In my spare time, I enjoy reading long interviews with people who create art. I’m not a creative person, so getting a sense of what it is to make something and all the minutiae of that process is a constant craving. Longer pieces, especially, give interviewees the space to go deeper into questions that, at first glance, could be answered in a sentence or two.
For my first interview, I had the pleasure of interviewing WYM, an independent electronic artist who made his solo debut last year with the release of After Moon. I’ve babbled enough about my love of this record, so I will let WYM take over. What follows are his thoughts on collaborations, writing in different languages, and making art for art’s sake. Enjoy!
Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
Hello! I’m bjorn (뵤른, pronounced as byo-reun) from Seoul, South Korea.
WYM (pronounced as Wim) is my current solo electronic act that its musical styles embrace various electronic music such as synth pop, dream pop, chill wave, electronica, ambient, and etc. 1st full length album, After Moon was released recently in Oct 30th, 2014.
Where did the name Wym come from?
The name, WYM was actually started from a little play on words.
I couldn’t come up with a name for this project even after mixing was almost done before I was scheduled to send mixes to a mastering engineer. The concept of album, which was about this space journey that reflects life, was already there when I started making this album but the name. One day, I was talking to friends of mine and telling them about having hard time naming this project.
My friends and I often do silly talk and wordplay. While I was talking to them, “Would You Mind?” came up. That phrase shares same pronunciation with Korean phrase, 우주마인드 which means Space Mind. I felt that phrase was somewhat appropriate for where I was heading with this album and I considered myself a quite polite person.(haha) Addition to that, I gave another interpretation, which is W stands for Woman, M for Man, and Y in between for Y Chromosome that determines sex. I thought WYM is the word that have somewhat principle of the universe.
Do I sound too serious? (Haha) Hope I don’t seem too serious minded. I’m quite liberal person to say. I have nothing against transsexual. Ok I’ll stop now(haha) Anyway, I chose WYM but wanted to pronounce as “Wim” neither “Would You Mind (우주마인드)” nor “double-u wye em.”
Why did you change your name from Bjorn to Wym for After Moon?
First and foremost I wanted to have some kind of band-ish name. Bjorn is my personal artist name which I did not purposely imitate Bjork. My Korean last name is Byun and Bjorn derived from Byun which sounds alike and it happened to be quite a common name from northern Europe. I like northern Europe anyway so Voila!
For After Moon I wanted to start a band which is mostly one man, self produced act but with help from other selected session musicians and colleagues for recordings and performances. So I needed to differentiate myself from the name for this act. WYM is a bigger palette of musical spectrum where I mostly paint with my own ideas and colors but sometimes let other talents come up with their seasoning for varieties when needed in album.
Until recently, you worked largely alone. What was it like, then, to work with other artists for this album?
Actually, prior to this album, except digital single “Empty Desire” that was released under my name, Bjorn in 2013, I was one half of electronic duo, MDS and we released one full length remix album, I Am The Remix in 2011 and followed up with three more digital singles. It was mostly just two of us working together. but I also can say that in a sense each other worked largely alone too. Working with other artists on an album that my own musical ideas and tastes are largely injected is somewhat a double-edged sword. It doesn’t always output better production.
Imagery that in your head, when it is actualized, it doesn’t always come out same as your imagery all the time. That is a beauty of art and life, I guess. (haha) You never know what’s going to happen until you actually face it. Working with other artists is same. You never know how it is going to be until you actually work with them and record in studios. Outcomes may be just like what you expected or even better. But sometimes you just go like “Oh, what was I thinking?!” Fortunately, working with featured musicians on this album was fun and I mostly have pleasant memories with them. I would like to say thank all the musicians and engineers who worked on this album.
Some of the songs are in Korean (“Trying”), while others are in English (“If I Were Yours”). What was the process like for writing in each language?
I’m not a native English speaker and my mother tongue is Korean. I may be a little better English speaker than ordinary Koreans because I have lived abroad for some years of my life so far. Writing in English is not an act of showing off my English skill. For me, writing melodies is collecting instant moments in a serial form of musical notes. Melodies usually come quick. Sometimes it’s good ones or bad ones.
But normally for me, melodies are determined within a short time period. And when it comes, it usually comes with murmurs but often with appropriate lyrical contents. When that happened, I don’t know why but it used to be normally in English. The repetitive chorus of “Trying” was one of the cases. I think I don’t really have rules for when I write in English or Korean. There are certain melodies that English fits better and others that are better with Korean. I’m not a linguist per se but I think structural and sonic differences in both languages cause that.
I think many songwriters who write in multiple languages feel the same. So I just choose the best language that I think fits best structurally and sonically in certain sections of melodies. For “Trying,” I tried to write whole song in English but it didn’t sound good in verses so I wrote in Korean and I felt it sounded better.
The song Where Are We Going fascinates me. Sampling famous speeches is nothing new, but you’ve taken Alan Watts’s talk about what we want to be when we grow up and created a song around it. What made you compose it?
“Where Are We Going” contains lecture message taken from Alan Watts’s “What if money was no object?” I didn’t directly sample his voice. I made a friend of mine read his lecture and recorded him instead.
The basic idea for this track started from a simple question to myself, “Am I really doing what I want to do?” “Is this what i really desire?”
Over the years, I’ve been asked many times why i don’t try to make music for typical k-pop idols that have wide audiences and would earn me bigger money. I’m not in any form of against k-pop idol music but i decided to keep doing what i desire for now. I may want to do k-pop music in the near future, you never know. (haha)
But so far, i want to make music that reflect my ideas and what i want to say to the world. I feel that there are many people who don’t know what they really want to do in their lives. Some people do know what their desires are but are tied to reality. We cannot ignore the reality completely while living in today’s capitalistic society. Even I want to make money as an artist selling albums. That became very hard dream to come true these days though. (haha) After all, I just wanted to let listeners take this 4 minute and 38 seconds to consider their own answers to this question, “What do I desire?”
The album ends with “New Day, Part 2,” with birds singing in the distance. With the album’s emphasis on electronic sounds, why end with a nature recording?
“New Day (Part 2)” has two very contrasting elements through out the song. Very overwhelming spacious, cosmic synth pad sound and birds singing nature sound underneath. The synthetic sound is actually derived from the whole track of “New Day (Part 1).” I hyper slow downed “New Day (Part 1)” like about 100%, I recall. One minute of time became 100 minutes. Notes in those stretched time produced long sustained never ending pad.
1 minute in “New Day (Part 1)” is 100 minutes in “New Day (Part 2).” It became very mysterious sonically and a totally different world. The journey I took you through out the album ends here in “New Day (Part 2).” But does it really end? It can be another beginning. Is the journey finished and are we back to the earth? or is this a mysterious place for new beginning?
The bird singing can be meant to be on earth but it also can be another place we don’t know where. When there’s a beginning, nature is always the first one to come. You choose your own destination. That was my purpose on this track. For the record, the movie, Interstellar was released a week after my album release, so this wasn’t inspired by it. (haha) Rather inspired by Gravity and Inception.
What is your sense of the indie electronic scene in Korea?
Indie electronic scene in Korea still takes very small portion even in the indie scene, I think. Only some limited styles or genres sell well in general indie scene so there is a list of few popular styles that many people try to pursue, I think.
On the contrary, I feel there are much more varieties going on in Korean electronic scene over the few year. Of course, nu disco, synth pop, and chill wave styles were regular ones (I’m not free from it either!) but it seems there are growing groups of people who make experimental stuffs or very dark techno and etc.
I can name the so called big acts with just one hand still but I hope there are more attentions from general audiences to various Korean electronic music and musicians.
What’s next for you?
I think I’m like an underdog in the scene. I’m unsigned artist. WYM is very new to people. Doing marketing and PR on my own is not an easy task. So I’m grateful to have an opportunity like this interview. I just formed WYM’s three piece live band for gigs. Performing tracks from this album alone was not appropriate musically and stylistically after previous two gigs on my own.
Doing gigs and performing constantly is one of important ways to get my name heard and gather supporters. So I formed a live band for performing this album. I hope to meet more audiences in various venues. This is quite early stage to say this but I’m planning to release a small EP for summer this year. This is just little thought in my head. It may can be just a single or expand to another full length that would take me more time. But I will definitely expose myself more in any form of musical activities. So stay tuned!
Any last words to share with our readers?
I hope this interview is interesting enough to give readers more interests in listening to After Moon and remember the name, WYM. I tried hard to make this album listenable from start to end without stopping. You may want to listen to it very closely for details and intimacies I put in, or you may want to set it as BGM for whatever you are doing. My first goal for this album was to make an album that have a core theme throughout like a movie that doesn’t make listeners bored until the very last track ends. So now it’s up to you whether I succeeded or not.
As a sound enthusiast, I’ve put a lot of time to make this album sound good. My personal taste leaning towards analog sound led this album sound where it it now. And this album is originally recorded, mixed, and mastered in 24bit 96kHz Hi-Res audio format. MP3 and streaming audio is of course very handy for day to day life when you don’t really have tranquil time to seat down and listen to music.
However, I can assure you will experience exciting moments if you can get a chance to listen to this album with bigger audio system with CD or Hi-Res format. You can get Hi-Res format audio via some online music providers that offer the format. If you purchased CD and want to have Hi-Res master, then please contact me with a personal message via my Facebook page and you will get the Hi-Res master for free of charge.
Thank you for reading this interview. Thank you if you have listened to my album. Thank you if you are going to give it a shot to listen to it.