Seoul-based dj and producer Closet Yi first appeared on our radar in 2020 with her EP ‘Tam Tam Land’, released via Hollick and Gabriel Szatan’s imprint No Bad Days. This quirky EP quickly put her on the map as a producer to keep an eye on. Her next EP on Seoul label Honey Badger Records – incorporating newer styles and less conventional rhythms into her music – cemented her as a multi-faceted and creative artist, meanwhile dj sets across the most respected clubs in Seoul and beyond have proven her as a mainstay of her local scene.
Today we’re honoured to have her on our MIXED BY/ series today to answer some of our questions and share with us an hour-long journey of high-energy trance leaning tunes.
Hey Closet Yi, it’s great to have you! Really enjoyed listening to your mix, though its intense energy has given me a good dose of club nostalgia, as I myself haven’t been around a decent sound system in over a year.. Would you like to tell us a little more about the idea behind the mix?
Hi, nice to meet you too! It felt so great when you guys asked me for the mix because the Mixed By series has feautred some of my best heroes in music. Truly an honor! So the hour long drastic yet laid-back mixtape I recorded this time is simply: “Support Your Favorite Artist For Real”. I mixed in a lot of tracks that have just been released from talents like Syzgy, Anunaku, Naone, John Beltran, and Joe Koshin. I simply want the music that I love to thrive and become more well known, so I buy albums (or sometimes I’m lucky enough to receive promo packs beforehand), mix them and put up the tracklist.
After recording this one, I felt this is the most trancey and ecstatic mix I’ve made recently though. Maybe because I’m really into the kind of dreamy and damp sounds, like my track I put in the mix (around 19”-21”) which is forthcoming in June.
Another obvious yet important question, how has the past year and the pandemic affected you and your creative process? Has this been a difficult period or one of welcome change for you?
To add a bit of exaggeration, it shook my whole structure of life for sure. It immediately stopped most of my potential income at once, so I seriously had to re-think what I was going to do with my life for the upcoming months. Thanks to my amazing team, I could keep myself busy producing and doing fun remixes with fun artists, and I believe I grew a lot music-wise for the past year. However, on the other hand, I moved my day job to a more regular shift, which I wouldn’t have considered if I was able to go on tours. I’m trying my best to juggle both, only because I want to keep doig music.
How do you feel about balancing your day job and your music life? Is doing music full-time something you’d like to do?
It really isn’t a balance to be honest. I’ve always had a part time job, and since the Covid broke working in lockdown hasn’t really changed my life cycle. Staying inside and sticking your butt in a chair is what producers have always been good at, so so-far so good! I always think that music is my main and only hussle, and was never apart from it. I’ve worked at a music magazine, a record library, a streetwear brand (The Internatiiional, which is based on Dance music culture), a label, and they are all related to music. I’m already full-time I think.
I’m aware you’ve been a part of multiple remix projects over the last year, the most recent being your new remix for JNS. Do you enjoy the process of remixing other projects and how would you compare the process to your usual flow?
Remixing opens me up to toy with diverse sounds that I wouldn’t be able to come up with by myself. For instance, JNS uses analog instruments that are way more raw and blippy than the sounds I use to make, so when it meets my way of making rhythm patterns it can become something super powerful. Also it teaches me a lot technically, because I can get access to other artist’s stem files and listen to each instrument separately.
You mention that JNS uses more analog sounds compared to you, do you work in the box? Maybe you could give us a little more information on your workflow and some of your favourite synths or VSTs?
Well JNS studied sound design at uni so obviously he has a great hardware setup, and it’s always great to hang out in his amazing studio with all the gears. Apart from that I’m more software based at the moment, and trying to save up money to upgrade my computer this year. I’m not a maximalist in gear and enjoy the variety of tweaking and toying a limited choice of sounds. I really enjoy using my Roland R8-M sounds, and revising them inside Ableton with different effects and VSTs. I like the H-delays and H-Reverb tools in the Waves series, I feel my options are endless there.
I’m sure a lot of readers will be curious about your local scene in Seoul, could you try and paint me a little picture? Maybe how an ideal night out would pan out or any nightlife rituals which you enjoy. Or any aspects of your musical surroundings that are special to you.
Hmm, the normal routine how I would spend my weekend in Seoul before the pandemic would start like this : If I don’t have a gig, I would go to this underground bar called Pistil in the evening and say hi to the staffs and a few djs would always show up because it’s located in the center of wherever you wanna move to. After a couple hours we would move to parties that our friends are djing at, or come back to Pistil and sit on the stairs outside and chat. I kinda liked the morning after meal time when all my friends would go for soju after 5am, with soups or Korean bbq together. Might not sound that grand to the big techno clubbing nights in Europe, but it was cozy and happy!
Sounds beautiful to me, and pretty similar to our rituals over here. Can you give us some hot tips for Korean talent that we should look out for?
So many! It’s good that we’re getting the best spotlight better than ever before, thanks to all the creatives in the scene. Salamanda is definitely kicking off, they work really fast and diligently. I love their mixes too. I think you guys would love Seo John, who just released an amazing trance techno EP from Goddezz. He and I are part of a compilation album which will come out this summer soon from Honey Badger records. Also I put a really great remix by Bliss inc. originally from my bestie Naone in today’s mix set. She did a great job putting together the EP all the way at Amsterdam. Can’t wait to play with everyone in parties and festivals when all this gets over!
Keeping the theme of nightlife nostalgia running – can you tell us a beautiful memory from your life as a deejay?
One of the nights I keep in my heart is when I deejayed at The Observatory in Vietnam, 2019. It was the first time that I played all night til the morning sun came up outdoors, so I can’t forget that breeze and touch of the warmth in my skin! The vibe was just right on point, and I knew exactly what to do. It was one of those nights that everything got put together perfectly. Those special moments are in fact what makes me keep going – in order to experience that kind of feeling once more, it’s so addictive!
On a different note, how do you spend your days and what are the things that inspire you other than music?
One of the things I really enjoy is walking for an hour or two listening to someone’s mix set. It really boosts me up, physically and emotionally and gives me lots of new ideas too. Magicwire’s Midnight Vapour Trail on NTS is currently my favorite! Other than that I love to go driving outside to the suburbs. I enjoyed it so much that I made an EP fully inspired by it. It’s coming out soon, so I’m really excited about this!
Finally, name three tracks that have influenced your sound as a producer the most.
Balil – Choke and Fly
Drexicya – Wavejumper
Haruomi Hosono – Laugh-Gas
Interview by Alex.