Jooheon for Star1 Magazine, Hyungwon for Marie Claire Korea & videos ::
Minhyuk for Arena Homme+
[Interview]Several moments from Vogue Ship-show, your show on Naver NOW, have gone viral. Do you have a particular technique for conducting interviews?
I like to look up recent news about the guest and prepare a few conversation points. Like, “I saw you did such-and-such recently, it seems to be going really well,” or something like that. It’s less about me leading the conversation well and more about making the guest happy and comfortable talking about themself.
You’re an excellent conversationalist. Have you always been a good talker?
I get it from my mother, she’s a great talker. My brother and my father are more stoic but I take after my mom’s side of the family. And my mother always taught me how important attitude and manners are. For example, when we went somewhere like the department store, if I didn’t hold the door for her then she’d stand there and wait until I came back and opened it. She’d say, “When you’re with a girlfriend, or your elders, or even your friends, you have to hold the door and wait for them. That’s good manners.”
Your appearance is somewhat cold, it was a surprise to see how outgoing you are.
I’ve heard that a lot (laughs). I think my appearance has actually gotten softer over the years, but I don’t mind people thinking I look cold. Isn’t it more interesting if the way someone acts isn’t necessarily the way they look? I think fans also find that difference attractive. Sometimes I see memes they make about my image when they did and didn't know me and they’re really fun.
I saw somewhere you described yourself as someone who’s ‘sunny but not.’
I try to match the energy of the people I’m with. People expect me to be the ‘vitamin’ of the group when I’m being Monsta X’s Minhyuk so I try to live up to that. But that’s definitely not all of Lee Minhyuk. I dredge up as much energy as I can for filming or working, then pass out when I get home. My only hobbies are gaming, painting, online shopping, and watching science videos on YouTube at home.
What do you think fans who are Minhyuk ‘biased’ like about you?
I’m not sure. Even with someone you’re dating, if you’re asked what they like about you, you’re usually not really sure. That’s how it feels. But I always say I want to be an idol that feels like a friend. Someone you can greet when you run into, someone you can talk to about this and that online. I guess maybe they like me because they feel like I’m close to them?
What kind of person do you yourself think Minhyuk is?
Not a bad person, that’s about it. A lot of people see me as someone really friendly and nice but the truth is I’m very definite about what I like and don’t like and I’m pretty demanding when it comes to work so some people find me hard to approach. Doesn’t seem like it, right? But it's true (laughs).
One of your nicknames is the ‘SEO king’
There was a stretch when I avoided searching for posts or comments online. Seeing what people liked and didn’t like about me was starting to affect the way I acted and make me self-conscious. It started feeling like I wasn’t being real so I stopped looking myself up for a while. Then I went back to the fan cafe for the first time in a long time but rather than ‘where have you been,’ the fans’ reactions were more like, ‘we’re happy you’re back.’ That helped me get over that slump. Nowadays, I’m trying not to let others’ reactions determine how I act and just go according to my instincts.
Always working to live up to others’ expectations doesn’t sound easy.
It isn’t. It’s not always a good habit. In the past, when we filmed things I’d always be asking, “Is this okay? Are we doing okay? Are we getting enough footage?” But it’s healthier to just have fun with filming in the moment and trust that the crew will direct and edit it well. I’m trying to be less conscious of that.
Do those habits have anything to do with your being the oldest son at home and the ‘good son of Changsin-dong’?
I think so. I have a good-son compulsion. You know what that is? Like no one even asks me to do all this for them but I do it anyways. Like yesterday, I happened to stop by at home and I left them all the cash I had. I gave the clothes I was wearing to my little brother and kept asking if there was anything else they needed. It’s a disease, it is. I’m sure there are people who know what I’m talking about. Nobody asks for it and I don’t expect anything in return but I just feel like I need to.
You seem to communicate very comfortably, even now.
A lot of people around me talk to me about their problems. Somehow I’ve ended up knowing quite a few people’s secrets.
Why do you think others like to confide in you?
Maybe because I listen to their issues and immediately forget about them? (Laughs) But if someone says, “talking to so-and-so always makes me feel like such-and-such,” rather than pry with questions like, “Why, what is that person usually like?,” I’ll respond like, “Really? That makes sense. How do you feel about that?” I think that attitude helps people open up.
Sounds like you would’ve been a good teacher as well.
Someday, I really want to hold open lectures for aspiring idols. I started training relatively late in life and when I became a trainee, there was nobody to tell me what that process would be like. As I’ve gained more experience, I’ve developed my own expertise and I want to use it to help people like me. That sounds altruistic? It’s for my own good as well. I think doing those lectures would be fulfilling for me too.
When did you start dreaming of being an idol?
I was a big fan of kpop artists when I was young but I didn’t really let it show. I was in the art club in middle school and one day I was watching the kids in the hip-hop dance club practicing some move with their arms and I tried it later at home and to my surprise, I could do it (laughs). Then in my third year, my friend and I sang Lee Sora sunbaenim’s “Please” at a talent show. I spent the whole day listening to the song and practicing until the batteries in my MP3 player ran out and I was so nervous I was shaking. But once I got onstage and felt the energy of the audience, it was really thrilling.
What did you want to be before that?
A poet, an art teacher, a cartoonist. We all have a lot of dreams when we’re little. I liked writing poems and drawing pictures, I even entered a lot of competitions.
I saw some of your paintings. I like how you draw very innocent subjects like whales, stars, and flowers.
I painted this portrait recently. I tried to make it so that one side of it is sharp and clear, the other side of it is fading into nothing.
It looks pretty sad. Is this a self-portrait?
It is. It’s my face but it doesn’t look much like me.
You’re very handsome but you didn’t draw yourself that way.
I just don’t know how to draw people well. I wish I knew how to make people look nice but I don’t know, maybe it’s a reflection of my twisted soul, they all turn out weird and lumpy (laughs). I’m not good at making things look normal. I don’t start with sketches either, I go straight to the paint. Sometimes I’ll put on rubber gloves and smear the paint with my fingers, sometimes I’ll splatter it with a brush. If I have the time, I can paint for five or six hours at once. I’d like to take proper, formal lessons someday.
Your art often features whales and roses and you even have tattoos of these images. What do these mean to you?
Whales are giant and long-lived and well-traveled. Roses symbolize love. So I put them together. I want to carry the ones I love to wherever we want to go. And the tattoo on my back is a rose in a mirror. The mirror is a reflection of my self, the rose is love. It just means I should love myself. I think people will like the photos we took with roses today.
Your customized items are very pretty too.
I like the idea of something that’s completely unique. Customizing doesn’t have to be hard. Even if you just switch your shoelaces to something else, that’s custom. I’m thinking of using a thick brush to paint black Xs on this pair of Converses I’m wearing, and even if someone else tries to do the same thing, it won’t be the same. Because it’s not machine made or printed. That’s the charm of customizing.
That sounds thematically similar to your recent album One of A Kind.
Right. Our members were involved in making almost all of the album, it’s the only one of its kind. Jooheon produced our title song “Gambler,” it’s got a heavy sound but it’s slick and addictive. I pushed hard for it to be the title track (laughs).
What comments do you have on the K-pop industry from your perspective as a seventh-year idol?
Whenever we have idol guests on Vogue Ship-show, I like to ask them how they came to do this job. Everyone leaps at the chance to tell their story. Then I look into the camera and say: “You see, everyone? This is how hard it is to be an idol.” Many of the people who become idols have had to give up on a lot of things and work very hard since they were very young. There are a lot of prejudices about idols but I just want to say that virtually all of them have worked incredibly hard.
It’s nice to see your pride in your profession. Is there anything you want to say to younger idols?
Every single idol has to understand how valuable and important their fans are. That’s just fundamental. That’s really what I most want to say. Fans are the people who get us to where we are. You chose this job because you wanted to perform on stage and some people came to like you because of it. If you get to do what you love and people love you for it, then the least you can do is make an effort at communicating with them. You shouldn't ever forget that.
Sounds good. You’d be great at those idol lectures.
I think it’s because I went through elementary, middle and high school normally, with normal friends, and only started training after I became a legal adult. My parents were opposed to it, and I left home without a cent to my name and worked to earn the money for lessons. That was the toughest time in my life. I didn’t even have money for food. But going through that broadened the breadth of my experience and perspective.
What question would you ask if you had the chance to interview yourself?
When is it the hardest for you? Because I don’t really know. It’s awesome being onstage during our world tours but when we’re done, the hollow silence that’s left behind rings just as loud as the cheers. Is it when I'm filling up on cold delivery food late at night with that empty ringing in my ears? Is it when I can’t ever get a good night’s sleep during promotions? I’m not sure what’s the hardest part. That’s why I got that tattoo on my back telling me to love myself.
What does Minhyuk believe in?
I don’t believe in religion, fortunes, other people, or myself. If I knew and believed in myself 100%, then there’d be no reason for me to exercise self-control. Is there anyone out there who has total faith in themself? I don’t, and that’s why I work hard. What I do believe in is the impressions that people give. You know, 'impressions are science' (laughs). That feeling you get when you’re looking someone in the face, that ends up being the real thing.
I noticed you were left-handed. Don't a lot of left-handers become adept at using both hands?
I write with my left hand. When I’m eating, I hold my chopsticks in my left hand, my spoon in my right, and I use both. I play most sports with my right hand and soccer with my right foot. I use scissors with my left hand. That’s pretty cool, now that I think about it. I guess I’m ambidextrous, haha.
That must be part of why you’re so multi-talented. So, this interview is taking place a week before your comeback. How do you typically spend the week leading up to an album release?
Oh, we’re going to be promoting as five members since Shownu has to sit this comeback out. So we’ve been practicing our choreography in the new formations. We usually finish practicing around 10-11 PM and then I’ll head to my studio. Sometimes I sleep there, sometimes I’ll head back to the dorm around 4 AM.
Do you get anxious before song releases?
I’m not sure how to describe it. I don’t really get very excited or nervous. Just “I hope the fans will like it,” that’s about it. A lot of things have changed with the pandemic. There are no fans when we go to music shows so it just feels like work. As soon as we’re done with pre-recording, we come straight home. It doesn’t really feel like the kind of promotions we’re used to.
By the time this interview is published, your mini-album One of A Kind will have been released already. What kind of response are you expecting?
We participated in producing all the songs, including Jooheon’s title song “Gambler.” I wrote “Rotate” and Hyungwon wrote the lyrics to “BEBE” for our fans. This album had an especially high amount of input from the members. I hope the press writes about it as a ‘high-quality’ album.
Is there anything new you tried on this album?
All the members have black hair for once. Other than me, they’re all in their late twenties now. Because twenty-six still counts as mid-twenties. Right? Haha. So we wanted to try a style and image that was appropriate for our age.
How has that changed from the established image of Monsta X?
Since our album Fantasia X, we’ve tried a lot of different musical styles. It’s not as flashy or explosive, but we’ve been maintaining a similar tone between “Love Killa” and “Gambler.” I guess a more relaxed kind of sexiness? Before that we were like, “Look, we’re sexy!” but since Love Killa it's been a bit more natural like, “Hmm, that’s sexy.”
Do you feel pressure to keep changing your aesthetic or musical style? Or are you accustomed to that by now?
I'd be lying if I said I don’t feel any pressure. But we are used to it. And pressure and stress can be useful to help you grow. We’ve done a lot of different concepts and songs at this point. There have been some that I wasn’t very well suited to in tone or taste but ultimately I’m still me so it doesn’t concern me too much.
Of course we have to discuss your solo album from last February. What did this album, DUALITY, mean to you?
I didn’t actually do much promotion for it. Still, I felt like that album somewhat resolved the artistic conflicts within myself.
What were you conflicted about?
When you’re working as part of a team, you have to make compromises. We have to keep Monsta X’s overall identity in mind as well as the tastes of the audience. But the solo album provided an opportunity for me to think more seriously about what kind of person I am and what I feel.
So what kind of a person is I.M?
I’m still don’t know myself very well. I think I make music to get to know myself. The fans say they don’t really know me either, haha.
Your solo album is musically very different from Monsta X’s music. It feels like a direct reflection of I.M’s disposition, lyrical and serene and rhythmical.
I think I have a lot of duality in my personality and I try to see both sides of things. That’s the meaning behind my tattoo as well. I have three roses on my back, blue, red and purple. Like that tattoo, I want to be somewhere between the hot and cold that those colors represent. I’m not very outgoing but not very introverted either. I seem complicated at times but some parts of me are very straightforward.
You’re usually subdued but occasionally like to be provocative.
Sure. I think my own music is imbued with all of that. Genre-wise, it tends to be calm and chill. All the songs on DUALITY are somewhat reflective of me. Each track illustrates some aspect of myself.
“God Damn” is about that side of me that’s constantly saying “it’s okay” when it’s not, that knows it’s not okay but always says that it is. “Howlin’” is about my drive to move forward, “Burn” is that feeling of, ‘okay, there’s no point in dwelling on the past,’ “Happy to Die” is about the desire to live with no regrets, so that I could be okay dying today, “Flower-ed” reflects my more depressive side.
Can I asked why you decided to get your tattoos on your back?
I didn’t want them to be too visible and there weren’t a lot of places I could fit tattoos that big. I want to get more done but I need to think more about what I’d want to get. For example, I really like pizza but I’m not impulsive or spontaneous enough to get a slice of pizza tattooed on my body.
Your speech patterns are typically relaxed and calm. Is there a side of you that’s more sensitive or finicky?
I think I try to be calm about things that have passed and I tend to talk slowly. But I can be pretty sensitive when making music or about taking care of personal business.
When do you feel like you’re diligent or lazy?
I’m diligent about being on time to plans or appointments. I’m lazy about going to the gym when it’s raining outside.
We’re learning a lot of unexpected things about you, haha. Anything else you’d like to share?
I actually like vintage stuff a lot. Like film cameras and camcorders. You know things from the ‘90s that break when you drop them once? That kind of stuff. Vintage watches have a lot of sentimental significance too. I’d want to give one to my son or daughter someday.
In one interview, you said your studio is the most comfortable space for you. What is your studio like? Help us imagine it.
I’m not sure exactly how big it is but I use the bigger main room as a studio. I also have a folding mattress there that I sleep on sometimes. The small room next to that is where I relax, and I have a 55-inch TV and a Playstation there. That’s where I’ll eat and watch Youtube or Netflix.
Do you have any houseplants?
I have one big artificial plant, some soap flowers, and a bouquet that I dried. Plants obviously need light and water but I’m not good at taking care of them so I brought in a fake one. The whole space is wood-toned and I have some LED lamps that I can change the color to whatever I feel like. I usually like having blue, purple and pink lights.
Do you have any strict house rules for your studio?
Everybody who comes in absolutely has to wash their hands. If their feet smell, then they have to wash their feet too. I’m sensitive to smells, haha.
Isn't it a bit depressing to spend time alone in a small space?
I actually enjoy that gloominess. Doesn’t everyone need a cave to crawl in and spend some time with their own thoughts? I try to make that sort of time for myself.
Since we’re talking about depression, have you ever felt burned out in your career or life?
I was burned out after releasing DUALITY. Creating something means using up something within yourself and transforming it into something visible or tangible. It’s an emotionally taxing process. After the album was released, part of me felt relieved and unburdened but for some time afterwards it was hard to focus on making anything else. So I took a break for a while.
Did the break help?
Honestly, it was the first time I’d been burned out like that so I didn’t know how to deal with it. I assumed, ’resting will make it better’ but it was hard to let go and stop thinking about work. I kept overthinking when I was supposed to be relaxing so I didn’t end up feel very rested.
So what are you thinking of these days?
The dream of home ownership. When is that going to be happen? Haha. I’ve had a subscription bank account for a while now but at this point, buying real estate in Seoul is almost impossible. It’s pretty disappointing.
What kind of house would you want?
First of all, I’d like it to be somewhere downtown. My day-to-day centers around the Gangnam region so somewhere with easy access to that area, it doesn’t have to be big. Indoor parking would be nice. Ideally in a building that’s less than fifteen years old, haha.
When in the day is I.M the happiest?
Late at night, when I’m having a beer at the studio. I’m sure it’s the same for everyone. A cold beer after getting off work is the high point of the day.
Four cans for ₩10,000 is the rule!
Oh, obviously. I usually won’t buy anything more expensive than that. I buy twelve cans at a time. I don’t like going out so I stock up on a lot at once. But sometimes I’ll go out and pick up food orders to save on delivery fees, haha.
What would you like to say to the future I.M in his 30s?
You bought that house yet, Changkyun? Haha.
I think you will have, haha. To wrap up today, can write us an acrostic poem for ‘Cosmo’ (코스모)?
Co: Cosmos flowers
S: Swirl by
Mo: Most beautifully
[Interview]Congratulations on successfully concluding promotions for your mini-album One of A Kind.
It was a two-week cycle, I know fans were disappointed that it was so short. I think it was the kind of cycle where we just got in, did our thing, and got out. It was meaningful though, since we were promoting a title song that I produced. It feels like the things that I’ve wanted are coming to fruition one by one. The members put so much effort and energy into the performances, so in the end, it was a promotional period I was very grateful for.
Tell us about the album and the title song.
We focused a lot on making the album refined and complete. You could say it’s an aggregate of the genres that Monsta X has done so far, we took some new risks, we did some things we’ve always done well. The album also features our fansong “BEBE” and all of the tracks put together are meant as a gift set for our fans. Specifically about the song “Gambler,” I think this song represents the epitome of our identity as Monsta X. It’s a song that’s a message and an explanation, ‘look, this is who we are and you can’t do what we do.’ We actually debated a lot about what kind of song we should come back with this time. Since it’s our follow-up to “Love Killa,” it was difficult to judge if we should do something more public-friendly or something that better encapsulated our own distinct style. Truth be told, we’re well known for our performances but I don’t believe we’re a group with a lot of universal appeal. So in our conversations about this album, we ultimately decided to do something that was very rich and heavy in our own color. If we’re going to do what we do, then we should do it right. That’s why this album is named the way it is, one and only, irreplaceable, One of A Kind.
Is there anything specific you want people to notice when they listen to “Gambler?”
I’m sure some people are going to wonder if I took advantage of the fact that I produced the song, since I feature in the vocals and narration so much. But if you listen closely, you’ll notice that the vocal distribution is equal amongst the members. Between all the ad-libs and harmonies and high notes, we all tried a lot of new things vocally. I think since my voice features heavily in the musical focal points or the sections without melodic backup, people might have questions about the distribution. But I absolutely made sure it was fair, so I hope they can enjoy the song without those concerns.
I’m guessing you’re paying particularly close attention to the feedback since it’s your first time producing a title song.
Of course. I mean, maybe people are just being nice because I made the song (laughs) but a lot of fans have been saying it’s their favorite title song thus far. The members liked it as well and a lot of our staff really liked it too. I wanted the song to have some energy that draws people in and seeing that actually happen is really fascinating and affecting. I always try to have the confidence that I can write better songs than last time. I believe that if I approach it with sincerity, I can always make better music and I think that belief gives me that confidence.
I think the public has come to expect well-made music and high-energy performances from Monsta X. Do you feel any pressure about those expectations?
Oh, I feel a lot. A lot of people have come to think of us as a group that does ‘shut up and watch’ type of performances. I think when we were rookies we just ran around and tore it up on stage and showed off as much showmanship as we could at the time. Since we did all that back then, we have to think a lot about what we’re going to do now. We’ve come to realize that good performances don’t necessarily have to be really showy. I think at this point we know how to make performances more subtle and refined but still impressive. Really flashy or extravagant stuff is good too but I think that constant question of how to be more innately ‘impressive’ is what makes Monsta X’s performances ours.
Other than the title, is there a song on the album you want to single out?
Hyungwon’s song, “Secrets.” It’s a really well-done song. The fact that he actually published a song with entirely English lyrics is a huge accomplishment on his part. I really want to commend the work he put into that song.
The music video for “Gambler” left quite an impression as well. It brought the Ocean’s film series to mind, and you all acted out your parts well. Do you have any stories to share from the set?
We had a lot of fun paying homage to the Ocean’s series, The Thieves, the 007 series and other caper, heist and action movies. The members like to have fun and play around so the atmosphere on set was really funny. Especially the auction scene, where I’m playing the auctioneer, but in the video you can’t hear what we’re saying. So on the set, I’d say stuff like, “Who’s the ugliest person here?” and one of the members would have to raise their paddle. We play a lot of jokes like that to keep things light and energetic even when we’re tired.
You’ve been producing songs for your albums for a long time now. Are you happy with the musical direction that Monsta X is going in?
I think our music is going incredibly well. I think “Gambler” was a great showcase of our unique style and tone and it makes me feel like we can do more new things. I think “Gambler” will be a turning point to launch us into our next chapter. Maybe next album, we’ll come back with a song that’s really unexpected, one that makes people think, ‘since when did Monsta X do this kind of music?’
You seem to put a lot of emphasis on the message of a song. How do you come up with these messages?
I take a lot of notes about the things I see and feel in my everyday life. I’ve got that type of brain that never stops so if something inspires me, I start writing about it and brainstorming and spinning those thoughts into something bigger. Then I either add or extract a message from that. In the past, I would wrack my brains and overload myself trying to keep track of everything I wanted to put in a song. These days, I’ve learned how to put a pin in a good idea and ‘keep’ it for a bit, and then I can pull it out and use it at the right timing. I guess I’ve developed some latitude.
You’ve released several mixtapes as well. Is there a big difference between the Jooheon of Monsta X and the Jooheon that makes those mixtapes?
I think there is. If I can compare Monsta X to a soccer team, we’re a group of players with various different roles. I consider myself to be in charge of ‘bullet passes’ within Monsta X, the one who serves up the ball right before the goal is scored. As Jooheon, not necessarily in Monsta X, I feel like a kid who still has so much music he wants to make and so much he wants to do and try and learn. To extend the metaphor, he’s a kid on a team in the peewee league, haha. A young player who’s still not sure what he’s best at so he’s passing like this and like that and just trying everything he can to figure out his untapped potential.
Revived and revisited kpop songs are all the rage these days. Is there a song you’d like to try promoting again?
There are so many but if I had to pick one, I’d say “Trespass.” We did a short version at a year-end show recently but I’d like to do it again properly. I’ve been imagining what it’d be like to do a more mature, experienced version of “Trespass.” I think it’d be a lot of fun.
Your appearance on MBC’s The Manager was very entertaining. Do you have any stories about living with Shownu and Hyungwon?
We always have a lot of fun, but I don’t think fans know this in particular - I sneak up on them all the time when we’re at home. Like when Shownu wakes up in the morning and is in the kitchen washing his apples, I’ll quietly come up behind him and stand there until he turns around, or I’ll lie on the floor in front of Hyungwon’s door and wait for him to come out. It’s so funny when they get startled.
What do you pay particular attention to when you’re taking care of your body?
I care a lot about the line that falls from my neck to my shoulders. A lot of people who meet me tell me that I look very different in person from how I look on screen. On the one hand, it's really nice to hear, but I do want to look a little nicer on screen so I’m trying to take more care of my appearance.
Is there anything that gives you a small but sure sense of joy these days?
I think doing this sort of work, like photoshoots, outside of actual promotions are small joys. And recently I’ve gone to a lot of exhibits of art or pop culture, that definitely makes me happy.
The sixth anniversary of your debut recently passed. What did you and the members say to each other?
Our members have it ingrained in us to always do our best. We care a lot about each other and we’re not afraid to drop some harsh truth if we think it’s necessary so we didn’t really say anything special, I think we all talked about just doing what we’ve always done.
It’s been very difficult to meet with your fans during this pandemic. What do you want to do most once it’s all over?
Concerts, of course. I think all artists want the same thing. Monsta X are known for being concert masters. A lot of people have become our fans after seeing us perform. We always deliver at both the performing and the talking portions.
What is Monbebe to Jooheon?
Monbebe make me a purer and more transparent person. They’re like drops of water. I always worry that I might do something to make them break apart or burst, but just as those droplets of water can come together into a powerful force of nature, Monbebe together are a huge influence on me. I think a lot about how I don’t want to do anything to hurt or upset them, and that spurs me to try and be more pristine and transparent when it comes to them. The reason I take care of my body and appearance is all for the fans as well. Our fans are everything to Monsta X. I’m sure they know how we feel.
(continued from this post)
As we’ve accumulated more experience, I think we’ve allowed for more psychological and physical leeway in our album prep. In our first couple years, we felt like as soon as we finished one promotion, we had to hurry up and crank out another. At this point, the other members and I prefer to take our time and focus on quality of production rather than speed.
This album notably features a lot of creative participation from the members. Jooheon produced his first title track with Gambler, I.M is included on several songs such as "Rotate," and you yourself participated in two tracks as well.
The name of the album is One of A Kind, and I believe that concept was made possible because of our members’ participation. If we’re doing something that’s unique and unusual to Monsta X, then it has to come from us, not from anyone else.
What was the inspiration behind your productions on the tracks "Secrets" and "BEBE"?
Early last year, we were prepping for our first US album and I was listening to the members’ voices and it struck me how well they were suited to pop songs. It was just an idea I had in mind and I gave it a shot for the first time with "Secrets" but it turned out better than I expected so I’m very satisfied. On the other hand, "BEBE" was a story I’ve always wanted to tell. It’s a fan song and I’ve been thinking about it for a very long time. I’d never be able to capture everything I’ve felt over the last six years so I collected the thoughts I most wanted to convey and wrote them, hoping they would communicate the truth. Both songs are genres and stories I’ve been wanting to do so producing them felt gratifying.
Writing lyrics and songs are tasks that are extraneous to your typical role of recording, singing and performing. What drives you to take those on nonetheless?
I personally don’t believe I have a lot of natural talent. So I feel like I have to make more effort. Plus I’ve also been able to appreciate some new aspects of music that I didn’t realize when I was just singing. I feel a lot of pride when people connect to or find meaning in the thoughts that I put into my music and lyrics. The fact that people can find common ground and connection through music is always interesting and exciting to me.
Since that sense of connection is so important to you, do you usually write lyrics that are more literal?
I prefer to be more figurative. I worry that if I’m too straightforwardly literal they’ll end up being limited to my own personal experiences, so I try to write towards things that feel more universal. It’s not like I’m making this music just for myself. That’s why writing BEBE was pretty difficult. I was trying to communicate how I felt about our fans and it’s hard to make that nonliteral. But I couldn't just write, “thank you, I love you” over and over. It took about two months to work out the right words for my feelings.
Do you feel some sort of disparity between who you are onstage and who you are when making music?
I don’t feel a lot of pressure performing onstage. That’s what I like to do and I’m very used to doing it by now so it doesn’t bring me much stress. But I start overthinking a lot when I’m producing and I get pretty sensitive about it. It was just fun to do at first but maybe it’s because my standards have gradually gotten higher, the process is becoming more arduous and tedious.
Are you still DJing as well?
I’m still working on it but since there aren’t any events right now, I’m just practicing my skills.
I think a lot of people were surprised to hear you were a DJ.
I think so too. A lot of people seemed to think it was out of place for my image. That made me want to break out of that box even more. I learned a bit more about self-expression while working as a DJ. I’ve been expressing myself within the team of Monsta X but being a DJ made me feel like I could fit in anywhere. And I also discovered new sides of myself that I didn’t know.
What exactly did you discover about yourself?
Am I really this uncreative? Am I this basic? (Laughs) Creating things is always hard and it just gets harder. I’m always looking for ways to do something new but it’s never easy.
And yet, in your line of work, you always have to come up with something new.
That’s right. So I’ve gotten in the habit of writing down all the little thoughts and ideas that come to mind in my daily life. Then I’ll go to the studio and spend five or so hours going over those notes and thinking about them. I try to find stories to spin out of those brief thoughts.
Five hours, that sounds pretty rough.
I mean, nobody’s work is ever fun (laughs).
At what point during your career have you felt the most like yourself?
I’d say now. It’s not like I was ever not myself but I don’t think I knew how to express it well. I was especially reticent right after we debuted. You know those people who can’t even say that they like something or when they’re happy? That was me. But as I’ve encountered more and more people, I’ve become more comfortable with expressing myself and my feelings. Now I can talk about myself a lot more and express what I like.
But we hear you’re the member who cries and laughs the most often in the group?
My thresholds for crying and laughing are extremely low. I tend to get emotionally immersed in things easily, haha.
Then what’s something that made you laugh a lot recently?
Yesterday I was messaging with fans and after a while, I started gesturing towards wrapping up and one fan asked me why I was angling for an exit already. That made me laugh a ton. Isn’t there something really funny about that phrase?
Uh, well. It does seem like your threshold is very low. Then what’s something that made you cry?
I was watching the drama Navillera, there’s a scene where the character ‘Deokchul’ (Park In-hwan) recalls his lost memories while watching ‘Chaerok’ (Song Kang) dance, and I cried a lot then. I kind of sobbed.
It sounds like you’re someone who doesn’t hide his emotions.
Crying and laughing are incredibly natural for human beings. Not crying doesn’t make you strong and crying often doesn’t make you weak.
What do you hold important in life?
Respect, space and patience. I’m a firm believer in ‘too much is worse than too little.’ Personality-wise, I don’t really like things that are over-the-top. In particular, I think respecting one another’s lives is especially important in relationships. I really hate when that rule gets broken. So I try my best to respect others.
That sounds like it’d be a very important baseline for the Monsta X members, since you all share your careers and daily lives.
Living life in a group isn't easy. Since we’re always together even when we’re not working, everyone tries to be considerate and not cross the line with each other. You could say that’s how we respect one another. That’s why when we don’t agree about something, we don’t try to change each other’s minds. We listen to each other, understand their respective points, and try to close the gap between them. That way, we’re all on the same page when it comes to making the best decisions for the team.
In the future, what will make up the world of Monsta X and Hyungwon?
Of course it’ll be the fans and the members. As long as those people are there, we can keep going.
Do you like the summer?
I hate it so much. I get hot really easily.
The whole photoshoot today is outdoors.
That’s okay. I like taking pictures in natural light. More than that though, I’m worried that it’s starting to rain (laughs). Oh well, let’s go.
Shownu & Minhyuk x Rimowa for W Korea Digital
Behind the scenes @ W Korea w/ hairstylist Park Naeju
I.M TMI Interview for Singles Korea
Sources: Arena Homme+, Cosmopolitan Korea, @Star1, Marie Claire Korea, W Korea IG, Dare U Naeju, SINGLES KOREA
Ugh sorry for the ugly-ass formatting but lj is being a nightmare and I'm over it
That’s a (long overdue;;) wrap on MX’s July issues
Have a good, safe rest of the week <3