Kenzi interview: Producer of NCT 127, BoA and More Opens Up

It begins with a sapphire crystal melody. It is gently alluring because it swings and lowers, bringing you nearer. immediately, NCT 127“Favourite (Vampire)” descends right into a crooked groove, a hip lure, because the rapper spits out a harmful love that hurts effectively. However this stark departure from its melodic starting is in anticipation of the primary occasion, the refrain, as that haunting phrase explodes as soon as once more—however this time, as a robust anthem, embracing dazzling harmonious layers of the group’s honeyed vocals.

In some ways, this tune is SM Leisure’s signature, whimsical manufacturing thrives – assume sudden The rhythm adjustmentsAnd the mashed speciesAnd the artistic breaks Singing is above all else. However extra particularly, she bears the hallmarks of somebody who has helped nurture the sounds and texture of SM’s iconic Ok-pop since its inception. this particular person my treasureSM Leisure, the producer and songwriter who has been constructing the Ok-pop sound as we all know it for over 20 years.

Since becoming a member of the Ok-pop juggernaut within the early 2000s, KENZIE has been recorded on tons of of songs, of which no less than 30 are high 10 singles in Korea. I’ve written and produced for almost each group that has crossed the doorways of SM (and extra not too long ago, a number of exterior the company as effectively), from queen of kpop snake For the newcomer woman group Aespa. These are the songs that turned canon: Ladies’ Technology’s “Into the New World”, EXO’s “Monster”, Purple Taste by Purple Velvet, and NCT 127’s Limitless, to call a number of. Did you’re taking a flight on Korean Air? You then most likely heard the unique KENZIE tune Via security directions.

However whereas her work could also be in all places, the producer itself is a comparatively understated character. Her solely interview about her profession appeared in her college’s on-line journal, Berklee Faculty of Music in Boston, the place she graduated in 1999. In particular person, she seems to be nice—carrying a easy graphic T-shirt, face framed by a pair of clear sq. lenses. Though it has undoubtedly been elusive over time, this doesn’t translate into any form of isolation. KENZIE emits shy heat, typically laughing at herself and her fellow publication as she ponders a query.

Born in South Korea, Kim Yoon Jung grew up amidst music. Her mom majored in classical vocal music, and early on, members of her household recognized KENZIE’s particular musical expertise. “I felt like I had a powerful musical DNA within me,” she says in Korean. “If I hear a tune, I can play it on the piano immediately.” She laughs self-consciously. “It is embarrassing to say that form of factor about myself, however taking part in the devices was straightforward for me, even when I did not. [formally] … so I felt just a little completely different from the others.” Quick ahead a number of years, when KENZIE left South Korea to attend Berklee, understanding that she needed to finish up someplace within the music business, however wasn’t fairly positive the place she would slot in. Ok-pop itself was simply starting to develop in South Korea within the early ’90s, with teams like Search engine optimisation Taiji, Boys and HOT lastly discovering a foothold within the music scene.As an alternative of Ok-pop, I needed to supply music, says KENZIE. And that naturally led to Ok-pop.” “Though I grew up closely influenced by classical music, taking part in devices just like the piano, I felt that what I used to be listening to in pop and electronics on the time was the way forward for the subsequent technology of music, which is why I used to be very fascinated by the music and the pop music scene typically.”

I heard about SM Leisure’s rising success again dwelling, and despatched out some demos. Quickly, she signed a cope with founder Lee Soo-man and started her profession in an business that was nonetheless making an attempt to outline itself.

For almost all of the subsequent decade, KENZIE was making songs nearly all by herself, together with her first single, BoA’s My Identify, in 2004. “On the time, songwriting camps did not exist, so all of the producers and songwriters needed to They handle every part from the soundtrack to the highest, so all of us needed to begin from scratch and do the complete manufacturing.” “All of the rankings would gather the demos, and whereas there was a selected venture, they might ship the summaries to all of the producers in Korea, ship the demos again, make every part from scratch, and switch the songs to labels.” The sound was similar to what was exploding from Walkmans for younger adults within the US. “Within the early 2000s, folks like Britney Spears, producers like Max Martin dominated the pop sound. I am not saying that each producer in Korea is trying ahead to that sound, however no less than that they had some form of impression. I might say it is It was a worldwide pattern on the time.”

“My Identify” definitely carries that symbolic texture of early crumbs—a gritty mix of R&B and pop paying homage to Future’s Youngster and Britney—however it’s additionally the early marks of a KENZIE manufacturing, with dramatic layered chords and guitar evoking its traditional background. Over time, the KENZIE impact has develop into increasingly more obvious. “In a broader sense, melody appears to be the necessary and fundamental ingredient of my songs,” she says. “I see melodies as the important thing that pushes the tune ahead.” Songs she launched later throughout this period – together with Quantity Ones “Present Me Your Love” by TVXQ! Tremendous Junior and Oh! – It principally fell on the R&B and BubbleGum Pop tune spectrum, with sturdy vocal concord at its core.

Round 2013, issues began to vary. SM CEO Chris Lee, who was the manufacturing supervisor on the time, introduced the concept of ​​the songwriting camp from Europe to Seoul. KENZIE was one of many first Korean producers to attend, collaborating for the primary time with creators from america.S. and Europe. “Again then, every part was so refreshing,” KENZIE recollects, his eyes glowing with nostalgia. “The great thing about songwriting camp is that there aren’t actually any set guidelines or set strategies, however it’s extra a few level the place all of the concepts come collectively, which makes for excellent chemistry. It was one thing east meets west. These [gave the songs we were making] completely different character. She factors to the instance of EXO’s “Overdose,” a high-dramatic EDM tune that ultimately rose to #1 in 2014.

That is what you imply by “East meets West”: for instance, you say that Western (or American) melodies have a tendency to maximise using a selected melodic concept by repeating it all through the complete tune. In distinction, Ok-pop melodies undoubtedly have some recurring features, however on high of that, there are additionally some surprising melodic adjustments as effectively. In comparison with different genres, Ok-pop tends to make extra dramatic transitions between every clip of the tune, and extra. of emotional melodies, and excessive observe (instrumental) layers,” she says. “On the finish, these small adjustments finally result in one large musical theme. If I had been to think about these Ok-pop melodies, I might consider a fractal construction. Personally, I really feel that every chord development at all times comprises this specific notice, which when positioned on high , unexpectedly completes the development and makes a enjoyable phrase that hits our ears. I at all times search for that particular notice till I really feel glad.”

Since then, KENZIE has labored on no less than one quantity (or throughout the high 5) per 12 months, and has expanded the vary of genres through which it operates. Purple Velvet aspect of 2016 b’some love“Tropical House. EXO-CBX’s”play date“Dance within the disco. Tremendous Junior Collaboration with Leslie Grace, 2018 “Le sentoWith a combination of tango, dembo redeem, and bob reggaeton. She fondly displays on a latest profitable collaboration, NCT . dreamsingle”good day futureFrom the 2021 EP of the identical identify.[Due to the pandemic]Moonshine, Adrian McKinnon and I’ve exchanged “Good day Future” ideas by way of plenty of emails, Zoom and KakaoTalk periods [Korean WhatsApp], unaware that this straightforward course of would take greater than a month.” “Even finalizing the lyrics bumped into some hurdles as effectively, as a result of A&R and I had variations about the primary theme and use of sure lyrics. Nevertheless, I believed in my concepts and tried to impress the staff. We’re all very pleased with how he turned out to be on the planet.”

But it surely’s not simply music that should evolve and reinvent itself over time – so does the way in which it is made. Certainly, Kenzi admits that the spark that got here with adopting the camps is beginning to fade. “These days, as all the main manufacturers try to undertake the identical system, inviting producers from completely different nations to run tune camps, I now really feel freshness and novelty shedding the sting,” she says reflectively. “And that as a producer is essentially the most difficult factor nowadays.” However KENZIE is not one to speak concerning the previous – in reality, she’s made it her ethos to always look ahead.

“I attempt to overcome it by in search of new tune constructions, new melodies, new methods of collaborating, and new methods of creating music. With regard to melodies—I are inclined to care quite a bit about melodies—we regularly say that each one attainable tunes have been produced and disseminated on the planet,” she says, which is A mischievous smile performed on her face. “However I’m nonetheless in search of new melodies, one thing completely different from the tunes of the previous. One thing that can revolutionize the music business.”

Certain, the Ok-Pop business seems to be completely different than it did when KENZIE first began in SM, however she factors out that it was greater than only a vocal evolution. “Listeners work together with Ok-pop not simply as music, however as multi-faceted content material. That is the way it has been evolving and altering.” “To be particular, I get pleasure from once I’m writing or releasing a tune, the lyrics are typically figurative with hidden meanings inside, and I discover followers nowadays making an attempt to foretell precisely what they imply, writing quite a lot of feedback on YouTube and different issues. I discovered this very attention-grabbing. And I am so glad they did. Followers are taking part in and having fun with Ok-pop content material.”

Most of us are comparatively passive shoppers of music, grabbing developments once they come alongside, and naturally drawn to what resonates with us. Nevertheless, KENZIE doesn’t essentially have that luxurious. She always wants to achieve out to voices that did not exist, and to work in new instructions she hopes will transfer those that hearken to her. However regardless of the arduous job, she remains to be self-confident. “Personally, I do not attempt to assume an excessive amount of about developments, I simply attempt to be myself and produce out one thing authentic on the within,” she says. “I do not know what the plan is, or what the course is now. However I begin by following the person types, characters, and personalities of the artists I work with, so I strive to concentrate to these elements. After I write, I attempt to be very immersive – similar to respiration, you do not actually discover that you just’re respiration , just isn’t it? “

So whereas the long run is unsure, that is the place KENZIE does greatest – unencumbered by expectations and free to maneuver at its personal tempo. “I am stuffed with concepts, I haven’t got sufficient time,” she jokes. “As Korean leisure explodes globally, if there are any nice alternatives, I might wish to get entangled extra abroad as a Ok-content creator, particularly by producing authentic soundtracks for worldwide motion pictures or dramas.” However her fundamental ambition is straightforward, and it has nothing to do with the charts or what you may discover within the time-tested crystal ball: “If folks can really feel every kind of various feelings when listening to my music, use it because the soundtrack from their lives, it should make me so grateful and blissful.” “.

This widget seems in rolling rockThe annual Sizzling Checklist, within the July-August challenge of the journal.