As a songwriter, producer, performer, lyricist, and fashionista who is at once retro and thrillingly original, Xin Seha is one of the most vibrant figures in the Korean Indie scene today. I was fortunate enough to interview the synth-funk musician about his new EP, 7F The Void, his artistic values, his sources of inspiration, and more.

xin zeha

photography by N’Ouir

Was there anything in particular that you wanted to explore or portray in 7F the Void that you had not done before?

I took the main theme of stories about time from my last work (24town) and expressed them through arrays of words. In this album, I wanted to dig deeper — I focused on trying to express through language the distancing that happens within time, and the unfamiliarity with which we come face-to-face with this distancing. At the same time, I tried to achieve a sort of balance by taking a step back from the peculiarities of the genre that I delved into in my last album.

전작인 24town에서는 주 내용이었던, 시간의 관한 이야기들을 단어들의 배열로 표현했었습니다. 이번 앨범에서는 이야기들에 조금 더 파고들어, 그 시간 속에서, 멀어지고, 그 멀어짐에 낯설게 대면하는 이야기에 초점을 맞춰, 문장으로 표현하려고 노력했습니다. 

반면에 전작에서 내세웠던 장르적인 특성을 이번 앨범에서는 한 발짝 물러서게 하여, 밸런스를 맞추려고 했습니다.

A strength of your music is its ability to draw significantly from preexisting musical genres (mainly funk) while still offering a distinct, fresh style that is unique to you. Does this balance come naturally, or is it something you are cognizant of when making music?

Half of it is instinctual, half of it is active awareness. I absorbed all the records that I grew up listening to, so I think I tend to naturally create drawing on these sources. The other half is me always mulling over the things that are uniquely me, the things that only I can do.

작업 진행의 반은 자연스럽게 흘러가도록 놔두고 나머지 반은 무엇을 만들고 있는 것인지 인식하면서 만들어 갑니다.

어렸을 때부터 들어오던 레코드들이 제 안에 쌓여있어서, 그것을 토대로 자연스럽게 만들어 내는 것 같다고 생각합니다. 반면에 인식하고 만드는 것은 나만이 할 수 있는 것들이 무엇인지  항상 깊이 고민하며 나온 결과 입니다.

On the topic of inspirations, how did you become interested in funk, and what about funk as a genre and culture inspires you? What are some of your other influences — musical or not — besides funk?

My influences are the music that shook my body as a child. I realized later on that the root of all those pieces of music was funk, and I started getting interested in the genre. There are lots of other things that influence me other than funk; I think these are the things that help me express myself. [Some of these include] What Time is it There by Tsai Ming Liang (2001), Paris is Burning by Jennie Livingston (1990), Liquid Sky by Slava Tsukerman (1980), Bill Butterworth, Dao De Jing, some Korean poets, my family, my friends…

어렸을 때부터 들어온 음악들 중에서 제 몸을 흔들게 하는 음악들이 있었습니다. 그 음악들의 뿌리는 훵크라는 것을 알게 되었고, 그때부터 흥미를 느꼈습니다. 훵크 이외에도 제게 영향을 준 것은 많은데, 그것들은 제 자신을 표현할 수 있게끔 도와주는 것들인 것 같습니다.

what time is it there (2001) by Tsai ming liang / paris is burning (1990) by Jennie Livingston / liquid sky (1980) by Slava Tsukerman / bill butterworth / dao de jing / 한국의 여러 시인들 / 그리고 제 가족들, 친구들..

You put a large amount of care and creativity into your presentation in fashion and music videos. What special importance do these components of your artistry have to you?  

I’m always pondering how best to put into words the things I’m thinking and feeling. This of course holds for my music, and as you asked, it also goes for my videos and fashion as well. I give a lot of thought to making the stories, ambience, etc. that I want to have heard be better conveyed through sound and sight.

제 생각과 느낌들을 어떻게 저만의 단어들과 문장들로 표현하면 좋을지 항상 고민하고 있습니다. 음악적인 것들은 물론이고, Rachel의 질문처럼 비디오, 패션에서도 마찬가지입니다. 제가 전달하고 싶은 이야기들, 분위기 등등, 이런 것들을 어떻게 하면 잘 들리게 되고, 잘 보이게 될까를 중요하게 생각합니다.

What is it like having such a unique sound in the world of Korean indie music? Is it inspiring/energizing or difficult to be one of the only musicians doing what you are doing? Is it easy to collaborate and be a part of the community, even if your sound/genre may be different from many musicians?

Before, I thought a lot about the fact that there didn’t exist a lot of contexts in the Korean indie scene that my music would be allowed in. But now, I think even those worries are useless – if I keep persevering and doing my thing, that ‘thing’ will become a community on its own.

I am feeling myself growing in musical and personal ways, and I’m hoping that I am. I think this is contributing to an environment where I find myself more easily approaching fellow musicians and listeners, and they’re also finding me more approachable. 

Recently, I found that there are a lot of musicians who ‘vibe’ with me on a genre level, and also on a ‘soul’ level.  

전에는 제 음악이 한국 인디신 안에 접목될 만한 팀이 많이 없다는 것에 고민을 많이 했습니다. 하지만 지금은 그런 고민들조차 쓸데없다는 생각을 하곤 합니다. 그저 제가 할 수 있는 것들을 꾸준히 하면, 자연스럽게 하나의 커뮤니티가 만들어지지 않을까 생각합니다.

나름대로 제 자신이 음악적으로나 개인적으로 넓어지는 것을 느끼고 있고, (그렇게 되길 기대하고 있습니다.)

그렇게 됨으로써 제가 동료 뮤지션들과 리스너들에게 조금더 접근 할 수 있게 되고, 그들이 저에게 접근할 수 있게 되는 환경이 만들어지고 있다고 생각합니다.
요 근래에, 저와 맞닿게 되는 (장르적 혹은 정신적으로) 뮤지션들도 생각보다 많다는 것을 알게 되었고요.

Since many of our readers may not be familiar with the Korean language, is there anything in particular you would like to express about your lyrics in 7F the Void?

7F, the Void is talking about farewells, goodbyes, and distancing. 

It encompasses coming face to face with these uncomfortable things.

To explain song by song,

7F, the Void는 이별, 작별, 멀어짐 등을 얘기하고 있습니다.

이 불편한 것들을 낯설게 마주한다는 내용을 담고 있습니다.

곡별로 간단하게 설명하자면,

  1. “7F”

The seventh floor is a place where I hope the night doesn’t end. Reason being, if night passes and it becomes day, the same day as yesterday is going to repeat itself. The long night seemed to be consoling the fear for repetition, and I expressed that in the lyrics.

7층이라는 공간은 밤이 지나지 않았으면 하는 곳입니다. 밤이 지나고 다시 낮이 되면 어제와 같은 날이 반복될 것이기 때문입니다. 긴 밤이 두려워하는 제 마음에게 위로를 건네는 듯한 인상을 받았고, 그걸 가사로 풀었습니다.

  1. “티를 내 (Timeline)”

In days where tomorrows are always repeated, there are things that are slightly off. 

This is a song about the fear that creeps up when I see things that are slightly off as I get closer to another human being, as I get closer to someone’s inherent time.

내일이 매일같이 반복되는 날 속에 조금씩 어긋나는 것들이 있습니다.

특히 상대방과 점점 가까워질수록, 상대방의 고유한 시간에 다가갈수록, 나의 시간과는 조금씩 어긋나는 시간들을 보고는 두려워하는 내용의 곡입니다.

  1. “마음에 들지 않아”

This is a song about disliking the subtle silence between another person and myself. 

The subtlety lies in the small things that are slightly off, the things that only the two people involved know, but cannot bring to put into words.

상대방과 나 둘 사이의 미묘한 정적이 마음에 들지 않음을 이야기하는 곡입니다.

그 미묘함이란 조금씩 어긋나는 것, 그 둘만이 알고 있는 것, 알고 있지만 차마 입밖으로 표현 못하는 그것을 얘기합니다.

  1. “Balcony”

There was a time when I saw my reflection in the window while standing on the balcony — the reflection seemed grotesque, in a way, and it made me feel nauseous. I wondered if that was because it was only myself in the reflection, and I wrote the lyrics based on that experience.

발코니에 서서, 창에 비치는 제 모습이 메스껍게 느껴질 때가 있었습니다. 비치는 모습 속에는 나 혼자뿐이어서 그렇게 느껴졌나 하며 가사를 썼습니다.  

  1. “Tell Her”

I was talking to someone on the phone, and I found myself telling the other person useless and hurtful things. The song is about not answering calls that will make a person cry. The other person ends up just listening to my ringback tone. Outkast’s Prototype is my ringback tone, and I borrowed the lyrics hoping that those lyrics would be able to express what I can’t say directly.

언젠가 한 번은 통화를 하다가, 상대방에게 쓸데없는 말들과 못된 말들을 하는 저를 발견했습니다. 그래서 울리는 전화를 받지 않겠다 하는 내용입니다. 대신 상대방은 제 통화연결음만 들을 수 있게 돼요. Outkast – prototype이 제 통화연결음이고, 곡의 가사를 조금 인용했습니다. 그 곡의 가사가 제가 직접 하지 못했던 말들을 전해주길 바라면서요.    

From my perspective, 7F the Void differs in several ways from your first album (in your singing style, arrangements, etc.) while still continuing the essence of your first album. Was this intentional? Additionally, do you expect to vary your sound to the same degree in upcoming releases?

You can see it as intentional, but you can also not. 

I think these changes are natural. 

My surroundings have changed a lot since I was working on my first album. 

Everything from where I live, my family, friends, the conversations I have with them, and the things I think about. 

I think I also wanted to show sides of me that I hadn’t shown to the world before. 

I plan on showing more sides to me in my albums in the future. And I will be in different environments then, as well. 

But, I will always keep my core.

의도적이라고 볼 수도있고, 그렇지 않을 수도 있습니다.

이러한 변화들은 자연스러운 일들이라 생각합니다.

첫 앨범을 작업할 때와는 제 주변 환경이 많이 달라지게 되었습니다.

사는 곳부터, 가족과, 친구들, 그들과 함께 나눈 이야기들, 제가 생각하는 내용들까지.

물론 저 역시 전에 미쳐 보여주지 못한 면들을 보여주고 싶은 욕구들도 있었던 것 같습니다.

앞으로 나올 앨범에서도 다양한 모습들을 보여줄 것입니다. 아마 또다시 지금과는 다른 환경에 놓여있을 것이기도 하고요.

다만, 기본은 항상 유지한 채로요.

Is there anything in particular that you are eager to explore as a producer, lyricist, vocalist, songwriter etc. in the future?
I’m still pondering over how to express myself. For a while, at least, I will work on lyrics and songwriting.

아직까진 제 자신을 어떻게 표현할까에 대해 흥미롭게 고민하고 있습니다. 당분간은 가사와 song writing을 필두에 두고 노력할 것입니다.

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A composer of music myself who has been inspired by Korean indie music for many years, specifically rock, electronic, and experimental music.