Photography: John Johnson / johnjohnson-photography.com Photography: Sugarmen / facebook.com/sugarmenuk

With Sound City hosting a smorgasbord of British artists at South Korea’s ZANDARI FESTA, Liverpool post-punk melody masters SUGARMEN kept a photo diary of their time soaking up Seoul’s hybrid culture. Here’s guitarist and vocalist Chay Heney’s take on a whirlwind week in South Korea’s sprawling metropolis.

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“This is us in front of Gyeongbokgung Palace along with our friend (and brilliant photographer) John Johnson. John came with us to capture a bit of the trip but also as a step in manager/tour manager. Part of the deal of us going to play Zandari Festa was to have a representative with us to meet any of the industry type folk so John packed his smart kecks and his lenses and jumped aboard. We’re also very thankful of him for putting up with us for a week…”

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“This was taken somewhere along the border of North and South Korea, we took a DMZ [Demilitarised Zone] tour that takes you to a few different places. One of the stops on the tour is Dorasan station, it only currently has 4 trains a day from Seoul but was built in 2002 as the first place you will be able to get a train to North Korea after unification. The station is pretty much a ghost town and it seems to of been built as a symbol of the hope for re-unification. We went to a viewing deck and had a look at a place they call ‘Propaganda Village’ just on the other side of the border, apparently all the buildings are empty and it was built in the 50s to encourage South Korean’s to move North where it’s known as ‘Peace Village’ still. There was a fun fair just behind this, it’s one big tourist attraction.”

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"This is Sam [McVann, drummer] in the Gardens of Jogyesa Temple. I’ve never been to a Buddhist temple before, it was incredibly peaceful even with all the tourists, including ourselves, walking around gawping."
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“I’m not sure about the Union Jack here but here we are playing to a very kind Korean audience at the British showcase night. Zandari Festa was amazing. It was based in an area called Hongdae, a big student area and a massive sprawl of bars, venues, hipster cafes and Korean restaurants – most seemed to be open till about 8am. I think going to Korea and playing the festival really opened our eyes to what else is out there for us. You tend to think a bands journey is to do the UK, Europe, America and maybe Japan but we were being asked to play in China and Mongolia and all these places I’d never have thought they had festivals or bands touring. I suppose that’s ignorance on our part! Korean audiences are great to play for, they seemed to enjoy what we were doing (or at least pretended well) and we enjoyed the fact they were enjoying it. That does not happen often for us. We also watched some brilliant bands, there’s a great band from Seoul called DTSQ who played Sound City last year.”

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“Here’s us and She Drew The Gun on a sledge somewhere in Hongdae that seemed to have a President Lincoln statue on it. They were fantastic every time we watched them and it was a real pleasure getting to spend the week hanging out and drinking soju on street corners with them. Soju is about 80p and you can buy it from all the 7/11’s, it’s like a rice wine and it does the trick.”

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“Us and our good friend Nicko from The Tea Street Band drinking soju somewhere… Nicko was over there working for Sound City and was part of the reason we got there so big thanks to him!”

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“Me and Sam enjoying some instant noodles. All over Seoul there are 7-Elevens and GS25’s that are open 24/7 where you can go in and buy a beer and some instant noodles or a microwave meal and make it right there in the shop. It’s the future really, isn’t it? There are loads of things like the 7-Eleven’s that give Seoul a bit of an American/western feel but then you realise that’s just completely wrong and its totally nuts and wonderful and not like anywhere else you’ll ever go. It feels like a constant cross between super high-tech/modern and very traditional. You could be surrounded by huge neon signs and buildings then right there in the middle of it all will be a temple or palace or a huge fish market.”

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“This is at the bottom of N Seoul Tower on Namsan Mountain, heading up in the lift. I don't think any of us are great with heights but this was really worth it. They ask you to look up while they play a video of you going in to space, it’s a tiny bit like the end of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
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“A view of Seoul from the top of the tower captured magnificently by John Johnson. It’s hard to get an impression of how big it actually is until you get up there. Just over that winding manmade river is Gangnam, we thought we’d visit it because of that song and all.”

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"This is us outside the last venue we played, GoGos2, it was like the Zanzibar of Seoul. You can also see a very bored lady sitting on the ticket desk. All the venues we played (even the dingy ones) seemed to be full of the best gear and the best engineers and everyone seemed to love their job. It was all really efficient!"
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“We got the train to the airport not too long after this. Our last day there. We’re on the staircase of a subway station here and behind us is a massive embankment in the middle of the road that leads all the way up to some mountains with loads of monuments on the way.”

 

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