Xia Junsu's Interview for 10+Star
KIM JUNSU – I want to keep taking on new challenge
Distinctness – He has unexpectedly ventured into an unconventional transformation of himself but Kim Junsu didn’t enter the studio to have an interview about his hairstyle. In front of the camera, as the interview goes along, Kim Junsu will gradually share with you what he wants to do, clearly and specifically. Since debuting 8 years ago until now, there isn’t a single moment that he is not living as a star but now he doesn’t feel scared or hesitate about his own decision anymore. He has grown to another level so he is more honest and interesting than ever. We have met Kim Junsu after he concluded successfully an Asia tour for his first solo album ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ and is about to proceed with a World tour.
Q: After concluding the interview last February, I asked you to guess which team would be the winner of Euro 2012 and you shouted “Spain!” after considering for 3 seconds. Your guess really did come true but did you watch any of the Euro matches?
A: Except when the matches overlapped with my overseas concerts, I don’t have schedules very early in the morning so I watched quite a lot. Honestly, the final match seemed to be so predictable so even though I cheered for Italy in my heart, I knew that Spain played too well. (Laugh)
Q: As you even watched the matches early in the morning, you seem to have a little bit of free time.
A: Since I am not really overworked, I just get my schedule from my agency then follow as it says, but I can know about it in advance at some extent so I can mentally prepare myself for it and I can even predict when my free time will be. Because everything is clearly like that, my daily life became much easier.
Q: Your first solo album ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ was released last May and you also had an Asia tour starting in Seoul then stopping by Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, and China. What is your feeling when it has come to the end?
A: Right when I released my first solo album, I was a bit scared but while the concert was in progress, that anxiety was lessened and I gained a lot more confidence. Therefore, now I can already picture in my head, more distinguishably than before, which direction I should advance in when I release my album in the future.
Q: I already felt that distinguishability even in the album itself. It is comprised of songs in many different genres but there is a consistency in term of Kim Junsu’s own color in it.
A: First of all, putting in various genres was my purpose and also the concept of the album. Starting with R&B and Standard slow genre, I have put in traditional ballad for people who like listening to the ballads I sing. However, I only chose the song which I think is deserved to be the title track. Many people must have thought that my title track would be a ballad. For that reason, I want to break away from that expectation even more and I think I have made the wisest decision. Many solo songs I have sung so far are also ballad. Because from when I was in TVXQ until now when I am active in JYJ, my image is always singing songs only so through this title track, I want to try music which also requires a well-rounded performance.
Q: So the final outcome is the release of ‘TARANTALLEGRA’. I suddenly felt curious about this while listening to the song. Was the melody decided first or was your image decided first?
A: The image, of course it was the image. Before when I composed ‘Xiahtic’ and ‘Intoxication’, the choreography was made first. Until now, in most cases, I already feel like dancing when listening to only a beat and sometimes I don’t even make the melody for the dance. The very first thing that was decided for ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ is the image; the second one is the choreography, then melody is the next one. Honestly, so far, I have made a lot of songs which are American pop, R&B, or similar to the song ‘Rising Sun’ when I was still in TVXQ. They are all suitable for group dancing but now I want to escape from that style a little bit. At that time, I was influenced a lot by the musical ‘Elisabeth’. Since I got to express the image of the role ‘Death’ – Tod in a more diverse point of view, I tried to correspond it with this album as well. And from there, the music, concept, style, choreography… everything was set up one by one.
Q: So a powerful and fierce concept in terms of both music and visual has come out. When you said you wanted the concept to be like that, what were the reactions of people around you?
A: At first they were worried a bit. To be honest, ‘fierce’ can’t be seen merely as a good thing. People could just exclaim ‘Oh, that’s fierce’ about this mighty concept but they could also associate it with arrogance so it’s hard to find the right amount of fierceness. However, the reason why I can go to this extent of fierceness, more than any normal Korean singer, is that I can’t, hmmm… I will say I don’t appear on broadcasts, for now. (laugh) Anyway, on the contrary, I thought that because of such situation, I would be able to present a fiercer and more diverse image. If I appear on broadcasts, my album would have to go though deliberation and if it’s too much, my music video would probably be banned from broadcasts too but anyway, if it is uploaded on YouTube and can be embed on many blogs too then that’s already the way I want it to be. Because of that, more and more, I feel that my music being considered as too ‘safe’ is even scarier than being associated with ‘arrogance’. Even if I could be criticized unfavorably, letting everyone know that I have come back is of course important. There is nothing more poisonous than ‘being too safe’. Fortunately, my agency has gathered many opinions for my idea and they gave me maximum of support and corporation.
Q: Instead of the TV-centered market, you have changed to focus more on the customers who actually buy physical albums, songs and attend concert.
A: Therefore, in the future, I will always challenge myself in new things. Meanwhile, whether it is strange or whether the public would think unfavorably of my final product or not, I still want to try my best to always show them unconventional idea.
Q: In this album, you didn’t come back as a solo singer only but you also exposed your confidence as a solo performance to a certain extent.
A: Ever since I was young, I have been asked ‘Do you like dancing more or singing more?’ a lot. Honestly, I love dancing very much to the point that I could never say I like singing more. Because obviously when working as a team, everyone is in charge of different thing, what I have performed on in the past is more of a singing-centered stage than a performance. Although I am grateful for that too but when I perform on stage alone as a solo singer, I will have to show everyone the music that I have been wanting to create and also a well-rounded performance that matches up with that music. Honestly, when I first finished composing ‘TARANTALLEGRA’, everyone doubted me. Well, it’s understandable because after the demo record, the rough mix and even arrangement, the sound of string instrument, drum etc, reed instrument hasn’t been put in at all so their reaction was quite cynical. (laugh) However, I told my manager hyung to trust me once and persuaded him “It’s going to be okay when we film the music video. This is not really a song to listen but it’s a song to watch.” Because of this reason, although this is an unusual way of promotion, the music video was actually released one day before the song itself.
Q: Undoubtedly, the strong, rhythmical and fantasy music video has completed the song.
A: I had a lot of stress about the music video. The choreography will look good if I dance well but the music video is not something that will be good just because I do my best in it so I did worry about it a lot. I also participated in setting the angle for the first time. For example, I really dislike it when the camera shakes while I am dancing. To be honest, that is just a trick to cover for people who can’t dance and I think it interrupts my concentration too. It’s okay to change the cut and angle but the moment the camera shakes, the choreography can’t be seen and it will just be drifted away like that. However, the director Ray caught the moments really well. In spite of the fact that I can’t appear on broadcasts, the agency still trusts me and invested approximately 500 million won in my music video.
Q: You have said that ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ is a song which has a magic spell making people dance when they listen to it, so what kind of figure did you want people to see you as in the music video?
A: I don’t want to look like a deity at all. Instead, I want to be seen as an androgynous being, not a man or a woman. Therefore, I have also tried putting on make-up and hairstyles that are a bit girly. I am really grateful for the musical ‘Elisabeth’ because of this experience. Not only this time but I think all music I am going to make in the future will always be influenced by musicals a little bit. The fantasy and mystical image of ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ was also inspired by the role ‘Death’ in the musical ‘Elisabeth’.
Q: You used to be known as a star who doesn’t care much about outer appearance but you are willing to have such an extravagant concept like this so I am curious about what made you change your mind when taking this challenge?
A: Honestly as an idol, I seriously didn’t manage my image at all. (laugh) But it doesn’t mean that I have demolished my own appearance, I simply thought that a singer should prove his ability through singing and dancing. If you have monitored me a bit, you would probably realized that because I hardly appeared on broadcasts so I have had the same hairstyle for the last 3 years. While taking the role in musical ‘Elisabeth’, the first thought that came to my mind was dieting. It is because I really needed to bring out the transcendent and androgynous feeling for my role but I looked too ‘soft’. (laugh) So to correspond my image with the role I take, I tried losing weight but even the fans who have been with me from the start said they liked the change of my look. Then, I realized that to a singer, singing is obviously the most important thing but I can’t overlook the fact that my fashion or my visual also have a big impact on the public views.
Q: In my opinion, releasing the first solo album 8 years after debuting is somewhat late. Moreover, because you released it at this moment, you seem to be able to create such a complete final product like this.
A: More than anything, I am thankful for the fact that I was able to create my first solo album, the music that I want to make, by my own hands and ideas. If it was like before, I would have received a notice saying that the title song was already decided by someone else beforehand, then of course the music video and everything else would have been done in the way that the director wanted it to be, not me. The current situation is very different from before so I feel happy. Ah, there was only one thing that we could decide by ourselves, it was our hair concept. (laugh)
Q: So in many ways, I think that the reason you are saying ‘I want to do what represents myself’ is not really because you want to prove that ‘This is the one that represents me’, but because you have represented the thing that you truly want to do, so naturally it represents yourself.
A: That’s right. Of course, I can’t only do what I want to do but I want to make the thing I want to do become favorable and expressive to the public.
Q: Until now, have you ever wanted to try a different form of concert?
A: I want to hold a long-term concert that would last over a month someday after taking a broad overview of the musical theater. I will prepare a wide range of repertoire just as I want. Obviously, my music is pop song but I also want to sing the musical songs that I have never sung before at my concert. Instead of dancing, it would be a concert with a live band; instead of a flamboyant show, it will be a 2-hour-long concert filled with songs only. It will be great if I can hold a concert like that.
Q: What you want to do is getting clearer and clearer, you don’t seem to hesitate when talking about it anymore. The primary difference of an idol and an artist is the ability to make their own decision and be responsible for it, don’t you think?
A: For that reason, my personality seems to change a bit after this album. Originally, I couldn’t say out loud what I dislike. I’d rather not saying anything about it but I’ve realized that if I keep avoiding like that, I won’t be able to create a good product, a good figure. If I don’t say anything, I will be considered as a nice and gentle person and I won’t get cursed but the 100% that I hope for from my work will also never come out. For example, the result is not really bad but it can be better if something is fixed. If it was before, I would never say that out loud if that change might take someone many sleepless nights. However, that person also wants to give out the best final product and so do I since we are professional. Therefore we are both tired and it doesn’t matter if I get cursed a bit or not, I just cannot keep my opinion to myself. The important point is how to handle the conversation and how to persuade the person who is in charge of that problem so that he won’t feel bad about it. I think that is the right way as an artist. Also no matter if I would get a good result or not, a choice which I knew well about it and a choice that is made when I knew nothing will lead to two completely different final results.
Q: We heard that you used to purchase the whole outfit that was on the mannequin because coordinating clothes was troublesome to you. (laugh)
A: But even so, I still couldn’t dress myself well. People around me had to urge me to buy clothes so that I would buy them occasionally. However, since last winter, I start to go shopping a lot. I used not to visit the hair salon before heading to the airport but now I do. First of all, it is because I think putting maximum of efforts in that is also a way to return the fans’ support for many years I have been working as a singer. It might seem like an obligation but I don’t think it as my ‘work’ at all. It is an attitude that every artist has to keep in mind and a part of performance as well. To be honest, this thing originally doesn’t match with my personality at all. Look. Now I even did my nails… (laugh)
Q: But once you tried having nail art, it becomes addictive, doesn’t it? (laugh)
A: That’s right. Moreover, changing the preference will change a person too so now I will feel weird if I don’t have nail art. Frankly, I heard that a lot of overseas fans still don’t know that I was the main character in ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ because of this style and they reacted “He is cool but is he gay?” (laugh). I am not gay but on the other side, I feel good when hearing comments like that. Doesn’t matter whether I am actually gay or not, being able to show a diverse image to the public is absolutely a big plus for an artist.
Q: After all, the character that you played on stage must be completely different from who you are at ordinary times, what do you feel when standing on your solo stage as XIA?
A: While shooting the music video, it just came to my mind that participating in musicals was a wise decision. Before, I only tried to look good on camera but now making various facial expressions when lip-syncing became easier to me. Although I am stick with musicals because I, myself, really like musicals, it is also because musicals help me to upgrade myself in every aspect.
Q: I think that solo singers, successful male singers who also focus on performing in particular, are still lack of expressing and stage-controlling skills but after attending your Seoul concert, you are a solo singer with full of stage presence. It seems that you have improved yourself through many experiences you have when working in a group and when taking the lead role in musical.
A: Musical is not just about me, it is the product of many people working together but I have learnt a lot about courage from it. Even a bad performer can become decent if he is confident in himself but on the contrary, a good performer will seem awkward if the audience can’t feel his confidence. Of course I am not such a good performer but when standing on stage alone, I will increase my self-confidence, just enough so that the audience can feel it, not too much. (laugh) Even so, I was very nervous. In a concert as a group, when other member was performing their solo stage, I would go backstage and rest for a bit but since I have to do everything alone for 2 hours this time, from distributing my stamina to talking in ment time, everything is really not a joke. Besides, the album is performance-centered so there are lots of songs that require dancing. I also have to change costumes when every stage should flow continuously and when thinking of performing everything live, I felt pressured…Anyway, I did my best. (laugh)
Q: While watching the live performance of ‘TARANTALLEGRA’, I think it possesses a really different color from the work of other idol group or singer who is currently active and its level of completion is also higher but it’s a pity that not many people can see this performance.
A: Whenever performing ‘TARANTALLEGRA’ on stage, I always felt sad over the thought that it would be really great if I could perform it on broadcasts just once. I don’t want such thing as ranking number one, I just thought about how I would be able to show everyone what I have been wanting to show through my performance. For that reason, I even wanted to create a music video that could change every broadcast at once.
Q: In your concert, the stage for ‘Intoxication’ is particularly impressive. Dancing with 2 back dancers and a grand mirror really amplified the appealing choreography to the extreme. Where did that idea come from?
A: Actually, that mirror was urgently set up 2 days before the concert. Rather than a group-dancing choreography, ‘Intoxication’ originally emphasizes the details. Fortunately, the choreographer Jerri only put in 2 back dancers so it’s even better, in my opinion. At first, we planned to set only one light at the top so that it would shine right on me. In the rehearsing room, we turned on just one light and danced to see how it went and the feelings were good. Then, suddenly I asked “How about setting up a mirror?” and it made the producer felt confused instantly. Because we didn’t have so much time left so he said we couldn’t do that but I pressed him “Please set up for me~ I know you can~ Please do me a favor~”. Although I knew it would be hard to do it, as an artist, I can’t just give up on expressing myself. I also knew that I could become a “spoiled celebrity” if he get me wrong. (laugh) Thankfully, he still set it up for me. I were happy because the audience can see both my front and behind appearance, and also the choreography from many angles.
Q: Including the heavily dancing song ‘TARANTALLEGRA’, you also performed live ‘Set me free’ and ‘Mission’ etc which all have strong choreography. While practicing these difficult dance moves, do you also enjoy transforming them into your own style?
A: Ah~oh, I really enjoy it. At the beginning, if I stopped concentrating for a while, I would forget the next dance moves but now my body just flows along to the dance moves. While having the Asia tour, I have gradually added some little extra things to ‘TARANTALLEGRA’. As same as musical, once my body completely familiarized with everything, it is possible to take care of little details. Facial expressions, gestures, little extra things like that. That is the interesting point.
Q: Apart from the rehearsing room and the stage, do you also dance at other places?
A: I dance a lot while listening to music. After composing an 8-bar melody, I will just dance to that tune. It doesn’t take me a lot of efforts. Sometimes my body just flows with the rhythm and the dance moves are naturally created and then if I think “Oh, this song is actually not bad”, I will slowly flesh it out. Just like that, all the 8-bar-melody songs I’ve composed so far are now more than 100.
Q: During ‘Genie time’ when you will fulfill 3 simple wishes from the audience, ‘Angel XIA’ pose is never left out. You always fell shy when doing that mission but what makes you so embarrassed like that? (laugh)
A: Ah…Well, actually I don’t hate doing it, I think it’s interesting and I like it. I can continue doing that in my future concerts because the audience is all my fans anyway. However, at public places, outdoor events, or in front of members of the National Assembly, it will drive me crazy when thinking about ‘Angel XIA’. (laugh) Doing it in front of fathers who are carrying their kids on their shoulder is also embarrassing, as between man and man. And I am already 25 years old… (sigh)
Q: Among the stops for your Asia Tour, I heard that Indonesia is the only place that you have never been to before. It was surprising.
A: I was surprised too. It is so strange that I’ve never been there. Honestly, all the while, Indonesia has been in the discussion many times but every time, something would happen so it’s too bad that I didn’t have the change to go there before. This time, I got to visit it for my solo concert so the feelings are new. Although it was my first time and I also went there just by myself, I am so thankful that many fans gave me a lot of supports. On the other hand, as much as I am sorry that I only came just now, I have made a lot of good memories there.
Q: What do you want to do if you get to go to Indonesia again?
A: This time, I only stayed at my hotel so I hardly tried Indonesian food. Next time, I want to find and eat their local food. Also, because it is a country with lots of resorts, I want to find a place to enjoy the beautiful nature. I always fantasize of the sea, the sky and palm trees so I want to go to a place like that.