KoME’s Interview with Epik High

Note: newest MV: Map the Soul

aME’s sister site KoME, has a new interview up on one of Korea’s popular award-winning hip-hop group, Epik High.

Epik High are one of the top groups in the Korean music scene. After the release of their last album Pieces, Part One and winning best album of the year at the 17th Seoul Music Awards, the group still isn’t taking a break and has been preparing their 7th album, scheduled to be released this month.

KoME had the opportunity to interview the hip-hop trio and discover some little details about the upcoming release, as well as their thoughts and aims.

Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions! Would you like to briefly introduce yourself to our readers?

Epik High: Nice to meet you (next time, we hope that it will be in person)! We are Tablo, DJ Tukutz and Mithra Jin of Epik High.

How did you meet? Are there any anecdotes you’d like to share?

Epik High: It was actually a chance meeting that took place at a Vietnamese noodle shop (in Korea). We ended up sitting together and discussing hip-hop, music in general, fashion, politics, the state of the world, conspiracy theories, etc. over a few bowls of spicy pho. Conversation clicked, and we instantly became friends. We never imagined that we would one day be doing music together, though. It was after almost a year of hanging out that we realized we shared a common vision and that we could maybe change the world together, through music.

Which Epik High song do you think describes your music the best and would you recommend to someone who hasn’t heard your music before?

Epik High: I think there are two songs. Fan from our fourth album and Map the Soul from our upcoming album. Listening to these two songs will give you a good idea how diverse the Epik High sound is. Lyrically, I recommend Lesson One.

Your songs are often lyrical, startling and witty. What inspires you to write the songs? What is your working method while creating an album? Are there defined roles given to each member or do you discuss all the aspects of the album between each other?

Epik High: We are inspired by everything: music, films, books, people, conversations, nature… We believe in opening up all of the senses, including the sixth one, to take in all that exists. Having no prejudice is the most important thing. Inspiration comes from not only beautiful things, but ugly and decrepit things as well. Our entire creative process is detailed in our upcoming book/album.

You have been really mysterious about your new album. Can you tell us what to expect from it? The lyrics, the style or any novelties we’ve never heard before in an Epik High album? We can also hear Tablo mentioning a bilingual book in the latest youtube video. Any chance you could reveal something about that? And what was it that made you decide to include a Korean and English book? Is it because your lyrics often include English sections, or is it to cater towards your non-Korean fans?

Epik High: It’s a book and a music CD, created as one work. The album is reminescent of our debut album; we’re taking it back to when we first got together and were doing music purely for music’s sake. Artistically hungry. It’s a very raw hip-hop sound with honest, personal lyrics that reveal various aspects of our souls. The book is a collection of writings and essays written by the artists, along with photographs (also by the artists themselves) from the recording period. It focuses on ‘the soul’ and ‘the creative process’. It details how music is created, from inspiration to execution, as well as speaking on how people can nurture and keep alive their souls. We believe that the book can be a self-help guide to people who ‘create’, no matter what field they’re in.

The CD and the book are both bilingual. Some songs are in Korean and some are in English. There are two versions of the title single, Map the Soul. One is in Korean, and the other is in English (featuring the Bay Area musician Kero One). The book is also in Korean and English, including translations for lyrics. This is to service the many non-Korean fans around the globe. We’ve always appreciated your presence and this is our way of giving back. Putting all of this together was utterly painstaking. But we believe that our fans should always get a little more than they paid for.

One important detail. This album/book will only be available at http://www.mapthesoul.com. It won’t be sold anywhere else. The reason for this is that traditional distribution routes, since they require a lot of third party involvement, forces the price to be doubled, at the least. Selling it ourselves is a huge business risk but we believe in making our work affordable to our fans. After troubling over this for months, we’ve decided to take out all the third-party fluff and sell it ourselves. We may suffer business-wise, but it’s a risk we’re willing to take in order to help our fans. Help us get the word out.

Mapthesoul opened a YouTube account, Twitter account, etc, and those are all portals to the world and now many people from everywhere feel closer to you. Are you aware of your fanbase outside Asia? What do you think about Korean music becoming more and more popular in Western countries in general and do you have plans to release an album internationally or hold a concert outside Asia?

Epik High: We are totally aware and are very grateful. We’re planning a world tour. We’ll update things on http://www.mapthesoul.com.

You’ve collaborated with many famous artists such as Rain, Loveholic, Nell and Clazziquai. How did you end up working with them? Did you suggest it to them or did they come to you?

Epik High: They came to us and we were happy to work with them. We’re all good friends!

If you had the opportunity to collaborate with an American or European artist, who would that be?

Epik High: Black Eyed Peas, Daft Punk and Kanye West

Tablo: in 2008 you were part of the AnyBand project together with Xiah Junsu, Jin Bora and BoA and enjoyed great success with that. Fans have hopes for AnyBand to reunite. How was working with them and would you like to be part of it again?

Tablo: It was fun! We would love that.

In some of your lyrics you talk about social issues. For the AnyBand project you had the opportunity to visit Brazil. What were your impressions of the country’s social issues and what was the reason for Rio de Janeiro to be chosen for the shooting?

Epik High: For one thing, Rio de Janeiro is a beautiful place. It’s painful to know that some people suffer even amidst such a wonderous environment. We are concerned with the social welfare of people all over the globe. We are all one people and we share a common suffering that must be healed. We hope our music can help.

Tukutz: You have worked in raves and parties in both Korea, Japan and the USA. What are the main differences between the public of the three countries?

Tukutz: One sure thing is that when the music starts, all people are the same. With the world in such a financial and social crisis, everyone wants to smile and have a good time. My role is making that happen.

Tablo and Tukutz have already lived in the US for a while. Does this have any influence on the band’s work?

Epik High: It helps because we are a hip-hop group. We’re in touch with the inherently international appeal that hip-hop has.

Mithra: What do you like to do between Epik High’s activities? Do you prepare yourself for the next Epik High project, or do you take some time out to do something else?

Mithra: I usually travel to get re-energized.

Tablo: Your best-seller Pieces of You was originally written in English. In Korea the book was a major success and the English version was released as a limited edition. Do you know anything about the Western public’s acceptance?

Tablo: I don’t really concern myself with how my work is received. I do my best, put it out, then move on to the next project.

Your songs and MVs are sometimes banned in Korea, recently the same has also happened to TVXQ, Rain and Big Bang’s Seungri. What do you think about this ban policy? Do you think it’s legitimate, or does it take things too far?

Epik High: We think it’s b*llsh*t. Our stuff has been banned so many times that it’s nothing new to us though. Good art gets out no matter what. To hell with the censors.

For a few years now we can see a deep change in the music industry in Korea and all over the world too because of the transition of music into the digital era. Especially in Korea we can notice a real fall in CD sales. How do you see this as major artists? Do you think that the internet is the new market for selling music or that music consumers should stick with CDs?

Epik High: Selling CDs online is important. There aren’t many CD stores left in Korea. That’s another reason for us creating http://www.mapthesoul.com. Digital music is great, but the fact that you can’t hold it in your hands makes it less personal, don’t you think?

We can hear various musical genres while listening to your songs. Who are some of your favourite artists?

Epik High: Nas, Radiohead, Astrud Gilberto, Black Eyed Peas, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Coldplay, Marvin Gaye, too many!

If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would you like to go to do so?

Epik High: Africa.

How do you see Epik High in ten years?

Epik High: Still together, forever friends.

One fun question: What’s the best quality/worst fault of the band member sitting to your left?

Epik High:
Tablo->Tukutz: Kutz’ best quality is his sharpness. His worst quality is his sharpness.
Tukutz->Mithra: Mithra’s best quality is that he is calm. His worst quality is that he sleeps too much.
Mithra->Tablo: Tablo’s best quality is that he is crazy. His worst quality is that he tries to hide it sometimes.

This interview will be translated and then published in every branch of KoME which includes some European countries as well as Brazil and the USA. Any reaction? What do you think about KoME’s work?

Epik High: We appreciate the attention you give to our culture. And the role you play in bringing the world together. Rock on!

Do you have any last words for our readers?

Epik High: Meet us right now at http://www.mapthesoul.com

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