Back in 2018, I interviewed j.knife about her then-released full length and EP. Then she decided to pause music and focus on school. Three years later and, now known as Dajung, I’m excited that she’s returned and will be once again releasing music. She’s still in school, but with the release of Jay Knife has restarted her music endeavors. I thought it would be a good time to see her thoughts on the release of her album and plans moving forward.
Can you introduce yourself?
Hey Korean Indie! My name is Jen Kim. I am a singer-songwriter who makes music under the name Dajung.
After a bit of a hiatus, you’ve returned to music under a new name. What sparked that decision?
From 2017 to 2019, I had been living in China and posting music online as j.knife. I came back to Korea in the summer of 2019 and started high school. Unfortunately, I had to stop making music because I was (still am) so busy with school.
After finishing one semester of high school in Korea, I realized that I no longer had the creative lifestyle I was enjoying as j.knife in China. Using the same name didn’t feel right anymore. So I opted for my Korean name Dajung, which is a nice artist name for both Korean and non-Korean audiences, in my opinion.
Jay Knife is a collection of previously released tracks. It’s almost like a best of compilation. How did you make the decision to start Dajung with this set of tracks?
I guess I was scared of my old self fading away. It was a strange feeling – my life was changing so quickly and I started losing memory. I remembered at this point that I had the same experience when I moved from Korea to China at the age of eleven.
In order to adapt to the new environment, I had to forget my old self a little bit. I had to mold myself into a new person because I didn’t like being this quiet Korean kid. I don’t know if my memory loss is related to the trauma that came with my rapid transition. But what I do know is that I don’t remember a lot about my life as a little kid in Korea.
I remember only the brief snapshots and abstract feelings. I think this is something many immigrant kids and Third Culture Kids can relate to. So yeah, when I came back to Korea and started noticing myself losing memory again, I just had to find a way to immortalize j.knife. I thought that if I made a nice, organized, solid compilation of songs I wrote as j.knife, I would be able to remember her later in life.
Compared to the original versions, the songs on Jay Knife all sound broader and more polished. Were the songs re-recorded for the album? Are there any big changes from the originals?
There aren’t any major changes from the original demos. In fact, I only re-recorded 3 songs. For “is there any way you could change?,” I re-recorded the entire song so that the guitar and vocal tracks are separate. I also wrote the lead guitar melody and added a bass track so that it sounds more balanced.
I re-recorded the acoustic guitar in “untitled 2” at the Electric Muse studio. I made a new MIDI piano track for “pride,” and re-recorded all the vocals at the studio. The sole purpose of these changes was to enhance sound clarity. Mingyu Kim mixed all of the songs and we got them professionally mastered, which also contributed to the improved quality.
You started releasing music at a young age before you decided to take a break. Has your perspective on being an artist changed since then?
I’m starting to realize that being an artist is also a job. It involves effort and endurance. Obviously, your art has to be the truest representation of what your heart wants to do.
But making art isn’t the only task being an artist requires you to do. There can be multiple tasks in the process that you will not enjoy, and you will need to learn to compromise and cooperate.
Electric Muse has a wide range of artists. How did the conversation start to sign with them? Why did you decide to release the album with Electric Muse?
Mingyu Kim from Electric Muse emailed me in 2018, saying he wanted to work together. I was so excited and honored to receive his offer, but I was still in China. When I decided to make the compilation album in 2020, I emailed him again and started the conversation from there.
In my opinion, Electric Muse is one of the successful independent music labels in Korea that truly appreciate and support the work that artists do. Plus, the diversity of artists definitely appealed to me. Although I don’t sound like any of the Electric Muse artists, I still feel welcomed and have a sense of belonging. Many EM artists sent videos of themselves for the music video for “do what you want;” I felt very moved and grateful.
Jay Knife is going to be the first impression for many listeners, which songs do you think people should start with?
The title tracks are “do what you want” and “drama,” and I strongly recommend listening to both of them and paying attention to their lyrics and production. For those who cared enough to read this interview, I want to recommend “myp3” or “untitled 2,” because they now know me well enough to understand those two songs.
With Jay Knife containing your older music, is new music going to follow the same style or is it going to be something different?
To be frank, I don’t know yet. I have many demos but I haven’t started properly producing them. What I do know is that I’m going to have a lot more resources for the second record.
I’ll have a lot of time to polish my lyrics and improve my musical ability. I hope the new record will still contain the honesty that “Jay Knife” has. But I also hope it will be a lot more effective at delivering that honesty, both lyrically and musically.
What are your plans now? A mix between school and music?
I’m starting my senior year of high school in March, and it’s going to be the busiest year of my life. As of now, I’m taking a break from music and focusing on school.
After I graduate, I will head off to college and immediately start working on the second album. I’m looking forward to playing live and meeting other artists and listeners in real life!
Anything to say to readers?
Thank you so much for reading and listening to my story. Follow me @dajungjen and feel free to reach out to me!