With the rising popularity of Korean and SEA music games around the world, we reached out to Paul Bazooka, a Korean music producer who makes songs for games such as the DJMAX series, Pump it Up, MUSYNC, and many more.
- How did you start making music?
In January of 1997, I moved to a small town near LA from Korea. I was preparing to enter an art university at that time, but I gave up because of financial difficulties. So, I started to do music as a hobby.
I found out that there is a big difference between playing a musical instrument and writing music from my own head. I chose the computer as the medium to write music. In the beginning, I started my career with the aim of creating a new combination of techno and hip-hop.
- You started making music in LA in the 1990s. How’d it go?
I was interested in hip-hop from the west side, so I needed to create beats that people could rap to. At first, I composed music using DOS TRACKER.
However, I realized that I liked techno, big beat, and heavy metal as much as I liked hip-hop. So, that’s when I came up with the idea of mixing techno and hip-hop beats, which was a new concept at the time.
- What was a fun or interesting moment from when you lived in America?
When I discovered music at a rave club in San Bernardino and the outskirts of LA, I remember thinking of it as a research project.
- It was mentioned on Last.fm that you went to a music audition for SM Entertainment. Could you tell me about it?
In 1999, I had an open audition for SM in LA. I rapped to a song I made.
Then about two weeks later I got a call that I passed the audition, but it was weird that I didn’t hear from them after that.
I found out in 2010 that back in 1999, my dad indeed got calls about me from SM and other agencies. But he replied, “My son doesn’t do that.”
He then apologized for doing that.
- Tell me about your history of producing songs in FX CLAN and the KPOP industry.
I’ve released a lot of digital singles on underground music websites, such as millim.com
I had 13 members, but after I went into military service the crew was disbanded. After that, I stopped making hip-hop and went on to become part of the first generation of trance and house music in Korea. However, electronic music was not very popular at the time.
Eventually, I got to know the president of an agency, and after a simple test,
I joined Major KPOP as a producer.
In 2004, while producing Shibuya Kei (2Step House UK Garage) style album, electronic music was still unfamiliar to Korean society. It was difficult to find investors, so I quit.
- Which DAW and VST do you prefer?
Most of my early work in 2008 on DJMAX was made with Reason and Cubase.
For the DJMAX vocal song Deborah, I used Presonus Studio One.
Currently, I’m using Ableton Live.
- When did you start making music for DJMAX?
I think it was winter in 2006. At the time, a company called Pentavision (now incorporated as Neowiz) advertised for a game music composer. I heard that quite a lot of people applied, but I was the one who passed the final interview.
The interviewers were legendary rhythm game composers, CROOVE, BEXTER, Planet Boom, and FE.
What’s really fortunate at the time is that CROOVE has heard of me and listened to my music for a long time. So, I decided to work as an employee, but I became an outsourced worker due to internal circumstances of the company.
- Tell us the behind-the-scenes story of “The One”.
It is designed for the DJMAX TRILOGY. I submitted “The One” as the first song, and CROOVE said he liked it. I received a lot of songs from CROOVE for me to remix. Eventually, people started to say, “Who is this guy and why is he remixing CROOVE’s music?”
That’s when I became more well-known.
- Tell us the behind-the-scenes story of “We’re All Gonna Die.”
“We’re All Gonna Die” is my first true boss music. I received a request from BEXTER, the general director of DJMAX RESPECT. His asked me, “Please make a song that would make people feel helpless and scared of dying.”
So, after much thought, I decided to go with a Neuro DnB style. I worked especially hard to make a song that fit the rhythm game. Moderate speed and moderate grooves. It was imperative to know how to execute this well.
- According to NeoWiz Muca, DJMAX RESPECT’s “Don’t Die” is based on a story of a fan, who passed away. Please tell me more about it.
Unfortunately, I found out that there were some people who have committed suicide due to social phenomenon at that time. I put my heart and soul into this song in hopes that such a thing would never happen again. You may think that everything would reset or disappear after your own death. However, this would negatively affect your family and the people around you. I just wish for everyone to be healthy and happy.
- You once said that the song “Never Die” is about retro arcade gamers. Tell us about that.
This song is dedicated to salty old gamers like me. The background animation and the story have those elements. I think I’d be the first to make a song that makes others feel like they lost, even after they beat the game. I think this is more like a black comedy rather than a joke about gamers.
- It seems like Kung Brother is a sequel to Astro Fight of DJMAX Portable 1. Was that intentional?
It was a request from the director, BEXTER, to make a sequel. I had to create an atmosphere of Kung Fu with comedic elements.
- DJMAX TECHNIKA Q’s Deborah contains some lyrics. Did you participate in the writing process or was it all done by LUCY?
I composed all the songs, lyrics, and vocal melodies.
- How did you start making music for other games such as Pump it Up, OverRapid, and Cytus?
The job with Pump it Up was introduced to me by a musician named R300K, who was close to the Andamiro company. Rayark’s VOEZ signed a contract with a Korean-Chinese manager who worked with me at the time. After that, I joined Cytus 2 with Rayark. I’ve never worked with OverRapid, but they collaborated with Musync, which is why my music ended up in that game.
- Is there any difference between the music you make on your own albums versus the music you make for games?
The music I’ve been composing on my own is very dark and avant-garde. It is far from popular. Of course, it’s different from the music I make for games. Specifically, it’s the same type of electronic music that was unpopular 20 years ago. It’s far different from the profitable pop genre. [Being able to make my own music], even without breaks, is very rewarding to me. On the other hand, to make game music, you have to make some compromises along the way.
- Do you receive specific requests from the producers? Or do you usually create what you want?
Since I have a lot of experience in composing music for rhythm games,
most companies don’t make any specific requests. They often want me to be quick. They want me to work on projects that are interesting to me. Plus, they want me to give them my best work.
They would say something like, “There is a lot of demand for house music right now and I know you are very passionate about this genre. Would you like to work on this?”
- Is there any specific song that was hard to make?
CROOVE – Enemy Storm (Dark Jungle Remix)
Paul Bazooka – Signalize
Paul Bazooka – Don’t Die
Specifically, “Enemy Storm” was the hardest. CROOVE is a perfectionist. I learned a lot while working with him.
- According to Neo-Wiz MUCA, your music style is about “nihilism and metaphysical philosophy.” Please tell us more about it in detail.
It’s similar to the character and tactics of World of Warcraft’s raid guild, “Nihilum”. choose to try more than others because I don’t think I’m a genius. Therefore, my music production method has been refined through countless hours and repetitive processes. I have been doing music without any code or theory about music or instruments that I can play. I am constantly asking myself, “Where did my music come from and where do I go from here?”
- You performed as a live DJ several times in your career. What kind of hardware and software did you use when you were a DJ?
In the early days of 2001, I usually did live performances using Traktor or Deckadance. Nowadays, I use machines like Pioneer XDJ-RX. Currently, I am more interested in doing electronic music or techno gigs using ROLAND AIRA (TR-8, TB-3, VT-3, System-1, MX-1) and Ableton Live.
- What is your favorite Western and/or Asian musical performance?
That would be the Burning Man Festival and I am working on participating as a media artist.
- Other than music, what are your favorite hobbies?
I used to like kickboxing, fishing, Team Fortress 2, and motorcycling.
Nowadays, my hobby is doing sound design with Ableton Live’s basic instruments.
- I hear you are currently raising children. Do you have any plans for teaching them about music?
My daughter, who is turning 3 years old, already has a different sense of music and groove. Of course, I’m thinking of having a successor as a fun experiment. However, everyone chooses their own path. Just because I try to influence my children, it doesn’t mean that they will take the same path as me. After all, I think people should decide their own future.
- What is your favorite movie or TV show?
My favorite movie is Back to the Future and my favorite TV show is the Twilight Zone.
- What would you like to say to your Western fans?
It’s like a dream for me to hear from fans outside of Korea. To all the fans who made it happen and to the rhythm game crew who are always trying new things, thank you very much. I hope there will be a time when people say my music ages like fine wine.
I love you all.
This is Paul Bazooka!!!