Session keyboardist, producer, and songwriter DOCSKIM talks about life in the K-pop world – from working with Seo Taiji and BTS to making a name for himself

Session keyboardist, producer, and songwriter DOCSKIM talks about life in the K-pop world – from working with Seo Taiji and BTS to making a name for himself

DOCSKIM is a name that often pops up in the world of K-pop. 

From tearing it up onstage with Epik High and as part of Ghost band with BTS, to working side by side K-Pop pioneer Seo Taiji, the Korean-American keyboardist, music producer, and songwriter has it all. DOCSKIM has been around the scene for 11 years, exploring and expanding his creative talents with every project and show he's thrown upon.

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"The music industry is challenging; there’s no other way to put it," DOCSKIM tells Bandwagon. "But the ones who are meant for it will be the ones who pay their dues and brave through the storm. Success is not always guaranteed but a greater appreciation for music and life, in general, came to me after all the hard times."

Bandwagon caught up with DOCSKIM to talk about his origin story, the bits and pieces he picked up throughout his musical journey, and the other projects he has lined up.


How long have you been in the music industry and what does it take to stick around?

I’ve been in the music industry for technically 11 years.

I think one piece of advice I could give to those interested in the music industry is stick to your instincts. It’s really easy to overthink situations and worry about what the other party would think but every time I stuck with my gut, some life-changing event would fall into my hands. 

Also, don’t be afraid to fail. Failure leads to success.

What was your first instrument? 

My mom signed me up for piano lessons when I was young and I stuck with it ever since! There was a time when my family were going through financial issues and my mom asked me if I wanted to continue piano lessons. Me being a kid, I had no idea about our money problems and I apparently said yes. That’s when my mom knew I was meant to pursue music. 

I took French horn pretty seriously when I was young. I REALLY took bass guitar seriously in college when a friend left his bass in my dorm room. (Bass is my favorite instrument!)

You're a multi-instrumentalist, but most known for the keyboard. What drew you to the keys in particular?

When I was in high school, the praise team leader knew I played the piano and asked me if I wanted to play the keyboard at church. I think that’s when my musical interests really started to take off. 

It was so cool being able to play different sounds such as strings, guitar, bass on basically what was an electric piano. That led to my dreams of being a session keyboardist and a music producer; I’d be utilizing and studying many sounds instead of just piano.

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What are the highs and lows of being in the music industry?

I’m not sure about the music industry but as far as music in general, the highs are meeting so many great musicians and artists and hearing so much new music. 

I can’t describe the feeling I get when I meet someone inspirational or hear a new song that makes me want to go into the studio right away.

The music industry is challenging; there’s no other way to put it. But the ones who are meant for it will be the ones who pay their dues and brave through the storm. Success is not always guaranteed but a greater appreciation for music and life, in general, came to me after all the hard times.

Every creative has that stagnant moment where they can't seem to create. Tell us, how did you overcome the dip you faced in 2017? What did you to get you back up in the zone?

I lived in the USA all my life so even to this day, I still feel like a foreigner here in South Korea. That feeling of loneliness, coupled with being around people that I didn’t seem to click with, I lost all interest in music.

In my free time, I had no urge to touch the piano or make any songs. This lasted for about two years. Slowly but surely, I just kind of went into my own world and stopped caring what people thought of me and my music. I burned bridges with anyone that I felt would be a negative influence on my mental health and/or my career.

Ever since then, so many great things happened career-wise and I fell back in love with life, music, and especially piano again. What may be unimaginable for the haters may just be your next dream come true!

How different is it working as a producer from performing as a member of a touring band? Is there something you like more than the other? How do you shift your mindset when you put on your composer hat/producer hat/arranger hat/etc?

I used to have big issues with going back and forth as a producer and a keyboardist. However, I realized how lucky I was that I could be part of both worlds.

 
 
 
 
 
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Production and musicianship are definitely intercorrelated. Both result from how much work you put in! Production helped me simplify my musicality whereas playing instruments helped me to put a distinctive sonic stamp on my tracks.

 
 
 
 
 
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You've worked with some of the best acts in the industry throughout the years - Seo Taiji, Epik High, BTS, and more. Tell us about these experiences and how they've helped you grow as a musician.

I respect Seo Taiji so much as he is the first major artist to really trust me and give me the confidence to pursue production as a career instead of a hobby. 

 
 
 
 
 
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When I was scouted for his band, it really felt like boot camp from day one. But through that experience, I learned professionalism and that putting in the extra work leads to results that most people can’t achieve.

BTS skyrocketed my production career starting with ‘Lie’ and it just bewildered me how my dream came true and how millions of people were liking music that I had a hand in creating. BTS definitely pushed me to become a better producer and I can’t thank Pdogg (BTS’ main producer) enough for always trusting my sound.

 
 
 
 
 
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Being with BTS from their debut, in what ways would you say BTS have been a positive influence in your career and vice versa? 

Seeing BTS' success grow from small recognition to worldwide domination, it’s definitely a reminder that anything is possible with the right mindset, strong will, and luck.

Even after taking over the world, they are still so cordial and humble. It’s a good reminder to always keep my ego in check and pursue all of my dreams, no matter how crazy they seem.

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How do you find the commitment to keep fighting for your craft?

I still have so much to say. And I have so much room to improve musically. I want to be the best DOCSKIM there ever was. All in a matter of time!!

Besides K-pop, what other kinds of music do you listen to and influence you as an artist?

My favorite artist is D’Angelo but I love so much music, it’s impossible to list them all. Hip-hop, '90s r&b, jazz, and soul music are definitely my favorites but anything from Studio Ghibli OSTs to JRPG soundtracks to emo rock.

If the music stirs some kind of emotion in me, I like it. It’s hilarious but I actually don’t listen to any K-pop at all. I feel like I’d start trying to follow trends production-wise if I do so.

Are there other projects outside the world of K-pop you have lined up?

I’ve been working on my debut album for over 10 years but scrapped hundreds of demos. Just want to release the perfect album that I would want to listen to. Hopefully, when the world is better, I’d be able to tour with my band and say hi to my fans in person!

 
 
 
 
 
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What dream projects do you look forward to achieving in the near future? 

My debut album! Producing for artists that I’m a fan of! Scoring films! Making video game soundtracks! Continue to create a bridge between South Korea and the rest of the world!


 BTS are slated to perform on MTV Unplugged with Ghost band on 24 February, 11 AM KST (10 AM PHT/SGT).