C: I kept going back to “Peace of Mind.” The imagery of the color red, how it relates to the Communist Party, and how you proclaim it’s a color you hate is really interesting to me. The story of just living a normal life is an interesting parallel with the Communist imagery. Punk by its very nature is very rebellious and sort of a middle finger to the established order. One could say Communism goes against the “established social order.” What made you write a song that proclaims to actually align more with what’s considered socially normal and even acceptable?
J: I actually wrote “Peace of Mind” before …Whatever That Means was a band. In 2008, I was teaching at a kindergarten in Apgujeong, one of the richest districts in Korea. The students’ parents were movie stars, professional athletes, politicians, that sort of stuff. I mean, the president’s granddaughter was a student in the room next to mine. Every day when they’d come pick up their kids, the moms would just try to outdo each other by showing off how much stuff they’d bought while shopping that day or the new ridiculously expensive car they’d just bought. It was pretty disgusting.
It was a regular 9 to 5 job and the pay was okay, but I was still paying off student loans and all that, and I just remember feeling like, I don’t need to be as rich as them, and I don’t need us all to be totally equal or anything, but why can’t this just be a little easier? Why can’t I have a little more time to spend doing the stuff I care about? So that’s where that came from.
C: Was “What You’re Wearing” aimed at anyone in particular?
J: Oh, yeah—it was definitely aimed at a few specific groups of people. They know who they are so I’m not going to name names.
Whether it’s the fashion or the perceived power, there has always been a small part of the scene in Korea that glorifies Nazism, and it makes me sick. And I mean, it’s disgusting for anyone to defend that stuff, but it’s especially ignorant to see Koreans, whose country was actually occupied by Germany’s allies, who would’ve been considered racially inferior, to think that kind of imagery is cool. It’s a special kind of ignorance.
One weekend, I was tending bar at Club Spot in Seoul, and this 20-something kid comes up to order a drink dressed up in an SS uniform. I refused to serve him and he got all bent out of shape. We almost got in a fight, but luckily the owner saw how mad I was and just threw him out. The next day, before band practice, there was a documentary on the History Channel about the rise of Hitler, and I got mad all over again thinking about that incident. That’s when the song came to me, and I was actually able to write the whole thing in my head on the short drive to practice.
C: “Goodbye Note” has such a powerful message, especially for those dealing with depression. It seems a rather personal song, even for subject matter that affects so many people. Was this written for someone in your life?
J: I don’t remember what exactly brought it on, but one day I was sitting around and the thought came to me, “If I was sick and knew I was going to die, what would I want to say to Trash?” And the concept was simple. I love you. You’re the best thing that ever happened to me. But make sure your life doesn’t end with mine. Find a way to keep living and keep searching for happiness.
C: Were you ever hesitant to release/write music that was this personal?
J: Not really. I think I live a pretty normal life, and most people have experiences like mine so they can probably relate to what I’m writing. And if they can relate, why hesitate talking about it?
C: How did the split 7” with Burn Burn Burn come about?
J: One of the coolest shows we’ve ever played was a house show in Tacoma, Washington on our first US tour. They crammed way too many people into their basement and everyone went completely nuts while we played. It was awesome. Drew, Burn’s singer, was one of the guys who ran that house. We kept in touch over the years and always talked about doing something together. When …Whatever That Means decided to pull the trigger on another US tour, it seemed like the right time to finally do a split album. Burn Burn Burn jumped on board right away, and that was that.