[ENG trans | Photos] TOP for Esquire Korea May 2015: “Mad to Be Normal”
After the interview, T.O.P quietly asked a favour: Not to make the article ‘corny’. Will I be able to do him the favour? To borrow his words, in a world where one must be mad to be normal, am I truly mad? How about you?
Q. BIGBANG’s album will be released soon. It’s been 3 years.
T.O.P: I think it’s been more than 3 years since I have appeared on TV as a singer. I literally devoted myself into it. A part of me has been restricted, and at the same time, I tried to pull out new sides of me. Some lyrics are very honest and provocative, while others, I paid careful attention to every word or phrase. BIGBANG is one of the major groups now. Not only in Korea, but in other countries, people translate our lyrics to listen to our songs. Because I’m aware of this, I put a great deal of effort into writing rap lyrics for 16 measures. There are songs that I edited more than a hundred times.
Q. As a rapper that writes his own story, what are some things that inspire you?
T.O.P: I am influenced and inspired by things that don’t speak. By beautiful and pretty objects rather than people.
Q. Was there any particular message that you wanted to convey in this album?
T.O.P: In some songs, I honestly, or rather intensely wrote about how men think shallow of relationships. So many women may not like it. Haha.
Q. I know you’re based on Hip Hop, but I feel Rock at the same time. What kind of music do you pursue?
T.O.P: I’m always the same. The group BIGBANG is where guys with different colours come together to make a team, and the solo albums are where each of us brings our own colours and finds a point of agreement with the company. I like hard music and I try my best to show that part of me.
Q. Hard music…
T.O.P: But I like warm music at the same time. I also like classical music, and I enjoyed listening to Pink Floyd’s music since I was little. When I listen to music like Hip Hop, a slight bit of violence often settles inside of me. I suppress this feeling by listening to quiet music when I’m alone.
Q. It has already been 10 years since BIGBANG has debuted.
T.O.P: Our path is clearly visible now. I can see something certain about us communicating with the public of our generation and being new.
Q. When guys of similar age group work together for a long period of time, each of you must have concerns about your own character.
T.O.P: It’s a process of introspection. I’m not yet sure what type of person I am. Maybe I’ll know when I’m around 40? I’m always new to myself. I’m part of the world where I have to feel that way. So I’ll work only until I feel new like that.
Q. Must be new every time. You must be under a lot of pressure.
T.O.P: Most people consider this as pressure or stress. I used to think the same when I was younger, but not anymore. After I’ve reached my turning point, when I write rap lyrics or listen to music, visuals come to my mind first. The burden of figuring out ways to be new to the public has now disappeared.
Q. You have been having a stay-at-home life since the release of Tazza 2.
T.O.P: I like restraining myself. This just comes from a difference in propensity or methods. I want to show my work in its end product. Should I say that I consider showing my usual life as a way of losing my energy?
Q. Aren’t you ever nervous that people will forget about you?
T.O.P: No. I need time to meditate and reflect upon what to do and recharge myself. The depression that comes when you’re exposed is much bigger and anxious than the depression that comes when you’re locked in your own time. Of course, our generation tells us that it’s good to communicate as much as you can and get close with the public. But I think it’s necessary to keep a sense of distance. This way, the freshness doubles. If you get too close with the public, sometimes you might begin pretending, and some weaknesses that you yourself weren’t even aware of may be exposed. So I don’t like being the star of the gossip. I don’t use SNS either.
Q. Do you plan to use SNS?
T.O.P: Should I start using it with the new album?
Q. Other members of BIGBANG are using SNS.
T.O.P: There are already lots of fake accounts with my name on SNS. The members want me to start using SNS as I don’t communicate much with my fans. They also said, ‘You have much more to gain than to lose by using SNS.’ I also feel sorry that I lack communication with the fans. Maybe I should start using it for the promotion of the new album. Haha.
Q. You should go to overseas Fashion Week events like the other members. Don’t you like fashion?
T.O.P: I don’t enjoy attracting public attention. I’ve been keep saying it, but that’s just me. I only do things that I think are necessary.
Q. BIGBANG has done a lot of things for the last 10 years. Not only music but in regards to fashion, behaviour, and the way of life, you guys basically made Korea more sensible, and you proved this to the world.
T.O.P: Now is where it gets really important. I always keep in my mind, ‘I’m almost thirty. I want to become a fresh and an adequate person for younger generations and my friends that will age with me.’
Q. Did you ever fall on hard times?
T.O.P: I quickly forget the memories of hard times. Just like everyone else, everyday is a challenge for me.
Q. But you should have a driving force that keeps you going… like a goal that you’d like to accomplish as a musician.
T.O.P: I don’t keep useless ambitions. I get inspired by design and art works and by looking for new things and experiencing the beauty. That’s where my endurance comes from. I am very sensitive to aesthetic things. They refreshen me.
Q. How’s living as an actor Choi Seung Hyun?
T.O.P: It’s fun. Hahaha.
Q. Aren’t there some territorial behaviours amongst actors?
T.O.P: How should I say this, I’m not the type to flatter my sunbaes (senior actors) or use aegyo (act charming). So the likes and the dislikes of me are pretty clear. Some seniors say that I’m mannerless, and some say that I’m polite. I think it depends on how you accept it. Rather than acting differently in front of the senior actors, I try to be polite to everyone but keep a safe distance. Once there was an article about me being social. I keep my manners, but I’m not social.
Q. Just like music, you can’t act just by trying hard.
T.O.P: I’m just mad. I’m not saying mentally crazy, but I’m crazy over music when I’m doing music, and I’m crazy over the character that I’m acting when I’m acting. That’s how I keep doing them without thinking that they’re stressful. Like I said earlier, for the new album, I edited one word more than a hundred times. I didn’t do it because I’m stubborn, I did it because I’m mad about it.
Q. You’re sensitive.
T.O.P: I’m sensitive. That’s why I don’t leave the house and meet a lot of people. It’s not that I’m intentionally trying to look mysterious, I’m very careful and sensitive to small things, that’s why I don’t leave the house unless I have to attend a formal affair. I only meet people that are close to me.
Q. Then what on earth do you do?
T.O.P: By the time this magazine (May issue of Esquire) is released, there will be a program called ‘Prudential Eye Zone (an exhibition that supports rising artists in Asia)’ happening in Singapore. They’re preparing an exhibition by curating rising artists from Korea and Japan. The work selection is done.
Q.Curator… Selecting works amongst many other artists must not be easy.
T.O.P: I’m not doing it with some purpose. I’m doing it because I really like it. I enjoy meeting and talking to the artists. Seeing people put their heart and soul to complete a piece of work inspires me. Just like how I have to work to refreshen parts that are not seen by the audience for music, acting, and staging a performance, our work has something in common. Visitors from foreign countries, they praise and are amazed by how Koreans are dressed. It is necessary to introduce the sensations of young artists to foreign countries.
Q. Sometimes it’s often said that our generation is overly/excessively artistic.
T.O.P: Anything without essence does not last long. I’m a singer and an actor, but if I say ‘Since I like art, I’m going to start focusing just on drawing or sculpting.’, wouldn’t this be considered ‘excessive’?
Q. But can’t you do that?
T.O.P: It’s like how I used to pick out clothes for my friends when I was crazy over clothes. It’s true that we’re being ‘excessive’, but I think Korea can be more excessive than it is now. Fashion, design, and fine arts have been neglected in Korea, despite the fact that Koreans are one of the most sensible people that pursue beauty. Sometimes when I look at some structures, I think. ‘they could have done better’ or ‘they have a long way to go’. It has to be more excessive for us to sift through and pull out the best ones. Even in the future, the arts and culture will play an essential role in foreign currency earnings. Some adults criticize idol groups saying that they ‘appear too often on TV’ or ‘dress improperly’, but in the end, idols are the ones to make the most foreign currency earnings in the show business.
Q. You’re right.
T.O.P: There’s a problem with people saying ‘Ah, he thinks he’s an artist’ or ‘He is pretending to be sensible’ when someone reveals their personality or ideas. If someone is different from you, just let it go. Also, there’s no reason to be conscious of the way other people look at you, and fear and hold back from expressing yourself.
Q. That’s especially true in Korea.
T.O.P: The world will develop only if people live off of their own pride.
Q. Will we be able to industrialize the arts? Money is already flowing in the show business and idol groups, but we still lack industrialization in fashion and fine arts.
T.O.P: I believe that the boundaries between music, fine arts, and design will diminish in the end. Because the audience’s standards are high now, we can satisfy their expectations only if we present them with perfection in whatever content we’re showing. Just like how videos are important in the music industry, fashion, fine arts, and design should all come together as one industry and develop with a synergy effect.
Q. As a curator, how did you assess the works?
T.O.P: I focus on conceptuality. I consider how strong and novel the artist’s concept is, and how beautifully those ideas are expressed. I talked about being excessive earlier, and I believe that only the ‘real’ ones will last long. People with an active-volcano-like energy inside of them, people who are mad about what they’re doing, will survive. I intuitively focus on how solid their concepts are.
Q. A 19-year-old boy has become a 29-year-old man, and he now has more work to do in society. There’s also a superstition about the age ending in 9 (bad things may happen in these years), how are you going to spend the last year of your 20’s?
T.O.P: I just want my heart to flutter. I can feel myself energizing when my heart flutters. It’s not important whether BIGBANG’s album is doing well, or how many views we have on Youtube. The excitement that I have the day before a music video release, wondering how people will think of it, is more important. The excitement follows only if I put love and effort into it.
Q. As a fashion magazine editor, I’d like to ask you, you used to like clothes, but it seems like you broke away from it.
T.O.P: I’m in a period of wearing sleepwear, haha. I still like clothes, but I no longer buy clothes that I don’t need. I think I’ve gained a ‘know-how’ in buying things that are really necessary. I don’t believe that wearing expensive clothes makes you fashionable. Balance is important. It can’t be overdone or boring. It has to be somewhere in between, that’s why fashion is so difficult. On top of that, you have to have your own colour.
Translated by: Eunjin @xxxibeunjn
Source: Esquire - summary via bigbangupdates