was born from Korean parents, lived his childhood in Europe, and matured in the USA, I often asked myself this timeless question. I don't think about 'cultures' as fixed and watertight entities, but as porous and dynamic forces where features are influenced by different – in space and time – ways to interpret and give sense to the world. However, I also believe that how this interaction happens matters profoundly.
The word appropriation describes to me an act that is unidirectional or based on the imposition of something ours and the grab of something 'other' that was not offered. On the other hand, exchange suggests a horizontal encounter, a flow that is as generous as it is open and embraces both active agents.
This is what I am interested in, and this is why to me, education is essential as it provides me with the tools necessary to make informed choices, because there is value in cultural exchange, as long as this is mutual and based on respect and understanding. I am committed to nurturing my awareness about the fact that choices do not happen in a vacuum but in a complex socio-historical context that I must not ignore, and that the freedom to choose what to be influenced by is a privilege that many people and cultures do not have.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about
the way our senses work?
What my personal experience led me to believe is that the division between senses is useful but not descriptive of how they actually work. I think all our senses intertwine to give us a multi-dimensional experience.
The overlapping of the visual and aural sense has been well established through many areas such as films, theatre, art installation, etc…. However, one aspect I find quite interesting is to relate hearing to our olfactory sense. I am a huge wine fan and frequently notice when tasting great wine, it could give a similar emotional response as when listening to great music. Perhaps not on the same spiritual level as music but definitely in a similar bandwidth. The relationship between these two is something I'd like to explore more in-depth.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
I do not necessarily make a point for art to be a reflection of the current times. I let it be what it is, in whatever shape it comes out. Unavoidably though, if the art is honest, more often than not, it will be more or less linked to the artists' current time.
What can music express about life and death, which words alone may not?
Music directly reaches us to the core, whereas words first pass through our consciousness. Music is a direct link to the profoundness of the human spirit and travels to places where words are unable to reach. In this way, I think music is an act of life, and it speaks more about life, and even when it engages with death, it does so through life.