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"I see my whole career as creation": Didi Han talks us through the latest steps in her evolving musical journey

Pandemic living, the Seoul scene & how Bali's magic helped shape her latest EP release

  • Patrizio Cavaliere
  • 12 July 2021

It's been a little while since we last caught up with Korean DJ and producer, Didi Han. When we spoke previously in 2019, the stylish artist was joyously surfing on the crest of a house and disco wave – following a string of high profile bookings, and with her then imminent production bow just around the corner. Now, none of us needs reminding that an awful lot has happened in the world during the overwhelmingly peculiar months that followed, but despite this, we retained a sense that Han was someone whose star was most certainly in the ascendancy.

Didi Han is an artist who appears to have a flourish of polychromatic creativity surging through her very being. She began her artistic journey in an altogether different field – immersed in the hyper-chic world of fashion in her Seoul hometown. Majoring in Art & Textile Design at university, it wasn't long before she began blurring the lines between the diverse disciplines of fashion and music, initially getting to grips with setting the sonic mood by working as a music director for various fashion shows. After committing the necessary time to master the DJ craft, she cut her teeth behind the turntables as a member of the highly regarded party-starter collective, Deluxe Seoul, and her capacity to delicately weave genre-defying sets been turning heads globally ever since her much-admired Boiler Room debut back in 2017. A flurry of international bookings followed her streaming inauguration –fanning the flames of ambition to forge her own original music that had been burning brightly in the steadily rising selector – and in 2019 she launched her production career with her 'Forest' EP landing on the Thirsty!!! label.

We may have had to wait for more than a year for her much-anticipated follow-up release, but our patience, as it turns out, has been richly rewarded. Last month saw a pair of exquisitely refined releases launched courtesy of forward-facing French label, Roche Musique. 'What You Love' featuring Kim Wan-sun and 'No Kisses' featuring Nelick dropped to widespread acclaim in advance of the full EP release entitled 'Wake Up', which is due to arrive at the end of this month. The delightful five-track EP was inspired by – and partially composed during – a trip to the uniquely magical island of Bali in 2020, and completed in the studio following Didi's return to Seoul. The deeply personal work is presented as an introspective reflection of the highs and lows of her life up until now and encompasses a characteristically broad range of musical influences – fusing elements of jazz, hip hop, and house with the vividly morphing luminosity of a Balinese sunset. Mixmag Asia are honoured to be premiering the title track on July 23, and we grasped with both hands the opportunity to catch up with the effervescent artist to find out a little more about the EP, as well as to get the lowdown on what she's been up to since we last spoke

Hey Didi, thanks for joining us today. Where are you today, are you still based in Seoul?

Yes, I’m based in Seoul. I was stuck here during Covid 19 but as soon as I am vaccinated, I’ll fly to Paris in the middle of July.

What interesting things have you been up to over the last (very strange) year or so?

I travelled to many places in Korea with a car. Before Covid, I always went outside of Korea rather than inside Korea. It was a really nice experience. I didn't know how beautiful things are here. I even slept in a car like a nomad. And I went to the Football club every weekend for more than a year. Although I’m still a beginner, it was really fun and made me feel healthier.

In your last Mixmag Asia interview, you mentioned Nicolas Jaar and Four Tet as being huge influences on you musically, what artists have you come across in the last few years who have made a similarly big impression?

Omar S, Multi Culti label, Jayda G and so many.

May we be so bold as to ask you what the first record you ever bought was?

I think it was a Britney Spears’s one when I was 9-10 years old. I was a big fan of Britney Spears. At that time, I liked Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Soundtrack from Coyote Ugly, Moulin Rouge.

How would you describe your sound to our readers (if it is possible to do so!)?

Chill and peaceful, melodic, danceable?

What can you tell us about the music scene in South Korea today compared to a few years ago, is Deluxe Seoul still functioning, or has it dissolved?

So many things have changed. Soap Club closed for a while, but it will re-open in another place. Deluxe Seoul didn’t have a party in over a year, but we will be back together when things get better.

What has been your most memorable gig experience?

Many gigs I had were memorable. But the thing I’m missing most now is Deluxe Seoul's open-air Party.

The pandemic has ushered in an explosion of streaming-based DJ events. Have you taken part in many of these kinds of shows during the last year or so? If so, how do you think it compares to the real-world gig experience?

Yes, I did a lot of streaming events. It was totally different. For live streaming, I can prepare a set before playing, no crowd, no reaction, I can just organize the tracklist by myself. But prepared sets don’t work for real parties, and I love that. I can feel the crowd and feel connected with them.

As someone who comes from a fashion background, we're curious to know if your experience in the fashion world informs your musical creativity, and do you think the two seperate but connected worlds have many similarities?

I think a fashion background doesn't give me musical creativity. But I see my whole career as creation. Creating something and completing something have similarities. My experience completing something in fashion gave me tenacity in making and completing tracks.

Turning to the new EP with Roche Music, we love it and have been happy to see it appearing in various DJ charts from some fantastic artists. When did you compose the music, and how did you end up signing it to Roche Musique?

The tracks with Roche were made in 2020 during the pandemic. Roche reached out to me for a live streaming event. That was my first direct communication. We already knew each other before but never worked together. After this, I sent my demos and Cezaire, founder of Roche Musique, accepted the idea of releasing an EP on the label. So finally, it happened.

We understand the music was inspired by a trip to the beautiful island of Bali, can you tell us a little more about that?

I went to Bali to make music. Each time I go there, I really want to make music, it’s a lovely place. So, I go back there with my small keyboard and laptop. I feel calmer and more peaceful there. That feeling really helps me to make my music. So, I sketched tracks there and developed them in Seoul. I couldn't stay longer because of the pandemic, but I want to go back to work when everything is better.

Your new release features some fascinating collaborations with some varied artists. Have you long been a fan of Wansun Kim, Lydia Lee and L-Like with whom you collaborate on the EP?

Yes, I've been a fan of Wan-Sun Kim for a long time. I played '김완선 - 삐에로는 우릴 보고 웃지 'track a lot in the club. It was released in the '90s but still good. But that is not the reason I worked with her. I listened to the track 'Yellow' in her 2020 new album and I noticed her voice would be perfect on my track.

Lydia Lee, I didn't really know her before, and I actually found her profile on a random Instagram post. I fell in love with her voice right away. How lucky I am. Thank you, Instagram. For this track, I didn't think about a singer’s performance because I was thinking that the instrumental version was good by itself. And I couldn't find the perfect soulful voice for the track. But after I listened to Lydia Lee's voice, there was no doubt that her voice would match the track.

L-like is my really close friend. We made that track during a jam. I went to her studio, and we just enjoyed it. It was made a long time ago, but I didn't release it. I recently came across it again and decided to release it as part of this EP.

Do you have any other releases on the horizon?

No, I don't. But I will work on it after this EP for sure :)

We look forward to hearing the results! Now, what can you tell us about your production journey, when did it start, any particular challenges, or anything about the process that you especially love?

The first time I used Ableton was 5 years ago for my DJ mix set. I wanted to create a more complicated mix set that I couldn’t make with CDJs. And then, I naturally tried to make music. Actually, everything was challenging to me. I just keep doing that until I could let people listen to my music. And this time I wrote lyrics by myself, and I really loved that. I can put a message in each track, and it was a really meaningful time for me.

Finally, is there anything else at all that you'd like to tell us?

Thanks for reading and I hope I could tour again in Asia very soon. I hope you guys are doing well, I hope the clubs will not close again. Goodbye, Covid-19 very soon.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak to us Didi, and good luck with your releases and upcoming shows.

Didi Han 'Wake Up' is out on July 23 via Roche Musique. You can save the links here and check back in for our exclusive premiere on the release date

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