Changmin's Interview for Dazed & Confused May Issue
Q: Do you have any principles you go by when wearing suits, or any styles that you like?
A: I like suits that are fitting. Today’s suit is slightly different, but it is not bad as well. The shooting process was very interesting.
Q: Which is your favourite among the sets of clothing today?
A: I like the suit that appears a bit faded. The set with short sleeves and the hat was also not bad. Ah, what was that thing called again?
Q: It’s called suspenders. Simply put, it’s overalls?
A: Yes, a staff said earlier on, “These are overalls?”. I said, “Don’t go around saying that.” (laughs)
Q: Do you still feel shy when people give you compliments such as, “You really look very good” and “You are really handsome”? Even just now, you kept saying, “Who am I (to be considered good looking)?” and “No, no”. Should you not have gotten used to it since you hear it so often?
A: Since I was young, my father seldom praised me. Awhile back, when I was drinking with my father, he suddenly said, “I did not praise you much when you were young, sorry.” Because of this, I feel embarrassed every time I hear such compliments.
Q: Have you ever seen yourself as good looking?
A: It would be a lie if I said no right? Rather than being good looking, I think I am not bad looking?
Q: When mentioning Changmin, the thing that people most commonly say is “He is the only person who is unaware of the singing abilities he has.” What do you think about this?
A: Yes, I am rather strict with myself.
Q: It has been almost 10 years since your début?
A: I used to be have a “model trainee” complex, thinking that I should never allow others to see any negative sides of me. In the past, I would be very conscious of the words I used during interviews, and I would talk about morals and beliefs. Now, even under the packaging by others, I still want to show a true kind side of myself. Working hard blindly, but ending up closing yourself off will just create a lot of stress. I do not like telling people, “I am this kind of person.” I would rather not have people have false expectations of me simply because I say something which sounds good. I do not wish to be seen that way, I would be more comfortable if things were not that way. Nowadays when I make mistakes, I will think, “Ah, it’s okay, I can actually do better than this. It is not as if I didn’t work hard… ” Rather than saying that I am confident in my own abilities, I guess it can be said that I started to believe in my own efforts to some extent. During these two to three months, during the 20-odd concerts we have had while on tour in Japan, there has not been a single time when I have been stressed out or upset because of a mistake I made. Every time, every moment when I made a mistake was interesting. It surprised me as well.
Q: But those mistakes are not as big mistakes as we think right?
A: When we were in Hong Kong for a performance a while ago, I lost my voice. If it was in the past, I would have went “Argghhhh” and gotten stressed up, and it would show on my face. 2 weeks before that, some things had happened at home so my body was in a bad condition, when I tried singing before we went on stage, my voice could not come out. (So I thought to myself) “Ah, it seems like something is going wrong today,” and asked the manager for a preventive shot.
Q: When things are hard, how do you make yourself feel better?
A: By drinking. I drank a little today as well.
Q: You are strict with yourself, but it seems drinking is an exception? But drinking does not affect your state of mind right?
A: Oh, it does. Because of the sudden changes to the body and physiological changes. I do not cause any inconvenience to other people at all though.
Q: Who do you drink with?
A: It is difficult to meet up frequently with friends from the company, so I often drink alone at home or with my manager.
Q: Are you not afraid of getting a beer belly?
A: It is true that a beer belly may appear, but I think it is all right as long as you drink in moderation.
Q: Do you go to places like bars to drink?
A: I sometimes go to beer pubs.
Q: Are you not afraid of being recognised by people?
A: If someone recognises me, I greet them. Then I just drink without letting it bother me, and without worrying about what happens outside the shop.
Q: Beer aside, what is the biggest gift you have given yourself?
A: I do not seem to have given myself any big gifts. I am the type who distinguishes between something that I want to buy on impulse, and something that I would use for a long time.
Q: I am reminded of the Confucian sayings which were written on your arm during the filming just now. It is just like Confucian teachings.
A: There is a car which catches my eye, but right now I do not particularly feel the need to change my car now. It was a car given as a gift by the company. It is not like I do not have one, and it is something still working well, so I do not think there is a pressing need to get a new one.
Q: When was the time when you remember spending the largest amount of money?
A: The monetary wedding gift I gave three to four years ago to our manager, who has suffered a lot. Although the definition of what a large amount and small amount is varies from person to person, but for me that is the time when I recall spending the most.
Q: Looking at recent news, they say that you are the no. 1 4th-dimensional artist. Why is this so?
A: Among the fans, there are these sayings (about me), such as “The high-schooler has returned.” and “Is this guy crazy?” Shinhwa’s Dongwan-hyung has a famous quote, saying “Shinhwa cannot possibly take responsibility for everyone’s life.” And this is exactly how I feel. I do not sugar-coat my words, and I refuse to be the influence of these children. I do not have the power to be responsible for them. The “me” that you see is a result of packaging (laughs). This is not to say that I do not care about everyone, it is just that I do not wish for people to waste their time on meaningless things, which is why I say such words.
Q: You are appearing in Director Izutsu Kazuyuki’s “Soar with the Gold,” filming together with Asano Tadanobu and Tsumabuki Satoshi. Is it because of TVXQ that you are able to appear in this movie?
A: It is a little embarrassing for me to say this myself, but the director said that when he was looking at the shortlist, he felt that I could pull off the idol look, or exude a more fresh-faced image. I don’t even know if this is a good or bad thing (laughs). I asked him, “Is this a compliment?” and the reply was, “Hmm..not necessarily..”
Q: Working with Asano Tadanobu and Tsumabuki Satoshi, were you afraid?
A: Yes. It wasn’t to the extent of fear, but due to the language barrier, it was really difficult and there was a lot of pressure. I haven’t reached the level where I can live just by speaking Japanese, and the co-stars were speaking in dialect, and I had to react quickly, so that was hard to adapt to. I’m also not very familiar with the everyday terms that is used by the Japanese. For example, in convenience stores in Japan, they sell alcohol in transparent cups. It is cheap and convenient and an alcohol that anyone can drink, but when the other party recommended it to me, he called it “nitroglycerin”. I just took the word in its literal sense, so the impression I got was that of an “explosion”. No matter how you look at it, isn’t the equivalent of explosives nitroglycerin? Due to various factors, such as knowing that right before filming started, it made me nervous, even though I knew what the director wanted, and what the character was supposed to be like. I was nervous because although in my head I knew (what was required of me), I was afraid I would not be able to translate it into actions, and thus not be able to do it properly. That was the most stressful for me.
Q: Having to (film) concurrently with the ongoing of the tour must have been quite hard?
A: The role I play in the movie is one who is isolated by the world, and has also isolated himself from the world. Then the very next day after filming, I am required to become the performer who performs happily in a venue which can hold an audience of 550,000. This way, it is not easy for me to immerse myself in the movie. It was also challenging physically. Thus, when thinking about how (the movie) was a really good production with a really good director and cast, it made me think, “Ah, this is really frustrating.” I have learnt many things and it has been very rewarding, yet as much as I do not want to admit it, there are regrets. What is it that I feel regretful about? I learnt a lot. The feeling of inadequacy which I felt made it a valuable experience.
Q: So if that movie were to be filmed again, would you film it?
A: There is a culture in Japan for bouquets to be given to actors and actresses after filming has been completed, in recognition of their hard work. When the bouquets were passed around, the (cameraman) filming the making clip asked, “How do you feel now that filming has ended?” While glancing at the director, I replied, “If I had known earlier on that this was such a tough job, I would not have done it.” (laughs)
Q: In fact, your acting in “Paradise Ranch” was rather well done right? Did you not feel regrets such as “I did not get the recognition I deserved for my efforts,” because the viewership ratings were low and there wasn’t that much interest?
A: As it was my first time (acting), I did hope that things could have gone better, but it was not to the extent where I felt that it was a failure. Anyway, I was not criticised too harshly since it was my first attempt at acting. (laughs)
Q: You feel strongly about not wanting to be criticised no matter what it is you are doing?
A: Yes, I don’t really like that. I also do not want to be seen as someone who does not take things seriously. I really dislike that.
Q: Have you ever heard people says things about you “not taking things seriously”?
A: Yes, I have heard it a lot. When we first made our debut, (they said) I could not dance. To be honest, I have never dreamt of becoming an expert in dance or anything of that sort, and even now I do not have such hopes. If I say things like this, will the company not like it? Anyway, I do not like hearing things like “He can’t make it.”
Q: Before becoming an artist, have you ever been such a fan of someone that you did things like putting his/her poster up on the wall, or collecting his/her photos?
A: Nope, I had to play games with my friends, and go play soccer, I had many things to do. Haha.
Q: If you were born again, would you still be TVXQ? If the same opportunity were to arise?
A: To be honest, till awhile ago, I thought that I would like to live an ordinary life. Rather than saying I dislike this life, it is more like having experienced this once already, I would like to try living a different life. I am really enjoying work recently. Dancing and singing. Right now, in my heart, I think I would do this again.
Q: What are the inconveniences of living as a celebrity? Is it bearable?
A: Recently there aren’t that many fans (laughs). Just kidding. In the early stages of our debut, it really bothered me. No matter what, it was not my dream, and I was doing a job I could not even have imagined. “Ah, this is not a job that I want, so why am I here and getting all stressed out?” I blamed myself a lot. But now I really enjoy it.
Q: What makes you enjoy it so much?
A: Working like this, singing, learning to play the guitar, going overseas. If it were not for this job, how would I have accumulated hundreds of thousands of mileage? (laughs) And we seem to be living pretty good lives.
Q: We saw a photo of you buying a book at the airport. Did you finish reading Steve Jobs’ biography?
A: Ah, because I bought a book with more than 900 pages (laughs), I have read about two-thirds of it.
Q: And if you were to pick something from that which left the deepest impression?
A: Usually, when books are written about people who have passed on, they usually speak of that person’s achievements or good points, but this book was not like this at all. “Ah, what’s wrong with this person? Does he have a split personality? Why is his family history like this?” Unexpectedly, I think it was because it covered these bad points, that made it interesting. Steve Jobs’ train of thought itself is very different from ordinary people. He looks at things from a different angle, and he is very observant. It may seem like an obvious choice, but the line “Stay hungry, stay foolish” really left an impression. This world was created by crazy men.
Q: If a book were to be written about Changmin-ssi, what do you think the first line should be?
A: I would like for something crude sounding to be included. Is it ok if I say things like this? “He really lived magnificently like a dog.” Haha. I think that would be good.
Q: Have you really lived “magnificently”?
A: First off, I think that for me to have been born as the son of a Korean teacher was a mistake in itself (laughs). It is not easy.
Q: Do you think it would be alright for you to live even more “magnificently” in the future?
A: Gee, of course. I would like that.