– You returned from China today, right? I heard that you are going to appear in the famous Chinese variety show, “Happy Camp”.
Mino: I was really worried to appear in a variety show at a place where I don’t understand the language fully but it was fun. Apparently, it is a show that only really famous people in China appear on. I was in a rush asking about a few words to the staff members and practicing them on the day before the recording. I think I did better than I expected. I even received compliments.
– WINNER released the new album “EXIT: E” after 1 year and a half. How does it feel to promote a new album in such a long time?
Mino: We’re so busy to the point where we barely have time to sleep but we still enjoy it. When we held fan-signing events after releasing our album, I often received very sincere comments from our fans. Every time a fan told me that the songs I made helped them overcome their difficult times, I was very grateful and strengthened.
– You appeared in “Show Me The Money 4” during the hiatus. During the whole time it aired, you were at the center of attention. Did you earn as much as the struggles you faced?
Mino: Of course. It was a very fulfilling and good experience. At first, I wondered if I could do well and if I only had things to lose and I worried about many different things. Honestly, it was so exhausting. But in hindsight, I think the times I found difficult are now meaningful memories. And I sometimes feel that I’ve matured through those experiences.
– Aren’t you “hungry” for stages where you stand as the rapper Song Mino of that time?
Mino: It would be a lie to say I’m not greedy for that. I do my best to achieve the group’s harmony when I stand onstage as WINNER, however, I hope that I receive the opportunity to show everything about myself as a solo artist some day. As I work on group songs, I also work on solo songs. If CEO Yang grants me that opportunity, my bullets are ready (laughs).
– You are seen as the most “manly man” of the group but there are many times you are “mischievous” behind the scenes.
Mino: I joke around a lot. I used to fool around so much but as I grew older, I’ve become sensitive and not as talkative. But whenever I’m in a good mood, I become limitlessly elated and jump around a lot. I’m the type of person to be positive in whatever situation I face. If I fall depressed just because I’m tired, it’ll only make me suffer and I won’t be able to progress.
– I heard that you’re very sociable. What kind of people do you enjoy spending time with?
Mino: I’m very certain about that: Fun people! When I look at the people I’m close with, they’re all fun. I like people who are funny, witty, and have unique individuality. I love crazy people (laughs).
– What about Nam Taehyun, who you had this photoshoot with? Do you two hit it off well?
Mino: Yes, I think our “chemistry” is good. Out of the group members, I think he and I have energetic exchanges. We sometimes drink (alcohol) together at the dorm. Taehyun is very curious. He sometimes seems like a little boy. So I watch over him like a parent. Whenever he looks like he’s about to fall while he’s playing, I hold him upright.
– “Pricked” is a song that Song Mino composed and wrote the lyrics for and Nam Taehyun sang in it. I felt that this song was the most emotional song in the album.
Mino: I made the original song called “Madman” during “WIN”, but while I was working on our album, I opened it, erased all of it, and wrote it again. At the time, I was slightly gloomy so I tried to express that gloominess as deeply as possible and lyrically as well. I even turned off the lights and worked on it to focus on the emotion. After I was done, I made Taehyun listen to it because I thought his voice would suit it and he really liked it. He recorded it right away and his voice did suit the song, as expected.
– You even personally drew the album art for “Pricked”. You have lots of interest in art, don’t you?
Mino: I love looking at drawings and drawing. When I was young, during the time everyone else was studying, I doodled at my desk and even after I became WINNER I’ve steadfastly continued to draw. Just recently, I saw the artworks by the Korean artist Jang Youngwon at an art exhibition in Kyungi-do and I found them fresh. He usually does collage artworks but he had exhibited installation art.
– Do you have any new hobbies or is there anything you recently became interested in?
Mino: Up until some time ago, I was able to count how many books I’ve read with one hand but I have fallen into a new world with reading. I went to a bookstore at the start of the year and I bought Higashino Keigo’s “The Murder in Mansion Masquerade”, and I really enjoyed it. After that, I picked up the book called, “The 100-year-old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared”, which was gifted by a fan, and I seriously felt like I experienced a new world. I found that reading [novels] has a charm different from movies and paintings. I found the variety of expressive sentences really refreshing. I’m planning to read more books. I write in my journal every day too. I felt like I let go of things that are important since I have bad memory.
– How does it feel to live as a singer signed under YG Entertainment? I think it would feel like being inside a firm fence but also being on a battlefield between talented artists.
Mino: It is very competitive. Especially because almost all the artists write their own music, it can’t be helped but to be wary of each other. However, the pride and the sense of belonging in YG is very powerful. When I was in high school, I was a trainee at a small company but now I debuted and I’m promoting as WINNER under YG, so a lot of things have changed in my life.
– Even if you say that it is your dream to live a life where you make music and compete through music, do you ever feel burdened?
Mino: When I was young, I loved that [idea] so I faced all the music that I looked for as “work” so there are times now when I feel regret. When I was struggling a lot during album preparations and when I appeared on “Show Me The Money 4”, I found myself not listening to the music that was associated with those times. But that didn’t last for long. I love music and I’ll think of music as my work until I die. There are many things I haven’t achieved as a member of WINNER. I want to experience more things from now on and I want to receive more attention and love. I think my members will think the same. All of us are bundles of ambition (laughs).
– I heard that WINNER will appear in the upcoming JTBC variety show “Half-moon Friends” that will air its first episode in April. Can you tell us a few more details?
Mino: Us WINNER members will become kindergarten teachers to children who usually spend their days alone. I don’t have much experience in spending time with babies and children but I like young children so I think I’ll be able to do anything for them. I want to make memories with them that will be unforgettable for all of us and I think I will receive a lot of things through the children as well.
The album tracklist is filled with the members’ names but your name is written the most. It seems like you worked hard in making music [during the hiatus].
Taehyun: It wasn’t my intention to put as many of my songs in the album. If I like to draw, I’m the type of person to be satisfied only after drawing with my own hand. I like to listen to music so I started to write music and because I enjoyed and had fun making music, I ended up working on many songs. I enjoy sharing the music I make with my family and my friends but having my songs go up and down the music charts and having numerous people listen to them makes me overwhelmed and thankful.
– I heard that you made the title track “Sentimental” while playing with Song Mino.
Taehyun: As usual, I was working while playing the guitar and because the other members had gone home, I was alone with Mino-hyung. It was late at night so we were having some beer and talking about this and that. We started talking about being “sentimental”. I often find inspiration within words. I suddenly became interested in that word “sentimental”. I wrote the song with the emotion we felt in that moment as the foundation.
– Do you often feel “sentimental”?
Taehyun: Yes, I do. Since I enjoy being alone more than being in loud and noisy places with many people, I think I am often sentimental or often become immersed in emotions.
– What do you do when you’re alone?
Taehyun: I usually listen to music. Because I prefer the analog style, I listen to music on LPs often. Recently, a fan gifted me a LP of Kim Kwangsuk-sunbaenim’s album. I know that it is hard to acquire it so I am really thankful. The other day, I was at Dongmyo because of a shoot and I found an audio store on the verge of collapsing in a secluded alley, away from people. The atmosphere I felt was really mystical. I bought a turntable there and because it’s really old, it costed more to fix it. Because the amp and interlocker I had didn’t work, I went shopping for components. I just very recently finished setting it up. Thanks to the all these happenings, I’m really enjoying listening to music.
– I saw you take out your portable speaker and playing music during the photoshoot.
Taehyun: I always bring my portable speaker to photoshoots. I found that when music I like is playing during photoshoots, I am more comfortable and I have more fun. Today I played the Beatles, country music, blues music, and songs of that style. I listen to these genres of music a lot these days.
– You currently appear in “Actor School”. Isn’t the tiger-like teacher scary?
Taehyun: Are you talking about Teacher Park Shinyang (laughs)? It’s slightly different from scary. He doesn’t yell or shout. He is really a perfectionist. He makes you choose your words very carefully. I like that we don’t have to force ourselves to laugh because it’s a variety show. I’m really bad at forcing myself to laugh.
– Because you’ve experienced an acting controversy before, you must have needed special courage to choose to appear on the show.
Taehyun: When I received information about the show, I liked the objectives and I thought that it was an opportunity I needed. When I was swept up in the “controversy”, I was drowning in thoughts but above everything, I was embarrassed that I took part in a drama when I was not prepared. I wanted to learn properly so I am doing “Actor School” with a genuine heart. I am certain that the show will be one of the most significant learning opportunities of my life.
– I was surprised that you personally brought color lenses after seeing the draft proposal. I feel like you are a very passionate person.
Taehyun: I like to try things out. Maybe it’s toughness? Courage? When people say, “I don’t think this will work” or “This isn’t safe. I’m not going to do it,” I do everything. Naturally, I get scared but no one knows what will happen in the end. I want to create room as much as I can for possibility. I think that for people like us who do this job, we shouldn’t limit ourselves.
– Where does that mentality of welcoming challenges come from?
Taehyun: I think it’s mostly because of the environment I grew up in. From when I was young, I spent much of my time alone and I liked different things compared to the kids my age. When I was in elementary school, my friends liked mangas and robots but I really liked subways. I liked them because when I go to a different station and a different exit, I see a world different from the one I know. I used to ride the bus alone and go to the last stop. I didn’t trap myself in the usual boundaries, instead I made it a habit to absorb and accept different things. Because of this, I think I have a wider range of feeling happiness compared to other people.
– What does the combination of Song Mino and Nam Taehyun entail in WINNER?
Taehyun: When there is darkness, there is light. I think we’re that kind of combination. Mino-hyung and I have very different aspects. If you think of me as being introverted, Mino-hyung is extroverted. Even when you look at our looks, if you see me as having a soft image, Mino-hyung’s face lines are thick. When we sing, hyung’s voice is low while I often use a soft tone. In those ways, I think we complement each other. And even though Mino-hyung looks manly, he’s actually very cute. He’s a person with many reversals.
– The teamwork of the five members must have improved as you spent more time together.
Taehyun: Because each of us have such different inclinations, when we first gathered, we creaked and squeaked, but now, we bring each of our charms and become harmonious together. When I take a song I make to them, even if it may be a song that’s lacking, my members immerse themselves in it with passion. I want WINNER to be a group that creates heartfelt music instead of a group that follows the trend. And I hope that people recognise that some day. I wish we become a group that walks slowly and steadily.
– What about Nam Taehyun’s personal goal?
Taehyun: Looking in the long term, I hope that I don’t lose the drive and passion I have now. I still find it embarrassing and shameful to say that I’m a singer and an idol with my own mouth. I want to become an artist who is acknowledged and known by others without me having to tell them. I think that’s my goal.
– Just like “Empty” and “Sentimental”, how would you express your current state of emotion with one word?
Taehyun: Tired (laughs)?
– When was the last time you said, “I love you”?
Taehyun: It’s been a long time since I said that. I hope that I’m put in a situation where I can say that!