Q.It has been over a month since the album came out but “Empty” or “Coloring Ring” is still doing well on the music charts. You must be pleased by such result, especially since you sing the intro that set the mood for the song.
MINHO: I know the Intro is really important but I wasn’t pressured by it. TaeHyun said my voice helped to set the mood and focus on the song. Whenever I hear those comments, I feel proud of myself.
Q.Your voice is well known as a vocalist even though you are a rapper.
MINHO: I used to intentionally make up my voice. I used to rap in loud tone, even yelling, or make my voice sound like I’m chewing on rocks, on purpose. I think my current voice is affected by those days. However, I realized how the best sound comes out if I rap comfortably. Famous musicians overseas like Jay-Z sings with the voice they are comfortable with. So I realized it is best for me to rap the way I am most comfortable with.
Q.Your solo “I’m Him” was included in your debut album and MV also came out. Your style was very different from that of “Empty”.
MINHO: I become a completely different person from singing as a WINNER member to doing a hip-hop music. For “I’m Him”, I stayed tough throughout the MV. Although I did try my best to stay looking tough in the music video, instead of bragging about my hard work, I thought like, “It came out nice” or “Editing was done well.
Q.Then was there a moment when you thought “We are indeed a team” while preparing for your title song stage performance?
MINHO: Basically, SeungHoon takes responsibility for the choreography and stage performance so we trust him and follow his lead. However, we did make adjustments to satisfy all members’ opinions as they have provided ideas for their individual parts here and there. We learned from our trainee times that somebody not expressing his thoughts or simply insisting on his own idea will only cause trouble. When we were preparing for “Empty” performance, SeungHoon first came up with ideas and made adjustments with members.
Q.Don’t you resolve any problems within the team after debut? That might be different from what would have happened as a trainee.
MINHO: That’s right. I’m tired of seeing their face every single day. (Laugh) I’m just kidding. (Laugh) We always thought that we knew about each other very well but I think there were many thing we learned about each other recently. I think that’s because we have just started official promotions together as a group. So I think it is necessary to be more considerate of one another and support each other.
Q.While doing so, what role did you think about taking?
MINHO: I think I’m in the process of learning about that. I never got a chance to think about it in detail but maybe a person that listens and supports whoever is having a hard time? I tend to pay attention to those kind of situation.
Q.While giving those thoughts, did you ever find an unknown part of yourself?
MINHO: I think I do find positive sides but I realize more about the negative sides. I usually act out of improvisation, except when I’m doing music related activities. However, there were time when I became really sensitive/cold while we were going through a busy schedule. Because I had tried to stay positive and energized whenever we’re all tired, with vocal mimics and stuff, whenever I’m on edge, I felt like I found a stranger within myself.
Q.How do you recover yourself from those bad condition?
MINHO: TaeHyun once said that he is jealous of my personality, because I tend to be full of energy with whoever i meet, wherever I go. Although he did mention how I’m just a little too bright when it is not necessary to be so. (Laugh) However, there are times when I’m feeling down. I do try my best to get out of such mood when I’m out on public though. I know that lifeless self not only drags myself in deeper but also members. So I end up joking around while talking nonsense. Either way, I think I am a positive person. (Laugh)
Q.You try to be funny in front of WINNER members, Big Bang or 2NE1 but it didn’t look like you were always 100% successful. (Laugh) Is there any member you are jealous for his ‘joking talent’?
MINHO: I think Jinwoo hyung is the natural. I tend to think a lot before saying jokes (I even think about the timing) but end up getting awkward laughs. But when JinWoo randomly say something, people start laughing out loud. I think my aegyo’s better (laugh) because whenever I’m aegyo-ing, SeungYoon normally does it with me, TaeHyun and JinWoo laughs like there is nothing funnier to laugh about, and SeungHoon compliments me. I will continue to work on it.
Q.You are at a starting point as a WINNER and Song Minho. What would be your final goal if you have any?
MINHO: Conquering the world. Signing a contract with NASA. Walking across the galaxy(?). (Laugh) It may sound like I’m joking but I tend to prefer surrealism when it comes to drawing because it has a charm, a possibility to create unexpected things. Such unrealistic goals might sound weird but it had always helped me to keep my head straight. I think setting high goals/dreaming big may be necessary for people like us who is at a starting point to jump into music shows, concerts, etc.
Q.Your voice sounds a little hoarse today.
TAEHYUN: I usually catch rhinitis between seasons. I also get homesick frequently. I think that’s because there is a particular fragrance whenever the seasons change. When I smell that fragrance, I become extremely emotional as I remember the times I smelled that fragrance. If I get emotional yet again, I fall deeply into that sentiment. Recently, I thought a lot about the past and the old memories.
Q.Were those thoughts about your pre-debut days?
TAEHYUN: Yes. I do think about the past but that does not mean my current lifestyle is not satisfying. However, a thought did come to my mind as I randomly saw a bus passing by: “Oh, I used to ride that bus numbered three hundred and something to get around and transferred at such and such places”. Now that I get around systematically with managers by car, those thoughts just came to me. I am very vulnerable to these memories. Maybe it’s because I usually think about myself a lot.
Q.You seem to express yourself through art besides music. Do you tend to work on it when you’re emotional like that?
TAEHYUN: Yes. To be honest, I tend to feel more free when I’m holding a brush than how I feel when I’m making music. I release the stress I get from making music, from having responsibilities and feeling burdensome by drawing. Because I can draw without thinking, just the way I want it.
Q.People seem to call you the “dignified maknae” since you are thoughtful and quiet. (Laugh) What do you think about what people around you say?
TAEHYUN: I want to be a maknae who they can count on rather than being a dignified one because I rely on hyungs a lot, too. With my frequent mood swings, people who meet me for the first time think I am a difficult person to approach. However, I think members’ bright and kind sides made me gentler. It’s fun when we are together. They are the hyungs that I really need.
Q.You kept in step with members since you were trainees but did you find anything new about them within this past month after debut?
TAEHYUN: Maybe about how members suddenly “get down” when they get disappointed in themselves? So I realized that we need to adjust those things for each other. I felt great and proud about Naver Starcast talk show because I was able to see how our reactions were good and how our teamwork has improved. I was really satisfied with Seunhoon’s “Empty” choreography. Each WINNER members have strong characteristics so I liked how we were expressing controlled emotions instead of trying hard to show off something. I think the choreography of “Empty” expressed the emptiness really well. I also liked the part where we were showing detailed movements with our fingertips. Our faith in each other is growing this way. We also try to learn more from a person who brought good results with his leadership when given the authority in an area that he is talented at. In a way, WINNER is a democratic team. (laughs)
Q.Fans describe you as a cat or a dignified maknae. It seems like you observe members or the surroundings a lot.
TAEHYUN: These days, I feel like I found a talent necessary to be a MC. (Laugh) Company staffs said that as well. I used to have a world of my own and go through frequent mood swings but these days I found a way to recover quickly when I’m feeling down. I used to be shy and have hard time opening my heart to people newly met but recently I found myself wanting to express my feelings often.
Q.How do you think about your changed self?
TAEHYUN: It’s interesting. To be honest, I thought I was very mature and adult-like when I was a teenager. I used to think, “I have a different mindset from kids my age” but after becoming an adult and entering YG, I realized how I was younger than people my age. I realized how there were so many things that I did not know about and how i was unaware of numerous people working in different specialities. Becoming part of YG and WINNER had broaden my perspective.
Q.Then the team must be precious to you. How do want to improve your teamwork while protecting your own world?
TAEHYUN: I once read a phrase saying, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” I agreed a lot with it. When I thought about whether I could have still had such good times without our members, the team became really precious to me. Because I want to go far, I will remember this phrase from now on.
Q.How far do you want to go?
TAEHYUN: I’m not sure. I’m thankful to win on various music shows and receive good response from Japan but I don’t think that should be all. It’s more like the dynamite just got lit and created few sparks. Few days ago, Big Bang’s TOP hyung advised us not to lose tension. Members and I think that compared to things we will do in the future, what we are doing now is nothing. I will be glad if people think like, “They are starting off well”
Q.Do you have a final goal you would like to achieve as a team?
TAEHYUN: I really like The Beatles. They dominated an entire generation and left a mark on history. I want WINNER to be a team like them. Not just known as a popular group with good looking members as a group that people have good impressions on, like, “WINNER’s music is really good” or “WINNER is a true artist”.
Q. You took a lot of interest in today’s photoshoot. You monitored the photos very closely during the shoot.
JINWOO: Yesterday, after the internet live broadcast, there were more schedules so I couldn’t sleep a lot. Because of that, I was worried about the photos and I wanted to retake photos until they looked perfect.
Q. Because your Japan promotions paralleled Korean promotions, you must have been happy to meet fans through this opportunity instead of through concerts.
JINWOO: It was really fascinating how they responded through the live stream. (laughs) Usually, I don’t look at reactions on the internet. I just noticed that the amount of people waiting for us at the airport was increasing and that we sometimes trend on search rankings? Through those small things, I feel that we are receiving a lot of love.
Q. You must be tired because of your tight schedule after debuting.
JINWOO: Because of that, the members try to raise the tension occasionally. As a given, Mino is a mood-maker and he’s really good at that. I don’t try to be funny but after saying a few words, the members end up laughing really hard so it’s fascinating (laughs). Even if it’s not work, I try to take care of the members. Since there’s an age gap between me and the members, if I was scary, it would have been hard for the members to approach me but since I am a comfortable hyung, I think we get a long well. The kids often jokes and pull pranks annoyingly but I like all of that. Seunghoon especially plays a lot of those jokes/pranks so it’s really funny.
Q. Have you become less nervous after debuting?
JINWOO: In a difficult situation, I’ve started to think more freely. In the past, when one trainee left, I cried a lot. But after someone left, a new member entered and since this process repeated, I don’t cry anymore. “Oh, they just left again”. It’s sort of like that (laughs). I’m starting to be more used to it now.
Q. We can feel that you are comfortable while you are on stage and in somewhat serious situations.
JINWOO: I’m the type of person that gets nervous a lot so I thought about how to relieve that often. Before going on stage, no matter what method I used, I still got nervous. But, after standing on the stage at Big Bang’s dome tour and 2NE1’s concert stage, I realized it.
Once I sing and dance on stage, my nervousness disappears. After that, I’ve had less pressure.
Q. Did you gain confidence through breakthroughs such as music show wins and placing 2nd on the Oricon chart?
JINWOO: Regarding things like that, I’m still very scared. As soon as we debuted, we reached #1 on music shows and music charts really quickly, but we’re still rookies. Our accomplishments are good, but I don’t know what to say. The next time we comeback, I wonder if we’ll still have this response. The final answer is something that can’t be answered by anyone. Because of that, I get nervous about it.
Q. How do you get rid of that anxiety?
JINWOO: I don’t talk to anyone and stay in my room alone. Because it makes me depressed. Because of things like that, I am sorry to the members. Usually, I am a hyung with a big heart (laughs) but I become sensitive because of little things so there have been times when I got mad over things that don’t matter. When I was a trainee, I was like that too, but I start to become like that without me even knowing.
Q: Is it because you are strict towards yourself?
JINWOO:Yes. When I can’t show what I want to do well, I get stressed. You can call me a perfectionist but I don’t think that’s a good thing.
Q. Because you and your team want to do a lot of things, if you had to say there’s a final goal, what would that be?
JINWOO: First off, since we’re babies, there’s a lot of things we want to do. Among those things, the thing we want to do the most is when people say “WINNER”, people will picture us. We want to create a unique color. Not only in Korea, but we want to create music that will extend to the whole world. It’s a huge dream, but dreams can come true.
Q. Do you any words of praise to yourself as someone who ran without resting?
JINWOO:First off, I’m thankful for surviving until the end. I’m thankful for not sleeping a lot. I was able to practice a lot because of that. Lastly, I’m 24 but I’m thankful for not getting too old (laughs) I’m most thankful for that.
Q: On the talkshow, Naver STarcast, you tend to be a person who adds comments instead of being the one who lead the conversation.
Seungyoon: I think I was born with that personality in the first place. I’m the type of person that steps forward everywhere so I enjoy jumping into conversations. (laughs) Of course, there are times when I say stuff out of kindness for members’ own good. We have been getting interviewed and making TV appearances but I think we are lacking in some aspects. Since I am technically a little bit more experienced than other members in this industry, I tend to rephrase what members say when I feel like there is a possibility for our audience to understand our words differently or negatively from what we intended.
Q: While you were going through those events, did you ever wish you made more TV appearances in Korea?
Seungyoon: It would be awesome if wecan have more chances to meet with our fans. Recently, we are getting less chances to communicate with our fans as we are going through tough schedules after debuting in Korea and Japan simultaneously. Japan tour was schedule way before official debut and our overseas schedules are tight. I sometimes think that it would be nice to take some rest when we come back to Korea but we try our best to catch as many opportunities as possible to make public appearances while we are here. Thta’s why we try to do variety of things, such as fan-signing events or radio shows.
Q: What kind of prgorams do you want to be on?
Seungyoon: Variety shows for sure. But I think at least two members hsould appear together. Mino andSeunghoon paried together would be nice, or Seunghoon with Jinwoo would be funny. Jinwoo’s character is so funny. I know he doesn’t take actoins to be funny purposely but his innocent self is so funny. Seunghoon once said that if Seunghoon and Mino are the ones who continuously jab Jinwoo, Jinwoo is the one who gets rid of them with one punch.
Q: It seems like you guys try to make funny scenes with each other non-stop.
Seungyoon: Since we haven’t spent much time together like BIGBANG seniors, we try our best to make memories whenever we get a chance. I realized how there are commonly asked questions like, “Do you have any stories to share while you were trainees otgether?” or “What happened while you were away to go through the scheduled events overseas?” And we don’t have much. We only practiced together as trainees and we just went through the scheduled events while we were away overseas. Because we don’t have much free tiem to make special memories, we always try to spend good times together within ourselves. For instance, Mino would start us off with aegyo then Seunghoon would add to it by creating funny scenes.
Q: Aside from enjoying yourselves, won’t there be times when you have to talk to each seriously?
Seungyoon: Occasionally, we talk as a group if we get feedbacks from staffs around us on how to improve ourselves as WINNER. For me, I feel more comfortable now than how I felt when I first became a leader on Mnet’s WIN. Back then, I had to take a role as a person who was more experienced to support them, but not anymore because members know how things work in this industry now. Also, I feel less burdensome because I’m not the oldest member although I’m the leader. Oldest member Jinwoo hyun and Seunghoon hyung takes care of everyday life stuff and etc. to the level I won’t have to pay any attention to anything. Thanks to them, I was able to think about what I can contribute to this group as a leader: just trying my best in singing and other stuff. I think that’s my role.
Q: Were members able to grow up as a group as they personally worked in this album?
Seungyoon: I think so in some aspects. Our company’s staffs tried to help us in the beginning. However as we worked on it, they said how it would be necessary for us to get more involved because the album was losing our own style. Our CEO also said, “Are there any sounds you guys made?” when he used to say, “Try recording this song”. Such progress allowed us to “see” how we are preparing ourselves for our own debut. We were worried about the possibility of sounding too much like amateurs when competing against professionals but I’m glad just for the fact that we did it. We’re also thankful for staffs and YG because they were the ones who believed and accepted us.
Q: Maybe that’s more like it because you were able to accomplish so much within a short period.
Seungyoon: But when we look at our accomplishments such as being number two on the Oricon chart or number one onmusic charts, we think less about the fact that we achieved something but about how thankful we should be to the people who believed in us and supported us. In my opinion, because every member think like that, we were able to not lose modestly or slack off but become more humble. Of course, it’s also didn’t really hit us just yet about everything happening these days. Maybe we can realize how we did well if we receive any awards at the end of the year or perform in a concert hall that’s filled to capacity.
Q: Comparing your current self to your pre-debut self, how do you think you changed?
Seungyoon: I’m very conservative and strong-willed. I used to not cooperate if there is something that I believed is right. But after going through numerous different situations and spending time listening to members’ advices. I thought about how I may not always be right. With my wider “tolerance range”, I learned how there are times when I should not intervene. Maybe I’m more matured now? (laughs)
Q: Don’t you think you grew up/matured too fast?
Seungyoon: I matured in some aspects but did not int he other. There were times when hyungs scolded me for being rude or misbehaving. However, I think I definitely could not avoid maturing through social life or work-related experiences. I realize it when I meet childhood friends or people my age for the fact that I know the answer to something they’re stressed about, or think how their thoughts are simply cute. Then I question myself, “Am I really a stuffy youngster?”
Q: You’re not scared of it?
Seungyoon: No, I’m not. I’m more scared of not having the ability to do anything.
Q. In the Color Ring music video, the scene where you fall into the water was impressive. Wasn’t it scary?
Hoon: It was really scary. After the shooting ended, it was to the point where I cried. At first,
my heart was throbbing. Since the water was 5m deep, the more I fell into the water, it became increasingly difficult. Because of the water pressure, my ears really hurt, I choked a lot of water and I also lacked oxygen. Suffering alone in the early morning was really lonely.
Q. On the other hand, it seems like you don’t have any fears about broadcast. During the Naver Starcast, it seemed like you were the MC.
Hoon: They gave me a script with lots of details. However, the times when I didn’t look at the script and just talked was more natural and our charms came out more. The feeling when the 5 members laugh and talk together normally was portrayed. When I read the script, it felt a little forced. I wondered, “What am I saying right now?” I didn’t feel like I was skilled in the area of MCing. I felt like a baby in the woods. Since we were together, it wasn’t that awkward but if we were with other people, I don’t think I could have done that. I’m very shy.
Q. You summarized and organised situations really well with your comments. Are you like that in person?
Hoon: I’m in charge of organizing in the team. After we eat together, I tend to clean up (laughs).Truthfully, since I’m in charge of choreography and performances, I tend to always watch the members. During rehearsals, I have become used to watching how the members did the motions and figuring out the overall picture. The members jokingly call me the team’s ace but in any team, each member has a speciality. Compared to other people, I do something better and since there are things I know more, I lead in those aspects. To be direct, the members take a long time picking what they want to eat so I choose what we’ll eat in an organised way. Something like, “It’ll be just right if we order two of these and three of that.”
Q. We heard that you’re also specialized in styling.
Hoon: I think, “I’m going to wear simple things but let’s not be boring”. When I look at the entire balance and if it’s too plain, I like to make points to outfits with accessories, a hat, or a pair of shoes. If I were in charge of the team’s styling at one point, I want to make them try on outfits with extremely scandalous and cute themes such as doll masks, plastic clothes, and net/mesh clothing. Although I’ll be sorry for my members.
Q. When you choreograph, what do you emphasize?
Hoon: I’m not the type that dances powerfully and with effort. When I’m done dancing, I don’t have a drop of sweat but I like dances that make you go “wow, that was so cool”. Rather than syncrhonized dancing, I like dancing that is comfortable to look at but not too bored and something that you remember. I made Empty’s choreography thinking that it shouldn’t be too difficult. There are teams that choose to grab both the dancing and singing but even if we give up on dancing, we work to appeal the song more. I mainly worried about “How can I make this part more comfortable for the members so they can sing comfortably?”
Q. Since you were very young, you danced and dreamed of coming into this company. What’s it like now that your dream came true?
Hoon: Standing on one stage with Big Bang is very bewildering and unfamiliar. Ever since I was young, they were my idols but the fact that they are now my fellow artists doesn’t make sense to me. I continue to regard the existence of Big Bang as my idols in my head. I want to become close to them. But rather than getting close to them personally, I want to leave them in my heart preciously. I also feel like Big Bang and our group are not affiliated. If Big Bang is a big corporation, Winner is a small company.
Q. Because of that, it must be more important of what you do from now on.
Hoon: Because we are singers, we want to receive love musically like Big Bang. Other than that, we want to act, be on variety shows, and appear on TV as much we can. We also really want to meet the fans who love and support as much as possible. Stuff like that makes me the happiest. When I see fans, all my exhaustion disappears. Like Big Bang, I want our name to be known worldwide but rather than seeing it as a goal, I think it’ll come naturally as a result of hard work. Right now, I think it’s important to work hard where we are now.
Q. Seeing that you placed 2nd place on the Oricon Chart, it seems that you are somewhat popular overseas.
Hoon: Truthfully, it doesn’t feel real. Since we have the same schedule patterned everyday, it feels like we’re employees who attend a company and we don’t have time to feel like “Ah, we’ve become stars”. It’s just like there’s another schedule tomorrow, there’s an interview, and a shooting, so I’m happy and my heart flutters everyday looking forward to those activities. Maybe I’ll feel the reality of the situation if my mom came to visit me in a Benz or if I went to my house in Busan and see that my family moved to a better house. (laughs)
Q. After debuting and performing, what has changed the most about you?
Hoon: In the beginning, we didn’t accept each other’s styles and everyone tried to change it to their own style. Each of us thought each of our style was the correct one. After experiencing a lifestyle in a team, I realized that everyone’s styles are just different, not wrong. I realised that we all had to acknowledge each other’s style, lifestyle, and just respect each other. Thanks to that, I think we came to live peacefully. If we don’t invade each other’s territory, we’re comfortable, there’s no point in starting a fight.
Q. It seems like you’ve become a peacekeeper (laughs)
Hoon: My life’s motto is “Live happily”. When there are situations that give me stress, I’m the type that forgets that stress by sleeping deeply. My mood also improves after eating delicious foods. I enjoy searching for good food places. There are times when I get healed from my pet dog, Lee Hee. During the winter, when I turn on the heated mat and cuddle with Lee Hee, I sleep well because I’m warm. (laughs)
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