Author: Jocelle Koh
This interview was done in collaboration with KKBOX SG
Many familiar with the K-pop or indie Korean scenes will have heard of Korean-American band Royal Pirates, whose English language tracks bridged many borders over the years with their unique musical stylings. Followers would also have heard about their talented bassist James JH Lee, whose passion for music allowed him to play as a bassist professionally for 13 years over a variety of genres including metal, indie rock and K-pop. In 2015, a debilitating and unfortunate accident severed James’ hand, putting an abrupt end to his career as a bassist, and forcing the musician to re-evaluate his life’s purpose and intention.
However, through all the ups and downs his journey to recovery took him on, there was only one constant in James’ life – his love for music. It was songwriting which helped him through; with songs from that dark period cumulating in the release of his latest work ‘The Light’. Borne from a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, we spoke to the now-artist about his uniquely empowering journey, and his transition from bassist to artist:
“So when you're playing the bass, you're supporting the band. You're kind of part of the foundation of the group…But … I have to do all of that now. And the singer has a lot of responsibility that I was not prepared for. So I eventually got to a point where I just let go. And I'm finally able to just be myself on stage. I just have fun with it. But when I was a bassist, I think I was trying to fit a role so hard that it's like trying to fit a square into a circle, kind of? It doesn't really make sense, especially with the type of music I was doing before. So now I just do whatever I want (laughs). And it's kind of liberating.”