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In conversation with DJ CO.KR

Meet DJ co.kr (pronounced koh-ker), the Seoul-based artist, and their party brand Ghetto-Ray, who aim to revolutionise Seoul’s dancefloors with UK flava. With a seven-year stint in Seoul’s evolving underground scene, they found inspiration from UK acts gracing Seoul’s most-loved venues (Cakeshop, Henz Club to name a few). Navigating challenges, they gradually introduced UK sounds, now embraced by local parties such as Planet Turbo. DJ co.kr’s diverse blend of Afro, bass, and electronic beats shines in productions like “SOUNDBWOY”. In their daily hustle, his love for football keeps the energy flowing. 

Hey there! How are ya?
Great! I’m glad to be getting interviewed by Glamcult.

You’ve been known to bring UK-flavored sounds across clubs in Korea. Can you share some key moments that shaped your musical path?
I’ve lived in Korea my whole life. I think Seoul’s underground scene was being created when I started going to a lot of clubs and I think that’s what influenced me. To be specific, Cakeshop and Henz Club brought a lot of UK artists to perform in Korea and they definitely made an impact on me.

Can you tell me more about the Seoul-underground scene?
The city of Seoul changes rapidly, and its underground scene follows suit. There has been a notable increase in the number of house, techno, and hip-hop clubs compared to before. With this diversity, it’s not uncommon to find clubs every five minutes in the narrow streets of Itaewon. Consequently, there aren’t many people who stay put from beginning to end at parties; instead, the club’s event varies depending on the day’s atmosphere. Therefore, the emphasis is more on the club scene rather than party culture. For example, if you’re playing Amapiano, before the Log Drum kicks in, people expect something stimulating. That’s why DJs who don’t want to lose their audience tend to play a lot of stimulating remixes or edit tracks tailored to their tastes. From my perspective, that’s how the Seoul scene looks.

What makes your favorite spots Cakeshop and Henz club stand out as clubs in Seoul?
Both clubs embrace the underground scene, with Cakeshop continuing to introduce many international artists to this day. Additionally, it serves as a venue where locals can interact and engage with international acts. And Henz Club serves as a platform for young hip-hop artists and DJs to collaborate and exchange ideas.

Did UK-flavored sounds immediately resonate with the local crowd, has it been a smooth journey? Or were there challenges bringing this genre to the seoul scene?
I still think I’m on a challenging journey. But things are much better now than from what it was before! I’ve been playing UK influenced sounds in Seoul for about 7 years, and at the time, when UK Funky / UK Garage rhythms would come out, the dancers on the floor would freeze up because they felt awkward. So, for the people who weren’t used to the sound, I played a lot of remix tracks that were more familiar to their ears. I tried to make them familiar by gradually increasing the number of the UK sounds in popular songs. Now, there are parties in Seoul that pursue UK sounds. Shout out to Planet Turbo, Kimchi Factory Homies and Ghetto-Ray Crew!

What’s your main source of inspiration?
I get inspired by things I like such as football, clubs and various lifestyles.

Can you tell me more about those lifestyles?
I spend a lot of time in my life on both football and clubbing, and elements such as the fashion coming from football, their culture of support, and percussion culture are intertwined with my music. In my neighbourhood, there’s a public facility called Hyochang Park, where I often enjoy watching youth league matches with a cup of coffee and a sandwich packed to unwind every day. These experiences seep into my music.

You blend Afro, bass, and other worldly forms of dance music with electronic productions. How do you approach the fusion of these diverse genres, and what kind of experiences are you hoping to create for your audience?
In terms of production and DJing, listening to Gqom and Baile Funk and incorporating their unique cultures into club music has had a heavy influence on me. A future goal of mine is to incorporate Seoul’s unique sound into club music. Samulnor.E, released by XXIII label during the Covid era, is an example of this.

Your focus on electronic productions is intriguing. Can you tell us about your creative process when producing music, especially when incorporating Afro, bass, and other worldly elements?
I was very impressed by the percussion sounds of DJ Plead and Ahadream that excited the crowds in the club. Listening to their combination of percussion and synth bass sounds, I felt that linking different elements would be fun. And since I don’t think Seoul has a unique sound yet, I love to experiment with various mixes and links because I think a new sound can come out. My first release, SOUNDBWOY, was a combination of B-MORE CLUB drums from Baltimore at the time and Grime MCs, which was my linking process.

What do you like to do before your set to get in the mood?
I believe that if I get excited, the audience will follow suit… I usually raise the energy level from the beginning of the performance, starting from the first 30 minutes of the show.

How does your work interact with the communities you’re in?
In my opinion, I feel that my work is perceived as fresh within the local community. Collaborating with UK artists while based in Seoul might seem unusual. But, these days, it seems like my tracks are gaining popularity in Seoul and Japanese clubs. After seeing my releases, I think that other local friends are also beginning to contact and exchange with UK artists.

If you could change anything about the industry what would it be?
I wish I could enhance the rights of artists. Hoping for a structure to be established where artists can receive fair revenue.

Which other DJ’s or music artists inspire you the most?
DJs who always show fresh and innovative music selections, like DJ Lefto & Ahadadream.

Dream b2b/collab?

I see the connection there for sure. Besides DJing, what do you do in your daily life?
For steady income, it’s mostly club related such as making events, hosting radio or working on tracks.

If you could think of your favourite club lineup what would it be?
I would say the lineup of the artists who have participated in my SOUNDBWOY 2 Remix EP. (Omagoqa, ZeroFG, OSSX, Ikonika, Nikki Nair, Tommy Holohan, J Wax, Y U QT, Tim Reaper and Murder He Wrote)

That would go so hard. What is your favourite song at the moment?
Currently, I would like to say the entire project ‘SOUNDBWOY 2’ by yours truly.

Love a confident king. What makes someone in the crowd stand out to you?
People who are just learning to DJing stand in the front of the booth, attentively watching myself mixing. I think it’s cute. However, if someone gives off the vibe that they’re checking the tracklist when I’m playing, I don’t respect that.

What’s something that you can’t live without?
My family, friends, football and music.

Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations on the horizon that you’re excited about and would like to share with your fans?
An EP I’ve collaborated with H4rdy will be released soon, through the label STEEL CITY DANCE DISCS. Look forward to it!

Images courtesy of the artist

Words by Pykel van Latum