Just growing up

Published March 2014 in Groove Korea


Jake Patchett has learned the hard way that he is not always right. The fast-talking Brit admits he gets into trouble for being mouthy and stubborn. But a few learning experiences have taught him that sometimes you should listen to the people who know better.

He also likes to play with fire. One day, while planning a stunt involving a flaming skateboard, he showed off to his crewmates a trick he learned in his U.K. days: Put a bit of lighter fluid on your hand and it bursts into flames for a split second. When the fire vanishes, the hand is unscathed. They told him it was too dangerous. He wanted to prove them wrong. For filming, he went all-in and doused his hand with the flammable liquid. It didn’t go as planned, leaving him with impressive footage of his hand being engulfed — and third-degree burns.

“That was the time K-pop really scarred me for life,” he says. While most of the scars have since vanished, he admits he will never be a hand model.

Jake is the antic-filled, caricatural host of Mnet’s weekly K-pop variety show “Jjang,” exported to the hallyu-loving world outside Korea. While better known here as Jake Pains from his rapping and emceeing, he’s built a fan base abroad by such stunts as setting fire to himself (they didn’t end up using the too-real footage, in the end), onscreen “funduggeries” and asking questions to Korea’s pop idols that a Korean interviewer wouldn’t dare touch. Fortunately for Jake, he says he has found a family in his production team who can put up with his shenanigans.

“It’s been quite organic and I’m very lucky with my crew,” he says. “Now they’re quite confident in our abilities. They’ll still be like, ‘Jake, don’t do this, this is kind of crazy,’ and I’ll be like ‘no,’ and then I’ll learn my lesson by setting my whole hand on fire and being like, ‘Yeah, you were right, I nearly died. Lesson learned.’”

Much like the self-immolation incident, the show itself, into its third season this year, has been a learning experience for the “27 or 28”-year-old (he plans to stay that age for a while). He has come a long way from his days working shitty jobs in film and TV to support his rapping pursuits in Birkenhead, England, and even teaching English in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province. Now he hosts dinners for hoity-toities like the CJ CEO and the Samsung family, parties in hotels with Korea’s pop idols and entertains K-pop fans abroad week after week. One thing it’s all taught him, he says, is professionalism.

“I used to be a lot crazier and do a lot more stupid things and climb up stuff, and I have to be a toned-down version of that now. … Maybe it’s just growing up,” he says, before singing “Growing Up” from “Care Bears Movie 2.”

While he’s perpetually young at heart, the Jake who used to argue has learned patience and communication skills. His job requires him to communicate with a team of eight or nine people, most of whom don’t speak much English. He’s learned that Western and Korean crews work differently. And while he might not understand why something is done a certain way, he accepts that his crewmates have different perspectives.

“You know how the culture is, don’t argue with the people above you? Well I do, and always have done, so that was bad for both of us to start with,” he says. “Now I see a lot more from their point of view. … I can see they might get in trouble, and (our work) has to reflect good on everybody.”

He has also realized just how hard everyone works. Everybody on his team does everything, from editing to carrying equipment. While he used to complain about having to rewrite an entire script, now he just gets the job done. “Nowadays when you tell me (to do) some things I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll do it,’ because I know how hard we’re all working. When you know how much everyone else is doing, you put in more effort yourself,” he says.

While rewarding, scripting and filming a weekly show is a physically and mentally tiring job. When his creativity is tapped by the end of the week, his own music takes a backseat. There are songs Jake Pains (also known in hip-hop circles as Baek Young-nam, a loose abbreviation for “white English man” in Korean) planned to release in December; Jake Patchett still hasn’t had the time to hit the recording studio.

But it’s all worth it to him, because he enjoys waking up every day to something new.

“If I was getting paid half of what I get paid now, and as long I could pay my rent and eat, then I would still do this job because I enjoy it that much,” he dared to say. “God forbid I actually do start getting paid half the wage. That would be terrible, but I would still do it.”

He says that what started as “kind of a joke” is now the biggest English-language product at CJ Entertainment, and “Jjang,” Jake’s foray into Korean TV entertainment, is his golden ticket to bigger and better. “I’m nowhere near the pinnacle of my career. I’ve just started. … If there’s a pyramid, I am right at the bottom and just moving up.”

To move up that pyramid, he says, he believes in little goals rather than some big, singular goal for his music or entertainment career. Learning Korean is currently his biggest hurdle. He’s knee-deep in language classes when not on the “Jjang” set. In music, he just wants to keep meeting new audiences and writing things he’s satisfied with, whether or not he even records them. As long as he is on stage, in front of the camera or otherwise performing, he’ll be happy.

“I never really had a main goal. My goal is just kind of to perform or entertain in a way that I (am) comfortable doing … be it acting or presenting or making music or free styling or just anything performing-wise, as long as it’s fun for me and it’s giving other people pleasure,” he says. “So, will I ever achieve everything I want to do? Probably not, but I’m gonna have a lot of fun trying, and I’m sure this is just the start.”

So what’s his next goal? The higher-ups have mentioned that once he overcomes some “ifs and buts” ­­— if he had more experience; but he doesn’t speak the language well — there are loads of opportunities awaiting him at CJ, where he has dug in his heels. Maybe he could host another show, this time for Korean audiences. Even his friend and music collaborator Pinnacle TheHustler says that with the look, the personality and the talent needed to succeed here, “if it happens to anybody, it would be Jake.” Now it’s all up to him to move up, one step at a time.

“I have the opportunity to work in Korean television. I work for the biggest private broadcasting system … one of the biggest in Asia. If that isn’t a foot in the door, then nothing is,” he says. “They like me — that’s been tried and tested because I still work there — and I like them. I love the environment and I’m very happy where I am. To represent CJ and to represent Korea is the next step, something that I have to take on with myself to make sure I — fuckin’ hell, I just gotta learn Korean.”

Little goals.

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