On March 4, Big Bang said in an interview that they will not dwell on how high they rank on charts nor on promoting their album and instead spoke of how they want to create a new idol group culture and their hopes for the music market. Below are excerpts from the group interview.
Q: We had fun watching “Secret Big Bang.” [Big Bang's parody of SBS TV series "Secret Garden"] (laugh) You had performed it at your “BIG SHOW” concert as well. Had you planned to show it on SBS?
G-Dragon (GD): Yes, we had.
Q: Then it must've caused you quite a bit of pressure about that from the very beginning.
T.O.P: We did. We were already pressured about making a comeback for the first time in two years and three months but there were also so many who had liked the original show so we tried even harder to make it funny.
GD: We would’ve been able to make it funnier if it was just going to be for our concert but it was going to go on national television so we had it shot in line with broadcasting regulations.
Q: You said you felt pressured… I think you must’ve felt the same for how SBS and Mnet produced special programs for your comeback.
T.O.P: What we felt the most pressure about was that we were worried people might misunderstand that we’re receiving some kind of special treatment. That’s why we tried even harder to show people we’re doing our best and were more attached to each and every performance we put on.
Q: How did it feel to put on performances like that for the first time in a long time? Hadn't you each acquired stronger individualities over the past two years and three months?
Seungri: A lot of people were saying that to us ahead of our comeback… What will you do if people see you as who you are as individuals instead of your group Big Bang because each of you have gained ground in the industry after pursuing many activities solo or if Ji-yong’s part will sound like it's from his solo album. But we went on stage to make our comeback and saw that we worked together well and looked good. We worked extremely hard, as if we’re new singers again, to show that.
T.O.P: We have always worked hard. (laugh)
Seungri: We have but twice as hard. Our leader minded to the rehearsals a lot as well — to the point he said whoever is tardy should pay a fine.
T.O.P: It actually was something we were worried about a lot but I think the public now wants the unique energy each of us give off as individuals. We too have the pride that we wouldn’t be who are if we weren’t members of Big Bang and will try to show as many various sides to us as possible to the point that it doesn’t get excessive.
Q: Then was that how you started on your album? With the mindset that you need to work well together in a uniform manner?
GD: We tried not to because we didn’t want the album to become too much like that. We worked on this album for two and a half years and “TONIGHT” came out a year and a half ago. Like Seungri said, our album might sound like a collaboration of five singers but the vibe the song gives off isn’t necessarily like that. I think Big Bang is about how well we work with each other, no matter how different we are and unlikely it seems we’ll mix. I think the song does a good job of showing how we harmonize. And I rather had fun producing the song instead of facing any difficulties.
Q: I think it must’ve been fun putting together song “WHAT IS RIGHT” because it seemed that where there are subtle changes to the song falls in line with when the vocals change.
GD: Everybody gives off different vibes with their voices, right? Taeyang’s voice is R&B-ish but also thin and tender while Daesung has a bold Korean voice? And Seungri sounds mournful while T.O.P has a masculine and husky voice. My voice is thin, just like when I talk. So I have a lot of fun producing because we’re all very different. It’s fun putting together our sounds and everyone balances out the song in different ways so things never get boring. Each song may only be three minutes long but I think that’s why it feels like that time goes by quickly.
Q: Did your album come out late because you were trying out a lot of variations then?
T.O.P: It had to do with us being in Japan and pursuing a lot of activities individually. We didn’t even know two years and three months had passed. And it’s not like any of us had taken time off either. Hence we felt a lot of pressure to make a comeback that’ll meet up to people’s expectations and were careful in making a comeback because we thought harder about what we shoudl do to show people better music.
GD: This may be something that has been said amongst fans as part of fandom but we hadn’t been out in public for two years and three months so there was a lot of talk about us including the fact that there’s discord in our group. But we would have been under the same understanding as well if we were the public because we weren’t coming out as a group although we were saying we’re getting along fine. At the same time however, we had a tough time whenever we heard of such talk because we would’ve liked for our fans to show more support for us who were preparing our new album. Should I say I was sort of disappointed? Because we were working hard to meet with our fans as soon as we could and making the album while experiencing growing pains but we were hearing otherwise. So I wanted to place things where they used to be after releasing this album.
Q: Speaking of fandom, I remember you saying on cable music channel Mnet’s “Big Bang TV Live” that you don’t want to become musicians that get trapped in fandom.
T.O.P: It’s because we want to show how much we grow. We believed that we should show our individuality to the extent it isn’t excessive rather than do things that any other group does for the public.
Taeyang: I think it’s dangerous to let ourselves stay who our fans want us to be as our fandom gets bigger because we’ll be inclined to think we must do that. But what I want is on the other side so limitations will form to the music that I want to do. That’s why I think we’ll be able to show how we’ve improved by doing what we want to rather than mind fandom too much.
T.O.P: It’s not like we have a huge goal or that we’re heading for something but we’re in an environment where we can easily get trapped inside the structure of being idols in Korea. That’s why I’m hoping we’ll become a group that’ll show a lot of things without being trapped inside that, do music that people really want even if we’re idols and resolve dissatisfactions and serve substitute satisfaction by listening to us.
Q: I think substitute satisfaction and resolution has to do with the attitude your team has, not just music.
T.O.P: I think we’re about freedom, not fake freedom where we’re pretending to be free on the outside. We get stressed a lot when we’re trapped inside something.
GD: And I think that defines our group. It has become what Big Bang is about and what are performances and music are like. We’d probably end up being the same idol group as all other idols if we get trapped inside fandom or a lto of other things. But we wanted to go about things differently, we believed that what we think is right and my opinion comes first, so we made a lot of attempts musically. I think that worked with our fans as well and gave them good opinions of us.
Q: I think there are things the public allows you to do because of such an image. For example, playing the guitar, then breaking it in “TONIGHT” could easily seem like a show but it’s accepted because it’s Big Bang.
GD: I think it’s an issue of confidence and we’ve come to gain the confidence that whatever we do will pretty much be okay. And that’s why we do those things but it’s up to us to make sure that it doesn’t come off as excessive or strange to people. Of course we’re actually embarrassed though. It’s not like we’re actually playing the guitar but it would show if we kept thinking we’re embarrassed.
Q: As a team doing the music you want, you must have a lot of thoughts regarding how idol groups like TVXQ or SS501 have recently split and go their own ways.
GD: Of course because they’re our senior and junior singers. The reason we’ve ended up a bit different from them is that we resolved our differences in music through our solo activities. I think that’s why we fight less or agree less when we’re back as Big Bang compared to other groups. I think these are issues that go down to how they’re solved when they came about so it would’ve been better if they had looked further ahead on a broader perspective.
Q: What do you mean by looking ahead?
G-Dragon (GD): I think it has to do with greediness. We’ve been Big Bang for the sixth year now but we try to get rid of the systematic dissatisfactions we have as much as we can when it comes to our activities. And even when they are there, we try to let go of them through other means. So we want to set an example in that sense.
T.O.P: I think changing people’s perspective is what we should do as seniors to other artists. And just like we have to have faith in our fans, the public too should place faith in the artists they like.
GD: What I don’t like as an artist is how money is always magnified as the only issue when incidents like that occur in Korea. I’m sure there were a lot of problems including those between the group’s members or differences in opinion regarding the music they’re doing for them to reach that point so it’s a shame that such problems with idol groups are seen to be related to money. That’s how people will perceive of us when it’s not true. T.O.P said he received questions only about KARA and TVXQ when he recently visited Japan. I don’t like the fact that such perceptions are being formed of Korean idol groups.
T.O.P: Foreigners are taking more and more interest in Hallyu, thinking it’s mysterious, so in a way it makes me sad to think Korean singers are perceived in that way but I also think we should work even harder.
Q: Even the Hallyu moves within the context of money quite a lot but I think your group is different. I think the fact that the music video for “TONIGHT” received over two million hits on YouTube and ranked high on iTunes shows your music is appealing to listeners with the music itself, ahead of how it’s promoted commercially.
T.O.P: I don’t think we get a lot of hits on YouTube because we’re famous. I rather think it’s that our individual activities such as Taeyang’s solo album or GD&TOP’s duo unit album has stirred curiosity of our music amongst people overseas. Taeyang recently visited the U.S. where he met many artists and he said they were curious about Korea. In the past, we used to think a lot about what the Korean public would like when we shot music videos so it’s exciting to think that even more people will be watching it. It also feels like we’re competing with foreign artists.
GD: We’ve been proud of the fact that we were known for our music first and it has been what makes us work harder. The reason we have more fun with promoting our album or just working these days is that we’re inclined to work harder because we’re under the determination that this album could go to any country.
Q: Don’t you ever feel sort of a rivalry though? YG’s music is from Black American music so don’t you want to create a Korean style of music in response to it?
Taeyang: Our company, as well as myself, started with black music but we digged into it deeper over time to mix and match it with Korean sentiment which I think is considered refreshing overseas. Before, we may have been in a hurry to catch up to their music but I would say we’re now in the process of establishing firm ground with ours.
Q: Well this applies to the albums you release as Big Bang as well but your solo activities have definitely been noteworthy, especially in regards to how they present a variety of music. Can’t you manage both your solo and group activities at the same time?
Taeyang: It’s probably impossible as of now but we do think it’ll be good to do that in the future for both our group and each of its members. We know that a lot of people want Big Bang but there are different performances we want to put on and different genres of music we want to do. I think presenting music whenever we have time to and are ready to is a good idea.
GD: What I’ve always envied about music markets overseas is that whether a really popular artist releases an album for the first time in a while or posts up a song he has made with his friends for the first time in a month, they’re all considered real music. But in our country, groups like us need to promote big at least once every year. I wish I could just let our fans listen to more music on a more regular basis, like if I come up with a song today, I would record it today and post it up tomorrow.
Taeyang: It’s like the concept of mix tapes. I love how we can just record what we felt like making that day. And I’m hoping that the Korean music industry will change in a way that we can go beyond just enjoying such music by ourselves and share it. I think it’s a good thing for an idol group with a certain amount of influence that makes music to do that.
GD: Under the current system in Korea, even music that wasn’t made for commercial purposes end up becoming so. Even music that we make without a particular purpose will become commercial music when promoted big. Everyone wants to listen to different music depending on the genre or their mood so I’m sure it would be fun for them to be able to have choices if we make and upload songs about how we felt at certain moments. I don’t like how you always have to wait for an album for so long, then get sick of it after listening to that album so many times and then wait for a new one to come out. I feel bad for my fans as well. So we’re preparing events using blogs or other medium to change that starting this year. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of changes if they wait for us just a little bit more.
Q: It looks like you want to present a new attitude regarding the music industry, not just idol culture.
T.O.P: It’s a shame that people evaluate and go wild over artists based on how their songs rank on charts. How they think they have defeated someone else based on that chart. I don’t think we dwell on that anymore.
Q: Is that why “TONIGHT” is the title track but not very commercial? For example, when T.O.P’s rap builds to the climax with the beat in the beginning of the song, Taeyang sings the part after that solo instead of you all singing together.
GD: There was a style that Big Bang used to follow. The mood would build up in the verse and explode after that, that was my style, but I wanted to break away from that this time because I didn’t want to be obvious. And rather than sing the chorus together, I felt that the emotion that’s delivered would be at its height if Taeyang sings it with the saddest voice possible. The version that got included in this album is the one Taeyang sang when he was really sick. There was a better version but we decided to go with the other one.
Taeyang: I sounded very healthy in the version I sang properly. I asked why he changed to the one I sang when I was sick but he said I did a better job of delivering my emotions in it.
GD: There was a very subtle yet definite difference. And that subtle difference in emotion makes all the difference. “TONIGHT” is a song which can’t be cheerful. It has to sound cheerful but actually be very sad so it came out well. I think that music with very fast beats, yet sounding sad, ambiguous and melancholy is what best suits Big Bang. I think that’s the best emotion to deliver nowadays.
Q: But technique alone won’t catch such emotions in music I think.
GD: Yes, not technique. I rather think that everyone’s solo activities helped a lot. I’ve directed each and everyone of them and found that they had changed a lot so it was easy to capture their emotions. We definitely sound different now that we’re not kids anymore.
Taeyang: Over time and with each year we age, we’ve come to feel more emotions and are getting better at expressing them.
Q: Then will this album inform the public of how Big Bang’s style of music has changed?
GD: Not necessarily… I’m just hoping that it’ll be seen as the path we’re taking from becoming idols into musicians. I think we’re at the stage where we’re not musicians but not idols either. In a way, we also feel bad for being called idols. (laugh)
T.O.P: There is still so much that we want to show everyone.
GD: After promoting this mini-album, we’re going to tour Japan and release another album when we return. I think that’ll be a full-length album which we’re thinking of working on with composers from outside YG as well so I think it’ll have a different flavor to it.
Q: Lastly, I’m curious to know what Big Bang means to you among all the music-related activities you pursue. Taeyang, you once said on “Big Bang TV Live” that you need to live your life as a person who’s doing music but does that mean you’ll pursue individual activities and then gather as Big Bang when you need to or is that road in itself what Big Bang is about?
Taeyang: I believe I’m doing both together. I think they’re both headed in the same direction and for the same goal. We may prefer different genres or have differing tastes but I believe that in the end, we all want the same thing and that we’re all headed in that direction. We’re not scattering about and then gathering when we need to, but releasing solo albums as one of the members of our group which I think has a better influence on the team when we go back to it.
GD: I’m hoping that’s what the public will think as well… That Big Bang is a group that has big dreams in mind when it comes to music.
Source: 10Asiae 1 2
Not sure whether to tag this with DBSK and SS501 since they're mentioned. As always 10Asiae asks the most interesting questions.