[Translation] Jang Woo Cheol’s “Here and There” : Dong Young Bae’s Spring


“Here and There” is author Jang Woo Cheol’s  first book; a collection of his thoughts, anecdotes, poems and images that he recorded over the seasons. He also included some select interviews including artists Lee SoRa, Kwon Bu Min and Taeyang among other personalities who have made an impression on him. This is the 5th time Jang Woo Cheol has interviewed Taeyang at length, the previous 4 times were for GQ Korea (of which JWC is an editor). The previous interviews are an insightful journal of Taeyang’s growth over the past 4 years and their obvious rapport and chemistry makes for great reading each time.  This latest interview is no exception.

Dong Young Bae’s Spring
Born in 1988. Also known as Taeyang

You’re wearing a cap. I figured you’d be wearing a cap.
Yes, I finished late last night, but instead of going to sleep, I went dancing and just woke up before coming here.

Has Spring arrived?
(long pause) For me, Spring has arrived. It has truly arrived.

Should I set up the camera? I hear you won’t speak unless there’s a camera these days.
Me? Who said that?

I did. Unlike before, lately you even look like you’re having fun in variety shows. Does this mean you’ve overcome something?
Um, to tell you the truth, I just don’t bother. Things don’t bother me.

And that’s how Spring came to you? How did it arrive, really?
Ah, how should I say this? It’s not that I’m so old, per se, but once I turned twenty-five, some things just felt very new. They feel completely different. By the way, weren’t we supposed to have this interview by the river?

Ah, we mentioned Hantang River that time. I’d forgotten about that.
When you brought it up, I was looking forward to it. I like scenic places.

‘Scenic places…’ Sometimes you’re so shameless [brazen, yet funny at the same time] in the way you express things. Like the time you said you wanted to ‘love without trap.’ It’s like hearing kids raised by their grandmothers say their entire body aches to the joints. Am I treating you too much like a child when you just stated that you’re twenty-five? What is your mother like?
She’s an exceedingly ordinary person.

If we start applying the word ‘ordinary,’ would anyone not be considered ordinary?
She’s very, very, very sensitive [highly aware of surroundings, easily affected]. I take after her in that sense.

When you were young, you went to film auditions, didn’t you?
I was a very pretty kid back then. Really. My face became chubby after I started attending the acting school, but I was very cute until then.

Did you want to do it?
No.

Were you dragged there?
Um, thinking back, I had no choice but to go. What happened was that my father had a good job, but then the IMF crisis hit. I was immediately sent to my aunt’s care. I went to the acting academy because her twin daughters were going. I still remember saying I really didn’t want to go. Even at that age, I hated being forced into doing things. I enjoyed playing the piano and listening to music by myself. But you know how it is at family gatherings – the adults always try to make you sing or perform. I just… really…

Like the dog-legged dance?
Yes, I was very bad at it, and I hated it. So obviously, an acting academy wasn’t right for me. First of all, at acting school, you had to show what you were good at. They want to see talent. It was so embarrassing and humiliating, and just the idea of memorizing a script and reciting it… I thought it didn’t seem right.

Take away ‘thought,’ and you wouldn’t be Dong Young Bae.
Yes, I was already kind of like that. Then I heard that somebody was looking for a child actor for a music video, and it turned out to be an agency called YG. A friend was auditioning, so I just tagged along. But I resolved to myself that I would get into that agency. I was thirteen.

Thirteen. Did you know something then? It would seem you knew something then that you don’t know now.
The moment I told my mom I was going to join YG, I already knew I would have to bear everything on my own.

Really?
I still remember that I believed I had to make a decision. Studying just wasn’t for me. It’s not that I was so terrible at it. Really. No, really. Even in my mind, I’m pretty smart.

There’s that repertoire that mothers use, “My child is actually pretty smart but…”
Um, as a child, it came as a shock to actually see my father [his career] crumble overnight. It really affected me greatly. Being told we had to move to a bad neighborhood and such. I felt like I needed to hurry up and support the family. But I could not get into acting. On the other hand, I really wanted to do music. I thought I had to get into YG no matter what.  My mother objected at first, but she eventually said to ahead if I want it that badly, but to not blame her if things go bad, that it was all on me. So I said okay.

Haha, ‘Okay.’
At that moment I turned my back on films and all that. To be honest, it was difficult. I was a trainee, but there wasn’t even a provisional contract.  I was essentially told that they would let me use the rehearsal space if I wanted to practice, and that was it. It was a very different situation from Ji Yong’s, even though we joined around the same time. I got in because of my persistence, whereas Ji Yong was scouted from another agency. It was very hard. That was in Hapjeong-dong, too.

Every day, every minute and every second must have built up inside you.
I had to go to school in Uijeongbu and, of course, take exams. I had a rule that I couldn’t fall below fifteenth place in the class. And I never did fall below fifteenth place. Why do you laugh?

Haha.
I say this sometimes – I think I was crazy at the time. I barely slept, even. Shuttling back and forth between Uijeongbu and Hapjeong-dong, I would go to bed around 3 or 4 and be up at 7. Ah, I always think that if I had slept properly in those days, I would have been taller than now by [as much as]

Come on.
I was just crazy. That’s the only way I can explain it.

There’s this thing called achievement motivation. Say, wanting to be acknowledged by someone, or wanting to be on stage as soon as possible.
I was just really happy to be where I was, doing what I was doing. That was all really. My mom came to see me from time to time, wondering how I was doing, whether I was practicing well. What I told my mom was, “Mom, I’m not planning to be a singer just to rank first or second in the Korean charts.”

Wow.
Haha. “If I’m going to be a singer, I’m aiming for the top of Billboard, not some charts here in Korea. I don’t think you need to come here and worry about me.” I remember saying things like that.

What do you think you dreamed of then?
My image of a singer was always one of singing in front of a packed crowd in an enormous dome. I felt I would perform in such a space, too. Of course I would perform there.

Even though you couldn’t do the dog-legged dance in front of family?
Haha, I don’t know. It was completely different. At the time, I was practicing rapping. All the hyungs around me were rappers, and I really worked hard. It was a different style back then. These days, it’s the trend to blur the line between rapping and singing, but, back then, rap was just rap. To be honest, I don’t think I was able to keep up very well.

So you were holding onto something you weren’t very good at, you wanted to be good, and, all the while, your dream being what it was…
Right. It was really hard back then.

And then how did you begin singing instead of rapping?
But then, when I think about it, I really liked to sing ever since I was little.

Haha.
Really. I would close the door and listen to a song I liked over and over until I could memorize it – not the actual lyrics, but the pronunciation. But as I got into rapping, I forgot about singing. Then when I was fifteen or sixteen, the R&B scene emerged. That’s when I realized I needed to sing. It didn’t go very well either, because my voice was breaking at the time, but I realized while listening to Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men and Stevie Wonder that singing moved me in ways that were much greater than the way rap affected me. I never once shed a tear listening to raps, but I cried a lot listening to songs.

If it made you cry, that says it all. But Uijeongbu boys are different from Seoul boys, right?
They’re rougher, more streetwise. They’re different. Very different. Because I lived there, I can say that with certainty. Schools weren’t standardized back then, so the good, smart kids would go to one school, the average kids went to another while the ones who didn’t do anything tended to gather at another.

Where did you belong?
I was thoroughly in the upper middle group.

I’ve heard you knew how to use your fist.
Ah, that’s a rumor stemming from misinformation. I think that’s the difference between Seoul kids and Uijeongbu kids in a nutshell. Because when Uijeongbu kids meet, the first thing they ask is, “Who’s the Jjang [best fighter] at your school? So that’s what I said when I met Ji Yong, “Who’s the Jjang at your school?” Ji yong said this and that, and then asked me where I ranked in my school. I said, “After so-and-so and so-and-so is me. I’m probably about third?” I was joking, but I guess since I liked to dance, I did hang around with that crowd. And that’s how the story got distorted. I never did anything outright bad, but I got into a lot of mischief. Disturbing the class, saying nonsense and provoking the teachers for no reason. I was comfortable because I was surrounded by people I knew, and I think in a way it was my talent as a performer manifesting itself. I was always singing and dancing in the halls.

Then did you willingly go up and perform when asked?
Ah, but if it was a class representative kind of thing… It was like, as soon as they laid out the mat… [Idiom: basically, as soon as someone gave him a chance to perform, he wouldn’t/couldn’t.]

Shame. You came up with the name Taeyang yourself, right?
Before BIGBANG, I went by the name Taekwon when featuring as a guest rapper. I really didn’t like that name. I only found out after the album came out that I’d been named Taekwon. I hated the thought of continuing with that name in BIGBANG. I thought I would get in trouble if I tried to change my name completely. So, little kid that I was, I thought it would somehow appease them if I at least kept the ‘Tae’ and decided on ‘Taeyang.’ Hyun Seok hyung didn’t care for it, but I liked it.

Of course, I already knew ‘Lies,’ but the song that made me take note of you was ‘Look Only At Me.’ Every summer, that song comes to mind. The song evokes a season.That was about five years ago already.

‘Already?’
Yes, that’s how it feels. At the time, there were no producers around me. At first, we proceeded with my solo album by collecting songs from foreign composers I’d never seen or heard of. All I could think was, this is wrong, it can’t go on like this. There wasn’t a single song that touched my emotions. The album was supposed to come out earlier, but I kept declining everything to the point that [Yang Hyun Seok] half-jokingly said he couldn’t work with me, haha. I kept waiting. On the one hand, I didn’t know which way to go. After about a year, Teddy hyung came. One day, he let me listen to a song that he said he had written the night before, and it was the very music I’d been drawing and redrawing in my head. Wow, it was just… I couldn’t hide my excitement. I said, “ I love this. I really, really love this. This is the kind of music I’d been wanting to do.” I showed it too much.

PHOTO: “This is the cap I wore when I filmed the ‘Look Only at Me’ music video. Anyway, I should have washed it before bringing it.”

PHOTO: “This is something I really wanted. This bracelet was a birthday present for me not long after our debut. The other members saved up together to buy it, even though they probably didn’t have much money back then.”

What you said about drawing a picture. An artist that I admire, Kwon Bu Mun, once said, “It’s easy for photographers to inevitably become like hunters, but one must guard against that at all cost. If you invest all your energy in dreaming up the image you want, it will surely come.” He wasn’t speaking about mysticism, but about the inevitability of the world. And this and hard work are separate issues.
Ah, that’s right. I understand what he means. I really like that quote. It might sound very abstract, but that has always been true in my case. When I feel that I want to do something, that image comes to me like a photograph. It always does. Honestly, there are times when an image doesn’t emerge. At times like that, I think it’s best to stop working. You can’t approach it with the outlook of I have to find good music, I have to make good music. You draw a picture and wait.

Otherwise, you may lose your edge overnight.
Right. It’s really true.

It’s our fifth interview together, but you seem like a different person, especially more so today. Why is that?
I’ve changed. My personality has changed. Even compared to just a year ago, I’ve changed. I simply think it was time. I didn’t try to change, but this bright and happy appearance is just another part of me.

What do you think you’ve passed through?
I’ve passed through many seasons.

During the first concert of the 2012 BIGBANG World Tour, I saw you trying to introduce each and every member of the session band. We couldn’t really hear you amidst the roar of the crowd, but it made me think, “Yes, that’s Taeyang. That’s how he is.” You were only doing what you were supposed to do, but for some reason it touched my heart.
Haha, I don’t know why either, but others who have kept an eye on me say the same thing. I think so, too, when I look at myself.

It made me think, “This guy would never claim to have something he does not have.” Not that anyone lies on purpose, but people sometimes say things that eventually get them mired in a mess of their own making. But Dong Young Bae never does.
Honestly, when I receive a question, my mind is so cluttered with sudden thoughts [that I couldn’t possibly come up with a lie.]

As Taeyang, the singer, what is your way of looking at the present?
Ah, this is a question I really want to answer well. (long pause) I’m not sure if I’m saying this properly, but having turned twenty-five, the thought that comes to mind most often is that I don’t have a lot of time. But with that insight came a sense of peace [unhurried calm]. Strangely, it made me feel more relaxed. What is this?  How can I explain it? I don’t even know.

It made you bolder instead?
As soon as I turned twenty-five, I became conscious of my age. I want to do exactly what I can do right now.

It sounds to me like this is not specifically related to the desire to perform solo or anything like that.
No, it’s not. Whatever it is – whether it’s travel or singing or dance – I feel like I’m at the center and everything is revolving around me. To tell you the truth, I can’t really even feel people’s eyes on me. It’s like I’m no longer conscious of certain things? That’s why it’s exciting. I’m having such a great time these days. I feel like I’ve become myself. I don’t know how you felt listening to it, but I was satisfied with our [Alive] album.  What did you think?

‘Bad Boy’ is superb.
I can see very clearly now. Before, there was the sense that I was wandering. I knew what I liked and what I wanted to do, and yet when it came down to actually doing it, I felt adrift. It weighed down on me. Now, I feel deeper [richer, more pigmented, like he has a stronger sense]. No matter what I sing, what music I dance to, my own color is now deeper than it was. I don’t wander anymore.

Taekwon! [Most probably alluding to the Korean anime robot Taekwon-V and, more precisely, its character.]
Haha.

Do you read books?
Books? Ah, not much these days.

Why the guilty look all of a sudden?
To tell you the truth, I really like comic books.

Are you embarrassed to say that you like comic books?
You don’t know One Piece, do you? That’s the best for me.

To feel unhurried is a good thing. Because it is not something that’s just given to you.
I want to travel whenever I have time. You told me before that travel is always good. Honestly, at the time I didn’t understand why it’s good. Back then, I had plenty of time to travel, but I didn’t. Because first of all, it’s not much fun to go alone. Then somehow I discovered that freshness of just being someplace new that isn’t here, whether it was for work or whatever. Though I haven’t traveled much, I feel – and I felt this when I was vacationing in Okinawa, Japan last year, too – that when I visit someplace, I rediscover something that I had lost. “I used to love things like this… I was like this as a kid…” I feel it anew. I want to travel anywhere and everywhere.

It’s strange. You must clearly catch the eye, and yet you’re not an issue-maker.
It occurs to me from time to time that I’m not really suited for celebrity. I don’t feel sorry about it. [long pause] But I’ve never thought about that problem, that I‘m not an issue-maker.

What are ‘people’ to Taeyang?
Those who I hope will get certain ideas or inspiration from watching me.

You really think that way?
Yes, that’s the kind of person I want to be.

Has the boy become a man?
In what sense?

I don’t know.
I think I’m becoming one. I can’t say I’ve become one. I’m not one yet.

Then how do you know you are becoming one? Is there a sign? Like the way a pressure cooker makes a sound?
That’s it. Exactly.

Well, what’s it exactly?
I feel a sign. I really feel the desire to meet [be in a relationship with] a genuine person. I never thought about that before. And in another respect, my feelings toward to the members have grown incomparably. I realize that we are living this moment together.

The summer of 2010… I still have an image of your second solo concert, ‘Solar.’ We were in the same place, but it must be a very different image for you.
Ah… it’s… (after a long pause) It’s… faint [dim, faded]. I remember it fondly. Yes.

Does it feel like time has passed?
Yes, like a lot of time has passed. No matter how much I say I’ve changed, there are probably people who are unwilling to accept it. When I say I remember that concert fondly, it’s because there were feelings that existed only in that moment.  I felt like I would never have a concert like that again. I don’t know why I felt that way. It felt final. It was melancholic and delicate and hard to define. I’ll meet that audience again, but when I think back to then…

You said that whatever music they listen to, you hoped they would be happy.
Yes, if it’s good music.

Do you sometimes think about your first solo composition, ‘Take It Slow’?
Every time I listen to that song, I think, “This almost didn’t make the album.” That’s the thought that crosses my mind the most.

Have you memorized the lyrics now? (At the concert, he missed some of the lyrics.)
I have.

Liar.
Okay, I haven’t.

The ‘slow’ in ‘Take It Slow’ – by it, did you mean, “Please preserve the boy”?
Haha.

When I interviewed you several years ago, I told you out of the blue that you should drink and let yourself go. But now it looks like those words have become unnecessary. In fact, you almost seem like someone who’s given up alcohol [after drinking in the past]. But people are still interested in speculating about whether or not you have dated.
Every time I hear that, I think, “Does that matter so much? I mean, is that really so relevant?”

How do we know you don’t have bottles of raspberry wine in your fridge? [The Korean black raspberries are believed to have aphrodisiac qualities that increase sexual desire.]
Haha, there’s only Perrier water.

Any food that you can’t eat?
Just repulsive food.

Like, you don’t pick out the scallions from your beef soup?
No, I don’t like that, being picky about food. I don’t like it when others do it either. By the way, I’m really good at finding good food.

How so?
Well, it’s a hunch. I just know when I look at it.

The Food Guru, Mr. Dong Guru?
Yes, when somebody brings food saying it’s delicious, I would think it’s going to taste a certain way, and it does. I think I know what taste is. Honestly, I don’t think all of my mom’s food is delicious just because she cooked it. I’m that objective. I can tell by looking.

What do you look at?
The texture, for instance. I can guess what flavor a certain kind of texture will produce.

Where did such confidence in your palate come from?
At first, I wasn’t sure. But then the people around me started asking for my opinion. They ask me what looks good before they eat.

I can’t help suspecting you know, at best, maybe the taste of different hamburgers.
Um, I think I know why you’re doubtful. But this I’m certain – when I eat something, I can tell whether the food is ‘real’ [quality].

How do you feel about the fact that you [live in] Korea?
To tell you the truth, when I was younger, I sometimes wished I’d been born in America. But now, I’m so glad to be Korean. Not because of some blind love for the country, but because there are so many things that are possible because I’m Korean. First of all, no other country has the kind of food that we have here in Korea. I keep talking about food, but there’s so much variety here. It means that we know flavors that nobody else has experienced. Americans will never in their lives be able to appreciate the taste of Cheonggukjang [a soybean paste stew with a very pungent smell. YB has previously mentioned that it’s a favorite dish of his]. And what else?

Sesame leaves.
Right, sesame leaves. We know that flavor. I think such knowledge is expressed as a certain sensibility when we make music. I believe there are sensibilities, which we have, that they will never know. That they cannot even imitate.

So Taeyang’s musical roots come from Cheonggukjang?
Haha, let’s not go that far.

Hm, I think the Korean language…
Ah! Is it okay if I say something about that first?

Go ahead.
Mm, I think the Korean language is the greatest. It’s crazy. Norang in English is ‘yellow,’ but when the color fades, we say it’s ‘nurikiri.’ There’s no equivalent to the expression ‘the eyes are chimchim,’ for example [‘bleary’ would be the closest equivalent]. What other language has an expression like that? But because I’m Korean, I can understand the subtle nuances and sensibilities of such words. That right there is the greatest treasure I have. I sing in Japanese and in English, too, but Korean is the language I can most precisely convey my emotions with. I mean, take a look at the lyrics of older Korean songs. Take a look at Jo Yong Pil [one of the most famous and respected singers in Korea]’s lyrics.

With good lyrics that can precisely convey things, your music can become much richer.
Yes, I really think so.

So keep books close to you.
Haha, I will.

Hearing the word ‘sincerity’ from a singer who is regarded as an Idol feels as unfamiliar as ever. How do you cherish that word now?
I say that I’ve changed, that change isn’t bad, that it was due time, but, like you said, people want me to remain constant and unchanging. But ‘sincerity’ isn’t something that can be changed, is it? It’s not something I can change. Even if my hairstyle changes and my attitude changes, I don’t think it’s possible to change the essence of what I want to express through my music. That’s not something I can do by will. There are many great technical singers and many great performers, but I can only respect them if I feel their sincerity. That’s never changed. Actually, it hasn’t been long since I began to really hear my own singing. Now, I can hear my voice accurately. In the past, I only listened because I had to monitor myself. For instance, I couldn’t listen to my music during my spare time the way I do Jo Yong Pil or Michael Jackson’s music. But I no longer think, “Why did I sing that way? I should have sung it with this kind of emotion [instead]…” I could listen to my singing the same way I listen to any other singer now.

PHOTO: “It’s just a white tee. Ah, it rips easily.”

 

PHOTO: “Doesn’t this look like me?”

 

During your solo stage at the BIGBANG concert, you performed ‘Wedding Dress,’ ‘Where U At’ and ‘Look Only at Me.’ Not ‘I Need a Girl’ or ‘I’ll Be There.’
I tend not to perform ‘I Need a Girl.’ It’s a good song, but it seems to lack something for the stage. The reason I perform those three songs is because I feel they are the ‘clothes’ that fit me the best. I can act [pretend the other songs fit him just as well] if I had to, but I don’t want to. I want to express myself with complete freedom.

There’s this thing called the Proust Questionnaire. It’s a set of questions that were devised by Marcel Proust while he was socializing with his friends. Would you like to try answering them? Then let’s begin. If you can change one thing about yourself?
(long pause) It can be anything, right? (long pause) I wish I could get rid of my tendency to think too much.

Your greatest happiness?
Ah…. (a long blank expression)

I knew you’d be like this. I knew you would take your time.
See, I wish I could get rid of these thoughts in my head. Even as I reply, I’m wondering, “Is this the right answer? Is what I’m saying the truth? Am I answering the question correctly?” I keep thinking.

Your worst fear?
I’m not afraid of anything.

You’re not afraid of snakes?
Snakes? Not really.

Who do you admire the most in real life?
(long pause) Ah…

Let’s pass on that one then.
No, it’s just that I’m still thinking about what I fear.

Did you think of something?
No. Actually, I’m not even afraid of ghosts.

How about bees? Wasps?
Bees?

Or rats?
Rats?

Birds are scary. Like flamingos or roosters.
Roosters?

You’re considering all of these one by one right now?
Haha. Ah! I’m afraid of cockroaches.

If you see one, you can’t kill it?
I spray that thing [insect repellent].

Any fictional character you identify with?
Luffy, from ‘One Piece.’

The greatest luxury you get to enjoy?
People’s interest.

A place you like to visit?
(long pause) I want to go to Brazil. I really want to see the sunrise there. And I really want to see the statue of Christ atop the hill in Rio de Janeiro with my own eyes.

What kind of circumstance makes you lie?
An awkward, embarrassing situation.

What don’t you like about your looks?
Nothing.

What kind of person do you despise?
Someone who speaks banmal [using familiar form of speech, considered impolite] as soon as they meet you.

Is there a word you tend to overuse?
I’ve been saying ‘call’ a lot these days. [In Korea, saying ‘call’ is slang to express instant agreement when someone suggests something.]

Were you someone that didn’t say ‘call’ before?
Because I had to hear and comprehend everything first, whatever it was. These days, I just say “Call.”

Your greatest love?
(long pause) Um, the greatest love… (long pause) I’ve experienced it just once.

Just once?
There’s just one person I really loved.

Then it’s not true that you’ve never been in love?
No, it’s not true. I can assure you I’ve experienced love before. I just haven’t been in a relationship.

So you’re saying it was unrequited?
That wasn’t the case. What’s clear is that I loved her so much, she knew it, and she loved me, too. I think I was very deeply in love with her.

Was this a long time ago?
It wasn’t that long ago, since it was shortly after we debuted. This is the first time I’ve talked about this. The others members don’t know about it either.

How come you never brought it up?
Because everybody asked whether I’d been in a relationship.

So while you were busy contemplating, “Was what I experienced a relationship or was it love? Is this question about relationships or about love?” you got branded as “Taeyang, the one who’s never been on a date”?
That’s what happened. It’s probably not wise to say this, but I loved her so much that it makes me wonder if it will be possible to meet someone like that again.

Does that person still provide you with inspiration?
Of course. I feel I really loved her a lot. I wonder if I’ll be able to love another person as much. The feelings I had are still vivid in my mind. I remember thinking that, for this person, I would be willing to switch my career if it meant that we could be together. But it didn’t work out. It was a bad ending. (after a pause) Will I be able to meet someone like that again…

What’s an ability you’d most like to have?
Me? I want to fly.

Your current emotional state?
Very calm.

Your favorite flower?
Sunflower.

Really?
No. Why did I say that all of a sudden? I like cactuses.

Your greatest achievement?
Achievement? I haven’t yet…

Your most cherished possession?
I don’t cherish anything. I like white tees.

Where do you want to live?
Korea.

Your most notable trait?
Indecisiveness.

Haha. What is the most necessary quality for a man?
Passion.

The most necessary quality for a woman?
Femininity.

Is there a theme or subject you are immersed in?
The phrase ‘Real Recognize Real.’ I thought I had conceived and coined this phrase, but it turns out that it already existed.

That’s it for the Proust Questionnaire. What is ‘singing’ to Taeyang right now?
Singing, to me, is… (long pause) joy. People can find a certain kind of joy in drinking or dating. I feel it through singing. I think I’m at my peak right now. But I don’t feel greed.

Of all things, you don’t feel greed.
By that, I mean I don’t feel rushed. I’m going to wait until the music I’m drawing in my mind emerges. That’s what works for me.

So you’re telling us to wait.
That’s something nobody knows. It could end up being tomorrow for all I know.

Such a perverse thing to say.
Actually, I’ve been working with this year as the goal. I’ve already prepared, and I’m continuing to prepare.

There’s something, I can tell.
There is. Definitely. But what I ultimately want to say is that I’m not being greedy right now. My musical greed is limitless. I consider right now to be my prime. I have no thoughts outside of music. But all this doesn’t exhaust me or weigh me down.  It’s the best possible condition. To be able to absorb and express. Music was my priority before, too, but I used to feel it as a burden sometimes. But now, it’s not like that at all. I don’t feel the need to do things to the point of tormenting myself. I don’t have that kind of greed. The kind that made me think, “If I make this kind of music, people will look at me this way…” It’s become clear that I’m headed toward the image I’ve drawn. Everything’s become clear, and that’s why I don’t feel greedy.

It’s not laziness, but a sense of peace.
Yes, that’s it exactly.

You said you danced yesterday, right?
My schedule ended around 1 or 2 in the morning. I was tired, but I went to the club and danced for about three hours.  After a certain point, I start to feel like my body becomes the music. Even if it’s a song I’m hearing for the first time, my body moves. Instinctively. In my opinion, the high you get from that cannot even be compared to the kind you would get from drinking and such. That’s something I’ve realized.

With dance, I sometimes get the impression that one is always raising one’s limits. The more you dance, the further you go toward a place that cannot be reached. The body is like that. It’s just a vague thought I had.
I used to think singing and dance were different. But it’s actually the same. Right now, there’s no difference between the two. The emotions I feel are on the same wavelength. They are exactly the same.

Are you the best dancer in Korea?
The idea of being a good dancer… I don’t think it’s about being able to do a move that nobody else can do or anything like that. That’s just flaunting acrobatics. If there is no joy in it, the very act of dancing has no validity. On television, I sometimes see elders who start dancing because they cannot contain their joy. I think that is true dancing. To say I’m the best dancer? I would rather say it like this – that when it comes to the joy I feel in my dancing, I can feel it more clearly than anyone else in the world.

Do you feel lonely?
I don’t know how you will take this, but I think I’ve passed the stage of loneliness. I always had to do things by myself. And I wasn’t a kid that welcomed [help?]. I feel like I was always battling loneliness. “Right now, I am battling.” I really cried a lot. Now, my spirit isn’t at a level that feels loneliness.

‘Level’?
Yes. Being lonely is… (long pause) What I mean is that I don’t want to say, “I’m lonely,” but the feeling of loneliness, itself, is something I hold dear. It hasn’t been long since I started writing down the thoughts that come to mind when I feel those emotions. Words that I ordinarily never use become real and come to me. When that happens, I just let myself be. What I write and sing then is more ‘me’ than ever, I feel. In that sense, it’s exciting.

Do you miss anything?
There are a lot of things I miss. Lately, I think about my old friends a lot. I parted with a lot of people during my line of work. I have a longing for people, including the manager hyungs who were closest to me. (long pause) I seem to have said a lot of frank stuff today.

Such as?
Well, about where I am right now.

Are you going to ask me to keep watching you?
To tell you the truth, no one is obliged or has cause to support me and cheer me on and wait for me, right? It’s not like I’m running for congressional election. I just make music that I can make, that I love to make, and hope that it gives strength to people who listen to it. That is all. I do it because I really love it. I will always continue to make music.

Now, you’re going to sleep when you get home, right?
Um, I’ll have to think about it first.

PHOTO: “It’s cocoa, and it’s delicious.”

TRANSLATIONS BY SILLY FOR ALWAYSTAEYANG (Please credit if taking elsewhere.)
[Translators notes are in brackets]
Scanned photos are from bigbangupdates.com and alwaystaeyang. 

For those who want to look back on Taeyang’s previous GQ interviews, here’s a handy link guide:

(All the interviews are by Jang Woo Cheol except where indicated)

18 thoughts on “[Translation] Jang Woo Cheol’s “Here and There” : Dong Young Bae’s Spring”

  1. Sooooooo……can I just say the JWC+YB is an entity that should never disappear from this world? YB’s interviews with JWC are seriously the best. I never want anyone but JWC to interview hi,

    I feel like no one else can get down to the nitty gritty with YB like JWC. JWC doesn’t hesitate to prod and pry YB to get deep into his thoughts, not holding back just because YB is a top idol. Maybe it’s because they have such a mutual respect and understanding of each other. They’re so comfortable with each other. It doesn’t even feel like an interview, but a meeting of two like-minded people.

    This interview was seriously great. I can’t even pick and choose my favorite parts because there were so many great quotes. The one that stuck out for me the most was probably when they were talking about sincerity.
    “But ‘sincerity’ isn’t something that can be changed, is it? It’s not something I can change. Even if my hairstyle changes and my attitude changes, I don’t think it’s possible to change the essence of what I want to express through my music.”
    THIS is why I love YB so much. Amidst any changes he might be experiencing, I know his love and appreciation for music will never change. His music is what drew me in and his music is what will keep me here.

  2. Another great interview with JWC, such a good read! >v<

    He really asks the right questions and digs deeper for YB's thoughts, the man does think a lot, so props to him! It seems to me like each interview is just a catch up session for them, and it makes reading the conversation a real pleasure.

    I can really relate to YB's answer on sincerity and loneliness, because it's something that's been in my thoughts as I go about in my life as well.

    YB's right that anything on the outside may seem like changes to a person, but sincerity is something you can't hide or change. His love and passion for music is really admirable and pure – may that never change, because in essence – it is those two emotions that will speak for itself and move people's hearts in his music.

  3. First of all, thanks so much Silly for a terrific translation! I especially liked the conversational tone – I could somehow “hear” YB (and JWC) talking in the whole interview.

    “Whatever it is – whether it’s travel or singing or dance – I feel like I’m at the center and everything is revolving around me. To tell you the truth, I can’t really even feel people’s eyes on me. It’s like I’m no longer conscious of certain things? That’s why it’s exciting. I’m having such a great time these days. I feel like I’ve become myself.”

    Though it’s no surprise, it’s great to hear confirmation that he is much happier and at peace with himself. As we observed before, he now seems to have had some sort of psychological breakthrough and feels more free and less burdened by worries. Also, that he doesn’t feel as much of a need to control (events or himself) and is open to serendipity (putting his positive thoughts out there and letting Providence take care of the rest.) What a contrast this interview is to the April 2011 interview (which struck me, and some other fans, as rather sad at the time.) What I like most about JWC’s interviews of Taeyang is that they are such good portraits of Taeyang at that particular moment. It’s rather ironic though that he seems much more confident in the direction he is going as an artist amidst all the concerns fans have as he is changing before our eyes. (Especially ironic when his long promised new music is being delayed for one reason or another.) Wonder what the next installment will bring. (I certainly hope JWC gets a chance to interview him again when the new music is out. I am sure Taeyang will have a lot to say.)

  4. thank you for the translations ^^

    and thanks a lot for the handy link to their past interview duos. I’ll go straight rereading those!! such a nostalgia for me🙂

    I’ve been waiting for this interviews to be released and translated, to catch a glimpse of his thoughts at the moment after the obvious appearance wise change that shock a lot of people. It seems that he let go and hopefully being totally himself and happy right now.

    He is lucky that he is surrounded by people who understand him, not all producer will have the patient and understanding such as YG. Sometimes we have to wait for the right things to come along at the right time. I’ll be waiting patently for his next album, I’ve been waiting all this time, a little more time won’t hurt, as long as it satisfied him when he release it. But I can’t help but expecting some of his own composed song and have more confidence in his own song (Take it Slow is always one of my favorite!).

    If in the future Taeyang will have his own biography, JWC will be the suitable candidate writing it.

  5. Thank you for the wonderful translation of such a fantastic interview. I appreciated both JWC and YB’s candidness and chemistry in this interview. It’s obvious these guys are friends.

    There was too much to munch on in this interview – too much to comment on. But I will say that it’s been quite a journey being a YB stan/fangirl/fanmom. Being so close in age with him, I’ve always felt like we were growing together – going through all the growing pains together. It feels like he has reached some resolution, even if it’s a temporary one. There’s been a lot of talk/concern over the changes we’ve seen in him, but this interview really puts everything to rest. He’s happy. He’s well aware of what he’s doing. He doesn’t take himself too seriously to let his “celebrity” status determine who he is. He’s such a refreshing and satisfying artist to follow.

    With that said, I learned so much about him through this interview. Surely I’ve said this about a billion times, but we are SOLmates, because [1]he has a dorky sense of humor (tall comment made me literally LOL) [2]loves to travel [3]has smarts (okay, his discussion on the Korean language had me swooning) [4]driven [5]appreciates and knows good food [6]etc etc. Only if he was real…to me.😦

    1. Welcome! I don’t think we’ll ever know about his private life til YB decides to share that information himself (and given YG artists’ track record in that regard, it may be an extremely long wait ;))

  6. BM, thanks for letting me keep the book!^^

    Actually, one of the things I appreciated about the book was that JWC himself chose to retain the conversational tone of the interview, which made it easier for me to convey their rapport better, I think. (GQ actually publishes their interviews in the written form of speech(?), which is drier and more journalistic.)

    I have to say, I soooo agree with YB when he says that the Korean language rocks.^^ I’m not going to claim it’s the best, since I only know one other language fluently, haha, but there is so much nuance and range of expression in Korean that I can’t find in the English language. I’m always stumped because I want to do the interviews justice but struggle to find the English equivalents for certain words or phrases . -.-;;

    For instance, when YB says that he remembers the Solar concert “dim[ly]… fondly,” it’s so much more nuanced than those words can convey. I ended up using those dictionary definitions because I figured that YB expands upon it pretty well in the next answer. Anyway, I hope the meaning came through all right – kind of nostalgic and poignant and touching and sad and beautiful and…. Haha.

    Interestingly, I almost never have the same problem when translating from English to Korean. Which, considering that my English is way more fluent than my Korean, is proof in point, I think!^^

    1. Oh I totally agree about how even a careful translation can only best approximate the nuances of the original. That’s why I’m so grateful for all the hard work (and talent) that goes into good translations. (We’re so lucky in our ATY translators …. <3<3 <3)

      The interview was in April 2012 right? Reading your translation the past few days, I was just struck by how life really can just turn on a dime. Even before the whole nosebleed incident, I did feel that YB is more stressed nowadays. Maybe its just being busy with putting an album together in the middle of a world tour, but I get an odd sense that he has reverted a bit back to the intense YB we've known from before. Of course, it might be just my imagination. But I do think at the end of it all, he's going to find a balance eventually (between being free/happy and kind of go-with-the-flow to being more meticulous and controlled.) Which will be all for the good I think.🙂

    2. Silly, this interview took my out of my hiding as well. Thanks for the superb translation. I’m willing to bet that ATY has had the best translators in Kpop-land. We are definitely blessed.

      I swooned like the good fangirl that I am when YB was discussing the nuances of language and why he liked Korean better. Nerds are quite attractive.😉

  7. I was just going through the archives and came across the 10Asia article that was released soon after this interview was done last April. (Check here for the 10Asia translation http://10.asiae.co.kr/Articles/new_view.htm?sec=ent0&a_id=2012051415492014046 and the ATY discussion here https://alwaystaeyang.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/10asia-interview-2012-big-bang-taeyang/ ) That interview is a nice companion piece to this one since they were from the same period of time (though obviously JWC’s is more intimate, personal and in depth.)

    Though as I mentioned earlier, I do think that touring and this round of album preparation will probably have made a huge impact on him and he’s going through another stage of life right now even though its only a few months later. I really hope that we will get another round of interviews to mark this new period since he’s in a totally different place.

    It’s interesting that he mentioned about wanting to explore more non-R&B/Hiphop influences in the 10Asia article (eek, remember his recommending Skrillrex in February?) and to find out later that he wasn’t completely satisfied with the songs meant for his solo hence the delay in the album release. (No single yet either.) He mentions being very sure of “the picture in his mind” of what he wants though, so I find it odd that it doesn’t seem to be coming together as easily. Oh well, the creative process can’t be planned…

    1. ” He mentions being very sure of “the picture in his mind” of what he wants though, so I find it odd that it doesn’t seem to be coming together as easily.”

      I don’t know about that. I mean even when you have the picture in your mind finding it and having it take form in reality can take years upon years. There are also often times when people can never achieve what they seek but will use their whole life searching. I hope it’s not the case now but anything’s possible.

  8. Reading this the second time🙂 but I still dont really get the significance of ‘spring’ to YB. I mean what about spring that makes him change?

    1. The book was divided into seasons (and YB’s interview was in the section marked “Spring”) so it could be as simple as that.🙂 But I think it could also mean that it’s a rebirth for DYB, what with the changes in him and all…

  9. “The idea of being a good dancer… I don’t think it’s about being able to do a move that nobody else can do or anything like that. That’s just flaunting acrobatics. If there is no joy in it, the very act of dancing has no validity. On television, I sometimes see elders who start dancing because they cannot contain their joy. I think that is true dancing.”

    An example of this adorableness:

    Dougie on and stay happy! Joy >cool in my book🙂

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