Becoming a musician was an organic process for Damon Joe, a South Korean DJ, composer and guitarist. He played for Vanilla Unity, a rock group that won the third prize at the K-Rock Championship and was awarded with a special award for Best New Band in 2004. He also composed and played guitar for the now-disbanded Drug Restaurant. Damon collaborated with Vincent – an artist well-known for his K-drama OST single for The Beauty Inside and in 2018, along with Lee Seung Joo, he co-composed and co-arranged OST single Now for the Korean adaptation of the USA TV show Suits. With composing the songs for OSTs and becoming more and more recognized as a DJ, new opportunities are slowly piling up for Damon.
Damon Joe © Photo courtesy of the photographer
Damon’s experience in touring Europe and the USA has undoubtedly helped him understand the western audience’s taste in music better. He has recently been invited – alongside Sway D, an emerging rapper – to a few European cities, including London, to DJ and entertain crowds at K-pop events. The events were received positively, leaving the audience hoping for him to come back to Europe again soon.
To Damon, DJ-ing and playing guitar is a pleasure, but producing is what the artist has had in his sights for a while. With many projects already under his belt and with being as hardworking and talented as they come, it is only a matter of time before Damon is back with his next project.
Damon Joe © Photo courtesy of the photographer
First of all, looking back, do you remember how it all started? When did you know you wanted to do music for a living?
In middle school, I started listening to rock music and wanted to learn how to play the guitar. When I turned 20, I knew I wanted to become a musician.
When did you start DJ-ing, and what (or who) were your early passions and influences?
I started 2 years ago; I was influenced by Calvin Harris. To be honest, I have always wanted to become a producer rather than a guitarist, so that’s why I started DJ-ing.
When it comes to composing, can you tell us a bit more about the kind of music you compose? Do you compose for your DJ setlist – do you add your own music to the setlist? Did you compose music for the rock band you were a part of before?
I took part in producing (rock music) for almost all of the songs in the band that I played in until 2019. Recently, I did work together with the singer Vincent (from SuperStar K) and co-created an OST single for drama Suits. In terms of the K-pop parties I DJ, the crowd usually enjoys music by the group BLACKPINK, so I play a lot of their songs in my remixed version.
Photo © bnt International
What are currently your main challenges as a DJ? What is it about DJ-ing that makes it interesting for you?
I am more interested in becoming a producer rather than DJ, and my dream is to work with Calvin Harris one day.
You recently visited European cities to DJ at K-pop parties alongside Sway D, including London and Hamburg. What was that experience like for you?
Sway D is a great guy; spending time with him was a lot of fun. When I go back to Korea, I can’t wait to work with him again and make some songs together. His energy is like a “super hurricane”.
What do you usually start with when preparing for a set?
I like “kick-starting” my set with Boss by NCT127; it creates a great atmosphere for the crowd.
How do you choose the songs that you put on your setlist?
I make my basic playlist, then – depending on the crowd and the atmosphere – I add/change the songs as I go.
Photo © Damon Joe
Do you feel that the crowds are actually able to appreciate the hard work that is DJ-ing, even if they don’t actually understand what is happening behind the decks?
I don’t know, because when I DJ, I am usually in the zone and I just enjoy it together with the crowd – though funnily enough, I suck at dancing.
Looking at different music genres, which one do you consider to be your favourite? Is there a music/artist you like which/who never fails to make you feel good?
From a producer’s point of view, it’s too hard to choose just one genre, but I listen to Post Malone’s beerbongs & bentleys a lot and that always makes me feel good.
DJ-ing and composing music must take time, how do you balance it all out?
I compose a lot of music with guitar, so composing becomes a guitar practice for me; also, when I prepare for DJ-ing, I have to listen to a lot of different music, and that also makes for a good practice. So it’s easy to balance it all.
What do you normally do when you have some time off?
I play football with friends or go to the gym, or watch movies at home. And I hope to find myself a girlfriend one day. (Laughs)
What’s next for you? Do you have any new projects in the pipeline?
Actually, everything is currently put on hold, but I am going to prepare for a solo album and hope to work with many other artists in Korea.
Music Video © Vanilla Unity
We’d like to thank Damon Joe who kindly took the time to answer our questions.
Written and interviewed by Maggie Gogler
Edited by Sanja Struna
Featured photo © C9 Entertainment