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Shubostar: Cosmic Disco made in South Korea straight to the international underground electronic music scene

Shubostar, the artist behind UJU Records, creates techno using elements from disco and interstellar sounds

  • Words: Rocío Flores | Photos: Zohar Shitrit
  • 22 March 2023

Hailing from South Korea, Shubostar has learned to gracefully ride the mighty wave of an ever-evolving underground scene. Her fondness for electric sounds and melodies is integrated by an accelerated shower of sonic meteors that shoot at high speed in terrain commanded by her ‘Cosmic Disco’ style, which was cemented in Italo disco with a wide variety of techno elements. Dark, heavy bass and retro drums bring out the stellar contemporary sounds of electronic music.

In September 2018, Shubostar took the bull by the horns by launching UJU
Records in collaboration with artist Daryung Kim,’ a platform designed to release her own singles and artists she admires. In the middle of last year, Shubostar delighted us again with ‘Orbit Drive-In EP’ presented on ‘Permanent Vacation,’ this being a piece of four cosmic tracks that raise people’s consciousness towards colorful and surreal galaxies where the melody of their synthesizers and their disco touches invite us to spend a marathon dance session.

Circoloco DC10, Mayan Warrior (Burning Man), EDC México, Zamna Festival, Robert Johnson, Lux Fragil, Phonox and fabric in London are part of the magnificent spaces where her galactic style has been enjoyed by the audience. We entertain you no further and hope you enjoy this exclusive interview with Shubostar.

Hey Shubo, welcome to the cover of Mixmag Brazil. How has this 2022 been for you in terms of personal and professional experiences?

Hi everyone and thank you for having me, it’s an absolute pleasure to be your next cover artist! 2022 was my most incredible year so far. I travelled to 23 countries for an overall of 52 cities, made a lot of new friends, ate delicious food from all over the world and had many good drinks.

I released 2 EPs on great labels such as Permanent Vacation and my own UJU Records, joining also 5 compilations with original tracks, several remixes and dj mixes for the likes of HOR, BBC Radio1 and Keinemusik to name a few. Beyond any expectation!!

Can’t wait to show you more music coming out, and play more new cities in 2023 <3

Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and México are some places you visited this year. Would you dare to say that all of this cultural richness would inspire you in your coming releases?

Absolutely! In my opinion, art is the outcome of life experiences. That means you need input in order to have output. You can have several kinds of inputs as for example reading a book, watching a movie, meeting friends and so on.

My biggest input is and will always be traveling! Seeing new cities, eating local food, meeting local people… it makes me feel I’m alive! Making music is for me living my present like doing yoga or meditation. Traveling trains me on how to live my present, and it gives me a lot of energy to make music!

Before you were booked to play all these gigs, were you, attendees, yourself? Could you share a crazy experience when you were a raver in Korea, Thailand, or even México?

I started clubbing when I was 23. I know, it’s quite late, but everything then came very fast. It took me just 1 year to move from being a clubber to becoming a DJ... it was love at first sight! I can clearly say my experience with clubbing happened more as a DJ then as raver even if every now and then I still like after my sets to go on the other side and dance along the crowd :)

I want to share with you the story of my first rave in Korea: I was a kind of punk kid. When I was in high school, I used to listen to Korean indie punk. One day I went to a rock festival which was organised in a very big public swimming pool… and the dance floor was an half-filled pool! I was wearing jeans and really not ready for this, but my friends and I kept dancing 4/5 hours without stopping while soaking all our body. That was the moment when for the first time in my life I felt the word “freedom” all over my body!

How would you introduce your cosmic style to those who still do not know the power of your music?

Ahhh, great question! Basically, is a mix of disco with some more techno elements. 80s are my biggest inspiration with driving bass line you can also find on Italo disco and the kind of massive 80s gated snares, just with some techno/cosmic elements on top!

Still, Cosmic Disco itself has some history: the genre was born with the Italian legend Daniele Baldelli, he invented cosmic/afro music. The next wave came instead from the north, in Norway, where artists like Todd Terje, Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas took this style to a new level.

You were also able to find a different wave called Space Disco, emerged in Europe in the mid-to-late 1970s, characterized by layers of oscillating synth, space-oriented sound effects (laser guns, spaceships, etc.), and an overall futuristic sound. All these genres and their background mixed together made me call what I play Cosmic Disco:

I got inspired a bit from each of them and made it become my signature sound, with a little personal touch coming from me on own productions influenced also by video games sounds and my roots!

In the past was common to have new genres invented, nowadays instead is the era where DJs are plays various genres to create their own “color” of mixing. I also myself play various genres but all of them have the common theme of some ‘Cosmic’ touch. Therefore, not only my productions but also my mixing can be called Cosmic Disco!

“Traveling trains me on how to live my present, and it gives me a lot of energy to make music”

How did the interstellar sounds of Italo disco get to you?

After I learnt how to play music, I listened to any kind of music for at least 10 hours a day. Compared to other European countries, Korean young generations are not really familiar with all the world disco hits... I had to catch up day by day with them!

I found Hedkandi’s nu-disco album and in that exact moment I realized that my heart goes to melodic music more than to repetitive music. When I listened to melodic synthesizer sounds for the first time, I felt like I could see the color of each synth. The natural consequence of course was falling in love with Italo disco. The driving bass line you can find in it always inspired me as the sound of a spaceship engine!

Who were your early references in Korea?

My very first music references in Korea were definitely Crying Nut, Lazybone,, Lucidfall and Misoni!

Crying Nut and Lazybone are Indie/Punk Rock Korean bands. They were my very very first love back in the days… the first CD I ever bought in my life with my own savings was Crying Nut first album!, Lucidfall and Misoni are also Indie bands but oriented towards folk and ambient. Very emotional music! Both these sides describe well my youth music influences punk outfits for a very emotional wild kid :)

Have you ever imagined that your music will have the reach and support you currently have from top artists and new audiences?

To be honest, I’ve never even dreamt about touring worldwide either having top artists supporting my music, or to play in world-famous clubs and festivals... everything came so naturally I still need to realize it! I’ve always just wanted to be myself: do what I want, live where I want to live, work only when I want.

Some people ask me if I have a dream club or festival I’d love to play, I can’t really answer because I haven’t even thought about it! My biggest desire is to create good music and improve my studio skills, everything else will come step by step as has always been.

When we met in México City, you mentioned that you used to produce music for video games and ‘anime’ played a crucial role in your life. How important has this been for you regarding versatility in your current productions? Especially in the story behind the track ‘Spiegel.’

I graduated in a special high school named “Korean Animation High School”, where my major was computer games programming. Here I learnt how to make computer games! One day I realised that computer programming wasn’t my path and passion, so I had to find a different way to graduate: I decided then to move my major to video games music creation. I visited a teacher who were responsible for movies OST and he gave me Cakewalk 3.0, a music program which only had one sound per instrument. He then taught me how to use the program and I started to make midi melodies with it.

It was not difficult at all for me as I used to play guitar and piano and yeah, that’s how I started to produce music! As my major was computer game programming, I used to play computer games a lot. I used to spend more time in virtual life than real life. The background music was always in my ears and I felt very comfortable while listening to it. I believe I love these kinds of sounds also because of this!

I made ‘Spiegel’ during the first pandemic lockdown. Staying at my parents’ home without going out brought me back to my youth: the little girl playing computer games all day alone at home, very sensitive and fragile. That’s why ‘Spiegel’ sounds very cinematic and like comes straight outta a video game!

What kind of track would you have produced back then with having the technical knowledge of today?

Sometimes I listen to the tracks I made in the beginning of my career: very raw, unfinished, bad mixing... but all of them are very precious for me. I love every moment of my producer career even if in the early stages it sounded very rough.

Every step of my path leaded me here so this is why I love every single track I did. In conclusion, I don’t think I would ever change something or go back to do something different!

“When I listened to melodic synthesizer sounds for the first time, I felt like I could see the color of each synth”

You are also a label boss, ‘UJU’ records have become something significant for you and for all the artists that have released their art there. What can you tell us about its beginning, and what can we expect from it in the future?

I moved to Mexico and started to work very hard to produce my own music telling myself “if I can’t produce something good this time, I should quit being a musician”. Luckily something good came out and I am still here.

My goal was to produce one track a day, then finally I started to create my own style. Finally, I had several demos I really liked and I sent them to many labels but 90% of them didn’t answer and the other 10% said they would have been able to release my music in 1/2 years. I absolutely didn’t want to wait that long!

A good friend of mine then asked me “why don’t you open your own label?!” and I totally agreed with him! That’s the moment when I decided to start my own label named “UJU”, which means space or cosmic in Korean. The same friend who gave me this brilliant suggestion made a logo for me and then I asked to a Korean painter friend of mine to do the artworks for the label.

Next big project for UJU includes the first label compilation where I plan to invite as contributors all the artists which influenced me and my style!

After the success of your track ‘Jigsaw’ on Permanent Vacation, you came back with ‘Orbit Drive-In’ EP. What happened in your mind and body when crafting it? How does that influence your approach to creativity and innovation?

The title “Spiegel” comes from the main character of my favorite Japanese animation “Cowboy Bebop” named Spike Spiegel. After finishing this track, I wanted to make more tracks related to my favorite Japanese animations. When I was in high school, I used to spend more time with Japanese media than Korean media: Japanese animations, TV shows, music, movies. Therefore, that’s part of my roots!

Orbit Drive-In is a space station you can find in Cowboy Bebop. The strong driving bass line gave me the idea to use this name. The voice of “Nekono Uta” instead is taken it from the anime “Escaflowne”. There’s a song “Nekono Kimochi (Cat’s feeling)” by a cat-girl character and I loooved it! “Nekono Uta” translation means exactly Cat’s Song.

“Tiempo y Lugar” is also related to my youth. I used to be playing keyboards in a rock band and to reconnect with it I wanted to make some tracks with a rock attitude, not strictly electronic. At this moment of my journey I met super talented singer Galera in Madrid during my tour and I loved his unique voice… asking him to feature this track was the natural consequence of it!

What can you tell us about your musical connection with Jennifer Cardini, and what empowers you about her?

The first connection I had with Jennifer was through a remix I made for “Ghost Of Arms”, 2nd single of the great Curses’ album on Dischi Autunno. Jennifer then invited me for her takeover on Aire Libre for the International Women’s day last year. We’ve never met in person (yet!), I only saw her playing twice before we were in contact, once at ADE and the other one at Berghain, but I’m pretty sure we will meet very soon.

I admire her a lot because she supports a lot of female artists and we need more of this in our scene. We’re also planning to make something happen soon on her labels so keep an eye on it!

What do you think is why the female presence has gained greater visibility and acceptance in genres such as indie dance, dark disco, and Italo?

We’ve been always great, is just people started to pay attention to female artists these past few years. I should also say this: one of the reasons why we can see more female artists these days is because women’s rights have been raised through various movements and protests, making it a little easier for women to take on new challenges compared to before.

I still see so many female friends which are afraid of trying out something new... I understand some of their fears because we had to take care of so many things when we grow up compared to males, this leaded us to be more careful with everything.

That’s why when I see my female friends hesitating to do something, I always cheer them up and say “you can do it!”. The world has changed, it’s now easier for female than in past, but we still have many high mountains to climb… the path is still way far to be completed!

“We’ve been always great, is just people started to pay attention to female artists these past few years”

How do your work and creativity relate to our world? What would you like to improve in the scene through your art?

For me, djing is channelling. Each DJ has their own frequency and if the crowd has a similar frequency, they vibe with the music. It’s a bit like finding the right channel on the radio. We flip through the channels and then when some tunes catch our attention, we stay. I try to catch the crowd with excited powerful club tunes and when people start to follow me, I show them what I wanted to show. My goal is to spread bright high frequency energy to people!

Lately you also released the powerful track ‘Thunderer’. What can you tell us about its composition and the obscure tones that it lives in? How do you usually dive into the darkness to create melodies?

After joining the project “Next Wave Acid Punx” by Curses with my track AYA via Eskimo Recordings, I started listening to Front 242 again. I got soooo many ideas from their tracks. That’s how I dove into this track - new beat club vibe with dark melody line, more punchy drums, acid sound effects. Creating some different tracks from my typical sounds always refreshes my creation and I really enjoy it!

“What can you share with us about your upcoming EP on Live at Robert Johnson? What is it all about?”

I had the chance to play at Robert Johnson a few months ago, and it was a memorable gig to say the least. The 3 hours I spent on the decks there made me feel like I was in a movie... the energy of the crowd was something special. I understood immediately why people says this club is legendary and how hard they worked to build such a vibe. That’s why it means a lot to release an EP on the label of such a club!

The first track I made was Éternité. I wanted to create a track with some french sexy dark vibe on it. During the tour in Europe few years ago I met Alexandra in Frankfurt, and she sent me her poem. Her voice was unique, and the lyrics were beautiful. It was perfectly fitting with my track.

Queen Millennia came right next - the name comes (again!) from a famous Japanese animation which is a sequel of Galaxy Express 999. To be honest, I couldn’t finish watching all the episodes because it’s a huuuge series. The sad synthesizer melody reminded me of the main character Promethium, so I named this track in his honor

Siestar followed - its original title was “Gospel” as the pad on it sounds really like is a gospel singer. I wanted to make a fast danceable but bright track and the outcome was better than expected! I hope you love it at least the half of how much I love it.

Last but not least Dolphin Dream - the title track - was born. When this track was almost done, I felt something was missing. One of the pads I used on it was named “Dolphin Dream” and it reminded me about a DJ trio from Mexico City called Magic Dolphin Club, which are super good friends of mine. They always use dolphin sounds in their set, so I did the same adding also some seagulls sound. I like to think this track is dedicated to them, with some beautiful nature sounds on it!

"My goal is to spread bright high frequency energy to people”

Besides this EP, you have some remixes coming up; what is it that you enjoy the most about remixes? We mentioned that because last year you released good ones like: ‘Frei Sich’ by Oberst & Buchner, ‘Italominati’ by Romain FX, ‘Feeling Electric’ and of course your fantastic collaboration with Biesman in the track ‘Across the Universe’ released on Watergate Records. How was it for you to work on all these fantastic remixes? Which one was your favorite or challenging to make?

When you make an original track, you work on it from 0 to 100, with remixes most of times you already have some essential ideas coming from the original tune. As sometimes is not my typical sound, really crazy ideas can come and it’s really fun. That’s why I love making remixes!

The most challenging one was definitely “Italominati” remix. I had my first grey and cold Berlin winter that time. It was also the start of the 2nd wave of pandemic so many gigs got cancelled, which leaded me to stay at home. I didn’t realize in that moment, but I was suffering with deep melancholia. I had no input and no energy at all.

My Mexico tour was planned for January so no matter what, I had to finish before I leave. I forced myself, but I wasn’t happy with the result. Suddenly a friend visited me at my house and saw my project open on the laptop, then tried to add an element. From this little hint I was finally able to finish my project and it became my favorite remix!

It’s not a remix, but let’s talk about the collaboration track with Biesman - working with Joris was very smooth and fast and of course fun! I just brought an arp, then he made a fat bass line which was immediately fitting on it.

We were jamming without talking and found some more layers very naturally. After a short snack break, we almost finished track. It was very inspiring working with him. All came very fast and naturally!

What role does dig for music still play in your work as a DJ and producer?

When I feel a lack of ideas about making music, instead of taking a rest, I dig into new music. Some bass line or melody line or arpeggios always ends up inspiring me. It starts with trying to replicate that sound, but of course the result comes out very different and bring to life something brand new and original which is always the best.

Especially when we talk about DJing, digging is everything. I try to follow all the timeline of my SoundCloud. That’s why sometimes it takes a long time to check all after I come back from my tours. I don’t dig just to play music at my gigs, I do it also for various genres like ambient, old world music and so on.

That’s how I started my mix series called “Cosmic Voyage”. It’s my pure passion. When I’m tired of listening to club tunes, when I feel lonely or melancholy, finding new tunes to record a new Cosmic Voyage mix cures me and my soul.

Any plans to release a full-length album?

Step by step! Of course, it’s on my list. But first, I want to settle down in my life. I’ve been always in different cities, moving from flat to flat and city to city very often. I want to find a house and settle down in order to also build my studio first. When I will have my set-up arranged, I will work on a full-length album with a variety of all my styles, that’s for sure!

To wrap up, what would be the first thing that came to your mind if I tell you about Latin America? And what is the most Korean thing about you?

Arroz con frijoles? Ahahah kidding! Beautiful nature, delicious food, very kind and friendly people, Spanish language. I’ve only been in Mexico, Guatemala and Colombia so far, but I’ve always wanted to discover other countries too… Brazil is next on the list of course!

The most Korean thing about me is that I am over polite maybe. In our culture we respect each other even too much so sometimes we lose ourselves in order to take care of other people. Between Korean people it’s okay because we can see and recognize this without even talking, you don’t need to. For foreigners it’s instead hard to recognize this sometimes. Remember, when you see your Korean friends and you think they’re being too kind, think it twice and try to understand if they are just trying to be polite!

Thanks for having me Mixmag Brazil! Can’t wait to visit more countries in South America and to play music and dance together with you guys!

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Cover Photos: Zohar Shitrit

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