Questions: Joanna Chung, Marketing Manager at Japako Music
Answers: Adam Riley, Producer and Host of K-Pop Korner
1.) How did K-Pop Korner start, and where did the name come from?
It all started towards the end of 2012 when I was approached by a company to do some work for a new radio station called Turquoise Radio that was due to launch in early 2013. Initially, I signed up to do a videogame show called Glass to the Wall, but soon after added a Christian show called The Hour Father: 60 Minutes of Worship to their roster. But they also wanted something ‘fresh’ and ‘cutting edge’ so I suggested something related to K-Pop. Of course, nobody at the station had ever heard of K-Pop, but did know about Gangnam Style.
Thankfully, I twisted their arms and convinced them to do a four-week trial run, starting from April/May 2013, with the tag-line of ‘K-Pop Korner: It’s not all about Gangnam Style!” It far exceeded expectations, it got promoted to a great slot, and the rest, as they say, is history…
Oh, and as for the name, it’s not my finest hour, and in hindsight that ‘Korner with a K’ line that I throw into the show is terribly cringe-worthy, but at least it’s memorable.
2.) How did you get into K-Pop, and what was your first song?
That all comes from my wife being from South Korea, although it wasn’t her influence directly, more the influence of my cute nieces over there, as the first few times my wife returned to visit family, I needed to stay in the UK, but whenever I called to catch up, I’d hear various snippets of music in the background. As unoriginal as this will sound, I think ‘Nobody’ by Wonder Girls was one of the first I heard, to be honest, although it was only heard via one of my nieces singing it very badly in the background! The first actual recorded track I heard was Crazy by Son Dam-bi. The hook of “nega michoso, nega michoso…” still pops into my head from time-to-time, even to this very day. Wow, I can’t believe that was about 7 years ago!
3.) What is the best thing you’ve done or experienced since the debut of K-Pop Korner?
In the first year I had the chance to meet Yun*chi at Hyper Japan, which was very cool in itself, but one of her team arranged for me to do an interview with FAT CAT who was pushing for her Japanese debut at that time, and it turned into one of my first big interviews. Following that, Sony Music lined up Crayon Pop’s first ever English interview…for K-Pop Korner, of all places! I’d supported Bar Bar Bar on the show when it first released in Korea midway through 2013, so I was a little bit ahead of the curve since Western media only really picked up on the video’s dance craze later in the year, so I was rather fortunate there. After that, they got featured on the likes of 4Music here in the UK.
That started an avalanche of interviews in 2014…
Oh, special mention definitely has to go to when I attended the KBS K-Pop Festival down in London last year, where I was interviewed by the KBS team. Chances are the footage wasn’t important enough to be used in their final coverage over in South Korea, but still, it was quite the honour to be quizzed on my thoughts on K-Pop on the whole and asked about my show.
4.) Why did you decide to set up a K-Pop radio show instead of, for example, a Western based one?
Well, funny you should ask that actually, since even I was slightly hesitant about doing a show just based on K-Pop. After all, even thought I’d been asked for something ‘edgy,’ perhaps I was going a tiny bit too niche with the idea. Originally the idea floating around my mind was ‘Cheesy Choons’ (again, awful name, I admit!), which was going to focus on those songs that no other radio station dares to play – the likes of Whigfield, Scooter, 2 Unlimited, and so on. It could have been fun, but would have likely fallen on its face. The Station Manager at Turquoise Radio loved the idea, but something in the back of my mind kept screaming ‘Stick with K-Pop Korner!’ So I did, and I don’t regret it in the slightest.
5.) How has the format changed since starting?
It was always just a jumbled mix of K-Pop tracks to begin with, lacking any particular theme or structure. After all, I was so new to not only doing a K-Pop show, but doing radio in general. After all, in my spare time I’m Director at Cubed3.com, which has been going since January 2003, I do voice acting on the side, and my full-time day job is that of a Design Engineer! I was taking a risk and not quite knowing how best to move forwards.
Thankfully, though, things developed quite naturally after the first couple of interviews, and now every week there is a new guest on the show, introducing all different styles of music to listeners. It’s become more of an education in the entire music scene in South Korea, rather than merely being pigeon-holed as ‘K-Pop’ only. If you look at it anyway, you will probably notice that ‘K-Pop’ is being used as a genre type now related to Korean music, rather than being specifically focused on ‘Pop’ alone. You tend to find people called Lim Kim or Nell ‘K-Pop’ at times, with certain groups altering it to ‘K-Indie,’ perhaps. So yeah, now I introduce all manner of singers, groups, dancers, and even special guests (Jun from Areia Creations and Sam Hammington, being two key examples).
6.) What are you main plans and aims for the radio for the future, and what do you think could be improved?
The aim for 2015 is to push with some more big interviews. Already this year there’s been Minzy’s sister, Minyoung Gong, and Kim Greem, with some other very cool groups like The Groo, The Burgundy, and Rememberus. I’m also in talks with other larger agencies at the moment, and with any luck some of those deals will come off positively. The problem comes down to the tight schedules of all these stars. For instance, Dami Im (Korean singer and winner of the Australian X-Factor), has been so busy on-and-off that plans for her interview go right back to May 2014 and it is still touch-and-go about when it will finally be conducted. Actually, that’s one lesson I’ve learned the hard way – keep my mouth shut about too many upcoming interviews. Understandably, there are many fans disappointed that the Dami Im interview hasn’t gone ahead yet, so I feel bad making them wait, but it’s obviously out of my hands. So, the best course of action is not to let the cat out of the bag too early!
As for what needs to be improved…? Haha, hmm… Where do I start? The official website, for one thing: http://www.kpopkorner.com, which other than the front page has been pretty much untouched since I launched it. Also, sadly I don’t have time to do anywhere near as much social media coverage as I would like to. For those checking out http://www.facebook.com/kpopkorneruk, http://www.twitter.com/kpopkorneruk, and even my Instagram or Pinterest accounts (both /adamrileyuk), it might look quite poor. Maybe when I get some funding for the show or some extra time, I’ll be able to invest more in those areas.
7.) Is there any final message you want to say?
I’m just so thankful to everyone that has supported the show so far, and would love for more people to listen if they have chance. You can find all the details you need over at the Facebook page, but basically just make sure your diary is clear every Wednesday from 7pm UK time 😉
If you have recommendations for singers and groups you want me to interview, please leave a message on the Facebook page and I’ll do my best to try and arrange something.
You can catch the latest episode of K-Pop Korner every week. For full details on when and where to listen, please check out http://www.facebook.com/kpopkorneruk
Thanks for reading this, and thanks to you, Joanna, and the Japako Music team for interviewing me!