Whilst the Hallyu wave hits countries all around the globe with non-Korean K-pop fans rapidly growing, one channel is working hard to cater to all the needs of us overseas fans. Mnet’s Jjang is an English language program, airing on Mnet America and over the internet, tailored to bring audiences all the latest news as well as fun-filled interviews on anything and everything K-pop. The host of this program is British born Jake, who currently resides in Seoul, living and loving life to the full and providing us with cheeky interviews with all your favourite idols and more! Jake moved over to South Korea where he initially taught English but due to his vibrant personality and awesome rap and MC skills, his talents were quickly recognised. Whilst touring around Korea as an MC he was spotted as being the perfect presenter for Mnet’s new program, Jjang. And now Jake gets to perform as well as rub shoulders with all the stars in South Korea; he’s living the dream!
As fellow Brits, we loved his accent and how he was repping GB in South Korea! So we wanted to find out more about Jake who hails from Merseyside and his adventures in Korea. Being the lovely and bubbly character that he is, he kindly agreed to a chat so make sure you check out the interview below to find out about the fabulous and envy-inducing life of fellow Brit Jake Pains, on set, on stage and in Korea.
KCM: What made you decide to go to South Korea in the first place? Was it a culture shock?
Jake: I was determined to go to Asia and as I loved South Korean cinema, I thought I would start there. Any country that constantly makes awesome films must be a great place to be, even for a short while. So I intended to stay for 6 months. 3 years later, I still haven’t been back to England haha.
KCM: As you’ve been in S.Korea for a few years now, can you give tell us some cool unknown hangouts you would recommend, particularly for night life?
Jake: If you want a big club vibe then Ellui and Octagon in Gangnam are the places to go. The latter being the biggest club in Korea and an awesome place to perform. Expensive though ㅋㅋ Smaller clubs depend on the DJ’s playing. If you follow Bass Attack parties, then go to a club where any of the DJs associated with that crew are playing, you’re bound to have an awesome night if it’s just about the music. Restaurants and bars, there’s a good few all over the place. I mostly can be found in Hongdae (my neighbourhood) or Itaewon (though sometimes kicking and screaming). The quality thing about Korea is that there is such a myriad of places to go at night (the country never sleeps!) meaning it’s more about the company you keep than the place you go.
Jake: I was always comfortable in front of the camera and would have jumped at the chance to do it in my life but it wasn’t a dream I actively chased as I didn’t think there was much of a possibility. Having always been comfortable in front of the camera certainly gave me the impetus to try it and now I have, I have to say that I love hosting and couldn’t think of many things more suited to my madness.
With regards to becoming a host in Korea: I came to Korea with the expectation of teaching and enjoying the culture for 6 months, which turned into a year, nothing else. I was hoping I would get to have the odd freestyle rap here and there, write a lot and feel inspired to write but wasn’t expecting anything.
Too cut a long story less long, someone that lived in Seoul had heard I was in Korea via a friend and invited me to Seoul (I lived a few hours away) for a slam poetry competition which I won. After this a lot of the established artists asked me if I did anything else like rap or MC for club DJs. This was the start of how I became known. 2 years later I was MCing for the biggest electro DJs in Korea, the winner of freestyle comps and poetry comps and generally known around the country as a crazy white kid with a surplus of energy…
When the idea of Jjang was in conception, they were auditioning people to be the host (which didn’t go well, I hear). A different producer had seen a video I made and put my name forward. I didn’t even know about the show. Luckily I did have an interest in K-pop, despite my hip hop background because I have an active interest in Korea, and as a product of its culture, I listened to the charts when I could. From here I was given the job and organically helped with ideas for the show which turned into the idea that I should write it too. That’s basically how it happened…A largely abridged version but you get the idea
KCM: You’re part of the Seoul based hip-hop group Wisecrue. Do you get much time to work on your rapping career in between presenting for Mnet?
Jake: Wisecrue split up early this year hahah. Mnet really need to change my profile information. Having said that I have always been a solo rapper here anyway so the question remains. I don’t get as much time as I like to work on making music but I am midway through an EP to come out later this year so look out for that…although when I perform in Korea and I make music videos my name is ‘Jake Pains’. Have a gander at my other stuff on youtube if you get the chance :D
Where’d you get your energy from, Jake?!
KCM: Your British accent is quite strong which we love! Has your accent ever caused you any problems when presenting? Have there been any awkward moments of misunderstanding?
Jake: Hahaha my accent has, since arriving in Korea, been the reason for many a misunderstanding. There are very little numbers of English people here compared to Americans, Canadians, South Africans etc and having a strong individual accent didn’t do me any communication favours but at least it was a cause for being able to be a lot more cheeky.
In Jjang itself, the first few episodes some of the Korean workers found it pretty difficult trying to work out what I was saying so I did them a favour by pronouncing my As as Es which seemed to help (or they got used to the plastic scouse of it all) because I don’t get any complaints anymore. With regard to the groups, the accent is so different to what they’re used to so they are more fascinated by it and ask me to teach them British English off camera haha
KCM: What’s it like being a English speaking MC? Are there any benefits? Do you find that you can get away with certain things more than Korean speaking MCs?
Jake: Aside from me being pretty cheeky specifically. I think the accent/language helps a lot in breaking the traditional formalities of interviews. There is actually a joke amongst Koreans that American TV is pretty crazy and that everyone acts with excessive excitement so when we do interviews a lot of them expect that energy anyway. As it takes them out of their trained comfort zone, it also works in getting responses you wouldn’t necessary hear if it were a Korean interview.
Being specifically English works well too as, because football is so big in Korea, there is something to chat to with most guys immediately. I remember Bang Yonguk’s excitement because he supports Liverpool and that is where I’m from, thereabouts, and I get on with Minho of SHINee more than the others because he is such a football fanatic so yesh, being English can help too :)
KCM: Who’s been your favourite Kpop group or idol to interview so far? Any particularly memorable experiences or funny moments? A personal favourite of ours was when you asked EXO’s Tao to wushu a bottle off your head, and he just tapped it instead. What was going through your head at that moment?
Jake: Holy wow! I could really go on here, it’s almost like every interview has something in it that makes it a memorable experience. Our intentions when writing questions is to give the viewer something special they haven’t seen before. So first off, doing that weird crab/scorpion dance and getting infinite to do it was nice. Not only was it our first interview but I wanted to show our Korean crew that our interviews were about actually getting the interviewer involved with something other people would be too scared or embarrassed to do, haha. Ailee singing over my terrible beatboxing was another example of this. Spontaneous and original, plus that was my first English speaking interview so it was nice to remove the language barrier for a friendly natured segment with a K-pop star. Since then, as you mentioned EXO with the bottle trolling was funny, seeing K.Will’s outburst of laughter after showing him a skit we did whilst interviewing him, surprising Miss A’s Min with a request to sign the book she’s secretly reading, all the ‘Ask Hongki’ segments, Lizzy’s cheeky and cute responses in the Orange Caramel interview, going to L.A with BAP, the audience responses to the Seongyu interview, eating a cake Ricky thought was for his birthday in the Teen Top interview…Sheesh! Billions! Ooooh definitely how crazy Ze:a5 were too. Two part interview still couldn’t contain their energies….
KCM: Is there a K-pop group or idol that you’re dying to interview but haven’t had the opportunity yet? Have you ever been starstruck?
Jake: Hmmmm, I don’t really get starstruck. In Jjang it’s a running joke that I’m slightly obsessed with MBLAQ’s Lee Joon, who we incidentally will be interviewing this week, so there shall definitely be a reference to it, even if it is slightly over acted (that’s me covering my back right there haha). Honestly though, nah, without sounding arrogant, I’ve met a lot of the bigger names off camera in clubs and at parties and they are all really humble (most of the time) which makes it difficult to feel starstruck. That and the fact that I’m too confident myself (or a good actor). Groups we haven’t interviewed…There’s not many left now. Girls Generation and TVXQ would be awesome as they are the only SM idols we haven’t managed to get an interview with. Big Bang, despite meeting them on a good number of fun occasions, we haven’t participated in an interview with them yet…oooh and 2ne1. Boshing out the YG and SM star interviews is the new agenda it seems…
KCM: If you could host an event in the UK with multiple K-pop acts, which groups/idols would you bring over and why? Who do you think the UK would like?
Jake: Nice question. To start with I’d bring Psy and make him repeat his ‘Happening’ performance as that truly was, spectacle wise, one of the greatest shows I have ever had the pleasure of being present at, and this is from someone that has been going to a myriad of festivals and shows each year since the start of secondary school. Next Big Bang as they sold out a few English shows kinda recently meaning their pulling power is decent to say the least. Next I would just get my the groups I’m closer to to go so I can show them a good time in UK haha. BAP, ZE:A5, MIB, Ailee, rappers Beenzino, Epik High, Dynamic Duo, Infinite and Sistar or Afterschool to show how hot it can get on stage (and for my viewing pleasure *apologies). That’s a pretty healthy line up. You going to make this possible, yeh?
[KCM: We wish Jake!!!]
KCM: Do you speak Korean? We’ve heard you drop a few words during interviews, any tips on learning Korean? Do you think you’ll rap in Korean in the future?
Jake: I speak Korean but certainly not to a level I am proud or content with. At best it is low intermediate. I think any language is something you are forever learning, a constant edification. Whether its the only language you know or one of many so my tip is to never stop. Consistency is key to word familiarity so my advice is practice/study everyday. Even if its for 20 minutes. It still keeps the mind actively engaged in the skill of learning a language.
Hahah rapping in Korean! Good idea!! Actually, when freestyling, I occasionally drop English lines that then rhyme with a Korean punchline (a few times you can witness such weird rapping in the Jjang freestyle news segments) but to write an entire verse in Korean, that would be something. Watch this space. The more Korean I learn, the more cheeky instances of it emerging in my rhymes is likely ㅋㅋㅋ
KCM: What are your future plans rap wise and presenting wise?
Jake: Rap wise, to have a solo EP by the end of Summer and a collaboration EP (with some of the best Korean and Foreign MC’s) by the end of the year. Aside from that, I perform every week with a plethora of different DJ’s and genres in clubs across Seoul (and Korea). As long as the crowd keep going crazy, I hope to maintain my energy for them.
Presenting wise and as a writer of Jjang, I hope that the show becomes ever more popular and venerated in the 10 countries it is shown to on television and through the internet (and even being broadcast to more countries would be cool ㅋㅋ). As a show that is still in it’s infancy in so far as our potential (with season 2 only just beginning), it would be awesome to see it go from strength to strength with another five hundred unforgettable episodes and interviews!
As a presenter in general, working for a production team that I am happy to call my family away from home, that work so cohesively and happily together is such a brilliant and lucky circumstance to be in that I would be a fool to wish for anything else. If every job I have from here on is even remotely close to such presenting work then the shows will always be fun to watch and great to be on.
KCM: Finally, is there anything you miss about the UK?
Jake: Mums cooking!!! Family is the main one, though my large group of mates back home are sorely missed too. My parents and siblings are all pretty independent and busy (at least they pretend to be) so I don’t get to speak to them half as much as I would like to and being so far from home with such a work schedule means that my brother is the only one I have seen in person in 3 years! Sob! So yeah, I would say family most.
A MASSIVE thanks to Jake for his awesome answers. Whether you are a K-pop fan or not we definitely suggest you check out Mnet Jjang. You can check out all the latest Jjang videos on the Mnet America Youtube channel. It’s one of the few Korean shows out there dedicated to an English speaking audience and provides us with lots of fun insights into the Korean music world. With his fabulous and fun personality, Jake has the ability to bring out different and unseen sides to the K-pop idols he interviews. It could even be called a superpower seeing as he even managed to get VIXX’s brooding and sexy Leo to voluntarily speak on camera!
Jake seems like a seriously busy guy so we really appreciate him taking the time out to answer us. We wish him all the best for his plans for his solo EP, we’ll definitely be keeping an eye out and we are sure Jjang’s going to continue on its streak of success! We hope you didn’t embarrass yourself too much in front of MBLAQ’s Lee Joon and a very happy belated Birthday to our favourite British MC!