Translation of T.O.P’s Interview with 10Asia in September 2014 during his Tazza 2 promotions:
10Asia: You look tired and your skin is breaking out. Did you sleep well?
Choi Seunghyun: These days I could barely sleep. I had an overseas schedule on the weekend. After returning, I continued movie promotion activities. But today is the release date, so I’m really excited. Because this is an artistic project that I’ve anticipated and been anxious about from the start, I want to show it to the audience quickly. If I do that, I think I’ll feel somewhat relieved.
10Asia: You said you’ve “been anxious” about it. Is that kind of public appraisal daunting or stimulating to you?
Choi Seunghyun: It’s stimulating. The more it’s like that, the less daunted I am.
10Asia: Before a music release, the anticipation surrounding you is large so it seems like it’d be a burden, and in the case of a movie there’s the opposite reaction so it seems it would also be nerve-wracking.
Choi Seunghyun: Honestly speaking, the public likes the appearance of modesty so I just don’t show it outwardly, but I always have self-confidence. My style is that if I don’t have a firm conviction, I can’t move forward. I also have some level of intuition for the future, so those things are interesting to me. Before results appear, before you’ve even seen or heard anything, people have something to say. That’s really interesting to me.
10Asia: With regards to people who talk about things before seeing them, there are many cases where they talk based on prejudices. Still, you say you find it interesting?
Choi Seunghyun: I think it’s rather that, because there’s prejudice, I don’t become complacent. Perhaps it’s because prejudices fire me up more. In front of prejudice, I become braver. I think being an actor or a musician is an occupation where you have to go around putting up with prejudices.
10Asia: You said that if you don’t have conviction, you can’t move forward. If that’s so, then by what conviction did you move forward with regards to Tazza 2?
Choi Seunghyun: Director Kang Hyeongchul’s energy? When I first received the screenplay, I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. I thought that signing onto Tazza 2 was a game where I stood to lose a lot, rather than gain anything. I also had apprehensions about whether I’d be able to properly portray the crooked Ham Daegil’s life. I didn’t have confidence in myself. But when I read the screenplay the director sent me, it seemed very fun. I agonized over it for 4-5 months then met the director directly, and when he handed the screenplay book to me, he said, “This is a screenplay that contains the last year of my life. Please take this screenplay, Seunghyun-ssi. I really hope it’ll be yours, Seunghyun-ssi.”
10Asia: Oh, those words must have ‘hooked’ you.
Choi Seunghyun: He was the first person to say those kinds of words to me. I don’t know whether that’s just his colorful silver tongue, but I was very thankful.
10Asia: It seems Director Kang Hyeongchul himself is “Tazza.” (Laughs) [T/N: “tazza” is someone good at tricking others in gambling.]
Choi Seunghyun: It looks like that. Haha. When I received the screenplay from him, I looked right into his eyes and saw that they were full of conviction. He seemed firm. He didn’t show even 0.01% apprehension. Don’t they say that people who are naturally full of confidence can’t be held back by anyone? So I went back home and read the screenplay again, and I don’t know whether the director’s energy got transferred to me, but I developed some confidence about this role. That’s how I ended up doing Tazza 2.
10Asia: Honestly, Daegil seems like the kind of guy who wouldn’t look awkward at all dancing and singing on stage with BIGBANG. His wardrobe and personality are like that, too.
Choi Seunghyun: That’s right. In fact, that’s why the director and I discussed that aspect a lot. The source material is set in the 80s, but Kang Hyeongchul’s vision was to set it in the present day. There was worry about what would distinguish Daegil’s personality from the prequel’s Goni. Daegil is simple-minded, likes women, is hard up for money, and he’s the kind of guy who dresses himself up when he earns money. We worried about how Daegil, who’s living in modern times, would dress himself up. Thus he appeared with a colorful wardrobe. When Daegil is on a winning streak in Gangnam and changes his clothes, I felt catharsis just like it were my own story. Because in reality I was also like that.
10Asia: ‘Into the Fire’s Oh Jangbeom who has a strong sense of responsibility, ‘Commitment’s taciturn Lee Myunghoon who takes action more than using words, or ‘Tazza’s Ham Daegil who delights in challenges. Which one is closer to Choi Seunghyun’s disposition?
Choi Seunghyun: I think my fearlessness is similar to Ham Daegil’s. I’m always confident, but I don’t really know whether my confidence is borne from the fact that, like Ham Daegil, I have no foresight. But fortunately until now I’ve never experienced failure. I wonder if that’s because I don’t have apprehensions about failing? On the other hand, it also seems that I don’t have apprehensions because I lack an ambition to succeed.
10Asia: That might be because you’ve already succeeded.
Choi Seunghyun: That’s not it. I think I can talk like that because I don’t feel that I’ve succeeded. If I succeeded, I think I’d be constantly apprehensive, but I don’t have those fears. Maybe, seeing as I haven’t even once worried about losing my position, it seems my position isn’t at that level yet.
10Asia: Those words seem to mean, if you climb to the summit then you’d have anxieties about falling from there.
Choi Seunghyun: That’s right. I would imagine I’d be worried, and seeing as I don’t have those thoughts, then it doesn’t seem I’ve succeeded yet.
10Asia: Wow~ at which point would you say you’ve succeeded? (Laughs)
Choi Seunghyun: I don’t have a reference point. However you look at it, I don’t have thoughts about succeeding or failing. Just taking things on an ad hoc basis… ah, I don’t know. Every time I talk it always becomes “deep.”
10Asia: Let’s go “deeper.” You said this during ‘Commitment’ interviews: “I’m a person that has to be lonely.” Is your feeling still the same now?
Choi Seunghyun: Rather than the meaning that I genuinely have to be lonely… how should I say it? Ah, I think it’s more accurate to say that I shouldn’t become comfortable or calm. Because my style is to become lazy if I become comfortable. I don’t have a middle-ground.
10Asia: Daegil is a person who gets back up like a roly-poly even if he falls into hell. How would the Choi Seunghyun who has never experienced failure act, if there were some point when you ended up burning out?
Choi Seunghyun: I think I’d be able to stand back up again. But I don’t move recklessly towards the point of burnout, like Ham Daegil does.
10Asia: When does life go according to one’s plans? You said that you didn’t move recklessly, so it isn’t that you don’t get crushed.
Choi Seunghyun: I think Ham Daegil is slightly different. I feel some pity for the person that is Ham Daegil. When I look at him I think, “wow, it’s true that things easily gained are also easily lost.” I’ve never tried to gain something easily. I’ve always moved forward after laying down some degree of groundwork. I hesitated to appear in Tazza 2, but after I signed on I had absolutely no apprehensions about it. That’s because while agonizing over it for a few months beforehand, I layed down some groundwork about this artistic project. It was time that I took to build my confidence.
10Asia: Agui (Kim Yoonsuk)’s famous line is, “I’ll bet all my money and my hand!” Let’s assume that in your life a situation arose where you had to make an important bet. Your opponent demanded that you bet something really important to you. What would you bet?
Choi Seunghyun: Ah, what to bet… I think I’d be able to wager my own self at any time. That’s why, if it were a really important moment, I’d lay down my own life. If I enter that kind of game, I don’t think I’d have any fears.
10Asia: Is your life the most important thing to you? Instead of your life, what if I said to bet your voice? To you, who loves rap.
Choi Seunghyun: I’d rather die than cut my vocal chords. (Laughs)
10Asia: To be honest, encountering a situation in your life where you have to bet something is rare. But for celebrities, I think it’s somewhat different. Because I wonder whether actors and singers don’t have to risk themselves at every moment?
Choi Seunghyun: Umm. I think that a person who’d risk things would be short-lived. Because it seems that, in the end, risking things is having ambition. Because it seems that people who have ambition are always betting away their lives. If you meet people like that, they are really hard-pressed. Their eyes are unfocused. In a sense, it’s pitiful. Because people who are motivated by ambition rather than sincerity quickly disappear.
10Asia: Because of that mindset, it seems that Director Kang Hyeongchul said, “Choi Seunghyun is closer to an artist than a technician.” I know that you like the architect Jean Prouvé. He’s an architect who emphasized the balance of art and practicality. As an artist, what kind of balance do you value?
Choi Seunghyun: Being refined. Everything has to be simple. Just as artists sell the things they’ve drawn and sculptors sell the things they’ve sculpted, I am a person in an occupation where I have to create and sell myself. As such, I really hope to be someone who has no superfluousness. I’m currently striving to become like that… anyway, how come today I’m so deep? Ah, it’s not bad. I like it. It’s provoking a lot of thoughts.
10Asia: Between people older than you, and those younger than you, with whom do you get along better?
Choi Seunghyun: It’s the same. My mental age is really low, so I’m comfortable with both older and younger friends. Rather, I don’t mesh well with people my own age.
10Asia: But it doesn’t seem like your mental age is low.
Choi Seunghyun: No, there are times when I’m reckless. I often have impractical thoughts. I’m not a person who is always reasonable. That’s probably why Director Kang Hyeongchul said that I don’t seem like a technician. Because I’m not someone who moves in a calculated way. Sometimes I’m also excessively biased.
10Asia: That aspect shows up a lot in your work. Your solo “Doom Dada” last November was also like that. While watching it, I thought, “Choi Seunghyun makes music while keeping in mind that these images will be visualized.”
Choi Seunghyun: That’s right. I always think of the images while making music. Music and images always come together.
10Asia: If so, then that means you shouldn’t just listen to your song, but also watch it visually.
Choi Seunghyun: I think that’s the only way you have to do it in this era. I imagine in the future it’ll be even more so. I think an era will come where music is unconditionally a video artwork. Because good melodies and chords came out now, I think it would be hard to make refined music if people keep listening to things non-committally.
10Asia: In ‘Doom Dada,’ the lyrics “I’m a 21st century extraordinary Korean, a Rap Basquiat holding the mic” appear. Do you like Basquiat?
Choi Seunghyun: The reason I referenced Basquiat was because at the time that I made ‘Doom Dada,’ I thought to make music that people wouldn’t really enjoy listening to. That’s because at the time – and if I said it wasn’t the case now as well, I’d be lying – I thought that everything was packaged and presented the same, and if something was popular then our country’s music industry would copy it in droves. When I saw this, I didn’t want to get involved with it. I thought it was pathetic. I thought it really was an aberration. That’s why I hoped to take a child raised in that freakish environment and express something about that freakish situation. More than that, I wanted to scrawl something roughly, like Basquiat’s graffiti.
10Asia: Amazing metaphor. But aren’t celebrities, particularly idol groups, in the position where they have to make trends?
Choi Seunghyun: Honestly, I’ve never even once thought that the BIGBANG team, or I myself, are idols. I just think that because it’s an era where boybands promote actively, we’re tied together. Perhaps if I thought of myself as an idol, my personal color in the BIGBANG team, or the BIGBANG team’s disposition, wouldn’t come out well.
10Asia: You say you wanted to scrawl something roughly, but it seems like you didn’t think, “now, I want to change the music industry.” Isn’t it more that you think, “I’ll go my own path”?
Choi Seunghyun: If I speak really bluntly and honestly, ‘Doom Dada’ was a song that abstractly expressed the reason that I dislike doing music. At the time, I thought it was an aberration that there was nobody attempting something new.
10Asia: How is acting? How do you think you yourself are changing with respect to acting?
Choi Seunghyun: I don’t really know, but I feel like I’m slowly becoming stronger. It’s fun, for now. I don’t know why I added a “for now” proviso, but I want to do it while it’s fun. While people want me to.
10Asia: Do you put a “for now” proviso for music, too?
Choi Seunghyun: It’s the same. I think whether it’s music and acting, it’s all the same. In the past, I looked at them differently, but at some point my thoughts changed. Because both are ways of verbally expressing myself. So if I lose my enjoyment of either of them, I’d stop doing them without regrets.
10Asia: You’re straightforward. Daegil tells Heo Mina (Shin Sekyung), who saved his life, “My life is yours” and offers her everything. Whether man or woman, do you also have someone for whom you would risk everything?
Choi Seunghyun: No, no.
10Asia: Not even to someone who would sacrifice everything for you?
Choi Seunghyun: Truthfully speaking, I haven’t met that kind of person yet. I think that’s why.
10Asia: Hmm. What kind of person are you attracted to?
Choi Seunghyun: It’s different for men and women. For a man, I like someone who is tolerant and broad-minded. I match well with someone who acknowledges and studies new things. Someone who wants to know more. As for the opposite sex, I like a good woman. In the past, I had fantasies about outward appearance, but now, more than that, I like a person who is good. But it seems there aren’t really any good women~
10Asia: Did you get burned too many times? (Laughs)
Choi Seunghyun: Haha, that’s not it. I haven’t had many relationships but the women I’ve dated were all good. When I’ve thought about the reason I haven’t dated in a long time now, it seems it’s because I haven’t been able to meet a good woman. Criteria for “good”? Ummm… good… good… a good-hearted woman?
10Asia: Hahahaha. So do you think you’re good-hearted?
Choi Seunghyun: When I’ve thought about it, it seems I’m a good person. Hahahaha. I can’t think bad thoughts. I don’t have fox-like facets (to my personality).
10Asia: It seemed you think like that, which is why I asked. You really seem like a good person. Anyway, it’s somewhat regretful that you still don’t have someone you would risk yourself for.
Choi Seunghyun: I have a bachelor’s disposition. I don’t want to bet my life on someone. I dislike both imposing burdens and having them placed on me. I’m saying this too truthfully, but… I think that would be the worst part of marriage. Waking up in the morning and always having to be in one place with someone. (Sigh mixed with a groan)
10Asia: Wow~ you really should live alone. Keep house on different floors, or become a weekend couple. [T/N: A weekend couple is one who only sees each other on weekends because of a long commute or other reasons.]
Choi Seunghyun: I think my disposition is such that marriage would be too stifling. I wonder if, for me, “marriage” wouldn’t be betting everything? Getting “married” would really mean betting away everything I have.
10Asia: You said you want to be free, but you belong to YG, which is the biggest agency in our country right now. Even if YG is a company with free-wheeling tendencies, I imagine that you can’t completely ignore what your company says when you’re promoting your music.
Choi Seunghyun: Out of all the people at the company, the one who disregards words the most is definitely me. (Laughs) A while ago, Tablo-hyung also said something like that: “You reject so many things.” I’ve also heard a great deal about me being an outsider. Because they know my personality well now, they don’t force me to do things, or anything like that.
10Asia: When can we hear your solo album?
Choi Seunghyun: When I want to release it. The songs are there, so I could order completion at any time. If I released it as soon as possible, it could be out in 2-3 weeks.
10Asia: But isn’t your personality one where you wouldn’t release something if it’s not perfectly prepared?
Choi Seunghyun: Aren’t I someone who’s always ready? (Laughter) When it comes to music, I’m always ready.
10Asia: And in terms of acting?
Choi Seunghyun: Acting requires a lot of time to analyze the screenplay. And unlike music, acting isn’t something I do my own way; you enter the director’s artistic world, and rather than him planning what he wants to express, you have to provide the performance. In that respect, it’s a dreadful job. With music, if you fail then you can just say, “it’s my mistake” or “I went too deep into my own color,” but films are a commitment with many people, so it’s not something I can just do my own way.
10Asia: What is the world of that kind of acting like?
Choi Seunghyun: It’s a thrill. Like the lines in Tazza, “my style is working for the thrill, not because of money.”
Credits: Thanks to @kwonaventure for translating!
(Please take out with credit)