Joe Hahn, DJ and mastermind behind the kick-ass backing tracks of the iconic American hip hop-rock band Linkin Park, is fully invested in the future of the music industry. As one of the judges of South Korea’s new talent show “Super Band”, he’s looking for the newest and brightest up-and-comers in the business. At a recent press conference for the show, Hahn waxed lyrical about his journey with Linkin Park, the K-pop trend and his experience collaborating on a song with Steve Aoki and K-pop superstars BTS.
Korean-American Hahn is a man of many talents — DJ, visual artist, musician and director. Hahn is best known as Linkin Park’s DJ, responsible for scratching, sampling, working the turntables and programming songs for the iconic rock-hip hop band, which debuted in 1996 and has since produced world-famous hits such as “In the End” and “Numb”.
It’s also a little known fact that Hahn, working in tandem with bandmate Mike Shinoda, is also the creative genius behind most of Linkin Park’s album artwork.
While Linkin Park has achieved an iconic status position in the American and world music industry, they have been on hiatus since 2017, after the shocking and painful death of vocalist Chester Bennington.
The multi-talented Hahn was tapped to be one of the judges on the exciting new South Korean series “Super Band”, which is akin to popular American talent show “American Idol”. “Super Band”, which aired its first episode on April 12, aims to discover exceptional artists to be the next big thing in the Korean music industry, and Hahn is honoured to be a part of their journey, along with veteran singer-producers Yoon Jong-shin and Yoon Sang, popular band Nell’s lead vocalist Kim Jong-wan and K-pop duo AKMU’s Suhyun.
Hahn told The Korea Herald in Seoul in an interview that the talent on the show is amazing, noting that “each story [of the contestants] is so different and unique”.
Hahn hopes to be able to pass on his knowledge and experience in the music industry to inspiring artists on the show. His journey with Linkin Park was a remarkable one, yet fraught with challenges.
Hahn shared that in the early days, producers were wary of the “weird music” that Linkin Park was coming up with, which was certainly new for its time – it wouldn’t fit into the genres of rock or hip-hop, but was amalgamation of both, throwing metal music and disc jockeying into the mix. It was all about the marriage of the different genres of music.
“Nobody wanted to sign with us, we met almost every label. And people did not understand. They needed us to decide whether we are going more hip-hop or rock,” Hahn reminisced.
“I want to share these stories,” said Hahn, referring to how Linkin Park decided to take matters into their own hands after no one would sign them. They gave their music out in cassettes and CDs, distributed flyers at clubs and other venues, and basically took charge of their band. They eventually had an effective marketing company that represented other artists as well.
At a press conference for “Super Band” in the beginning of April, Hahn and his fellow judges shared their disappointment, and concern that the number of bands that write as well as perform their own music have dropped.
Conversation turned to K-pop and its ever-growing influence in the music industry.
“When I am in the States, people are talking so much about K-pop. I think it’s pretty brilliant how these labels have been able to recognise things that work and systematically create what they call as the K-pop machine,” said Hahn, who is based in Los Angeles.
Hahn feels that a new wave of bands and artists with similarities to Linkin Park could be on its way. He acknowledged that the K-pop trend is stronger than ever, saying that being a Korean is something cool now, as Korea is holding its own in terms of global competition in different industries.
Hahn has lent his own talents to K-pop, collaborating on Steve Aoki’s music video of “Waste It on Me”, a track which featured K-pop superband BTS last year.
“More than the music itself, I love the story,” said Hahn. “They are thinking about their fans. It’s really important, you know,” he said, speaking of the fan-focused subculture of K-pop.
Hahn’s advice to artists? Know your audience and have a relationship with them.
“One thing I think about the K-pop factory, it is a great training ground. [The trainees] can learn so much, but they can take that training and turn that into artistry. What do you really want to say?” /TISG