– You took part in a nationwide audition program, joined an agency, then took part in a public audition again.
Seungyoon: Survivals can seem very cruel and brutal. Truthfully… Aren’t all our lives just survivals? Every individual competes in a survival and I simply competed in a couple of survivals of greater scales publicly. In the beginning I only thought of winning so people would know about me. But after experiencing it once and as I started a different competition, I learned a few things. I think Superstar K, my trainee years, and WIN: WHO IS NEXT were all inevitable “survivals” of my life.
– How did you feel when the competition was over?
Seungyoon: When I look back I see that I have substantially matured. Every thought and knowledge I have right now will benefit me in the future.
– Do you agree that being stubborn because you only know about that one thing is different from being stubborn after experiencing many things?
Seungyoon: Yes. Right now I am in the process of widening my perspective as I watch and learn many things.
– Debuting is not the end. You are in the middle of another survival with the name, WINNER.
Seungyoon: We are competing in a world called “Professionals”. The difference from before is that nothing is decided after simply winning or losing. Instead of thinking about beating someone and becoming first place, we set our hearts to have the goal to make good music for our fans, which put our minds at ease.
– The unbelievably large inheritance that YG Entertainment holds may be quite a burden in some ways.
Jinwoo: For Taehyun and I, we were trainees for a long time and we would be able to collect experiences on the stage whenever our sunbaes held concerts. Through that we were able to know the feeling of the stage and shake off a bit of our anxieties.
– When you were trainees who just practiced and had no promise of debuting, every time you stood on your sunbaes’ stages, you must’ve become increasingly impatient.
Jinwoo: That’s right. However, back then I wasn’t prepared. Despite the time we took to prepare for our album was longer than expected, we recorded everyday and worked hard to find the best clothes for ourselves. Only as our debut date neared did I think, “I’m slightly prepared.”
– Your trainee period was long and you even had to go through a survival audition so you must’ve been quite deeply moved when you debuted.
Jinwoo: I was actually calm about it. Perhaps I should say I couldn’t believe it because it just seemed so unrealistic. While I was looking at the name, “WINNER”, on the top of charts, I thought, “Is this ‘WINNER’ really us?” I think it’s because I felt such great emotions on the day we won the final battle of WIN and were guaranteed debut.
– I listened to your solo track, “I’m Him”, that was included in WINNER’s album, well.
Mino: Ah, I love hearing those words.
– It seems like your experiences from underground activities are always following you.
Mino: I think the experience itself really benefited me. The methods of activities, the atmosphere, the people I meet are all vastly different. The way I express myself is also different.
– Aren’t the indie, underground scene and the mainstream, trending music on different ends of the spectrum?
Mino: I didn’t dream of becoming an idol then was given the position of a rapper. I was a rapper and I became a singer or an idol. I love and enjoy hip-hop but since I came into an agency, I think I should widen my perspective in music. I even received the opportunity to include my solo track on the album. But the process of adding the layer of mainstream feel on top of my wild style wasn’t easy. I was even in a slump. The CEO and Teddy-hyung gave me lots of feedback.
– In other interviews, you constantly say, “as an idol rapper”. Are you always troubled with your sense of identity?
Mino: I don’t want to outrightly deny that. Because I am the rapper of an idol group, it’s a given that I am an “idol rapper”. Whether we’re an idol group or not, we’re just people who love music so much that we want to make music and let people listen to it. We’ll show things through skills and people acknowledging that will do. In the end, what we want to be are “artists”. Everything depends on what we do from now on. As we get acknowledged, what people call us will naturally change.
– Are you confident in not lacking in skill?
Mino: Of course. I withstood everything with that alone.
– What kind of group do you want to become?
Mino: Each member of WINNER make music he wants to as we share that music and give feedback to each other. That’s why we have a variety of genres and a different style. There is no correct answer in music, right? I want us to become “One&Only”. Incomparable in genre, form, and style.
– How did you feel about promoting before debuting?
Taehyun: I’m not the type to calculate everything before going on stage. I feel like things don’t really work out when it’s intricately planned. Who I am on stage is different from each person’s perspective. There are even people who like something about me that I’m not really fond of. Since the range is so wide, I try to let things go.
– Letting things go isn’t easy.
Taehyun: I think I started to think like that after reading a book called “Non-possession”. Although I am also the type to blame myself when the results don’t turn out well. But since we have another event to go to, I blame myself shortly and thickly. (Laughs)
– How did you feel when you first decided to pursue music?
Taehyun: Instead of wanting to do music I just wanted to become a person who did something. Instead of playing around meaninglessly I wanted to be someone who did something.
– How old were you then?
Taehyun: When I was going to middle school. I tend to rush. That’s why I finished playing around and went to the next chapter of my life quickly. The chapter when I wondered how I was going to live my life in the future.
– Maybe that’s why you also matured quickly.
Taehyun: That might be it. Age is set by numbers but nothing sets the age of thoughts.
– How heavy is the name, “WINNER”?
Taehyun: I think I worked hard enough to merge with that name. Simply getting into a place called YG was difficult but after so many complications I’m here now, so that process alone doesn’t put the name to waste. I was very burdened during WIN because I didn’t know what to do if we lost but now I feel a responsibility to not mess up our group that debuted after such a difficult time. It’s a slightly different kind of nervousness.
– Did you ever have an obsession to win on K-Pop Star?
Hoon: No, I only thought about working hard instead of winning. (Laughs)
– Why are you laughing? (Laughs)
Hoon: Ah… I felt like I said a boring and lame answer.
– Please throw away the thought that you need to be funny. (Laughs)
Hoon: It’s not like that, I just want to always have fun working. I think that whatever you do, it has to be fun.
– People like you usually have a different side to them when they’re alone.
Hoon: You’re right. I’m the most introverted at my house. So when I see my family… I get embarrassed.
– How did a son like you tell your parents you wanted to go on K-Pop Star?
Hoon: I went without telling my mother. I believe that big expectations bring big disappointments so only after I was on a certain level in the program did I tell her. Because it would be embarrassing to get eliminated after making a big deal out of things. Because I was afraid of people saying, “I knew it”.
– It’s been awhile since you dreamed a dream.
Hoon: Yes. That’s why I came to Seoul when I turned 20. I was troubled about my dreams and reality but I didn’t talk in detail with my family. I wanted to talk with the results in hand. K-Pop Star was the Maginot Line for me but I was able to come all the way here.
– You must have predicted some good reaction to an extent while preparing for the album.
Hoon: Actually I was afraid that we’d be told that it was “above average”. Because that would mean we achieved what people expected from a group from an agency called YG. I thought that people will acknowledge us only if we showed what only WINNER could do using our own strengths. In the aspect, we received such unexpected praise so I was relieved. However, during our promotions after debuting, I became aware of something. To make Winner more known in the world, we have to run harder.
Translations by: chrissy96_