haihm: An Intelligent Progression
Even though Festival Morph was more than one week old, we had to meet with haihm and get to know her a little bit more, and see if she would share some of her personal growth into EDM and IDM. This accomplished and multi-talented musician graciously agreed to meet over coffee near the COEX in downtown Seoul. We talked about some of her previous projects, both recent and not-so-recent. haihm was a participant in an experimental and non-commercial exposition at the Seoul Museum of Art Project Gallery titled: IS THIS NOISE?‘소음인가요?’: A Korean Electronic Music Showcase, which ran during May and June of this year. Included in the list of performers, there were a few participants from the WATMM Volume performances held each month at Club Mudaeruk in Hongdae, and we figured there was a certain connection there, so we asked about it.
ER: Can you tell us about the Project Gallery showcase and your impression of it?
haihm: This was a prototype exposition, the kind you rarely see in Korea. I enjoyed it very much. It was very experimental.
ER: I noticed quite a few of the WATMM musicians listed in the program as well. Would you be willing to describe your relationship with WATMM?
haihm: I met the WATMM people in March, 2013. They are experimental electronic music folks, or ‘감상용전자음악을만드는사람들’, and I was able to arrange with them for a WATMM performance. For me, my background is commercial. I do K-pop music and popular music, but I wanted to something with more progressive people, independent, therefore WATMM was a help to be doing something like that. And since I’ve been with WATMM, I’ve had opportunities to do work at different venues, and that’s why I had the performance at the Project Gallery.
ER: Your background is commercial, with involvement in production, and larger audiences. Were you more a part of studio work or live production?
haihm: My work was in the studio, yes. Actually, I have very little experience in the live performance, except for the last few years. I really have only three or four live performances, with WATMM. That was the beginning and WATMM gave me confidence.I had this album planned for a very long time, from five years back, already prepared [ER: recent release Point 9, on 30 May 2014]. I thought much about it, and these ideas would be intelligent dance music. I had begun thinking about this album as early as five years ago, yes. Actually, five years ago I had already prepared more than half of it.
ER: But you only recently released it; that took a long time.
haihm: Well, my situation was not looking good (releasing an experimental album) and, I was lazy.
ER: Well, I liked Point 9 so much that I’m recommending it as a Fresh Mix on our ELECTROW website. What is your favorite track from the album?
haihm: Hmm…Edgar, or the fifth track Small White People.
ER: Is there a meaning to the title ‘Small White People’? Can you tell us what that means to you?
haihm: First of all, for the concept I did the tune and put the rhythm on it, and then always the last work is the lyrics. The major idea of the tune is from a dream, it’s about the dream. And usually I just see small and white people in the dream, so that’s why the title is ‘Small White People’. I wrote the details about it on my Facebook page actually.
[ER: Here we give our interpretation of haihm’s inspiration and explanation of 작고하얀사람들 or Small White People. ‘The fifth track, Small White People, is one of the most recently-created songs. The other songs were already made certain in the 2008-9 year period, and the arrangements were established. The song holds a lot of affection. Somewhere in a workshop during a very cold winter, I fell asleep and began to dream. Details of the scene and the words began to come clear. As soon as I woke up, I wrote down as much of the details that I could remember, and a few years later I made the lyrics to the song. During the dream, I could softly hear the music of the Icelandic music group ‘Múm’. Almost all of the songs for this album were coming clear to me last autumn, and the 5th track lyrics and contents of the dream really fit my feeling. So that’s the story of how the dream was used to create the lyrics.]
haihm: ‘5번째트랙, ‘ 작고하얀사람들’ 은수록곡중가장최근에만든곡입니다. 다른곡들은이미 2008-9년에테마와편곡이어느정도만들어져있었 어요. 이곡은가장최근에만든곡이어서그런지애정이많이갑니다. 아주추운어떤겨울에작업실에서잠깐졸다가꿈을꾸었는데그풍경과대화의내 용이선명했습니다. 깨자마자모든것을자세하게적어두었었고, 몇년뒤에이곡의가사가되었습니다. 그꿈을꾸었을때작게틀어둔음악이있었는데아이슬란드그룹인Múm의노래 습니다. 모든수록곡이대강정리가되었던작년가을무렵, 가사를생각하게되었는데 5번째트랙은그꿈의내용과딱맞는느낌이더라고요. 그렇게꿈이야기를정리하고가사로만들었습니다. ‘
ER: It’s nice to know some of the creative process for us as listeners. I think it helps us to bond and relate to your music in a close and personal manner. We can create some loyalty and closeness to you as an individual and be in tune with your emotions and feelings as you express them in your music. We are really trying to establish a feeling of something similar between us. We all have dreams, so I think you have really helped to let us know you better as you describe this.
haihm: I released my first album in 2008, simply called haihm, with 9 tracks and a video. In the time while I was working on the first album, I had a kind of a partition where I was deciding which ones [ER: songs] go to IDM [ER: Intelligent Dance Music, per haihm] and which ones go into my first album haihm.
[ER: At this point, we begin to learn how haihm was developing new ideas for her music, and these ideas centered on IDM, in her words. Even though she had to work in the commercial field in order to support herself, she got some new ideas.]
haihm: I’ll try to explain it to you in detail. I was quite late for sequencing; I felt very limited to express my music in the technical field. In order to have a more detailed glitch, I had to decompose the tunes, the sound source. While I was preparing the first album, I was unable to do that. At that time, friends of mine already had glitch, therefore I was influenced by them. They were friends of friends, back in 2009. A good friend of mine knew Aoki Takamasa, and they were working together. These were Korean friends in Berlin, Germany.
ER: Right, because I know that you went to university in Salzburg, Austria. So did you get into electronic music at that time, university days?
haihm: My major was piano in Austria, and I came back to Korea without graduating from the program. I began piano from a very early age, and I listened to Japanese music and pop music, all sorts of music, really. When I stopped my studies in Austria, I had many thoughts for which direction I would go with my music rather than piano. These were not ideas influenced by others; there were my own individual thoughts, personal thoughts. Even so, this became a complicated issue, and that’s when I came back to Korea. But even when I got back to South Korea, I never thought I would do this type of music. I just imagined some different kind of music, something new. I was really into the sound, and engineering the sound. I wanted to learn about mixing and mastering. When I got back to South Korea, I met a person, but it took me a long time to find an artist. And then I got a network going through that artist to the Korean pop music. It took me five years to reach that.It just took a long time to meet the people who worked together or who helped me, in various ways
ER: Was this the beginning of electronic music for you?
haihm: Yes, yes. There was a singer songwriter, actually a famouspop musician, his name is Yoon Sang. He had a very unusual sound and he didn’t use real drums, he used electronic drums. I was interested in that, during my high school days.
ER: What work did you do commercially for Yoon Sang, GaIn and IU?
haihm: Well, the entire work that I do is on my computer, and it was composing and arranging the music. At that time, I didn’t write lyrics. My new album is my first work with writing lyrics, but my first album had lyrics written by Chang-Hark Park.
ER: And then your background in piano and, was it also classical music as well? You worked with a cellist also, Mischa Maisky?
haihm: Yes, he is from Russia, a very famous cellist. We shared the same stage, in Berlin. It was a show called “Yellow Lounge”. The concept of the show was to transfer a classical concert in to a nightclub. Another person prepared club music while I prepared a classical tune, arranging, adding drums or some sound. I prepared a classical tune for the show on my computer. We played at separate time slots during the show; he played his club tune and then I played my classical mix – not together. It was a great time, and it was wonderful to be with him. At that time, I didn’t have much live experience, so it was overall a very good experience for me. It was a great opportunity to give a lot of excitement to the people who know a lot about classical music but play it in the club scene. It was about 2012, and I did the same performance here in Korea, and then last year also in Singapore. Both shows were very good.
ER: Would you do something like that again, in the future?
haihm: Yes, sure. Actually, I could put together something like that for my music. I can mix the classical music with my own mix; I can create something like that.
ER: I didn’t hear much of a classical influence in your new album.
haihm: Let me tell you something carefully. I really didn’t have much live experience, so the music I performed at the Morph festival was the type of music I performed at WATMM last year. And this is quite different from the style of this album, Point 9. Not the same.
ER: What is glitch music and what does it mean to you?
haihm: I don’t know the definition of it. As a new source of sound, I believe that it is defined as detailed into a particle, and find the sound of the tune, it sounds like a ‘beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee……..’ sound like one of the tiniest particles, like a nano-nano particle. So that is to decompose the sound, decompose the tune, to discover it, to try to find the origin, to partition it, to divide it, and rearrange it, using the ingredients that I have. It’s more interesting than previous other work. It’s more interesting than singing or playing music.
ER: How do you think people receive it when they listen to it?
haihm: It’s more of my personal inclination or my own favor that I am developing. I make the music for me, not for the other.
ER: If they never heard it before, you are providing a new sound experience for them and giving them a broader musical experience.
haihm: Well, especially my happiness comes from the discoveries, so it’s not coming from something that’s already been done, in common with many other musician, or creators. So when I make songs, it’s not based on the audience. I believe that if I am already happy and play the tunes, it will make the audience happy, or show the listeners my happiness.
ER: Are you happy with this, Point 9?
ER: Did you prepare for Morph? How?
haihm: I chose some patterns from the tracks, from each song, [ER: from Point 9] and most of the songs I played at Morph came from this album. But I mixed them up together, some of them I turned upside down, and even I changed the connections between the patterns also, and then I did a remix and finally I mastered it. And therefore it ended up sounding completely different. Yes, it was much more different and powerful, for the club, for the club scene.
ER: But you started very gentle, and then you built it up. Do you pay attention to the crowd, what the crowd is showing you? Can you feel their energy and respond to that?
haihm: Yes. I like the buildup, I like the build. The purpose was to make the music in layers; the reason why is for the audience. It’s like storytelling, with a beginning and then reaching a climax, and then the ending. I believe the reason why I like this is because I studied classical music, and that’s the usual method in classical music. I guess.
ER: But it is difficult to match the classical with the modern, don’t you think?
haihm: These days the software has gotten so much better so that we can match the classical very well.
ER: In that case, are you continuing to increase or improve your skill and ability in order to match or use the improved software? Can you keep up with the software?
haihm: I have to learn the new software conscientiously. I study it. But the software does not help my ideas, no. The skill of the artist is how to utilize the ingredients of the software.
ER: Do you mean dis-harmony and dissonance, a lack of chords or melodic progression?
haihm: Well, for example, there is no melody line, and I would like to rely more on rhythm, it is more instinctive. I believe rhythm brings up a more natural feeling, a natural instinct.
ER: Yes, we all have a heartbeat, a natural rhythm. It seemed like you had much live experience when I watched you at
haihm: That was a very good atmosphere, and it seemed like people really supported me. They were relaxed. Maybe it was because I knew a lot of the people!
ER: Of course! But I did not know you, and your set was pure magic for me. Let’s talk about Andrew Weirand DAMIRAT. Did you know Andrew before Morph? How were you invited?
haihm: No. DAMIRAT invited me. I am close friends with DAMIRAT, I have known them since 2008. They were not involved in my first album at all. Both of us wrote [ER: songs] separately, and I met them again last year. Mr. Shin also studied abroad, in England.
ER: I’m really happy for you. I think you could have come to Morph and not performed, but just watched and enjoyed it. I
think maybe DAMIRAT encouraged you to perform, maybe they said ‘you can do it!’ is that right?
haihm [laughing]: Yes, that’s right. I did not think I could create another set like that. It’s so difficult to keep doing something different, very difficult, it’s hard work. Before Morph I prepared, and I knew which songs would go with the performance, the whole story is prepared, and not so much improvisation, it’s more like pre-planned. As for my sudden stop near the end of my set – it was an accident, but a happy accident! [ER: haihm lost all sound near the very end of her set for a split second, but she punched the right button and just pressed on with her set as if nothing happened. It was a shocking crowd-pleaser that was never intended.]
ER: I thought you planned for it, because it kept us hooked on you like radar. So, what is next and when will we see you live again?
haihm: I’m in the process of making some films, some video clips of songs, including the Morph set. I’ll start shooting video in about a month or so, and around November it will be released, and everyone can see it. I don’t know yet for any clubs or concerts, but maybe a small venue, I don’t know.
ER: You did some other videos where I saw you outdoors in a tunnel and playing on a deck – it looked cold outside.
haihm: Yes, yes. In 2008, in the autumn, a few months after the release of the first album, I just started with a simple idea. But that was part of one project, which was to record all of the live performing artists. And so the video was lots of different artists’ collaborations, and I was one of them.
ER: Will you return to Mudaeruk and perform for WATMM again?
haihm: I think it is already booked for this year, so maybe next year. For WATMM, I performed twice last year, and once this year. I didn’t much prepare for this year! My last live performance prior to Morph was on May 31 at WATMM 14 or 15?, the day after I released Point 9.
ER: haihm, I really have taken so much of your time. Thank you for sharing so much with us and our audience. We wish you the best of success and continued inspiration for all your projects.
haihm: It was fine. Thank you so much.
And so we learned quite a lot about this talented individual. Best of success to you, haihm! And keep us in the loop as you continue to grow and develop, so we can share in your wonderful talent.