Kim Soo-chul who is often referred to by his nick name, "Little Giant" has been a creative force in the Korean Entertainment business for over 20 years. A self taught musician, Kim started his own rock band while still in high school. He achieved his first commercial success as a founding member of the Korean rock group 'Little Big Man', and then went on to a solo career as a popular singer and composer. This led him into composing original music for Korean movies and special events. He is now the most sought after composer in the Korean movie business.

Over the years, Kim became interested in Korean traditional music. This interest has turned into his greatest passion. Today, Kim's stated goal is to introduce the sound of traditional Korean music to a global audience.

 



1972 - 1977 A Beginning

  Kim first became interested in music while in junior high school. During this time period in Korea, there was a tremendous interest in learning guitar among Korean teenagers that can be summed up with the popular saying of the day; "If you don't play guitar, you must be a North Korean spy." Borrowing his brothers old acoustic guitar, Kim spent 6 months listening to the radio and practicing by himself, as his father had forbidden his older brother from teaching him how to play. He then moved on to electric guitar influenced by American musical legends: Jimmy Hendrix, Deep Purple, CCR, Grand Funk Railroad, and The James Gang.
  Kim recalls practicing up to 10 hours a day, often late into the night. He would put paper under the guitar strings to deaden the sound (so his father could not hear) as he sat in his darkened room learning what would become his lifetime stock and trade.
  While still in junior high school, Kim started to compose his own songs. In high school, he even formed a three man hard rock group called "Fire Fox". During this time, Kim showed the first spark of what would later become a passion for experimentation and innovation in his musical career. At a time when everyone else was still using cables to connect their instruments to amplifiers; Kim rigged a wireless guitar using FM radio waves to transmit the signal from his guitar. (Technical assistance was provided by his cousin who incidentally now lives in the United States and holds over one dozen U.S. patents)
  Kim was also busy learning all he could about live performances. He performed in club bands in Seoul and even performed at the "7 Club" in "I-tae-won". (pronounced, E-Tae-Won, this is a special shopping and entertainment district for foreigners in Seoul). He also performed for US Military Personnel in camps near the DMZ (De-Militarized Zone). When Kim started attending college at Kwang-woon University, he formed a new band called "Question". They played local venues such as the YMCA, but with "Disco Mania" dominating the local musical scene their hard rock style was not well received, and the group split up.


1978 - 1982 Awakening

  1978 found Kim forming a new band. This band, 'Little Big Man' would become the platform for Kim's breakthrough song "Seven Colored Rainbow". The group consisted of: lead vocals and guitar Kim Soo-chul, on keyboard Kim Keun-sung, bass guitar Jong Won-mo, and Choi Soo-ill on drums.
  During the winter break from college studies, the group spent the entire time practicing.
  Kim recalls, "Our parents did not approve of what we were doing and did not give us any support. It was a very difficult time, as we were always cold and hungry. We had only two cases of Ramen (instant noddle soup) to eat". They alternated their long practice session between friends' apartments and empty recording studios. "We would keep playing until our hosts got sick of us and kicked us out", Kim remembers. During this time the group was able to greatly improve their performance.
  The payoff for all this hard work came when the group took the Grand Prize at the Korean University Festival in 1978. The group released their first album in 1979 featuring the song "Seven Color Rainbow". Korean rock fans went wild making "Little Big Man" an instant success! The group received numerous awards and followed up by releasing a second album in 1981 titled "Little Big Man II". Both albums were primarily rock and roll centered but contained elements of other styles including: Jazz, Folk, and Soul.
  While still in college, Kim's interest in movie music surfaced. With friends: Kim Jong-won, Song Seung-hwan, and Jin Yu-yong, Kim put together a 16 mm movie called "The Mask". Kim composed the music, and the movie was deemed good enough to qualify for admission to the "Youth Film Festival" in France. It was during the making of this amateur movie that Kim's interest in Korean traditional music first surfaced.

 

1983 - 1986 Watershed


1983 proved to be a very difficult time for Kim Soo-chul. Although he loved music, and the group "Little Big Man" was still very popular, the reality of graduation and the conservative nature of Korean society combined to pull Kim in separate directions.
  First, upon graduation the band broke up. One member was married, another went to study in the United States and a third joined the army. In addition to the break up of the band, his conservative father was putting more pressure on him to, in the words of that great American rocker George Thorogood, "Get a haircut and get a real job!" (In Korea, as in many other countries, entertainers are looked down upon as being very low class by "polite society")
 So against this backdrop Kim decided to study business at Kun-kuk University graduate school, but first he also decided he would make a farewell album. It would be a solo album and would be his last "fling" with the music business before he got on with his professional life.

Album#1
Released in August of 1983, it was a smashing success. Containing several all time popular hit songs, the album included: "The One Flower That Could Not Blossom", "Parting", and "I Will Not Fall In Love Again", all of which hit the top of the Korean Pop Charts!
  But, even after this success, his father (while on his death bed) still begged Kim to give up his musical career, and continue his education. This created quite a dilemma for Kim. After much soul searching, Kim came up with a creative way to do both! That is, continue to persue a musical career and still comply with this father's dying wish. Kim simply decided that he would make the study of music his professional career. So while his popular music career was taking off, he used his private time to study how sound and music affect peoples lives, and especially he studied Korean traditional music.
  Over the next three years, Kim released three Hit Albums, started composing music for movies and even launched an acting career. While his first solo album "Little Giant" hit the top of the Korean pop charts, he was composing music for the movie "Whale Hunting" and evem played the main character in the movie as well.
whale
"Cast of WHALE HUNTING"
In 1984 Kim received numerous special awards from the music industry including: "Best Singer Of The Year" (KBS, Korean Broadcasting System) "Top 10 Singer" (MBC,Moon-hwa Broadcasting System) and domestic and foreign journalist awards. He also received a special award from the Korean film community for his acting work in "Whale Hunting"
  1984 also saw the release of Kim's second solo album "Little Giant II". This album was also extremely popular with top songs: "Young You", "You and Me", and "Why Don't You Know".
  During 1985, Kim continued his pop music success with the release of "Little Giant III" which included the hugely popular "Capricious You". Kim continued his movie music composing work on the film "Whale Hunting II". He also branched out into the TV music business with work on KBS's "I'll Give It All". Finally, he continued his string of popular singing awards for the third year in a row being selected as one of the "Top 10 Singers" in Korea. All during this time Kim continued to compose original music for TV and Movies, while at the same time studying and increasing his knowledge of traditional Korean music. Kim was experimenting more and more with the combination of Korean and Western sounds in his music. He was attempting to integrate more traditional Korean music into his compositions.

  In 1986, Kim released his fourth solo album "Little Giant IV" which included songs "By Chance", and "Today Too" . He was also writing music for television dramas, stage productions and traditional dance music.
  This year also marks the first release of a collection of his movie music simply called "Kim Soo-chul Movie Music I".

  So it came as no great surprise to Kim's fans when he was selected to compose music for the ceremonies associated with the 1986 Asian Games. As music director, Kim managed all aspects of the "Night Before Celebration" that the Korean government sponsored for the participants and guests. The music that he composed for this special international event was unprecedented. Through the use of Western rock and roll and Korean traditional music, Kim was able to introduce this international audience to the unique sound of Korean music while not straying to far from what most of these foreign guests were familiar with. Not only did Kim compose, and manage the performance but he also performed in it. This marked the first performance of his "Guitar Sanjo" stage act.

1987 - 1989 From Singer to Composer

By 1987, Kim was well established in the Korean entertainment industry. He released his second movie music album entitled "The Story of Saint Lee" his third movie music album titled "House of Two Women" and he was much in demand for his original movie and television scores as well as his song writing and singing performances. Kim continued to write popular songs and do commercial work composing music for numerous television shows and films. He also continued his study of traditional Korean music. In 1987, he composed music for a traditional dance competition. Entitled, "The World of Spirits", the group Kim Kun Hee that performed the dance won the Grand Prize at the 9th annual Korean Dance Festival.
  With the success of "The World of Spirits" Kim decided it was time to put together an album for the general public, dedicated strictly to Korean traditional music. When the album was released, it was a commercial disaster! Shortly after its release his record company (Seoul Records) pulled the album from distribution claiming it only sold about 200 copies. Kim was forced to pay for all production costs and returns. This was a heavy blow financially and emotionally. However, this setback did not deter Kim from continuing to compose music for tradtional instruments even though he was now under pressure from friends, relatives, and especially his record company to "stop wasting his time" and only work on moneymaking projects. All of this criticism did not stop him from working toward his goal of modernizing and popularizing traditional music. Although this was a tremendous financial burden, Kim decided to continue to create and produce traditional music with the belief that he would eventually find an audience for his work.
  1988 was a big year for Koreans. South Korea had been selected to host the Summer Olympics, and the entire country was excited. This was a very special year for Kim as well. Not only did he release his sixth solo album entitled, "Celebrating Twelve Years in Music", his fourth movie music album entitled, "Collection of Theme Songs" and his fifth movie music album for the movie "Chil-su and Man-su, but propelled by his successful work on the 1986 Asian Games, he was selected as music director for the "Night Before" ceremony for the Seoul Summer Olympics.
  Once again combining elements of different genres to create a musical piece of unique appeal. (Some people have said they can hear the influence of Pink Floyd) The first movement entitled "The Leap" combined contemporary percussion and synthesizer along with Korean instruments: Tae-pyung-so, Ka-ya-geum, Chul-ka-ya-geum, A-jaeng, and O-go. Kim used Korean percussion as well as chorus to achieve a feeling of wonderment and anticipation in the audience. Critically acclaimed this album contributed significantly toward generating renewed interest in Korean traditional music by the public in general, as well as sparking interest by many of the international guests that heard it.
  After the public's favorable response to his Olympic Album, Kim decided to leverage its success and combine it with some of his other traditional music compositions. This lead to his second album dedicated primarily to Korean traditional music. Kim's name appears in Chinese script at the top of the CD and has a picture of two men dressed in traditional Korean clothing. This CD album was marginally successful and gives Kim hope that he will someday find an audience for his modernized traditional sound.
1989 was another busy year for Kim Soo-chul. He released his seventh solo "pop" album, "One Man Band". This was another first for the Korean music business! Not only does Kim compose all of the music, write all of the songs but, he literally plays all of the instruments as well. Other Korean artists had made similar efforts but had always relied on synthesizer or studio bands to carry some of the load. The album includes the song "Get With It" which is immensely popular for its witty and humorous criticism of modern materialist society. This album was to prove so popular that Kim was once more pushed into the live performance spotlight. In addition to his singing performances, Kim goes on tour in Korea with his "Guitar Sanjo" stage show. (Kim plays electric guitar while being accompanied by a traditional Korean musical group; he will later perform this same act in Japan and the United States.)
  In 1989 Kim released "The Best of Kim Soo-chul", and took another chance with the release of his third Korean traditional music album, entitled "The Road to Hwang Chon". The best of album is a success, but once again the traditional music album is a disappointment. His efforts on composing traditional music are not entirely unrewarded. This year marked yet another first for Kim. His instrumental composition "The Sound of Invocation" composed for the 11th Korean Dance Festival won the "Best Music" award. This was the first time a composer not formally trained in traditional music ever won a major prize in a Korean traditional arts competition.

1990 - 1993 Looking for The Right Sound

  Kim continued live performances started at the end of 89 with the release of One Man Band. After devoting most of his time to composing music for movies and television, Kim's fans are ecstatic to see him back on stage.
  During this time Kim also travels to Japan to perform at the Osaka Exposition with the Central Classical Korean Music Orchestra Band.
  From a business standpoint the sales figures for traditional album "The Road to Hwang Chon" gave Kim some cause for optimism. Although sales are not even one-tenth of a typical pop album release; nevertheless, Kim is encouraged as sales are now showing a definite upward trend. This same year Kim was commissioned by K.B.S. (Korean Broadcasting System) to work on the large Korean documentary drama "History Flows". As a result of the historical content of the project, Kim was able to easily integrate more use of traditional instruments into the musical score. This prompts the release of his fourth traditional music album "History Flows".
  In 1991 Kim headed back to the recording studio, this time with a group of friends. The resulting album "Friends" is the first collaborative work since his days with the group "Little Big Man" eight years earlier.
  Kim also released another solo vocalist album this year. Entitled "Little Giant VIII" it includes the hit songs "Where Do I Go From Here" and "The Road".
  Kim continued his live performances playing "Guitar Sanjo" while composing music for films and television. This is also the year he received the top music award at the 11th annual Korean Film Critics Awards Ceremony for this work on the movie "They Are Like Us".
  1992 Kim releases his fifth traditional music album entitled "The Sound For Invocation". Once again sales are a disappointment. Kim however, was not deterred. Besides, he has his hands full working on several other projects. He continued his live performances with his "Guitar Sanjo" stage show, as well as composing original music for several television and film projects. Amazingly, he also found the time to get married ( on February 2, 1992 at 2:00 O'clock in the afternoon he was married to Ms. Oh So-young) and release his seventh television and film album entitled "TV Drama Music".
 The year 1993, is to be a breakthrough year for Kim Soo-chul. Since 1987 and the release of his first traditional music album, Kim has been working steadily; honing his skills composing and producing Korean traditional music. He is constantly searching for just the right sound to "harmonize" the music styles of Korean and Western music.
 
  In 1993 Kim was hired to compose the music for the film "So-pyon-je". It was to be a film about traditional Korean music and musicians, and Kim was very excited about doing the score. Even to most Koreans, the story was somewhat unfamiliar, but something about the movie and the music, "strikes a cord" with the public. It becomes one of the biggest box office draws in Korean movie history. Not only was it commercially successful but it also won widespread critical acclaim. Riding high on domestic success "So-pyon-je" was entered into foreign film festivals all over the world including: The Cann Film Festival in France, The Berlin Film Festival, and the Singapore Film Festival, where it won !!!Picture of the Year!!
Kim was elated and set to work creating the first actual Sound Track album to ever be made in Korea. (Past movie albums were only collections of songs.) To date, the "So-pyun-je" movie soundtrack has sold over 1 million copies. (Not bad when you consider that the sale of 500,000 records in the United States constitutes a gold record, and the United States has almost 6 times the population of South Korea.) Not only is the music for "So-pyun-Je" commercially successful, but it won top honors at the 13th Annual Korean Film Critics Award Ceremony, as well as top honors at the 1993 MBC (Moon-hwa Broadcasting Company: moon-hwa means, "culture") awards ceremony.
 Kim continues his special event work with original music for the 1993 Tae jong World Expo. He composes original music for both the opening parade as well as the opening ceremony. Also during this year Kim took his Guitar Sanjo Stage Show on the road to perform in New York. Reflecting his widespread recognition as a gifted composer and entertainer, Kim is so now being invited to speak as guest lecturer at varoius institutions of higher learning.
 On the business front, by the end of 1993 Kim is not happy with his long time record company Seoul Records and they part company. He signs with Sam Sung records and decides to re-release his most recent albums: "Road to Hwang Chon", "Sound for Invocation" and the sound track album "So-pyun-je". "So-pyun-je" is now a huge hit, and the other two albums do far better than their first release.

1994 to present

  1994 finds Kim back in the studio working on his 9th solo album "Men in Blue". It is his first solo album in three years and demonstrates Kim's great musical versatility. As usual, composing the music and writting the lyrics, Kim delievers an intimate "unplugged" performance. The song themes are universal and the style is cool jazz. As is apparent from the cover, the man has got the Blues. The songs speak of the trials and uncertainties of middle age, and the eternal question; what does it all mean.
  Through out this time Kim continued to perform and compose music for television, film and special events. Later in 1994 Kim composes the score for the movie "Tae Baek Mountains". The movie is based on actual events just prior to the Korean War. The movie tells the story of the human suffering of common people brought on by ideological conflict. The musical score turns out to be one of Kim's personal favorites. Kim is quoted as saying, "This score comes the closest to what I visualized when I set out to composed music for film".
  The sound track album "Tae Baek Mountains" released in September 1994 also highlights another of Kim's music innovations. This album represents the first time Korean traditional music instruments have been combined with Western orchestral backup. The musical imagery is stunning and meets with widespread critical acclaim! For his work on this movie Kim is honored by receiving the "Best Movie Score" at the 33rd Tae Jong Film Festival and "Best Movie Music" at the 16th Chyungyong Awards Ceremony. Along with receiving musical awards Kim is in great demand as an "MC" at special events, and celebrity judge at musical contests.
  Over the years Kim has worked on many television and movie projects for children. He had often said that he wanted to create an album that spoke directly to children. So, in 1995 he decides it's time to put together an album made up of songs just for children. Released in May of 1995 the album turns out to be a big hit with children, and adults as well. Including such songs as "Chiki, Chiki, Chaka, Chaka" the album was praised by parents and critics alike.
  Other activites in 1995 include: Composing special event music for the 1995 Korea Cup (Korean National Soccer Champianships), and a return to the silver screen with a supporting role in the movie "My Love". (and yes, he composed the music too)
  Internationally, he traveled to Germany representing Korea as a kind of Musical Ambassidor of good will. Every year the government of Germany, selects one country in the world that will be the focus of a special music symposium. In 1995, Korea was the selected country and Kim was chossen as the person to share the musical heritage of Korea.
  In June of 1996 Kim releases "Festival" which is the soundtrack album of the film by the same name. This film tells the story of a typical Korean family that has been brought together by the death of their grandmother. The history of the family unfolds as the characters make the complicated preparations for a traditional Korean funeral. The participants experience a wide range of emotions potently expressed by the powerful sound track. As usual, Kim uses a combination of Western and Korean instruments to help tell this bitter sweet story of the human condition.
  In 1997 Kim releases "Chang" which is the sound track album for the movie of the same name. The movie was commercially very successful, (Chang means prostitute in Chinese) and was directed by renowned Korean director Im Kwon-taek. This movie follows the life of a poor Korean country girl who applies for what she thinks is a "waitress" job only to find herself trapped in the unhappy world of a prostitute. Using both Korean and Western instruments, the music follows the emotional peaks and valleys of the main character as she tries to escape her situation. The soundtrack creates in the listener the feeling of great longing and loss which is the theme of the movie.
  Also in 1997 Kim releases "Best of Film Music 1" which is a collection of soundtrack music that he created for various Korean movie productions between 1983 and 1997. This album concentrates on Korean tractional music and makes use of unique musical instruments of Korean origin. The various tracks range from the soft and sweet melody of "The Way of Sound" to the mournful and haunting resonance of "A Millennium Crane". Most of the pieces have received numerous awards from within the Korean film and music industries.
  In conjunction with "Best of Film 01", Kim released "Best of Film Music 02" which is a collection of movie soundtracks written and composed by Kim highlighting his use of Western instruments in Korean films that he has worked on since 1983. This album includes award winning tracks from such Korean movies as: Berlin Report", "Men in Blue", and "Whale Hunting". The track from the movie "Whale Hunting" is particularly noteworthy. Not only did Kim write and perform the music, but he also made his screen acting debut in this movie as the leading man. Additionally, Kim won the "Fresh Face" award at the Back Sang movie awards for his performance. Finally, "Whale Hunting" was the most commercially successful Korean movie of 1983 and spawned several sequels.
 Continuing his work on special events, Kim was selected to compose the music for the opening ceremony of the 1997 Student Winter Olympics. This is an international event that brings together student athletes from all over the world.
  Lastly, in 1997 Kim releases "The Sound of Invocation II" which is the second in a planned series of albums dealing with Kim's feelings about life's journey expressed through his music. This album takes the listener on a spiritual odyssey through time and space, experiencing through the music emotions such as: temptation, frustration, patience and triumph; the things people might feel as they looked back over the course of their lives. There are quiet thoughtful moments and boisterous celebrations, all sewn together with a haunting celestial melody. All of this achieved by Kim's trade mark style of combining Western and Oriental instruments to create a harmonious blending of musical cultures.
Most recently, in June of 1998 Kim released "pal man dae jang kyung" which is another all instrumental album. The album title which roughly translates to, "80,000 Great Words" is the complete Korean Buddhist canon. This is the first in a planned series of albums that are aimed at making this internationally recognized cultural relic (Korean National Treasure Number 32) more accessible to the people of Korea and the World. This album marks Kim's first attempt to reach an international audience with his unique sound. By combining traditional Korean wind, string, and percussion instruments with their Western orchestral counterparts and adding the modern "high tech" sound of a synthesizer Kim's music has global appeal. Using his now trade mark style of combining Oriental and Western music, he has "harmonized" the two forms and created a brilliant hybrid. This 42 minute long piece is divided into 4 movements representing historical events surrounding the creation of the first moveable printing blocks in human history, and the horrific Mongolian invasion of Korea in the 13th century. This unique harmonizing of musical styles offers the listener a very special musical experience.
Today Kim continues to be active in many arenas. His is currently working on special event music for the Kong Ju International expo, music for an upcoming advertising campaign, and he is doing the ground work for addtional album releases.

 

For more information on what Kim has been up to lately,
check out the "News & Events" section in this homepage.

* A Final Thought *

Throughout his long career Kim's long term personal goal has remained the same. That is, Kim wants to introduce the beauty of Korean traditional music to a larger audience. He is very excited to be able to bring this homepage to his fans, and views the internet as a wonderfull new tool to help introduce his music to a global audience.

Home / Articles & Interviews / Photo Gallery / Album Library