To open Seoul Community Radio’s Fact Residency, MPC gymnast and Seoul native Lionclad goes Against The Clock in a special session filmed at the Azikazin Magic World HQ.
This year marks the fifth anniversary of Seoul Community Radio, a vital node of the city’s thrilling electronic music scene. Over the last five years the station has developed from an irregularly updated SoundCloud account to an essential outpost for the discovery and support of some of the most exciting Korean artists, DJs and collectives, beaming weekly live streamed broadcasts from their base of operations in Itaewon, the epicentre of Seoul’s dance music scene. Having only recently expanded from a dingy basement to a fully-fledged recording hub, the station now stands as a focal point for an extremely passionate and dedicated community. “It’s a very small scene of underground music aficionados in Seoul, that’s why I think it’s quite close knit,” explains Rich Price, one of Seoul Community Radio’s co-founders alongside DJ Bowlcut, the station’s resident DJ and technical mastermind, and creative director Seulki Lee, a designer who VJs as Whatisit.
Price is a dance music lifer. Born in Bangkok to a Thai mother and English father and brought up in north west London on a steady diet of Kiss 100, Mary Anne Hobbs and Fabio & Grooverider on BBC Radio 1, as well as early pirate radio stations Rinse FM and Point Blank, he cut his teeth on the jagged edges of the London rave and free party scene. He remembers asking his older cousins to bring him back tape packs from World Dance, which he would then play at school. “I think one of the first clubs I went to was Bagley’s,” he recalls, invoking the ghost of dancefloors past. For Price, dance music communities, and those that make space for them to develop and prosper, have always been very close to his heart. “Having a platform that enabled music discovery was far more interesting to me than actually being a musician, or being at the front of it,” he levels. Thus on his arrival in Seoul when he returned to Asia around seven years ago it was a scene he was looking for, which he found, albeit in its infancy.
“SCR started as a bit of a joke between me and Rich,” admits Lee. “We wanted to make the kind of British pirate radio channel that he grew up listening to as a kid. Since there was no underground radio channel in Korea, we joked that we should make one. Five years ago we were dancing at a little spot called Kammer – a very small techno space with room for 20 people, and when the party was over, everyone moved to the after-party. On that day Move D was playing and at the after-party we were joking with him about the radio idea we had envisioned. He asked us why the hell we weren’t you doing it, and said that we should start right away!” For DJ Bowlcut, Seoul Community Radio was an essential catalyst for a more fundamental form growth and development of the Seoul dance music scene. “I think the main driving force is that it was operated with a sense of mission to nurture a DJ scene,” he says. “In 2016 there was not enough media to showcase and introduce DJs. However, I noticed that DJs began experimenting more with various genres when SCR arrived. Actually, this is also my story. There weren’t a lot of channels where DJs who wanted to listen to music, including myself, could grow.”
“A few collectives, little parties, but very nascent, very underground. All the people knew each other,” describes Price of those early days, “there was no ego in it, people were just trying to make something.” Charting a movement that began with halcyon days of hedonism in the Hongdae area of Seoul, which came to an untimely end due to a crackdown from what Price describes as “a not often diverse and tolerant sort of government”, the scene was in the process of being rebuilt by the kids of the previous era in Itaewon just as the SCR co-founder arrived in Korea, precisely at the moment the community needed spaces to rally around. “I came at the right time really because Korea experienced a boom in underground music culture that was helped by a few clubs, some which are here now, some of which have disappeared,” he explains. Citing Seoul institutions such as Mystik, Vurt and Cakeshop as key inspirations, Price and the station’s other founding members found themselves contributing to an interconnected network of scenes that was in desperate need of a point of convergence. Inspired by a new wave of online radio, including stations such as NTS, Berlin Community Radio and Red Light Radio, Seoul Community Radio was born.
Over the coming week Seoul Community Radio will present a selection of some of its most exciting members, from MPC gymnasts and experimental hip-hop iconoclasts to New Age synthesists and multimedia sound designer. First up is a very special Against The Clock session from Lionclad, a rising producer, beatmaker and artist. Though a proud member of local crew Azikazin Magic World, a multidisciplinary art collective comprised of filmmakers, musicians and puppeteers based out of Songpa-gu, in recent years Lionclad has caught global attention. Back in 2019 she was crowned Beat Battle Champion at the Goldie Awards, a competition presented by A-Trak and Fool’s Gold that sees producers and DJs going head-to-head in front of a panel of judges, which in 2019 included the likes of Armand Van Helden, Busy P, DJ Craze, Alison Wonderland, Just Blaze, Take A Daytrip, UNIIQU3 and Kittens. “I like trippy, dreamy beat music, so I make it!” she explains. “The important thing is the weird vibe. I really like weird stuff, there’s a lot of emotions in there! You can’t really dance with it, but at the same time it’s really groovy.”
“I started performing my music in Itaewon, Seoul in about 2017,” says Lionclad. “With beatmakers and DJs in Seoul we tried out some parties, and through those communities I got to know about Seoul Community Radio. So we did parties and projects together and I got close with them. SCR introduces underground artists and supports the music scene in South Korea, which inspires a lot of artists and helps communicate with them too.” For the producer, radio has pivotal role in navigating the trials and tribulations of a difficult period, providing an emotional tool for those seeking different kinds of solace in music. “People like to be in their zone in 2021,” she explains. “Radio helps people to gather music to their own space and even share the zone together. I think that is a very important way to bring people various kinds of energy.” This resolute approach to the communicative power of underground radio is reflective of a deeper optimism Lionclad has regarding the Seoul music scene, even during a time when coming together as a community is harder than ever.
“There are lot of ways to perform indoors, like online performances, which have the benefit that people can get to know artists and enjoy music very easily,” she says of finding ways to play her music during Seoul’s various lockdowns. “I think in some way it helped people to really dig deeply into their own taste, and the internet music community in Seoul really grew. Physical space is very important to communities, I can’t deny that because of my experience of getting energy from those places. But as technology is growing virtual environments can also share energy too. It’s really interesting that people keep making systems in virtual spaces to really make their projects work. It’s all about trust, I guess.” Looking forward, Lionclad remains optimistic about her community’s potential. “When I first started performing I felt that Seoul’s underground scene was very small, but I see now it’s growing rapidly. I just hope the scene gets bigger, so I can share in more inspiration.”
For more information about Lionclad and her music, you can follow her on Instagram and check out the Azikazin Magic World YouTube channel. Tune into Seoul Community Radio via their website and YouTube and for more information follow the station on Instagram.
Watch next: Fact Residency – Holly Blakey