Behind the Scenes in K-pop: Interview with SM producer Young-hu Kim

Here at Beyond Hallyu we like to take a closer look at the creative side of K-pop and the people involved in making the music that K-pop fans love so much. Recently we were given the opportunity to interview one of the highly experienced producers behind some of SM Entertainment’s biggest hits including SNSD’s ‘Oh!’, SHINee’s ‘Replay’, Shinhwa’s ‘I Pray 4 U’ amongst many others.

snsd-ohYoung-Hu Kim is a Korean music producer and composer who has been working with SM Entertainment since 1997. After being signed up as a producer by SM at just 15, Kim has worked with most of the company’s biggest artists from Shinhwa and BoA to TVXQ through to Girls’ Generation and most recently SHINee. He has been running his own music publishing company for the past 7 years but continues to work closely with SM producing new releases for their artists. In this interview he talked to us about what it is like working at SM, his favourite artists to work with, SHINee’s new album and the future of K-pop.

SES album cover

SM’s first girl group S.E.S

You were signed to SM Entertainment as a writer and composer at the young age of 15. Can you explain to us what the process was like and how you got signed?

When I got signed to SM Entertainment as a producer, they were in the early stage of huge success with only two artists, HOT and SES. I had recorded demos with my 4 track machine my dad (who is a renowned classical composer and professor) brought from his music school and It was definitely a dream come true when they said they wanted to use one of the demos for HOT’s new album, although this actually ended up never happening. It’s quite common for a record company to buy the song, hold it for a long period of time and not use it due to change of direction. I was disappointed but at the same time it taught me a lesson to focus more on music than other external reasons to be a producer.

What is the creative environment like at SM? Do you get a lot of freedom and is it different from the other environments you have worked in?

SM has a clear and set vision of what their music sounds like so it took me a while to adjust my music to match their artists. K-pop has been evolving and they’ve always been a forward thinker so, creativity wise, I’ve been very fortunate to be with a company like SM.

TVXQ in it's original 5 member lineup

TVXQ in it’s original 5 member lineup

You have worked with some of Korea’s most famous artists such as Shinhwa, BoA, SHINee and Girls’ Generation. Who was your favourite artist to work with and what piece of work are you most proud of?

I love them all! Well… I do have a very strong connection with TVXQ. They are my dongsaengs (Korean kinship term meaning younger brothers) and I commend their integrity for sticking out with their original vision during the breakup incident. I don’t really have a favourite song however if I had to choose the most memorable song it would be “I Pray 4 U” by Shinhwa just because it was my first number 1 song.

You have now started your own company and other projects, do you still ever work with SM? If so, do you think your other work has had an influence on what you do with SM artists?

I’ve had my publishing company “XP Media” for over 7 years and SM has been the biggest supporter of our company. They’ve released numerous tracks from our library and it’s continuously growing.

20130219_shinee_dreamgirlAs well as running XP Media, you also work as part of electronic music duo Ghostkick. How is this work different to what you did before and how has this influenced your work at SM?

Growing up as a pseudo-raver I’ve always been a fan of Dance Music. You can hear the influence from my previous work such as “Crazy Love” by TVXQ and “Just 2 Be With U” by Shinhwa. Since the explosion of EDM (electronic dance music), I’ve been utilising more aspects of Electronic music in K-pop producing and as a matter of fact SHINee’s new album has one of my songs, “Runaway” which uses a complextro fused with K-pop chord progression.

As an experienced K-pop producer what do you think about the direction the current K-pop industry is taking?

I honestly do not know, haha. What happened with PSY still baffles my mind. I do believe this worldwide phenomena of K-pop or Asian Pop is not a fad that will disappear anytime soon.

We want to thank Young-Hu Kim again for taking the time to answer all our questions. Let us know your thoughts on the interview  in the comments and if there is a particular aspect of K-pop behind the scenes that you would like to know more about.

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  • CJux

    That was a very interesting interview. Thank you.

  • Meghann

    Runaway is my favorite track off of SHINee’s new album ^_^ I’ll have to look up his other tracks. Great interview!

  • TaeMAN

    I was really surprised to see such a “rookie” site having exclusive interviews! It was interesting to read although the answer to the creativity question was very surprising? I was expecting something more like “Its limited with creativeness” as come on… its SM here. Although its true that SM is always looking & thinking forward and ahead for artists, as a poet myself I find it really hard (and I’m sure my fellow poets will agree) to work with in a limited mindset. But I guess he couldn’t really slag SM off so… I guess we’ll never know.

  • dkjkjhk

    So, he works with DBSK too? Hmm, interesting… I like his song like You’re my melody or crazy love…