Kyuho Lee // Inspired by Japan, executed in South Korean style as Madmans Esprit

You might have heard about 叫號 (Kyuho) and his work as Madmans Esprit, but in case you haven’t… Madmans Esprit is 叫號 (Kyuho)’s solo project which was inspired by the ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) scene from Japan, as you could probably guess a little from the vibe that is visible from the band’s appearance alone. But the band also takes a lot from the black metal genre in their works.
The project was established in South Korea in 2010, but when 叫號 (Kyuho) moved to Germany a few years later the project moved with him. This is actually the second time the band is on tour in Europe, the first time being in 2017, but this time a lot more people know about it. Madmans Esprit was recently added to the artist lineup of the German label Gan-Shin Records, giving them a whole new footing here in Europe.

In addition to Madmans Esprit, 叫號 (Kyuho) is also the guitarist of “ms. Isohp romatem”, which is the band of Juho – who coincidentally is the guitarist of Madmans Esprit – and a project named “HUMAN TRACES”. Are you confused yet? I admit I was, at first.
Regardless, I asked 叫號 (Kyuho) for a chat to learn more about his project, and also about 叫號 (Kyuho) himself, since his music has made quite an impact in Europe… What does he think about this himself?

So, in order to find out…


Let’s start!

Since about a year ago a lot of people here in Europe started talking about your project Madmans Esprit, so I assume a lot of the readers will know who you are already, but can you please introduce yourself one more time, just to be sure?
叫號 (Kyuho): I am 叫號 (Kyuho), from Madmans Esprit. This is basically a solo project of mine. For this tour I use the service of support members from both South Korea and Germany. My music is influenced by a lot of different genres, like black metal and even classical, but also experimental like Pink Floyd. In addition to that I also get a lot of influence from Japanese musicians in the ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) genre.

叫號 (Kyuho)
Vocalist 叫號 (Kyuho) during the performance in the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

Throughout the years I learned that ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) inspires artists from all around the world, but what about you? How did you learn about the ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) genre in South Korea?
叫號 (Kyuho): About fifteen years ago, I think, there was a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) band in Korea, they were called “THE TRACKS”. It was something like a K-Pop boy group, but in a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) style and with a metal sound. I saw their work on the TV and I was interested immediately. I started to search more of these bands online and came across X JAPAN, DIR EN GREY and LUNA SEA, which are all big ヴィジュアル系(Visual Kei) bands, as you probably know as well. Since I was young I wanted to make a ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) band, but I couldn’t find people who were interested in this concept. On top of that Korea is a very conservative society, so even being a person in the alternative or gothic styles is quite hard. I eventually found some members who were interested in the concept and I started to put these ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) elements together. When I was by myself I could do whatever I wanted, but now I have actual members I play music with together I have to tell them I am aiming for a certain aesthetic. The agreed with me and now this is happening. For as far as I know there currently are no active ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) bands in Korea either.

You’ve clearly been in touch with music since you were pretty young, but did you immediately decide you wanted to make your own music? And what is writing your own music like for you today? There is so much you can put in lyrics, is this a way to cope with the world around you for example?
叫號 (Kyuho): I’m not sure, actually. I liked to make my own things since I was really young. I was always writing, drawing, painting, making video games and studying programming. When I started to listen to music it was a very natural progression for me to make something of my own. That is the most interesting thing for me, to be able to make something of my own. I’m not sure how this effects my surroundings, or even the reality I face every day.

You’ve said that there are various artists that influence your work, can you tell me a little more about your inspirations? What do you personally enjoy?
叫號 (Kyuho): X JAPAN is definitely an influence because of their classical and dramatic songs. DIR EN GREY is an influence too, but I actually don’t listen to that many ヴィジュアル系 (Visual Kei) bands. I think I listen to about five of them. The other influences are more from a black metal background. I mention this over and over again, but there is a band called “Shining”, from Sweden. And they’re a black metal band. “Radiohead” however is my absolute favorite. Despite them having quite some crappy songs that got really famous, I think they’re quite brilliant musically speaking. I also quite enjoy the new album from Billie Eillish. I thought that was brilliant too.


From South Korea to Europe

Let’s talk about what we’re doing here today, since you’re on your very first European tour after being accepted into the Gan-Shin label and your music has taken quite the flight here since then. Do you feel like this experience helped you grow as a musician?
叫號 (Kyuho): Oh yes, definitely. It’s a completely different situation compared to how it was before I was accepted by the label here…

Guitarist Juho
Guitarist Juho during the performance at the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

You’ve actually lived in Germany for a while, so it’s not your first time or even your first show here in Europe. You’ve toured the continent before, but is there something you’d like to see while you’re here again now?
叫號 (Kyuho): I’m not sure, since I’m not really interested in sightseeing or turning around and finding something new. I’m not really interested in sightseeing no matter where I go. I do enjoy going to cafés and just being there with my friends. I also enjoy other stuff, but I can’t really think of something specifically right now.

Despite coming from South Korea, you’ve mastered quite a few other languages as well. We’re currently doing this interview in English, but you also speak German and Japanese. Yet you’ve chosen to mostly use English for Madmans Esprit. Did you choose to incorporate English to appeal to a broader audience worldwide, or was it just easier to express yourself in this language?
叫號 (Kyuho): It depends, I think. I actually try to not make everything in English, since while it might be easier, it can also disrupt the flow due to linguistic imperialism. I try to express what I want by expressing what I have in my head most of the time. With the song “SUICIDOL” for example I wanted to deliver something so I intentionally used English to make more people understand the message more easily. A message doesn’t work if you cannot understand it. I determine what language I use based on which one expresses what I want to deliver the best.

Next to Madmans Esprit you’re also active with “ms. isohp romatem” and “HUMAN TRACES”, but how do you juggle all of this? Don’t the works sometimes bleed into each other, or do you purposely keep them separated?
叫號 (Kyuho): I think they’re very separated from each other. Of course I’m a part of all of them so there is some influence that returns in every single one of them. But most of the time I know immediately from the very beginning which project a song I am working on is for. Like from the very first notes of a guitar riff I can decide “oh, I won’t use this for “ms. isohp romatem”, for example. If I don’t make this separation there wouldn’t be much of a point to have multiple projects active at the same time, wouldn’t it?

For this tour you actually have quite a diverse lineup, since some of your support members are from Korea and some are from Germany. But how does this work in practice? Is there ever any confusion language or culture-related, or not at all?
叫號 (Kyuho): I think we’re doing pretty great as a group, actually. We all speak English and thus we communicate in that language. We all love drinking, and everyone is respecting each other’s boundaries. I think the distance between our cultures is a good thing, really. Musically we pick out everything separately, we actually about two days before the tour started to have a few beers together and everything came together during our drinks.

One of your guitarists is in fact the singer in “ms. isohp romatem”, so for that project you basically swap roles, but doesn’t that feel weird sometimes?
叫號 (Kyuho): Not really, actually! He also plays guitar in the other band and I trust him and his style. When he plays with me in Madmans Esprit his character and personality is very similar to when we play together in “ms. isohp romatem”. It’s actually very naturally for me that he plays both in this band and the other one.


Future plans

Up until now we’ve talked about the past and the present, but what about the future plans? What are you planning on doing after the tour comes to an end? Is there a new release buzzing in your head already or maybe something different like fashion or art?
叫號 (Kyuho): There are a couple of ambiguous ideas that I am planning to make a reality at some point, but I’m not even sure if they will become a reality, or what I will do with them. I’m planning on making music, of course, but also other things like fashion, art or even video. Anything really, as long as they’re centered around the music. They can’t be the main thing of the band, the music is, after all. So when there is something new, the other things will naturally follow.

Vocalist 叫號 (Kyuho)
Vocalist 叫號 (Kyuho) during the performance in the Popcentrale in Dordrecht.

In your music you’re very open about the world and situation you’re living in, meaning that your daily life is a big influence on your work. Had your situation been different, do you think your music would have been different as well, or would you still aim for the now signature style of Madmans Esprit?
叫號 (Kyuho): If I had been in a different environment my work would probably be something completely different than what it is now, yes. One of the main parts of Madmans Esprit -or anything I am creating really- is an expression of pain, oppression and sorrow, I guess. And these themes actually come from my surroundings, the reality I have to face every day. So had my situation been different my music probably would have been too, yeah.

You’ve created pretty much all of your work by yourself, but how about working with someone else? Is there someone you’d like to join forces with in the creative process, and why would it be this person?
叫號 (Kyuho): Oh man, this is actually a really difficult question… I can’t really think of a specific person. The thing is, when I am making music with this band I don’t communicate with others, I don’t ask their opinion about something I’m working on. I have an idea of what I want, so I create it and then it’s finished. It’s very hard for me to imagine working with someone else in the creation phase. When we play it live I communicate what I want, but again, in the creation phase it’s very hard to even imagine working with someone else. It might take me days to think of an actual answer to this question…

To help promote your most recent work “SUICIDOL” you actually designed some jewelry to go with it. But is this something you’d like to repeat in the future, or was this a one-time-thing?
叫號 (Kyuho): It depends, I think. The song and the music video for “SUICIDOL” are quite fabulous and fancy to me, so I thought the choker and the other things were very fitting for it as merchandise. I also really hate band shirts which just have the logo of the band on it. When people spend money on my merchandise I do want them to look super cool with it. It could literally be anything, but I do think there will be something like this in the future again.

This actually brings me to the last question on my list for today… Which means we’re about to round up this interview. Do you have anything you’d like to share with the readers as a parting message before I’ll “release you from my clutches” again?
叫號 (Kyuho): This is another one of those hard questions to answer… Uh- I’m of course not sure about what the readers will be like, but yesterday I had a concert in Cologne and I was very touched by the people there. We started really late and we didn’t get a lot of ticket sales in advance. So I was very worried I would be playing in front of an almost empty venue. But it turned out that the atmosphere was one of the hottest during this European tour. I’m really thankful for all the fans, and if you’re a fan and reading this interview: I’m really, really, ¬really grateful for your support!


Extra information

Talking with 叫號 (Kyuho) definitely was a new experience for me, as I had never spoken with an artist from South Korea before, and certainly not one who wasn’t all into K-Pop. So this was an entirely different world for me. Especially because of 叫號 (Kyuho)’s international connection to Germany.
While his work might not appeal to everyone, he does have a very clear idea of what he wants and what message he wants to bring to his audience through both his music and his merchandise. So definitely check out his work, and not just Madmans Esprit, also “ms. isohp romatem” and “HUMAN TRACES”, since each project has a different style, and it definitely shows the versatility both 叫號 (Kyuho) and Juho have in their works!

We also took photos of his performance at Popcentrale (Dordrecht, The Netherlands). You can find these photos on our photography portfolio, Arlequin Photography, by clicking the image below!


Follow Madmans Esprit around the web

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雪 (Yuki) is the owner and driving force behind Arlequin.
She originally started the project in 2009 as a photographer under the name of Arlequin Photography, but developed an interest in journalism and translation ever since. Because of these interests interviews and reviews were added to the project, until it eventually hit the limits as a "photographer" in 2021, and Arlequin Magazine was added to the mix.

雪 (Yuki) is a native Dutch speaker with a graphic design degree, which means she is also the main person behind Arlequin Creations.
After all these years she is still the main person who does interviews the interviews and live photos that you see on Arlequin, but also a large chunk of the reviews and behind-the-scenes work and communication goes through her.

She speaks Dutch and English on a native level, but also understands Japanese and German.

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