South Korea is a country constantly in transition. From its politics to its pop culture, the climate is always shifting. As such, it’s a privilege when we as lovers of the culture get the occasion to talk to one of the people pushing for change in any capacity.
DJ and producer Joon Cho is one such proponent of change. Known more commonly by his artist moniker, Macrohard, he’s had a hand in influencing popular trends in South Korea’s music scene. He’s certainly helped pave the way for the rise of music brought in from Latin and Caribbean countries.
With his latest release, track “Right On Time,” Macrohard is pushing even harder to propel his style of aggressive trap-infused house to a wider audience in South Korea and bridge the gap between countries. But before he became one of the pioneers of this hard noise banging its way through South Korea and New York’s clubs, he was just a young man with an ear for music and the ambition to make it part of his life.
Firstly, could you introduce yourself to our readers as if you’re Macrohard introducing himself to Joon Cho?
I go by the name of Macrohard. I consider myself a DJ, first and foremost, but more recently, I also fell in love with producing and film scoring as well. I was born in Korea but spent my adolescence in the US. However, I started my DJing career back in Korea when I was on a leave from college to do internships and fulfill my military obligations. Since coming back to the US to finish my undergraduate studies, I have been working to make myself a name here.
Your name is the direct opposite of “Microsoft.” Obviously for it to be at least in some way related to your name, the brand has to have some sort of meaning to you. What about Microsoft, if anything, actually inspired the artist Macrohard?
The name “Macrohard” has a lot of different layers of meaning to me. It’s a pun, it’s a state of mind (going harder than hard), and it’s also a tribute to my favorite rapper of all time, Biggie Smalls. But surely, “Microsoft” is a big layer to the meaning. I think it represents the electronic, computer-like element to my music and shows my respect to Bill Gates and the Microsoft brand, for their influence, image, and even Gates’s humanitarianism.
You studied sociology at Duke. That’s definitely a different track than DJing, producing, and creating the type of sound you’ve cultivated. Did or does anything in your past studies help you create?
Sociology is one of the biggest reasons why I decided to become a DJ/musician. I learned that a sociologist’s core inquiry is how one could better society. Of course I do what I do for my own enjoyment too, but after a lot of thinking, I concluded that I wanted to be a force in society that works to bring joy to people, to bring them together, and to make them forget about their worries, even for just those moments entranced in music.
Music was always my medicine, whenever I was sad, depressed, or lonely, and I truly love and believe in the power of music. I don’t mean to imply that my work is selfless or humanitarian, but I knew that this world that we are living in right now could definitely use more sources of positive energy in bringing people together, against the powers at work that try to segregate us further.
Music As Life
Finding his soul in the pulsating rhythms of the club music he loved, Macrohard created a persona that both defined his philosophy and gave him the guts to go beyond what he knew and reach for planes further than even his imagination.
Take us through the birth of Macrohard. What/Who sparked your desire to make music your life?
It came naturally, really. My life had bounced left, right, down and up, and somehow I ended up here. I was always a fan of the arts, whether it is dancing, fine arts, cinema, etc., so my hobbies and passions often lied within. But I guess what really made me go all-in was the sudden death of one of my best friends. The trauma put me in a depression and made me realize how short life could be. Until then, I was living for the future, aiming to become a successful breadwinner that would support my future family of and make my parents proud as a “model” son. But realizing that my life could end before any of that may come true, I started to live for today, whilst also empathizing with the sad, the lonely, and the traumatized.
I guess one could say that was the moment I decided to dedicate my life to music, to also honor that friend that had to leave too soon, to show him that his leaving, in the end, made me stronger and made me realize my life’s calling.
Could you tell us how MMIK (Musical Massacre in Korea) Entertainment came about?
Although we packaged ourselves to seem more professional like a company or a record label, MMIK was closer to a “crew” of passionate international students interested in the craft of party planning and DJing. We had DJs, graphic designers, photographers, and videographers who came together for the true love and passion for dance music.
Because we were more of a casual crew, and all international students, we were never at the same country together for long periods of time, and because we never had any contractually binding business agreements, we all just went our own ways after. We never officially disbanded or drifted apart as friends. In fact, I still keep in touch with all the members, and the MMIK name is still alive, though very dormant. I always wanted to keep it an option to revive it, whether it is a party, a crew, or even a record label imprint. But who knows? As for now, it is simply a great memory in our lives and a platform that allowed its members to practice their respective crafts.
What inspired asianpear?
Asianpear, is a side project I started to do what I couldn’t do as “Macrohard.” Primarily, because of the namesake and the image I had been forming under the moniker “Macrohard,” I wanted an outlet for my “softer” sounding sounds. When I realized that RL Grime and Clockwork was the same person, I found that to be very admirable and liberating, and it inspired me to do the same. As for the name, I got inspired by French Kiwi Juice, a name I thought to be very fitting for the type of music he does.
You describe asianpear as the softer side of Macrohard. The music under that moniker is definitely softer than the bass-heavy trap influenced music you create under Macrohard. Do you have to set yourself in a different mindset when creating as asianpear?
The best way to describe the relationship between the two monikers, is the Yin and the Yang. Macrohard being the “yang” and asianpear being the “yin.” But as such, you will find some Yin in the Yang, and vice versa.
Though both are parts of you, do you prefer creating as one over the other?
It depends on my mood, but I enjoy making music regardless. However, I am currently focusing heavier on Macrohard, while I still have the energy left to be wild, loud, and HAM, with whatever “youth” I have left in me. I’m 27, which isn’t too old, but not that young either, haha.
I can hear more of your heritage in your music under asianpear (more traditional instrumentation, more focus on natural sounds). Do you think you tend to express yourself more fully under asianpear?
I don’t know if I, myself, would consider asianpear to be more representative of my heritage. But being as it’s a side project for now, I do feel less pressure about being trendy, for all that entails, which I guess could be seen as being myself more? But either project, I always try to be genuine in my expressions. It’s just that, like anyone, I have different sides of thoughts and emotions, and I express them accordingly.
Lessons Learned and Applied
As any artist will tell you, there’s a long path from where they first get in their spirit to create to where they inevitably end up. Macrohard is no exception. He’s taken his experiences, what he’s learned and applied it to create a musical wave in South Korea that has continued to stretch its influence beyond the club walls and lasers.
You’ve been making music as Macrohard for six years now. In that time what’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself as an artist?
That I cannot stick to one genre. I know it is often wise for branding to stick to one genre or sound, at least at first, to solidify your brand image… but I found that I just can’t. I love too many types of music, and I need to do what my heart aches to create at that moment.
What’s been the most difficult aspect of being an independent artist?
Reality. Money. Parents’ worrying eyes. The game. The market.
But it is a path I decided on, and I know there is no one to blame for it. And in the end, it is all worth it.
You joined Oh!Records in 2013. How did that come about?
The legendary DJ Gon. He was the main-time resident DJ at Club Answer, one of the hottest clubs in Seoul at the time. I had gotten to know him via MMIK, when I booked him for our parties and such. He became one of my most influential mentors, and he was, and still is, one of the core members of Oh!Records. I had a chance to show him an EP I was working on as a producer, and at that moment, he verbally invited me onboard Oh!Records. It became official after he got the final okay from the top dog OG, DJ Kuma.
Did anything change about your music or how you made music?
I like to think… it got better. Haha. At first, I really didn’t know anything about engineering or even most music theory. I had never really learned an instrument or music theory, so I did everything by ear. Now that I have studied more, I like to believe that my music became more structured and better engineered than before.
You’ve opened for both Fat Joe and josh pan. Their styles are disparate, but your music seems to be a mixture of both “traditional” New York hip-hop (Fat Joe) and darker, more emotionally raw music (josh pan). Is it your goal as an artist to mix those two elements together?
Well, to set things straight, I wasn’t the direct supporting act for either of those shows. For Fat Joe, I was an opener with another act in between myself and Fat Joe in a New Year’s Eve party, and josh pan was a surprise guest appearance at a hip-hop concert after-party, and his appearance was even a surprise to me. So I didn’t really prepare my sets to fit specifically to Fat Joe or josh pan, per se, but it did work out both times, being that my usual NYC party sets are a blend of New York hip-hop hits with some “darker, more emotionally raw” type music (as you put it).
How did Bad Reputation NYC come about?
Thanks to the founder and owner, Kove Lee. He was friends with Yamada, a DJ that was in the same crew as me back in Korea called Bass Attack. When Kove found out that I was coming to live in the greater New York area and saw me DJ, he asked me to join as the music director and DJ for BadR, and I am very grateful for the opportunity.
What’s your favorite/most memorable event for BRNYC?
I can’t pin it down to one moment, but it was the days we had guest DJs from Korea. The joy of seeing old DJ comrades from Korea and to spin with them here in New York, often going B2B, bringing back old memories of when we used to grind in the underground scene in Seoul. Those moments were magical.
Tomorrow, we’ll have part two of our conversation. In the meantime, please check out Macrohard on: