INTERVIEW: Galaxy Express

Galaxy Express – A Few Wild Days Ago…

Rock ‘n’ roll has always been about simplicity – kickin’ music and a kickin’ live act are the only two things that’re really needed. And if that’s any standard to go by, Galaxy Express have it all. All the way from Seoul, they graced (though with a minimum of grace) LKF during both nights of last month’s Music Matters Live, winning numerous gawkers-plus-fans by their conscientious ripping up of the stage-type activities, they’re not a band to be trifled with. They very generously gave us some time from their schedule so we could find out a bit more about them, just after their soundcheck on May 28th (we couldn’t talk to them before because two-thirds of the band were asleep in Backstage while they waited for their turn!). Here’s the conversation between the Underground (U) and the band (GE) as it went down…

20100527-IMG_6395a.jpgU. You guys have been through some quite major changes in the past few months – like leaving your record label, creating an album in merely 30 days; how did these things come about, and what is you guys’ mindset now?

GE. Basically what happened is that we got tired of being told what kind of music to make by the record company. It felt like we were being used by the executives, at times. But, we did not want to compromise on our sound, so we were unhappy with that situation. We went through some hard times, definitely, because of our decision, but the freedom is very liberating.

And yes, we did make a record in just 30 days – Wild Days, which came out recently, and we’re it releasing internationally here. We just wanted to connect with the people, our fans, with the music, so we almost spent all our time writing and recording. Initially it was somewhat difficult, because you get used to one method of writing songs.

U. You mean, the conservative way of mulling over things and doing the whole process slowly?

20100527-IMG_6348.jpgGE. Yes. It’s difficult to unlearn that. We had to decide that in this case, sound wasn’t important, which is another thing you have to keep reminding yourself about. We had a lot of fun making it, and we were able to get back to the essence of rock music. We were very happy about that. We removed all the distractions, and just did our thing, which has come out in the album.20100527-IMG_6352.jpg

20100527-IMG_6285.jpgU. So how do you all feel about being able to use a platform as international as Music Matters to release your album?

GE. We are, of course, very excited. It’s a big opportunity that doesn’t come by often. We hope that people will like it, but also that they’ll understand the context of the album – we didn’t always sound like this!

U. And how has the reaction to the album been so far, in Korea?

20100527-IMG_6288.jpgGE. It’s been quite positive in Korea so far. We’ve found that because we were making music more naturally, in a form that is more ‘us’, we are able to connect with the audiences through it better than ever. Of course, while we were making the album, we kept our fans informed of every development through the internet, so that really helped. But, if someone listens to the album and thinks that ‘they sound like crap’, it won’t really bother us, because they clearly don’t know all the facts.

U. But, so far people have really liked your music in Korea, right? I mean you guys have gotten many awards and nominations – has that affected your career in any way?

GE. Well, it’s very motivating for one – it’s good to know that your work has been appreciated. But, it’s really not much more than that for us. Like at the Korean Music Awards, where we did win – it’s nice to get the honour, but it didn’t affect the music. The thing we look for most is to be able to communicate with the audience and make them have a rockin’ time, to give our energy to them.

20100527-IMG_6290.jpgU. So, how do you fit in with the Korean music scene – what’s it like?

GE. [All three laugh] It’s like a joke sometimes! There’s so many idol groups, and that’s all people outside Korea seem to have heard about. You say ‘rock music’ and ‘Korea’ together, and people go ‘whaaaat?!’. But it’s changing, there are a few bands around, and they’re trying to shift the focus. We’re one of them, and we just hope we can contribute in some way.

20100527-IMG_6313.jpgU. So, how has the band progressed through the years – in terms of sound, performance, or just how it feels to you guys?

GE. Well, we haven’t changed our live show, or our music all that much – it’s always been pure rock ‘n’ roll. But, we have progressed a lot as a unit. We’ve had a lot more freedom of late.

U. Because of not being shackled by record company demands?

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GE. Yes; and we’re really enjoying that. We can now make music even more in our own style, so that’s great. Also, the recording for Wild Days was fun and new – we just used 2 mp3 players for most of it!

U. You can’t be serious…really?

20100527-IMG_6326.jpgGE. It’s true! And that was a real learning experience – finding out how much we could do with limited time and limited facilities.

U. Moving away from the studios a little, your performance style can only be described by words like frenetic and wild – did you consciously think about it when you started out?

GE. Well, we just wanted to make our shows like being in a dream. There are so many ways to express yourself, and the best we knew of doing that was to just go for an all-out, no-holds-barred approach. We don’t like to stand around on stage like statues, and neither does anybody watching – they like you to jump around and stuff, and we do too. It’s all about communicating with the audience honestly with the audience, and we can’t pretend. People tend to be more reserved in Korea, but we like to use the music we play to put up a good, no, a great show.

20100527-IMG_6329.jpgU. And where does the inspiration for the music come from – who are your main influences?

GE. They’re mostly all rock ‘n’ roll bands; it’s kind of hard to do justice to all of them by trying to name them. One of our main inspirations, though, are the MC5.

20100527-IMG_6337.jpgU. Yeah, I noticed that you guys do renditions of Kick Out the Jams and Rambling Rose – I highly approve!

GE. [Laugh] Yes, we love them. It’s just great to channel all that rock ‘n’ roll music from all of the great people who have been part of it. But, we like other stuff too – HeeKwon [drummer/shout-alist] like traditional Korean music too.

20100527-IMG_6345.jpgU. And finally, what’re your plans for the future?

GE. Well, to continue playing music, wherever we are. We want to connect with more and more audiences through our music. We want to make Korea a wild, wild country! [Laugh] Yeah, we want to turn it into an animal planet!! 20100527-IMG_6346.jpg

Interviewees-

Ju-Hyun Lee – Bass and Vocal
Jong-Hyun Park – Guitar and Vocal
Hee-Kwon Kim – Drums

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Interview conducted and transcribed by Shashwati Kala
Photos by Angus Leung

P.S. – A big, huge apology to Galaxy Express from me for not asking the name of the good gentleman with them, who I assume was their manager. A large part of this interview was his contribution, and I’d like to thank him for it – Shashwati

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