Hello and welcome to another edition of:
The subject of this edition of Kpopalypse Interview is Diergo. Who is Diergo? Read on to find out!
I can’t remember how I first heard about Diergo, but he probably sent me something about his album on Twitter. Diergo is an independent musician and creative artist from Jakarta, Indonesia. He’s also a big k-pop fan, and an unashamed Girls’ Generation fanboy. His lo-fi, quirky recordings don’t sound anything like any k-pop I’ve ever heard, but they’re also clearly very k-pop influenced, as the songs come with some typically k-pop presentation quirks – multiple-language versions, teasers, drama MVs and he even has his own self-designed lightstick! Clearly this is someone who I had to talk to for Kpopalypse Interview. I was curious to find out what motivated him to make the k-pop connection in his artistic work, and what the k-pop experience felt like for someone in his shoes. I also wanted to know how he saw himself in relation to someone like Chad Future, and what sort of k-pop aspirations he had for his own work. I also thought this interview might make a good counterpoint to the Chad Future interview that I published a while back.
The following is a transcription of our Skype conversation. English isn’t Diergo’s first language, so keep that in mind as you read this. I’ve tried to edit things for context and clarity where needed while also keeping the text as true to his speaking style as possible.
Hi, how are you? Answer in as much or as little detail as applicable.
Thanks very much for doing the interview, I really appreciate it!
You’re obviously a k-pop fan, what drew you into it?
I’m just an ordinary fanboy, but I don’t want just to be an ordinary SNSD fan, I also want to make songs, drawings, etc and be creative, but with the benefit of liking k-pop.
How did you discover k-pop?
Four years ago cable TV here had a program called Arirang. Before then I didn’t know about k-pop, I just knew about [Korean TV drama] Boys Before Flowers. There was a program called Pops In Seoul – a music program for broadcasting k-pop MVs, and for the first time I saw k-pop MVs, like IU’s MV, G.na’s MV, Infinite’s MV, I thought it’s kind of a cool concept, like American [pop]. I wanted to discover more and get deeper into k-pop and yes, I like it from then until now. It’s just like dope, like a drug, I can’t get out!
Tell us about the album “Love To Go”.
It was released about two months ago. The process was two years from when I started until the day it was released. I just want to tell you a story, about how I compose the songs. I wrote songs through high school and wrote in Bahasa (Indonesian) and English, I knew k-pop from senior high school, from four years ago, and I thought “can I compose Korean songs?”. On an international Korean pop radio show called K-pop Zone, it’s 92.4 FM in Jakarta, my city, they had an event called “K-pop In The Zone” to accomodate fanboys or fangirls covering k-pop songs or creating their own k-pop songs by themselves. The first song I created is “Dopamine” [and was for this program], it’s included on “Love To Go”, unfortunately they didn’t broadcast it because the mixing of the recording is low quality because I recorded it by myself in my room. I recorded it on Audition with my own instruments, guitar, keyboard…
In the video for “Love To Go”, are the instruments in the video the same as the ones on the recording?
Yes. I played it by myself, no supporting band members or creative people, just by myself. It’s my ideal type of music, I just write the music that I like. I don’t want to… k-pop is dancing, there are many boy bands, many girl groups, but I just want to write what I like. I create songs in Bahasa and songs in English, k-pop is just an influence to me, I am digging many sounds, many types of music that I have yet to play, like electronic, etc.
Given that your music doesn’t really sound like k-pop, why brand it as such?
Maybe it’s just language, I think. Sometimes my Korean songs, I rewrite in English or Bahasa, like “Dopamine”, which has an English and a Bahasa version. It’s various kinds of music that I offer so you can enjoy it, but I make it catchy so it’s still my type of music that I like.
Are the people that you know supportive of what you’re doing?
Yes, of course. Mainly for my family, both of my parents support me well because my talent can be beneficial to my future as a musician or a song engineer, as a composer, and I’d like to have money of course! For my friends they are like “you just wrote Korean songs, how can you?” – it’s something strange for them, that there is an Indonesian that can create a k-pop song!
How popular is k-pop in Indonesia? Where I live it’s more of a cult following, is it the same where you are or do k-pop songs chart in the mainstream?
It’s a rapid trend, there are many many k-pop fangirls in Indonesia, and fanboys too. K-pop groups also have held their concerts in Jakarta, just yesterday BTS (Bangtan Boys) held their concert in Jakarta, EXO and Super Junior have helped [raise the profile of k-pop in Indonesia with concerts] and there are many fans in Indonesia. There are many k-pop radio programs in my country, so it’s easy to hear k-pop songs and also I have many friends that like Korean music. I utilise this k-pop craziness to my own music, and create Korean songs that I like, so that many fangirls can hear that and will say what my friends say too – “whoa, it’s so fabulous that there’s an Indonesian who creates k-pop songs!”. Honestly I don’t feel smug about myself, but I think I’m maybe one of the only Indonesian musicians who can create Korean songs, and who has released an album or mini-album.
Has anyone compared you to Chad Future yet?
Even though you and him sound very different, in terms of ideas it seems like you’re doing something similar but from a DIY approach.
Chad Future is a good musician with ambition, because he utilises k-pop to his music, but I just want to make something that is better, a song in Korean that also has uniqueness. Maybe if someone compares me to Chad Future, I feel that I just have more uniqueness, even though I am a k-pop fan, I can write a song in Korean even though in the process I get a little help from Google Translate!
What’s your favourite track on “Love To Go”?
In music and arrangement it’s the title track “Love To Go”. The lyrics are my personal experience in my love life, and it has the influence of 80s classic rock music which is rarely heard in k-pop music, so it’s not the typical sounds of k-pop.
If a k-pop agency approached you and asked you to do something for them, would you be interested in that even if it involved some compromise, or would you rather to continue to do things 100% your way?
Honestly I just want to be indie musician signing in Korean. If I ever did get a chance to make a career in Korea I’d just want to be an indie musician, because the mainstream k-pop industry is cruel, we always hear that.
I’ve heard that myself from many other people I’ve interviewed!
I never feel weak because a trainee is so tired, the training system is harsh, I never feel that way [as an indie musician]. After you become a k-pop idol you are a slave, you feel tired like a slave. Sometimes they don’t care about the health of the performers, like EXO has lost a lot of members because of the management. It’s better that I can be an indie musician, I believe that Koreans nowadays are so critical about music scene, and indie music in Korean is more appreciated. There is a band called Hyukoh that got attention when they entered Infinity Challenge and their music can be accepted by Koreans even though their music is different to typical k-pop, an indie sound that I always hear in American songs or British songs, it’s a fresh sound. I also want to be a talented musician, [not specifically] a rock musican or a reggae musican, just a musician that plays and feel and makes every genre of music, and always make an innovation in my music. For instance I have released a song that is dedicated to my ultimate bias, Tiffany from SNSD, the song title is Tiffany and I released it on her birthday, August 1st. The lyrics is the contents of my lovey-dovey feelings for Tiffany and the music is made up of EDM sounds that I made, with rock music and distortion, so I called it EDRM – Electronic Dance Rock Music. The lyrics are about how I love Tiffany most, as an idol, as my inspiration, as my everything! Yes, I hope that Tiffany can hear my songs and hear my song called “Tiffany”.
What do you think she would say, if she did hear it?
[laughs] I’m speechless!
Or to put it another way, if you were to become successful and someone made a song called “Diergo” about you, how would you feel when you heard it?
I would be grateful to God to give this success to me. I have many dreams, I want to build my wings to the serious and professional music industry, even though just as an indie musician. I have a dream besides my musical goals, I want to be an entrepreneur that has a shop, a recording studio, that has an English course, and I want to be an English tutor in Korea or Japan. I am from the English department in my college, so I could apply what I have learned. I hope that not only Indonesian but also all around the world it can be a motivation especially for Indonesians that we can just have big dreams out of the box, and have a plan in the future, so if you fail you can have a plan B and plan C. Just be unique and don’t give up with all that you wish for.
One thing that does connect what you’re doing to k-pop is your use of the Diergo lightstick. How did you come up with this?
It’s an idea from my music video “Love To Go”. I wanted it to be as if I was a k-pop idol that has a lightstick including my logo, and the lightstick is green, that is my “official” colour. I made an order to a place that makes custom lightsticks and asked them to make a reality of my design. It’s a unique design, and I use it not just for watching a concert, but for my music video and album art.
I notice that you’re a big fan of Girls’ Generation. What appeals to you about them in particular?
They are a really really famous girl group in Korea and the world…
Yes but what do you like about them?
From the first time they were trainees until they debuted they never tired of singing, and had motivation so they could be a national girl group. I watched a reality show of them called “Girls Go To School“, it shows them before they debuted when they practiced and made a concert for their performance. They are so [motivated], like Hyoyeon who always practiced dancing even when falling asleep. You can see what is her ability, [as well as] Tiffany with her endless voice, Taeyeon also, they have many talents shown in this reality show and I’m so attracted to them – not only in sexual ways [laughs] but also their venture to be the biggest idols in Korea, they are my inspiration. I will always support them, whether OT9 or OT8.
How did you feel when Jessica left?
I was speechless. Jessica left with some kind of not logical reason, she kicked up from the new CEO because she had a business, but it’s just another occupation, I believe that even though she becomes a CEO in her own business in Blanc & Eclare, I believe that she still has a priority in Girls’ Generation. I’m getting sad because I think it’s just a ridiculous reason.
We know that Korean people are very critical of Korean pop stars, how do you think you would react to similar criticism of what you are doing?
Many Koreans are critics of music and yes I promote my songs and promote to Korean people, I have many responses from them. Some say “oh it’s good”, but if people respond with detail about my music or my arrangement, it’s a big appreciation that I want to hear, I don’t want to just hear “oh it’s good, oh it’s cool” but also what are the aspects that they like most. I am invulnerable to the negative criticism [laughs] but yes I believe that if not [purely] negative, but criticism about it being low quality, at least they watched it and they heard it [and gave feedback] so I know what my weaknesses are in what I create so I can be better next time. I always get it from Korean people when I promote.
What do you want to achieve in the next year or so in what you’re doing, now that your album is out, what’s the next plan?
I will have another comeback, but not yet. In December I will release my second Indonesian studio album, not Korean. My first studio album was released after five years called “Unordinary Boy”. I also want to end my college life, next year I also should make a thesis and I will have teaching practice that is from my college, there’s a program there where I’ll have teaching practice at a junior high school next year.
That’s it for another Kpopalypse Interview! Are you, or do you know someone who would make a good Kpopalypse Interview? If so, get in touch!