Because they ‘ain’t like any other guys,’ Big Bang sang in their song that ‘a girl who met the bad boys was in pain.’ However, because they were different from a slew of other idol groups, they became a ‘good’ group. A rapper does not break dance or the whole team does not move in perfect order like soldiers but the people remember their songs and wait for their next performance. What is more important for Big Bang than winning others is doing what they like, which is probably why they were able to realize the world they were dreaming. This doesn’t apply just to music. During the interview, the boys did not exaggerate their words when answering questions or tried to figure out what kind of answers would bring them more popularity. They were forthright in telling stories they wanted and to tell, and what they have to tell, rather than saying things that would keep up their popularity. Being honest to their feelings in the interview, Big Bang looked so mature and even naive. It is the same for T.O.P, who honestly speaks up about his feelings when he’s going through rough times, which ‘ain’t like any other guys.’ Having given up on his positive attitude, the ‘bad boy’ did not easily spat out that he is doing okay. But T.O.P said there are things he is certain of and has his faith in. This is what makes his words more reliable.
“I wanted to make people think, ‘that’s insane, but dope.’”
Q: You received much spotlight again through the latest album. How does it feel wrapping up the promotion?
T.O.P: Of all releases we had the last seven years, “ALIVE” is the one we cared about the most. We paid extra attention to make sure that every little detail is near perfect, so it was probably the toughest one to prepare since our debut. We had problems, both physically and mentally, in the process.
Q: That’s an unexpected answer. Other members told me that they had fun.
T.O.P: While trying to put everything I could in the album, I ran out of my energy to enjoy the process. I wouldn’t be able to keep up with our activities if our promotional period were longer. Because my stage concept and my real persona have a big gap, I had so much to care about.
Q: That’s probably why it left the impression that you were trying to present your fans with near-perfect acting and stage directing.
T.O.P: I guess I’m feeling more responsibility as time passes. Maybe I’m trying not to open up about my weakness but more and more, my desire for presenting perfect performances for my fans is growing for sure. So I precisely planned what kind of vibe I should give off or how I should express more with my eyes on stage.
Q: When doing GD&T.O.P activities, you seemed overwhelmingly confident. Did your perspective change when resuming Big Bang’s activities?
T.O.P: I think I take a step back to rethink before making any decisions to look at myself and Big Bang more realistically and objectively. One of the tricky things about our job is to managing and controlling ourselves. If we want to receive more positive feedbacks and hear compliments that Big Bang and our music have matured, I figured we should be wiser and act smart. It’s not a good sign if what we thought was modern were perceived as ‘too much’ by the public.
Q: It’s probably difficult to keep everything real and make rational decisions at the same time when rapping. What’s your key to that?
T.O.P: That’s…… a secret. It’s my own know-how. (laugh)
Q: Then when thinking ‘rationally,’ (laugh) what do you think is your role in Big Bang?
T.O.P: I assume that what people want from me is the impression and persona that only T.O.P has. So I care the most about making gestures, expressions through my eyes, the flow in rap music and the lyrics. When other people are actively making gestures, I try to control more and vice versa to make people get curious about my actions. I know this might not be an appropriate expression but when people are watching me, I wanted them to think, ‘that’s insane, but dope.’
Q: Well, yes. It is a bit difficult to find another word for it. So what do you tell yourself to create that atmosphere on stage?
T.O.P: I just let myself go. Now I know how to let myself be free on stage without being conscious of other people. The message I want to deliver on stage depends on my mood that day, and that’s all I think about before each performance. I try to portray myself more free and wild these days, whereas I used to care about making the audience more enjoyable and grabbing more attention.
Q: What’s happening on stage is pretty much uncontrollable. Is it possible to look at yourself a third person’s perspective during your performance?
T.O.P: I think I’m able to look at myself more objectively when I have strong confidence about my stage, music and intuition. I can be more rational when monitoring myself too. I used to fear how people see Big Bang and had unnecessary worries in me, but once I stopped being greedy about things I felt more confident. It’s about time for me to truly love and enjoy my work.
“I’m becoming a simple-minded person.”
Q: The rap parts you showed in this album was more than just impressive. Maybe it’s because you’re now able to love your work. Among them, your voice tone in “FANTASTIC BABY” is highly different from what you have shown in the past. The flow that gets faster at the latter part was quite new too.
T.O.P: Those are made by intuition. I did try making the beat into 18 level and adapt flows and rhymes that I don’t normally use. Especially in “FANTASTIC BABY,” I wrapped while imagining Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger in my head to present the uniqueness, like the ones you feel when doing weird dances. There are a lot of cool rappers but I don’t think it’s an old thing to try looking cool and manly on stage. Making simple and unique rap music is my goal.
Q: It was interesting to see you smiling at the beginning part of “BAD BOY” performance on SBS’ “Inkigayo.” I reckon that’s part of your effort to show your uniqueness.
T.O.P: A real bad boy always smiles. You need to conceal your feelings. (laugh)
Q: Are you concerned about keeping things unique when writing lyrics as well?
T.O.P: Actually, I just write lyrics without thinking much. In this album, I wrote almost all the rap lyrics on the day of the recording. Because it’s all based on my experiences, the feeling that each song has is pretty similar.
Q: You were probably hectic when preparing the album. What inspires you?
T.O.P: I look at action figures or cool designs of furnitures. It comforts me to see things that are well crafted by someone and that inspires me to talk about my own stories in music. These days, I’m becoming a simple-minded person that doesn’t think too much. There are merits in it, like my personality turning calm from being rebellious and hostile. Once my character got more soft than before, I began to see things and people in a wider perspective.
Q: Does that change affect other parts of your life as well? I heard some fans say that you are more active in variety shows, just like how you looked like a boy who likes pranks just after the debut.
T.O.P: If I looked too serious these days, it’s probably because of the TV series and movies I starred in the recent years. I went through a long trauma after shooting war flick and playing as a killer in a drama. Since I had a hard time separating my life from those roles even after the shows ended, I had a dark face and wanted to hide myself somewhere. I’m pretty sure that my personality would change again depending on what kind of roles I get to play in the future. It’s the same in stage acting.
Q: So if you have a lot in your mind, it’ll require a lot to maximize your talent and skills on stage. You even have not a few number of fans abroad too.
T.O.P: I try hard to be aware of that all the time because I tend to be lazy if I don’t remind myself of those things. Oh and also, I try to show the best and what’s perfect by focusing on details. Every fan has a different taste in music and to satisfy them all, I have to look cool first and ‘doing good’ comes next. I get tired sometimes in the process but since I feel the responsibility, I know I will not quit.
Q: By ‘responsibility’ do you mean it as a Big Bang member, rather than the responsibility you feel as Choi Seung-hyun?
T.O.P: To be honest, I didn’t start my solo activity with my name Choi Seung-hyun because of that responsibility I’m feeling. I’m overwhelming with passion and sometimes I can’t control that myself. When not in a team, I thought I’d just give up everything whenever that moment comes. Plus, I don’t have a huge goal to achieve alone.
Q: Ironically, you don’t seem to be interested in what’s going around in the world while you’re at the center of people’s attention and love.
T.O.P: I used to have pictures of how I wanted to be or how I wanted to be seen by people in my mind. But now I’m more conscious about making people look at me when we’re on stage. Rather than me approaching to the audience, I want them to come to me with all the attention focused on me.
Q: I could see that when you’re performing. Before, you attracted people by making eye contacts but now you look somewhere else and that makes people get more curious.
T.O.P: Well, that just comes out naturally ever since I changed my angle of view. What’s important to me is that I have to be new all the time. Always looking straight at cameras won’t work. I’d have to keep studying about changing my concept while trying not to go too far from a certain boundary I’ve set.
“My mind is imbalanced these days, but I’ve matured to figure out how to cure and accept it.”
Q: Because acting provides you chances to start a new life as a new person, you must have a strong attachment to your acting career. Do you have a special role that you’d like to play in the future?
T.O.P: I don’t have a specific role I want to play in my mind. What’s important is to be a part of a good project.
Q: Everyone’s criteria for a ‘good project’ is different. What’s yours?
T.O.P: It’s gotta be worth of devoting all my time and energy. If I’m a professional actor, going through a trial and error would be a major plus for me to become a veteran actor. But since my first job is not an actor, I can’t participate in that many projects. Not just that, I make decisions from the audience’s perspective too. So I try to choose ones that would really suit me, rather than the ones that require technical acting skills. Plus, I also have to consider that I have young fans as an idol, so I avoid appearing in rated R movies or art films. (laugh)
Q: From performing on stage to acting, you spend a tremendous amount of your energy in working. Is that a sign that you’ve become a grown-up?
T.O.P: I think mentally, I’m still 12. But in terms of working age, it’s going up every year. I used to watch black-and-white films but now, I prefer lighter ones. My mind is imbalanced these days, but I’ve matured to figure out how to cure and accept it.
Q: So you’re essentially the same person, but there’s been a major development within you. When looking back, how much have you changed since your debut?
T.O.P: The way I think is the same but I tried to hide more back then. Nowadays, I show up to two out of ten. I guess ten years later, I’d open up more.
Q: I have a feeling that you’ll open up more through your performances on stage.
T.O.P: Actually, I don’t think I’ll continue my career in Big Bang if people doesn’t want us anymore. When that moment comes, I wouldn’t mind not singing and dancing on stage. I’m spending a good time by doing what I want(music), putting behind all the events we had gone through. And I don’t want this beautiful time of my life fade away. I want Big Bang’s memories beautifully kept and hope the same in other people’s minds too.
Q: Aside from future worries, what kind of team do you think Big Bang is right now?
T.O.P: We’re receiving a large amount of attention for sure, not just in the country from abroad as well. I’m not bragging because I’m in the team or because I’m a conceited person. I have no doubt that we’re being more loved than before and I believe that Big Bang could show much more with new things in every album, while enjoying every moment.
Reporter : Yoon Hee-Seong.
Editor in Chief : Kang Myeong-Seok.
Photographer : Chae ki-won.
Editor : Monica Suk.
Editor : Jang Kyung-Jin.