A bass player for over 13 years arrived to Seoul from Ireland, in 2010, initially teaching ESL in South Korea, but it was only after 2 years that Neil Smith and the band he was in at the time Magna Fall (foreign rock band) played on Korean television on a show called Top Band, and they were qualified into the later rounds (ended in 16th place) of the competition, and that was one of Neil’s first big breaks to cross over to the music industry in Korea. Here, he gives us some scoop about his lifestyle, and his rock chill look: (By the way, his super cool hairstyle was a DistrictGal style consultation, and the hair has completely upgraded his image and confidence!)
I’ve been interested in music since before I can remember. I’m not certain on this one but I believe my first record was given to me by my parents when I was three years old and it was the re-release of “La Bamba” by Ritchie Valens in 1987. It then broke as a result of me foolishly thinking that a vinyl record can double as a frisbee. I was absolutely heartbroken. But soon enough, thanks to my father’s record collection, I was introduced to U2, The Beatlesand David Bowie. Thanks Dad! Of course, there were many bands that I do regret listening too as I was growing up in the 90’s! Danger time! But amazingly my first cassette was “Music for The Jilted Generation” byThe Prodigy and my first CD was “Fat of The Land” also by The Prodigy. They were both serious gamechangers! In terms of playing music, I started playing guitar at the age of 15. I can’t remember why exactly but I’m going to hazard a guess that it was part of a plan to get more girls. My friends started a band, there was no bass player, nobody in sight for miles who even owned a bass so I became the bassist. The problem was that Ididn’t actually own a bass either. But that soon changed, thanks again to generous parents! And for the rest of the story you’ll have to purchase my autobiography. 🙂
WHAT’S YOUR BAND NAME? AND HOW MANY BANDS HAVE YOU BEEN IN?
Last year, I joined a fantastically awesome band called HarryBigButton. We are a 3-piece post hard rock band and right now we are working on a new EP that will be hopefully released before summer. Our band vocalist and guitarist, Lee SungSoo was once the guitarist of the legendary Korean heavy metal band, Crash. He started Harry Big Button 2 years ago and this band has jumped right to the top already. You can catch us playing in various Hongdae clubs most weekends of the year.
WHAT BANDS FROM KOREA OR INTERNATIONALLY, ARE YOUR INSPIRED BY?
As an Irishman, the two bands that were presented to my ears the most were Thin Lizzy and U2. Even today if I listen to U2’s old music when I’m in a club in Hongdae it takes me back to some very early childhood memories. As a teenager I obsessively listened to Rage Against The Machine, Nirvana, MetallicaandThe Clash. In Korea one of the bands I admired most was actually the band I’m in right now! HarryBigButton! Other Korean bands I like are Galaxy Express,Yellow Monsters, Rock n’ Roll Radio. Lately I’ve been listening to an old Korean band from the 80’s called DeulGukHwa and really enjoying it.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE CULTURAL DIFFERENCES IN YOUR BAND?
There’s 3 of us in the band and also our manager who feels just like a fourth member. I’m the only non-Korean member and yes Korea is culturally a very different place to Europe. I’ve been living here for 4 years and I’ve dealt a lot with the negative side of cultural differences with some people but in this band there is no negative side. We all get along very well and always have fun. I am really enjoying learning a new language and discovering new things about Korea. I think it’s impossible to have a deep understanding of Korean culture without learning the language to some degree. Having said that, as I am the youngest member of the band I am regularly subjected to mocking and teasing! Just because I’m not Korean does not mean I get off the hook in that department!
HOW DO YOU FEEL BEING THE BASSIST IN YOUR GROUP?
Being the bassist is great because everyone knows that the bassist is the coolest member of the band. Another great thing about being the bass player is telling people you play bass in a band after they ask what you do. The immediate look of envy and amazement of their face is quite satisfying for me.
DESCRIBE YOUR OWN PERSONAL STYLE.
I go through phases of making a big effort with my image and then phases of no effort at all. Rock n’ roll! But as a rocker I do love to wear some tight faded jeans, black boots and a shabby old t-shirt. I am fascinated by old rock n’ roll bands such as Led Zeppelin, Motorhead Thin Lizzy and Metallica and how they used to look onstage. In winter I love to wear a cool black trenchcoat and in summer I will often wear some old jeans shorts and vintage sunglasses. Here in Korea we go from sub-zero to melting hot temperatures in a matter of months so that dictates fashion for everyone.
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE FASHION IN SEOUL TO YOUR COUNTRY?
Well, I lived near Dublin the capital city of Ireland and I went to college there. Like anywhere else in the world obviously you will find hipsters, jocks, scumbags, business people, musicians etc etc. But in general I think there are plenty of people in Dublin looking cool on the streets and clubs. The main difference between Dublin and Seoul is that Dublin is much more relaxed and people are less worked up about their appearance.
LET’S STAY IN TOUCH, SO TELL US WHERE TO FIND YOU.
Our band, HarryBigButton is on facebook. Feel free to like and come along to some shows.
WHAT FASHION STYLE OR ADVICE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE ON DGAL?
Well I always think that there are plenty of ways to get out on the streets looking super cool without spending so much damn money! There’s always an expensive sweater or shirt somewhere that you want to buy but really, you don’t need it at all. I regularly dress in the same style and most of it is not expensive! When I have enough money to buy something expensive I take care of it and make sure it lasts a long time. Nobody wants to walk around like Bart Simpsonbut try to keep it cool and simple!
Say Hello to Neil and visit his band on Facebook!!