Dongmyo Police Box is an alternative rock band based in Seoul. Consisting of Steve David (Vocals, Guitar), Chad Harnett (Lead Guitar, Vocals), Jonghoon Kim (Bass, Vocals) and Craig Marsden (Drums), they have released two albums (2012’s Capsized, 2015’s Dreams). Unfortunately, since this interview was conducted, Chad (one of Korea Guitar’s first interview subjects)has decided to head back home to Canada. Dongmyo Police Box is looking for a new lead guitarist. If you’re in the Seoul area and are interested, contact the band via their Facebook page. Support these guys. Dreams is a fantastic album. Enjoy!!
- When and how did the four of you get together to form the band?
Craig: I met the band through Chad, whom I used to work with.
Steve: The band started back in 2011. I posted an add on Craigslist stating my interest in starting a band. Bruce and Jonghoon responded, and we started played together as a three-piece until 2014. We recorded our first album, Capsized, together in 2012. In 2014, Bruce moved back to the U.S. for an employment opportunity. Chand played in a band called Borrowers. He messaged me when Borrowers split, and we decided to merge.
2. Where did the name come from?
Steve: I used to go to this great flea market at Dongmyo Station (Line 1) here in Seoul. I remember seeing a sign outside the subway exit towards the flea market that said, ‘Dongmyo Police Box’. It stuck out to me, so I pitched it to the band, and I guess the rest, as they say it, is history.
3. Dreams is your second album. How has the reception been so far?
Steve: We have been receiving some good reception. We have had a few album reviews written up, and our music has been featured on a podcast, playlists, as well as on a few radio stations.
- Give us the details about the new album, Dreams. Where and when was it recorded? How long did it take? When were the songs written? Etc.
Steve: We started recording the album back in 2014 before Bruce moved back to the U.S. Actually, all the drum tracks on Dreams were recorded by Bruce. Once he departed the band, we didn’t get back into the studio until the spring of 2015 I believe. Since the drums had already been recorded, Jonghoon, Chad, and I finished off the album. It took us a solid five or six months to finish up the album. We worked with Brad Wheeler at Union Studios who had recorded our first album. He was great to work with. Most of the songs on the album were written after we released Capsized. However, the basic structure for “Safe Hands” and “Little House” was written when I was in university.
- Can you give us a brief Bio of each member of DPB:
(a) Chad: I started learning guitar was I was 14 and played in a few bands in high school, but I really started getting back into music after moving to Korea. I have my own solo project called Hatch that I’ve been working on since I got here. In that project I write and record the majority of the parts myself. Also since coming to Korea I’ve played in two different rock bands: Thrustache (in which I played drums) and Borrowers (in which I played guitar and did the lead vocals). Interestingly, I jammed with DPB about four years ago when they were thinking about expanding from a 3-piece to a 4-piece. At the time they decided not to bring on an additional guitarist so it didn’t come together. But I have always liked their sound, so when Borrowers was parting ways, and DPB was losing its drummer, we decided to kinda merge bands.
(b) Steve: I am from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I started playing guitar when I was in seventh grade. I believe I took guitar lessons for a year and a half if I remember correctly. After that, I learned a lot just by playing in various bands. I played in a punk band all throughout high school. After that, I played in four bands during university before moving to Korea and starting DPB.
(c) Craig: In 2006, after my band No Hope in New Jersey, got dropped from Atlantic Records and without much else going on in my life I ended up in Korea. After playing in a local band, Las Pistolas del Amor, I married a Canadian girl and ended up in Saskatoon, Canada. Then after a couple of years there, moved back to Seoul in 2014 where I joined DPB.
(d) Jonghoon (written by Steve): Jonghoon is originally from Busan. He has played in various bands, and is probably the best bassist I have ever played with. He is quite open-minded about music. If I remember correctly, he started playing bass in high school.
(e) Bruce (written by Steve): Bruce is from Morton, Illinois. He started playing drums when he was about eleven years old. He played in some metal and punk bands during high school, and he joined some jazz combos in university. Before joining DPB, he played an electrified washboard with a suitcase kick-drum in a folk band.
- Let’s go through the songs one by one for a more in depth look at each:
Steve: As I mentioned earlier, Bruce recorded all the drum tracks on this album. This song is pretty self-explanatory lyrically. It’s about having dreams but feeling hindered to bring them to fruition. For me, that dream is being a successful musician who is able to make a living off of music and do what I love.
- The Ruse–
Chad: The solo was originally written by Steve, and he used to play it when the band played this song as a three-piece. The original solo used more open strings to thicken up the sound when Steve was the only guitarist. I’ve since changed it to more of a single-string solo to help it cut through the mix now that we have two guitars.
Steve: This song is a metaphorical song about love with … NOODLES – kalgooksu noodles to be exact! There is this amazing kalgooksu restaurant in my neighbourhood, which serves a great bowl of kalgooksu for 2,500 KRW. It’s amazing, and the joint is always packed!
- Vices –
Steve: This song is, as the title suggests, about ‘vices’. Everyone has their own vice, or vices, that they struggle with, and as people, sometimes we lack empathy and are quick to judge others who have vices that we don’t fully understand.
- Fight Or Die –
Steve: This song is about not giving up. It’s about realizing that ultimately one is in charge of their life choices. It’s about making lemonade out of lemons. We all have our own personal issues or health problems. The song also is a reminder that there are people who care about you. You are not alone.
- ONS –
Steve: This song is a fictional narrative in which a relationship is destroyed due to infidelity and the guilt and regret that one could experience as result of that experience.
- Musudan Missiles–
This is a song that strongly criticizes the North Korean dictatorship for its ongoing provocations towards South Korea, as well as their lack of concern for those in their country who have, and continue, to suffer.
Steve: This song is pretty self-explanatory. It emphasizes the fact that racism, discrimination, and stereotypes exist everywhere. Humanity needs to mature and love one another. If only we lived in a utopian society.
Chad: This song has what I would consider the best lead guitar riff on the album. It was written by our engineer/co-producer. Damn him…
- Safe Hands-
Steve: I wrote this song back in university. It’s a song about experiencing heartbreak and the longing to find that special someone who makes you feel safe and secure.
- Hello Yankee-
Steve: This song berates the ‘American Dream’ and the selfishness and vanity associated with it.
- Little House-
Steve: This is another fictional narrative. This song was written in university when I was playing in another band. We never ended up recording it. It was a song that people seemed to really dig. It’s another tune about infidelity.
- Usually when I listen to a new album, I tend to compare it to something else I’ve heard. I can’t really do that with this album, which is great. You have your own sound, but who are some of your influences, as a band?
Craig: I grew up listening to punk, rock, and metal. Specific bands: Clash, Ramones, Rancid, the Wildhearts, Weezer, Metallica, Sepultura, and more recently Muse. But also love listening to classic bands: Queen, Bowie, Zeppelin.
Chad: When I first started learning guitar, my teacher was a huge Stevie Ray Vaughan fan and taught me mostly blues-style guitar. When I started high school, I fell in lovewith Radiohead and a played in a band that played almost all Radiohead and Weezer covers exclusively. A little later on, we really got into what was called “emo” at the time, but wouldn’t really match up with what is called emo today. We listened to bands like Jimmy Eat World, The Get Up Kids, Juliana Theory, and Dashboard Confessional. We even branched out into a few hardcore bands like Poison the Well. More recently, some of my favourite artists are Bon Iver, The Tallest Man on Earth, Bahamas, Camera Obscura, Robert Francis, Future Islands, The Head and the Hart, Lucius, Mac DeMarco, My Morning Jacket, Ryan Adams, SigurRos, Tycho, and Wilco.
Steve: This is a tough one. There are so many great artists.The first song I ever learned on guitar in middle school was “Where the River Flows” by Collective Soul. They were the first band that had a huge influence on me. During high school I was into a lot of pop punk bands, especially MXPX, The Offspring, Green Day, GOB, and Blink-182. As I entered university, I started really diversifying and got into various artists such as Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Coldplay, Radiohead, U2, The Verve, Keane, K-OS, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix,Wintersleep, Pilot Speed, Sam Roberts, Kings of Leon, The Killers, Matthew Good, Thievery Corporation, and The Beatles.More recently, some of my favorite artists have been The Boxer Rebellion, My Morning Jacket, Fleetwood Mac, The Clash, America, Led Zeppelin, Of Monsters and Men, Mumford and Sons, Yukon Blonde, Nada Surf, Japandroids, David Bazan, The Black Keys, The Temper Trap, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jedi Mind Tricks, The Deep Dark Woods, and The Tallest Man on Earth.
- Your first CD Capsized, didn’t feature Chad or Craig. How has having them in the band changed things, with regard to sound, songwriting, etc.?
Steve: Chad and Craig are both incredibly talented musicians. Craig is great at keeping time. Also, Craig is really good at the business side of things, which helped us out greatly when we started crowd funding for our most recent album, Dreams. Craig also created our website and did a great job. Chad is very adept at creating beautiful lead guitar lines. Plus, Chad is a vocalist as well, so it is nice to have another singer in the band for harmonies. Chad has some great graphic designing skills too. He designed our latest sticker. It’s great to have these skills in the band. Furthermore, we sound fuller than ever as a four-piece which is awesome!
- For the gearheads out there: What kind of guitars are you playing? Effects? Amps?
Chad: I don’t have my own amp at the moment because playing in Korea doesn’t really require it and I don’t have room in my apartment, haha. My guitar is a 2010 Japanese Fender telecaster with Texas special pickups. It’s a black one with the white trim around the edges. I took out the old white pickguard and replaced it with a tortoise shell one. My pedalboard is pretty simple. In order from guitar to amp, I am running an MXR Dyna Comp, a ZVEX Fuzz Factory, and OCD Fulltone, a Voodoo Labs Sparkle Drive, a Black Cat Mini Trem, an Ibanez CS-9 Stereo Chorus, a BOSS DD-3 Digital Delay, and a TC Electronics Hall of Fame reverb. You can hear the chorus at work in “Vices”, the Black Cat in “The Ruse”, and the Fuzz Factory with the neck pickup in “Fight or Die”.
Steve: I believe I own a 2006 or 2007 American Fender Telecaster. It has a wood grain natural finish with a white pickguard and a maple fretboard. My pedalboard is even simpler than Chad’s. In order from guitar to amp, I am running a BOSS TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, a BOSS SD-1 Super Overdrive, a MXR Micro Amp, an Ibanez CS-9 Chorus, a BOSS TR-2 Tremolo, and a Line 6 Echo Park Delay.
- What’s the most difficult thing about being a rock band in a K-Pop-heavy music scene?
Craig: I think there used to be a thriving rock/punk scene here (2007-2010), but since Hongdae got gentrified, that seemed to have died. So now rock bands have to create a new scene away from Hongdae. But where that is, I’m not so sure.
Steve: Not wearing short enough skirts and refusing to get plastic surgery. We have been discussing making a change though. Right boys?!J
- Who are some of your favorite bands in Korea (Native or Foreign)?
Most importantly, I miss the now defunct band, The Fastwalkers. They were our brother band when the we first started out. They are great dudes who created rockin’ tunes! Get back together boys!
- Is there one show you’ve played that stands out to you?
Craig: The show we played at Sungshin, with the all your can drink for 10,000 KRW. By far the most fun and interactive crowd we’ve played to. And the release party, too.
Steve: I would have to agree with Craig about the gigs in Sungshin at Daddy J’s Bar. That place was so great, and the managers were great dudes! I also think that both of our CD release parties were quite memorable as well obviously!
- What’s the plan for 2016?
Steve: The plan for 2016 is to keep gigging and promoting the album. I would also like us to write some new material and possibly release an E.P. Maybe even pitch the album to a few labels.
14. Just a few fun questions: Based simply on image, which one of these bands would you fit in nicely with and why: KISS, U2, or Girls Generation?
Craig: I would say KISS. They might look all scary and intimidating, due to their heels, but I’m tall enough to tower above Gene, no problem.
Chad: We have started wearing all black recently, I guess that does make us match up with KISS.
Steve: Definitely Girls Generation. Just look at us. Man, we are just TOO cute. Especially me with my receding hairline.
- If you could jam with anyone, alive or dead, who would you choose?
Craig: Either the Clash or the Wildhearts. Both drummers had a huge influence on me growing up.
Chad: For me I think it would be Justin Vernon from Bon Iver – I would love to have him produce my solo material.
Steve: I’d say Chris Martin from Coldplay, Mike Herrera from MXPX, Billy Joe Armstrong from Green Day, or Matthew Good. All four of those artists have been very influential for me.
- What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you on stage?
Craig: Years ago instead of counting 1-2-3-4 and then going into the song, I just counted 1-2 and then I started playing, leaving the other band members looking at me like – “WTF? You’re a drummer that can’t count?” I felt like a right knob.
Chad: When I overthink things, I have a tendency to just totally blank. A few times I’ve totally forgotten a lyric or a guitar part and just stood there stupidly for a few seconds until it came to me.
Steve: When I was in my high school punk band, my belt broke once on stage, so I believe I just held them up for the rest of the show. That was more funny than anything though. Haha. These days, I always find it embarrassing when I forget lyrics on stage (similar to Chad), and I hate it when I break strings while performing live.
- What’s the best concert you’ve seen in Korea?
Craig: Been lucky enough to watch Muse twice (2010, 2015). Both times they were awesome. And for me it’s nice to see 3 friends from a small UK town conquering the world. I first saw them in 1999 supporting a band at a small venue in Manchester, so for them to be playing sold out shows in Asia (as well as other continents) – that’s pretty sweet.
Chad: For me it was SigurRos, hands down. A tear or two may have been shed…
Steve: For me it was seeing Radiohead for the first time at Jisan Valley Rock Festival. That was an incredible show! They were flawless!
- Here’s a tough one: In your opinion, what’s the greatest song ever written?
Craig: I’ve always been of the opinion that if a (rock) song sounds just as good played on an acoustic guitar or sounds even better when played on an acoustic guitar, then it’s definitely worthy of being considered a great rock song. So, with that said I’ll have to go with “Starlight” (Muse). Seriously, listen to the acoustic version – it’s beautiful.
Chad: That’s a really tough one and I think it changes every few years for me. In terms of worldwide impact and a universal message, I think it would have to be John Lennon’s Imagine. In pure musical terms, I don’t think I can choose one.
Steve: There are just TOO many. I think lyrically, I would choose “Man in Black” by Johnny Cash. I just love the social and political commentary in those lyrics. In terms of musical influence, I would choose a song like “Purple Haze”. It’s just amazing what Hendrix was accomplishing on the guitar during that era.
- Chad, DPB is quite different from Hatch, your previous project. Why the change and will we ever see or hear from Hatch again?
Chad: It’s certainly quite a different sound for me, but I have always had a desire to play more upbeat rock and more lead guitar. With the Hatch project, I can’t really get away with writing the kind of rock songs we play in DPB. They just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the vibe. DPB allows me to explore this side of my creativity and it’s a whole lot more fun to play live. You will definitely hear from Hatch again – there’s a new album in the works right now!
In this day and age, with the music industry the way it is, is it possible to quit your day jobs and focus only on music? Have you approached labels with Dreams?
Craig: I think we’re approaching the days where bands no longer record albums, because of the cost. Instead I think we’re heading more into one-off singles, EPs, or fanclub only releases. Basically fans pay a yearly fee to receive new music from the band. So, to be able to live off that would be impossible. Income will instead come from the sale of merchandise/sales from tickets.
Steve: I wish I could quit our day job and fully focus on music. It’s hard to do so though. I don’t care about being rich, but I would need to be able to make enough money to make a modest living off of music in order for me to quit my day job. With the advent of the Internet, we are bombarded with new music continually. Artists are constantly releasing new music. You may be a good band who creates excellent music. However, it’s easy to get unnoticed due to the volume of artists and incredible music that people are exposed to each day. I agree with Craig that the key may be to release more singles and E.P.’s rather than full albums. It seems to be a good idea to give the fans something more consistently, whether it be a video, or a track, in small doses rather than doing so in one big bang like you do when you release a full-length album. I still love full albums though. I’m a product of that generation. I also agree with Chad, that in the past, labels used to take more of a risk on a band than they do today. That being said, I would like to approach labels with Dreams. However, at the same time, I am a bit afraid of labels based on the horror stories you hear. I worry about potential lawsuits, unjust binding contracts, and copyright issues. I don’t know if the state of the music market is better or worse than it was in the past.
Chad: I still have a day job, so I’m no expert on the topic, but it seems as though you have to try to diversify your streams of revenue. It used to be just album sales, live shows and merch. These days there’s YouTube channels, streaming services like Spotify, product commercials, TV shows and film placements, and a whole host of other social-media type revenue streams in addition to the album sales and live shows. Like Craig said, there seems to be more of a focus on individual songs now rather than full albums. I still love albums, though. The other thing is, labels used to take a risk on bands just by hearing their sound and seeing their image. These days, it seems as though you need to have already built a solid fan base before a label will consider you.
Official Site: http://www.dongmyopolicebox.com/
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