SEGAS Interviews Ed Yoon

Ed Yoon has been in the music industry for over 20 years, Starting with Fender in the early 90′s and ending up working with The Aristocrats, this years headlining entertainment for SEGAS!  SEGAS got a chance to speak with Ed and ask him a few questions about music, the industry, SEGAS, and a few other things!

SEGAS: We would like to start this thing off by saying thanks for agreeing to this interview! Do you get asked to do many?

Yoon: Thanks for asking me to do an interview! Not sure that I’m worthy but I’ll try my best. I’ve done a few interviews in the past and thought it was fun.

SEGAS: How long have you worked in the music industry?

Yoon: I’ve been in the industry exactly 20 years now. I started my career in this industry at Fender in the early summer of 1991.

SEGAS: Did anyone in particular influence your decision to make this your life?

Yoon: Not anyone in particular. I felt it was simply a calling that I needed to answer. Without rhyme or reason, I just knew that this was the industry that I had to work in.

SEGAS: What advice can you give to anyone who may be interested in getting into a relative line of work?

Yoon: I think the most important thing is balancing the passion one has for music with the grim reality of making a living and putting food on the table. It’s not an easy industry to make good money in. In fact, it’s a very difficult industry because so many people want to be in it but the amount of money going around isn’t as much as people think. It’s the old supply-and-demand equation. Generally speaking, there’s more supply in this industry than demand.

Still, it’s my thought that one should be in this industry for the pure love of it. If the primary goal is only for the purpose of making money, I’d look elsewhere myself. But money has never ever been the main factor during my career. For me, it’s always been about doing something I really love and truly believe in. Money can never replace that. Over the course of my 20 years in this industry, I’ve always had problems with people who are purely driven by nothing but the desire and goal to make more and more money. I can’t relate to that way of thinking. It certainly isn’t what drives me to do my best. Life is short. Might as well make fun a major part of it.

Call me idealistic or whatever, but it has to be fun first. Do what you really love and do a great job at it. Money will then follow naturally. Still, this is a business and you have to be good at it as well if you’re going to have a successful career. For instance, I follow the tech industry with a passion – kind of like a football fanatic following his favorite NFL team. I learn a lot about business strategies, tactics, and marketing ideas through it and, again, it’s a lot of fun.

My new job managing the Aristocrats is the ultimate extension of what I’ve been striving for in my career. So my advice is to find what you really love to do and then do whatever it takes to be damn good at it. Make it fun. I love to plan and execute with a long-term vision in mind. When it’s fun, everything becomes that much easier.

SEGAS: Times have been hard everywhere with the present economic situation the world over, most industries have taken some fairly substantial hits; the music/instrument industry seems to still be thriving and growing. In your personal opinion, why do you think that is?

Yoon: From what I’ve been able to gather, it seems the music and MI industries have taken a sizable hit from the Great Recession. But it’s true a certain segment of the industry has done quite well. A good example is how successful Suhr has been over the past few years after the real estate bubble burst and the recession hit. In fact, Suhr’s growth accelerated while many other guitar companies have been laying people off and cutting back production. Excellent and consistent product quality with superior customer service that Suhr provides with some marketing buzz surrounding the brand means the company will do just fine even in the most difficult economic environment.

The music industry is mature with a long established base. Compared to, say, the high-tech industry it moves or changes at a glacial pace. Music is here to stay. Good music (and good instruments) won’t go obsolete in a year or two like high-tech gadgets. I think a lot of people find that very appealing. In a way, music is a way to get away from the dizzying technological developments we have to deal with day-in and day-out. People simply need music like they need food and shelter. It really is like food for the soul. It’s a release from all the daily routines and problems we deal with in everyday life. People simply need music and I don’t see that ever changing.

SEGAS: How do you like working with a virtuoso like Guthrie?

Yoon: Hmmm… I can actually write a book about this! Perhaps I will someday when it’s all said and done. But to put it succinctly, it’s really an honor and I consider myself very fortunate to have met Guthrie and having this opportunity to work with him. He’s also a good friend and a genuinely humble and nice person. There’s a lot more than things about music and guitar playing that I learn from Guthrie. We often talk more about non-music kinds of stuff than this industry because we are both interested in a lot of different things – culture, history, sciences, literature, travel, etc. During our travels, we’ll talk for hours on end about such subjects.

SEGAS: What album can you just not stop listening to right now?

Yoon: The new Aristocrats album, of course! But besides that, I’m very eclectic in my musical tastes and need a constant rotation of different kinds of music ranging from classical composers like Wagner and Mahler to techno-pop like Imogen Heap and Squarepusher. I actually listen to very little guitar-based music. Guthrie has introduced me to a lot of great music that I would not have found out on my own – for instance, the Indian slide guitar player Debashish Bhattacharya, jazz singer Rachelle Ferrell, bassist Richard Bona, electronica band Venetian Snares, violinist Kanako Ito and on and on and on.

SEGAS: What is your “guilty pleasure” album?

Yoon: There’s a part of me that loves some old sappy pop, so I have a lot of “guilty pleasure” albums in my iTunes library. If I had to choose one right now, it’s Donna Summer’s ‘On The Radio’ greatest hits compilation.

SEGAS: You used to work for Suhr, that must have been a demanding job, how do the challenges differ between your past occupation and your current job of managing the Aristocrats?

Yoon: Yes, the Suhr gig was quite demanding and the workload was overwhelming at times because there is just so much to know and be on top of. Managing the Aristocrats is quite different from marketing and selling high-end guitar gear but the overall principles are the same. I really enjoy this new challenge and am learning a lot very quickly. The main difference is that Suhr is a gear manufacturer and the Aristocrats creates and markets music through the recorded medium and live performances. I’m much more interested in music than gear at this point in my career.

SEGAS: What instruments do you play and how long have you played them?

Yoon: I’ve played the guitar on and off for around 25 years now. I went through all the phases of practicing 6 hours a day at one point and being a total gear nut in the past but that’s all ancient history now! I learned piano for a while as a little kid but couldn’t stick with it. I really wish I had continued learning the piano. It’s one major regret I have in my life.

SEGAS: We all here at SEGAS are completely amazed by Guthrie’s level of skill, do you know any of his secrets to success?

Yoon: Well, I’ve attended many of his master classes during the clinic tours over the past several years and I can confidently say that there are no “secrets” involved to his success. It all comes from his genuine love of music and being dedicated to his art and craft. Of course, there’s amazing talent involved here but passion and hard work played a major role as well.

He also experimented a lot on his own and played along to records rather than practicing scales over the beat of a metronome. For Guthrie, it’s all about having serious fun with music, not trying to raise the BPM practicing patterns of playing 16th note triplets and things like that. He looks at music as a language and a form of communication. All the mechanics involved like technique, music theory, gear, etc. are just a means to an end, not an end in itself.

SEGAS: Are you excited for SEGAS this year?

Yoon: Yes, I’m very excited. I’ve been to Raleigh only once before for a Guthrie summer workshop at Paul Warren’s Raleigh Academy of Music back in ’09, so it’s great to go back with this amazing band and put on a show to a larger audience. It’ll be a lot of fun.

SEGAS: What kind of plans does Guthrie have for the future? Any big stuff on the horizon we can look forward to?

Yoon: At this point in time, the Aristocrats band is the focal point. We’ve got a lot of big tours in the works. We’re going to cover every corner of the globe because fans of Guthrie and this band are literally everywhere – from Australia to Sweden and from Korea to Brazil and from Seattle to Miami and all points in between. And we’ll try to find time to record another studio album in between the tours next year. I’m sure a live DVD/CD will result from one of these tours as well. There are just so many things to do and every project is very fun and interesting.

As far as Guthrie, I’m sure he’ll also work on his second solo album at some point in between the tours as well. When Bryan and Marco have other side projects going on, Guthrie should be available to do master class tours as a guest lecturer at music schools and institutions. But, right now, getting the Aristocrats album out and touring as many places as possible are our top priority. We’re at the beginning of what I’m sure will be a long and amazing musical journey for Guthrie and the Aristocrats. Stay tuned. We’re going to go all out and, hopefully, leave a lasting legacy.

SEGAS: Again, thanks so much for your time! We can’t wait to see you this year at SEGAS!


July 13, 2011 in 2011,Interviews,News | Comments (0)