February 16, 2016
In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.
Matt Rodbard and Deuki Hong's Koreatown contains over 100 recipes, but is much more than a cookbook. The additional essays and interviews, along with the vibrant photographs and recipes, combine to bring to life Korean cuisine and culture in this culinary travelogue that spans two continents.
Anthony Bourdain wrote of the book:
"Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard have given us a deep and important look at the people, places and cuisine that are reshaping what we want for dinner. Koreatown thrills with flavors that will change your life."
I guess I’m a recovering music writer (of sorts), having switched from album blurbing and soundcheck interviewing several years back to focus more on chefs, home cooking and the occasional restaurant review. While cookbooks are typically informed by flavors — which come together in a semi-logical manner in the form of a recipe — I like to think of Koreatown as more than just a collection of traditional Korean dishes to prepare at home. I’m a journalist and my co-author Deuki Hong is a chef. Together with our photographer Sam Horine, we traveled around the United States many times over, and to Korea a couple times, to find the roots of Korean food. And anybody who has spent hours driving in rental car, or late-night at a club, or even later unwinding at the hotel, or typing for days and weeks and nearly two years into a faded iMac keyboard, knows music plays a major role in the reporting and writing of something big. So even though Koreatown is a cookbook, I still consider it something big. And music informed the creative process in expected and unexpected ways. Here are a few cuts from the soundtrack.
Shin Jung Hyun “In A Kadda Da Vida”
Depending on who you talk to, Shin Joong Hyun is called either the Elvis Presley or Jimi Hendrix of Korea. He’s the guy who brought rock and roll to the peninsula. But in actuality, he’s more like Berry Gordy, having written, produced and evangelized a sound that permeated the country after the Korean War armistice of 1953: psychedelic-rock. Jung Hyun created a movement that was highly fruitful; you will find vinyl bars in the Seoul’s Hongdae neighborhood lined with walls of obscure pressings. Though, the movement was short lived and squashed by government censorship in the 1970s—leading to the country’s dearth of good music in the 1980s and manufactured K-Pop sound beginning in the 1990s, one that has taken over the globe (for good or for bad). Read Euny Hong’s highly enjoyable The Birth of Korean Cool for the whole story. Anyways, this 14+ minute cover/jam is legendary.
Lee Morgan “The Sidewinder”
I’m pretty addicted to the Hard Bop sound, and the genre’s rhythm and roster of incredible piano and horn playing a pretty great fit for writing. It keeps the mood light and the mind clear. Horace Silver, Art Blakey and the Miles Davis Quintet where always in rotation. But Lee Morgan’s trumpet really does it for me, and this track was his biggest commercial success and a favorite.
Marian McPartland “Strike Up the Band”
I grew up listening to Marian McPartland's Piano Jazz on Friday nights, and a few years back read a profile about her advocacy for women’s rights in the jazz community. She seemed really cool—a white British woman hanging and holding her own with all the jazz insiders in the 1950s and 60s—and I started listening to her albums. I became entranced with her classical approach to jazz and reimagining of standards.
Keith Ape "IT G MA Remix" featuring A$AP Ferg, Father, Dumbfoundead & Waka Flocka Flame
So this list is light on K-pop (Psy, Girls Generation, 2NE1—not here). My co-author Deuki Hong is a fan, so we listened to some of the newer stuff in his kitchen. But I’m no fan. Sorry. But what I like is Keith Ape: Korea’s Trap Lord. His breakthrough hit—“It G Ma”—features Japanese rapper JayAllDay and lyrics in both Korean and Japanese, a move that has been seen as thawing decades of tension between the two countries. It must have been the makgeolli talking, which both pound in the song’s ghoulish video—like Snoop hitting Colt 45 in the early-90s. But what was really cool? When Waka Flocka Flame and A$AP Ferg, along with Korean-American rapper Dumbfoundead, jumpin in on the remix. Keith Ape’s sound is really off the moment, and I can’t wait for him to return to NYC (Vice brought him to Webster Hall in December and things were live).
CL ““Hello Bitches”
OK, so I said I wasn’t so down with K-pop. And while, technically, this song is from girl group 2NE1, it’s CL who owns it with her Nicki Minaj flow. And WHAT A BEAT.
Black Moth Super Rainbow “The Sticky”
BMSR is one of my favorite bands period—the SUPER high-fi sound and rock/psych vibes that teeter between the 1960s and 90s is just really cool to me. While hitting particularly tough sections of writing I’d throw on their album Dandelion Gum and keep it in the background for hours. Never gets old.
Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks “Baltimore”
Malkmus is an extraordinarily talent: highly technical (on the verge of prog), though effortlessly smooth guitar playing coupled with relaxed and weird and funny song writing. Plus, he loves the NBA. I love this guy. I’m an avowed fanboy. I listen to his Pavement and post-Pavement albums constantly. And that is all.
Matt Rodbard and Koreatown links:
also at Largehearted Boy:
Book Notes (2015 - ) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2012 - 2014) (authors create music playlists for their book)
Book Notes (2005 - 2011) (authors create music playlists for their book)
my 11 favorite Book Notes playlist essays
100 Online Sources for Free and Legal Music Downloads
Antiheroines (interviews with up and coming female comics artists)
Atomic Books Comics Preview (weekly comics highlights)
guest book reviews
Librairie Drawn & Quarterly Books of the Week (recommended new books, magazines, and comics)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
Short Cuts (writers pair a song with their short story or essay)
Shorties (daily music, literature, and pop culture links)
Soundtracked (composers and directors discuss their film's soundtracks)
weekly music release lists
Word Bookstores Books of the Week (weekly new book highlights)