1. What is your name and your profession(s)? Jae Chong (정재윤)
2. What is your ethnic background and what is your citizenship (US native or naturalized etc.)? I am Korean-American. Naturalized US citizen.
3. Are either/both of your parents musicians or somehow involved in the music industry? No.
4. Please tell us a little bit about your experience, either growing up as an AAPI in America, or as a person of Asian descent who immigrated to America, whichever applies. I was born in Seoul Korea and immigrated to the US in 1980 when I was 8 years old. I got to grow up listening to some of the best music of all time…80s music~
5. How connected do you feel to your heritage/culture(s)? I always feel very connected to my Korean heritage and culture. Ever since I was little my parents always spoke Korean to us and always taught us about Korea and Korean customs.
6. 6a.) How did you get into music? Did you major in music in college? Where did you attend college/university (and grad school(s), if applicable) and in what subjects did you get your degree(s)? 6b.) When and how did you decide you were going to pursue music professionally? What were your parents’ reactions to you deciding to pursue music? Do they support your music career now? I started music when I was 11 years old when my brother brought home an electric guitar. I fell in love with it. I never took lessons. I just sat and tried to figure it out on my own. I used to spend hours trying to play from listening to my favorite tapes. By doing that I unintentionally learned how to play by ear. I then picked up one instrument after another and learned them on my own. I started playing the bass guitar and keyboards for local bands. I also eventually learned to play the drums and played in a band for almost 5 years. After doing so I had a good idea of how each instrument played in the context of a band and I progressed onto arranging music with MIDI. I attended UC Irvine for a couple of years as an Economics major. During my years at UCI I met a rap group called Soul Selection at a school party and started producing their music as well as several other local rap groups in LA. One day one of our dancers introduced me to a friend of his, Jeffrey Huang, who was a famous entertainer in Taiwan in a group called LA BOYZ in the early 90s. I started producing music for them which started my music career. I was constantly in studios making music for them with a couple of close friends. One day their manager asked us if we would be interested in creating a new group of our own. We agreed and our group “SOLID” was born. I then dropped out of UCI and pursued music full time in Korea as a member of SOLID. We ended up selling 4 million albums and hit #1 on practically every chart in Korea.
My parents were very against the idea of me pursuing music full time at first but as time went on and I started making a living from it they’ve been supportive since.^^
7. What are a few of your (music) projects of which you are the proudest? What were your roles on those projects? Beyond those projects, please feel free to name some of your other credits as well as any brands/companies you officially endorse. I’ve worked on hundreds of projects in my career but one of the project that I’m most proud was AZIATIX. It was the first group that I produced that was aimed at international success. It was comprised of three Korean-Americans…Eddie Shin, Nicky Lee and Flowsik. It was created in 2010 at a time when seeing an Asian name on any chart in the US was inconceivable. US and Asia almost existed as parallel universe that never crossed paths. We were one of the first Asian artists to chart #1 on iTunes US. We were touring all over the US as well as Asia. Eventually in 2013, AZIATIX signed a 14 million dollar record deal with Cash Money Records…home of Lil’ Wayne, Drake and Nicki Minaj. Many people credit AZIATIX for paving the way for some of the most successful international Kpop acts today.
8. Describe to me your dream project. My dream music project would be the next AZIATIX~ I would like to find a new group of artists who can continue expanding Korean music abroad. I always had a passion for Asian representation in the global music scene.
9. What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) being an AAPI in the music world? What are some obstacles you have encountered (if any) as an AAPI in general (non-music)? Conversely, has being an AAPI ever helped you in the music industry? I think for me the obstacles as an AAPI in the music world was very clear. It wasn’t subtle. When I worked at a music label in Los Angeles in 2002 I was literally told by major labels “We will NOT work with Asian artists. If you want to do it with your own money you can. If you succeed, we will think about jumping on the bandwagon but until then…the answer is ‘No’”. I always appreciated their honestly. Haha. At least they weren’t stringing me along like some. That didn’t stop me at all though. It actually gave me more passion to pursue Asian representation. When AZIATIX signed to Cash Money Records 11 years later, things weren’t much different. I was pretty much told the same thing. It’s really amazing what big strides Korean music has made since. Now every major label in the US wants in on the whole Kpop phenomenon.
10. 10a.) Who are some AAPI musicians/composers/producers who have previously inspired and currently inspire you (if any)? Why? When I was growing up we rarely saw any Asians in the music scene at all. So seeing them was a big deal. People like Towa Tei, James Iha, Joe Hahn, Fresh Kid Ice, etc. really played a huge role in my perception of Asians in the music business. They gave me assurance that it was possible.
10b.) What are your hopes for the AAPI music community and your hopes for AAPIs in general? My hopes for AAPI music community is that we can be one of the players in the global market. I don’t expect everyone to be the next Michael Jackson. If we can just be one of the players I will be happy.
11. If you could give advice now to your younger teenage self, what would you tell her/him/they? I would tell myself not to worry so much and enjoy the moment. In hind sight all things worked themselves out. I always lived with the attitude of “hope for the best but expect the worst” always leaving room for disappointments. I no longer think that way. I hope for the best and believe it because God is good!
12. Do you have any upcoming projects for which you are excited and about which you are allowed to share? Is there anything non-music-related on the horizon about which you would like to share? I’m currently working on several projects, but one project that I’m really excited about is a video game called “Nightbird Society”. I’m currently writing all the main theme songs for the game along with an awesome new artist named Kiyoné. It’s a game with multiple episodes in its series. The first episode is already available for iOS and Android. I will also be releasing some new music for my solo project called SAVIYN.
I almost forgot to mention we also started a brand new podcast called Talkback ON. It’s available on Apple and Spotify podcast . I'm also working a new artist named Calista who will be releasing soon; we don’t have the exact date yet, but it should be in the next couple of months!
13. Name one or two non-music-related things/subjects about which you are also passionate. I have passion for many things aside from music. One of them is cycling. I’ve been riding a few times a week. I love riding the trails in California. I’ve also been riding in the Velodrome and can’t wait for it to open again. Another passion is video games. I love playing Modern Warfare online.^^
14. Any final thoughts? (non-self-promotional). Alternatively, do you have any questions for me and/or the greater AAPI music community? I would like AAPI music community to continue to make strides to advance our people in the music business. The importance of entertainment and entertainers is the most evident during the times of struggle. You see the public often turning to entertainers for commentaries during a crisis and as a result it’s usually the entertainers that represent our “voice”. It’s something that our community needs more of. We need to encourage more people to enter this field and help elevate them.
Facebook: Jae Chong
Spotify: Jae Chong
SAVIYN (on other platforms): https://lnk.to/SAVIYN_Voyage01
Photo provided by Jae Chong (@iamjaechong)