The last bits of the summer since two typhoons have swept, I met Taeyang. On the day of this interview, it was at 4 am that he just finished his practice with the band set to perform with him at his concert, at the end of September. He said he feels giddy because yesterday has carried on through the night to this morning, but he still had that same smile on his face. Because of the greedy curiosity about “his” story, I didn’t have a chance to ask Taeyang, who has been continuing group activities and solo activities for the past 4 years -, I just asked him the first question I thought of as soon as he sat down – what the biggest change after his solo debut in 2008 was?
Rest of the interview and more scans under the cut!
It was the question that I expected the answer to definitely be “things changed alot” and I pictured this answer in my mind but Taeyang gave me some what of a hollow answer, “Since I actually debuted after setting up a goal to be a singer, I had no time to feel something.” He said, going into preparation for the album, he began agonizing in many ways and realized so many things that he had never seen when living as Big Bang. That, itself, is a kind of change. It’s also different that before, he always had a lot to do, but recently, things have changed where now he has a lot of things he wants to do.
F. You’ve spent the half of your life in YG. Do you feel changes to the label?
T. Recently, moving to the new building, I feel that a lot. There are an increasing number of new producers, and I feel that more when I’m with people who have been together for a long time. Considering doing activities, people call Jiyoung and me “milords”.
F. You’re barely 23 years old, but already”milord”? (laugh)
T. Yeah. (laugh)
F. I’m sorry but you’ll be 30 before long. Aren’t you afraid?
T. I’m afraid. A lot.
F. For what reason?
T. I’ve never thought of the fear until 1~2 years ago. While doing solo activities with the music I’ve wanted to do, I encountered practical problems. It changed me. Some years ago, I’ve just tried to paint large pictures and finish the pitures quickly, but now, I’m agonizing that from what part and how I should paint the pictures specifically. Being farsighted to think of it, I think I’m afraid of solving problems . I’m don’t fear things because I’m scared. I should be solving it with my belief.
F. That is positive. I remember you weren’t a person whose mind was strong. So, Taeyang before the debut, I mean. I was amazed how you’ve got over on all such occasions.
T. I’ve thought, the bigger the despair, the bigger joy it is. ‘Giving up’ couldn’t be an option because I really liked what I was going for.
F. Do you think you’re being rewarded for the process?
F. Are you a person who can prove that you’re not a idol who does as you are told?
T. When I released an EP in 2008, I was like “my opinions tend to be reflected”, but now I decide all things, even small schedules. I didn’t ask I want to do so, but it’s naturally turning into the way.
F. You’re being respected indeed.
T. But I think it’s more of a burden. I’m feeling more responsibilities upon me.
It is natural for Taeyang’s personality, that he is serious, thoughtful and agonized [over the things he does]. Now we’re fed up with calling Taeyang ‘practice bug’, but it’s true. He does until being completed. That is, if he crumbles, he continues practicing to rise to his feet until he can stand straight. In the summer 2008, he was repeating choreography practice to show ‘Sinner’ on the stage, and said it’s hard to sing well because of the composition of the performance that has large motions. For him, he had on a face that looked like giving up one song wouldn’t be too bad, I said “Well, you’re a singer. How can you dance with thinking of reducing singing?” ‘Sinner’ was up on the stage exactly a week later, and that’s flat – you can appreciate it, with online through the edition by president Yang Hyunsuk who was impressed at the place, and with the DVD. Like as the worry of a week ago like a grumble was a lie, Taeyang is like this all the time.
F. How much do you practice?
T. If I set time “I’ll do this much!”, it doesn’t go well, so I just keep going till I can
F. By any chance, when your flaws are pointed out, do you try harder out of spite? (laugh)
T. Rather than making up my mind doggedly, I tend to listen carefully and try to improve.
F. Then, you work till you’re satisfy?
T. At least, until I’m satisfed myself.
F. Are you torn between an idol star and a musican?
T. I’m not. I want to be a musician.
F. You only ‘want’?
T. Oops, I ‘will’ be so. (laugh)
F. The word may be easy to say because you’re already a star now. Can you really abandon all your popularity to be a musician?
T. I can abandon it.
F. You’ve never been unpopular since the debut. So, if it [being unpopular] comes as real results, you might be unable to overcome it.
T. Ah, I don’t know. At least, I’m confident that I don’t have fear. Because I feel very happy for the music I’m doing. I’ve agonized about that before. But, I’m only satisfied with myself and happy, when the music I like is put to the forefront. It’s true, I like doing music I like and also receiving love and attention from many people.
F. I think Taeyang is now an example of the happiest person. Maybe you are unlikely to abandon any side now [meaning solo vs. Big Bang]. Aren’t you embarrassed when you become an issue against your will because you belong to an idol group?
T. Awfully, very much embarrassed. I am so whenever I suffer, even though I’ve suffered for a long time as for me. (laugh) In some ways, that’s something to be thankful for because it is to receive interest as well, but I’m not used to it as ever.
F. Not only singing, but you pay attention to also performances. The stages of ‘I’ll Be There’ make even viewers tired. Should I say the range of activities is too wide? I feel as if you sing less, locked in the concept that you should do performance well.
T. Um.. Actually nowadays, I feel like I also want to sing more
F. It’s like a lie. (laugh) Why do you stick to performance? Is that amusing?
T. Because it’s what I can do now. Basically, I always think that singing very nicely is the best performance. I don’t forget that, but I try it [performance] because I can do it and it is possible to do this performance just now.
F. You appear on TV much, so you may be able to discount the aspects of showing, but other singers actually do it and go back very easily.
T. Actually doing a lot of music show shows, it didn’t seem to suit me. It is too limited. Because of it, I feel the obsession that I have to show things I can do. It looks like showing is more effective than singing in a short time. Releasing the album this time, I hoped to do a lot of comfy live performances. I thought I want to go wherever I can let people listen to my music and sing. I couldn’t find any meaning at the places doing only one-side broadcasting without interactions.
F. Foreigners ask why Korean singers sing songs changing only clothes every week.
T. That’s what I say. These days, I feel doubts about not music but ‘activity’.
F. If there are ideas on alternatives, they would be worth attempting.
T. It’s hard because the system doesn’t move easily. There’s something like a criteria ‘broadcasting=more promotions’, so I never know how effective it would be actually.
F. I feel sorry. About only doing a song 20~30 times and fizzling out.
T. I’ve never thought of it before, but sometimes I think ‘Do I need to build a concert hall, after earning money, after doing other things but singing?’. It’s hard to find places that are enough to do performances. There are not many places that people can come easily and that are well-equipped.
The album SOLAR has a high quality. There are typical R&B/Pops, and there are soulful songs that we can feel Taeyang who musically and physically became an adult more. In the reality of the pop world that they release albums to push up only title songs, I’m very grateful enough to feel ‘Oh, even these things…’, so it is quite amusing to listen as much as that. Rather than there are many melodious songs like ‘Look Only At Me’ lining up, the well-made album SOLAR has songs that we want to chew and swallow, and digest one by one thoroughly. In terms of lyrics, too heavy and serious things to Taeyang, were left out, and it has cheerful weight enough to feel excited. The following English album was produced as a repackaged album, through being ranked on the iTunes charts of USA and Canada. As he made a good album, music naturally gains power to cross borders.
F. What do you think about using vocoder?
T. Personally I don’t like it. It is funny, I went to the studio after making up my mind to exclude using vocoder. Teddy-hyung respected my decision, too. But Teddy-hyung already did guide recording, putting in the vocoder. When I actually tried to record it, it sounded really strange. It was too different from what I’ve listened to, in my ears too. Recording ‘Break It Down’ five or six times so as not to use vocoder, Teddy-hyung said “Let’s put vocoder only once”. I couldn’t take it out after doing once. “Ah, I can’t turn it back. I’ll compromise, hyung.” That’s how it became so.
F. Which singer do you want to be, a singer who sings well, or a singer who sings good songs?
T. A singer who sings good songs. Nope. A singer who sings good songs well. (laugh)
F. I knew you’ll say both of them. (laugh)
T. That’s it. There are many people who can sing well. But there are not many people who do good songs. So that good songs are made, first, the music should be good. And even if the music is not enough a little, it can be a good song if the singer does it well.
F. There are people who evaluate levels of music with not quality but number. Like sales of music downloaded, or the number of broadcasting.
T. I don’t care. Actually when I care about it, I begin to be irritated.
F. But it is unfair.
T. In any case, the way I’m doing it, is right. Actually, after releasing the album, overseas responses were very uplifting to me. I need to look at even wider places. I’m not about to beat each other up in here. That is looking wider and farther.
F. Hitting foreign iTunes charts doesn’t mean every foreigner has purchased them.
T. I know. I just want to keep my composure at this moment. Even if I feel I’m getting somewhere, I don’t want to feel the feeling that I’m being urged on planning the next things straight. When I feel I’m pressed for time, I dream of nightmares. The nightmare, that I come on a concert stage without any preparations.
F. It is after a storm of plagiarism passed by. You’re a person out of controversy. What does originality mean to Taeyang?
T. I try to make sure I do not do anything if it may be suspected to be part of [something else] or if it weighs on my mind. If there was something I doubted and it came out to be a huge issue, I wouldn’t be able to endure that.
F. Then, the music video incident happened. You filmed ‘I Need A Girl’ twice within a few days, and the two different directors at that.
T. The situation was so peculiar. It may sound like an excuse, but the first version doesn’t have my opinions much.
F. It’s an answer in contradiction to the word you did a while ago. You decide all by yourself, but the music video of the title song was released in the state you don’t know?
T. Till then, I’d taken part in the edition works of all other music videos after I watch them farther in advance of releasing. But the music video was suddenly released just on the day I had recording schedules all day. Pressed time for busy plans, I didn’t watch the finishing work this time, and it was uploaded on the homepage earlier. The responses came out like a storm as soon as it was uploaded, so the company closed it down. The whole affair happened only for two hours.
F. Rather than the scene copying Pharrell Williams, the overall image was unlike Taeyang. It was hard to watch it to the end because it was uncomfortable and awkward to watch it.
T. Phew…. I think the feeling of the video came out different that what I had intended.
F. Eventually, the new director (director Seo Hyunseung) filmed ‘I Need A Girl’ again, then, how will you return his favor? (laugh)
T. I’m so sorry to him, and thankful so much. Director Seo Hyungseung couldn’t stand my image being hurt.
F. I thought I got a windfall because ‘You’re My’ was in the opening. The image of the song was made as it is. Simple and sexy.
T. I think it’s the most difficult thing. Only director Seo Hyunseung can match images I think to real products. When I did with the other directors, there were differences between the rough sketches and the products.
In se7en’s interview in F.OUND magazine of last month, there is a mention of Taeyang. Two solo singers, like brothers, who do activities in the same company. The two persons who are close to each other, have desirable relations sharing good influence each other. I opened the interview to let him read the story about Taeyang that Se7en said, and he gave exclamaions “ah~” three or four times while reading. The other way, when I asked Taeyang about Se7en’s being, he revealed thanks and respectful mind “I think, because of Se7en-hyung, I had happy trainee days which could have been hard and weary. I thought [to myself] I will be a hyung like that, if I have hoobae (junior). As a singer, he has done so well. So there’s a lot of to learn. I cautiously approached the question of Taeyang’s “greed” for entering America and whether it was influenced by Se7en’s return from America.
F. The dream into the America has changed?
T. No. I’ve thought of the world stage since I decided to be a singer, so I’m still thinking of it.
F. I think it became a practical matter after Se7en. Aren’t you affected?
T. No. I’m unchanged.
F. Actually I thought following plans will be connected one after another because the English album was released.
T. There were plans of only my own. (laugh) After releasing this album, I wanted to do a great number of live performances. While only thinking myself constantly, I even thought ‘Will I sing standing a mic on the street?’. (laugh)
F. That sounds to my opinion like “You can do if you want to do”.
T. Ah, really… You may think, I can do it if I want to do, and I only need to think it will be so and accept it easily. (luagh) But there are many matters as far as practice. I’m not alone but it’s a company. It’s an assignment to me. An assignment, that I surely have to solve sometime.
F. Are you a person who searches music?
F. You musically tend to have only what you want, right?
T. A bit.
F. Don’t you think it will be a poison? You just began to make music.
T. I think the bias I do is a good bias. Like as people don’t have fast food when eating, I just don’t listen to music that is not good for me. I’ve had a strong bias on genres before, but I don’t have now.
F. I know you receive many CDs from fans or people concerned in the ‘industry’. How much do you listen to them actually?
T. 50%. I should try to listen more.
F. There are “gemstone” albums you found out like that?
T. Old soul albums. The things like the Motown Collection are really nice.
When beginning this interview, one of promises of myself was ‘never bring up dating’ because it is boring to listen to and to ask. But, I asked him if he had any image he wanted to throw away, he directly responded “the word that I’ve never dated”. Actually, leaving personal love lives, some of Taeyang’s songs were excessively heavy for the early 20s to assimilate. Especially, the lyrics of ‘Wedding Dress’ have sad addiction to make us too depressed when listening repeatedly. Of course, it’s a problem that Taeyang felt too. There’s a natural reason ‘understandable lyrics’ why he looks more comfortable now than when he has sung like as acting, through setting up his emotion. Watching Taeyang’s change, the most pleasing thing is that the results of his growth are distinct whenever he releases songs one by one. In the first solo activity of 2008, the outline of R&B he was based on was seen, and from Taeyang of 2010, we can feel the confidence he shows off himself. That is, he has realized the way to treat music and accept it as his own style. He put aside the obsession with the image of the music he has dreamed of. Now at last, Taeyang goes the way he wanted to go. He will go his way lightheartedly.
F. Some people want you to go toward deeper soul. Perhaps it’s because of their expectations. Aren’t you about to make albums toward to the way?
T. After a little more time.
F. How much?
T. When I get to be able to take part in musical parts more. I think I should be able to accomplish many parts by myself, so that my emotional parts deeply come out. So I think you should be waiting. For a very long time.
F. To tell the truth, I’m thankful that you do the song like ‘You’re My’, but listening to it, it’s uneasy a bit. Are you prepared for doing songs that save only vocals?
T. My mind is ready. I think it’s not bad, considering it’s my first outcome.
F. As this album is being finished, you have to return to Big Bang. Taeyang who returns to Big Bang after solo activities, doesn’t look pleased. How’s your real feeling?
T. It isn’t really what I’m not pleased.
F. But why don’t you smile? (laugh) At least in 2008, you looked so. You never smiled when doing the first stage as Big Bang.
T. If you like… Of course I feel something’s missing. Because solo activities have time limits. It is true that I feel many things missing a lot when returning to the team. And the songs’ style is very different, so my biorhythms and mental states don’t quickly be rearranged. This time, I think I won’t be so.
F. You released the full album as Taeyang, and the evaluation was good, too. When you return to the team, it seems like your role will be changed. If you could take part in that, what aspects do you want to influence?
T. I think I could take part in the entire picture or the parts of performance. They are my best parts I can, so I hope to go ahead well to get people to have expectations for Big Bang too.
F. Don’t you have some thoughts of making and putting your songs?
T. Big Bang’s musical style is very different from SOLAR. So I don’t have a plan to put something in this album right now, but Hyunsuk-hyung said to me to write and put songs I can write in Big Bang too. I’ll be getting along little by little.
F. Is there any reason why you must belong to YG?
T. If I didn’t meet YG, I couldn’t do the music I’m doing now. Is it possible in other labels?
F. When you released HOT, I thought only Teddy can write songs for Taeyang. But seeing SOLAR, featured rappers as well as producers are new names. I thought ‘Ah, it doensn’t matter if it is done so’.
T. It only depends on me and that I have to try harder, but I wish to have a wide choice on the musical section. I want to meet many producers who do activities aborad as well as in our country. For my future, I should try more.
F. Many people want to work with you. The criterion of collaboration partners is?
T. I hope open-minded people musically and humanly. People who can compromise on each other’s opinions and people who know my style of music well, are enough for the condition of collaborating with me.
F. There are people who will endlessly wait for you again after the solo concert. What do you want to say to them?
T. What can I say… I think I could release the next album after finding myself a little more. This album took a long time as well, but it will maybe need time that much at least. But it is not important how much it takes. There’s the bigger matter of how much I understand myself. It is a personal greed, but if I make even my albums meaninglessly, it may get hard for me. Making, recording, copying, doing activities busily… The next, we evaluate the results. At least, When making my albums, I never want to do the meaningless repeats.
F. You’re satisfied with the result of the first full album, right?
T. Yes. As my first step.
F. Listeners are already ready to listen to the next album. I’ll wait for you to return and give a new impression.
T. Okay. That’s what I want to give.
Of course, I have much thanks for the good music, but I don’t want to praise Taeyang highly for the results so far achieved . Because SOLAR is just a present record… Throughout this interview, over a few hours, during the serious questions, Taeyang could loudly answer one and then showed silence that were pauses before answers. He was so serious even about short questions, then he would be more serious about the work for albums. Don’t believe that there is meek and mild Taeyang in kind Dong Youngbae’s smile, with smiling eyes. The youth, that is keeping songs he wants to do and performances he wants to show in his heart, and having huge greed for music. The reason why we can have great expectations for his future, is because there’s no soul that stops growing at the age of 23.
TRANSLATION BY MYOKOON@ALWAYS TAEYANG (Credit when taking elsewhere!)