Putting a Fresh Perspective on EDM
The first live EDM band in Korea
Story by: Becky White
Photos by: Ahn Dong Ho
Seoul is a music mecca. The genres of music produced in Korea range from the ever-popular, bubble gum K-Pop to R&B, but perhaps the genre that has started to establish itself more firmly in Korea is electronic dance music (EDM). Seoul hosts some major EDM summer festivals as well as boasts popular EDM clubs all over the city. DJs make a name for themselves by playing and producing music at various venues, but perhaps the latest and freshest idea to reveal itself among this music scene is live EDM. Luna Pirates, the first live EDM band in Korea, has been taking EDM lovers on a new ride, showing them what it’s like to mix live music with EDM.
The band plays with incredible energy on stage. Their DJ, Mad Queen, commands the turntables and the venue with her assertive voice, while drummer Captain Bug keeps a heavy beat on the electronic drums, smiling a wide grin not dissimilar to the Cheshire Cat’s, and their youngest member, Dragon tears on the guitar. Seeing them live is a testament to their passion for music and ability to share that with their audience. Come to a Luna Pirate’s concert prepared to jump and cheer; communicating with the band through music and dance is a special characteristic of their live performances and makes them so loved by their new fans.
Meeting the members of Luna Pirates in a setting much calmer than a live EDM concert reveals much about their individual personalities and what makes the band work. Three members make up the core of the band, but their formula for making their music is unique and requires many more than just three people. They are in turns warm, introspective, funny and poetic when talking about their music, and spent half of the interview in laughter; their camaraderie is obvious. It’s apparent that their values and characters create their sound far more than just rhythms and chords.
Would you mind introducing yourselves?
Captain Bug: Hello. I’m drummer Captain Bug.
MQ: DJ Mad Queen.
Ogon: Hello guys, my name is Ogon from Luna Pirates.
What’s the meaning of your name and what’s your sound?
Captain Bug: So, our name is Luna Pirates. We are like a gang of pirates, working in a group. And as you know, when you think ‘pirates’, you think, pirates steal things. Then we are also ‘Luna’, like the moon. The name came from the idea that as the moon steals your heart, so we will steal your heart as well [with our music.] We wanted to put that into sound.
MQ: When we play live our genre is a little different than from our albums. When we do live, we play electronic house, dubstep or hard style. We usually also play famous edm songs. When we release our albums, it’s not too different but just something easier to listen to. We write pop electronic, electronic house or progressive house.
You’ve all done music for a long time. Have you always done EDM or did you do a different genre before coming to EDM?
Captain Bug: When I was younger I did rock. Even then, I liked EDM and dance music, especially the rhythm of those styles. Nowadays, EDM is a trendy genre. I’ve fallen into the wide ocean of EDM.
MQ - I was originally an EDM dj. I always have done house and dance djing. I liked this genre so I naturally became a part of this kind of band. To me, it was like breathing, like eating.
Ogon: At first, I am a singer and songwriter named Ogon. On Luna Pirates, I’m a supporting member.
When people hear Luna Pirates’ music, how do you hope they feel?
Captain Bug: There’s so much music in the world. Deep house, depressing songs, happy songs, all of it. But for me personally, for those who listen to music, it’s for people to personally hear the songs and understand the stories. I hope that they can feel the stories. Rather than making songs that are dark, we want to give listeners hope and meaning. We want to give them strength through our lyrics.
When did you debut?
MQ: We’ve all done music for a long time, but as the band Luna Pirates we debuted last year in June. It’s not even been one year.
How did you get to know each other?
Captain Bug: Ogon and I were on a working basis. We’d practice together and saw each other often.
MQ: I was introduced via a mutual friend. So naturally, seeing each other a lot we became closer. We’d listen to music and hang out together and over time, just realized how well we got on together. So the suggestion that we do music together just came naturally.
Captain Bug: Doing music by yourself is lonely. So we thought “let’s make a band.” That’s how it started.
Ogon: I’m just in a business relationship. (laughs) I’m just joking.
Where do you get your inspiration for music?
Captain Bug: It’s a bit complicated… let’s state it simply. Luna pirates is a digital performance. Our music is slightly like the idea of AI performing rather than humans. It’s futuristic music but living in this world. The EDM genre is digital, so we add a futuristic concept. Cyber punk. We ask the question, “What are humans? What are we doing on this planet? Where are we going?” That’s how we get inspiration.
MQ: It comes out of questions. What will our future be like? What’s our real life like? What if we become AI? We have a curiosity about the future.
What’s the best part about doing music? And what’s the hardest part?
Ogon: For me, the best thing about doing music is… well, it’s like work that I like doing. It’s work I can focus on. So the difficult thing about music can also be a good thing. It’s really just the small things but I feel them in a big way. For example, if someone likes my music, I really appreciate it, just so much. But then that can become this pressure to make something even better. The ups and downs can be very extreme. Maintaining a musician’s life can be difficult.
MQ: The good thing about doing music…. I listen to music a lot. I love listening to music. It makes me think and I study a lot. It’s great that I can learn while doing what I love. The difficult thing is that it can also be lonely, especially when doing work at night. It’s not so hard, but still that’s just how it can be sometimes. I’m thankful that while I’m alive I can happily do my work. There are difficulties in everything.
Captain Bug: Doing music is good, and listening to music is good, too. When making music, you imagine many things. It’s fun. Also, for Luna pirates, we have our main members here, but we also have lots of other members. Through Luna Pirates, we keep on meeting new friends and it’s fun to do this music together, to perform live. I suppose the difficult thing for me is the fact that I’ve changed genres. I knew only rock and now I’m still so new to this genre. I want to study and I want to be better faster, but it takes time. I see people like Martin Garrix or David Guetta and I can see they’re so good. There are so many people who are good. I always wonder, how and if we could ever be good like them and will we ever meet.
You are active in Korea yet all your songs are in English. Why is that?
Captain Bug: These days, Korean people are good at English, too. Many people listen to English pop songs. So while we make our music in English, we find we are able to communicate with our Korean audience well enough. We also want to communicate with our global friends.
What would you say to those who want to do music?
Ogon: Don’t do it. Don’t even dream about it. Don’t even start. Dreams don’t come true. (laughs)
MQ- (laughs) Well you know, I might have to agree. I have a niece and if she wanted to do music as a hobby, I would be very supportive. For me, I started music without thinking, it came naturally. It’s very difficult work but very happy, too. It’s all the good and hard things together. It’s definitely not easy. As a hobby, it’s okay. But for a job, it’s definitely not for those who just want to groove and enjoy the music. You must study hard.
Captain Bug - I’m the opposite. For those who want to do music, the start is already half of the journey. All things in life are like that. In the past, it was really hard to become an artist. Now, becoming an artist is easy. Anyone can be one because of youtube. So if you have interest, if you have rhythm and keep making and putting out music, you can become an artist. Just don’t regret it.
Ogon. Don’t do it. That way you won’t ever regret it.
Do you find any special meaning in music? What kind of meaning does it have for you?
Ogon: Rather, I’m able to continue doing music because i don’t put any huge meaning into it. When I see other people who are going to and fro the office, I think about my work in the same way. Instead of putting pressure on myself to produce, I just live this way naturally. Just like naturally I am a son, or someone’s friend, my music is just a natural part of my life. So that’s why I can do it. If I put tons of meaning into my work, I don’t think I could have continued.
Do you have a life song?
Captain Bug: Amazing grace. I’m a Christian. Though I listen to so much mainstream music, it never touches me enough to make me cry. But ever since I was young, I have played in church, and even since then, I would cry. It’s some kind of feeling. There aren’t many songs that move me but somehow, when I heard that song, tears some to my eyes.
MQ - I cry. (laughs) Every person is different. For me, my life song is Zedd’s “Clarity.” It’s a really famous song. I heard it in the club once, and there was an instant connection. When I heard it, that’s when I knew, “I’m going to be a dj. I’m going to make a song like that.” That’s when my life changed.
Ogon - My life song is my mom’s lullaby. Hahaha. Oh, that’s not funny… Okay, I’m kidding, I’ll be cooler about this. For me, when I hear the song “Lucky Man” by Verve, I feel filled with courage. Or also “Alive” by Pearl Jam. When I listen to these songs, I’m inspired about my work. The songs are a little cynical, metropolitan and a bit old. But to me, they carry a lot of meaning.
You started music a while ago and still are doing music today. During all this time, what has impacted you the most?
Captain Bug - I’ve learned a lot while making and recording songs. People all have things they want to do, and then things they can do well. There’s a difference between the two. When doing what you like, you can easily become greedy about it. There are those kinds of music where a person’s selfishness is apparent. What I’ve learned is the process of throwing away that greed and selfishness. It’s not about putting yourself in the center and pushing to win. There is a flow, a sort of step to everything It takes patience, preparation, waiting, like observing life. You shouldn’t rush. You can hear it in the music if there is a lot of self-centeredness. If you add too much, it becomes messy. You need a clean sound. Love, breakups, life’s difficulties, it’s all heard in the music if you add it; you have to put in exactly what you want to say and nothing more.
MQ - For me it’s the same. When I was younger, in my 20s, I couldn’t keep a straight head about music. I wouldn’t have been able to make music or make an album. There was too much I wanted. I couldn’t put what I wanted into sound, so I’d make songs and then just throw them away. I couldn’t show everything at once. But now, by slowly waiting, it’s not about showing off. It’s about listening to other people and putting their words in my music. Through doing music, I am finding myself.
Ogon - You can’t do music alone, even if you wanted to. I’ve learned how to make quick judgements rather than worry about things. In my life, I’ve rarely had anything I really had to worry about it.
What would be something Luna Pirates accomplishes that you would consider achieving success?
Captain Bug - Everyone might have a different opinion, but for me, if we as our pirate group were working together happily, I think that would be enough. There are many people who are a part of Luna Pirates. At first, we began with just a few people, but now it’s becoming bigger, and so not just us but also our juniors, our partners, our trainees, and we keep meeting more people. Working together with those who do music, moving together with strength and keeping up the good work... I have to wonder, isn’t that success?
MQ - When I was young, nobody showed me how to make music. For me, I want our members to be happy. I hope people listen to our music and are happy. As a DJ, it’s hard to work alone in Korea, finding good music can be hard. So I want to help our other members. For those who want to learn and can’t someone to teach them how to dance, or how to DJ, or how to sing, well, I want to be open to talk with them, to learn together, to give them what I know. There are people who say I don’t know what they want to do in life. Though I can’t physically give you something, I can be your friend. We can talk and listen and share ideas.
Ogon - To be successful, there are three things that will meet the standard. First, buying my own house. Second, owning a car. Third, Begin able to travel internationally once a year. I’m serious! Okay, okay, if there is anything else, it would be to be invited to perform by the president at the Blue House. And also to North Korea. That would be a great addition to being successful. (Laughs)
Captain Bug: But you know, all artists start out thinking that success is just having my own concert, my first album, hearing my songs on TV. But we’ve already achieved all that.
Ogon: Right! So DON’T DO IT. Because that’s just too easy! So don’t even try!
Captain Bug - Luna Pirates is always looking for more pirates to join us. For those who we have synergy with. We want to work happily with others.
MQ: Everybody, read Groove magazine and send the editors lots of love! We have Luna Pirates on youtube and all streaming services, so check us out.
Ogon: Don’t do music. The only reason to do music is if you think you’d rather die than live a life without music. Oh, and listen to Luna Pirates!
Luna Pirates can be found on Genie, Melon, Bugs, Spotify, Youtube, Soundcloud, Apple Music and more.