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Stewducts Interview - South Korean Hardcore Punks

posted Feb 16, 2015, 8:01 AM by Thomas Mayhugh   [ updated Feb 16, 2015, 8:01 AM ]


Have you ever heard a band that exceeded any and all expectations by so much that you start to question if you have surrounded yourself with the right people. Like the why has no one told me about this until now!?! Type of scenario. I think as punks we all experience this at various points in our lives. The first time as a youngster I heard Minor Threat, the first time I heard Discharge. You think yes! This is what I was put on this planet to listen to and appreciate. Once you get older and exposed to a lot more records and recordings, those moments start becoming fewer and farther between. Stewducts was one of those redefining moments. I had been sort of disillusioned with current raw punk bands, and then fuck!!!! I hear it out of nowhere on a good tip from my friend Jim in Portland. Absolutely wild primitive thrash! Like some chaotic mess of Wretched, Rapt, and Gai, with a few incredible tracks sounding vocally reminiscent of plasmid. It’s like this band was made specifically for me to love. I got in touch through an email I pulled off the Zip Goo Suck website (the label of Stewducts) that went down several years ago, but had luckily been cached and was available through an online archive site. I was shocked when I actually got a reply back!  Even more shocking was that they existed almost 15 years ago, before any raw punk trend or increased interest in those sorts of bands had really taken hold in the international DIY hardcore scene, but regardless Stewducts were thrashing away back then in rural South Korea like none of that ever mattered. I was sent some photos of Wonju City, and Chuncheon City, the towns where the Stewducts members were from, and they are both small and isolated, very much like my own city, and I felt an even deeper connection immediately.

 

It’s fascinating to me to hear people punk origin stories, and I got this interview back a couple weeks after listening to a national public radio show about the Korean educational system, and the extreme amounts of pressure put on children to causing over a thousand student suicides each year, so this interview really came at a great time, and I think it’s an amazing, inspiring, and entertaining read. Huge thanks to Suck Zoo for the time spent answering these questions.

 

While I’m at it, I’ll also mention that he recorded a CD called “war is art’’ under the name ‘’Suckz’’ after Stewducts stopped, and also sent me CDr’s of more recent projects, one called New Romans who are an awesome experimental punk band, and Valgeehan Hangmoon, a collaboration of ex-Stewducts members which is one of the most amazing shit-fi recordings I’ve ever heard, and garnered one of the absolute worst and most hilarious MRR demo reviews I’ve ever seen. Obviously the reviewer failed to understand the genius at work!*


 GS: Can you tell us the origins of Stewducts? How did you form? Was everyone in the band into playing the same style of music?

 

Suck Zoo: The origin story of Stewducts is somewhat vague, but let me begin with this short anecdote. Sometime in the fall of 2000, a bar-type venue called "Time To Rock" opened in Chuncheon-City, Hyoja District.  As the name of the club implied the owners were interested in hosting rock concerts. Before "Time To Rock" was established, there was no venue in Chuncheon for concerts to take place except a few acoustic folk bars. So, my friends and I were extremely excited. We visited the club and convinced the manager that we could organize a show and bring the crowds. But soon we came to realize that it is rather hard to find enough bands (4 bands for a one hour concert was the initial plan). As a group, we were all into stylistically very different types of music: punk, folk, jazz, hip-hop. But, I guess there are some common threads among these different genres that made us stick together and pursue something collectively. So, we formed a band to realize our own show. This was more or less how the Stewducts got started. We didn’t have strict membership in a conventional rock band sense (only Seung Yeol and I remained as regular members until the end). We often rotated our instrumental positions when we played and recorded songs. The band was more like a loose collective in which friends traveling through town or local punks could partake and contribute whenever the band was practicing or recording a demo. In total, approximately 9 or so individuals were involved throughout the career of Stewducts. 

 

GS: how long was Stewduc

ts active? 

 

Suck zoo: We started around the winter of 1999 and were active through 2003.    

 

GS: What exactly does the name mean?

 

Suck Zoo: the band name originates from the phrase “student as products’’. A phrase that I used in one of my typical anti-Korean education rants that I had written for my own fanzine Goosock Goosuck. Also, I wanted to refer a type of food "stew". I thought that the Korean education system is much like preparing or cooking a stew; chopping fresh ingredients into small pieces and cooking with strong sauces for many hours until the raw ingredients lost its original shapes and taste. Then, subsequently packaged in a can for mass consumption - the ultimate dead commodity. I thought this was a good metaphor for the Korean education system that we all painfully went through. 

 

GS: You guys are obviously inspired by 80’s bands like Wretched, Rapt, Confuse, Gai, etc. These are not the most popular or common bands to get into especially 15 years ago and in Korea. How did you get into this type of music?

 

Suck Zoo: I had a pen pal in the U.S. who I traded records, flyers and fanzines with in the mid 90's. I was fascinated by the vitality of this unknown underground network epitomized by crude black and white printed matters with mysterious lists of individuals, bands, zines and record labels. I contacted people and happened to trade mix tapes with Chris of BCT tape soon after I got into tape trading. Through his remarkable compilation tape projects I was introduced to the classic international DIY hardcore punk scene. Lärm, Olho Seco, UBR, Kaaos, Mob 47, Wretched, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers, Neos, Confuse… and the list goes on. Later these raw and often sloppy thrash punks provided the inspiration and imagination of what Stewducts could and want to do as a band. It was huge source of encouragement, providing the needed distance from big time punk bands such as the Sex Pistols, The Clash, Ramones and other shamelessly talented punks that discouraged us from picking up instruments! Also, I found great contemporary bands playing power violence, thrashcore, grindcore…etc. From Sound Idea distribution in Florida run by a very dedicated individual, Bob Suren. Over time, I’ve learned that there are these vast DIY networks around the globe relying simply on the postal service, copy shops and humble recording devices. Further, there was this exciting feeling to be part of this underground. It was, for me at least, a combination of chance (eg. Ordering records based on limited information by sending a well-concealed cash to strangers), experimenting (eg. Turning monotonous zine assembling labor into parties or group meditation sessions, using mattresses as sound proofing devices to name a few) and friendship (contrasting to the mainstream society which is driven by competition and a parochial understanding of excellence). It was rather rare to find punk mail order packages with no personal note or local flyer enclosed until paypal and other online-based service reduced this multi-faceted exchange into a mere abstract transaction. Now, not only in Korea, but really any country with an internet service provider, one can learn about obscure bands within a few clicks. A gift but also a curse. The internet alone is far from being a sufficient medium to deliver the aforementioned more nuanced elements and values, which are the important part of punk experience and its culture. 

 

GS: The South Korean scene as it appears to most westerners has just started embracing the raw noisy hardcore style in the last 3-4 years mostly via the influence of 90’s Japanese crust bands like Gloom on South Korean bands like Scumraid. What was the response to Stewducts in 2001? Did people understand it? 


Suck Zoo: We only played in our two home cities in Gangwon Province respectively Wonju-City and Chuncheon-City. These are two mid-sized cities in the least populated province, and least developed economically. Gangwon Province lags behind other frenzied parts of the country and our presence was almost non-existent outside of our own region. We didn't like the prevailing idea that only culturally interesting things happen in Seoul, so we relished our anonymity and didn't bother to play elsewhere. Nevertheless, we gave out our releases to our punk friends in Seoul, Deagu, Incheon and Jeju, but there seemed to be more demand for our music overseas, especially in the US and Japan. We were thrilled when Max Ward reviewed our first demo favorably in his Mosh Of Ass Zine. We ended up selling all 200 copies of our first demo in about 3 years which I think still impressive considering the limited coverage we got. I remembered some of my friends in Korea treated our release as a joke and a kind of one off project, which is certainly a fair response, but we hoped that there were more kids who acknowledged this sloppy thrash tradition that we identified with. 

 

GS: I heard that some of the members of Stewducts were forced into military service? Is this mandatory for everyone in South Korea? 

 

Suck Zoo: Yes and yes. We all went through this mandatory military service for about 2 and a half years. In South Korea all male citizens are required to take a physical examination around age 19 and based on the results, the government assigns you to either military service or social service. Our split with Zinmma was recorded when me and Sung Yeol got our army vacation during similar dates. We made army, war related themed songs for that split. 

 

GS: What sort of subjects did Stewducts lyrics talk about? 

Suck Zoo: Our main subject was Korean education as it was and still is blatantly anti-humanistic and anti-educational in its hardcore intensity and responsible for many student suicides every year. Also, there are songs about being in a small town and being proud about it. A few songs dealt with more internal scene politics such as macho-jock hardcore bashing songs and the remainder are mostly silly everyday subjects like taste of brand-new Secom Dalcom milk caramel, the turtles that live in Wonju river…etc. We always admired silly punk bands that retained a good dose of self-deprecating humor (not as a defensive mechanism but rather a humble self-reflection tool) like Dead Milkmen, Stikky, Spazz, Scholastic Deth, Jewdriver, Dead Kennedys, Adrenalin O.D., Big Boys….etc. but I think overall we were overly emotional and nihilistic in our lyrics and in the way we sang. Oh yes lots of army related songs for split with Zinmma.  

 

GS: Have you ever heard rumors of whether or not they may be punks in North Korea? 

 

Suck Zoo: No I haven't. But I’m pretty sure there are boys and girls that will always find a way to create things no matter how hostile and oppressive the surrounding conditions are. This question just reminded me of punk rock's favorable music medium and now somewhat fetishized format "flexi-disc". Actually flexi-disc served as highly effective medium of sharing government censored pop music during the soviet years in Eastern Europe. People were bootlegging western pop songs using discarded x-ray films due to low costs and ease of concealment and distribution. Subsequently, eastern European punk rock bands adopted a flexi to spread their subversive messages underground. I'm interested in seeing another example of underground cultural production and the aesthetics that have developed under Nort

h Korea’s extreme conditions regardless of stylistic affinity to punk. 

 

GS: So Stewducts is not active, what are all the members doing now? Anyone working on similar bands or other musical projects? 

Suck Zoo: We would like to get together and jam but since all members are geographically dispersed, this is not likely to happen any time

soon. Sung Yeol is working as a

Social Worker in Seoul. Hong Jae is working in Moon Mak, Wonju as a reporter for a local newspaper. I am working as a freelance graphic designer in New Haven, CT, And have recorded a few dem

os for fun. 

 

GS: Are everyone in Stewducts still into punk and following current bands? If so what sort of stuff are you listening to? 

 

Suck Zoo: I can't speak for everyone for this but based on my last conversation with Sung Yeol and Hong Jae they continue to have an interest in punk even though they are not actively following current bands these days. And, so am I. I've been going to new haven punk rock shows occasionally and have been collecting local show flyers. Recently, I’ve been listening to J-Church a lot. 

 

GS: Any last words?

 

Suck Zoo: Tom, thank you for your interest and dedicated work. It is very nice to share this story with the community that gave us so much when we were desperate.    


* The MRR review - Issue #366 - May 2011:




 

Nishiwaki (Discrete Records) Interview

posted Feb 1, 2015, 2:04 PM by Thomas Mayhugh   [ updated Feb 1, 2015, 2:05 PM ]


Discrete records has been delivering some of the best, and in my opinion, some of the most underrated Japanese hardcore material to the table since 1992. Discrete is most commonly known for releasing 3 of the DSB 7”s on CD prior to their licensing by western labels, or the monstrosities that are the 3 ep’s by Blood Feast from Mie city, but the label goes far beyond that. Are you longing for raging hardcore records with titles like “Cry Out, Fist Up!’’ or miss the sounds of straight forward, no frills Japanese hardcore? If so then this label is for you. This label holds a lot of importance to me. The ratio of quality releases is high, the releases have a uniform sound and style that one really begins to mesh with. Secondly some of the bands just seem to be over looked by western audiences, and there’s never been any sort of writing or coverage about any of the bands on discrete, except DSB in fanzines outside of japan. So I was thrilled when Nishiwaki-san agreed to this interview.   I’ve also written a sort of discrete records “beginners guide’’ or “best of’’ as well as discography information that will be included here as well. Thanks to Nishiwaki-san!


GS: can you please introduce yourself, and tell us some information about you? Where you are from, how old are you, when you started Discrete Records.

Nishiwaki: I'm 40 years old. I come from the center of Japan, geographically, Oogaki Gifu. Discrete Records was established in the summer of 1992 for the release of the CD single by Scarecrow Carried Brain. I also established Harvest Records in 2000.

 

GS: How did you get interested in punk and hardcore?

Nishiwaki:  My school days in the provincial town were boring. I was impatient and sick of it. I was introduced to exciting and extreme music such as Star Club, Cobra, SA... Etc. by my friend.  After that I met local hardcore band members of S.D.S. (Societic Death Slaughter), Disgrace, Sex Pot Ugly Face... Etc.  And became friends with them. I can't forget the initial impulse when I encountered the powerful energy and fashion of punk and hardcore.

 

GS: You were playing in scarecrow carried brain. When did this band start?  Did you play in any bands before, or after Scarecrow Carried Brain?

Nishiwaki:  Scarecrow Carried Brain (SxCxB) existed from 1990 and disbanded in 1994.  Members still play in various bands.   I was playing guitar in D-Starve (Nagoya) and as a session member with others while also doing the duties of my record label.

 

GS: After Scarecrow Carried Brain, what made you want to release records by other bands, how did Discrete Records start?

Nishiwaki: There was no such thing you could call the Gifu scene at the time. A lot of great hardcore bands were struggling in those days. There was nothing happening other than releasing demo tapes. I felt a sense of alienation without opportunities for exchanges or communication with punks in other prefectures. So to spread those bands to a lot of people, I thought there is no way other than somebody to do a record label!! I think that's origin of Discrete Records.

 

GS: On discrete, you released a lot of compilation records and CD’s. What do you enjoy about compilation records, and why do you think they are important?

Nishiwaki: Releasing an omnibus means spending a lot time and effort. My enjoyment is always because you can meet and hear new and exciting bands.  My pleasure is releasing bands who come to Nagoya to play gigs, and talk and drink booze with them. The standard of bands I chose to release is not only by their sound. I think honesty of people is also important. I can't associate or work with an irresponsible person.

 

GS: How else do you decide what bands to release on Discrete Records? 

Nishiwaki: Honestly, some bands I felt an intuition when I saw their live show. I also decided to release some things after communicating many times with bands who sent me recordings, and checking out the integrity of the music.

 

GS: Are there any bands which you saw live, and you really wanted to release a record for them, but were not able to?

Nishiwaki: That's a good question.  Of course many bands releases never happened!! You feel like you want to offer a release when you saw a great live show, but they already had scheduled a record for release through somebody  else, or just not interested in a release, the reasons are various. 

 

GS: The name discrete, how did you choose it, and what does it mean to you? The Discrete catalog number DIS-(J)&(O) does the “(J)&(O)’’ have any significance or meaning?

Nishiwaki: That's the question that is asked every once in a while. Discrete meaning in Japanese is “individual’’ and “solitude’’.  I used this name in my desire that it does not belong to anywhere!! I chose the title “Human Discrete’’ on my band Scarecrow Carried Brain's demo tape before I started the label. As for the meaning of the catalog# (J)&(O).  “J’’ means Japanese sales and distribution, “O’’ means overseas sales and distribution. The vocalist of the great band called Beyond Description from Tokyo, Mr. Okahara, helped distribute overseas when I established my label.  He is the owner of Forest Records and my mentor.

 

GS: There were some Discrete Releases I’ve seen advertisements for, or read about in interviews that never came out. One is a second ep by Gaizi from Tottori city. And a compilation record with tracks by G.J.P.B.?  Why did these records never get released? Were there any other records you wished to release, but never came out?

Nishiwaki:  In the regard of the Gaizi ep, Gaizi lost members and were no longer able to play. They asked me to on hold until they regained band members and were able to release record, but the band broke up for various reasons.

 

GS: Discrete records has never released an LP record. Even in the early 90’s when CD’s were not as popular with punks, you were releasing CD’s. Were CD’s cheaper than LP’s in japan then?

Nishiwaki: I never released LP.  In japan in the 90's most EP/LP were pressed at overseas pressing plants, and normally took 2-3 month to release.  For that reason many bands asked to be released on CD. They can go to tour with that CD.  And space wise, it’s easy to ask small CD shops to stock it for sale.

 

GS: What sort of quantities of CD’s and 7’’s were you pressing?

Nishiwaki:  Recently I’ve not released an EP. In the case of CD, standard is 500-700 copies. Nowadays CD cannot sell well in japan. Free downloading on the internet....and other things, it’s such a terrible situation for bands. People are disregarding the wishes of the bands.

 

GS: I didn’t know there is there a big problem with downloading in japan. I thought most punks were against it? I remember Yoshikawa from DONDON got in trouble some years ago for making a download page online for old Japanese hardcore bands.  Are Japanese punks starting to download lots of music? We have a big problem with this in U.S.A. and Europe.

Nishiwaki: I think free downloading is a problem.  In the respect, it’s the same with bootlegs made without the permission of the band!?  Of course there are some pros and cons, but many bands are against it. I'm not trying to tell you story of the music industry, but for products made by bands and labels, they spend money and time. The problem is that when something is free its value is easily lost, so people who only download and listen to bands have an imaginary value about them, and they won't go see them live.  I consider these to be connected. On the bands side, having a sample on their official webpage is different, but an unknown person doesn't have permission (to use the band’s music, etc.) We don't think there are any bands who have had their recordings used in this way that are pleased about it.

 

GS: As someone who did a label for about 20 years now, what are the biggest difference between bands and releasing records in the 90’s and now in 2013?

Nishiwaki: Well, bands can get various information because it’s easy to get connected with other bands by email and webpages...etc. It’s easier to take action when booking tours, this is a big change.  A long time ago, they wrote letters to bands in other towns and asked live houses to book tours. The various sound of bands is growing now. They have different styles, and crossover with other music.  Of course they have a notion of punk. It’s more difficult to sell records and CDs now in Japan, but I believe live shows are the best for bands!!

 

GS: I really love the Blood Feast / Poison Cola split 7’’ can you give us some information about Blood Feast, Poison Cola, and Bater Records? Are those guys still into hardcore and going to gigs?

Nishiwaki:  Blood Feast still playing as ever!! And playing with superb energy. I had contact with poison cola's vocalist Mr. Koza about 15 years ago, but I don't know what they are doing now... I remember he told me they can't find members... I'm looking for early music source of poison cola because have been asked by your friend Zach, but still can't find...

(Editors Note: In the years after Poison Cola, Koza-san played in Unkind, who had 2 EP’s on Crew For Life records. In 2014 Koza-San has started a new band, and Zach (Not Very Nice) will release a double CD, and EP of Poison Cola material!)

 

GS: What are your top 10 hardcore punk bands of all time?

Nishiwaki:


1.     Indian

2.     Outo

3.     City Mess

4.     Confuse

5.     一家心中 (Ikka Shinjyu)

6.     Cruck

7.     The Clay

8.     Bastard

9.     So what

10.    T.U.S.K. 

GS: Are you a record collector?

Nishiwaki: Records have occupied a comparatively large space of my room for many years. Does this mean I’m a collector? Maybe so.

 

GS: So did you stop collecting, or are you still searching for new and old records?

Nishiwaki: Unfortunately record collecting is never ending......There are still many things I’d like to hear....

 

GS: When is the next discrete records release coming out?

Nishiwaki: Currently I’m working on the band T.U.S.K. They were active in the 80's in Nagoya, and I’m making a DVD of them. T.U.S.K. is being talked about as a legend in Nagoya, recently they played a live show with the original members. This live video also in DVD, so please look forward it!!

 

GS: Any final words?

Nishiwaki: Thanks Tom for the interest in Discrete Records and for this interview.

My label doesn’t have a home page, but I’m glad if readers are interested!! Because there are many great bands in Japan!

 

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