[KPOP] TAEYANG INTERVIEWED BY GQ KOREA
Zero pretensions. 100% Real. Like a rock, a mountain range and the sun afar. TaeYang, who is soon to release his first full album, does not stop to cry. He does not pace or hesitate either. Because his performances alone speak loud and clear. A GQ interview with TaeYang, an unusual teen idol who possesses both sincerity and instinct.
TaeYang is an unusual teen idol. He is larger than life and free only within the boundaries of what’s “real,” which is defined by himself. When he asks, “I should just do my thing, right?” that is what he sincerely feels. What kind of an idol cares about sincerity?
Would you like something to drink? A beer?
Alcohol is not really…
Do you like winter? A weather like today?
I like winter because I get to put on a lot of clothes. And most of my favorite songs go well with the season, and, I don’t know, I like the warm feeling. Calm, medium tempo songs like this. I listen to Karina (Pasian)’s Slow Motion often these days. Michael Jackson’s old songs, too.
Remember? After we had our “Men of the Year” interview last year, we promised to meet again after you have gained lots of new experiences?
(Laughs) I really wanted to experience lots of new things, which you might call seductions, in 2009, but am afraid I haven’t had time to learn new things through first-hand experiences.
What were you so busy with?
To be honest, I spent over six months in the studio working with Teddy. When I wasn’t working on my album, I wanted to watch him writing and producing music to learn something from him. We just hung around listening to music together. Of course the biggest thought on my mind was the desire to make a great full album. We shared a great sense of achievement when we created something cool together and, I don’t know, a sense of happiness when we found great music and listened to it together.
Was it all good? Surely, it must have been different from when you were making “Look Only at Me.” This is your first full album we are talking about – you must have had to deal with the pressure to do better. The expectations were insanely high…
The pressure was great indeed. I’ve gotten over it a bit now but I had been all anxiety until my first single came out. To tell you the truth, this interview was supposed to happen in October but I had to postpone it because I was full of anxiety and felt that I had nothing to say. Probably I wouldn’t have been able to answer any of your questions in a prudent and proper manner.
You are such a strong-headed perfectionist, almost to the degree of recklessness. Now, tell us. What did you do with your first full album?
I wanted to make music that could most truthfully and accurately reflect who I am at the age of 22 – the most comfortable and natural music. And I also considered the global standards. I wanted to make music that could be heard and impress people anywhere in the world.
Yet the way you put it out was rather puzzling. You released singles, practically saying, “Well, these are not my title tracks. They are sort of a bonus and I’m not going to promote these singles.” From the public’s point of view, it was like, “Huh?”
True. I know what you mean. I’ll be frank with you. I don’t like the way things are being handled. I didn’t expect things to turn out this way. The original plan had been actively promoting my singles until my full album came out but there were simply too many other things I had to do, including the group stuff.
Are you talking about Big Bang’s promotional activities in Japan? Some people call them your “side gig (a part time job).”
Something I should deal with anyway.
If you ask me, it’s not enough even if you could focus all your time and energy on things you WANT to do. Isn’t that true?
Well, things turned out this way. Of course I wanted to do things right and make an impression but…
But instead of heightening the suspense and building expectations, the whole circumstances surrounding the releases of Where U At and then Wedding Dress gave people the impression that you were just giving them a taste, a teaser, if you will. Does it make you feel uncomfortable to talk about these things we feel unhappy about up front?
Not at all. I feel unhappy about those things myself.
Isn’t it about time for you to drop a major hint for your full album?
Given the situation, I think I have no choice but to come out with a really great album. As you can tell from my singles, the songs in the new album have been upgraded when compared with the ones in my EP. They will definitely break a mold.
Break a mold?
Meaning I want to break my mold to make progress. I’m not saying I want to break from the style or form of music I’ve done so far. I mean the new album will be a bigger picture than the one I was able to plan and paint before.
So when on earth is it coming out?
I want it to be early next year but have lots of other things on my schedule already so…
What you want is not exactly what your company has in mind, is that it?
I don’t know. (Laughs) This drives me crazy. The company knows that I usually have many thoughts on my mind and the company people also have many thoughts on their minds when they handle my plans and activities.
All these complicated, confusing situations – you might want to turn them into something positive, something that can help you grow. What do you think?
I hope so.
Over the past year, what kind of a man do you think you have grown into?
I feel like I have gone through puberty all over again. A period full of stress and anxiety.
How did you relieve your stress and anxiety?
They just disappeared by themselves. I think thinking about great music and the fact that I had the outcome I had wanted sort of made those negative feelings disappear. In a way, I was able to resolve the negative thoughts and feelings accumulated inside of me through music.
And Where U At and Wedding Dress were indeed good enough to show the hard work and effort you have put into them. However, they also make one wonder whether you focus too much on the conceptual aspects when compared with “Look Only at Me.” On one hand, they have too much added to the vividness you showed in LOaM, and on the other hand, they feel like they lack something – an outcome that came about because you focused too much on the music itself, if you will.
I think I know what you mean. I needed somebody to tell me about stuff like that.
Then what about the promotions? I mean, the girlfriend issue alone. I find the press release that says, “a song truthfully describes TaeYang’s real life situation that he has never had a girlfriend” appallingly childish. Don’t you agree?
My sentiment exactly.
When it comes to things like dating a girl or singing a song, you should let things come naturally. Half-baked acting in a music video just wouldn’t do.
You’re right. I wish I could meet a woman I like and fall in love with her right away.
Did you say a woman? Right away?
Yes. That’s how I really feel. I am genuinely unhappy with that particular promotional tactic because it perpetuates my image as a young man who has never had a girlfriend. I seriously hate it when they try to put me in some sort of a box and present the image as if it were a real me.
I gather this is a very important time for you. It is a transitional period and you have to go through trials and errors that are absolutely necessary.
I’m really confident about my album. I worked on it for a long time and poured my heart and soul in it. I am not worried about the musical aspects at all but am not so sure about the rest. The biggest concern is that the timing of the release remains undecided.
I know you worry about many things but you may want to look at it from a different perspective. I mean, there are people who work their butts off but still don’t get even a single chance to shine. Compared to them, see how lucky you are!
You’re right. I should remember that.
Given the style of music you do, how favorable do you think the current music scene is in Korea? We don’t see you often enough on music shows as it is and then I hear that you will be on Strong Heart. I was instantly reminded of a phrase from the lyrics to Cho YongPil’s song – “Why does it make me sigh…”
It is difficult in many aspects. Be it stage performances or music programs, nothing is clearly defined or established. You can’t really do much if you choose to do strictly the musical stuff because there is only this one show that I can go on once a week like a weekly ritual.
The times are hard and musicians can’t go very far only by making good music and putting on great performances. You are a perfectionist. Doesn’t that make you feel all the lonelier?
Nevertheless I still feel motivated and privileged by the fact that I am living in the same era as so many great musicians are. I feel so small when I think about Michael Jackson. He makes me speechless. Come to think of it, that was the reason why I felt so sad but my heart swelled with happiness at the same time throughout the past year – thinking that the man lived the same time as I did, I lived the same time as he did. Although I knew I could never meet him now, I felt as if my heart would burst with happiness because I could listen to his music and watch him on stage.
That’s so great. All the more so because I know you will never use your respect for him as some sort of a gimmick to draw attention or do Michael Jackson impressions.
You’re right. It is not right to do that.
So what do you think Big Bang will do? Things happen so quickly in the current music scene that it feels like it’s been ages since Big Bang first came out.
The public image of Big Bang as a popular band is too strong and I think we are likely to choose to do easy-to-listen pop music. However, it is my personal opinion that we shouldn’t do that. We were loved by so many people and it would be meaningless if we continue to seek that kind of popularity. We should be able to use the popularity as a platform to bring our music to a higher level. I feel very strongly about it.
How does it feel to work in Japan? Must be a bit different from working as a solo. How does it affect you?
More than anything else, I love the fact that the system is so well established in Japan. They know exactly which shows/performances an artist should go on/do and what kind of stages the artist requires. But of course, a well-established system also has a downside – the fact that it is rather inflexible in many aspects. It is certainly demanding for me to fly back and forth between Japan and Korea but Japan is a much bigger market than Korea and this is an opportunity to lay the groundwork.
What your buddy and team mate G-Dragon has accomplished as a solo artist – did it make you feel motivated in any way?
I don’t know how to say this but, although JiYong and I are close friends, we are very different in terms of what we pursue musically. I really supported him in any way I could but I was never meaningfully influenced by him.
More than anything, I wish you could sing better. Of course you make people say, “How could he sing live without missing a beat while dancing so intensely?” or “Such fantastic dance moves!” or “How smooth and hip his performances are!” but these are all technical stuff. I wish I could experience the simple pleasure of listening to you sing – even if it is only you on the stage, playing the piano, and be able to say, “god, he is such a great singer!”
That’s exactly what I want to do. Actually I thought about it often. And I promise you that you will see me do that.
What are your fans like?
A lot like me. Not as much as I do, I presume, but they are a lot like me in that they have many thoughts on their minds, get anxious easily, worry about everything in advance and have bad feelings about everything.
How does that affect you?
They are music lovers before they are fans of TaeYang the musician and they keep me from losing direction. Sometimes I read posts made by my fans on the Internet. When I feel so utterly lost that I lose sight of my goals, I read what they wrote or watch the videos they posted and realize, yes, that’s where I was headed, that’s what I wanted to do and that’s what I should do.
This may sound awfully simplistic but at the end of the day, all that matters is that you do your thing.
Isn’t it? That’s exactly what I wanted to hear and say so badly. That all I’ve got to do is do my own thing. That’s the one thing I wanted to say most during this interview: No matter how many things I have on my mind, no matter how deeply I’m worried, at the end of the day, everything’s up to me. I just need to do my own thing. What else could there be?
What motivates you these days?
Every time I go to Japan, I buy all the DVDs of my favorite musicians I can find. Watching the DVDs, I feel tremendously motivated, thinking, ah, I should do something like that, how I badly want to do something like that.
When I saw you in the WUA video with your hair the same as before and you wearing the same style cap you used to wear, I was almost brought to tears.
It is the feeling that you have when you meet someone you have trusted again and find him still committed and doing well.
Actually, I had to fight really hard to keep my style.
People wanted you to change?
Many people did. But I like comfortable clothes that make it easy to sing and dance. I don’t wear anything that is heavy or constricting. I stick to my current hair style because it never gets in the way while I dance.
But that doesn’t mean that you don’t care about your clothes or hair. You are particular and want things done exactly the way you want, right?
Of course. I am very particular in choosing what goes well with my music. The most important thing is how well certain style goes with my music. There is always a color or colors that look best with the music.
What would be different if you were 10 centimeters taller?
(Laughs) 10 centimeters are too much. How about 5 centimeters? No, if I had been taller, I wouldn’t have been able to dance like I do now. I never would have worked so hard to look larger than life on the stage. I know that it is not a matter of height that determines how tall or big you look on the stage.
Is there any particular place or way you want to perform these days? It doesn’t have to be a big, important stage.
Before it gets colder, I would like to sing with a great band on a small roadside stage where many people come and listen to me. I always dream of performances with a live band.
That is such an admirable dream. The fact that you are a teen idol signed with a major label could get in the way of your dream.
Just a simple dream of mine. I would like to create my own band and sing with them someday. I will continue to work hard to be able to make that happen.
If you pour your heart and soul to reach your goal, nothing would be impossible. You’re 22 now and life is longer than you might think it is. It’s past midnight. What’s your plan after this?
I’ll probably have something to eat and go home.
You don’t want to have a drink? Did you go out and inhale the night air tonight? How can you go home without having a drink?
(Laughs) By the way, I kept thinking about what you said during our interview last year – that I should let my self go and give in to temptation. But then I think I may end up dead if I start drinking and dating women because I would get completely lost in all that.
Don’t you think you might be able to come up with something unbelievably great while you are lost? I’m joking. You haven’t done it, so it doesn’t matter what I say. Makes me feel like you are the angel and I’m the devil here. Well, I’ve come too far to go back. I need you to promise me something, anything.
I’ll come out with a great album soon and hold the greatest concert. Isn’t that enough?
Are you going to turn the world upside down?
I don’t know.
What? Then what’s the point of doing it all? The world stays that same. Just another new song. He sings. His single is No. 3 on the chart. No. 2 on the chart. Oh, here he is again. What’s the point of doing all that? For popularity?
(Laughs) I get it. I have a bigger dream. I don’t know how long it will take or whether I will be able to make it come true. But even if it means that my life becomes short because I worry too much and that I have to give up other things in life, I want to prove that I can do really well on a stage watched around the world. I want my music I have made so far and I will make in the future to positively influence people all over the world. It is my dream that I become a musician, a singer who can do that.
What would you do if you have a piano in front of you right now?
I would like to sing and play Slow Motion I mentioned earlier. Suddenly I’m worried that my answers to your questions today might sound too mundane and boring because you asked me those questions knowing me and my concerns so well.
You worry too much. When you’re worried you might sound boring, say something sensational.
(Laughs) What should I say?
You shouldn’t ask me that. Aren’t you a good, well-behaved boy?
I don’t know. As I said earlier, I felt like I was going through a second puberty for the past year. I’ve gotten really rough. I often get cranky with people and say not-so-nice things to them.
What are you talking about? You can talk about an artist getting rough and wild at least when he has broken every one of the windows at either his company or a hotel.
What do you see outside your window at home?
I see Bamsum (Bam Island). When I get up in the morning and look outside the window, I feel calm and it is a nice feeling. I hear that people are not allowed there but sometimes I wish I could go there.
How does a news report saying, “Earlier this morning, singer TaeYang was spotted singing on Bamsum” sound?
(Laughs) I don’t know when but I often think that I want to leave somewhere far away. Travel with no itinerary and no destinations.
You can go but not before you release your full album. Oh, have you decided what it will be called?
“Real.” What do you think?
Makes me want to close my eyes. You are, I see.
[© GQ Korea]
[Translated by pgeorgie]
Source:Basking In the Sun