While bubbly pop music from South Korea is blooming in popularity in Europe, most people might not be expecting dark music coming from this same country as well.
After joining German independent (Japanese) rock music record label GAN-SHIN Records, all eyes were set on Madmans Esprit. Before this announcement, Kyuho Lee, the musical talent who started this solo project, started to promote this project and its upcoming album Conscientization of Unconciousness through social media, which caught quite some attention from the Visual Kei scene.
However, Madmans Esprit is not the only project connected to Kyuho. This multi-talented musician lends his powerful voice for the German progressive metal band Human Traces and is also a part of the Korean visual rock band ms. isohp romatem as a guitarist as well. While many people are now looking at Kyuho’s solo project Madmans Esprit, now is the time to ask the question: who is this intriguing adept Visual Kei musician from South Korea?
AVO: You have been active with different musical projects, but how did it all start?
Kyuho: I’ve been always writing my own music since I was 13 or so. So it was very natural that there always has to be a band that is built around me. Madmans Esprit is basically my solo project in that sense. ms. isohp romatem was founded by the vocalist/guitarist Juho first, a really good friend of mine. I just went to their rehearsal several times for fun and at some point, we were jamming. After several changes of line-up, I became an official member of the band.
In the case of Human Traces, I basically found out that the band is looking for a vocalist on the internet. When I was in Berlin, I was losing all hope of having a full line-up for Madmans Esprit and I thought joining an existing band wouldn’t be a bad idea. Most of all, it was a genre that I was never into before but I could feel the potential of what I can do as a vocalist in the band.
AVO: What are your parts in the musical projects – there are at least three: Madmans Esprit, ms. isohp romatem and Human Traces – you are active in?
Kyuho: With Madmans Esprit I do basically everything. I compose, write lyrics, record, mix and master, even do some designs. ms. isohp romatem is more like built up around Juho, the vocalist/guitarist, but the songwriting and lyrics are like half-half from him and me, I play the guitar and backup vocal in the band. With Human Traces I, of course, write the lyrics but I’m not very cooperating with the entire songwriting, it’s more like one person writes a song and the other members arrange their own parts.
AVO: The music you make consists of dark influences, although the projects you are active in do belong to other genres. Is being active in different genres the secret to keep yourself motivated and inspired to make new music?
Kyuho: When I started to write my own music, I literally had no concept nor vision how the band should go. But at some point, the band created its own genre and some things I want to express don’t match with it anymore. It’s maybe more like a need than a motivation.
AVO: With Madmans Esprit and ms. isohp romatem the visual elements are present, Madmans Esprit even got the label Visual Kei added to it. In Japan you have been promoting your project at Visual Kei stores. What does Visual Kei mean for you and how do you corporate it into your life and music?
Kyuho: It’s a freedom to be not sorted as ‘black metal’ or ‘post-progressive-dark-metal’ or so and it’s an aesthetic. I’ve got a lot of influences both musically and visually from Visual Kei but never made a ‘statement’ that I belong there. Especially because Madmans Esprit’s last album was definitely much closer to ‘black metal’ and had less Visual Kei influences. But with the new album, I felt that musically it has become much broader and now I can’t label myself with just ‘black metal’ any more. if I have to be somewhat sorted into a category with my new style and everything, it had to be Visual Kei.
AVO: You can speak a few languages and mix that in your own project, Madmans Esprit, but also with Human Traces, do you foresee more mixing with other languages in your own project, such as Japanese or are you very comfortable in singing in your own language, Korean, mixed with English or German?
Kyuho: I am actually currently working on a song that is mostly written in Japanese. Every language has different rhythms and feelings, I’m not a master of neither of the 4 languages I can speak, but I still can use them in a way I want to express certain things. Certain notions can be expressed only in a certain language just because they don’t exist in other languages.
AVO: At the moment you are very active with the promotion of Madmans Esprit, there is an album coming up and you have been releasing a few music videos to promote the album. It has been four years after releasing NACHT, do you feel that the upcoming album – titled, Conscientization of Unconsciousness, is an adult version of the former release?
Kyuho: I’m not really sure how to talk about the concept. It’s my conscientised, materialised unconsciousness and notions. It’s definitely much more mature in comparison to NACHT, musically and also lyrically. But in some ways, one can feel it’s lighter than NACHT because of new influences I’ve got from different music, it’s less ‘cult’.
AVO: With Madmans Esprit you have signed to GAN-SHIN Records. It seems to be a logical step in terms of growing further with your project, as they do promote Japanese rock bands such as heidi., Dir en Grey, Matenrou Opera, Jupiter, KEEL and more. Was it a logical step for you to work with GAN-SHIN?
Kyuho: I actually tried every label I know, including European, American, Korean and Japanese labels. And GAN-SHIN was the only place that accepted Madmans Esprit actually. But in the end it all makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?
AVO: With the upcoming album for your solo project Madmans Esprit in sight, you have been more present in the musical world and you are communicating more with your fans. Do you think that people are more open to your music?
Kyuho: I think people just simply didn’t know the band’s existence before. By communicating with them I can tell the people that the band, the music is here and they might like it. And also that I’m a metal, Visual Kei artist from Korea (not a K-POP boy group) is a point people are interested in I guess. It’s probably what they’ve never seen before.
AVO: You are now preparing for concerts, namely in your country home country of South Korea. But if you could have a concert in any place you want around the world, at any stage or stadium, where would you like to play, and why?
Kyuho: Obviously Japan, as I have several bands that I really like from there. Especially Nagoya and Osaka. Madmans Esprit is actually planning to visit Tokyo this year with the upcoming tour. I definitely want to go back to Berlin and Stockholm, the lives I had there were wonderful. But also hopefully the USA and France, quite a lot of fans are from these countries and I want to show them how Madmans Esprit is live.
Madmans Esprit announced a 2018 tour with shows in South Korea and Japan, for up-to-date information about this tour, titled eine alte Dunkelheit, you should check out the official website of Madmans Esprit. Furthermore, Madmans Esprit’s second album, Conscientization of Unconsciousness, can be pre-ordered through Bandcamp. The official regular release of the album will be in October.
The newest single of ms. isohp romatem, Trauma, and the in 2014 released album Cicada is available for digital purchase through Bandcamp. The in 2017 released album Chastise Mankind of the German band Human Traces is available for digital purchase through Bandcamp.
I want to thank Kyuho Lee for the time to answer the questions and the AVO crew for the support.