by Matthew Murray

An interview with Ki Seok Seo, lead singer of Korean punk/hardcore band The Geeks.

How did you get into punk/hardcore music?

I got into hardcore / punk though Nirvana. Me and my friends were into them and found some interesting band names in their interview. From there, I got some materials from Minor Threat, Black Flag, 7 Seconds, and Dead Kennedys. I was blown away. Two years later, I found that singer of RATM was in hardcore bands and thought I had to look for more information on that. And finally I found Youth of Today, Chain of Strength, Gorilla Biscuits, which are my all time favorite hardcore bands.

What is the scene in Seoul like?

It’s amazing. There are numerous good bands and kids caring hardcore and trying to keep it alive in a weak environment. Be sure to check out these awesome bands: THE GEEKS (shameless self-promotion), things we say, Join the circle, 13 steps, Breaking Ground, The Patience as well as re-animator. Some of them aren’t from Seoul city but they pretty much spend the most of their time playing shows in Seoul. There are more bands that I didn’t mention. But they are really good: Be sure to check them out
How did punk/hardcore bands get started in Korea?

It is very simple: there were people wanting to start playing punk / hardcore. Bands inspired kids and then those inspired kids went on to form their own bands or labels.

It all started at the Venue called Drug (currently called Skunk Hell). Of course, there were some people knew about punk / hardcore prior to the birth of Drug but it’s obvious that Drug gave people the little heads up regarding what the punk was like. And in 1999 GMC label came up representing Hardcore. And now there are other great hardcore / punk labels like Townhall Records as well as Skunk. Those labels mentioned above became the foundation of the scene helping people get the idea what hardcore / punk were. Everything was ready for the first step in hardcore scene in Korea.

What did you think of the show in Pusan?

It was so awesome! What’s the best thing in being in the band is that you can go to the city that you haven’t been to with your our music and see what it is like there. It is no question that it is one of the best times of my life in every aspect. Playing our music, hanging out with my friends and making new friends: What can you possibly ask more? In my perspective on life, I strongly believe people live to meet other people, communicate and share the different ideas.

How did you get into straight edge?

How I got into that ideal was pretty much same as the others. I got into straight edge through the lyrics of a song called “Straight Edge” and Out of Step by a band called Minor Threat. I hadn’t done any smoking and drinking in my life at that point, felt that those weren’t for me. And finding a band called Youth of Today was another turning point. Their music and message motivated me because their lyrics 100% reflected on how I felt and the music was so angry, pure and real. It has been ten years ever since I claimed myself a straight edge.
I hope people don’t get me wrong, I definitely know there’s positive aspect of drinking and smoking but I just did choose what was right for me.

How has it molded you as an individual?

My perspective on being straight edge is I can enjoy myself without relying on drinking and smoking to escape from the pain. In an effort to do it, I know how I feel and what to do to cope with situation whether it’s good or not. With that clear view, I tried to make a positive change and get the most out of everyday. I made my own decision and took pride in it because I knew I tried and I took control of myself.
Knowing I wouldn’t lose touch with myself just enabled me to have a confidence and positive thinking. To sum it up, Straight Edge has became a part of my life as a solid foundation for most of my decisions, positively affected me and helped me shape what I am today.

Do you think straight edge in Korea is different from in other countries?

In my opinion, it might look little bit different. However, it’s pretty much the same. From my experience of living in the US for a year and meeting many straight edges and non-straight edges, I dare to say there seems that more peer pressure exists in Korea. Korea is based on strong drinking culture. It’s totally true. The situations are getting better though, it is still right there forcing people to drink to fit the mold set by society. I don’t know I might be wrong, but this whole society left me an impression that drinking is the only way most of people enjoy themselves. Still, many friends, relatives and even my mom think that not drinking and smoking in this society is worrisome simply because I might possibly be out of step with the world. Another difference is there aren’t any hard-line straight edges in Korea, unlike straight-edge in the US. (I don’t consider them as real straight edges. They’ve misinterpreted what straight edge is about.)

How was your US tour?

Unbelievable and very successful I look at the pictures and videos taken during our tour from the time to time. It still amazes me questioning myself “did it really happen and was it really like that?” We went on tour and played some shows with great bands such as Outbreak / Down To Nothing / Champion / The First Step / Better Off Dead. The whole tour experience was amazing. It was like our dream come true, and seriously it was best time of our lives. So many bands / kids took care of us and showed us so much love. Additionally, there were tons of kids at the show, the Kids were into us and went nuts for us, which encouraged us a lot. We got to visit places we might not have ever gone to. Considering we’re just young dudes from half way around the world, we were EVERYWHERE playing our own music and playing our heart out. Nothing can compare with that experience. And how about all the great kids we met? It was amazing. Words can’t describe how happy we were.

Where did you get your name [The Geeks]?

Our guitarist, Jun, got this name because we felt that we were hardcore geeks. As you have heard, there is a term “Computer Geeks.” We were hardcore geeks and still are. Being in hardcore bands for more than eight years, listening to hardcore more than ten years and all the friends we’ve met: I just can’t imagine our lives without hardcore. We could have chosen more cool name for hardcore bands such as we’re not in this alone, Take Control etc. But we just did choose the name that reflected on how we were.