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Q&A: Code Kunst on new album and his love for Mac Miller

South Korean K-rap/pop producer and artist Code Kunst speaks during an interview in Seoul, South Korea, Tuesday, March 14, 2023. For his latest album, “Remember Archive,” he teamed up with global K-pop stars Wendy and Mino and hip-hop acts like Gaeko, Tiger JK and Jay Park. (AP Photo/Juwon Park)

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Producer Code Kunst arguably one of the most well-known artists in South Korea’s thriving music scene, a rarity in a country where singers get most of the attention.

His fame comes from his nearly decadelong career churning out hit songs with some of the country’s biggest names. For his latest album, “Remember Archive,” he teamed up with global K-pop stars Wendy and Mino and hip-hop acts like Gaeko, Tiger JK and Jay Park.

The covers of previous Code Kunst releases have featured colors like yellow and pink, but for his fifth album, he went with red. He says the color most closely matches the “memories that remain very strong in my head” that inspired the 17 tracks on “Remember Archive.”

The producer, whose real name is name is Jo Sung-woo, didn’t take music as a career seriously until he was in his 20s and completed mandatory military service. His first album, “Novel,” was released in 2014.

Since then, the 33-year-old steadily carved out his presence in the local music scene by churning out endless quality music. He says he has written around 1,500 songs so far, 250 songs of which have been released.

He also caught the public’s eyes by appearing in popular local shows including a rap battle series “Show Me the Money” and a reality show “I Live Alone” where he is known as a fashion aficionado with an extremely small appetite.

In an interview, the hitmaker talked about his passion for music, the origins of his stage name and his utmost respect for late Mac Miller.

Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity. ___ AP: Tell us the story behind your stage name.

CODE KUNST: When I was young, I noticed a word “Kunst” from my mom’s book which appeared multiple times. Later, when I looked up the word out of curiosity, I learned that it means “art” in German. I am not saying I am this great artist but I want to honestly document emotions and time I experienced with arts. So I used the word to name myself so I can remind myself about the origin of the name and hold onto it if I ever want to quit or don’t like myself at certain times.

AP: What's your favorite song from the latest album?

CODE KUNST: It’s ‘Jumper (Feat. Gaeko, MINO).’ When I was young, I thought artists from the music industry are all glitz and glam. But I feel like now it has become a market where artists have to work harder for their fans and appeal to them for my music. So on this song, I compared the relationship between fans and an artist to a love between woman and man, and I think it’s a situation where I am a bit obsessed. The day I first thought about this was very memorable.

AP: Some of your album covers have you in a crouching position. Why?

CODE KUNST: When you see my Instagram profile, my bio says “hope my music makes you feel at home.” I think my music exerts its strongest power when people listen to it comfortably or feel comforted by it at home. So simply, that’s how I listen to music at home, by crouching.”

AP: How do you find comfort in difficult times?

CODE KUNST: So, one of the reasons I keep making music is that no matter how complicated and difficult the life gets, I don’t think about it whenever I am working on music. Music is what I love, and where I go hide when I am really having a hard time.

AP: Which artist(s) inspire you the most?

CODE KUNST: I liked Mac Miller the most, and still like him the most. He had influenced me the most. I also like FKA Twigs and SZA.

AP: Have you ever thought about doing something else other than music?

CODE KUNST: No. I never ever thought about it. I think I am thinking about it for the first time now. But never so far.

Juwon Park, The Associated Press

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