Afterwords. “We tried to catch up, now we should evolve”: A Conversation with Shin Hae-chul

SHIN HYUNJOON with CH’OE CHI-SŎN


1. Muhangwuedo, “Kŭdae ege” (To You)

From: 1988 MBC Campus Song Festival, Asia ALS-1636, 1988, 33 ⅓ rpm.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal, guitar, keyboard, song and lyrics; Yang To-hyŏn: bass; Cho Hyŏn-mun: keyboard; Kim Chae-hong: keyboard; Cho Hyŏn-ch’an: drums.

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Shin Hae-chul insisted that he write this song solely for the College Song Festivals. Three keyboards are used providing splendid sound, but at the same time, they produced easy-to-follow melody and lyrics, thereby leaving strong impressions in the listeners. This song was not included in the Muhangwuedo’s first album, but the rearranged version was included in the Shin Hae-chul’s second album Myself (1991).


2. Shin Hae-chul, “To You Deep down in My Heart”

From: 2nd Album Myself, DaeyoungAV/HKR, HC-200482, 1991, 33 ⅓ rpm.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal.

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This song is included in Shin’s second solo album. It is a romantic ballad song which is one of his signature songs. Some of ballad songs include serious themes such as life or death, but most of his ballad songs delineate pure love. This song is about eternal love, or longing for eternal love, and the unpredictable future of youths. It has a relatively comfortable arrangement which begins with low and calm sounds that gradually rise. The song reflects the Korean popular music trend of that time, and it provided a platform for Shin to become a popular singer.


3. Shin Hae-chul, “Jazz Cafe”

From: 2nd Album Myself, DaeyoungAV/HKR, HC-200482, 1991, 33 ⅓ rpm.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal, all synthesizers, acoustic & elecric piano, electric guitar, drums, percussion, bass, programming, song and lyrics; Yi Chŏng-sik: saxophone.

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In order to get rid of the “idol” image that he had, Shin tried various music genres and new media. He actively used MIDI sequences through dance beats which were new to Korea at that time. Good examples are “Annyŏng” in his first solo album and “Jazz Café” in the second solo album.
Though the song is called “Jazz Café,” it is not a jazz song. It can simply be categorized as the “24 beat dance music.” This song portrays the splendid yet lonely life of the petit bourgeois through a scene in a bar or club in the metropolis. The narration, the rapping parts and the alternating-pitch singing style moving were peculiarities in Shin’s early style.


4. N.EX.T “Kkŏpchil ŭi p’agwoe” (Destruction of the Shell)

From: The Return of N.EX.T Part 1: The Being, DaeyoungAV, DYL-033, 1994, 33 ⅓ rpm.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal, rhythm guitar, keyboard, song and lyrics; Yi Tong-gyu: bass, backup vocal; Im Ch’ang-su: guitar, backup vocal; Yi Su-yong: drums, backup vocal; Chŏng Ki-song: rhythm guitar.

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Shin formed the band N.EX.T. and began another music journey aiming to change his music style. The music in this second studio album sounded more like real band music, although Im Ch’ang-su and Yi Tong-gyu left the band after the recording of this album. This album is based on dark, solemn and splendid heavy metal and progressive rock sounds which Shin was deeply into, and through this kind of music, he aestheticized philosophical themes such life, death and eternity. This song runs more than 10 min, and is composed into 3 movements (“Overture” – “The Shell” – “The Joy for the Destruction”), which is often viewed as progressive art rock. Through the heavy metal guitar riff, the elaborate keyboard sounds, and the loud chorus, Shin demonstrates that he repudiated from the simple sound he exhibited during his solo career. It also demonstrates the 1990’s-style big scaled sounds and overproducing.


5. N.EX.T, “Narara Pyŏngari” (Fly Chick)

From: The Return of N.EX.T Part 1: The Being, DaeyoungAV, DYL-033, 1994, 33 ⅓ rpm.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal, rhythm guitar, keyboard, song and lyrics; Yi Tong-gyu: bass, backup vocal; Chŏng Ki-song: rhythm guitar; Kim U-gwan: Hamonica; Im Ch’ang-su: first guitar, backup vocal; Yi Su-yong: drums, backup vocal.

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This song became the biggest hit in the second album of N.EX.T. Most of songs in the second album have heavy and hard sounds, but this song is a simple and romantic ballad, following the style Shin used to specialize in. It begins with a narration, and Shin Hae-chul and Yi Tong-gyu sing together. The melody sounds easy and comfortable, but the lyrics are about morbid childhood memory, such as witnessing the death of a chick. Through its profound theme of the “awareness of limited existence,” the song is in close accordance with the concept of the whole album.


6. N.EX.T “Komerican Blues (Ver. 3.1)”

From: The Return of N.EX.T Part 2: The World, DaeyoungAV, DYCD-1052, 1995, CD.

Shin Hae-chul: vocal, song and lyrics; Kim Se-hwang: rhythm guitar; Kim Yŏng-sŏk: bass, backup vocal; Yi Su-yong: drums; Namgung Chŏng-ae: Korean traditional vocals; Seoul p’ungmul team: Korean traditional percussions, Sa-mul-nori.

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Shin had interested in Korean traditional sound for long time but tried to differentiate from being too nationalistic or hegemonic. He tried to graft Korean traditional instruments (samul) and song (ch’ang) onto rock. He also played Western rock instruments and tried to make a connection between the blues scale and the traditional pentatonic scale, which can be seen as one of his major contributions Korean popular music scene. The first version of this song was for the Soundtrack (1993), which emphasized rap and funky rhythms, and placed less emphasis on traditional sounds. However, we can observe Shin’s aims through this N.EX.T. version, which overlaps the complex sounds of a fancy metal solo, samul and ch’ang and vocals.


7. Monocrom “Machine Messiah”

From: Monocrom, Big Bang Music Corp./Doremi Records, DRMCD-1542, 1999. CD.

Crom (Shin Hae-chul): editing, programming, keyboards, all lead & backing vocals; Chris Tsngarides: elec.& acc. guitars, 5 strings, fretless bass.

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Monocrom was a project that Shin Hae-chul and Chris Tsngarides had together while Shin was in England after N.EX.T. was disbanded in the late 1990’s. This album grafts Korean sources into techno music. “Machine Messiah” is an attempt to join metal, techno, Korean traditional music and international music. Shin met Chris Tsngarides when Tsngarides produced Lazenca: A Space Rock Opera (Original film scores). Later, Judas Priest released “Metal Messiah” (2001), which sounded similar to “Machine Messiah.” There was possibly a connection between these two songs, since Chris Tsngarides also produced Judas Priest. Shin did not take any legal action against this issue, but it is implied that the two pieces “Machine Messiah” and “Demo.69” from Monocrom had been plagiarized.