Taeyang believes in himself as much as we believe in him.
Editor: Nah Ji Un
See the HQ scans here.
Have you ever walked the streets of Itaewon at night like this?
I used to come to Itaewon often. I practically lived here. Ji-yong used to live in this area, so I would always hang out and shop here.
It’s past 4AM, but you seem to be brimming with energy.
Doing the shoot gave me renewed energy. I had fun today.
It’s been 5 years since our interview in 2008. Back then you were a boy, but now you seem like a man.
I know, right?
What is the biggest change you’ve experienced in that time?
Rather than going through any big change, I think I’ve matured as a person in a very natural way.
In a recent interview, you said that, in order to make good music, [one] must be mature. What did you mean by that?
With any artistic endeavor, you need to think endlessly about your inner world on the way to discovering yourself. Only then can you create something true. Likewise with music. While making this album, I contemplated a lot about “What do I really want, and what is my true self?” I felt the urge [impatience/fretfulness] to produce better music. “What is true music? What is a true musician’s image?” I thought a lot about it, and, in a sense, I’ve found an answer.
What was the answer?
The conclusion I arrived at was so simple that it was surprising. What I truly love and want is to be someone who wakes up each morning to sing and dance. I love performing on stage, and I love it when I’m lost in music, when I’m able to pour all my passion into music. That’s when I’m happiest.
Is that why, on November 1st, you tweeted, “I love music so much. And so I’m grateful for each and every day. I just suddenly wanted to say this.”
Yes, because I was in a sensitive mood. (laughs) I worked on this album for a long time. I could see the finish line now. We’d completed mixing for all the album tracks, and I listened to the tracks one at a time. And they were so good.
I can take your word for it, right?
Of course! Honestly, I wasn’t confident before. Of course, when I’m making and singing the music, I’m full of conviction. But, as the album kept getting delayed, I started feeling uncertainty. Doubt started creeping in. “Is this right?” I would try to fix things for no reason at all. But, finally, I listened to all the completed tracks and thought, “Oh, it’s so good.” Of course, I like it more because I made it, because I spent the time on it. I thought to myself, “I really made this music.” And thinking that, I felt proud of myself. And moved. (laughs) That day, I felt like the most blessed person in the world. That’s why I wrote that tweet.
Compared to your first full-length album, how much better?
Of course, I like my current album more than my past album. Because it’s the music I like right now, what I want to say right now, the color I want to imbue right now. But I think it’s right that the listeners are the ones who evaluate it. But I don’t care whether this album is well received or poorly received. It could even be called the worst, and it wouldn’t matter to me.
Because you’re satisfied with it?
People who appreciate the musician Taeyang are curious as to whether you may have tossed aside your original color for excessive genre experimentation and change. Can we dismiss that concern then?
I didn’t realize it either, but that kind of change happened naturally. I have such a strong color and am so stubborn that I tend to deliberate a long time before I accept something new. “Is this right? Would it suit me? Is it what I really want?” The changes were very natural to me. Had they felt forced, I wouldn’t have been able do it.
An R&B track with your soulful voice and subtle emotions… Can we expect one for sure?
Of course. It’s what I love most and am best at. The songs that I was involved in, the ones that have my name on the composing/writing credits, are mostly of that kind. It’s certainly possible that the music I wasn’t directly involved in won’t be what fans wanted. After all, they’re clothes that I didn’t select, but, rather, clothes that others said would look good on me. But I wore them because I liked them a lot, too. I made this album thinking I should embrace new people as well and not just the people who already like my music and support me. If I only went with what my heart wanted, I would have ended up with a product similar to before. There was a part of me that thought I should be a little smarter for this album. Different genres are involved. If it’s a period of transition, I’m certain it’s one that will benefit me later.
Please just tell me you’re not doing rock music.
I’m not. I’ve included certain elements of rock. But, obviously, I’m not going to suddenly turn around and do hardcore rock.
I’ve heard that the likes of Happy Perez, Cocaine 80s and The Underdogs were involved in your album. You said that meeting other musicians abroad led naturally to making music with them. Did they all get involved in that manner?
Yes. There was this one time when I went to LA to take a break, but, after a day or two, I started getting really bored. I had gone with Choice37 hyung, and we were listening to some R&B music we liked. It suddenly struck us that the songs were all produced by the same person, so we looked it up, and it was The Underdogs. Hyung said he knows them, so we sent them a mail saying, “I do this kind of music, and I’m in LA and would love to work with you.” They immediately responded, great, let’s work together. And so we met and went to the studio to work. From then on, every time [BIGBANG] toured abroad, I contacted different producers and met with them. I also worked with the famous producer, Danja, but I’m not sure what’ll become of that song. And we put together a session with Happy Perez, Cocaine 80s and Britt and held camp for about five days. We would come to the studio in the morning and work until night and then go to bed when we were done. We made seven songs together, and it was so much fun. I think one of those songs will be on the album.
If the songs are so good, why has the album been delayed?
The music that interests me, the music made by producers I like, aren’t necessarily music that will make the Top 10 on mainstream charts. Because of the kind of music I favor, it takes a long time to convince [YG]. If there is a song I want on the album, I wait as long as it takes until Mr. YG gives me the go ahead [“Fine, go ahead.”] When I like something, I can’t let go.
I’m told 6 songs that you wrote will be included on the album? Did the songs come to you naturally since you know what you love best?
Yes. I don’t have the desire to produce. If someone were to write a song right now, and I like it, I’ll record the track. If I like it, that’s all that matters. I never think, “This album must be produced by me no matter what.” Nor am I one to set out with the thought, “Let’s write a song,” so I just wrote whenever I found something I wanted to do. Some songs came about by chance. If, before going to bed, a melody that I like came to me, I worked on it immediately.
What’s the one key track that best expresses the person Taeyang?
The intro, ‘Rise.’ Actually, all the concepts for the album came after making that intro, like the teaser photos, the hieroglyphic text. The moment I heard the track, I thought of taeyang [the sun]. I mean, the rising taeyang [sun]. (laughs) And I saw an immense natural landscape and jungle. The music is very expansive. Listening to it, I pictured a jungle and the image of a rising sun. And animals roaming around. So, as soon as I heard the track, I used it as the basis to create the song, ‘Rise.’
Did you select ‘Ringa Linga’ as the pre-release track because it sticks out the most [as different]?
I wanted the first track to make a strong impression since it would be the first song I release in a long time. The song was important, too, but I wanted the performance to stand out. I wanted I wanted a strong start that would carry through successfully to the album. And then Mr. YG suggested a track saying, “I think it would turn out really cool if you do it,” and I really liked it. Then Ji-Yong composed and wrote a song over the track. We finished everything, including recording, in two days. That’s ‘Ringa Linga.’
Your dance before was controlled, structured and detailed. This time, it’s free and full of groove.
To tell you the truth, the way I dance now is more me. If you watch me from the debut days, you can see it. At the time of my solo activities, detailed, lyrical choreography were trendy and cool. No one was else doing it in Korea, so I did it. I like that kind of dance, too, but the choreography I’m doing now is more me. And it’s more fun on stage.
We can’t not talk about story during the London tour, when you stuffed a nosebleed with a tissue and sang Chris Brown’s ‘Don’t Judge Me.’ You needed to fill time, so Seungri asked, “Do you want to dance? Or sing?” You answered sing. And then you sang it on impulse, in your own personal way, unconcerned about the nosebleed. I think that’s what people like about you.
The nosebleed was a little… (laughs) That’s what I like, too. I like being sincere, doing what I can without feeling restrained by something.
What music do you want to hear before you go to bed tonight?
Right now, Miguel’s ‘The Thrill.’ The chorus goes, “And I can’t wait.” Because I can’t wait any longer for my album.
Is there PBR&B music on this album then?
Actually, the artists that most influenced this album are Miguel, Frank Ocean and The Weeknd.
Really? I actually thought to myself that, in Korea, only Taeyang can do that kind of music.
I know better than anyone what music would be best for me. I made over twenty songs of that kind. In the case of Miguel, I started liking him a long time ago, back when he was writing music for other artists. Listening to artists I like, I came across a song that made me wonder, “Who on earth wrote music like this?” and that’s how I discovered Miguel. I really liked his mixtape and his first album. I loved the song, ‘Sure Thing.’ Seeing the success of his second album and the awards he won – it made me feel good. In The Weeknd’s case, I still listen to the mixtape he released early on. I still prefer it over his latest release. The Weeknd feels like Michael Jackson with a darker sound. I’m sure he was greatly influenced by Michael Jackson, too. It’s like he took the dark atmosphere of a song like Michael Jackson’s ‘Earth Song’ and maximized it. Those three were the biggest references for my album. But, as you know, that kind of music is still difficult to do in Korea.
Is that the case even after Frank Ocean’s <channel ORANGE> captivated not only critics but a great many listeners last year?
If I kept pushing for just those kinds of songs, I wouldn’t have been able to release the album. To be honest, I wasn’t able to include a lot of that style of music. I made an effort to pay heed to the general feeling around me. This is Korea, and the company I’m with is YG, so it’s not realistic to do everything my way, following only my taste. Still, I’m happy that the album is coming out and that I can show who I am right now. In any case, I have to continue to grow. As long as I don’t lose the sense I have right now and continue to grow, I feel my musical talents will hit its prime when I reach my 30s.
How much conviction and belief in yourself do you need to have [to be able to say that]?
My conviction and belief in myself is 100%. I believed, from the moment I resolved to become a singer, that I should become the best in the world. Even now, I still carry that thought.
Suppose the future is already decided. If you can change that future once, right now, what would you do?
If it’s under current circumstances, I don’t think I’ll change anything. To be honest, when I read things written by fans who worry about my solo activities, my heart aches a little. Because I’m going to be a singer until I die. Looking at it that way, there’s so much time. If I didn’t think that way and felt constrained by each and every situation and had a negative outlook, it would have been so hard. In any case, I want to sing and dance until the moment I die.
As soon as you began your first solo activities, there was a sense that you were being recognized as a musician. Did you feel the weight of such excessive expectation?
Not anymore, at all. But, honestly, there was a time when it was a burden.
When was that?
While preparing for my first full-length album. And after I released it. My first mini album <Hot> received praise, and, without even realizing it, I became conscious of people’s words and gaze. I think I made and promoted that album under that sense of burden. And then I realized afterward that, if I allow it to weigh me down, I end up acting in ways that are not me, and I can’t enjoy the music as much. So I threw it to the wind. I get a lot of inspiration from people I think of as true artists. And I want to become that kind of artist. That’s why I don’t care whether people see me as an artist or as an idol. I like that I’m me. Before I’m a singer or an artist, I’m a person that loves music. No matter the circumstance, I can be myself now.
You have no fear whatsoever?
Who do you consider to be a true artist?
There are so many. As singers, Michael Jackson and Cho Yong-Pil sunbaenim. Those two. Cho Yong-Pil sunbaenim is the person who showed me, up close, how a singer should live. Michael Jackson is my textbook. Not in an “I should do that kind of music” way, but in his mindset. I’m always observing his attitude toward music and learning from it. I want to become a spirit similar to him. The artist that had the biggest influence on me recently is the tattoo artist, Anil Gupta. I got a tattoo done by him in New York, and I felt that, among all the artists I’ve met, he was the true artist. His field may be different, but I resolved to become an artist like him. I thought, here’s an amazing person.
In what sense?
Tattoos are drawn on the body, so there is a limit to what can be expressed. He has blazed a trail and completely expanded that world. When he told me briefly the effort it took for him to achieve that, I was very inspired. He has the confidence to say, “I can make a tattoo look indiscernible from a stamped photo. I’m the only one in the world that can do that.” I respect that kind of technical ability, but I respect his attitude toward life even more. Everything that came out of his mouth felt like words of wisdom, so, when he asked me questions, I had to answer well.
Of the questions he asked, what was the hardest?
We spent a long time together because I was getting a large tattoo. We were talking about this and that, and he said, “U2’s identity is that they sing of peace. Tupac made music that spoke of his circumstances and experiences, and, through that music, said let’s lead the world.” Then he asked, “The group you’re in – what’s your identity in making music?” I had to think hard because I’d never received a question like that before. But I think I answered well. (laughs)
What did you say?
I said BIGBANG’s identity is ‘Youth Energy.’ Things that are young and new – we represent the power to make them ours. He was very happy to hear that answer. Said he he liked it.
If BIGBANG represents youth energy, what’s the message you want to deliver as the musician Taeyang?
I think my strength is ‘Pure Passion.’ I always keep that in mind and try not to forget it. I think that’s something that is expressed not just in my music, but in everything about me.
Then do you think that, even without a particular message, your pure passion is delivered through your singing and dancing?
Yes. That’s everything. That’s my soul, so I everything comes from there. The lyrics, the atmosphere of the song – those things are just packaging. I know that what’s inside, my soul, is my biggest strength. What’s most important is that I don’t forget that, whatever the situation, whatever music I do.
Are you someone that is able to recognize a ‘great’ person?
I recognize them very well. I tend to catch on pretty quickly as to what kind of person someone is. “That person has a good energy about him,” “That’s a ‘great’ person” and so forth.
What kind of people do you become friends with?
It’s not hard. They just have to treat me sincerely.
Do you like the Taeyang [sun] best in the solar system?
Haha. I actually like all of space and nature. I think the greatest artist is God. I get a lot of inspiration looking at things created by God. Even the name Taeyang, I came up with. Because it always rises, it’s warm and, from the earth, it’s the brightest star.
Do you have the time to be able to experience the overwhelming beauty of nature?
As I visited different countries on tour, it was beautiful to see the different sceneries and colors you can only see in each country. Truthfully, I really want to travel. Next year, I plan to travel a lot.
Where do you want to go first?
Brazil. My friend who’s visited said it has the most beautiful sunrise. I really want to see for myself.
Translation by SILLY for alwaystaeyang.wordpress.com. Please credit if taking out.
Scan from urthesun,
Translation and official photos from Dazed Digital US here.