Jonghyun - The Celebrity (July 2016) Interview
※ Please do not re-translate into another language
Jonghyun requested to play Dean’s new song ‘21’ during the middle of photo shoot. He hummed Dean’s song ‘D (Half Moon)’ until the interview began. Jonghyun looked calm and composed no matter what action he did. I would say he looked more like a talented artist or a writer rather than a member from an idol group. He is actually an idol who enjoys and is good at writing. He has already published a novel <Skeleton Flower – Things that have been released and set free>. He said the reason for it was because ‘he had a lot on his mind’. “I haven’t yet unfolded everything as my head is filled with many cosmic things. Please anticipate as immeasurable matters are about to be introduced.” His recently released solo album <She is> is a start of a new essay filled with his taste.
Jonghyun’s new solo album and a first regular album <She is> in continuation of first album <BASE> released in 2015 and the collection <Story Op.1>; I think it’s an album that’s extremely composed of your personal taste.
J: I didn’t plan for releasing a regular album while making it and I wasn’t even aware that it was about time to release a regular album either. The meaning connoted in the word ‘regular’ is actually very profound unexpectedly. I think regular (album) is about showing ‘my own colour’ but I think it’s been quite a while since I showed ‘that me’. So because of that I thought I would start my own storytelling rather than showing my distinct outlook in music through this album. It was funny as it also fortunately coincided with the timing of my regular album release.
Did you worry about having a popular appeal?
J: It would be a lie if I say I didn’t worry at all about having a popular appeal and my style in music, artistry, but I wanted to unfold what I like more than that. Also I didn’t fully comprehend what the general public likes so it would be more correct to say that I did honestly worry about it but couldn’t reflect it in my album.
This music video was impressive in using colours of analog era that focused on 2D, pop colours and kitschy props. It felt like it was a collaboration with Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, etc. who represent pop artists. What was it that you wanted to show?
J: Generally, in the word ‘pop’ there’s a nuance that ‘something that can be most widely propagated’, ‘something that many people can watch and enjoy’. This is in touch with the pop art and world that Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein created. The movie doesn’t relate to this meaning but my kind of pop that I want to express as art is an action that involves making something that isn’t so necessary in living so it’s not practical. So I think the ‘pop’ that I want to express is one of lifestyles that relaxed humans can have. It’s not something that’s necessary but can still be enjoyed.
Do you hear that ‘Jonghyun’ is difficult? I don’t think ‘Jonghyun’ himself is someone who’s difficult but ‘Jonghyun’s album’ is.
J: Yes, it’s difficult. (laughs) I expected it. I think for those who think differently than I do or who cannot understand my taste can find it difficult and feel that it’s disparate. But I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It means that I have my own colour. How boring would it be if everyone thinks the same. (laughs)
I felt that it was ‘something different’ rather than disparate. I heard that the most important thing you consider when writing lyrics is a method of a novel that acts as pivot in storytelling. So the formation of this album felt like reading a novel that’s in a formation of an omnibus connected to one.
J: The reason why it feels like it’s all connected to one is possible because there’s only one person working on it. I reflected a lot of my opinion for every song so my tone stands out. I start by setting a character when making an album. It could be me or it might not be me but I tried to picture an unctuous adult man who just fell in love. You could say that the 9 songs sang by an adult man who’s good at hitting on females, is witty and mischievous is in the <She is> album. Of course theirs is only one narrator but there are several counterparts. I wanted to put stories about love like a collection of essays.
Recently ‘the end of Eros’ has become a conversation topic. There’s only ‘me’, no you. The ‘love’ where you unconditionally give love to the other person is disappearing more and more. That’s why everyone has all turned into a narcissist. I don’t think you would want such kind of society.
J: No doubt. I would never want it. It feels dizzy even by just thinking about it. Luckily I’m not a person who spares expressing my feelings and I have lots of romantic sides compared to other people. I can also be unctuous too. Wouldn’t it affect people around naturally if there’s an unctuous person? There are actually quite a few romantic people around me. I think the end of the world wouldn’t come just by being with them. (laughs)
I think expressing love is considered as ‘cheesy’ recently. There were times when gemlike words about romance flooded.
J: I think the phrase ‘The general trend is being chic’ is more frequently used recently. Of course it’s cool but well, I think things that were chic were so widespread and people who got bored of it found ‘tsundere’ as attractive. After all, it’s proven that internally people want cozy warmth.
I felt that you were looking into a point in your past in <Skeleton Flower – Things that have been released, set free>. Do you have a past you would like to change?
J: I actually have a confidence about myself so I never thought about ‘I want to go back to that time and grow more’. I always try my best in terms of work. But, I do have a pat that I would like to go back to in terms of personal part. It’s during when I was a middle school student and 5 years ago. Just about changing the past about making a mistake to people or people turning their back because I made a mistake in a moment? I have no regrets in music or working as a singer. Ah, I once fought with my mother back in second grade in middle school and I want to change that. (laughs)
I think your affection towards your mother is unusual from reading your past interviews. I think you would say I love you frequently to your parents too.
J: I think I am good at expressing. I’m sure majority of people have the same or similar size of affection but I stand out because I express a little bit latter. I think the love for your family would be all similar with everyone.
I am jealous that your mother has a such son!
J: If I were to born again I want to be born as my mother. To receive that filial piety. (laughs)
Do you usually receive inspirations and materials from ‘books’?
J: I received a lot of inspirations from Lee Byung Ryul’s <바람이 분다 당신이 좋다> (The wind blows. I like you). I like that it composed photos and paragraphs like an essay and the fact that it showed colours of emotions brightly helped me a lot. I receive a lot of help not only from books but also from many visual things such as photos, posters, movie teasers, etc.
Do you find materials in dreams too?
J: I think dream itself gives a lot of inspirations so I also receive inspiration from the imagination of ‘I want to dream such dream’. I like having a dream as a medium to imagine or writing lyrics by complicating the emotions felt within a dream or getting inspirations from it. A track from this album called ‘MOON’ is also a story about a lucid dream. A dream where you aware that you are dreaming, actions that you can achieve within that. I think it’s interesting that you are able to realize your fantasy within the boundary you control. No matter what you do in that dream, it doesn’t matter once you come back to reality.
I heard you have a habit of keeping memos. Where do you usually write them?
J: I heard that not many people write memos anymore now but I frequently write memos. To be honest, it’s fortunate for me that mobile phones have developed. I cannot write on papers because I have such a bad handwriting and even I cannot recognize my own writing. And I keep losing the papers even when I write on them. It’s dangerous because I easily lose the thing I carry around.
I think I heard this on your radio.
J: I lose items a lot. It’s something I can never fix. So my managers and staffs pay extra attention every time and I always feel sorry.
You also give songs to hoobae singers even though you must be busy writing your own songs. You are often called ‘God Jonghyun’. I think you must have musicians that you were influenced until you were able to make such diverse music like now.
J: I am always listening to many different artists’ music and I listened frequently to music by Maxwell, Prince, Musiq Soulchild, D’Angelo, etc. when making this album. I wanted to deepen my understanding in intimate soul (music) that I had. I think I focused more on listening to Prince as there was sad news. A track in this album called ‘Aurora’ is a song that I sang thinking about Prince so I tried to interpret his emotion and image in my own way.
How do you usually compose music?
J: I need to have lyrics that become the storytelling first to have a good song and melody. I make a lot of memos because I need to have a phrase or even just one word when they’re not perfect to be able to compose.
I think Jonghyun is an artist who expresses ‘narcissism’ in a most sophisticated way.
J: Of course, I am full of narcissism. (laughs) I think perhaps it’s because I have experienced a great hatred toward myself. I think my confidence grew more because my self-esteem have hit the bottom before. It means knowing yourself is in proportion to narcissism. Unlike how I seem to be, I am a person with a lot of inferiority complex and victim mentality and I tend to push myself often to overcome that. The pleasure when you overcome such mental pain is big and in one moment your narcissism grows very big. I think it’s a fortune that a person quiet emotional like me has a job that can express feelings.
What do you usually think of for your emotions?
J: If I had to say, I tend to think about useless thoughts a lot. (laughs) I dig into thoughts about nuances of words or definitions of words. I liked reading a Korean language dictionary when I went to school. I enjoyed learning through reading definition of words and its diverse utilization. I search up words when I have a moment to spare these days too.
What kind of words are you into recently?
J: They aren’t words but I fell in love with hanja (T/N: Chinese characters of Korean language). For example, like why is this hanja formed like this, why the person who created this hanja used this radicals to make such meaning, etc. Isn’t it so romantic? Hanja is romantic characters. I think they were made very romantically if you look at its combination of words. For example, the word made by combining Old ‘Ro’ and Person ‘In’ is letters that were made focusing more on its meaning than its practicality. Completing a new complete word by adding in radicals that mean differently. What a letter that’s so fun and full of charms! Even the hieroglyphics of hanja is lovely.
Is there ever a time when you don’t think about anything?
J: I know that I need a time to ‘space out’ and am aware of its importance but I cannot do it since I don’t have time. I think I’m such a tiring person. (laughs)
You’re into 10th year since debut in next year. How would you want to look?
J: Already?! But it wouldn’t change much from now. I would still be singing and performing. Other people might feel that I have changed but I won’t change that greatly. Ask me again next year. About how much I have changed. (laughs)