Korea Town Acid on Self-Care, the Psychology of Bucket Hats, and the Reassurance of a Juno Nomination
It is very difficult to define what Korea Town Acid does. At the start of our interview, I refer to her as doing something that could broadly be called techno. She calmly disagrees with me.
“I feel like techno artists will have a different take on this,” she says.
It’s not that the Seoul-born, Toronto-based artist, also known as Jessica Cho, doesn’t do techno. Sometimes she does. The two albums she released in 2021, Metamorphosis and Cosmos, definitely contain techno songs. But they also contain a lot of other things: dusty, dusty hip-hop beats with guest MCs spitting on them, lush atmospheric soundscapes, 140 BPM drums and bass, jazz influences that stick out your head when you least expect it. When you ask KTA about her influences, she’ll mention Japanese. Shibuya-keI act Fantastic plastic machineGolden Era New York rap staples like Nas and A Tribe Called Quest, and a general love for K-pop.
“I’m into a lot of different things,” she says. “I like jazz-oriented things. I like grime. I like New York house music. I like Detroit techno. If that’s good shit, then that’s shit. good shit, you know?”
Korea Town Acid came to electronic music after growing up learning classical piano and spending a young age playing the keyboard, both in various bands and on the streets as a busker. She eventually switched to electronic music, in part because it gave her greater control over the end result. Another thing that gives him a sense of control while playing is, somewhat surprisingly, bucket hats. KTA wears them frequently when performing, and she says it’s not just a fun fashion choice.
“I feel like it’s my security blanket,” she says. “It’s like protection. I don’t really want people to read my face while I’m playing, because I feel like a reactive person. If something goes wrong, but, like the show had to go on, I don’t want people to read my face. But also, I think I look really cool with a bob.
It’s perhaps no surprise that KTA likes having a bucket hat as a bit of a barrier between her and the audience. She says that during the COVID-19 pandemic, she realized she was much more introverted than she ever imagined. The pandemic has forced her to slow down and focus on self-care. She says that before the pandemic, her busy gig schedule and the party-heavy lifestyle that often comes with being a musician meant she was neglecting her well-being and pushing herself too hard.
“When I was really busy, I really neglected some things about myself,” she says. “Like laundry or cleaning. Like, I was too hungover. Too tired. I had to get ready for the show. I was just working like crazy – always chasing.”
As she returns to performing, she says she’s trying not to fall back into those habits and living more mindfully. She says that before COVID, “I didn’t really have myself, just Korea Town Acid.” She says she put the performer version of herself “almost on a pedestal” while not paying enough attention to everything else. In the end, it wasn’t good for Korea Town Acid the musician or Jessica Cho the human being.
“If I feel like shit, if I don’t process things right, if I have problems in other areas of my life and don’t deal with them, I won’t be able to concentrate and make music, right? she says.
KTA’s song “Sobriety” from the album Cosmos is nominated for the Juno Award for Underground Dance Single of the Year. She says she appreciates the recognition and in a way the nomination helps her feel on the right track.
“Living as a freelance artist in a city like Toronto, you see all your friends, like getting a nine-to-five job, and sometimes you’re like, ‘Oh fuck, am I doing the right thing? Do I have to have a nine-to-five, and, like, get a condo?” she said. “So [the nomination] is nice. It’s like ‘Hey! We see you! You’re doing great!’”