Currently working his way towards new solo album ‘Garlic’ – due later this month – Omega Sapien from up-and-coming K-pop collective Balming Tiger has today (Tuesday, 8th September) launched his new single, ‘Serenade for Mrs.Jeon’. It’s a confident step from an act who isn’t afraid to push in any direction that takes his fancy, experimenting with his own playful take on alternative rap and pop. “[It’s] a self portrait,” he says of the full-length, “capturing myself from the past to the present.” Introduce yourself to one of Korea’s rising stars.
Hi there, how’s your day going?
Ah, my day’s been going great. It’s been raining a lot in Seoul. So besides that, you know, preparing my online shows, polishing my album and all that, but overall it’s nice. It’s nice to be here.
What first sparked your interest in music. Did you have a musical upbringing?
Well, my parents are far from you know, artistic personnels. My dad is a salesman in a Japanese company. My mom is a professor. I feel like the internet really sparked my interest in music. I had a lot of free time as a kid, so surfing around you naturally encounter good music and I feel like that’s how I got into it.
How did you get involved with Balming Tiger, have you known each other long?
I joined Balming Tiger in 2018, June. At that time, I was a college student in Japan, China, you know, doing my own thing. I wasn’t really planning on being part of any team or label because I’m more of a solo person.
But I was searching on YouTube, and I found this dope-ass mixtape in Korean. At that time, I didn’t really realise there’s a lot of cool music going on in Korea; that was the first-ever project that really struck me. I was grinding it on my own at that time, so I contacted the producer of the mixtape and the producer, No Identity, he was in Balming Tiger then, and he was like, ‘yo you should DM Balming Tiger’. I DM’d Balming Tiger, ‘I’d like to work work with one of your producers’, and San Yawn got the DM. He heard my music, and he thought, you know, I was pretty cool. So we got to talking. We were just talking online for like a month, I fly to Korea to meet him, and on the first day, I decided to join his label. First day.
How did you break into the music industry? Was there a steep learning curve?
I think it came natural to me close. I’ve been doing rap shit since like fourth grade. Not seriously, though. And of course, the songs I made back then are pretty trash. But, I was just doing it; I wasn’t really thinking deep into it. I didn’t know I was gonna be a rapper.
So, you know, elementary school, middle school, I was just doing it for fun. In high school it really grew in me and around freshman year, I started to think about my career path, and that’s when I decided to go full time involved.
But yeah, I mean, nothing was tough, though. I just did what I like to do, and it just happened. I’ve still I got way more to show and way more achievements to get.
What’s like being part of a K-pop collective at the moment? It feels it feels to be an exciting time for the genre.
It is the best time to be an artist, especially a musical artist in Korea. Ever. I think it’s the best time right now, with so much attention to K-pop and nowadays the recognition is just not limited in Kpop scene. Bong Joon-ho who directed [2019 film] Parasite, he’s getting recognition too. So I feel like overall Korean artists are getting the spotlight. So I think a very exciting time and I’m very, very, I feel very, very lucky to be in that right now.
What’s been the highlight of your time in music so far?
I say this all the time in every interview, but I have to say, La Magnifique Society Festival in France. That was in Reims. That was my first tour, like ever because I was just performing in Korea. It was my first time in France as well. We were very nervous because we’ve never performed in a Western territory, nobody knew us. Our stage was in front of some hot dog booth, and people are lining up and all that shit – definitely not a good environment to perform. But as soon as we got on, a lot of people showed up. We started with like five people standing in the front, and at the end of the show, there were 500 people mosh-pitting. A country I’ve never been to before, and they’ve never seen me, but I feel like music connected us all, and the energy was there. It was a blissful moment, and I can’t wait to have that experience again.
Many of Balming Tiger also have solo projects on the go, how do you juggle those with band life?
Balming Tiger is a band and a team, but it’s also a label. It’s a very good system because some songs I like to release under my name like [new album] ‘Garlic’, but songs like ‘Armadillo’ and ‘Kolo Kolo’ are a better fit for Balming Tiger. It’s a good system; I can do whatever I want on my own shit, and we can all bring our energy together and do band shit, so it kind of fulfils both needs.
Does your solo project give you space to explore other sounds, and work with new people?
Yeah, this upcoming album ‘Garlic’, this is nothing like what I’ve been showcasing to people, to the crowd. And yet this album is the epitome of exploring other sounds. And you know, I just tried to do something that I didn’t do before. It’s been a lot of fun, and it’s been very challenging.
How has the pandemic impacted your plans? You were supposed to be on tour this year, right?
Right, yeah. I feel like this year was the year for us to really show our talent to the world. We were booked by SXSW, Greatest Game festival in Iceland. The tour last year was only three spots, but this time it was like it was a month-long tour. And we prepared for that for a while, too. All of that got cancelled. But you know, on a good note that really allowed me and my team to work on my album. We had a lot of time hanging around, so we were just making a shit-ton, more music, adding a shit-ton more details and all that. I think the pandemic allowed me to make a higher quality album, but it is very sad that we couldn’t do any tour. But next year, next year’s always here, so.
Tell us about the comics and the videos you release alongside your songs, do you create them yourselves?
The comics we make are for Balming Tiger releases. We wanted to create something else; we think creativity is very important. We’ve been expressing our creativity through other medium, not just not strictly on music. If you really read it carefully – the full version is on Balming Tiger’s upcoming website, it’s not out there yet – it’s all connected, from ‘I’m Sick’ to ‘Kolo Kolo’. It’s all a connected story, and we’re just you know, trying to make the coolest storyline and maybe release a comic book or something.
Is being creative in more ways than just musically important to you?
Yeah, of course. I feel like in order to create something, you need a lot of different experiences. So, you know, creativity, creating something different – it could be a sculpture, a painting, or music; it could be stand up comedy, I don’t know – I just try to I try my best to do all the chances that are given to me. I feel like that’s been impacting my music career positively.
Final question, what do you do for fun?
Ooh, for fun. I’m an ENTP, so I’m very extroverted person, but also very introverted at the same time. So, you know, in my free time, I love to FaceTime my friends or play poker with them. But because I’m extroverted, don’t mean I like to go to clubs or very crowded places. They really interrupt my peace and Zen. So, I like to have you know, a small group of my friends just come together and chill and hang out.
Omega Sapien’s solo album ‘Garlic’ is out on 22nd September.