Yes folks, it's time for another episode of your favourite non-favourite k-pop interview series! Get ready for another:
This time Kpopalypse Interview is going to be interviewing "American k-pop star" Chad Future!
Like many other k-pop performers, I reached out to Chad Future via the Internet in September of 2014, eager to secure an interview for all you lovely readers, and like many other k-pop performers, he didn't get back to me, tsk tsk. I figured Chad got scared off when he saw some of my other writing, no doubt like many others - or maybe he just is busy working or reflecting on his various k-pop activities. "Not much that I can do about that", I thought to myself, my yearning dreams of a Chad Future interview on this site seemingly thwarted.
However, I didn't count on the determination levels of some of the folks who filled out the recent Kpopalypse survey. One of you sneaky cao ni mas under the cloak of anonymity mentioned that you knew someone who had interviewed Chad Future:
About 1.5 years ago before he started making all of those shit English covers, my roommate and I decided to interview him over the phone. My roommate bullshitted his way into contacting his label and setting up an interview under the guise that it was for a university paper and publicizing his name within the college landscape. In truth, we only wanted to talk to him and know what the hell he was doing. There was never going to be an article about him.
"Gosh, that's a little unfair on poor old Chad... wouldn't it be nice if Chad Future got to have that article written about him after all?" I thought. So I asked for the recording, which was dutifully provided by the sneaky anons of secret secretness (even I don't know the true identity of the interviewer) and the audio file was delivered - 30 minutes and 27 seconds of Chad Future goodness! I am very grateful for this, so thank you kindly, secret cao ni ma interview team!
- The secret cao ni ma source dates this interview to the second half of 2013. The collaborations with various k-pop artists that Chad Future refers to but couldn't directly discuss at the time have since been quite plentiful and can all be found on his YouTube channel which I feel that you should all make it a life priority to explore in detail.
- The anons have asked me not to share the actual audio recording - so I won't. This means that of course I can't conclusively prove to you that this interview is Chad Future, but it sounds just like him and the things he says certainly ring true of Chad's career and correlate perfectly with other research I've done so I'm 100% satisfied that this interview is legit.
- Although the anons were happy for me to take the credit if I wanted, the truth is that I didn't ask these questions and have nothing to do with this interview directly. Although some of the questions are certainly good, I probably would have picked very different questions to these. Chad, if you're reading, glad I finally got your attention - get in touch and we can do a follow-up interview if you'd like, now THAT would be cool.
- Chad Future answers interview questions nearly as fast as he raps, as you're about to find out because this is a pretty long read for a 30 minute interview. The audio quality is a bit sketchy so I had to drop a few words and make some small edits for clarity here and there, but I've tried to keep the result as true to his speech style as possible (although I did remove about 200 instances of the world 'like', not sure if this is like an American thing, or like, a Chad Future thing). What follows is about 98% verbatim what was said.
Final note before we begin: the recording I received unfortunately starts partway through the actual interview (classic interviewer mistake - forgetting to start the recording!) so we don't get the first few moments. You can assume that the first questions asked relate to how Chad Future decided that he wanted to do music, and also what role his production company Vendetta Studios has played in his career. Here we go.
[recording starts here] ...music videos, all that stuff, and I had a lot of success really really high, for the MySpace movie that I made...
Yeah, you were on 20/20?
It was the most downloaded movie of all time that year, and that kinda got me to LA and people calling me to my small town back in Michigan, and then flying back and forth from Michigan to LA, after that I ended up signing with Fox and got my own TV show, went and moved to LA 4 years ago, and then signed with MTV and got my own TV show, and then started doing hosting of the American Music Awards (AMA) and then through there that was where I met tons of music artists and all these music-related things. I've always been into music my whole life, but I became super passionate about it, I saw the life you could say, something I was really passionate about. I kind of started off doing comedy movies, but when I saw all these music artists doing their thing at the AMA, I was like “man, this is what I want to do, I want to go worldwide with this” so anyway ... I got into k-pop videos 3 years ago, I knew about k-pop for 10 years so in a weird way all of my interests converged, my experience being a music video director and my history of doing music and movies and handling the business of it, and being involved with music in LA, all this kind of converged with my love of k-pop to create this idea I had, and I made a boy band called Heart2Heart...
With Lance Bass, right?
Yeah well Lance, he actually had nothing to do with it, other than just having a cameo in the video. He was my co-host at the AMAs.
Okay, so he really wasn't involved beyond his opening line then?
Right. I just called him because we were buddies and said “yo Lance, can you do a cameo in my video?” and he was like “yeah sure”. We actually filmed it in his house, we put up lights in his house and filmed it there, and when the video came out everybody was like “oh my god this is Lance's new group!” and I'm thinking “what are they talking about, what is this, he didn't do anything”. That was a weird situation too because Lance was a friend of mine and I thought he was gonna get pissed because everyone was reporting that it was his group and it wasn't true, but he was actually cool about it, he didn't really care. So then that video got three million views in two weeks. I was like “well, this is cool, but I don't know if this is gonna work for the plan that I have” because a lot of the guys in the group were not necessarily trained for years and years, and there was something where a couple of things were against us ... and then the group from the 70s called Heart sued us for the name, they were like “you can't call your group Heart2Heart!” so all these things started piling up and I was like “you know what, let's just cut this group thing” so that was 18 months ago and I had all this music laying around and my friend was like “you should go solo” and I was like “What? Go solo?” It didn't even seem fathomable to me, I didn't even fathom going solo, but I talked to some friends about it and they were like “yeah, that's what we thought you were gonna do”. So long story short I sat down with a lot of my Korean friends and we started talking about k-pop and American pop and how we can bring it together, how we could combine it, if there was a first non-Asian k-pop star, what that would feel like, what would that look like, so we kind of had to make the roadmap for it, so that's basically how Chad Future was born. How this relates to Vendetta Studios to answer your question, is that Vendetta Studios is the production company that I've owned for ten years, and I wouldn't say necessarily that Vendetta Studios run the same but more like I own Vendetta Studios and when I do projects for other people it's under the name Vendetta Studios and I also am a recording artist. I guess that's how those two things are in line with each other.
I was interested to know about Vendetta because... have you seen the Tumblr for Chad Future, the unofficial fansite?
No, I haven't even seen it yet.
You've got a whole following there, but on it, as commenters do, somebody got pretty negative and said that Vendetta Studios was your way of creating a bunch of different projects and hoping that one would take off, and then you know, it just takes one to be big. Is that what Vendetta Studios is, or are the projects truly separate in that sense?
No, that's completely wrong. Vendetta Studios is my company that I've had for ten years. I don't need to prove anything to anybody. I work with artists and brands all the time. I guess in a weird way Vendetta Studios is like my day job, but also it's something that I've created that can be with me forever, because I'm not stupid to think that you could be a recording pop star until you're 90 years old. Even Cher is on the last of her legs, I don't want to be a pop star until I'm 90, but I do want to have my own production company and create videos and stuff for other people until I'm 90. So that's completely wrong to think that I'm just doing it to see if something works, that's just stupid, I'm just passionate about all these things and I'm lucky I can make a living at it. Six months ago I did everything for American Idol and Coca Cola, and I directed a Jason Derulo video, that was incredible, it was a $5m campaign. So, I don't need to prove anything in the video world, I'm not waiting for something to take off, I take calls every single day to make videos for other people, so that's basically where all the money comes from, and then I use the money to fund my own stuff.
So what is your relationship like with Big City Boys and Alyson Stoner, are you their manager, or their producer?
With Big City Boys and Alyson Stoner and other people I'm the director of their music video. For example Alyson's a friend of mine so Alyson will come over and say “I want to make a music video for this song” and I'm like “alright, cool” and then I'll make the music video, and then she handles whatever else, and then the Big City Boys, that's my friend Drew and his other friend TC, they come and say "we've got a song"... it's a director, it's just like how Tyke Williams or Little X will direct a music video for Justin Bieber, same thing. Artists come to me, I'll direct their music video.
I want to hear about Chad Future but also about your journey. I know you've had the success with the MySpace movie, and then you've had all this success in between, and now you're at Chad Future. So what was that like, how did that all play out, and when did you realise that there was some momentum?
That's an interesting question. It wasn't like a normal road, it wasn't expected. I had to kind of make my own way with this whole thing so far, so just to briefly take you through it – the MySpace movie, it kind of got me solidified in LA, and then I got agents and managers and I met really good people. Then I did part of that movie and then I did a pilot for MTV and then I did a show for FremantleMedia who produce American Idol, and I just got to meet all these great people, and then through one of my agents they started getting me hosting work as well, as I started hosting the AMA pre-show with Lance Bass who is a great artist, and then at the same time I was already directing music videos too, so when I met artists at the AMAs I would do their music videos as well. I did Agnes Monica, one of the biggest stars in Indonesia, I did her music video, and I met her through the AMAs. I was really passionate about what was happening in the AMAs, I was like “this is what I want to do, this is amazing”, so I signed with MTV for a show which is now cancelled. I didn't really feel like I was really being respected doing comedy movies anymore.
Not to say anything bad about MTV either, because they've been very supportive of my career for many many years, from the very beginning. It was something more like I was known for a long time for doing spoofs and short films, kind of like The Lonely Island does, more like comedy stuff. I felt like I wasn't being respected anymore with it because the budgets that people were offering for me to produce a “comedy” skit were super-low, and I was like “wait, why am I doing this?”. I had already found out I was going to own a Lamborghini by now, you always reach that goal and big things you want to do every year of your life. I got to the point where I was very grateful to have the success that I had with comedy and short films, but I didn't feel like I wanted to take it any further because in a weird way I felt like people didn't really respect a lot of the comedy stuff as much as another type of project. That's kind of hard to say because I know some people are very successful with how they do it, so it can be done, it's just that I was kinda feeling personally like I wasn't having fun doing it anymore and I wasn't being compensated for all the work I put into it, I work all day at this stuff. I just came to a crossroad in my life, where my passion for comedy started going down and I wasn't really being respected even by a big company like MTV, and I was like “wait, why are they not paying any money for this?”
The story was always “oh we don't have a very big budget” and I'm like “wait you're MTV, how much is a big budget?”. It kinda got to the point where I was like “I don't want to do comedy movies anymore”. I focused on music videos and music and then I put together this boy band, and the boy band got a lot of views, and then I was like improving upon this. Everything was self-funded too, the boy band was self-funded...
Let's hear about the boys. Tell me about how you found them and how that all came to be.
Heart2Heart was a 18 month long process and definitely I'll be the first to say that putting together a boy band is not easy! I think some people were a little bit too hard on me in the situation, because they didn't know that I was just doing it myself – I didn't have a company helping me, I didn't have anybody funding it, I paid for everything. I had to buy five pairs of shoes, we had to do dance rehearsals and we had to make the music and we had to do casting calls, so to find the guys in the group it was a combination of friends of mine, auditions, people who knew people, and we would try people out and audition them and if it clicked it clicked, and then it finally got to the point where I thought we had a good group of five guys and we just went for it. I'm not really afraid of failure, so I knew that we just had to try it, we just had to do it.
When I did some research on Heart2Heart and looked it up and saw the video, and it was great, but there were people who were saying it was a parody of boy bands. So you're saying it's not, it was real, and it was your first boy band really, and it just didn't work out as planned.
Exactly. I think the reason that blew out of the water so much is because of my history of doing comedies and parodies and stuff. I like to have fun, I'm not a super “serious serious guy”, I laugh all the time, I'm always having a good time, I'm always having fun, I always want to entertain people. It's almost kind of like Gangnam Style in a way, because if you watch Gangnam Style, would you say that's parody or it's just fun, or how would you describe that... and so in a way that's kind of how I see the Heart2Heart project. I wasn't necessarily "serious", because one of the lyrics were “I want to do this in the realest way I know” - I don't honestly think that's “the realest way” but I know if that was said in the song people might think that's kinda fun, or it might give them a laugh or it might entertain them. I didn't really take it too seriously and I think some people saw it and think I was trying to be serious and I think it was kind of misinterpreted. I think you need to watch Facebook Official Heart2Heart with the mindset of “I want to have fun watching this”, just go with the flow and watch it and just have fun.
Absolutely. So going onto Chad Future - so when did this arise and how did this come about, and also I want to talk about the music video yesterday. Tell me about how all this came to be.
I discovered k-pop ten years ago with a group called H.O.T. I was in high school when I saw that, and I was like “these guys look so cool”, I loved their wardrobe and their hair and I had my friend at the time burning me a CD which had some H.O.T songs on there. I don't even remember what the songs were, one of them was called “We Are The Future” or something. Then a lot of years went by, I'd say seven years went by and I didn't really think much about k-pop. Then three years ago, I was just searching online, and I watch about three hours of music videos per day because I love music videos so much. I stumbled across this YouTube k-pop music video and it had all these crazy lights and costumes and colours, and I literally watched this again and was like “so... this is what I wanna do”, I got so inspired by it. So then I started researching more k-pop videos, and every single k-pop video that I watched, it was like “this is what I wanna do”. I finally felt like I found my soulmate, in entertainment. That was what I wanted to do. I went to my parents' house for Christmas that year, and they had a k-pop TV channel on Comcast, so I sat my parents down and I showed them all the kpop videos and my parents were like “this is so cool” and I was like “yeah, isn't it?”. I basically studied it and then we did the Heart2Heart project and then I cut that but I learned a lot from Heart2Heart, and I have a lot of Korean friends and living in LA we have a big Korean community here in Koreatown, so a lot of my friends are Korean. We got together at a cafe and we had a big piece of paper and we wrote down what it would mean if a k-pop star were to be non-Asian, or how you combine American pop and Korean pop. We started to have an open conversation about it, because it's never been done before, so there wasn't a model that we could follow. So we just got out our piece of paper and wrote out: “How much Korean would be in the song? How much English would be in the song? What kind of collaborations should we do? What would the video look like? What would the styling be like?” We thought about every element of what a non-Asian American k-pop star would be. This was back last year about this time. We mashed up this idea and then I started working with some producers to create the sound. So to create the sound I worked with American producers and made them listen to k-pop for three weeks just so they got the k-pop sound ingrained in them.
Was this through Vendetta Studios? Were they associated or were they friends?
Just friends of mine. For example the producer who made my first single “Hello”, he was a mutual friend of a guy that I directed a music video for. We got to work together a little bit heart to heart, and he actually lives in the Virgin Islands. What people might not realise that I thought was very interesting was that most of the k-pop you hear is actually written by American people and by American producers and writers. What they do is they buy the song from the American producers and translate them to Korean and then make their song, so really in essence a lot of k-pop you hear is actually American pop music, they just kind of translate it. That's why I think it's so funny sometimes when people give me shit and they're like “oh, your music's not k-pop” and I'm like “well actually, I'm working with the same people who wrote the same k-pop songs that you're listening to”. So really it's the same thing.
Do you think that Chad Future is a new style of American k-pop or are you an American doing k-pop in the original style? Are you trying to create a new genre or are you trying to exist as an American in the old genre?
I think what we kind of came to the conclusion of, at least in this moment – and things will change as we continue on – but what we came to the conclusion of is that we're creating “a-k-pop”, American kpop, i.e “what would the American k-pop sound like”. So what happened was that we created this idea and we had the first single, and then my friend Jeremy Thurber who is a Top 40 songwriter and producer and singer, he's really successful in his own right, and we just went for it. There was no road map for creating Chad Future or American k-pop stars so we just kinda went for it, and we did the best we all could, and I paid for the video myself, and we shot over three days.
Internet rumour, can you confirm for me, true or false: the "Hello" video cost $100,000? Is that true, because that's been all over the Internet now, that the video cost $100,000.
Yeah. The thing that I think people never realise is that since my job is a music video director, I can sometimes get things done differently than if someone else were to try and do it. For example, I own my own Red camera, but a Red camera might cost somebody $1000 to rent for a day or something. The video is worth about $100,000 but the amount that I pay would be a little different to what someone else would have to pay but yeah, if someone else were to put that video together it would be $100,000.
Wow. So you and Jeremy knew each other, you basically said “can you come in and do this project and do this and sing the chorus”. I've seen the video quite a few times, and I've been listening to it on Spotify. There are a lot of spikes in the video, a lot of spiked jackets and spiked gloves, how many spikes were in that video?
Probably over 300, because I remember we had to buy a lot of spikes and then they had stylists put them all over the stuff!
So anyway we did “Hello” and then that video got a pretty good amount of attention, and then people in Korea started seeing it and they were writing about it in Korea, and then Billboard Korea wrote about it, and we started getting a lot of press and publicity for it, so for my first video it was a pretty good thing and then we got invited to play at K-Con which was the first Korean music festival in LA and I was the only non-Asian to be invited to perform for that entire festival's history. I felt very grateful for that because to come out only like a month ago as an artist and then be invited to perform at a k-pop festival, it's a pretty cool thing. Some artists work for years before they have any kind of success like that, and we had a great time, our stage at K-Con was huge, we had 13 dancers, and I feel like we made a lot of new fans that day.
That was really a grateful moment for me, to do that. Then we released the second single called “Unstoppable” which was produced by Sammy Naja who's a very well-known k-pop producer, and written by my friend [sorry couldn't catch this name] who is one of the most successful k-pop writers out there, he's got like 60 songs he releases in Korea a year, it's insane.
We released that video, and then something else happened that I can't even talk about yet, but I kind of put it out there to the universe that I want to do collaborations with k-pop artists, and...
I saw there was a lot of talk about – and you'll have to forgive me I'm not very well-versed in k-pop – but I saw the name “Amber”, is that right?
People are talking about who it might be right now, that's basically what's happening, but the thing is that a k-pop collaboration showed itself to me after K-Con, and I recorded this song with a k-pop artist and people started speculating who it might be and we shot the video for it and somehow...
This was yesterday, the video?
We shot yesterday with another video too, and I'll get to that in a second... but we'll release this k-pop collaboration later in the summertime. When the year rolled around I set a plan for 2013 for Chad Future because in 2012 we kind of established what the base was for the project and now people are kind of aware of what the project is, so this year I set up a plan to take Chad Future to where I want to take it. We're going to be releasing a new video every week on Chad Future on YouTube.com called Future Fridays – its going to be a remix, a k-pop cover song, an original song, a Q&A video, whatever, some kind of content every week to build my grass-roots audience more. Then we're actually doing Chad Future TV which is going to be a TV show, a documentary follow-me-along series that basically shows the life of the first American k-pop star kind of thing, and you'll also get to see the people in the family, the people who are working with me, it's going to be an inspirational, hopefully cool story to watch. A lot of things I'm doing right now I feel are very unique and I feel nobody else is really doing it, so I feel it's something that I think is going to be interesting for the audience, and I hope to show more to the audience with the TV show as well. That TV show is going to roll into the release of a lot bigger song toward the end of the summertime. The video I shot yesterday was for Future Fridays, we're doing k-pop covers, we just released the G-Dragon Crayon cover last Friday, we did another one yesterday, we took over a school, it was really really fun to shoot, so that'll be out in a couple weeks.
Thank you very much for talking to me, I'd love to get back in touch later on when things are continuing to go well for you.
Thank you so much for everything, I appreciate it!
Thanks for reading this edition of Kpopalypse Interview. Are you, or do you know someone in the k-pop scene who'd like to do an interview? If so, get in touch... or maybe my sneaky anonymous cao ni ma interview squad will find YOU first!