Over the next two days, all eyes will be on Good Vibes Festival 2019 (#GVF2019) that features an exciting line-up that has already exceeded the public’s expectations. Among those on the list is South Korean R&B singer-songwriter DEAN (권혁).
The inclusion of DEAN marks a new stage for Good Vibes Festival, as he was among the first South Korean act to perform at the festival, along with Korean R&B artiste singer-producer Rad Museum and New York-based Korean-American singer/producer/DJ Yaeji.
Hailing from Seoul, DEAN started his career as a hip-hop artiste with Keith Ape at the age of 16. By the age of 20, he has written songs for K-pop groups such as EXO’s Black Pearl and VIXX’s Voodoo Doll.
He was also the first Asian artist to perform at Spotify House at Austin’s SXSW Festival and has worked with a few well-known artists and producers, such as Eric Bellinger, Syd, Crush, ZICO, Anderson .Paak and more.
Good Vibes Festival 2019 marks DEAN’s second visit to Malaysia. Ahead of his performance on Sunday, we spoke to the artist about his music and the festival.
Of the tracks that you’ve released, one that really stands out is “Instagram”. Addressing loneliness and preoccupation with social media, the song has garnered quite a number of high profile covers from artistes such as IU and NCT. How do you feel about that?
It was actually an impressive experience for me. As a composer I was very used to writing songs for others. Songs that would sell, do well on charts, and make people want to listen to. One day, I realised that I couldn’t keep doing that, so I just started to write my own story. Seeing my own experience becoming a social phenomenon filled me a lot of thoughts and ideas for the future. I love everyone who loved the song.
How much of your public persona is the real Dean and how much is for the industry? Do you see Instagram as a platform to present your raw, authentic self? And how about the music you produce?
I’m not sure how people perceive DEAN, but I’ve always been doing what I wanted. I want to be myself as much as possible in all circumstances. I think people who react to DEAN are somewhat similar to me and I love people who are similar to me.
You have a reputation for pushing boundaries with your approach to your music and its visual presentation. It’s experimental and it’s up to the audience’s interpretation. What are some of the interesting interpretations that you’ve heard about your music?
“What’s this? It’s terrifying….” Lol.
Speaking of Instagram, it seems like you were staying in London for a while to prepare your new music. Is there a specific reason that you chose London to be your base for your song production? How does that environment influence your sound?
London’s weather and atmosphere influenced the song a lot. At the time I focusing on the “future” so I went to London without hesitation. I learned so much that it will take days to explain, so I want to show my feelings and thoughts in my music.
Who are you currently listening to?
Chilly Gonzales – Solo Piano I, II, III, Deb Never, Dominic Fike, Daniel Caesar, MISO, Rad Museum, and TABBER’s new songs.
Throughout your entire career, we’ve seen you work with other soulful artistes such as Anderson. Paak and The Internet’s Syd. You even performed with Daniel Caesar in Paris recently. Tell us about those experiences.
Meeting talented musicians and sharing energy with them is always a pleasant experience. Whenever I think of those times, they still come back as charming memories that mean a lot to me.
When it comes to the creative process of producing music, what usually comes to you first: the story or the melody?
It differs from time to time, but usually melody first. Making a melody is my way of “playing”. I hear melodies even when I’m completely still. Then the melodies catch the emotions I want to express and lead the story through.
What have you found inspiring this year?
I’m inspired by a lot of things. Working on the albums have made me sensitive so it’s inspiring to watch the stability and determination from people and society. Such as people who have been working the same job for more than 20 years, or people regularly starting their days early and heading to the office in the morning. A lot of my inspiration comes from society.
How would you describe your new album compared to your previous work?
Compared to my previous work, I’m focusing on the quality of the mix and master because sound design subconsciously affect people’s emotions. Music and movies are similar. Convincing audiences with a carefully planned out mise-en-scene and item settings are like convincing listeners with lyrics, the connection between tracks, and sound. My previous works were for past DEAN to enjoy and my upcoming works are for the present DEAN.
Lastly, how do you feel about coming back and playing in Malaysia, especially at Good Vibes Festival this time around?
Since the line-up is exciting, I hope I can enjoy the festival as well and watch other artists’ performances after I’m done.