Odd J / Clique Records
Happily nestled in a quiet alleyway, amidst an industrial neighbourhood mostly populated with hardware and automotive repair stores, is Clique Records. The first and only record store in Seoul specialising in underground dance music.
During a recent trip to South Korea, I was lucky enough to meet Antoine, aka Odd J, the mastermind behind Clique and one of the key-contributors to the city’s blossoming electronic music scene. While keeping the shelves replenished with an impressive supply of new releases and second-hand stock, he also regularly throws parties, where he’s hosted numerous international guests like Daniel Wang, Young Marco, Tiago and more recently Jonny Nash.
I spent a few days hanging out with Antoine – DJing, browsing in flea markets for records and fake polo-shirts and eating copious amounts of kimbap. During this time I learned more about the local scene, his upcoming projects and his unique cultural heritage. We later reconnected on Facebook for this interview.
I’m really interested in the way we experience cultural identity. Your upbringing has been especially interesting and challenging in this regard. South Korea has seen the largest exodus of adoptees from one country in the world. Since the Korean War and the division of North and South, more than 200,000 children have been adopted into families in more than 15 countries. You were born in South Korea and then adopted by French parents at the age of 6. It must have been so surreal to then return to Korea later in life. How long ago did you return?
Yes, it was a big cultural shock when I first returned to Korea after 20 years passed in France. I first came back in 2008. I’ve tried to renew my connection with my roots and spend time with my Korean family whom I met again after all those years, which was actually the main reason why I decided to come back. I enjoyed my time but i didn’t achieve my initial goal which was spending a full year in Korea. I kinda felt “home” sick afterward, I wasn’t really prepared and there were too many differences between the two cultures, so I decided to take a break and go back to France. I guess it wasn’t the right time.
Could you remember much? Were the surroundings familiar to you and did the language return to you?
Well I had the vague memories you have of your childhood at the age of 6, but the strongest memory was definitely of the food and a sense of smell, strangely the language didn’t really return to me… i’m still trying to figure this out.
You eventually chose to stay, was it difficult to make that decision?
I had to come back and that was in 2011. It’s always a big decisions to leave for another country, but it was much smoother than the first time. I was more prepared and I knew what Korea was like and what I could expect from it, but still I didn’t have any clear plan on what I would do, I just wanted to live here and experience the culture of the country I was born in. It’s now been 5 years, there’ve been ups and downs but things are pretty good now and Seoul is a very dynamic place to live and I believe the city has a lot to offer in terms of opportunities on both personal and professional projects in the future.
Nowadays do you feel a greater sense of connection to South Korea or France?
It’s funny because I do feel French while living in Korea, and I’m very glad to have a different cultural perspective and opinion compared to Korean people who’ve never lived abroad in the west, but I never had this feeling in France where I would always identify myself as an Asian. But I don’t have any issue with my identity, I’m glad now to be connected with both but my thinking and acting are very Western, it’s really interesting to understand why things are different between East and West and this makes life here easier when acknowledging it.
What ignited your interest in collecting records and DJing? Did it start in Korea or in France?
This is actually quite a recent development and I still sometimes feel a bit strange thinking that I actually own a small record store. This happened mostly through people I’ve met in Korea over the past few years, who have influenced my musical taste and interest in records, although I don’t consider myself a collector. But my first experience with records started in my early twenties and at that time i was into hip-hop and turntablism and i got into club music later. I was surrounded by friends who were deeply involved in the music scene of the city I grew up in, Rennes. People like Low Jack and D.K. were the some of the ones that had an impact on me and on what to listen to at that time. When I moved to Seoul 5 years ago everything was different from what it is now, like very different… there wasn’t any club scene here and the parties were kinda not what I was into in terms of music, so I started bringing a bit of the club culture that I grew up with by throwing small parties with new friends made in Seoul, we played and also booked international acts for our events so everything kinda started from there. I’ve met great friends who got me hooked on digging records here in Korea which is surprisingly also a very dope place for record digging. One of them is my shop partner Curtis who’s the nerdiest digger I know in Seoul, who also introduced me to some great records and digging spots in the city, so it made a lot of sense in having him on board when Clique got physical.
When did you start Clique and what inspired you to open the shop?
It started as an online shop a year ago and I would do a pop-up store on a Sunday once a month and the reason was very simple: it was just missing from Seoul. As a city that has a growing and dynamic club scene, we are the first dance music record store, which is actually surprising for most people visiting the country and even still for us. The only way to get your hands on new releases was through the internet (Discogs and Juno were the most popular in Korea) so it made a lot of sense to open one. This is something I wouldn’t be able to do at all back in France and I wouldn’t feel that I would contribute in any cultural and musical way to the scene, but here in Seoul this felt more legitimate. It was also about making connections with other like-minded people, and a good opportunity to introduce artists and labels that I was promoting with my bookings and parties. We got the physical store running last April, and we now have a strong used records section including dance music and other genres too. Me and Curtis select each of the records that appear on the shelf and our friend Aaron (Airbear) recently joined forces to take care of the Asian section.
Also this is not our main occupation, we all have day time jobs and we open only during our days off. It feels more like a community that’s able to share and talk about music rather than a proper business with all the financial issues that require you to run it. You can actually just come and chill, drink a coffee and listen to records, it feels very organic and intimate.
Was it difficult to find this location – as the store is so central, but also quite concealed along Eulji-ro?
Actually not really, and we didn’t randomly pick up this place, we have friends who run some really cool spaces and cafes in the neighbourhood that helped us find our actual location. We tried to avoid the hype fancy areas of Seoul, which we couldn’t afford anyway. We are quite happy to be hidden from the main streets in this old industrial neighbourhood.
Are there many people digging in Seoul? And do you feel like the scene is growing?
There’s quite a lot actually, depending on what you’re into, but yes the vinyl market feels pretty strong. The electronic scene is definitely growing, this is due to the dynamic club scene of the city and we do see lots of new faces at the shop every week looking for new electronic music.
You’ve mentioned your parties, can you tell us a little bit about the TMI parties you’re running with Airbear (Aaron)?
We started this party 2 years ago in small bar called Haksalon in a neighborhood near Hongdae. At first we wanted to start a night away from the usual clubbing environment, we would also set up some decor with different themes for each party. The first ones were basically me and Aaron inviting a local DJ guest that would fit our party vibe which is inspired by leftfield dance music, so anything from balearic, disco, boogie, new wave to techno/house. But it sort of evolved last year with booking “less known” foreign acts such as Norio from Rare Groove and Mori Ra who were both really good, we also did Magic Touch and Samuel Harmony before the memorable Sanpo Disco party last August! Basically they are all friends and the booking happened in a really organic way, we either contacted them or the other way around. We both have a busy schedule at work so things have been a bit slow lately, but we’re working on a few parties for 2017, so we’ll keep people updated!
What’s lined up for the future?
I will be opening a small cafe right beside Clique. In some ways this will be an extension of the original store. I’d like to host monthly shows in the cafe including live experimental music, listening sessions and of course keep our in-stores going with artists who are touring Seoul. This will provide us with more space in the store to put records as well. We’ve got lots of new stuff coming in, in both the new and used sections.
So my schedule has been quite hectic lately. I’m also very excited to be announcing a new project with Mogwaa, a new Korean artist with amazing talent! We’re releasing his first EP on tape in February/March. Info will be out very soon! And last but not least, Clique’s first event of 2017 with Soichi Terada live @ Club Venue this weekend, the 21st, so if you’re in Seoul please stop by, say hi and we’ll give you good tips on food and places to visit in the city 😉
Visit Clique Records web store!
And check Odd J’s mix for Sanpo’s NTS show here!