"We don't have the leisure to chat about art and creativity. Just make them and see."
JIDA IS A 23-YEAR-OLD MUSIC PRODUCER MAKING SUBTLE WAVES IN SOUTH KOREA’S EXPERIMENTAL MUSIC SCENE.
For the most part, the music industry in Korea is dominated by K-Pop, hip-hop, RnB, and ballads. And yet, it’s no secret that Seoul is home to some of the most progressive creatives of today—Jida being no exception.
Following the release of his short but sweet mini-EP with Ettie (which features two nostalgic love tracks), Unsettled got in touch with the ex-engineering major to discuss his experience with Korean TV talent shows, and his vision in music.
You previously took an Engineering course at UCL. How did you transition into music production?
I never anticipated that I would get into the music industry. Music was always my hobby, but being able to work as a musician was a dream that I didn’t have high hopes for. I do credit my university for the opportunity, though; it was the people I met and the community I belonged to that gave me the courage to at least have a go at it.
While I was active in a leading role in the Korean Society band, I befriended a lot of people at UCL and other universities. Just by being known as ‘the guy who does music’ opened up a lot of doors for me.
I kept jumping into music projects on a larger scale, and my hobby started to become a little more serious. During my final year at UCL, I was contacted by one of the producers at Mnet who was recruiting for a Korean audition TV show called SuperStarK (similar to XFactor).
I was suggested to participate in the show, so I did. I made it to the second last round before the top 10.
I could have gone back to the UK and my computer sciences life where I’d have to hunt for a job and whatnot. But the music was too fun and having experienced the audition with top-quality musicians in Korea was exciting. I was only 22—I felt like if I missed this opportunity, I’d regret it for the rest of my life.
My parents and I have agreed that I’ll try this for a year, and if I haven’t managed to accomplish anything by then, I’ll go back to the UK and look for a job. I’ve now released two singles with Ettie, and I’m in the process of signing onto a label.
It looks like I won’t be going back any time soon!
Tell us about your mini EP with ETTIE. What made you want to work with her, and what inspired the music?
I met Ettie during the [SuperStarK] show. I was the guitarist of an acoustic duo, and she was the singer of another duo. We got really close during our collaboration mission (that we ironically failed to pass), and we kept in touch after the show.
The EP started quite randomly; she showed me her latest melody and I simply played the piano to it and showed it back. It was a series of “How’s this?” — “Yeah, I tried this on top of your idea!”.
At the end of it all, we made a song and called it First Love. We were so surprised at how unexpectedly satisfied we were with the outcome, so we decided on a collaboration and made two other songs—one didn’t make it to the release though.
The music we made, we can’t really put a genre on it. I don’t think we were bound to one.
Broadly, it’s electro-ambience music, but we didn’t really set that as a boundary. The lyrics and the melody were composed by Ettie and I turned the idea into a full song with bits and bobs.
We tried to make the songs sound really dreamy and spacey, so I guess that’s at least the concept behind them.
Although the meaning behind the songs primarily comes from Ettie’s personal experiences and I think she’s expressed them artistically.
What’s the music scene in Korea looking like right now?
The music industry has always been a tough field in Korea, and probably globally too.
There are so many artists just like me trying to make it. Every week or two there’s a new K-pop idol group debuting and then disappearing.
It’s mostly K-pop, Hip Hop, RnB and Ballads dominating the scene.
I’m hoping that my music can set a trend—not be dragged by one—in Korea’s music scene.
Does being in London or Korea influence your music differently?
I love both Korea and England. The two equally feel like home to me. When I’m in one, I miss the other, and vice versa.
I don’t think I can weigh the two environments by any standards whatsoever and I can’t say for sure because it hasn’t been long since I’ve started working.
I’m slightly feeling that the music I pursue, and/or culture in general, leans more towards a Korean influence.
Whereas if I were to go to the UK, it feels like I would have to work as a full-time software engineer—not that I don’t want to, I would actually love that too. Just not now.
What sort of vision or standard do you hope to portray with your music?
In every culture there are certain figures that ‘represent’ their field of speciality. For example, in music, you’d think of Skrillex as soon as someone were to mention ‘wubwubs’.
I haven’t characterised my music yet, but when I do I want to become ‘that guy’ that people instantly think of when they hear styles like mine.
It doesn’t have to be enormous or globally viral, but I want my name to be carved into music’s history so people can remember me by the music I’ve made.
Who are your biggest influences?
My span of music taste isn’t actually that wide, and it’s quite random, too. One day, I might be influenced by mainstream EDM artists like Diplo, and the next day I’ll be listening to Ryuichi Sakamoto.
I don’t see a lot of consistency in my taste, but creating my own sound from certain influences is quite a fun job—and that’s why I can’t put a genre on my music.
One thing that I think is influencing me is keeping up with the trendiest sound and trying to experiment with it.
Having said that, I can’t seem to rely on a fixed set of influences. When it comes to creativity, I’d have to hunt my way through a lot of works that aren’t necessarily music. Anything creative—like watching movies, going through a photographer’s portfolio, or even a good, deep talk with a friend could influence me to write something.
I was going to write down a list of artists that I listen to here, but I don’t think doing that will really explain what I get from these artists… but I guess if you want names, here are a few: Nell, Humming Urban Stereo, Tablo, Zion.T, Primary, Nujabes, Diplo, Virtual Riot, Made In Height, Daft Punk, and more—a lot more!
What’s a life mantra you live by?
Make sure the future me doesn’t hold any regrets!
If you could be someone’s protégé, what would you hope to be taught?
An ultimate guide to creativity. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll be told that creativity cannot be taught.
If you could have a protégé, what sort of message would you hope to instil?
I don’t think I have any messages or life lessons in music that I can think of with my lack of experience… But I could say what someone has said to me before:
“We don’t have the leisure to chat about art and creativity, just make them first and see.”
Words by Victoria Kamila
Photos by Humothy