Part 1 with Mino, Seungyoon, Taehyun
– All three of you are producers but are there any disagreements while making music?
Seungyoon: No, we each make the music that we want to. Once we’re close to finishing songs, we listen to each other’s songs. Even if it’s the same medium-tempo and R&B genre, Mino, Taehyun, and I end up having different types of music. The process of sharing and giving opinions with each other is stimulating and quite fun.
– What about the composing style?
Mino: I like composing in my room. These days, since we have a lot of schedules, there are instances when I do it outside with my earphones, but I can’t concentrate as much compared to when I have the lights off in my room with the speakers on while mumbling to myself.
Seungyoon: Usually, I sit at the company’s studio and do a sketch with guitar chords then dress it with melody and lyrics. Afterwards, I meet with producer and composer hyungs and we add the flesh.
Taehyun: I just compose when I think of something. Whether it’s while reading a book or watching a movie, or when I suddenly have something randomly stuck in my mind.
– You can’t do that everyday though.
Taehyun: But I still tend to compose like that. I don’t think with the mindset of, “Oh, I should start working now so I can put it on the album”, and composing when I want to relieves stress so I like it. When I’m stressed, I like relieving it through expressions of music or art.
– I heard Mino has excellent drawing skills, Taehyun [do you draw] too?
Taehyun: I tend to draw on canvas with acrylic paint. Rather than, “I’ll draw this”, I like to draw where my hand goes to. When I do this, it’s my personal time, so it heals me.
Seungyoon: The similiarity between the 3 of us is that we’re from art high schools and we like drawing and music. When I was young, I did art for a little while, then I transferred schools during the 5th grade and when I made new friends, they opened my eyes to pop songs.
– Seungyoon is from Busan Arts High School?
Seungyoon: Yes. I was a music and classic guitar major. The school was very conservative, even during my trainee period, I had to go to school once a week.
Mino: I’m from Hanlim Arts High School. I majored in entertainment. And my base was acting, but I also took classes for dubbing artists and there was a comedy class so I did a variety of things. I was part of that school’s first graduating class so back then, there were only 3 classes. Taehyun was a part of the 2nd graduating class at the same school. But starting with the 2nd graduating class, there were practical music classes and modeling classes.
Taehyun: I went to Korea Arts High School but because of my previous agency, I transferred to Hanlim Arts High School as a practical music major.
– You are proud sunbaes of that school now.
Mino: Since so many of my friends that went there debuted, will people know that we’re from that school?
– Of course. What were the reasons that made you want to do music badly?
Mino: Since elementary school, I really liked hip hop. I liked basketball and that gave me the opportunity to long for African-American culture and I wanted to be a rapper at first. Naturally, I started to write raps, started recording, got into an arts school, became a Block B member, and during this whole process, my dream to become a rapper changed to becoming a singer. But after some complications, I entered YG which I longed for.
Taehyun: I think I have always liked music. When I was in my mom’s stomach, my mom played a lot of classical music so I also really like classical music. Except for Handel. I have some trauma regarding Handel.
– Do you think it was your destiny to do music?
Taehyun: My original dream was to become a geographer, my hobby was getting on a subway alone and getting off at a random station, and looking at the environment just before the exit. When I was in elementary school, I lived in Hanam city but because I was curious as to what kind of place Gangnam was I went there, and when I arrived, I realised, “what a wide world”. I started wanting to become a singer started when I was in middle school. It was a period when I needed change, I had the thought that I wanted to become a person that’s acknowledged by everyone. I was a little popular at school and had good reactions when I sang. It was a period when I heard that I had a good voice. When I get hooked on something, I tend to stick with it until the end. After realizing that I had to become a trainee before becoming a singer, I just went to auditions without any planning. This company… that company… there are almost no companies where I didn’t audition. But I failed all of them.
– Even YG?
Taehyun: YG is the only one I didn’t audition for. I just had the feeling that they had an unapproachable energy. While going to Hanlim High School, I was offered a casting call which is how I auditioned for YG. I had a total of 4 tests and became a trainee afterwards. It was a desparately earned opportunity.
Seungyoon: I heard Taehyun did that too, but in the 6th grade, I made a singing group with my friends. The name was MBC which stood for Margarine, Butter, and Cheese (laughs). People said it was greasy how I added a lot of vibrations and made my voice very manly, that’s why I was Margarine.
– Margarine Egg Rice… you know it’s really good, right?
Seungyoon: I don’t know what margarine tastes like.
Interviewer: It tastes like cheap butter.
Seungyoon: Ah, then that means I was cheap. I should have been Butter.
Mino: I like Ketchup Egg Rice or Soy sauce Egg Rice. I ate these often.
Taehyun: I dipped grilled pork belly in ketchup and ate it. I still do this.
Seungyoon: I am from Busan, but I don’t eat sashimi/raw fish. I’m allergic.
– Mm… your tastes in food are… How are you these days?
Mino: My spirit is really happy.
Seungyoon: My body is tired.
Taehyun: I’m spending days that are like dreams so I’m thankful.
Mino: It’s like I achieved one of my dreams?
Seungyoon: It’s also a time when we’re dreaming a bigger dream.
– After listening to ‘Empty’ from your 1st Album ‘2014 S/S’ , I was so surprised to hear a jazz sound twice. It was so good. I heard it’s not a track you made.
Mino: I participated in the lyric writing.
Seungyoon: B.I made it but CEO YG said it fit Winner better than iKON so we ended up singing it first. If the debut track was our song, it would have been nice, but the song was really good so I didn’t have that greed. There are many artists that sing songs that are given by composers. I think of this like that.
– Isn’t BI a figure that scratched your self esteem?
Seungyoon: It’s like that now too. Why wouldn’t it be like that? On Winner’s 1st album, among the double title tracks, the representative track is a song that was created by B.I, who is 3 years younger than me! (laughs). But still, I can say that he’s a good motivator.
Taehyun: Although he’s a competitor, I really like BI’s music. He really makes songs well.
Mino: I’m also really proud of Bobby, who won ‘Show Me the Money 3’. He clearly smashed the prejudice regarding idol rappers.
– Through ‘Show Me the Money 3’and ‘Mix and Match’ you are able to see Team B and I get a feeling that you must feel relived while watching.
Seungyoon: That’s correct. Especially regarding the fact that a path for debut has been opened for them.
Taehyun: It hurts my stomach because they’re doing better than us. (laughs)
Seungyoon: Regardless, there’s a sense of relief. Even though my stomach hurts. (laughs)
– During your trainee period you just trained and during your overseas activities, you just performed. Amidst all that, wasn’t it draining to write stories about love?
Seungyoon: I think the members are good at imagining. Most probably because they watch movies and listen to other music. Truthfully, it’s very limiting to write songs based on personal experiences.
Mino: I use past experiences as a base for imagination too.
– It seems like it’d be frustrating.
Mino: It is!
Seungyoon: During our trainee period, I would secretly meet friends on the weekend and drink. I was less famous during that time so that was possible. These days, I really have no time. Regarding dating, I’m even more careful.
– In the past there was a movie called ‘Truman Show’.
ALL: We know it!
Taehyun: I’ve watched that movie 15 times. I really like Jim Carrey.
– Without you even knowing, you were thrown into a situation that spread throughout the nation and this overlapped with ‘WIN’. As the main characters, did you experience any Truman-like(?) shock?
Taehyun: Everything has a negative side. There is always a positive side that can overcome that negative side , which is why people choose those jobs and those situations and we were the same. We had no choice but to endure it all and we had to do it.
– What did you lose and what did you gain?
Taehyun: Personal aspects of our lives disappeared because they were shown to the public. Also, we lost time to ourselves.
Seungyoon: Just like this interview will be preserved as writing, the videos of the intense moments of our lives will remain which I see as a positive. I left a mark of how I thought in the past.
– What do you think of the debut concept, like a group from a well-off household, mature and classy, “Winner from birth”?
Seungyoon: I liked it. I felt that it fit really well too.
Taehyun: Because I didn’t live like that, I thought it was gonna be fun and it was fun. The size of my confidence changed.
Seungyoon: The concept of us debuting under a reality show can be seen as a contradiction. What was shown during the program, of us being lousy and being cooked in life and smelling of it too, are all true. However, the luxury that was inherent in us was shown simultaneously with our debut so it has a huge meaning. I gained faith in the message, “From now on you’re going to have a life like this.”
Mino: We just came out with something as simple as a concept but I’m fascinated at how our mindsets changed. I think we’re wearing the clothes of luxury well.
Seungyoon: I think our members have good ‘talent’ regarding that. I think the fact that we can portray a changed concept is our ‘talent’.
– Do you like the team name?
Seungyoon: At first, I said “What the heck is Winner” but after we got it, I liked it. (laughs) In any situation, we can be winners.
– So you didn’t receive any kind of compulsion once you started activities?
Seungyoon: We’re not doing music because we want to win. At every interview, I have come to repeat myself that we want every listener who listens to our music to be a winner.
– You started promotions in Japan simultaneously. How did you come to rank so highly on the Oricon Chart?
Mino: Truthfully, we couldn’t realise it at a close proximity.
Seungyoon: It’s like that. Maroon 5 is ranking highly in our country’s music charts. It’s a feeling like that? However, the J-POP chart is a competiton between all of Japan’s artists so it’s worth being recognized/acknowledged. However, people don’t react excessively on the fact that we ranked second in the Oricon Chart. While struggling, we had a nation-wide tour and we did many interviews to let everyone know about Winner… As rookies, we’re starting from the bottom.
– You successfully lined the songs from the 1st album on the charts. There were so many articles regarding this. It must have been good news but on the other hand, there are probably lots of people against idol music lining the top of the charts.
Seungyoon: Whether our music is mainstream or if it ever becomes a retort, I think that’s different. Our music style differs from other idol music.
Taehyun: Although we’re one of many idol groups, if there’s one thing we want to insist until the end, it’s that we’re not like the public percieved idol group. It’s one of the reasons we reject music that seems to flaunt artificiality.
– How do you want the public to see you?
Taehyun: A group that’s more serious about music than anyone else. Because we are artists under YG entertainment, we definitely have to follow the company’s legacy. We have to achieve what people expect of us and also do we what we want to do. We have to find that balance. Regarding that, I believe we’re doing it well. When we do interviews, we often get the question of “What’s the difference between Winner and other idol groups” a lot. Our members all gathered because we like music. Our mindset towards music is different.
Seungyoon: I think these days, there are people who think that the sincerity in music on the charts is falling. However, reacting happily to a happy song, empathising with a sad song, and being excited with fast songs, isn’t that the most basic goal of music?
Mino: Regarding tastes, I don’t think there’s an answer. Every person’s emotion is different. Writing happy song when you’re happy, writing sad songs when you’re sad is natural. We still have a lot of regrets so on the first album, there’s a lot of regret and because of this it was emotional. However, while promoting, we received an unexpected amount of love and we became happy. Because of that, we might be able to do a dance song for the next album. I don’t want to put a prejudice regarding creation of music.
Seungyoon: Obviously, there are things I want to hear from people. Things like, “I think I know what these kids are thinking when they’re making music.” “I can feel it.” “I can empathise with them.” Comments like that.
– Have you receive comments asking if you were doing this for wealth and honour?
Seungyoon: In the past, my mom asked stuff like this a lot. Everytime she asked that, I told her that I was happy [with what I was doing.
Mino: I wonder how many people actually do music for wealth and honour.
Seungyoon: Honor, glory. If you start music with this mindset, then it’s impossible to have a good idol image. In Korea, there’s a nuance that idols are different from artists. One thing that’s certain is that we started music because we like music and as people that enjoy it, we want to feel empathetic.
Taehyun: Personally, I believe that singers have to be half-crazy to be able to do music. Also, accepting that they are crazy and having a strong mental mind that can endure that is essential.
Seungyoon: I’ve seen many who wanted to be singers and thought they were unique and special and didn’t want to accept that they were no different from many others. The reason we’re able to stand here today might be because we gave up reasonable things bravely. No, it is.
– Didn’t you feel that your first album promotions were too short?
Taehyun: We don’t feel that but until people know about ‘Winner’, we can’t rest.
Seungyoon: During promotions, we were working hard for the next album. Concluding our first album promotions means concluding broadcast promotions, it doesn’t mean we’re resting.
Mino: Because of our company’s characteristics, we can’t rest. There are many artists who are preparing, so the person with a completed album can promote. Even if we promote with the name Winner, there’s a constant competition. We have no choice but to work hard.
– How do you take care of your physical health?
Mino: I don’t do it, no, I can’t do it. Recently, I’ve been feeling like I’m enduring all this with the body I made during my trainee period.
Taehyun: I feel like I’m going around always running out of breath.(laughs)? It’s like my life span is becoming shorter.
Seungyoon: If we take 10 years worth “out of breathness” right now in advance, maybe we can do music comfortably later. I very much hope that’s what will happen.(laughs).
Taehyun: I’m going to run away. To Europe
Mino: I’m going to go to Jupiter. I’m going to get a contract with NASA.
Seungyoon: I’m gonna go to Uranus!
Mino: Uranus is not in our galaxy! Physical health first. Let’s think about space later (laughs)!
Translations by: @timthemine