Skull is back with his first full album “King O’ Irie”. The title track is “I’m Getting Married” with The SeeYa member Eugene. As usual, I only translate the quotes and sum up the rest.
“I wanted to make an album that I’d have no regret about. Some singers can decide the release date and make their album in just a few months, I prepared this album for a few years. Each song took a few months to make because I would fix a lot of things when I listened to them again. And it was about finding the right timing. I’m really confident right now.”
The title track “I’m Getting Married” seems to have a heavy atmosphere, but it’s not a complex song. The vocal and rap parts come together in a natural way. It’s a music with a distinctive groove that penetrates the heart of the listener. So did something change in Skull’s reggae, in his music style?
“It’s amazing. When I was with Stony Skunk, we released similar songs, but people said they were too difficult. I think people got used to listen to reggae through Skull & HaHa and “Infinite Challenge”. Before, when I said I do reggae, people would go “isn’t this music difficult?”. Although the music is the same now, they don’t say that anymore. My parents used to tell me “I can’t listen to your music because it’s too complicated”. They like it now. I’m not the one who changed.” (laugh)
Skull debuted in 2003 as a member of Stony Skunk. Skull said that there’s a different perception about reggae. Those who used to say that the music was difficult say “Ya man!” and that they like it now.
“To be honest, the music I did with HaHa was mainstream music. One day, I ran into a fan in the street and he told me “hyung, why did you change like that? You met HaHa and your music got ruined”. It’s true that I got to do mainstream music with Skull & HaHa. It was the case for “Busan Vacance”. However, I tried to do everything I wanted for this album. So aside from “I’m Getting Married”, all the songs got banned. (laugh) I did everything I wanted with this album, so I have no regrets. I purposely shot a few music videos, so I tried my best to show to the fans the overall style of this album. The music videos were shot in the greatest places in various locations overseas like Cuba, Jamaica and Hong Kong.”
Skull said that “I’m Getting Married” is the song that people around him were the most enthusiatic about before the release of the album. That’s why he made it the title track, but Skull’s affection for the other songs is unusual.
“If I were to care only about one song, I should have released it as a single. Nowadays, people don’t really listen to other songs but title tracks. Yet, I wanted to show something as a whole instead of showing just a little part of it. I wanted to talk about strong stories, soft stories, love songs, about my parents or my fans and the people I’m thankful for. To be honest, the intro cost much more money than the title track. It’s not something you can do with the capitalist mindset. I did variety programs and I received a lot of love, so I prepared many things to show with this album and return this love.”
When he was in high school, he listened to Bob Marley’s music by coincidence and his interest grew. Music was his destiny. As he remembered his Stony Skunk days, he expressed his gratitude to Yang Hyun Suk.
“I was at my lowest and this was when I met Yang Hyun Suk-sajangnim. That’s how I was able to be a part of Stony Skunk. We’re still friends, but he’s very busy. We’re not in the same agency, so we can’t talk easily like we used to, but I definitely want to go and give him my greetings. He’s someone I’m very thankful for.”
Other fateful encounters happened. When things were rough, he met Mariah Carey. When he got discharged from the army, he met HaHa. Every time, these encounters revived him. The album is about what the hard times he went through and the people he’s thankful for. So now he’s on his own, what will happen to the duo Skull & HaHa?
“I thought it was very important to prepare this album without worrying about the release date. So there was one thing set. The album would come out when it’s ready. It’s a big stress when the promo activities are already decided and the music isn’t even halfway to come out because you’re still working on it. I keep working with HaHa, we’re currently recording. We usually keep preparing and then the album comes out when it’s ready. I wonder if there won’t be another Skull & HaHa’s song released this year? If it’s not ready, then it will have to come out next year. HaHa has a big interest in reggae and he’s completely absorbed in music these days.” (laugh)
When talking about HaHa, “Infinite Challenge” comes to mind. Skull participated in the Jamaica special episode and traveled with them to find Usain Bolt. Skull revealed a behind story.
“To be honest, I was very thankful to get a call from a variety show. I was a bit against it before. I thought a musician must play through music… But I talked with HaHa. I listened a lot to what people around me had to say about this and I thought variety program was about creating an environment to bring people even better music.I wanted to look cool before. Every one has flaws and hates to show them. I usually talk a lot, but I was worried to say something wrong if I talked too much, so I didn’t talk a lot. In the first episode, I just wanted to be the English interpreter or pretend to look cool. At some point, I realized how coming all the way to Jamaica was a great thing and I forgot about looking cool and I thought I just should enjoy being there. So, I looked like a “ddongddaengee” [t/n: I think it’s like couch potato, fatty]. (laugh) People’s reactions were even better after the second episode aired. I’m usually a fun and chill (?) person. And I’ll show this side of me now.”
It’s obvious that this album is very special for Skull. Variety is one thing, but the fans are also praising him for his efforts and the challenges he took on with his music. He smiled as he expressed his satisfaction about this album.
“To me, the completion of his album already represents 70% of the success. While I was working on this album, I already felt happiness and success. The 30% left is about the charts results and the audience’s love. My dream came true.”
Skull said he isn’t interested in marriage for now. He’s married to music.
“In my song [Deh Pon Top], the lyrics go “if I lose, I’ll leave in a beautiful way like the evening sunset”. When the sun goes down, it’s beautiful, but it’s still a setting sun. I get this sunset feeling. Because I’m not a 20-year-old upcoming rookie, because my sunset means that the next few years will be my last ones. Because I won’t be able to show something to the audience indefinitely. If I focus even more and work harder when I’m going down, when it’s the most beautiful moment for me, wouldn’t it be beautiful like the last sunset? All this time, I heard a lot “reggae can’t make it”, “reggae is non-mainstream music”. I want to show that reggae can win. It will win one day and I hope to be the starting point.”
t/n: I know there was some heat because of the “Deh Pon Top” video. I had the impression that everyone had something negative to say about it. At the end of the day, I may not like every song Skull made, but the ones I like have deep lyrics and I think a lot of people would be able to relate to what he says. He doesn’t sugar coat things even in his love songs. If you were hesitating to give his music a try and make your own opinion about why you like it or not, I hope this helps.