HERE COMES WINNER
In the fierce world of idols, WINNER wanders freely without associating with any sides.
Q. Don’t you feel pride and burden from the name “WINNER”?
Seungyoon: We are boys who want to be winners. We are wannabe-winners (laughs).
Q. You are also a group of producers who create your own music. And you each have different preferences of music from rock to hiphop. How do you find a common ground?
Seungyoon: We try not to find a common ground. Members who find a common ground between each other work on music together. If the direction is clear, we try not to disturb that. We say, “Make it like that” and then when we record the song, the other the members fit themselves into their expectations.
Q. That’s quite democratic.
Seungyoon: We do it like that so that we can present more diverse music to the public without sounding boring. Naturally, there are times when all 5 members must agree with each other to achieve something. Other than that, we try our best to shine a light on our individuality.
Q. Your album, “EXIT:E” is a part of the “EXIT” project and its beginning.
Seungyoon: Rather than releasing 4 albums, we are planning on launch 4 different projects. The start of it was a mini album and the next project might be a digital single. The important thing is that we will promote without any hiatuses until the end of the “EXIT” project.
Q. The promotions for your debut album was short and your hiatus was so long. Your fans must love that [you will promote without hiatuses]!
Seungyoon: Other than our fans, I think we are happy about promoting because we were thirsty for it too. We might have an hiatus to prepare for the next project but we will try to keep showing our faces on variety shows, acting, and other activities. The largest goal of “EXIT” is to make the public feel like we are constantly promoting.
Q. You said that this album (EXIT:E) is “honestly and cleanly made”. In the end, that sincerity was felt by the public. You must have felt very touched.
Seungyoon: People may listen to our songs lightly but the attitudes and emotions in our songs are never light. We are very serious. Naturally, since we put in our sincerity, we are happy whenever the public likes our music.
Q. Did you feel unburdened after the release of the album?
Seungyoon: No. Because now, we have to prepare for our next album. However, I try not to work on music while feeling the responsibility of releasing an album. Since I am also the leader, I feel the impatience of releasing music. I am cautious because I’m afraid of dealing with music like a machine bent on releasing albums.
Q. Was there a time when you were like [a machine]?
Seungyoon: When one runs while only looking at a goal, there is a moment when maturation stutters to a stop. I think that can be applied to any kind of work other than music. Within that pause, I came to think about how I can overcome that stage. I think the solution for me was to obtain the attitude of “let’s do this the way I want to without any burden”.
Q. This question is burdensome but when will we see the second project?
Seungyoon: At the latest, early summer. I really hope this comes true (laughs). If I were to spoil it a bit, you’ll see our very free and excited selves, different from what you’ve seen so far.
Q. Three of the songs you worked on went into the album. You must have worried about the public’s response.
Taehyun: I try my best not to be bent over worries such as, “Will the response be good? Will it be a hit song?” If I thought about that even for a moment, I think the song will become fake. Because I can’t help but have a place in my heart somewhere that wants to be successful and rich, the side of me that wants to be famous and the side of me that wants to go my way always fight. That’s why the time my two egos spend on fighting is longer than the time I spend on making a song. I will continue to pave my way even if my body becomes dirty instead of chase after trends or walk a clear path that has been cleaned already. That’s what fits me.
Q. You listen to music by the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. That’s quite unexpected.
Taehyun: I think the Beatles and the Rolling Stones aren’t musicians you can understand after listening to their music for 1~2 years. When you listen to their songs and learn about them, you find out a genealogy. Just like how the Rolling Stones became role models for Maroon5, you learn about the artists they were inspired by. These connections teach you what kind of inspirations these artists received and how they dealt with that.
Q. It seems like you’re moving away from the trends.
Taehyun: There are so many people who are good at what’s trending now so instead of joining them unnecessarily, I think I just dig deeper into things I’m curious about.
Q. I saw you reforming a leather jacket at the waiting room every time there were breaks during the photoshoot. You are very interested in fashion and visual works, right? How does this interest affect your music?
Taehyun: I think one needs courage in both music and fashion. Daring attempts are important in both fields. These days, whenever I need glasses, instead of buying a pair that I like, I change the lenses or frame and make it my own. Just like the rider jacket I was reforming earlier. I think I express that attempt and effort in my music. I think I don’t get consumed by trends because I always think about making things my own and thinking about my own color. Of course, I listen to trendy music too. I’m not putting down trends. I really like that type of music but I’m just stubborn about doing my own thing.
Q. I heard that at the start of your debut, you were very shy around strangers and had intense mood swings. I feel like some of that has lessened or compromised since you have released two albums and you’ve done broadcasts.
Taehyun: I think it’s not good to be so sensitive. There are things that I’ve changed. Except I am still very sensitive and have intense mood swings when I make music. I have no thoughts of fixing that though. I think it really helps [to be sensitive] for the creative process. In moments when sensitivity is unnecessary, I hide it but I don’t throw it away. It’s not possible for me to throw it away anyway.
Q. People on the sensitive side find variety programs like “Actor School” and “Half Moon Friends” quite challenging.
Taehyun: I’m afraid of variety shows. I don’t really like going on variety shows. I’m bad at hiding my emotions and I absolutely cannot create a concept for myself and fulfill that. It was very fortunate that I just had to be myself without creating a persona for “Actor School” and for “Half Moon Friends”, I just poured all my love for the children because they were so lovable. Both variety shows are good memories for me and I think they’ll be sources of inspiration.
Q. You didn’t have time to rest after the debut album promotions because you appeared in “Show Me The Money 4”, right?
Mino: I am tired. I am very tired every day. I’ve been busy every day with “Show Me The Money” as the starting point. I hope CEO Yang reads this interview (laughs).
Q. If you get the time, what do you want to do the most?
Mino: I want to travel to a warm place. I’m going to drink a mojito at the Maldives. (T/N: He’s alluding to a famous line in the Korean movie, “Inside Men” (2015))
Q. (Laughs) It seems like the words, “anxious” or “restless” don’t fit with the person called Song Mino.
Mino: I’m not conceited but I do have self-esteem. Naturally, there are many times when I become suspicious of myself. And there are often times when I’m not sure if I’m doing well. And sometimes I wonder if this is the right path or not. I try my best to shake off those thoughts and I work hard not to fall into a slump. I repeat to myself, “Let’s do things as I always have. Let’s trust myself.”
Q. Are you the type of person to push yourself?
Mino: I’m very timid so whenever I have troubles, worries, or anything, I just bottle everything inside me. I have a habit of thinking and then swallowing it, then I pour it out after some time and then I think about things positively for awhile… That process repeats itself.
Q. Are you troubled about your role in a large agency or your role in an idol group?
Mino: I become troubled about that especially when I’m making music. As a person making mainstream music, I need to make music that embodies a wide spectrum but that doesn’t come easy to me. I sometimes think about wanting to make music I want to make. There are times when there is a difference between the music the company wants and the music I can make without limitations.
Q. What are songs that closed that gap?
Mino: The song, “Okey Dokey” I made with Zico-hyung. The public and CEO Yang liked it. I was also satisfied with it. For “Fear”, instead of making it with the public in mind, I made the song with honesty as I included things I wanted to say and things I thought about. I have a special affection for that song because I think those things were delivered well.
Q. At your current age of 24, what is the largest worry you have as Song Mino?
Mino: I worry about whether I’m so immersed in work that I’m only living for tomorrow. Of course, I know how difficult it is not to have any work so I know very well that having a lot of work is happiness and a blessing but I feel like I don’t have enough time to think about large goals or plans for the far future. I need the time to set up plans for the far future…
Q. I hope you get given that time soon.
Mino: I think if I summarized the interview today, it would be “I want to rest”
Q. I hope CEO Yang reads this interview too.
Mino: I love working a lot.
Q. With this album (EXIT:E), you had your first domestic tour as WINNER. I heard the Busan concert is the last concert. What are your thoughts on your first domestic tour?
Jinwoo: We weren’t able to promote a lot in Korea. I was dissatisfied with our promotion but I don’t have much ill feelings about that now.
Q. WINNER’s color is different from the usual idol group.
Jinwoo: When you think about idol groups, the image you usually think of is pretty or masculine and they dance powerfully. I think WINNER has the image of a precocious child.
Q. Are you talking about how WINNER seems weak somehow? (Laughs)
Jinwoo: That’s right, that’s right. It’s because all of the members lived difficult lives. Because we all experienced hardships at a young age…
Q. Maybe it’s because of your looks, but I thought you would be mysterious and wouldn’t talk much but after meeting you today, you’re a very cheerful and honest person.
Jinwoo: I think I’m the most talkative in WINNER. It’s not that I don’t talk much on purpose during broadcasts but my members all talk well so I don’t think it necessary for me to talk so I stay quiet. Whenever we do V App broadcasts, there are many comments that say, “Kim Jinwoo, talk”. I’ll talk more from now on.
Q. Do you fit well with the members? Who are you most comfortable with?
Q. Are you saying that because he’s sitting next to you right now?
Jinwoo: Yes. I have many similarities with Seunghoon. So I tend to be rough with him but Seunghoon accepts that well. Even though I don’t do that with him.
Q. Seunghoon told me that he doesn’t share his inner feelings even with people he’s close with.
Jinwoo: He doesn’t. He really doesn’t.
Q. Do you share your inner feelings well?
Jinwoo: No. So I guess we have a strictly business relationship (laughs).
Q. How do you feel about being an idol under a large agency? Especially since other artists and idol groups are guarded around the company YG.
Jinwoo: Honestly, it’s comfortable. There are restrictions but we are quite free within that border. I think of it as a blessing and I’m grateful for it. There are many senior artists like BIGBANG and 2NE1 who succeed with every song they release so there is burden in releasing music that is above the usual standards.
Q. What are your personal favourites in this album (EXIT:E)?
Jinwoo: “Baby Baby” and “Immature”. I’ve like the feeling of “Immature” since before. I like songs like “Crooked”.
Q. “Immature” is slightly different from the songs WINNER have released so far.
Jinwoo: The 5 of us each have different preferences but we don’t have gaping differences. Seungyoon has a rock energy but I also like that genre. Whether it’s rock, hiphop, or R&B, we do our best not to lock ourselves in one genre with the name “WINNER”.
Q. I heard that your fans nicknamed you “maht-nae” because you are the eldest(maht-hyung) who is like the youngest(maknae). You don’t seem like the type to stress an order of rank and carry out military discipline because you’re the eldest.
Jinwoo: I let it be because I want to be comfortable. I don’t act like the eldest either. I really hate “acting” above anything else. If I had a girlfriend, I wouldn’t act like I’m cool.
Q. Don’t men in their twenties automatically “act” in front of women usually? They instinctively want to look cool, don’t they?
Jinwoo: I’m aware that the way I think is different from people my age. I’m also not very shaken by things that happen to people around me. Whenever someone criticizes something about me, if I don’t agree with that person, I protect myself. Of course, I can change if I admit it.
Q. You seem egocentric.
Jinwoo: Not really…
Q. What ratio would you express your solidity in yourself versus your uncertainty in yourself?
Q. WINNER started their own variety program JTBC “Half Moon Friends”. I heard all five members became kindergarten teachers.
Hoon: I learned that it’s not easy to take care of children. It is pre-produced and we filmed according to the times that kindergartens usually have. At first, it felt like we became morning people and it felt like we were becoming healthy but the problem was when we finished at 7PM, we were so tired that we would collapse and go to sleep from 8PM. We slept 12 hours and recharged and then started our day again.
Q. You properly experienced the life of an office worker.
Hoon: Meeting the children every weekday made me think about the children at home too. Initially, I didn’t like children that much. Children you meet after you grow up are all children of strangers, right? When we were on the plane to the United States for a shoot, there was a baby throwing a tantrum in front of us and I was very bothered by that… But I’ve changed. There must have been a part of my heart that liked children. I was looking at my elementary school student record book and I had written that I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher when I grow up.
Q. You’re in charge of WINNER’s performance, right?
Hoon: Mmm… Recently, there are many WINNER choreographies I made because it was asked of me. I didn’t throw myself into it because I wanted to. Instead, there were various situations that created a circumstance that made me think that nothing would work if I didn’t do it. I’m quite honest and realistic (laughs). I don’t think my choreographies as forms of art that contains a part of myself because I made them.
Q. You seem like you can’t exaggerate things.
Hoon: No, I can’t. I only talk about things as it is and I dislike bluffing. I’m realistic and truthful so I’m not ambiguous.
Q. Speaking realistically and truthfully, what do you think about the promotions for EXIT:E?
Hoon: Rather than holding deep meaning and thinking of it as a learning experience, I think it passed by well. It was also a thankful time because we were reminded of our fans’ love through music broadcasts and our first domestic tour. My interview is slightly dark, right?
Q. I felt like you were a very bright person when I watched “WINNER TV” and V App broadcasts. But I like that you’re more honest than I expected.
Hoon: There are times when I play like a crazy person (laughs) but I think I’m not good at talking about my inner feelings. I have mood swings too but I don’t want to let other people see that. I also don’t talk about myself to people I’m close with. There are people who become upset about that. I can talk about my inner feelings with someone who know the situation and can empathize with me but I don’t reveal myself to people just because I’m close to them.
Q. Honest people have the danger of seeming too unambitious or too greedy.
Hoon: It’s not that I don’t have ambitions but I would hate to be seen as someone who is greedy. Naturally, it’s regretful that we don’t have promotions other than music broadcasts and I do want to show this person called Lee Seunghoon often. My specialty is dancing but I don’t think I ever really properly showed my dancing at some place so I find that regretful as well.
Q. What is your dream you want to achieve in the far future?
Hoon: I want to earn lots of money. I was raised in a normal household. Becoming a singer opened up a different world to me. Coming to Seoul from Busan was a different world and Gangnam is a different world from Seoul. I want to do as much as I can and I want to live with the people around me without lacking anything.
Q. What about a dream you want to achieve in the near future?
Hoon: I don’t want to hear regretful things from my fans who like me. I’m not the type of person to live for someone but while I live as a celebrity, I want to satisfy their demands.
Translations by: chrissy96_