10 Febuary 2014 – Last month, KAvenyou had the opportunity to speak to songwriter and producer of Noizebank. You may have heard of them as they have worked on many songs for Henry and Super Junior M. Many of you may not know this, but he’s actually Singaporean! So it was an honor for me to sit down with him and talk about working around idols and his music.
Graduating from Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, Gen Neo and two other friends immediately hopped onto a plane to South Korea to help a friend of theirs. Henry of Super Junior M had actually asked for Gen to head to Seoul ahead of their graduation to make music but he turned the idol down then, wanting to finish school first.
Once in Seoul, the songwriter never stopped working on songs and creating new material. He shared with me how difficult the language barrier was for him in the beginning and how he came to write songs for Super Junior M and f(x).
How did you land into such an opportunity?
G: It’s basically a combination of a lot of things. I would say thanks to my parents who forced me to do music when I was younger. You need to have a core of strong music and you need to like music at the same time. You need to have a sense of what people like. I like pop music which you need to like too because you can’t just like some underground music. That would limit your audience. Combination of that and all your musical knowledge and skills as well. I play piano and the guitar, I sing and I do play a little bit of the drums. You need to know this much and then I found music production and arrangement. With all that, you also have a person with a goal. I wanted to be a singer and make quality music.
Going to Berklee was a good decision because I met so many top players, great singers and a lot of friends. And then I met Henry. Although he was only there for one semester, we got really close and I helped him a lot. He’s already really good with classical stuff and I guided him with how to sing and play the piano at the same time. I helped him prepare for a lot of stages. Even at Super Junior M fan meetings. I helped arrange the band stuff for him and when he went on variety shows where he had to perform. There were times when I really helped him out a lot for his preparations to the point I felt I practically lived my life through him just by doing so. It’s good to see him doing so well and I hope he can do much better. He’s really good at acting too and that’s one area he’s exploring right now. I hope he gets bigger roles.
He’s a great friend. It was really good to have met him. It started off really small. Just to teach him singing. I didn’t even know who he was back then (laughs). The first time we met, I showed him my songs and he was like “Maybe you could sing for me on my demos.” I really remembered that and we got really close after.
I didn’t really think about it because I was doing my own thing. Henry was in the Korean industry and I didn’t think I would touch the Korean industry. Right now, I’ve invested a lot of time in Korea. That’s how my life unfolded. It was 3 years ago since the first time I helped him.
What do you like and dislike about this job?
G: I like the freedom of doing whatever genre I like. I’ve been doing music my whole life. Been playing the piano since I could remember. I did opera then I changed to R&B. That was a huge transition. I went into Berklee and everything turned into Pop. I wanted to stop opera because it was affecting the way I sing.
I really wanted to go heavily into R&B so going to Berklee helped a lot because I could breakaway from classical and I started doing Pop all the way.
What I dislike about it is that there’s no working hours. You have to plan your own schedules and I really suck at planning my own schedules (laughs). Because when I start work, I cannot stop until I’m done. I would not be able to give up if I cannot come up with a satisfactory melody, I will just keep at it until I break down. Which is good and bad. Good because you get a good song and bad because it’s unhealthy. I would work well into the morning. Sometimes up to 8am, 9am and then head to bed. Once I wake up, I see my work station right in front of me and I won’t be able to resist and start working again.
What did you gain and lose from the job?
G: I gained weight (laughs) and I always lose track of time. I have a general direction I wanted to head into and the original goal was to write songs for myself from the start so right now, my direction is constantly shifting. If I were to write music for myself it would be very close to ‘Goodbye Summer’. I love doing that and I guess people can hear my style in the songs I wrote. When I do songs with Henry, I definitely crafted it just for Henry. We try to maintain quality but what I really want to do is R&B and Neo Soul. All these kind of songs will come out eventually but not now. It’s not really trendy yet.
G: I don’t know the reaction from the fans but I’m really curious about it. There’s no one telling me about what the fans really say about my songs because I don’t go and search it up. I’m sure the people I’ve worked with [Henry and Amber] have gotten really good response. They’ve told me about it but I don’t go searching for the reactions. More often than not, I’m actually preoccupied with writing the next song.
How’s life working around an idol day and night?
G: I don’t work with him day and night but I do see him day and night and afternoon. (Laughs) Life is good depending on his schedule. Sometimes I don’t see him for a month. Back then he was shooting a drama in China. If you’re talking about music, working with him is good because he’s really good at sound selection. I’m good at the theoretical part so I know where the sound is supposed to go and I have an idea of what the song will turn out to be. He’s very good with sense too so together it makes a good song. And recently I’m trying to move into deeper music as in more emotional and meaningful lyrics and chord progressions. Something that is fun but still intelligent.
Would you prefer working with female idols instead? Who would you like to work with and why?
G: Well, I’ve worked with female idols like Amber from f(x) and G.na but I don’t think she falls into the category of idol. More of an artiste. Female idols, they’re good but I’m really more comfortable working male idols. I mean, you don’t get the risk of them falling in love with me (laughs) but they’re actually very much similar. Work is work and since I’m the composer/producer, I have to take the lead and guide them throughout the song. Recently I wrote a song with a member of EvoL and it’s really good working with her because I’m not a girl. I cannot hit the same octaves like girls do and I need people to sing in demos for me. Sometimes I pitch my voice up in a demo but it’s not good like getting a girl to sing for you.
I would wanna work with Ailee because I really admire her voice. If I would have to write a song with her, I would have to sing the demo and pitch up my voice with autotune (laughs) that’s not going to sound good. It won’t sound pretty but it’s a good guide.
Who are you closest to in SM apart from Henry?
G: I used to be close to Amber but that’s only because she’s really, really, busy right now. I’m close to Donghae from Super Junior. Talk to him sometimes but I used to not be able to communicate with him at all because I couldn’t speak a word of Korean (laughs). I used a lot of body language and I didn’t call him ‘hyung‘ for the longest time because I couldn’t understand what it meant. I’m also pretty close to Tiffany from Girls’ Generation too. I text her sometimes but we’re not THAT close.
Apart from SM artistes, I’m pretty close to G.na. When she first found out that I’m Singaporean, she told me that she has a rather big fanbase in Singapore.
Would you have chosen this path again if given a choice? Why or why not?
G: I would probably do it again because all my life I was only good at one thing and when you’re young and someone tells you that you’re really good at that one thing, all the more you want to go at it and be better at it. I’ve always wanted to be a singer when I was younger but I haven’t actually started on the path that I want to be on yet. I guess being a producer or songwriter is a very good experience at the same time. I think I definitely would come back to doing this because I am better at this than anything else.
Here are some of the preview tracks of songs Gen and the rest of Noizebank has composed/produced:
f(x) ‘Goodbye Summer’
Henry ‘1-4-3 Noizebank Extended Remix’
Donghae&Eunhyuk feat. Henry ‘Love That I Need’ (Produced by Noizebank)
Article by: Shawna @ KAvenyou
Special thanks to Gen Neo for setting aside time from his busy schedule to sit down with us for this exclusive interview!