Rolling Stone released their June cover with BTS last week. They also going to release a digital solo cover for each member with an interview. As for today, we already got j-hope, Jimin and Jin.
In some of your lyrics, you’ve revealed that there is sometimes a sadness behind the smile that everyone loves. How do you balance the positivity that you present to the world with the more complex emotions you may experience in real life?
Things are really different from how it used to be. I just try to show who I really am. And I think that’s the most comfortable for me. Everybody has, you know, different sides from what they show. Of course, I do have a burden and a pressure as an artist. I just take them in for what they are. And I just try to express that I’m going to overcome these difficulties.
And if I express those things, I think that also gives me a sense of consolation as well. We have been communicating with our fans ever since we became artists, but now I think it’s became more natural and comfortable. Before we tried to only show them the good side, the bright side of us. As my name is J. Hope, I only tried to show the bright side of our group and myself. But as the time passes by, one cannot feel the same way. forever so I also felt other emotions. So I tried to express those emotions through music or dialogue, to express them in a very beautiful way.
One of those songs is “Outro: Ego.” What were you thinking when you wrote that one?
It’s really about self-reflection, reflecting on who I am, my ego, as the name implies. It’s about the life of Jung Ho-seok [J-Hope’s real name] as an individual, and the life of J-Hope. And the conclusion that I draw from this inner reflection is that I believe in myself, and I believe who I am, and this is my identity. And then these are the challenges that I have faced and I’ll continue to face these challenges and do new things by relying on who I am.
In 2018, you released the mixtape Hope World, which was a major artistic achievement. What are your favorite memories of working on it?
You know, looking back, I think it was really pure, innocent, and beautiful that I could do such music at those times. When I work on music right now, I have an opportunity to go back to those emotions and think, Oh, those were the days think it really has a good influence on my music that I work on now. Through the mixtape I learned a lot, and I think it really shaped the direction that I want to go as an artist as a musician. And I’m really just grateful that so many people loved my mixtape. I am planning to keep on working on music and to try to show people a [style of] music unique to J. Hope.
What are your thoughts on a second mixtape?
Right now the goal is to get inspired and make good music. Nothing is decided yet, so I’m just going to keep working on music. And I think my style of music will not greatly change, but I think it will be more mature. I will try to contain stories that are really want to tell in the second mixtape.
You just released the full version of the song “Blue Side” from Hope World. Was that was that just something you had the whole time or did you finish it more recently?
It wasn’t a full version at that time. so I always had the thought of going back to that song and complete it I always had that in mind. And I think it was like two weeks or one month ago that I finally came to think that oh, I want to finish this song. So you know, as I mentioned earlier, I really look back onto the emotions that I have when I worked on the mixtape and that’s when that’s when I started to work on the blue side and you know, I really like making fun art for the album as well so I collaborated with artists as well i think that led to a good work.
When you started as a trainee you hadn’t rapped at all. You’ve obviously come a long way and developed some serious skills – what was that learning process like?
I still think I have some shortcomings. And I still think that I still have a long way to go, to learn more things. I have to find my own unique style. But I think I could only come this far because thanks to the other members. When first started training, all the members were all rappers in that crew. So when you go into the house, beats were dropping, and everyone was just rapping in freestyle. It was kind of not easy to adapt at first, but I really tried hard to adapt to that new environment. And I think those were good times and good memories, and it was really fun as well.
You were very young when you began as a trainee. What’s it been like to grow up in BTS?
I think during my training, life was far apart from being ordinary. Because other guys, my friends, would do schoolwork at school and go on field trips and build memories as a student. And of course I chose this career, my own path, giving up those things. Maybe I could feel unfortunate to not to have experienced those things but I was chasing my dreams. And meeting the members during our trainee days was really amazing because it is just amazing that different people who were so different could come together to form a group. And I really want to thank those guys, and I sometimes I feel like I really want to go back to those days.
What do you think when you look back at BTS’ earliest videos, where you all had this almost tough image?
Back when we had released “No More Dream,” our music embodied the battle against prejudice and oppression. So naturally, such values carried over to the style and visual aspects of the release as well. You could say it was our identity and the image that we also portrayed at that moment. But we can’t forever dwell in that static state. As time flows, things change and trends change, as did our tendencies in music. We took into account the influences around us, including, of course, our audiences. These influences guided us towards our own change in musical style and concepts.
You’ve all said many times that when you all first got together, there were conflicts because you had different backgrounds and different values. What were some of the key differences that made it tough early on?
We were just really different from the beginning, so it was awkward. It did take time to get used to it. We were living together but we had to make sure we each had our own personal spaces. And eventually we learned to understand each other and now we’ve been doing this for so long together that we this sort of harmony, an understanding of each other that allows us to have the kind of teamwork we have. And each of us have different roles and different things we do in in the music, so we also try to help each other in what we’re doing and try to help each other become better.
Some fans think that you may be working on a mixtape. Is that true?
To be perfectly honest, there’s really nothing that’s ready or prepared. I am trying new things and really challenging myself with new things. But there is nothing that’s concrete or ready to put out.
What have you learned about yourself from the past year, in your time off the road?
I realized that we’ve been telling people to really love themselves and telling them to be stronger. This year, I began to tell myself these things as well, and convincing myself that this is also something I need to keep in mind. I also realized there were times when I was being too on the edge with people around me. And I thought that I should go back to the way I was, to realign my gears, so to speak, so that I can become again the person that I used to be when it comes to how I treat people around me and how I treat myself. Now, I see people reacting positively to even small positive changes.
For seven years or so, you had ARMY cheering for you. In the past year, because of the pandemic, you’ve faced silence. How have you adjusted to that?
I still have a series of negative thoughts about the situation. You know, “Why are we in this situation?” You know, “What are we doing?” And I didn’t want to acknowledge or admit or face the fact that we can’t see our friends and can’t do the things that we had been doing, as you said, for the past seven years.
What made you want to dance when you were young, and how did you realize that you had a gift for it?
First of all, I never thought that I’m good at dancing. But I began to like dancing when I was young. It was my friends who suggested that we go learn how to dance as an after-school activity. As I did more of it, I began to like it more and I started taking more lessons. And I became more and more immersed in it. And I realized, as I continued to learn how to dance, that I didn’t have the stress when I was dancing. It was my own space where I could go to a different world, where I didn’t have to think about other things. It was something that I could really immerse myself into. And it made me feel really free. And it made me really happy. And then even after I debuted and I still have those feelings and those emotions, dancing is the best answer.
I understand that you don’t like to make mistakes. But that could make you very hard on yourself, couldn’t it?
When I debuted, I had the shortest period of training. And I feel that I wasn’t fully ready and confident when we debuted. I still have my shortcomings. I’m always moved by the fans who dedicate themselves — their time, their emotions, everything about themselves — to appreciating what I do and loving what I do. It makes me feel that for their sake and for their devotion that I shouldn’t make mistakes. So if you ask how do I learn to be easier on myself or more generous to myself, I think that will be something that will continue to be very difficult for me because of how I feel. When people point out things that I need more work in, it used to make me really angry at myself. Now I feel thankful if people point out things I need more work in. It makes me want to try harder.
Who were some of your early musical heroes?
There were a lot of artists that influenced me. Foreign artists — Michael Jackson, Usher — and also a lot of Korean artists. But a lot of my musical inspiration came from watching the other members do their work.
You were sort of the project coordinator for Be. What did you take away from that experience?
What I took away is first, how sincere the members were about making the album and making the music. So much time and so much effort goes into the creation of the music. What I also took away from it is I should also dedicate this kind of time and effort to making and creating music, and I should also try to make great music. I was really inspired by what the members contributed to the process and how we all worked on the album.
You’ve all said many times that there were differences between the members that you’ve overcome over the years. Can you elaborate at all on those differences?
[Laughs] So many that I couldn’t possibly list. We all had different personalities, personalities that clash. And I, for example, may consider myself to be a little bit slower, more contemplative or more introverted. And then there are other members who want do things much faster. They’re much more active and outgoing. And then there are other guys who are even more introverted and even slower than I am. So, of course, these personalities continued to clash. I think we’ve all come to develop an understanding that it is OK to have these differences, that some people are going to be slow, and some people are going to be fast. Sometimes we have to wait. Sometimes we have to ask more questions. I think all of us sort of developed an understanding of each other.
I love the song “Serendipity” from 2017. You really pushed yourself as a singer on that one. Could you share your memories of recording it?
I think this was the first time I really tried to highlight all the nuances of my voice and focus on each detail of my vocal expression. So it was very difficult to try to make sure that translated into the recording. And I just remember the recording process being very difficult because of how hard I tried to make sure that I focused on all of these details, making sure that they are expressed in the song.
Would you like to still be in BTS when you’re 40 years old?
I don’t think I’ve ever really thought of being not a part of this group. I can’t imagine what I would do on my own, what I would do without the team. Even before we debuted my goal was to continue to work with these people, to continue to sing with these people. I think when I become older, and I grow my own beard, I would like to think that at the end, when I’m too old to dance, I would just like to sit onstage with the other members and sing and engage with the fans. And communicate with the fans. I think that would be great, too. So I’d like to keep this going as long as I possibly can.
I know you just woke up today. What was your day like yesterday?
We went to shoot a variety show, a popular and famous show in Korea, and we haven’t done one of these in a while. I want to emphasize and make sure it’s pointed out for the record that everybody went berserk about how good-looking I was [laughs].
Even through the mask I can tell. So what have you learned about yourself in this year off the road?
Especially when we were on tour, there wasn’t time to reflect on myself and figure out what gives me joy, what makes me relax. Being off the road for a year gave me a chance to really reflect on what I want and who I am, and sort of learn to love myself. I got a chance to sleep more, and that makes me a lot more satisfied. I tried exercising, and I realized that’s something that I like. And everyday things like playing games, watching movies, singing, those kinds of things.
At the same time, it feels like you felt the pain of not being on tour.
Not just myself, but other members really felt that. When we couldn’t go on tour, everybody felt really a sense of loss, a sense of powerlessness, and we were all sad. And it actually took us a while to get over those feelings.
You wrote the song “Abyss” about some of those feelings, right?
As the title suggests, I was feeling very down deep in the abyss when I was writing the lyrics. I was feeling very sad and down. But the process of actually singing the song and recording the song alleviated a lot of those emotions.
“Moon” is a great guitar-driven song. Is it true that you would like BTS to record more material that leans toward rock?
I don’t think I’ll refuse any rock-style songs that come our way. It’d be good if we can do more of them, but they have to be feel appropriate and match the style of our team.
Since your background was in acting, you really had to learn to sing and dance from scratch as a trainee. What was that like?
It was true then and it still is true now that it does take more effort for me to do the things that may come more naturally for the other members. I lack in many areas. For example, a lot of the other members will learn a dance once and they’ll be able to dance right away to the music. But I can’t do that, so I do try to work harder so I don’t hold the other members back or be a burden. So I would come to dance practice an hour early, or after the practice was over, I would stay behind another hour or so, and ask the teacher to go over the choreography one more time.
But you’ve become an amazing singer. What were some moments when you started to realize that you achieved some mastery of singing?
I don’t think there really was a moment when I felt I had arrived as a singer. I haven’t mastered singing. But a singer has a duty and an obligation to bring joy to the audience. As we went on tour, I began to see the audience liking what I was doing. We were sharing the same emotions and what I was doing was resonating with them more and more. So whether it was my singing or my performance or whatever it might be, I began to realize that I am able to communicate with the audience.
Tell me about [HYBE founder] Mr. Bang. What is his particular genius?
[Cheekily] A lot of it, I think, is luck. The realization of genius was his good fortune in meeting us. I don’t think he could have done it without us. I think in his good fortune lies his genius. … I think one thing that I can say about him is his ability to look into the future and read trends very early on. He’s able to see, “This is the kind of thing that we can be doing; this will be good for the future.” So I think that he’s very capable in that. Plus he’s very lucky.
You are, of course, the oldest member of the group. There’s a truism that people sort of freeze at the age they become famous, because that’s when ordinary life stops for them. So in your head, do you feel like someone who is almost 30, or do you feel younger?
This is embarrassing for me to say because it’s sort of tooting our own horn, I guess. But at every moment where I felt that we were at the peak of our fame, after that we reached another peak, and another peak. And so as I continued to become older, and again, it’s kind of embarrassing to say this, we were able to hit more and more peaks. So I feel my age! I feel that I’m 29.
Would you like to try acting again at some point?
Nothing’s carved in stone. I sort of like to go with the flow and do what I feel. Right now I really love music, so I think I’m obviously more oriented to doing music.
“Spring Day” is obviously a group effort, but I find your part on it particularly moving. What do you remember about recording that song?
We wanted to create sort of a sweetly sentimental or melancholy feeling for that song. When we got the lyrics, we tried to set the theme and the tone for recording the music. I tried to recall a lot of my sweetly melancholy memories so that I could translate it into the overall feeling. For example, you’re thinking about a friend that you may have lost touch with, and drawing from that sadness.
How does all the complex vocal interplay on BTS’ songs come about — how do you all decide who sings what?
So when a song is finished, we will all sing it. We will sing the entire song. And then we decide which lines really suit which person and their character. And we try to work that out.
And finally, in your trainee days, could you have ever imagined this level of success?
I think at that time, I felt that if I could bring together an audience of 1,000 people, that’s what I wanted to do. That was my goal back in those days.
Sources: RollingStone.com 1, 2 & 3, Rolling Stone YouTube 1, 2 & 3