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Beyond K-Pop: Steve Wu

Korean Pop music has done what many thought was impossible. From becoming the most played song on YouTube to having one of the top Korean Boybands charting on the American Billboard, Korean Pop music has done an amazing job of stealing the hearts of the masses and entering the laser filled dance floors of clubs around the world.

While Korea has it's own unique and diverse community of producers and musicians, Korea's largest export has always been it's Pop music. It's own Pop music being an array and amalgamation of multiple genres such ranging from Jazz to Hip-Hop and even EDM.

In this 2 Part Series we talk to 2 producers from Korea. First up we talk to Steve Wu.

Steve Wu is one of Korea's best hidden gems having worked with top Korean acts such as EXO and TraxX. Besides being able to generate hit songs, Steve is also one of the top Tech House producers in the country being signed to DJ Korea (Records).


ADM: As a DJ from the early 2000's how would you say things were back then in Korea and how has it evolved into what it is now? 

SW: I think the size of dance music culture is the biggest difference from early 2000’s. There are more club & festivals, DJs and clubbers now. Therefore DJs in early 2000’s only had to play their set well, but DJs today have to play their set well, produce music well, be a good party promoter, be a master of SNS (Social Networking Sites), some guys also do graphic designs, booking agent etc. (They should also look handsome or look cool).

Lately, there are a couple of well settled DJ entertainers here do that kind of work instead of just DJing. So I would say that DJing in Korea is now ‘Industrialised’.

ADM: Being both a commercial and underground producer, how would you say that underground and niche music scenes have affected the K-Pop Landscape?

SW: One of the biggest labels in Korea, SM Entertainment does dance music festival (Spectrum). Things that were separated like water & oil before are mixing now. It will continue to emerge for one in giving influences each other and Asian producers keep making more high quality dance music till it's perfected & focused for Asians.

ADM: Would you say that while K-Pop has given a lot of attention to Korean music? Do you think that due to its immense popularity that it has caused some restrictions to what Korean musicians and producers create?

SW: One of the difficulties we have is when we do marketing for music that isn't K-Pop or Idol Music. That's cause all over Asia, along with many celebrities from America are fans of acts like BTS. So if we use the passage K-Pop opened, I think it’s an opportunity to all Asian producers. And that’s basically what I do with DJ Korea (Records) and also try to create more opportunities for new DJs and Producers.

If we're talking about production though, I think there are no restrictions. But because K-Pop is heavily choreography driven, there are certain structures & formulas that are distinguished from other music genres. So if I want to make K-Pop, I can make it focusing heavily on it being choreography driven where in other cases I can make my music more freely.

ADM: From having your own label, Eastribal Records, in 2013 to becoming part of DJ Korea and even publishing music with Universal Music how would you describe your journey from the beginning to how you've gotten to where you are now?

SW: I started producing music by making Tech-House tracks. That time was 5 years after I started DJing & I had no musical background. So I used samples for every element in my music.

After a few years, I got more serious about making music and wanted to know how chord progressions work, how to write vocal melodies, how to stack harmonies, how to write lyrics, how to do vocal mixing and how to place songs for major labels.

I jumped into K-Pop scene and after focusing there 3-4 years, I learned so many things I can’t even describe in words. So now, I want to make more various music what I like, using that knowledge I learned from making K-Pop.

ADM: What would you think is the next step that Korean Artiste can move away from the shadow of K-Pop and showcase a different side of Korean music? 

SW: Now for the market if you combine indie labels & streaming services like Spotify, their reach is far larger than Universal, Sony, Warner combined (the so called major music scene). It’s a new world now, so if it’s a good music there are many ways to hit like "Way Back Home" by Shaun.


You can find Steve on the Social Media links below

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