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Q&A: Dsign Music and G.O.O.D Music

Creative masterminds talk baby-making.

Written by
Hahna Yoon
When you become highly involved or interested in any artistic field, you begin to realize how much more there is than just the face that goes out. For instance, while Kanye West may be a household name in the States; fewer recognize Grammy awardwinning, hip-hop producer Che Pope (president of G.O.O.D music), who produced Kanye’s Bound 2. Pope’s also worked with legends such as Lauryn Hill, Hans Zimmer, 50 Cent and Eminem. Another good example are the faces of Dsign Music, a Norwegian songwriting, production company from Trondheim that’s responsible for some of the biggest names in K-pop. Your favorite songs by Girls Generation, Miss A, EXO and SHINee? These all come from Dsign Music’s geniuses Robin Jensen, Nermin Harambašić, AJ Wik, Choi Jin-suk and Ronny Svendsen. There’s so much creativity and energy in one room when they meet for Epikhigh Tablo’s label Highgrnd (YG’s sub-label). 

What brings you all together? 
AJ We're all here for a song camp. That means we get up, breakfast in the hotel together, take a taxi from the hotel together and spend 12 hours in the studio making music. Start vibing on something. Whether it’s a chord progression or a title we can get creative around. You bang it out and you go!

What's the song camp like?
Che Pope There are no rules. A lot of the YG guys had never been to a song camp at all, so it's still [...] a feeling-out process. Someone had a top line melody, we made a track around that. Lee High was like, “I want an Amy Winehouse song” and I'm like, “Oh I can go with this.” 
Jin A song camp brings magic in a way. It's music, but there's something more that happens—whether it's a relationship or friendship or magic. 
Robin There's a mantra I have for it, I say: “Bring your A-game and leave your ego at the door.”

How has it been like to work on K-pop thus far?
AJ Our publisher [Pelle Lidell from Universal Music in Sweden] in 2008 turned us onto it and at first, it was like—who’s Girl’s Generation? We had to Google them. 
Robin It all started with “Genie.” That song will always have a personal meaning for us.
AJ Getting out of the taxi from the airport in Japan [after the song was released] and hearing it from the speakers on the streets. It was this “wow” feeling. There are moments when you realize that all over again... Like when we walk into shopping malls, when we flip on a random channel on TV… [and the song is on]. 

Do you ever wish that people recognized that
you are the songwriters?
Nermin I think it's cool that they don't know. That makes it more interesting. It takes on a life of its own. What matters is that we create something and there's some ten-year-old kid listening to our music. Some fans find out and even send us e-mails or Facebook messages. 
AJ If people ask what we do and I explain, I've gotten that reaction like "What? No?"
Jin I've gotten that while traveling in Sweden. This shock when I tell people, “Oh I make K-pop songs for groups like Girls Generation.”

How much inspiration do you get from being in Seoul?
AJ Everything! Fashion! Architecture! The city is very vibrant and fast-paced. It’s flashy. There’s a tempo and a pulse that happens here. 
Nermin That's the reason we come here. We could have done this in L.A. When you're here, something happens.
Che Pope Here, you get to meet the artists and hear their voices in real life, which becomes an inspiration.
AJ In Asia, people are looking to Korea. It’s getting so big now in Europe, too. I went to a concert in Paris and it was just Europeans singing Korean lyrics.
Jin Even for me as a Korean, I travel more than six months. I get inspired and come back to Seoul and see it with new eyes.

What happens now? When can we expect to hear the songs?
Nermin After we make a song, we don’t know which ones will get picked, we don’t know how long the process will take.
Che Pope When you make a song, it's like having a baby—sending it off into the world. You don't have any power over it.
AJ And then, you have to make more babies.

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