Joe Hahn Interview for Yonhap News

Updated: May 29, 2019

Hannah Turek, LPFCW, Spring 2019

Linkin Park is well known for having an experimental and iconic repertoire, their genres ranging from nu-metal to rock to electronic. Since their debut in 2000, the DJ of the band, Joe Hahn, has directed numerous videos for the band, such as 'Faint', 'In The End' and 'Numb'. What's more, Linkin Park's reputation as an innovative group is due to its transformation from vocalist Chester Bennington's famous screaming into hip-hop style vocals, DJ sampling, and innovative music video production.

However, In July of 2017, Bennington died by suicide, and fans worldwide mourned the loss of an icon. The band held a tribute show to the late singer in October of that year, which was their last performance as a band to date. Several of the members would go on to create their own solo projects in the following months. Co-vocalist, guitarist and lyricist, Mike Shinoda, released a solo album, Post Traumatic, which he later toured across 13 countries with 64 shows. Bassist David 'Phoenix' Farrell created a golf podcast called Member Guest, which featured guests such as Avenged Sevenfold's Matt Sanders, Green Day's Tré Cool and Linkin Park's own Shinoda numerous times.

DJ and samplist Joseph Hahn, meanwhile, created the music video for the single "Waste It On Me", made last year by BTS with famous DJ Steve Aoki, who worked with Linkin Park numerous times on tracks like A Light That Never Comes and Darker Than Blood. Hahn also joined the JTBC audition program 'Super Band' as a judge, and was interviewed at Sangam-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul on November 11th.

"I've only been speaking Korean for three years, so try to excuse me if I start speaking in English," he said, laughing.

- How many times have you been to Korea?

"I come to Korea often. I came last year. My roots are in Korea, it's a place that changes really fast and has all kinds of possibilities and opportunities. I look to Korea for new music, movies and new technologies."

- In past interviews with Yonhap News, you said you would like to go to the DMZ. I've actually gone.

"I went to the neighborhood last year. I don't remember the exact name now, but I think it was probably the Imjin River. I climbed up to the observatory to see the northern mountains, farms, and buildings. I've always been interested in North Korea. When I visited Israel, I felt a similar feeling, and the people of Israel seemed familiar with the conflicts with neighboring countries. Living in a particular area may not be the only thing to fear. Life will continue anyway. I hope someday a positive future on the peninsula will come. It is not necessarily a political issue. Whether the two Koreas are unified or not, I hope we can help people on the other side. This is a question of whether you have a fair chance. I can travel freely and see interesting things on TV, but those on the other side have no choice."

- In the Korean peninsula last year, the South-North summit was a big issue. I saw lots of news about it.

"Surprisingly, I was in Seoul the day the inter-Korean summit was held. Our generation had never thought that such conversation would be possible. But such a conversation was held and both sides met as a person-to-person. I thought it was a really bold start."

- Going back to the topic of Linkin Park, I'm sure it's really hard, but you can tell me how you felt finding out about Chester?

"He was our best friend. I miss him. The members are taking care of themselves and their families and are going through the problems in their own way. And… Now the band has started talking about making new music together."

- Will Linkin Park come back?

"Maybe in about 10 years? (Laughs) It might be sooner. I don't want to set a deadline. We just want to focus on the present and talk about music. We aren't discussing detailed plans. I just want to go back to those days when I made music in the warehouse."

- If you do end up making new music, who would fill in for Chester's vocals? Are you considering taking an external recruit or one of the other members?

"All possibilities are open."

- I was told that you're preparing a photo exhibition for Linkin Park.

"That's right. On our last tour, I took the camera and took pictures of the members. When I was performing, I took a pictures of all the guys. Sort of like a time capsule. It will open in Beijing, China and Shanghai, three cities from the 27th April to the 3rd of May. I would like to exhibit in Korea, but I haven't found a proper place yet."

- You are the first Korean-American musician to win the Grammy Awards' popular music category. How did it feel in February when the K-Pop Group BTS stepped on the Grammy Red Carpet as a prize winner?

"I was jealous. (Laughs) In terms of talent, lyricism and composition ability, Korea is now the world's best. The birth of a bulletproof boy band is a message to the world that Korea is possible of making incredible music. BTS can speak to the world at different levels. I respect the BTS as I would my classmates, not my brother or sister. They're a team that found their own colors. As BTS have done, I hope that more K-pop groups will be able to make music for fans around the world. It's also possible to make albums in English or other languages. Take Latin music as an example. Latin music has become mainstream music with a huge fanbase on its back. The Asian population in the world exceeds the Latin population, so it's all possible."

- How did the 'Waste It On Me' music video shoot come about?

"There was a time when BTS were being promoted hard in LA. Many famous people from music industry went to the BTS' Showcase, and the manager of Steve Aoki was there. The manager introduced Steve to BTS, and Steve said he saw promise in them. So, from 'Mike Drop' to 'Waste It On Me', we started working together. Then the movie 'Crazy Rich Asians' came out. It was a huge hit. It's very important representation for oriental people. Steve is a Japanese-American and I am a Korean-American, so we thought it would be a good fit. Unfortunately, BTS weren't available to shoot music videos at the time. So, I interviewed the Korean comedian Ken Jung, Hollywood Asian actors and influential writers. It had become a festival-like music video for Asian people."

- So you're a DJ, an artist, a music video director, a movie director. What is the driving force in various fields?

"Actually becoming a musician was a casual incident in my life. I've always loved music, but I have never seriously considered being part of a rock band or becoming a globally known DJ. I majored in college in art, and I always liked comics and illustrations, which led me to a "visual storyteller." I sometimes think through sight, sometimes through hearing. Musical activities are a source of inspiration when doing visual art, and vice versa."

- After the appearance of 'Super Band', do you plan to do anything else in Korean entertainment?

"Of course I want to. I don't really care about commercial activity, but I won't avoid it if I have opportunities in any form. It was unexpected for me to be a member of Linkin Park long ago. I want to meet good people and learn new things."

Super Band's pilot episode premiered Friday at 9pm on JTBC  and is a project Hahn is something he has always wanted to do, expressing high expectations for the show.

"I've always wanted to come perform here. When the call came in to participate in this show, I thought it was a perfect match with my background in music."

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