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[Herald Interview] Hwang In-kyu ready to rock ‘n’ roll by interweaving bass with traditional sounds

Bassist says it’s time for rock to come out from the underground and gain limelight

Bassist Hwang In-kyu (SGM Records)
Bassist Hwang In-kyu (SGM Records)

Harmony is defined as playing more than one note at once or at a counterpoint. Musician Hwang In-kyu crafts music through his bass and expands the possibilities of its sounds into other tunes.

Bass: a sound that harmonizes music

A typical song structure includes a chorus, verses and a bridge, and the bass guitar acts as a bridge between the melody and listeners by helping them identify the song‘s beat, the bassist says.

The 29-year-old described the four-string bass as a “wild instrument,” where the player looks cool while playing a great set.

“Bass itself is sensual because it has rhythm and harmonizes, and an instrument you can easily control to the fancy styles of guitar playing,” he said. Hwang went on to say that in the past, recording studios were not well-equipped for players, which is why bass sounds weren’t widely heard in songs.

“But now, bass sounds are more emphasized in songs, and those who love listening to music can easily catch the tune. Getting confused between what‘s bass and guitar in tracks sounds out of time,” he said.

Asked about the instrument’s role, the musician said it plays a crucial role in orchestrating a tune. The artist continued, saying that although it seems minor, there‘s a big difference depending on when the bassist plays the instrument.

“The nuance of the song changes if I play the bass on the downbeat or the upbeat. For example, if I play an up-tempo set, there’s a big difference by hitting the string a little faster or slower,” Hwang said. He added that since it is important to harmonize with other artists, he tries to be a fluid player who can control music’s overall ambiance.

“I let my fingers walk the bass line when playing the chords by allowing the bass to connect its sound with other voices and notes and becoming one with the audience.”

When asked why the musician said bonding with people through bass is something to behold. “When the energy comes inside me, an input, then a greater output can be created as a bass performer, and I‘ll continue to do that,” he added.“

Rock ‘n’ roll dreams

The cheat code to gain spotlight for musicians is getting recognized for their musical composition skills, singing voice, or other talents. But the theory is remote for bass players here.

”Many bassists would agree, but it’s natural to question whether I‘m a musician or not, mainly because there’s not much you can do with the bass. The sound turns magnetic when it blends with the voice of a singer, drums, guitar and other melodies,“ he said.

Hwang got candid about bass sounds, saying that a tune filled with bass sounds is rather dull. ”I don‘t even listen to bass-only tracks and have no plans to release a song filled with bass sounds,“ he added.

The musician said he thought of making music as a producer at one point because it made him feel on edge. Last year, he listed himself as a composer on girl group G(I)-dle’s ”Moon.“ But he found the joy of playing the instrument: he concluded that making music as a bassist and performing on stage excites him.

”Bass is not a sound that‘s listened to by many people. I’m learning how to balance out between making music that the public and rock aficionados would like by trying to follow the footsteps of Coldplay and The 1975,“ he said.

”People think the two bands are popular because of their music, but their musical tastes are diverse, ranging from alternative rock to pop music, which doesn‘t match the logic that popular music has to be a tune that listeners widely hear,“ Hwang added.

”The genre is still a subculture here, but I’m starting to see hope that it could garner more listeners and popularity.“

Setting sights on spreading ‘K-rock’

While most know Hwang Inkyu as a groovy bassist, he is also a member of Kardi. The group came in third place on JTBC‘s audition program ”Super Band 2,“ which aired last year.

The quintet is made up of Hwang Inkyu, the bassist; Kim Yeji, the vocalist; Park Dawool, who plays geomungo, the Korean harp; Hwang Leen, the guitarist; and Jeon Seongbae, who plays the drum.

Speaking about Kardi, he said being a part of the band allows him to learn a variety of tunes and bring up his energy on stage. The musician continued, looking back on Kardi’s concert held last November.

”I performed at Seoul World Cup Stadium several years ago as a part-time player for S.M. Entertainment when I played for Shinee member Jonghyun‘s solo stage and J-Min. But my career was not solid, nor was I popular, so performing after gaining fame hit me differently,“ he recalled.

The bassist also said he sat in the audience, overjoyed to be seeing Iron Maiden ten years ago at the Seoul Olympic Stadium. He went on to say that performing live at the same stadium was a dream that seemed out of reach for him.

He said that all he had in mind was one thing: pouring out as much spirit as Iron Maiden did. Asked if he thinks he did better, he said yes without hesitation. But since Kardi was created through an audition program, Hwang wasn’t able to perform his music.

”The songs we made are audition-program oriented tracks, so it‘s not easy to listen to,“ he said. But Hwang hinted that the band is currently back in the studio working on new music and that their debut is nearing.

And now, Hwang has set his heart on spreading the sound of ”K-rock“. ”It’s hard for bands to make an impact, but since the genre has been away from the music scene for such a long time, people are going back to it,“ he said.

The bassist continued, saying he wants to make songs that make people feel euphoric. He added that K-pop is a blueprint for creating a genre and expressed hopes that the same would apply to his music.

”Hopefully, my final leg as a bassist will be performing live at the world‘s biggest rock festival, Rock am Ring, and the Billboard Music Awards, where I’ll be able to show who I am, musically.“

By Park Jun-hee (