Manchester-based music producer Geek Boy has written for many kpop artists including Taeyeon, SF9, EXO-CBX and The Boyz. He spoke to Helen Rodgers about how he broke into the industry, writing with Daniel Kim and the time he met TVXQ.
Have you always been interested in music?
I had piano lessons when I was a child and my dad was very musical so I think both my parents wanted me to pursue music in some way. In my early teens, my dad brought home a new computer with Windows 98 and a very basic version of Cubase on it, but he never ended up having the time to use it so I started playing around with it and taught myself how to programme MIDI. A few years later, I got a laptop and worked various pot washing jobs in kitchens to save up money for Fruity Loops. It just became my hobby and obsession to make rubbish house tunes.
How did you become a kpop music producer?
As soon as I found out that I could do music production at university, I knew that was what I wanted to do. I studied at Huddersfield and in between my second and third year I did a placement as an assistant engineer at a recording studio in Eastbourne which was a really crucial year for me in terms of learning and development. I had no clue how to get into the industry after I graduated so started making library music while also working in retail. It was only when I started working with my current manager Obi from Innerv8 that I was able to start working on kpop and J-pop songs.
Are you a big fan of kpop?
I don’t consume it in the way a typical avid kpop fan does because there isn’t just one group or artist that I know everything about or can name all of their songs. Although, I do always seem to enjoy LOONA’s music. I also listen to a lot of k-grooves like Jay Park’s RnB stuff, KATIE and Hoody.
Do you pitch songs to kpop companies or do they give you a brief to stick to?
Kpop music companies tend to have a really clear idea of what they’re looking for so they usually send out briefs which is really helpful because some of the time Western A&R’s don’t know what they’re looking for and have a “I’ll know the one when I hear it” attitude.
What is your favourite song you’ve composed and why does it stand out to you?
‘Good Guy’ by SF9 is probably my favourite as I have really fond memories of writing it at a songwriting camp with Daniel Kim. Often, before going to a camp, I end up freaking out that I don’t have enough beats so I end up making more in a mad panic the night before or on the flight over to Korea. I lose all objectivity and any sense of whether they’re good enough. ‘Good Guy’ was made from one of those spontaneous creations and I’m really pleased with how it turned out.
Who are your favourite producers to work with on songs?
One of my favourite aspects of music producing is the social side of it, especially when I get to sit in a room with other people to write a song. I’ve been so blessed and fortunate to work with so many insanely kind and humble people who work in the kpop world. Some of the people that really stand out to me are Kyler Niko, Pau and Megan Lee.
What is your inspiration when you write?
I’m really into video games and always have been so my music is greatly influenced by the whimsical scores from games like Zelda, Sonic and Mario. Although, not always in an obvious way, it can be quite subtle because it’s not always a conscious thing. If you play a lot of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time then you may recognise a chord progression or two.
Can you recall any challenging moments you’ve had while producing?
I can’t remember any challenging moments, but I’ve got plenty of embarrassing stories. I did some production work for a well-known Japanese band recently and I was in Tokyo for a session with the record company in a really large, posh, and very expensive looking studio when I realised, as I was unpacking my bag, that I had forgotten my external hard drive which has absolutely everything I needed on it. It was in my hotel room so I had to run back in the middle of a heat wave to grab it. And, of course, that was the day they were doing maintenance work on the lifts so I also had to sprint up eight flights of stairs. That was definitely embarrassing.
Have you ever met any of the kpop artists?
I did meet TVXQ once! The first time I was in Tokyo, we went to one of their concerts at Tokyo Dome because my manager had written their comeback song. The show was absolutely incredible, they were on stage for about three hours and I didn’t get bored – and it seemed like they didn’t get tired either. I got to meet them very briefly afterwards but we weren’t allowed to take any pictures. I simply shook their hands and thanked them for the concert.
Do you travel to Korea a lot for your work?
I have visited Korea to write but not for long periods of time. Normally I’m only there for a four-day songwriting camp before flying to Tokyo. I would love to go back to Seoul to experience it properly, though. Especially because I love Korean BBQ and its communal atmosphere. I don’t begrudge that I’m working all day while I’m there as long as I can go out and eat afterwards.
What is your dream project to work on?
I would love to write for LOONA or TWICE – those would be major achievements for me!