Special Interview with Joe Hahn at The Steve Hatherly Show (Part 1)

Joe talks about ‘Carry On’ photo exhibition, his music and artwork

📅 July 2019

📺 TBS eFM 101.3MHz

📖 10 min read

Steve Hatherky: Welcome back to the Steve Hatherly Show. Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn. 

Joe Hahn: [greets in Korean] Hello, I am Joe Hahn!

Steve: Welcome back.

Joe: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Steve: You got back to the country just a couple of days ago?

Joe: Yes. Back to the mother peninsula.

Steve: From the time that we saw you on the show last time until this time, how many times have you been back and forth?

Joe: Oh wow. I don’t know. I’m guessing maybe 3 or 4 times.

Steve: Oh my goodness. You must be ready for a break... from the traveling, anyway?

Joe: No, I love it. 

Steve: [laughs] I bet.

Joe: I love the jajangmyeon [Korean black bean sauce noodles], the gamjatang [Korean spicy pork bone soup]...

Hanna Kim: The Korean food.

Joe: ...the tteokbokki [Korean spicy rice cakes]

Steve: I’ll just let you keep going. [laughs]

Hanna: We’ll just do this for an hour. The bulgogi [Korean BBQ beef], the bibimbap [Korean Mixed Rice with Meat and Vegetables]...

Joe: The kalbi [Korean Barbequed Beef Short Ribs], the gochujang [Korean Chili Paste]... 

Steve: The reality show’s wrapping up tomorrow. Did you tell me the finals’ tomorrow? 

Joe: Yes, tomorrow’s the final episode and it’s gonna be completely live.

Steve: Really?

Joe: Yeah. So they won’t edit my curse words...

Steve: [laughs] Or the brand names. So let’s talk about this. Well, actually, before we talk about the photo exhibition, let’s talk about your art in general. When you started out DJing, were you doing art at that time or is that something that came later or before for you?

Joe: I was drawing since I was a kid. I used to go to church and I didn’t understand what they were saying - some of the services there were in Korean. So there’s always a paper and pencil, usually it’s because they want some cash in there, but that was my canvas.

Hanna: The envelopes were your canvas? For the offerings?

Joe: Yeah.

Steve: I wonder what the last person who got the offering thought. [laughs]

Hanna: “There’s no cash in here but there’s a nice little doodle.” 

Steve: Again, thank you for doodling ’cause that’s what you did the last time. Doodling sounds condescending - you drew a really cool bunch of pictures on the albums, the Linkin Park albums that I brought to the studio last time. And I guess that’s what you do, you multitask when you’re sitting and chatting, or sitting and doing anything that you’re just drawing the whole time.

Joe: Yeah, there’s something relaxing about it. And I don’t get to draw as much as I used to, so it’s kind of nice to just get that little bit of practice in.

Steve: Gotcha. What about photography then? ’Cause that’s what this exhibit is all about.

Joe: Oh yeah. It was about 6 months or so before we stopped touring, I got a new camera around my birthday and I took it around with me everywhere we traveled on tour. So this photo show is a result of all those photos taken during that time.

Steve: Was it intentional or was it just - you were doing it and then you thought, “Why don’t I put this all together and make an exhibit out of it?”

Joe: You know, I’ve been touring for the last 5 years or maybe a little bit longer. [smiles] No, it’s actually been like 20+ years. I just, I don’t know… Sorry, I’m thinking about how old I am, just in the middle of that sentence so it kind of went a different way. [smiles] But, you know, people asking questions like, “What’s it like touring?” and all these things, and I think a picture can tell a thousand words. Actually a friend of mine, he’s known as a professional photographer, but when I met him his dad gave him a camera and he was tour managing for a group called Cypress Hill. He started taking photos on that tour and then eventually became a pretty famous photographer. His dad just told him, “Hey, just take this and just take pictures so you’ll know where you’ve been.” I think something about that resonated with me, and just being able to share these images with people I know. The camera I had is pretty high resolution so even for myself looking at it on a computer screen, you don’t get to see all the details and I really wanted to blow a lot of them up. And you see a lot of people, you know, we play for big crowds and... 

Steve: I saw one picture. I had a look at maybe 3 or 4 pictures, that’s all I was able to see to this point. But the one that stood out to me the most was the black and white picture. I was having trouble figuring... the crowd was facing so was it taken from behind the crowd or from your vantage point on the stage?

Joe: Well, most of these photos they’re unique to where I am on stage or the places I can get to. Most of the live photos you see are using designated areas where photographers can go usually at the beginning of the show. Some people will notice the difference from the vantage point.

Steve: Because people get to see what you saw.

Joe: Yeah, and I think that the commonality that I saw, I don’t know if it was me just being intentional about showing it or just coincidentally that was a theme but just the connection with fans and what we’re doing. We get energized by the crowds. If you see the show, you see a lot of the power that the fans bring to the show.

Steve: Alright, let’s talk about this photo exhibit more specifically. It’s called Carry On. Here’s the information that you need to know to go check it out. The pop-up exhibit is July 18th, that’s a week from today so that’s next Thursday. That’s at Layer 57 in Seongsu-dong. If you don’t know where that is, you can look it up on the internet. But the official exhibit begins August 14th, that’s out in Paradise City in Incheon and that’s gonna run for about a month or two, correct?

Joe: Yes, until Chuseok. [Korean holiday]

Steve: Until Chuseok. Very cool. It started out in Shanghai, Chengdu and Beijing, I don’t know if I got that order correct, but it started out in China.

Joe: Yes.

Steve: We touched upon it the last time you were here but only very briefly. How did it go in China?

Joe: Oh, it went amazing. We were working with Mercedes and they had some venues which called the Mercedes Me Stores out there. They’re all beautiful and we were part of the opening of the Chengdu store. Just the people that came out were so cool.

Steve: Are you watching the audience? I often wonder that about artists. You know, when they put on exhibits. Sometimes you see in the movies - they’re in the crowd mingling, asking questions and stuff. Were you doing that or were you watching from above? Or were you just not watching at all?

Joe: Oh yeah, I was there, just hanging out. And then when it got too crowded, I ducked out a little bit. I’ll be there for the opening and we’re gonna have a party, a whole lineup of DJs. I’ll be spinning as well.

Steve: Nice! So this is something that the last time you were here, we weren’t sure whether it or when it was gonna happen in Korea. We knew, I think, that it was going to happen. But the pop-up is next Thursday. Will you be there for that one too?

Joe: Yeah, that’ll be the pop-up. I don’t know the schedule but it’ll shut down at a certain point, and then the after-party will open in the same spot.

Steve: Gotcha. It’s called Carry On, can we talk about that? Why’d you name it that way?

Joe: There’s two meanings. The first meaning is associated with carry-on luggage. When you travel - I travel a lot - and you take what you need. So it could be your toothbrush or your favorite watch. Computer, of course. You know I do a lot of work, make music, work on Photoshop and Illustrator... Sorry for the brand names...

Hanna: Brand names. You’re just dropping names constantly. 

Steve: It has three meanings after the show. [laughs]

Joe: ...on my Apple Computer.

Hanna: [sighs] Joe!

Joe: But the main piece is my camera. I won’t say the name of that camera… [smiles] 

Steve: It’s probably the one that people want to know the most! 

Joe: Yeah. [laughs] So, the camera being an essential that I have. I took all the photos through my travels on this particular camera, I took a lot of photos. It was really fun just documenting places I’ve been, moments with the band, our interaction that people don’t get to see, vantage points from before and during the show and sometimes after the show. And the second meaning is carrying on in life. I think these photos are important as a time capsule piece of a moment in time, and it felt really important to me to share this with the world. For me, it’s helped to remember those great times. I mean, when you see the photos, you see moments of greatness. So, to remember that, pay homage to those experiences and then carry on with your life. 

Steve: I guess that’s true, and maybe if you’re an actor or an actress and you’re killing it, you know? If you were Jim Carrey making 20 million a film at that time. Or you’re in Linkin Park and you’re one of the biggest, if not the biggest, rock and roll band in the world...

Joe: The biggest. And the coolest.

Steve: ...do you have the wherewithal to stop and realize what’s happening? Do you know what I mean?

Joe: That’s a good question. I think it happened differently at different moments in time. Like, for us, when we started - we made our first record, the next week when we were finished, we got into an RV to open up for another band and drove all the way to Florida.

Hanna: From California?

Joe: Yeah. I think it was 8 of us, 6 band guys, a tour manager, and a guy that sold our merchandise. 

Steve: It’s kind of an awesome road trip.

Hanna: That is!

Joe: And then on our way back from the East Coast, we played a radio show in Arizona where Chester was from. And on the way into town, we were gonna stay at his dad’s house and we heard our song on the radio for the first time. 

Steve: Oh cool!

Joe: And that was such an awesome experience. And then that song blew up like crazy. And then we were quickly invited to play bigger shows. So within six months of getting in the RV to the summer, all of a sudden we played in front of 80,000 people. 

Steve: That’s insanity. 

Joe: Yeah. I remember that feeling was like one of the best feelings ever that you can’t really give to other people, you can’t really explain it. 

Steve: Hence the photo exhibit, kind of, right?

Joe: Yeah, for sure.

Hanna: We’re going to visit the exhibition obviously but is there one that’s your favorite piece? That when we walk into that exhibition, you want to be like make sure to pay attention to this one photo.

Joe: There is one piece that is my favorite. It’s just a hand reaching out to another hand.

Hanna: A hand reaching out to a hand?

Joe: Yeah. It’s actually Chester’s hand reaching out and it just shows how connected the audience is with him. In particular that’s one guy that’s really connecting with him. And I think that’s a moment that everyone can share in a crowd but to see that actually happened in a photo, for me, it’s a pretty magical connection.

Steve: How did you narrow it down to the photos that are in the exhibit? I’m sure you had tons more to choose from.

Joe: I had thousands of photos and it actually took me a very long time to narrow it down, and I think I ended up with 69 photos.

Hanna: Wow.

Joe: 15 extremely large ones that are about six feet long and the rest of them are a lot smaller than that. But it’s still a lot.

Steve: 69 is a lot of pictures! Are you planning on using the other ones...

Joe: I figured people like that number. [smiles]

Steve: Are you planning on using the other ones at any point in time?

Joe: No, no plans. I mean, I’m sure if someone wanted to use a photo for something I could probably dig it up. Or if any of the guys in the band wanted to take a look at it and get a print of it then that’s always there. 

Hanna: Any going into your house?

Joe: I don’t know. I hope so.

Steve: Carry On, photo exhibit. The pop-up exhibit is July 18th, that’s next Thursday at Layer 57 in Seongsu-dong. And then the official exhibit begins August 14th, that’s at Paradise City in Incheon. That’s gonna run up until Chuseok time, about a month or over a month. We’ll listen to a song and when we come back, we’ll talk about the other thing that we need to. I believe that the official exhibit is coinciding with a music event that is happening at Paradise City, correct?

Joe: Yeah, YOURSUMMER [festival] is on the 15th of August.

Steve: And we’re going to talk about that after.