*Shortly after the release of Haps Issue 11, we found out that The Defector Frequency was calling it a quits rather than go on without their keyboardist, Stuart Dalziel. While we respect the artistic license, we are sure gonna miss those great tunes. They will play their final show this Friday, Feb. 17th, at Soultrane in PNU. Here is J. Lipsky's story as it ran.
BUSAN, South Korea – For those of us who call South Korea home, life above the 38th parallel holds a certain amount of fascination. But for The Defector Frequency, a band named after daring North Korean runaways, the subject has become an inspiration.
“I’m very interested in North Korea. I’ve read a lot about it. I’ve been there. Also, to defect and go against the grain is a punk ethic,” said songwriter/guitarist John Rennie, who hails from England.
Although they’re newcomers to Busan’s music culture, The Defector Frequency’s fan base is exploding due to a far-out hybrid of synthpop and punk vocals. Three parts expat and one part Korean, the band is a project that’s been in the works since early 2010.
Last March, Rennie was doing language exchange at Lzone Cafe. Drummer Jun-Hyeong Ahn propositioned him in the men’s bathroom. Hold on, it’s not what you think. Of course, Rennie was confused and didn’t know exactly where the proposition would lead. After some East-meets-West miscommunication, Ahn finally busted out his smart phone and played Rennie a video proving his finesse on a drum kit. Rennie, who is of that mind that, “Your band’s only as good as your drummer,” was sold after that public restroom bromance, and the two formed a musical alliance from that point on.
Rennie met Stuart Dalziel in a more conventional way. They’d become loosely acquainted over a few intoxicated conversations, but last summer, Rennie witnessed Dalziel’s performance at an open-mic night. He recalls, “I saw Stu’s dancey stuff live, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.” Until this point, Rennie and Ahn had been engineering a more-or-less loose jam sound. With the addition of Dalziel, The Defector Frequency began to move in the direction of their current sound.
All that was left to do now was find a bass player. Poko Lambro’s prettier half, Violet Lea, filled in last year until a permanent member could be found. Dalziel mentions that, “She’s on our demo, and she spent two months in the band. She’s a mate of ours and even helped us get on the air at Busan eFM.”
According to Rennie, “Even though she’s not in the band anymore, she’s the honorary fifth member.”
Lea’s replacement is the freshest face to The Frequency – Barry McGhee. “He’s the only Scottish bass player in Busan,” chuckles Rennie.
Now that they have cemented the line-up, their compositions are perpetually under the microscope. “We start with a foundation and play around that, and see what works and what doesn’t. Everything is scrutinized,” said Rennie.
Dalziel agrees. “We sit down and think songs out. It’s not jamming. We know how many bars and notes there will be. It’s precisely worked out – we know what everyone is doing.”
Many electronic-infused ensembles employ prefabricated sounds into their mix, but Dalziel takes pride in eschewing the trend. “We’ve gone a different route than playing pre-programmed music. It’s all done totally live. We really are a live band.”
In the studio and on the stage, The Defector Frequency are workhorses. In December, they championed heat one of Allive’s Battle of the Bands and cruised into the finals. In the last two weeks of January alone, they headlined Kyungsung’s Kino Eye, hit the road with the mighty One Drop East for a stop in Changwon, and collaborated with seven other Korean acts for Super Color Super and Allive’s introductory Round Robin series in PNU.
Hands down, their fondest memories are of the hysteria at The Battle of the Bands grand finale. “It felt like a mosh-pit,” Dalziel says. “It was mental, people were falling onto the stage.”
The Defector Frequency didn’t take the top prize that night, but they walked away with a pretty good parting gift — some professional recording time with hot shot recording engineer Mike Laveck.
Reflecting on the Battle of the Bands and other recent successes, Dalziel can easily put their hard work and effort into perspective. “Seeing people in the crowd dance to what you’ve written is a creative validation; it makes you proud. I live for this.”
Note from John Rennie on the band's Facebook page:
"Sadly, The Defector Frequency's keyboard player Stuart Dalziel will return home to his native England at the end of this month. Stu play's a huge part of The Defector Frequency's sound and creative input so therefore the band feel they cannot continue without him in it's current form. As of now it's unclear what the other band members will do in the meantime or whether Stu may come back sometime later this year, but for now the band is over for the foreseeable future."