Samuel Seo
He spoke about his latest album, why he hates his most popular song, about working with Hui from PENTAGON, about the influence of literature on his work and much more!
Which genre of music do you use in your works?
Initially I wanted to try myself in many genres. But one day I came up with a thought "I was born in 1991 so maybe I should try making music in a style similar to the one of that time?". This kind of music should be able to stimulate certain changes in the listener.
Did you put the same thought into your latest album?
Yes, my latest album ("The Misfit") was created in this genre. At the very beginning of my career of making music I was just trying to make something cool. But now I'm much more focused on putting some meaning into my music. Great sound is surely important but the main thing is that my work should be able to make people reflect upon something.
Why have you called your album "The Misfit"?
I always reflect upon various things while creating music.

"How should I live in this world?", "What should I do to make more people listen to my music?", "What does it mean to be a great artist?"

The problem is that by choosing the wrong direction you can lose diversity. And everyone will feel it immediately. Among all these questions I've decided to focus on one thing. The music I'm making now has been originally created by African American musicians. Many Koreans nowadays admire Western artists and follow them blindly just because they find it very cool. But do they really understand this music? I asked this question to my friends and no one could give a correct answer. I also asked myself the same question. Why do I generally love, admire and follow this music? So I realized that people just create and sell music similar to the one they admire. And this doesn't necessarily mean they understand the basics.

"How would this music sound if it was created in Korea?", "Is there a chance for Korean r'n'b, soul, funk to exist in this industry?"

While working on the album I had that one specific feeling. That there are no people who would really think about the cultural appropriation and something like this. Does anyone even think about it? This needs to be thought over as soon as possible. For example, many people say they like D`angelo and start imitating his music. But they don't really wonder what influenced D`angelo, why he makes such music, how he became a singer and so on. It just seems to me that there may be people who are also interested in such things. Even if I am the only one possessed with this idea I will continue anyway. Even the word 음악 ("music" in Korean) itself consists of two parts 음 and 악. And the first one means 'sound' which is my main interest.
Do you give the same philosophic touch to the titles of your songs as well?
Not really. I didn't want to go deep into the meaning of the titles since I am still learning about music and how to make it. One first needs to learn how to choose the right names before giving them, right? I can tell you how I chose the titles for the tracks from the latest album.

1. Breathe. Breathing itself just matches the melody of the song.
2. Mistfit's anthem. If there are people like me who are trying to push important issues then we are able to change the world with our deeds.
3. Notting hill. The song was created in Notting hill. It was after Burberry, I was in a good mood and made this song.
4. Olive Session. This one is a little bit harder to tell. I just like olives. You need to extract oil from olives to make food. It also works the same with the creative process. One needs to extract something out of oneself in order to create something.
5. Yeonhui-Dong. It's the place I'm currently living at.
6. Ice cube. I was making this one while listening to the sound of ice cubes.
7. Coastal Wave. This one was made when I felt tired.
8. 8 8 3. This is the number of my motorcycle.
9. Somthing&Nothing. The name speaks for itself.
10. Really that. Nothing particular about this one to be honest.
11. Good morning. We usually need an alarm clock to wake up in the morning. I just wanted to create a song that can help with that.
12. Playaplayaplaya. This song seems to jeer at 20-year-old Samuel Seo.
13. Ordinary kids. This one is about the environment in which I grew up. In order to succeed in Korea you need to study a lot. You cannot live a good life without an education. If you want to achieve something you need to become either a lawyer or a prosecutor or a judge. I do not understand such a culture. So I wanted to bring up the subject of how children are suffering under such an overwhelming social pressure.
14. Yi Yu (이유). This means "reason" in Korean. I just like the letter ㅇ. Actually I have quite a lot of tattoos which makes it hard for the older generation to take me seriously. Especially considering the fact that I'm not really famous. Various misunderstandings are constantly occurring because of that. I work hard every day improving myself but still I fail to get any recognition from them. Is there a reason to explain why this affects me? And I also think the word "이유" looks pretty interesting. Maybe its visuals can attract people to the track or the Korean language as a whole.
15. The Misfit. It's the last song. It kind of sums up all my thoughts in this album.
Does the album solely consist of your songs?
This album is not just a collection of songs, it is something like a personal diary for me. I don't think there was a place for any collaborations in it.
And how much time did it take you to make this album?
It took me 3 years. During this time something was constantly breaking down (for example, my computer, cards, etc.). I didn't have that much money to repair everything straight away which made the whole process last for such a long period of time.
Is it your face portrayed on the album's cover?
Yes, this is my face. The main point is that everyone wants to look better than they really are. To be more beautiful or "sexy". I wanted to show through this mask the way I see myself, who I really am without any embellishment.
The cover of "Jungle Riot" also has a mask on it. Is there any connection?
There were a few masks. The single "Jungle Riot" itself was like a teaser for the main album. In general, the main idea of "The Mistfit" was that many of us had big dreams as children and then we went to school where they divided us into classes and some of those dreams simply got lost. But even what is left becomes irrelevant when we get into the adult world and all our life comes down to some kind of job, to finding a way to earn for a living. It seems to me that things shouldn't go this way. And through this album I tried to convey all my thoughts and feelings about this. I'd like people to live the way they really want. So that we can confidently hold on to our dreams.
You have a very interesting mindset. Would you like to write a book one day?
I think there's no reason for me to write a book. I'd like to make as much money as possible selling my music. So that by the age of 80 I would invest it in the foundation of an educational institution where people could study the basics and theory of music. This is what I'm working on hard for now.
What is the main idea of "Playaplayaplaya" MV?
The main idea of this song is a jeering at who I was before. I kind of turn back and look at myself, at what kind of person I was from the side. So that I understand which direction I need to move in the future, how not to repeat the same stupid things once again. I decided that it'd be nice if the whole picture can be expressed by a person who's around 10 years older than me. That's why Nevermind team and I decided to film in one shot a dancing elderly man who could express all the emotions of that song with his body. And then we found Jingyu Yu who did a really great job as the hero of the music video.
Please, tell us about your collaboration with Hui of PENTAGON?
I wouldn't call this a real collaboration, we just performed together. Actually, despite the fact that there are quite a lot of members in PENTAGON all of them are very friendly and kind. One of the members also participated in the same radio show with me not so long ago. It was really a great experience. It'd be cool to collaborate with the group one day. I'd write a song for them, for example.
And is there any rapper you'd like to work with?
Definitely, Nucksal. We have been friends for quite a long time and we even have been part of one crew with Deepflow. As for now we've parted our ways. Maybe it's all for the better.
Did you have a chance to record any music while serving in the military?
During the shore leaves I recorded a mixtape. There were 7 tracks in total. After the dismissal I started working as a waiter in a restaurant. At that time I made an entire album and started receiving awards.
Influenced by Franz Kafka's novel "Metamorphosis" you released the track "Kafka" in 2016. Do you have any other favorite books?
I really like the style of Stephen King's works. I had been reading his books for quite some time but he became way too hyped up and my interest slowly decreased. Then there was a rather difficult time in my life during which I mainly read books about self-development. Since I became an artist I began reading some deeper literature including Franz Kafka. Well, as for now I'm actually too lazy to read.
Do you check comments regarding your music?
There are lots of such comments but I usually don't read them. I don't like the very idea that a work which has been being developed over several years can be evaluated by someone literally in the first hours of release.
The most popular track by Samuel Seo on Melon is "Off You". What do you think about it?
My attitude to this song is quite controversial. Initially I was asked to make a gentle, sweet love song. They didn't accept songs on the same topic but in a different mood. I really like performing it but at the same time I hate it because this is not really my style. Artists usually like the latest thing they've released the most. This is absolutely true in my case.
Are there any artists you personally respect?
In fact, I think that it's important to treat absolutely all idols with respect. Absolutely all of them are doing their best to reach popularity. Since their childhood they become trainees and work hard in order to debut. That's why I cannot single out only one of them. And it's the same when it comes to musicians. All of them put a lot of efforts into their music and it's just impossible not to respect anyone.