DJ Yup, Korea’s #1 DJ, says, ‘My shows are like my life, LIVE!’ and reveals the ‘real’ Brian Joo
They call him Korea’s number one club DJ, but to Jeon Sang Yup (DJ Yup), that is nothing but a minuscule title. The decade-plus veteran of the DJ scene has performed at massively popular venues all over the world, collaborated with trendy and well-known K-pop artists, and has accumulated not only a highly dedicated domestic fan following, but also an international following that spans the globe. With fans from countries like Japan, China, the Philippines, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and the US, DJ Yup has become a widely sought after fan favorite at clubs the world over.
We at hellokpop, recently sat down with DJ Yup in Washington, D.C., before his very first performance in the city, to discuss how he got into the business, how the club scenes differ between the U.S. and Korea, how the PSY Phenomenon has affected the outlook on Korean artists, and what it was like working with Brian Joo from Fly To The Sky.
[blockquote] My shows are like my life, LIVE! [/blockquote]
We first met up with DJ Yup and his good friend, translator and MC, Tony Henderson (Crazy T), at their hotel in Hanover, Maryland early in the day. After an impromptu photo shoot, several hours of casual conversation, and getting to know one another personally, we sat down together in their hotel room for a fun talk that felt more like “two friends catching up,” than it did an official interview.
Could you tell us a little about what made you want to be a DJ?
[DJ Yup] “As I was growing up, I was always been in to music–mostly old school Hip-Hop and rap. I used to get recordings of music videos on VHS tape and watch them secretly. I have cousins that live in the States, and they would send me tapes to listen to. I’d watch MTV, record it, and listen to them over and over and over.”
His love of music is what compelled him to start a career in the field. When he was twenty, he started DJing in Korea under the tutelage of seasoned DJ’s. While he was learning the trade, DJ Yup worked long hours for little or no pay. He was content with just learning.
[DJ Yup] “Korean clubs close at six in the morning. So, I would be there at 8 p.m., setting, and finish up around six. I did that for almost a year without any pay. It was hard, but I learned a lot.”
What is it about DJing you like the most?
[DJ Yup] “When you become one with the crowd and the crowd becomes one with you. It feels great. When I throw my hands up, the crowd does the same. We become in tune with one another. It’s beautiful.”
When you DJ, do you have a set list, or do you just make it up as you go along?
[DJ Yup] “Some DJ’s make a playlist beforehand, but I don’t. It’s live. A playlist is a good thing sometimes–it’s safe. But for me, free-styling is more exciting. My shows are like my life, live!”
Do you think the art of live DJing is more popular in Korea or in the US?
[DJ Yup] “It’s very popular in Korea. One thing is different though. In Korea, DJ’s only DJ. When I’m asked what I do for work, and I answer “I’m a DJ,” eighty-percent of people ask me why. In the States, if you’re good at something, people give you credit and respect. So, I don’t get that question.”
What are the latest trends in Korea when it comes to live DJing?
[DJ Yup] ” Electronic music is really hot right now in Korea. Korean DJ’s don’t usually play Korean music, but remixing Korean songs has become very popular now also.”
How has the DJ scene changed in the last five years or so?
[DJ Yup] “Hip-hop was very popular five years ago, but right now electronic music is in. Hip-hop DJ’s are hungry right now. They can’t spin big festivals or clubs, only smaller ones, because of EDM‘s (Electronic Dance Music) popularity. A lot of DJ’s change their music to fit trends, but with me, I play everything, because it’s the music that I like.”
We wondered how the explosion of PSY’s Gangnam Style and its global popularity has affected the DJing scenes both domestically and globally. So, we asked DJ Yup what he thought about the “PSY Phenomenon.”
[DJ Yup] ” We give thanks to PSY for being that first person to open that door, to give Korean artists the opportunity to become ‘known.’ He showed the whole world what we can do. He did it. He made it happen.”
We were curious as to how the views on nationality and race have changed since PSY’s historic rise to global fame. Music transcends all barriers of ethnicity, nationality and language, and has become a place where people from all walks of life intermingle happily together. However, Korean artists, unfortunately, still find that they are being discriminated against due to their nationality, and they are not always received with open arms. We asked DJ Yup how he handles these types of situations.
[DJ Yup] “I get it sometimes, but I don’t sweat it. The funny thing is, I usually just smile at them when I get comments like that and just show them what I can do. Afterwards, they become a fan and want to friend me on Facebook. [laughs]“
After discussing such a serious topic, we wanted to delve into something a little more fun and lighthearted. We asked DJ Yup about his experiences working with Brian Joo and sought out the answer to the burning question, “What is Brian really like?”
In 2011, You were the opening DJ for Brian Joo’s Unveiled Tour in the US. How was is like working with him on the tour? What is Brian really like in person, and would you be willing to work with him again in the future?
[DJ Yup] “Brian and I have a good relationship, so I asked him if I could be his opening DJ and he said yes. We toured together. It was great, and that’s how I met IAMMEDIC and New Heights as well. Brian is a very nice and kind person. He takes very good care of his family and works really hard. He’s a very private person by nature, and even though we respect each other’s privacy, he and I are always there to talk if one of us needs to. He’s a very humble person and I respect that a lot. As for working with him again, I’d love to.”
We then turned our attention onto the fans. While every fan is different, and subsequently, every fan of a specific genre is also different, we wanted to discuss with DJ Yup what his fans are like and how they treat him around the world.
How does your experience with fans differ between Korea and America when you’re performing? Do fans treat you differently here than the fans treat you in Korea?
[DJ Yup] “Yes. The crowds are different. American clubs are smaller than Korean clubs. The bigger the club, the harder to get into. In Korea, crowds come for the show and leave right after, where as American crowds stay around outside waiting to meet me and thank me for the show. They want to get to know me better.”
[Crazy T] “People in America are more free-spirited and friendly.”
You have garnered a substantial amount of fans worldwide with your tours, performances, and collaborations. How does it feel to have so many fans, and what are some of the things you do to show your appreciation to them?
[DJ Yup] “It’s great. I just try to keep traveling to different countries, like the Philippines, Japan, China, for the fans. Promoters sometimes don’t even have the money to pay for my plane ticket, but I come anyway. I pay for it myself, so I can perform for the fans. I really like to meet new people.”
As our interview was nearing its close, we talked a little bit about the night’s upcoming performance. DJ Yup and Crazy T told several fun stories about their time as friends, but when it came to the final question of our interview, we were in for quite an interesting answer, as Crazy T volunteered to field the question first.
How does it feel to be considered/labeled Korea’s #1 DJ?
[Crazy T] “Can I answer this question? Working with DJ Yup, he always finds ways to improve himself. Even though people label him as the number one DJ from Korea, to him its just a title. In his mindset, there are a lot more DJ’s in Korea better than him. So, when he’s given that title, he really just brushes it off, because to him, he’s still not at the level that he wants to be yet. He’s always learning.”
[DJ Yup] “Unlike many DJ’s that spend their pay on clothes and things, I invest it back into myself. I travel a lot for shows, and oftentimes pay for the trips myself. I pay to market myself. I am very confident in my DJing skills, but I want to continue to improve as time goes on. DJing is my life and I never want to stop.”
DJ Yup recently released his first single, A-Bomb, with Soulte and Crazy-T. The single became available for download on both Junodownload and Beatport earlier this week. He is currently shooting the music video for the track.
We at hellokpop would like to thank DJ Yup, Crazy T, and their crew for giving us the opportunity to meet and work with them, and for their much appreciated hospitality. We look forward to watching your careers with great interest and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.
Check out our gallery below for some of our shots from the photoshoot along with photos taken during the performance at Capitale DC, in Washington, DC.
PR/Interviewer: [email protected]