After spending four years carving out a home for Seoul’s music community amongst global players like NCS and the soon-to-be-defunct Red Light Radio, South Korean online radio station Seoul Community Radio (SCR) is starting a new chapter in its story with the opening of a broadcasting and community space concept in the Itaewon nightlife district of Seoul.
‘Studio Two’ opened earlier this month as a functioning radio station and venue concept space that features several collaborative areas. The ‘SCR Yard’ is an open terrace which allows access to the public for certain events and will further serve as an education and culture centre for Seoul’s diverse music communities. Expect to catch live shows, pop-ups, educative workshops and other artistic endeavours.
Established humbly in 2016, over the years SCR has evolved into an online music broadcasting platform at the centre of Asia’s fast-growing electronic music community. From the get-go, the station has aimed to inspire and nurture new talent from home and abroad to incubate fresh sounds and new faces. It has successfully co-created a regional network of like-minded radio stations and collaborated with some of the most forward-thinking brands across music, fashion and technology.
This latest incarnation sees SCR riding in on a high despite opening during a pandemic, and we expect this extend into the year. To see what they’ve got planned, we checked in with Richard Price, founder of SCR, who delivered to us a few words and a video about the new space. Peep it below or view it big on the Mixmag Asia YouTube here.
So it’s been four years since you launched your now iconic inaugural studio — how has it evolved from its “pirate radio” days and to what do you owe this evolution?
“It’s dusting off the history cobwebs a bit in this multi-DJ live stream age, but if people remember four years ago — online radio and live streaming were still quite niched. You had long-term institutions like Rinse FM and Red Light Radio which innovated to digital from the pirate days. Later there was NTS and Berlin Community Radio which pioneered on-demand shows on SoundCloud / Mixcloud alongside live studio. Then, we were part of the third batch including Balamii in London, The Lot Radio in New York, Kiosk in Brussels, Boxout in India who are all about four years old. Now, the proliferation of platforms are huge! I’m glad we were started when we did as I think being part of that early wave helped us trial and error broadcasting success and also models of funding/survival — there were definitely fewer peers to bounce off tho!”
What’s been that single most mind-blowing moment from then until now?
"There was realisation that we kinda inspired a ‘Community Radio’ phenomenon in Asia with similar ethosed people reaching out and asking if they could use the name in their city. We helped out quite a few with tips and stuff but they are all very much in their own mould and tailored to their own city.
A big shout out to Hong Kong, Shanghai, Taipei, Singapore, Tokyo and my favourite new addition...Karachi Community Radio. To this day, I still think all of this is mad and we should all do a multi-city collaboration one day soon.
Apart from that, really it’s been watching how the artists we’ve been working with have grown in some cases to be well-known names. Looking at people like Park Hye Jin and Balming Tiger (a left field Korean rap crew) who have blown up internationally and domestically in ways we couldn’t really have imagined when they were just spinning shows only a few years ago."
A lot more has changed too, I bet. How is your vision for the future changing again with the new space?
"We are really happy about the new space and what we can do with it! The was a lot of love for the old studio but a feeling we had outgrown it. Location-wise it was a bit out of the way from the main Itaewon club strip too, which was part of the original charm but was a bit tricky for visitors.
Now we have space where we can throw small events and pop-ups of our own, which is something we’ve always wanted to have. We were quite inspired during our recent US tour where in places like LA people were throwing a lot of low-key parties and events in the backyards of clothing stores like Virgil Normal and hosting events in parking lots. We really like that street-level community vibe and having a low-pressure environment where our colleagues can throw album launches and small exhibitions. We’ve got a platform called ‘Community Service’ launching as well, which aims to help out our other culturally relevant neighbours like local restaurants and give them ways to generate revenues beyond their usual means.
The front area terrace, which you’ll see in the 360° video we did exclusively for Mixmag Asia, shows the space in its glory — there’s a sick view of the Seoul sunset that people can get which sitting in the terrace aka the ‘SCR Yard’ also. We’re excited to welcome our international friends there too once the virus has relented."
You’ve also amassed a borderline cult-like following (so hard!) and I’m curious as to your reach. What have you learned about your audience over the years? Is the West finally looking at what Asia is doing or is your community localised?
"Definitely a larger percentage of our listeners are now international-based compared to a few years ago. A couple of reasons we think this is: first, a natural inquisitiveness about Korea thanks to a lot of the cultural strides the country has made with first Oscar wins and people wanting to go beyond K-pop in their musical discovery of the country. Second, we think it's because we’ve featured so many visiting international artists that their home following has also switched to listening to us regularly. It's really cool when we get listeners writing in from all places stating where they’re locked in from.
In addition to this, our domestic listenership is also diversifying as underground electronic music awareness gets wider in the country. We have a number of the key clubs and other subculture media to thank for that which continue to push quality music to audiences here and require more public support from the authorities to thrive and survive especially in this climate."
You’ve had a monumental four years as well with appearances from artists like Peggy Gou, a couple of Boiler Room collabs, and so on. Having just opened the latest incarnation of the brand this month, what are some of the boxes you want to tick during this first year?
"As mentioned we’re very excited about what we can do with our new SCR Yard front space in terms of exhibitions, production workshops and other surprises. In the pipeline are a few exciting merch collabs, expanding on the ranges we’ve previously done with brands like Vans Korea and Obey Clothing, which have been great supporters of ours. We’re also going to be launching a set of collab headphones soon which is hush hush but will be really cool.
We're also about to announce a new monthly exchange residency with Rinse FM which we’re very excited about as it will allow new audiences and artist discoveries to flow in between our two radios.
We hopefully have DMZ Peace Train Festival also slated for July, albeit in a more toned-down version from the epic scenes last year."
What are some of the up-and-coming artists that we should be tapping into out of Korea?
A lot of different sounds coming out to suit different flavours but I would urge people to check out some of the new breeds of producers outputs then work back and enjoy their DJ sets too.
Genre wise, Cokr and Venko have a project called VCR02 which harnesses UK bass flavours. There are consistently good house and techno compilations coming out from collectives like Honey Badger Records, Ameinia Records and Textures Seoul which people should download for an initial flavour of the 4/4 scene here. Of course, you have my wingman DJ Bowlcut who is appearing on a lot of assorted worldwide labels now also. We’ve also released SCR’s first-ever vinyl release alongside Welcome Records which profiles Damdef — Korea’s most eminent grime and Drill MC — a genre close to my heart."
Walk us through the new space. What are we looking at in this video and what are the different elements to the setup?
"So you’ve got a stitched together selection of 360° videos, which first show the journey from the old studio with me and the cool removals man that we use for all our events. Then you have a timelapse of us unloading our gear into the SCR yard followed by the walk you need to take to the studio. We go into the front yard then showcase what the broadcasting room is like. The show and DJs here is actually from a demo show we did with our friends at DJ Korea testing the new Pioneer V10 mixer. Finally, you see me pestering DJ Bowlcut about some edit at the control room. I forgot to show the bar but there are usually a few DJs and scene regulars hanging around there too to meet and chat about Seoul vibes so can leave that to the imagination…."
Music by Bowlcut. Like what you hear? Buy the tune here.