While at South by Southwest (SXSW), I had the opportunity to sit down with WYM, an electronic musician from South Korea and chat about his music, his stage name and many other things (you’ll have to keep reading to find out all the things we talked about). It was an interesting interview to conduct as some of the answers surprised me so I hope you enjoy reading it.
Not familiar with WYM, then I suggest you check out “Trying” one of the songs from his album After Moon, which is not just a great song but also one of the ones that WYM recommends.
Hello, can you please introduce yourselves to our readers?
Okay, I’m WYM from South Korea and I do electronic music.
Can you please tell us a little about your name WYM? What’s the story behind it?
Actually, the naming was really hard. I had the concept of the album and the names of the songs but I didn’t have the name of the project I was doing. So I asked my friends about that, what name should I use, etcetera, etcetera. They Kakao talked with me and they suggested a few names. And WYM came out.
Actually, it stands for “would you mind”. You know ‘would you mind’ in English but ‘woo ju 우주’ means ‘space’ in Korean so kind of it’s ‘space mind’ and ‘would you mind’ in English. It’s kind of a good name, a cool name, so I added a small meaning to it – the ‘W’ stands for woman, the ‘M’ stands for man and ‘Y’ stands the Y-chromosome, you know the difference between man and woman. So I thought that this name is really special, it has all the truth of humanity. I don’t know. [laughter]
You had a solo project before with a different name
What was the reason behind the name change?
WYM is actually still a solo project but I changed the name to WYM because Bjorn is, I’m using it as my personal artist name. WYM is kind of the broader way of describing my project. I wanted to do a project that sounded like a band, not just a single person so I changed it.
Okay. If someone was new to your music, which song would you recommend they listen to first? Why?
Do I have to choose only one song? [laughter]
No, you can choose more than one.
I will choose the two title tracks of the album. The one, “Trying”, I think it’s a quite danceable track, not really danceable like electronic dance music like EDM but it has that 80’s synth-pop feeling to it. That’s one side of my project – kind of danceable and a little brighter aspect.
The other title track, called “Moon River”, is a slow tempo track from the album that shows another me, you know, than “Trying”. I would choose those two tracks.
You write songs in both English and Korean, do you find that certain songs suit one language over another?
Yeah, yeah, I think so. Sometimes I write in English from the beginning. I’ve tried to change the lyrics to Korean after that and I don’t know but it doesn’t feel right. So I usually keep English lyrics if I start in English. And if I start in Korean, I just keep it in Korean too.
The language affects my vocals, the tone and the way of saying it that makes different melodies I think. So I think the language has quite an impact on the melodies and the mood of the song, I think.
Who or what are your musical influences?
I don’t know if you are going to believe me but when I was young I was really into hip hop and soul music. I was into Tupac, the rapper, and all the west coast hip hop at the time. And soul music like Marvin Gaye. From that, I started listening to jazz and music way before soul and funk. And then I started listening to disco and then started to listen to acid jazz like Jamiroquai.
Then I got into electronic stuff after that. There’s a lot of music that has inspired me I think.
That’s an interesting progression. Can you describe your song writing process? When you start a new song, what do you do?
It depends. I think that I don’t have one specific way of writing. Sometimes the melody comes first and then I try to put lyrics on it. And sometimes the lyrics and melody comes out at the same time. But not the whole song, maybe a little chorus line, maybe a little verse and then I develop a track on that. I don’t have a typical way. Sometimes I make beats first, like drum beats and I loop it all the time and try to put some lyrics and melody onto it. Maybe those are my three typical ways of song writing.
After Moon was a very interesting album, with lots of different elements. How did you choose the songs and how did it all come together?
I wanted to make an album that includes the various styles of electronic music. Actually the album started with “Moon River”. “Moon River” came out first because I wasn’t really happy at the time that it came out because there were some things happening in Korea. So I made up my mind that I really wanted to make an album from “Moon River”.
But I wanted to have the various genres of music so I created a concept that we were doing a space trip.
The first track of the album is called “Outro” and I think a lot of people think it’s an interesting idea that the first track is “Outro”. “Outro” meaning is that we are going out of space so I named it that. After “Outro” we come to the moon, right? So the second track is “After Moon”. And then etcetera, etcetera, we follow like a space trip with danceable and happy stuff. And there’s a certain point in the trip that you get a hard time so I created some maybe dark or slow tracks. That made the album contain various styles of electronic music I think.
I talk too much, right?
No, it’s good. I like your long answers. With a lot of electronic music, sometimes it can be a challenge to translate your music to a live show? What can the audience expect?
Like HEO said before, it can be difficult to incarnate all the album sounds into a live situation because I use a lot of different synthesizers. This album, I wanted it to sound really analog-ish so I used a lot of vintage analog synthesizers. I mostly didn’t use computer plugins. The computer was just a recording device. So I recorded a lot of outside sources on the computer so it’s really hard to recreate that in a live situation.
I would need like four or five synthesizers and people to play them so it’s very difficult.
Yeah, you’re just one person.
Yeah, I’m one person and I have a drummer now so it’s a two-person gig for live situations so it’s hard to sound like the album but I’m trying to. I’m trying to because of course, the audience coming to my show, some people didn’t listen to my music but some people will have and if the sound is really different from the album, they might get disappointed. So I’m trying to do as much as possible to create the album sound but you have to expect a little difference.
[Editor’s note: you can see HEO’s interview with the answer WYM referred to here.]
Fair enough. This isn’t your first time playing in America, you toured last year with Seoulsonic. What did you take away from the experience?
The thing is that in Korea, I haven’t really performed. As WYM, I think I played only one time.
Yeah, it was actually last week before coming to South by Southwest. I don’t know why but I couldn’t have a gig in Korea. So I didn’t have a chance to play. So last year with Seoulsonic, the first performance in San Francisco was actually my first live performance as WYM. But I had a great time. I can’t really compare because I haven’t played that much in Korea. But I think I have a good feeling here, how can I put this, not like respect but there are many more people that appreciate this kind of music even if they don’t understand the lyrics.
I don’t want to say anything about South Korea but I have songs in English and Korean, and a lot of Korean audiences really don’t listen to tracks that have English lyrics I think. The typical fans. It’s kind of ironic because a lot of Koreans want to speak English well. But when they listen to music, they want to understand the lyrics. That’s what I think.
What are you looking forward to at South by Southwest?
I want to meet a lot of people and make a lot of friends with musicians and people who work in the industry. Music should be the first thing, right? But the relationship with people and friends is pretty much as important as the music to get any notice and more fans.
Of course I want to have a great show and for people to come to the show.
Last question, are you working on anything new?
Yeah, for the Seoulsonic show here at South by Southwest, I’ll be playing two new tracks that are not on the album. I just made them a few weeks ago. I’m hoping that one of the tracks will be released soon but I didn’t really record it yet, I’m just doing it live.
My goal is to release a second album this year. I didn’t start it yet but I think I will pretty soon and hopefully I’ll finish it this year and get it out.
Thanks so much for the interview!
It was lovely chatting with WYM at SXSW and not just because the weather was lovely and we were sitting outside on a patio. His answer about how the songs on his album, After Moon, flowed together made me listen to it in a different way and that’s always cool. Don’t forget to give it a listen if you haven’t already! And stay up-to-date with WYM on social media as well.