[ENTERTAINMENT]Odd Name and Look Can Take a Band FarWhen first approached for an interview, the publicist for the strangely named rock band "Wiretap in My Ear" ("Naegwi-e Docheongjangchi"), sounded extraordinarily happy. The band members and the publicist arrived half an hour early, quite a rare occurrence in Korean entertainment circles. But considering the present condition of the independent rock scene in Korea － most bands have almost no way to let the peninsula know about them, aside from a few small clubs near Hongik University － members were happy to get a chance to talk to a reporter.
The first question for the band was the most obvious: What's up with that name? It turns out it came from an incident on the TV news a few years ago. "We saw some crazy guy who had gotten into an accident," said the guitarist Jeong Yu-hwa. The man was shouting that he had a wiretap in his ear. We wanted to write songs on behalf of people like that."
Wearing fashionable sunglasses and his hair bleached blond, Jeong appeared concerned with how he might look. In their album and publicity photos, all of the band, not just the one female member, appear with thick make-up. "We wanted to pursue a David Bowie style," said Lee Jong-pil, the bassist, "but instead we looked like X Japan, the Japanese glam rock group. We could not help it, since we are Asians."
The most interesting thing about the band, though, is not their appearance but their music. The vocalist Lee Hyeok, with his penetrating voice, sounds like Brett Anderson of the U.K. rock group Suede. The band released its debut album last March, and while it was not a huge commercial success, it left a strong impression. Indeed, the group has more than 5,000 fans who regularly read their Web site.
The band has a particularly good reputation for its stage performances. "I consider concerts to be like a ritual or performance," Lee Hyeok said. "I want to give our audiences a catharsis, or to treat them like mentally ill patients."
The band was formed in 1999 by Lee Hyeok and Jeong, who met in high school rock bands. The two started to perform in the clubs around Hongik University, where they were introduced to the drummer Lee Jae-hun. Recently, the bassist Lee joined from another underground punk rock band called Gosrak. Finally the keyboardist, Lee Mi-yong joined.
"It's unbelievably hard for an unknown rock band to make a name in Korea, where media appearances are so crucial," said the bassist Lee. There are plenty of TV programs featuring pretty dance music singers, but hardly any for the rock bands, regardless of how talented. "We should at least have one cable TV channel dedicated to rock music," said the guitarist.
"We just believe that we will have better days soon," said Lee, the bassist.
Maybe the band is just being modest. They are scheduled to stage concerts from Thursday to Sept. 23, at the Live Theater in Daehangno. That's a serious theater, and definitely a step up from the tiny clubs around Hongik University. For more information, call 02-785-5666.
by Chun Su-jin