The wind blows the hardest at the top of a mountain. Because their popularity and fame was at the peak last year, all the small and big events that Big Bang has gone through during that period were even more harsh to the members. After a long period of self-reflection and shaking things up a bit, Big Bang rolled out a new album that was titled “ALIVE.” What was more welcomed by their fans than the successful outcome of their release — such as surprising records on music charts, earning prizes at international awards and various news on their promotional activities — was probably the fact that Big Bang came back ‘alive.’ Standing on the brink of a crisis, they did not give up. Instead of lining out everything they have gone through the lyrics, they signaled that they are at the beginning of a new start by saying, “Winter passes when spring comes.” “BLUE” is a calming song but it made louder noises than any other songs to alert their return. 10Asia interviewed Seungri, who has brought spring into Big Bang’s life. His survival tactic in the past seven years as a celebrity — keeping himself alive and develop even under the pressure that was like an icy water last winter — was honest and forthright but it was surprising at the same time.
“Honestly, I thought Big Bang would never be able to return to the music scene.”
Q: You guys finished promoting yourselves here but you still look busy with all the activities going on abroad and modeling for advertisements.
Seungri: It might not be as bad as you imagine it’d be. It’s sort of like our image to look busy (laugh). Actually, we had a lot of pressure on us with everything we had gone through recently. The TV shows that we could appear on were limited and had to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders with our fans’ expectations. So we focused on showing that we’re still alive and well. I tried to show the serious side of myself than perky images I have shown in the past. Part of the reason was to be recognized and get credit from other members.
Q: When “BLUE” was released, you guys received positive reviews from music critics with a surprisingly neat vocal line at the intro part.
Seungri: It was tricky when recording that track. In only a few number of songs among Big Bang’s tracks I sing the chorus. I had pressure in singing the intro but G-Dragon cheered me up by saying, “Only your voice could make this song perfect. I made this song with your voice tone in my mind.” I remember we modified a few parts while recording the track over and over.
Q: Big Bang’s title songs in the past were more vibrant and exciting, whereas “BLUE” is calm and addictive. It was different for sure.
Seungri: Whether you’re listening to a song through speakers or earphones, you get tired of listening to music when it’s too much. We all agreed on making songs that you won’t get sick of listening, so the overall album is more soft than our past music.
Q: How is it when singing the song? You not only have to care about the melody in this song but the lyrics are also important.
Seungri: Someone asked me to pay special attention to the lyrics but “Winter passes and spring comes” itself has a lot of hidden meanings. Honestly, I thought Big Bang would never be able to return to the music scene. I was too young and cowardly to overcome people’s disappointment in us. When we gathered together in a long time to go to the MTV Europe Music Awards, I saw the light that we could really do this. Flying 14 hours in a plane and driving six hours to the ceremony, we felt nothing wrong about five of us staying as a group.
Q: What generates that energy?
Seungri: I guess it’s the fact that the five of us share one same goal: we all love music. We’re like pillars that sustains the teamwork and if one breaks down, we could all fall apart. But sharing the same goal makes it fun to communicate. We have a common ground so that generates the synergy when we’re together as a group.
“Now, I like helping other people stand out more.”
Q: Maybe it’s because you’ve gone through a lot recently, but how you prepare your performances seems to have changed comparing to the past. Should I say, maybe now you know how to leave a strong impression when singing in a group?
Seungri: I can’t say that I’m in charge of a lot of things in the group’s performances. But I always get nervous because I never know when I’ll be on the camera. Even if I take a small portion in a big picture, I felt responsible about fulfilling my parts. I have to do everything that I can in Big Bang.
Q: Your facial expression was pretty impressive. You’ve become a man now.
Seungri: I’ve experienced acting by appearing in a TV series for a short time, and it’s true that artists need to act on stage when singing. When the music begins, you gotta sing while thinking that a movie is playing on a screen. Actor Lee Byung-hun once said in an interview that he ‘knows from where the cameras are filming’ him even when his eyes are closed. I think you call that a professionalism. Singers need to be sure where the cameras are and imagine how camera men will be shooting them.
Q: So I reckon that you mean you’re now able to see things in a wider perspective. Is that so in appearing on variety shows as well? In talk shows, you were more active in helping others talk about their episodes than talking about your own.
Seungri: On SBS’ “Strong Heart” for example, I was too passionate about doing my share in the show and even raised my hand to talk. But now I’m less passionate about doing everything myself. Rather than doing everything alone, I lower myself and try to help others to stand out more. When I thought from the viewers’ perspective, I didn’t look so good when trying to talk more and stand out. So now I try to toss stories to other members by smoothly saying things like, ‘How about you, Daesung?’
Q: Isn’t it a bit difficult for celebrities to think in other people’s shoes? It’s part of their lives to stand out and be noticed and by the public.
Seungri: But without developing oneself and fixing what’s wrong, you can’t mature. After meeting people from different backgrounds, traveling overseas for the group’s activities and experiencing various cultures, I think I’ve grown little by little. You learn a lot through experiences.
Q: Aside from becoming a mature person, you’ve clearly figured out your role in Big Bang.
Seungri: I want to take the ending role in Big Bang. In other words, while the other members take the center stage and lead the overall concept, I would spice things up more. Whether it’s on stage, a talk show or variety shows, my job is to fill in the parts that the other members are not capable of.
Q: Your mindset would be definitely different from doing solo activities. It felt like you were more enjoying yourself as a solo artist on stage and TV shows.
Seungri: Unlike how it looks, pursuing solo activities put a lot of weight on your shoulders and give a huge stress. Being chased by time keeps you away from being more creative and having more wider options in making decisions. I need to make the final decision in everything so I’m less certain about my decisions than working as a group. When in a team, there’s a leader and five people gather their opinions and make decisions. That allows an effective discussion about stage directing and lets each member to focus on his own part.
Q: But it pays off when you lead everything on your own.
Seungri: My album “VVIP” was quite randomly released but to be honest, I was confident about the album. But after two years since then, I realized that I was bit of a fool to think that I could do everything well by myself. I’m more like a midfielder but it’s like I’ve been trying to shoot goals as a striker. Thoughts like this come up to my mind when watching Manchester United’s soccer game. Just like how it’s not the best choice to put Park Ji-sung as the solo striker like Rooney, my passion was way ahead of my ability. I was clumsy over everything.
Q: So does that mean that the mature version of you would make different choices if you were to resume solo activities?
Seungri: People ask me a lot when I’m planning to roll out the next solo release. But I’m not interested in it even a tiny bit these days. Everything has a right timing and this isn’t my time to do so. In 2012, the other members are preparing to release their solo albums and T.O.P is prepping up for another acting project. I guess my timing would be two to three years later. (laugh)
Q: You really began to read things from producers’ perspective. (laugh)
Seungri: Since it’s been seven years since my debut, I noticed that there’s a flow in everything. Because my last solo album wasn’t so commercially successful, it would take some time to make everything perfect for the next one. I’d have to gain more recognition from the public and gain more technical skills with my talent. Getting some help from the other members, I’m guessing I have a chance to build a foothold as a solo artist years later.
“I’ve always hated losing.”
Q: It took a long time for a boy, who aspired to become a star by attending open auditions, to grow as a professional that has a clear outlook on his life. Do you feel the change in yourself?
Seungri: I’ve always hated losing and this has never changed. When appearing in a reality show to audition to become a Big Bang member, it was so embarrassing to imagine myself returning home after failing the competition. I had also imagined about people pointing their fingers at me, whispering in the back and the teacher telling them to stop teasing me. It was horrible to draw those pictures in my head. If I make a mistake later and received criticism from the public, I would think myself as a loser.
Q: Is it like a fight against yourself?
Seungri: It’s about keeping things consistent by pushing yourself hard. I’m not superior than others but I try not to lose. Three years ago, I told YG Entertainment’s C.E.O Yang Hyun-suk, “I’m gonna work really hard.” But he shocked me by saying, “What are you gonna do if you don’t try hard?” I think that was the most unforgettable saying I’ve ever heard since my debut in Big Bang. But he was so right about it. I ‘have to’ work hard, not just for the company or other people but for myself. So technically, it doesn’t make sense for me to remind people that I’m gonna try hard and it’s the same for other members as well. Yang might seem like a harsh trainer but what he told me that day really stirred up the passion in me.
Q: Other than the things you need to achieve, what does Big Bang mean to you?
Seungri: Big Bang is the group I want to be with till I die. All the other members are older than me but sometimes I feel that they’re like my close friends. Since I devoted my life to working in this field, without having special memories from middle school and high school, the members of Big Bang mean a lot to me. We’re not related by blood but I could say that I wanna be brothers with them. We’re now inseparable, having gone through good and bad times together. I think it would require so much more than what we have to break us apart.
Editor in Chief : Kang Myeong-Seok.
Reporter : Yoon Hee-Seong.
Photographer : Chae ki-won.
Editor : Jang Kyung-Jin.
Editor : Monica Suk.