Returning as a “WHOLE” – Group MBLAQ
“Not idol music, but our hope is for a mature MBLAQ sound.”
The interview for the comeback of group MBLAQ’s 5th mini-album “SEXY BEAT.”
MBLAQ – recently made a comeback through their 5th mini-album ‘SEXY BEAT.’ During that time, the members were individually active in acting, MC, and variety but the true form of MBLAQ is complete when the five members stand together and make a comeback. This album’s title song “Smoky Girl” is an addictive strong melody that was achieved through the group efforts of upcoming producers Primary and Zion.T. The members tried to directly get involved as much as much as possible in this new attempt from the recording process to the stage direction. When the 5 members stand together, it is the true complete MBLAQ. From now on begins the honest and pleasant story of MBLAQ.
Seungho, G.O, Lee Joon, Thunder, Mir
Hello. Please introduce yourselves one by one.
Seungho: “Hello. I’m MBLAQ’s leader Seungho. Nice to meet you.”
Mir: “Hello. I’m MBLAQ’s rapper Mir. Nice to meet you.”
Thunder: “Hello, I’m MBLAQ’s vocalist and rapper Thunder. Nice to meet you.”
G.O: “Hello. I’m MBLAQ’s main vocalist G.O. Nice to meet you.”
Lee Joon: “Hello. I’m MBLAQ’s vocalist Lee Joon. Nice to meet you.”
One by one, if there was a particular reason that you decided to be a singer, what was it?
Seungho: I was a typical student that was practicing acting. But I loved it the most when I was dancing. I never had an experience of singing in front of someone, but during the school vacation, I randomly went to an audition. It was my first and last audition. Before that, I had no dreams of becoming a singer, but the opportunity came and I took it as a challenge. Because I loved dancing so much, I really worked hard on that part. Also, more than anything, Rain was a big reason too.
Mir: In my case, I was a normal farm kid, so I tried a lot of things. Starting from part time jobs, I had a lot of various experiences, but even those became boring. Actually, if you are Korean, it seems at least everyone has had a dream of becoming a celebrity. I was also among them. I couldn’t rap well, but I went to karaoke often and I practiced so much. Therefore, I was able to enter the company through an audition. Truthfully, even now I am still learning. I still think I haven’t hit my best yet. However, because I think there’s no end to a skill, I am trying even harder to build my skills.
Thunder: When Rain was promoting “It’s Raining” in 2004, I borrowed the video and watched it often in the Philippines. While watching Rain I always thought, “I also want to be that kind of singer.” So at home, I practiced singing and dancing often. Through this opportunity, while naturally observing Rain’s influence, I also got my dream of becoming a singer.
G.O: From when I was little, I had a lot of interest in singing. I got my chance when my father bought a karaoke room at our house. From then on, singing became my hobby. I heard a lot of compliments from people so I realized that my specialty was singing. I wanted to be a professional singer so I came to Seoul to do an audition and I became a full-fledged singer.
Lee Joon: In my case, I was actually an aspiring actor but Rain suggested to me, “How about you become a singer like me and you can do acting too?” Through that experience, I am active as a singer and also active as an actor as well.
I’m really curious about the process of gathering the 5 members together for MBLAQ.
Seungho: Before debuting there were a lot of trainee friends. By changing little by little, we became the current members.
On SBS “Strong Heart,” it was revealed that Thunder joined the other team members right before the debut. How did you feel about that?
Thunder: I joined the team 15 days before the debut. Because of that I felt so burdened. At the time it was something I really wanted to do, and also, Rain was right in front of me so I wanted to do well even more. I also felt more pressure because my other trainee friends practiced for 1-2 years.
How was MBLAQ’s first debut stage?
Thunder: The first time we stood on the stage was at Rain’s concert. At that time, there were so many people in the audience. It seemed about 10,000 people. That was the first time I stood in front of 10,000 people in my life. I still vividly remember those 10,000 people’s cheers and glow sticks. It will be hard to have that same impact again. I really had goose bumps. I was so nervous to the point that I couldn’t move my legs.
If you were extremely nervous at your debut stage, then currently it seems that you gain a lot of “know-how” from your various performance experiences (about being nervous).
Mir: More than I gained “know-how”, [my nervousness] has slowly decreased more. You get know-how through various performance experiences and for me I often think I should do better, I should better my skills. Especially when you see your juniors. If I want to be a senior, I need to be more confident and better my skill. This kind of thing is also a good motivation. As time goes by, I see the parts where I lack a lot in so I think the most about how I should do better.
Thunder, after the 1st album, we could hear the songs you wrote yourself. Since when did you start composing songs?
Thunder: I started when I was a trainee. I learned about code from the writers at the first company I went to. The first song I participated in was the song “You.” I didn’t learn any other way; I just learned by watching over the shoulder.
When the members come out with a self-composed song, how is the response?
Seungho: We try to put as much as possible of ourselves into it. It’s easy for us to make a song that we like to hear. We try to look at it through our audiences’ eyes and continuously modify the parts that are missing.
Outside of promoting your music, we see you largely standout in acting, MC, and variety. Lee Joon was the very first to take on acting in “Ninja Assassin.” At that acting time, how was it challenging your mental attitude?
Lee Joon: At that time, I couldn’t believe it. I had no experience, but that opportunity came to me. On top of that, the first project was a Hollywood project. Even when I think about it now, it’s still so incredible. I’m so thankful for receiving that opportunity. Even now when I think about it I think it’s not real; it’s even a little awkward.
The filming process must have been difficult, but you must have gained so many things as well.
Lee Joon: Of course. As you go through the filming, you learn so many things as time goes by. I remember the words, training, even the atmosphere from the filming site. I also remember it being hard adjusting back to everyday life after it was over.
Recently, G.O made an appearance on the KBS show “Love and War 2 – Idol Special.” I’m really curious about how you go the offer.
G.O: Actually, I was so worried. Previously in the SBS drama “Ghost,” I had a role that didn’t interfere with the flow too much. But this time, I had to lead for an hour. Because it was an important role, afterwards I think I got a lot of backlash. However, while I personally feel that I lack, if I don’t even try people won’t even consider me. Also, there aren’t a lot of acting opportunities, so I can’t miss when there is an opportunity. If someone gives me the offer, I believe that they really want to see my potential, so that is why I am at least willing to try.
You released your most recent 5th mini album together with tvN’s “SNL Korea.” Did you enjoy watching the show before?
Seungho: Of course. We’re big fans.
What’s your favorite skit?
Seungho: I think Shin Dong Yeop’s “Food X File” is the funniest. I think it somewhat pushes the limit, but it’s the kind of things that viewers really enjoy watching.
Thunder: I think the funniest is “Global Tellytubby.”
Mir: The one that HyunA did, “Gel,” is the funniest.
G.O: For me, Shin Dong Yeop and Kim Seul Ki did a golf lesson skit that was so funny. Because it’s SNL Korea, you can do that kind of thing. The viewers don’t frown upon it, they really enjoy it.
When you got the offer to perform, how was it?
Seungho: Since our company is pretty open-minded, they asked ‘SNL Korea’ if it was okay because we’re idols. (Laughs) When we actually watched the broadcast later, there were a lot of parts that were edited out. (Laughs)
At the start of the ‘SNL Korea,’ there was a skit where they introduced all of your hit songs. What do you think your hit songs were?
Mir: I think ‘Y’ got the most love.
G.O: In Korea, ‘Y’ got the most love, but abroad, ‘Mona Lisa’ was the song where they got to know us. I know that it was #1 on the Bulgaria Top 40 charts. 2 years ago, I went to Peru to do a service and it’s an area that has fallen into hard times. However, the kids there find out about us through 2G cellphones. They follow along and sing and it’s so awesome. I thought about how a kid on the other side of the earth knows about me and the music. So, after this, if there’s a place where we can promote, I thought I’m going to try my best. Even though I’m satisfied with myself, if people around the world are paying attention, I have the responsibility to bring them music.
G.O you also performed in the skit “The Curse of the Group Project.” Afterwards it became really popular. What are your impressions?
G.O: After the broadcasts, I heard that a lot of community sites brought it up. On Youtube, there are also a lot of views. Even more than those things, I heard that at a university, a professor showed it during a lecture and told his students “don’t do this.”* In our society, a rising issue is that it’s not good to do satires. But, I really feel great that it’s getting such a good response.
*note: referring to the story in the skit. G.O was the leader of a group project where the group members made excuses not to do their work. G.O gets frustrated and takes revenge on the members. The professor was saying don’t be lazy group members and don’t take revenge on each other.
Now please introduce your recent 5th mini album “Sexy Beat.”
Seungho: In this album, more than an idol image, we tried to show a mature “sexy me. “ So in the ‘Sexy Beat’ stage, we are using stand mics. We thought if we only pursued a sexy only concept, there would be some resistance, so instead we tried to include various genres in this album.
If you have to select a point of the title song “Smoky Girl,” what would it be?
Seungho: This wardrobe isn’t excessive exposure, but there is a little exposure of each member. There hasn’t been choreography where guy idol groups used their pelvis, so we added that as our point choreography. Instead of just using your pelvis, in the middle of the dance, you put your hands in your pocket and it is a dance with a classy gentleman-like feeling. This way we wanted to give a counter expression. Fortunately, it conveys well to a certain degree.
Before your album release, you already have a public image, but Mir, your profile picture became a topic of interest.
Mir: At that time, we had a nude-tone concept and took pictures of us holding a snake. The shop director brought lenses and I really loved the concept. When I saw the outcome, I wanted a hazy/dim feel, but the public couldn’t relate. Afterwards, the company said to make a replacement of the picture, but I told them not to. In the end, unfortunately they changed it, but I really hope I can take a cooler picture later
In this album, you collaborated with Primary and Zion.T. From what I know, last year G.O had the chance to participate in Primary’s album.
G.O: Back then, the most surprising thing was that I’ve done featuring for artists before but usually the company contacts them and then we proceed. But last year, Primary sent me a love call himself. Before then I never had any experience with hip-hop music, but he gave me a chance. If you really look at it, it is a producer’s sense, but I was so surprised. I had some doubt if I could actually fully digest the song, but while recording, I realized that my tone and feeling has a potential that was pulled out of me. Because of that connection, he helped us on this album too.
It seems like with Primary there was a lot of back and forth feedback.
G.O: I got the truth the Primary puts in the feel of his music. He’s so personal. When I got the featuring offer, it was so wonderful. He expresses the feelings of the ordinary things of life in a way that we can all commonly feel. Even though it was only one song, I really wanted participate in another song.
I heard that at the recording studios, the member’s passion is really amazing.
Seungho: It seems that we met each other as strongly detailed people. Primary and Zion.T are also like us with a strong attachment. We each ask for the style that we want and when we give our opinions, it takes some time to come to an agreement. Also, since there was a long inactivity period, we wanted to make it even more perfect.
G.O: When we were at the recording studio, everyone there was a perfectionist. What’s even worse, in my part I had to make the sound “umm” and I think I did only that part about 30 times. Also, Zion.T is very detailed. We found the details and when record, next Primary has requests. Through this kind of group collaboration, there was a lot of back and forth and we learned so much. The recording process was so fun.
In this album, if you had to choose a song that you’re attached to, what would it be?
Seungho: I would choose the song that has a contrasting feeling to our title song – “Celebrate.” The reason being, there’s no special thinking [needed]. When you listen to it, it’s a song where you can comfortably enjoy it.
Mir: I want to choose the song “Pretty Girl.” After releasing this album, I heard from others a lot that the lyrics were good. Actually in “R U OK?” and other songs, it was really hard to write the rap, but in a song like “Pretty Girl,” there was less of a burden. The lyrics were written in only 10 minutes. I heard that that a lot of people said it was the best one.
Mir, when you are writing the lyrics, how do you place emphasis on your parts?
Mir: It’s different from case to case. When I want to write, it can flow well, but for example, yesterday, I wanted to write lyrics but for 2 hours I sat in front of the computer and I couldn’t write anything. Usually, when I want to write, I immediately just start to write.
In this album, Thunder you wrote two songs with Untitle’s Seo Jung Hwan. How did this opportunity turn out?
Thunder: In this album, there actually wasn’t a lot of time. I gave all of my songs that I made, and among those, they selected the songs that they liked and mastered them up. Then they ordered to remake the song again.
Are you satisfied with the songs you made?
Thunder: Usually In the songs I make, because I put my emotions into it, I really end up liking it. But this time, I’m not very satisfied. There wasn’t a lot of time and they couldn’t elaborate a little more, so it also feels like they couldn’t elaborate on my emotions. So, yeah, it’s a little disappointing.
Recently in idol groups, there’s a fever for unit groups. Does MBLAQ have any plans for a unit group?
Seungho: Actually, during our off period we really considered, “should we have a unit group go first?” But, for now, we just spent our time concentrating on individual activities. The reason for this is because people waited for so long, so it’s too late to do a unit group and instead we should return the favor by showing what the 5 members can do together. Also, who should be in the unit and when they should do it also takes a lot of thinking too.
If you do a unit group, who do you want to do it with?
Seungho: For me, I want to do something different with each member, which is a lot. With Thunder, we express sympathy in a similar way so I want to write a song together. Of course I want to do a song with the one and only rapper Mir. I want to do a duet type of song with G.O. Each member has their own distinctive characteristic, so I think it would turn out well with whoever I work with.
If you have the chance to do collaboration with another artist, which person do you want to work with?
Seungho: I personally like bands, so I would like to work with Crying Nut.
Mir: For me, I really like hip-hop. I want to work with Nicki Minaj and ASAP Rocky. I’m working really hard to do this.
G.O: It would be really fun to work with Zion.T. First of all, his tone is very distinctive. While promoting, I couldn’t try powerful improvisations, so if we worked together, it would be a way for me to try to do it. Also, if I work with Primary, I can be active in stressing melodies.
What is the thing that you want to show in this promotion?
Seungho: We want to show a level up in maturity. Not only do we not associate with the up-keeping of our image, but we aren’t forced to either. We wish to show a great stage and because we are fun friends in everyday life, we hope that you will think of us as friends that you can be close with. Our last goal is that until the very end, we will show never changing extreme charisma.
Gone up a maturity level
What do you do on a typical day?
G.O: Usually work on music, watch a movie, and sometimes eat and order food with each other.
Seungho: If there’s time, we go to the sauna often.
G.O: We do a lot of ordinary things. We do the same things that people with jobs do in their leisure time. The more you become active, the more ordinary things you can’t do. Like, seeing a movie or going, going to a good restaurant, or just hanging out.
Now that you’re active, you’re busy and can’t do those things.
G.O: But still in our free time, we do those things anyway. Because I continually interact with the people that work with me on music, we are a team, so we do those things.
What are some things you’re currently interested in?
Seungho: I am learning how to play the flute. I got one as a gift, but I played piano for such a long time so I thought I can pick it up on my own. But, I started playing the flute the wrong way from the beginning so my skill couldn’t improve. So, after enduring this, I’m learning the basics correctly from a teacher.
Mir: I’m collecting figurines. Recently Joon hyoung is also collecting them too.
When did you start collecting figurines?
Mir: I had an interest a long time ago, but recently I’m buying and collecting them one at a time.
What’s the figurine that you want the most in future?
Mir: I want the actual life size of the main character One Piece figurine. Maybe it’s about $200,000? (laughs)
How do you take care of your health every day?
Seungho: While promoting, our parents take care of us a lot, but the most important thing is getting some sound sleep. Even if you sleep for just a little, making a habit of sleeping deeply or correctly will help tiredness. In addition to this, also take vitamins. Originally, I really loved instant food. I liked it so much that when I went abroad, I had no cares about how the food would affect me. But these days, I want to eat Korean food and even during the day I will go home just to eat a quick meal. I think these things are the most effective.
Mir, when you filmed MBC’s “Real Men,” what was your lasting impression?
Mir: This is the most frequently asked question these days. (laughs) It’s bittersweet and feels like I had a vacation. Later if there’s another offer, I have the intention to go. For some reason, it feels like Hyoung Sik had his girlfriend taken away from him.
How did it feel when you first got the offer?
Mir: My cellphone is connected with my company so I can also see our schedule. One day I was looking at it, and I saw that someone uploaded for one week “Mir is going to the army!” (Laughs) Actually, it seemed very hard but the members [on the show] really took care of me so it was fun.
G.O, you appeared in KBS’ “Immortal Song” but now the other members are also appearing with you. It must feel unusual.
G.O: When I first appeared alone, the burden was a type of nervousness that I can’t explain in words. Anyways, as I continuously competed, I had some victories. Now that the other members come and appear with me, it’s very comfortable and relaxing. But still, whether we appear together or I do it alone, it’s still the same kind of nervousness. Even more, in this stage you have to really pay attention to everything from the musical arrangement to the stage direction. But when I see the good responses, it’s really a great feeling that I moved the audience’s hearts.
What’s the thing that you remember the most on the stage?
G.O: I won on the song “Can’t Forget You.” Usually a song is 3 minutes, 5 minutes on the long side, but that song was so short. At the very end they voted and did a short presentation and I was #1. Even though I won, I felt sorry about it (undeserving); but on the other hand, I was really pleased. It seems like I was lucky with the voting.
Lee Joon, I heard that you were recently chosen as the lead actor for “An Actor is an Actor.” What is the role about?
Lee Joon: It is about an aspiring actor. It’s about expressing a person’s life that is crazy for acting. It’s a story about going from the very bottom to the top, and then back down to the bottom. I’m trying to really express the story in the most intense way. There are scenes which can shock the viewers so I’m trying to fully immerse myself into it.
What is it that you want to show people through this project?
Lee Joon: I want to show something differentiated from other people. Honestly, a lot of idols are acting and I think there needs to be a concrete difference. I’m confident about this.
Before you know it, it will be the 5 year anniversary since your debut. What is the thing that you remember the most?
Seungho: I remember the most from the Asia tour. I really enjoyed it because at the time, the fans came so genuinely to see us on stage. Wherever we went, the fans came to see us on stage. It was a great feeling.
G.O: For me, it felt the most great when I directed a song I composed and recorded it with the members. Perhaps a singer’s biggest dream is to producer their own album and to financially invest in their music. Therefore, I remember the most when I wrote my own song.
Thunder: When I record my own solo song someday, I will really remember that. Once, we were preparing for a concert and did recordings together but I got a really bad cold. It was so bad I couldn’t talk. I recorded in that bad situation but I don’t remember it. I eventually woke up and I was sleeping on the sofa.
Mir: It’s also the Asia tour for me too. Actually, it was the feeling inside, “I’m on an Asia tour?” Because I used to be a frog inside a well, I didn’t know about this world. Even now I still don’t think I’m a singer. These thoughts make me remember the Asia tour the most.
Lee Joon: I remember when we went with Rain to Japan together for the first time. It was so exciting to have a schedule abroad.
If not in MBLAQ, what would be your dream?
Thunder: I want to study music more. If you ask me about hip-hop and R&B, my answer would be limited. To talk about it more confidently I want to try harder.
Mir: I’m also similar. No matter where I go, I want to be a legit rapper.
Seungho: To influence other people, I will work endlessly hard to teach others. I want to be a trusted and respected musician.
G.O: I want to produce my own entire album. The composition, lyrics, everything. I will directly choose all the components. I want to make this kind of album. I want to do it with my own money too.
Lee Joon: My goal is to become a well-experienced main actor. I’m always trying hard in order to do this.
What is MBLAQ’s “sexy me?”
Thunder: It’s internal. In reality, you look on the outside, but because we are singers, and if you compare to a singer, then it really emits from the inside of your body. If you can only listen to the voice and feel that it’s sexy, then it’s really sexy. Not intentionally trying to be sexy, but it just naturally comes off that way.
Seungho: I also identify with this. We all think this way. It’s not on the outside. It’s the confidence and experience that comes out.
Any final words for Cuvism Magazine?
Seungho: To Cuvism Magazine readers! MBLAQ is back with a new album after a year and a half. Thank you so much for waiting during that time and hope you know that we will return the favor by giving our best. It’s not just something we’re saying, but please know that we really mean it. Also, these days it’s common to only listen to the title song, but we hope that our culture will start listening to entire albums again. In the future, please show MBLAQ a lot of love. Thank you!
Translation: pigrabbit @ absolutemblaq.net
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