TaeYang Nylon Interview: The September 2008 Issue
[from pgeorgie]: This is my translated version of YB/TaeYang’s interview with Nylon Korea. **In case anybody’s wondering, “Nakata” refers to Hidetoshi Nakata, the Japanese (former) footballer.
[Photo: Hidetoshi Nakata/Weekly Soccer Digest]
A Portrait of Youth
Nakata’s firm face showing his physical strength and the tension he feels. The shyness and awkwardness we see in the designer Tom Brown’s boys. The innocent physical soundness we encounter in Bruce Webber’s pictures. Wearing his jeans as low as he possibly could, TaeYang had a face showing a mixture of vanity and naïveté that were typical of a young man of his age.
Photos: YunSuk Mu
Interview by: JiUn Nah
Q: You seemed shy yet to enjoy the shoot.
A: Did I look OK? There were many styles I’d never tried before. The trench coat, for example.
Q: You’ve tried something unusual before. Last year you came to the MKMF Awards show in this very luxurious Balenciaga jacket, which created quite a buzz.
A: Ah, yes. I loved that jacket very much but my boss bought it (from me) (laugh).
Q: What’s your favorite style? It’s not an exaggeration to say that Big Bang is the first idol group that dresses well. On one sweltering day, I saw you shopping for clothes at a high-end multi-brand shop Daily Project in ChongDam-dong.
A: I like casual jackets and T-shirts. Mostly casual. Is it ok to mention brand names? Louis Vuitton and Dolce & Gabbana.
Q: Pricy stuff.
A: Not really. I like inexpensive ones too. I like American Apparel and many street brands. I also like a Japanese brand called Phenomenon. Most of the stuff we wear on TV are of Japanese brands. We call it “The Teddy Virus.” What Teddy wears and where Teddy shops for clothes outside Korea have a great influence on all of us.
Q: Do you voice your opinions when you choose what to wear on stage?
A: We talk a lot about our style concepts. I don’t go near anything that I think wouldn’t look good on me.
Q: Give me an example.
A: The long coat I just wore today. I felt like I was in my Dad’s clothes. I changed my mind a bit after the shoot, though.
Q: Suppose you could be a model in just one designer’s show. Which designer would that be?
A: This is the first time anybody asked me that. Mm…Dolce & Gabbana?
Q: So you like masculine and sexy styles?
A: It’s not that I like deep v-neck tops or enjoy walking around with lots of skin showing.
Q: Then what do you call it when you went topless in the Prayer video.
A: Oh, I mean clothes.
Q: You’re saying better topless than scanty clothes?
A: Haha. I don’t know. It’s just I feel embarrassed when I wear deep v-neck tops or anything like that.
Q: Is there any particular item that you’re dying to get?
A: I used to collect hats but I’m not so hot about them any longer. It’s summer now so I want to buy some cool shades. (Suddenly talking to the staff member trying to feed the puppy chocolate) Don’t give her chocolate! If you feed puppies chocolate, they could die.
Q: You just saved a puppy’s life. You’ve just concluded your activities for your first solo album. You’ve been showered with praises, like, “The heat from the sun (TaeYang) are melting us all.” How was it? Honestly speaking, didn’t you say to yourself, “Gee, I’m so good”?
A: Well, not really. Instead, I just wonder where the time went. The entire period feels so unreal. It just went so fast I haven’t had a chance to really “feel” what I was doing.
Q: You’re going back to Big Bang now. How does it feel? You must find it not entirely satisfying, I suspect?
A: Of course.
Q: Do you mean it in a sense that you got so much more to show us but haven’t had a chance to do that?
A: (Laugh) Well, it was my first (solo) album after all so I couldn’t find it entirely satisfactory. That’s what I find not entirely satisfying. But given the shortcomings, I think I worked pretty hard and finished it relatively well. I am relieved to go back to Big Bang. I feel the chest-tightening sense of tension a bit less now. I feel like I came back home after a long hard journey on my own.
Q: I listened to Big Bang’s second album but as it was the case with the first one, I could scarcely feel your presence.
A: I believe that’s my role in Big Bang. It’s not like I enjoy being unnoticed.
Q: Are you saying it’s all intentional?
A: I am not saying it’s intentional but that’s who I am. I don’t feel like hogging attention or trying to be noticed when I am in Big Bang. I must think of the team before me.
Q: Stop trying to be nice. It’s no fun.
A: I am not trying to be nice. Many people know Big Bang now and we have an influence of sorts in many ways, I believe. Now whatever I do, I think carefully and consider it from many different angles. In terms of music, I can’t just insist on doing what I want.
Q: Are you saying you don’t like Big Bang’s music?
A: No! No! Please don’t take it that way!
Q: I’m asking this because I read in many interviews that you’ve always had different thoughts when it comes to the music you wanted to do.
A: That’s true with all of us. Our fans will allow us to experiment of course but we have to keep in mind that there are people who would not like it if we step a bit further musically in certain directions.
Q: You mean you compromise?
Q: Does your company tell you what to say and what not to say? Big Bang is an idol group. Do you practice for interviews?
A: No, we don’t. If we had to, we wouldn’t be able to say what’s on our minds.
Q: So you pour your guts out?
A: No. They just tell us to think before we speak. Sometimes we catch ourselves using expressions we use among ourselves on camera. They also tell us not to touch political subjects.
Q: How do you feel about interviews in general? Do you feel uncomfortable?
A: Not uncomfortable but sometimes I feel a bit awkward especially when they ask complicated questions or questions that I’ve heard one too many times.
Q: What’s your least favorite question?
A: Ones about girlfriends (that he has never had one). I swear I’ve heard that question over a thousand times since our debut.
Q: But thanks to that innocent boy image, you got more fans.
Q: That’s the way it is. People expect innocence and pureness even from sexy pop stars. They are attracted to you because they find you so innocent and naive even though you sing, “never ever cheat on me even if I did.” I saw you in the cable show “Flimsy Blind Dates.” You couldn’t even look at the girl in the eye.
A: Well, I don’t know. Not having had a girlfriend – it’s not something that you should be proud of but people talk about it all the time. You know, I have plans of my own.
Q: You mean like a five-step plan to make a girlfriend?
A: No (laugh). I just feel that this is not the right time. I’m sure some people will see the gap between the real me and the innocent image of me and become disappointed if I meet a girl and then break up with her or something.
Q: If you meet a girl, would you tell us that you have a girlfriend?
A: I don’t know (laugh). Oh, I could tell you that without telling you who she is.
Q: Do you find it stressful to be a member of an idol group that is greatly affected by fans?
A: I don’t usually think about that. Also idol groups have changed quite a bit. Of course, idol groups are definitely different from others in terms of the extent of involvement of fans. We tend to think and weigh things more carefully.
Q: How long do you think you will stay with Big Bang?
A: For a long time. We won’t be able to work as a group non-stop as we do now but Big Bang will last a bit long. Of course as time passes, we will focus more on individual activities. We are together because of music and will remain together for quite a while as long as our musical orientation remains the same.
Q: You joined YG Entertainment and started to learn singing and dancing at the age of 13. How did you know what you wanted exactly? Did you know then that you would have to endure long hard years?
A: I don’t remember what I was thinking. I just loved music since I was very little but didn’t know exactly what it was that I wanted to do. Working as a child actor, I found it fun to perform in front of people and express things. But music suited me better than acting. I just thought it was a chance of a life time. When I met JinuSean, I just loved them so much. Even today, I can take difficult, demanding situations in stride because of what I’d gone through during those years. It was really difficult.
Q: What was?
A: The uncertainty. First I had to persuade my parents. My parents found it unacceptable that I wanted to do music. I didn’t know at the time. What it would be like. My parents didn’t understand why I wanted to become a trainee giving up normal school life. I finally had my way. I was so desperate.
Q: You were 13 and persuaded your parents about what you wanted to do with your life? How?
A: What could a 13-year old do? I cried a lot and refused to talk for days. Both my Mom and Dad worked so I used to sneak out to go to practice. I didn’t speak to my parents for two weeks.
Q: It wasn’t your mother who pushed you into acting?
A: When I was little, I stayed at my Mom’s sister’s house for quite a while. My cousins took acting lessons at the time, so I sort of joined them naturally. JinuSean had an audition because they needed a child actor who could act and I got the part. My Mom had been on my side up until the shooting of JinuSean’s music video but wasn’t so happy when I told her I wanted to give up acting and become a singer.
Q: How was the eight years you spent in YG Entertainment as a trainee? Did you have hope that you would “make it someday”?
A: As time went, I became more and more confident. If the opportunity had come along earlier, I would have gotten lazy and taken things for granted. As time passed, I felt more confident and determined.
Q: What was it that you loved so much that made the long wait worthwhile?
A: It was music. I loved music so much – R&B/hip-hop music. I also thought the hyung’s so cool. I just loved the way they dressed, the way they spoke and the music they did. Everything about them. Come to think of it, I’ve been deeply affected by all of those things. Singing and dancing…everything.
Q: Who’s your greatest influence so far? Was there anyone whose advice you took as absolute standards and who made you want to copy everything about him (or her), including tastes?
A: There were foreign artists but they were just images. People who had direct influence on me were of course the YG musicians. Sean, Teddy and Se7en. I fell in love with R&B/hip-hop because of Sean in the first place. I thought Teddy was really cool, a great musician. I listened to every word he said very carefully. Se7en is somebody I deeply admire not just as a musician but also as an individual.
Q: Unlike artists under other entertainment companies, you don’t appear on variety shows. The company doesn’t put pressure on you?
A: I feel uncomfortable appearing on variety shows. The company helps and encourages you if you are good at it, as in the case of DaeSung, but they don’t force you if you are not.
Q: Compared to other idol groups, Big Bang seems relatively free to do whatever you want to do. You guys have actually changed the way idol groups are perceived. Most of all, you dress the way you want.
A: I agree. We don’t do as we are told to do. When we make a decision, we think about it first and tell the company what we want.
Q: When you were making your solo EP, I heard that you and President Yang did not agree on what the concept of the album should be.
A: He knows me very well so he got some songs and provided overall direction for me. I am not saying I didn’t like the songs but there was something else I wanted. It was my solo album and I wanted to choose songs that could show people who I was and what I was all about. In the end, Mr. Yang let me do it my way.
Q: Please explain the difference in terms of music.
A: My first concern was the stage performance. I explained to Teddy that I wanted to create a dynamic and powerful stage performance. That’s how the song “Prayer” was made. Kush made “Make Love” for me because I told him I wanted a trendy R&B song. I consider “Look Only at Me” as a destiny. Sometimes you can’t quite fully explain what’s on your mind but the song written by Teddy was exactly what I wanted.
Q: Is it true that G-Dragon sang it first? There was a bit of controversy around the song.
A: The song wasn’t anybody’s – anyone could take it. But because of the lyrics, Teddy naturally didn’t think of me (laugh). He obviously thought of Jiyong. I didn’t know that Jiyong sang the song first when I told Teddy how badly I wanted the song.
Q: You might want to say sorry to him because the song did so well on the chart.
A: Not because it did well but because of the situation in which I got the song from Teddy.
Q: Regarding your favorite “Prayer,” some people say that it plagiarized from 2Pistols’ song.
A: I don’t think so. It all depends on how people who listen to the song interpret it and I don’t have anything to say to those people who believe so. It doesn’t bother me.
Q: Do you have any complex?
A: No, because I don’t think about complexes when I am on stage.
Q: But you think you are good-looking, don’t you?
A: No, I don’t’. I just think I look OK in my own way. No one really thinks I am good-looking anyway.
Q: Do you like the way you look?
A: Yes, I do (laugh). That’s why I can feel confident in front of the camera, taking pictures.
Q: You said you wanted to take pictures like a real man. Who’s your favorite male role model?
A: Michael Jordan. He is the best basketball player ever, and listening to what he says, especially his outlook on life, I can see that he is a very responsible person and a man of character because he’s simply the world’s best but still works very hard. (Pointing at his Jordan sneakers) Look at these. Maybe I should change my most favorite brand from Dolce & Gabbana to Jordan.
Q: What kind of man do you want to be?
A: Mm…a great dad?
Q: A great dad? You’re barely twenty now. Isn’t it a bit premature?
A: Well, dads have great influence on kids. I mean I’d like to work toward that goal. And as I said, my role model is Michael Jordan.
Q: What’s your father like? Whether you like it or not, the single biggest influence in a man’s life is his dad.
A: My Dad is a bit of a square. When my brother and I were little, he always told us to dress neatly and wear our hair short. I realized much later that not all families were like that. My Dad would probably not approve the way I dress and wear my hair now.
Q: Do you get self-conscious about what your Dad would think when you are on stage?
A: No, I don’t. I think my Dad would try to understand in his own way.
Q: Do you make a lot of money now?
A: Not really. No one makes money from selling records any more. Making a lot of money is not my priority.
Q: You’re young and ambitious now. But things may not be the same in 10 years. Big Bang may not be as popular as it is now. You may not be able to perform in front of audiences. Is there anything you can say for sure that will not change in 10 years?
A: Of course I hope Big Bang will still be here in 10 years but one thing I can say for sure that will not change in that time is that I will be doing music. Mm…Did I say anything out of line today?