It must have been our undying and ferociously dumb loyalty to the good ship GG that saw us turning down an invitation from the rockin’ Neil Smith to come join him in Korea for a new reality TV show.
Then again, it might have been down to the simple fact that we’re incredibly lazy too.
In the end, Neil’s good friends Dan Cruickshank, Dáire Tomas Tirial and Barry Daly made it over for an all-expenses-paid week of Seoul searching, hoovering up an endless conveyor belt of grub and booze, and enjoying a little local super-stardom courtesy of that new hit TV show, Welcome – First Time In Korea?.
All thanks to the fact that Neil is already a star in his adopted home, thanks to his growing Rock God status over the past ten years. Going front and centre for the first time with his latest band, The Scarlet Pillows, seems to have sealed the rock’n’roll deal.
Naturally, the seven days the four Greystones lads spent with cameras on and shackles off proved to be a bit of a blur, but, we wisely asked the bould Neil to keep a day-by-day diary.
And it went a little something like this…
Sunday September 30th The lads arrive in Incheon airport with camera crew waiting in arrivals. There will be a team of 10 people following them around for the entire week and 5 cameramen breaking their balls, running circles around them in the heat. They’re fairly tipsy after the beverages courtesy of British Airways, but, thanks to Barry’s fine organisational skills, they make their way to the airport bus and on their way to Seoul. The weather is fucking amazing – no humidity, with temperatures in the high 20s for most of the week – making the lads even more tipsy. Dropped thier bags at their fancy Hongdae hotel, deep in the arts and music district – and just around the corner from where I live – and we make a plan to hit Euljiro, the latest trendy nightspot, later that night.
In the meantime, the lads went exploring, grabbing some gimbap – the local version of sushi – before heading to the river park area of Yeouido, to find the statue featured in the famous sci-fi movie, The Host. From there, it’s off to Noryangjin, the fish market, where Barry excitedly tries to recreate the live baby octopus-eating scene from Old Boy, another Korean classic. The market lady has other ideas, the octopus now having to be cut into pieces after so many people had choked. The fact that the chopped bits were still wiggling as the lads chomped the baby octopus down meant that they were pretty much satisfied with the recreation.
When the lads arrive at Euljiro, the camera crew capture me jumping out and surprising them. From there, we head into Dried Pollack Alleyway, grabbing some outdoor seats in the middle of a bustling Sunday night crowd. We have some fish jerky, garlic-fried chicken, beer and soju – which is a Korean rice vodka. Once the lads have eaten and drank their weight in fine Korean hospitality, the crew call it a wrap. So, mics off, cameras down, we can finally talk bollox. More drinks back at the hotel, and we start working out a plan whereby I don’t really have to do all that much walking, given that I’m hiding a massive ankle injury for the producers. Luckily, this trip is really all about the lads, and what they make of Korea…
Monday October 1st Just a regular work day for me but the lads are out filming from very early in the morning. Bubble tea for breakfast and then they’re straight off to a mountain in 29 degree heat. Dan finds it tough but Darragh is flying up those slopes, whilst also making great efforts at learning Korean phrases. It’s a fucking tough language to get through at first, so the producers are dead impressed with his progress.
Peak conquered, the lads head to a restaurant to try some Samgyetang (chicken, ginseng soup), and it’s love at first slurp. Being a chef, Dan is very enthusiastic about all these new food experiences, slipping quickly into some kind of Anthony Bourdain wet dream. The lads then head off to a kimchi-making class – which only Dan seems to enjoy – before visiting Insadong, for some souvenirs and, yep, more food.
After that, it’s all back to mine, my apartment rigged with about 1,001 cameras as Dan cooks up an incredible fried chicken dish, and we then get the guitars out and start jamming. We have to play The Dubliners, of course, and the evening finishes with me giving each of the lads a copy of The Scarlet Pillows’ new album. By which time, we’re all ready for bed, and my leg gets some much-needed rest…
Tuesday 2nd & Wednesday 3rd The lads get 2 whole days off to do whatever they want. My girlfriend, So Hyun, takes us to very traditional pork restaurant district and it’s great craic. They’re loving the day off from constant camera attention. I head home early to get my foot up and I miss out on a lads night out. The bars don’t close in Seoul, even on a Tuesday, and it’s like the lads have died and gone to Paddy’s Day heaven. I have band practice early the next morning and I link up with the casualties at their hotel which is near our studio, conveniently. We have some cold noodles and meat. The ultimate hangover cure. The lads buy souvenirs and sleep early. I go home and rest the foot. Big, big day tomorrow.
Thursday October 2nd Today is Neil’s Tour Day. I’ve decided to take them to Busan, Koreas second biggest city, down in the south east. We meet at 6am and I head into the lads’ hotel to wake them up and tell them where they’re going. Of course, they already know but it’s for the cameras. We head to Seoul station and and get on the very famous bullet train to Busan. As soon as we arrive, we get some Busan-style cold noodles, head to a famous cliff area, the producers staking us down to the oceanside as a surprise, where we order extremely fresh raw fish from some elderly ladles catching and serving. Doesn’t get much fresher than that. The lads later say that this is their favorite part of the trip.
Next, we head to Film Street. We have amazingly arrived just in time for Busan Film Festival and Barry is a massive fan of Korean cinema. It seems we don’t actually have tickets for the opening ceremony and the goal is to try and blag our way in since we have so many cameras and an entourage, but we fail. We head to the famous Haeundae Beach. I hadn’t been to Busan in a few years and the skyline has changed drastically. Skyscrapers and giant bridges everywhere. Beautiful at night.
Final meal of Busan is small and large barbecued cow intestines. The lads are really not looking forward to it but i happens and they’re ok with it. Half of the restaurant is cleared out for the cameras and throughout the day we’ve been getting mobbed by crowds who can immediately tell what TV show it is. It’s one of the most popular in Korea right now and the show MCs are some of the biggest celebrities in a country that has way too many celebrities. We’re done eating and the cameras are down and the mics are off. Time to relax and sleep on the train home. We left our abodes at 5am and we return at 3am the next morning. Bullet train ride is 2 hours and 30 minutes
Friday October 3rd The lads are up again at 11am to go to a big palace and temple in Seoul, plus a tea room. So they can keep eating. After that, back to the hotel to get revved up and ready for their last night out and the big finale: The Scarlet Pillows live in Club FF.
This place is sacred to me and it was created after the owner, whose wife is from Offaly, went to Whelans in Dublin one night and fell in love. He decided to recreate the iconic Irish venue in Hongdae and it’s my favorite place in the whole country. I’m delighted that I can play there for the lads and I can’t believe that my band will get this kind of huge exposure in Korea after only 6 months of existence. Indie bands just don’t get popular in Korea without TV exposure. The place is rigged with cameras when we arrive, and my mates at the bar are delighted. The show goes really well and we head straight across the street for a barbecue, just the 4=four of us. The lads are pretty smashed and the camera crew are laughing a lot. We do a big wrap up of the week for the cameras, and the producers seem very satisfied. I’ve enjoyed translating from Korean to English for the lads the past two days. It’s helped my Korean conversation no end. Wish I could get this kind of practice more often. After the barbecue, the four of us head back to my mates in the club. We meet up with Caitlin Hogg and party down Greystones-style until about 4am. We have to be up by 6.30am to film our trip to the airport as we say goodbye. Fuck. I head home with my girlfriend, Sohy, and I swear if she hadn’t woken me up at 6.15 I wouldve slept in and miss the shoot.
I look like death and I have no time to shower, heading straight to the lads’ hotel. I arrive, get miced up and Darragh is still absolutely smashed, looking uncannily like Ron Burgundy when he hit rock bottom. The producers decide to hire a luxury mini bus to get us to the airport because we’re all fucked. We keep it together, arrive at the airport, check in and I see the lads off. I do my sad walking out the door scene for the cameras and we are all done. Can’t believe it. The lads stint in Korea is over, but my work just begins. I have to join the celebrity MCs in the studio for four monday mornings in a row to watch the footage with them and break it all down. It’s all in Korean, of course, and I really wish I was a bit more comfortable, but it’s grand and I’m getting through it. The powers of editing. Two Mondays down now and two to go. The first episode is chopped and ready to go for tomorrow night but my hard work is only half done. We have to film the talk show MC part 3 and 4, and I’m prepping a shit tonne of speech that I can use on the days.
Hope we can get the footage back home easily. The show is on Netflix but obviously not in Ireland… we’ll sort something out!
Boom! In the meantime, here’s a crappy copy of the trailer. Which GG could only watch the once. Given that IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN US!!
You can find out more about The Scarlet Pillows right here, and follow them on Instagram here.
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