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An Interview With a Guitarist
Written by Racheal Chung | Published. 2020.06.02 09:33 | Count : 506

A few months ago before the outbreak, I visited a concert held in a small theater. During the performance, I was amazed by the harmony between the band and the singer. Since most people go to a concert with the expectation to hear the singer, they don’t pay any particular attention to the bands. Needless to say, however, all band members are critical in recording and performing. Wanting to find out more about the life of an un-sung band member, I interviewed a veteran guitarist, Chung Kyung-Jin.

Chung is special; handles most of the devices during all performances in the band “Korean.” Like all other performers these days, he is deeply concerned about the state of the performance industry as most, if not all, of it is basically shut down thanks to the Coronavirus. When I began asking about his music and his career, his eyes began to sparkle.

[Listenting to the explanation of the guitar devices. Photo Courtesy of Racheal Chung]

First of all, I wanted to know how long he had been playing the guitar. "I was playing with my cousin’s guitar when I was twelve," he said, adding that his cousin brother taught him his first-ever song on a guitar. He was instantly hooked. He started teaching himself guitar pouring over how-to play-guitar books. “It’s been thirty years since, and now I can play all types of guitars.”, he added with a chuckle.

Chung told me that it was difficult to convince his parents back when he decided to play guitar for a living. At the time, being a musician was not considered a respected profession. Cold eyes, or downright consternation, was all he could expect from his parents. Difficult years followed. Musically, and especially financially, he struggled for many years. Still, he persisted in practicing in the instrument on his choice. His hard work had paid off in 2005 when he joined his first band for the program ‘Gag Concert’ and ‘Concert 7080’. These first gigs began opening doors for him as a musician, and he began to improve as a performer on stage as well.

[Picture of Chung Kyung-jin performing on stage. Photo Courtesy of Chung Kyung-jin]

During his career as a guitarist, he has participated in vast number of different musicals and concerts all over the country. As this is his fifteenth year as a professional guitarist, I asked him about his most unforgettable performances. After a long silence, he picked the concert ‘2010 Kim Jang-hoon & PSY One Touch 20-10’. Chung added that the Czech national symphony orchestra participated in the recording of Kim Jang-hoon’s tribute album ‘Letter to Kim Hyun Sik’, and that they were invited to perform live at the concert.

What makes Chung special is that he's not only a guitarist but also a machinist. Since 2004, he started to make music-related devices like Controllers and Switchers based on his own experience. Additionally, he sets up his customer’s pedalboards to reach their full potential as a musician. When he added that he handcrafts all such devices, I asked him about the fundamentals of the machines. Although he talked about a few operating systems, he emphasized a technical standard called 'MIDI'. He said, "They use a communication protocol called 'MIDI', which stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface. This helps the customers control their guitar rack system."

[Guitar devices (Controller, Switcher) / Photo Courtesy of Chung Kyung-jin]

Juggling two jobs, one as a device developer and the other as a musician, is a challenge, Chung said. Because all devices have to be handcrafted and tested by him, he finds himself working day and night almost all the time, leaving precious little time to practice. Chung also mentioned that his long-term goal is to help his customers find their best sounds. Before finishing up the interview, I asked Chung if he has any idols he looked up to. He answered, “Nah. I respect all performers who pour their souls out to make the audiences feel joy, anger, sorrow, and pleasure. That’s what music is all about.”

Racheal Chung
Freshman (Grade 9) 
Valencia High School

Racheal Chung  student_reporter@dherald.com

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