This is: Spax
Spax ( Artistreet Crew) performing in Brazil. Photography by Katara Walt (@katarawalt)
y now there's a good chance you've probably seen Korean television shows on Netflix or heard Korean pop music playing in public. The Korean entertainment industry is a powerful and influential force not only within Korea but also on it’s massive fanbase worldwide. Idol groups such as BTS and BLACKPINK are becoming household names and, despite the language barrier, appearances and collaborations with American shows and celebrities are becoming more common.
But underneath the charm, talent, and visual appeal of these idols is a life filled with intense training, strict discipline, and cutthroat competition. Even for trainees who have devoted years to becoming an idol, there is hardly any guarantee of success. The K-pop industry is filled with individuals and companies all fighting to become the next big star or produce the next hit group.
Spax, a member of one of Korea's top bboy crews, Artistreet, has also been a part of the K-pop industry. A former member of the now disbanded group Blanc7, Spax witnessed and experienced the hardships that accompany the journey towards becoming an idol. Yet, despite all the challenges he faced, his desire to make music has only grown, and while he competes across the globe with his crew, he continues to pursue his career as a musician.
Myth had the opportunity to meet and interview Spax while he was visiting New York City. We spoke with him across a range of topics including his team Artistreet, the K-pop industry, and his current career aspirations. Check out our full interview with Spax below to learn more.
Artistreet's showcase at Battle of the Year 2019
How did you get into breaking?
When I was 14, I was waiting at the bus stop to go to an after school program and I coincidentally saw a video of celebrities doing windmills, so I ended up searching up windmill tutorials on Naver (Korea's version of Google). That’s how I first got into breaking.
How was the Artistreet team formed?
This is a team I formed with Heady after we served in the army together. Heady and I first met in the army where we spent a lot of time together and that naturally transitioned into us starting a team.
We didn’t really seek out members, a lot of it just happened naturally. Bboy Mario and I went to high school together, and Edward and Whale were friends of friends, so it all worked out naturally like that.
What was your favorite event/competition?
The 2019 Battle of the Year. Ever since I was young Battle of the Year has always been a dream of mine because it’s a competition I always watched. It was a goal I was reaching for. Being able to achieve that goal was an honor.
Who was your inspiration when you started breaking?
There are a lot of Korean bboys that I take inspiration from, but when I was in high school, it was Gamblerz Crew’s King So. I looked up to him because when he does power moves, it seems like he’s purely a power mover, but when he does footwork you can see how original his style is. In my early 20s, I first saw some footage of Flea Rock, and that made a huge difference in my own dancing. I gained a lot of inspiration from him
Artistreet vs The Heima at Battle of the Year Korea 2019 (Spax at 4:21)
What made you want to become an Idol?
I never really had an interest in being an idol and didn’t have any interest in pursuing it. There was a company that I ended up auditioning with simply at the suggestion of someone I knew, and I trained with them for about six months. It ended up not working out, but for those six months I was extremely dedicated to becoming an idol and I had my mind set on becoming one.
After that didn’t work out, another friend that I met in the army reached out to me saying that his younger brother was going to debut as an idol. He was like, “Why don’t you also try auditioning?” And that’s how I ended up being part of BLANC7.
How did your family feel about you pursuing this lifestyle?
Parents used to be really pissed if their kids went into bboying. So my parents really disapproved of bboying, and said I was crazy for doing. But they didn’t completely hold me back from pursuing it. When I decided to go into the idol industry, they were very happy and supportive, because it’s an industry where you’re really well loved and respected if you do well.
I really struggled when I was around 27 or 28 because there wasn’t a lot of money in bboying. I danced really hard for 15 years and did my best, but there was no money in it. Of course, I didn’t go into this for the money; it was something I loved doing and I wanted to make it an occupation, but it was really hard to make a living off it.
A large portion of your fan base is located in Brazil. Is there a reason you have found success there?
When I was in Blanc7, we went to Brazil twice, and even back then we had a solid fanbase in Brazil. When the group disbanded and I decided to pursue a solo career, I thought it would be best to focus some energy into my fans there since I knew how much love they had for me. I also did a cover of a Portuguese song that kind of went viral, and I gained a lot of fans through that. I make sure I’m always communicating with my fans there, and my fan base continues to grow that way.
Are there any similarities between the training/lifestyle in the idol industry and the breaking community?
I think the main similarity is in the way that you take care of yourself. For both idols and bboys, it’s extremely important to practice self-care, maintain your body, and work out to make sure that you’re feeling your best. One of the main differences that I notice is in the way that you present yourself.
With bboying, you need a lot of charisma and during battles you need confidence to face your opponents, whereas for idols, you need to have a bubbly personality and even onstage you need to be interacting with your fans.
How does the breaking community in Korea view people who are involved in breaking and idol life?
For example in SMTM some rappers say that idol rappers and not real rappers.
I think skill is the most important thing. Surprisingly enough, I received a lot of support in being both a bboy and an idol. Bboy Jerry from One Way crew even reached out to me when I debuted as an idol saying that he was rooting for me. I think as long as you have skill, people will support and view you in a good way.
Blanc7's music video for "Yeah" (2017.02.24)
What was some of the toughest challenges you faced during debut?
One of the hardest aspects that I had to learn was controlling my facial expressions. When you’re bboying it doesn’t matter what your face looks like, and you’re more often looking at the ground. As an idol, you need to make direct eye contact with the camera, and constantly look your best, so it was really hard. You have to get really comfortable being on camera.
What kind of traits does a person need to survive in the Korean idol industry?
Honestly speaking, I think one of the most crucial things is marketing. Being talented in both singing and dancing is pretty much the standard now, so most people in this industry can do that. One of the things I needed to work on is how I present myself to people, and how I’m going to be seen. When you’re part of a big company, that’s all figured out for you; there are different teams that curate your look and how you present yourself, but since I’m on my own, I need to work on it all by myself. I’m doing all that via Youtube, vlogs, and communicating with fans.
Korean entertainment has significantly grown in popularity across the world. Is there an aspect of the industry behind the scenes that most people don’t know about?
Of course, everything that you see on TV is the shiny stuff. Most of the big idols live comfortably, but everyone starts off struggling. When I was in Blanc7, we lived in a very tiny house. There was one bathroom between the seven of us, so if you missed your spot in line, you had to wait two hours, haha. There were only two bedrooms; two people lived in the living room, and one person lived in the closet (but he didn’t mind). You don’t really see how much idols struggle in the beginning, when they debut.
How do you deal with with tough times?
I always try to think about things rationally. The things that I went through were difficult, but in the end, they were all manageable. When I look back at the things that have happened to me, of course there were things I experienced that were ridiculously difficult to deal with. But at the moment I didn’t focus on how difficult some of it was. I didn’t dwell on the negatives and just kept my hopes up while I moved forward. I know life is never just good or bad, it always goes back and forth. There are good days and bad days and even if I have to go through a string of bad days, I know it’s not always going to be like that.
Follow Spax on Instagram and Youtube to keep up with his latest content!
Spax's music video for 3am, 6am (Originally by Shateau)