Welding metal music in metalworkers’ Mullae-dong
When Singloud Lee launched the two-day festival Mullae Metal City (MMC) five years ago, he had intended to provide a stage for heavy metal musicians to perform on as Hongdae’s live music scene was shrinking from venue closures.
But the annual festival that started in 2014 — back this year for Saturday and Sunday — generated a loyal following, attracting bands and audiences from overseas. Lee realized MMC was gradually welding its music subculture to Mullae-dong’s long-standing community of metalworkers.
“Playing metal on stage is a symbolic expression of all that metal whirring and grinding and sparks flying out of the actual shops,” Lee, an event planner, entrepreneur and carpenter, told The Korea Times. “And through MMC, I intend to introduce new developments every year to remind visitors that Mullae-dong is a neighborhood that has made its living on metalworking.”
Each year, Lee has come up with a new title and theme based on his mission to solidify MMC as heavy metal’s “Broadway” in Mullae-dong.
For instance, in 2016, he reached out to Kim Kyung-seon of Dark Mirror ov Tragedy, a symphonic black metal band, to co-organize a celebration of what he estimated to be the 30th anniversary of metal’s history in Korea.
“We hosted 16 bands from all over the country, while also inviting a Japanese band as our special guest,” Lee said. “And from what I’ve been hearing since that time, word on the street is that Mullae-dong is a must-perform location in Korea.”
Supporting Lee’s remarks on how Mullae-dong attracts foreign metal influences to witness and perform alongside their domestic counterparts, Sebastian Suh, the lead singer of progressive metal band Crux, added: “I must say it (metal music) definitely does make Mullae-dong look a lot cooler. Hell, even James Hetfield of Metallica came to take pictures and that’s saying something.”
Lee titled his festival in 2018 “The Summit of Asian Metal Trade Union Part One” to signify an openness to host bands from other Asian countries, booking bands from Japan, China and Taiwan that year, as well as opening the door for Korean bands to perform overseas.
And no matter how ambitious he may be about MMC, Lee added that he himself would not take home a single cent earned from the live shows he organizes. He believes it is a commitment necessary to grow Mullae-dong’s unique metal identity.
“MMC is meaningful because they are bringing in some kind of support so that the event can still live on without financial successful,” Suh said. “In the foreseeable future, just for bands to have a decent stage to perform on may become something that bands and fans alike end up being appreciative of.”
MMC can’t fit every band in its two-day lineup, so Lee organized the concert titled “Iron Man Special” for the first time this August to support 16 other metal groups who didn’t make the cut.
“For professionals who had previously quit or remained loyal to metal, Iron Man reignited their passion to take up playing again,” Lee said. “It’s an event I’d like to re-organize for next year.”
Titled “All the Metals Lead to Mullae,” MMC offers 12 bands, including Russian gothic metal duo Inner Missing, Japanese power metal band Illusion Force and Chinese deathcore band Horror of Pestilence. It’s held at Seoul Artspace Mullae, and tickets cost 29,000 won for one day or 39,000 won for two days. The entry at the door costs 35,000 won each day and students pay a discounted 10,000 won. And Mullae-dong residents have free entry.
“With all things metal that make up Mullae-dong, I hope the MMC could help re-mold the neighborhood into something that transcends the concert halls to studios, pubs and the daily trade of metal-based products,” said “Alvin” Cha Hyeon-il, the bassist for Gostwind, a band that fuses interpretations of traditional Korean gugak and metal.
Visit fb.com/mmetalcity for more information.
Sebastian Suh performs with metal band Crux at an outdoor festival in this 2018 file photo. Crux will perform at Mullae Metal City Saturday.