[INTERVIEW] Atstar1’s interview with Kim Junsu – A man with charming transformation
A man who constansly changed and never stays in one place, Kim Junsu.
He, who attempted at many transformations and is never afraid of them, took his time to be with @star1.
As a JYJ member, a musical actor and also as a solo singer.
A man who is running with no rest and never stops, Kim Junsu.
This is the story of that man, Kim Junsu.
While transforming into a solo singer, just recently he decided to release an English single album. It has became such a hot topic as he worked with an international composer like Bruce Automatic. He experienced a working style which is completely different from the one in Korea. “While in our country, we tend to focus only on recording the song, in the US, they try to get to know each other first through conversations then go on with recording. If the recording time takes about 4 hours in total, 2 hours would be spent in having natural conversations about the album with each other. Also, I feel that they take care of the artist overwhelmingly well. If I want to rest, they would tell me to rest until whenever I want, they would make a big deal if my vocal condition is just a little bit unwell. Now I know what it is like to work with the best staff.”
He also worked with top staff to film a music video right in the US. He was confused with a whole new way of filming as they had to film the given situation in only one long-take. “In our country, the staff would definitely give directions even on the smallest movement but in the US, they just asked me to ‘sing like you are flirting with this woman’. Of course, they didn’t decide the exact movement for me either. Also, they always say ‘Action’ no matter what. We were told to caress each other right at the first time we met so I entrusted completely in the actresses. Seriously, like a fish being released into water, when the music is played, I must get everything under my control. When the filming started, I thought about what to do first. I felt the pressure but because of that, we had some natural unscripted scenes.” They brought a car to a desert, played the music and he was told to act there. Since it was the very first time he and the actress met, he couldn’t help but feeling puzzled when he was told to act like he is flirting with her. Even so, they completed the filming professionally. A high-standard music video was made. “Because every staff was looking at me only, somehow rather than feeling embarrassed, I just wanted to finish the filming quickly. Every staff that I worked with are popular people and it was also their first time to work with a Korean artist. Therefore, the responsibility of leaving a good image to them and the pressure to be good seem to be more severe. That’s how everything happened.”
# From a group to a solo
From a group of 5 members to a trio, then he transformed to a solo singer.
With that much happened, he was really worried and things are not easy for him at all. Especially in the situation where his TV activities aren’t guaranteed, the pressure on promotion for his solo album is big. The album was decided to be released after hesitating, therefore he wanted it to be in higher quality and be perfect. “Depending on how I set the standard for myself, it could be considered as a success or failure. At least, considering the worries I had in mind before releasing the album, I think it was such a big success to me. To be honest, when my agency first told me to release an album, I told them I didn’t want to. It is because I have thought that promoting an album when I can’t even appear on TV is impossible. On top of that, I did want to make an album with a certain quality that is enough to please me but if that amount of money was invested in but the result couldn’t meet our expectations then that would be just a daydream.” While preparing for the album, he also collaborated with Gecko, DoubleK etc. It seems like he is completing one by one things that he has never tried out before.
“There was a story like this long time ago. Every person has their own color in terms of music. No matter how differently they try to manifest, there is still a boundary that they cannot get over. I think collaboration is a way to break it. Now if I talk about what I want to do, my agency will accept the idea and get it prepared for me. That is what makes me happy the most.”
# ‘Unconventional’ transformation
Releasing an album at the end of agony was indeed unconventional.
He took back the name ‘XIA’ and chose an androgynous concept which he’s never shown before. The decision was more unexpected to come from a boyish person like him. “To be honest, it was awkward. For my personality, doing nails or dyeing my hair to bright color is something I’d never imagined myself would do in the past. I had absolutely no interest to the point that I felt ashamed that one can be called a celebrity just because of their fancy appearance. At that time, in my opinion, because I am a singer, all I must do is singing well and that’s it. I am that type of person who doesn’t go to dermatology ‘cos I found it annoying. That thought was broken when I participated in musical ‘Elisabeth’.”
Kim Junsu played the role of ‘Death’ in the musical ‘Elisabeth’. A mystical and transcendent character like that needs to have a completely different image from normal people. That was the reason why he started dieting. “I felt that I was so different from the role ‘Death’. If I was still active in TV broadcast activities, I would monitor and shape up my style even if no one told me to do so, but during the break, I felt that I had became too ‘loose’. The role ‘Death’ that I must manifest in the musical is sexy and has similar image to the God of Death. When I looked in the mirror, I realized that this was not ‘Death’, that I wouldn’t be able to immersed in the role in this state. I think my role must attract attention of the audience right when he appears on stage so in order to transform my image, I started dieting.”
After transforming himself into ‘Death’, Kim Junsu’s mind has also changed. “It is obvious that singing is the most important thing for a singer. However, I cannot deny the fact that showing appearance is also a part of this job. The visual element can’t have priority over singing but it cannot be overlooked either. I cared a lot about the visual aspect when preparing for this album. For that reason, I did my nails and these days, if I don’t have nail art, I feel weird. My mind has changed to that extent. To me, putting efforts to change, to transform myself is something I should do for the fans. Before, I’d never thought about using wigs but now it they are needed, I will definitely wear them.”
# Solo concert, Asia tour, then World tour
During a 90-minute solo concert, one can feel breathless just by watching him performing continuously intense dance songs.
While performing alone on stage, he has mastered both singing and performance abilities and received favorable comment from audiences.
“After finishing ‘TARANTALLEGRA’, I did think that it would be great if the next song ‘Fever’ wouldn’t start at all, or if the chair that I was sitting on would just be descended into the stage’s bottom. However, wanting to show a perfect image, I arranged dance songs continuously one after one so I gathered all my strength and focused on my stage. The delight and the sense of fulfillment after that are unbelievable.” Now he is starting his World tour. Standing on a foreign stage gives him very different feelings from those he has when being on domestic stage. Is it similar to what a national representative would feel? He doesn’t stop after obtaining popularity in Japan, he extended to Europe, South America etc. He has well prepared as XIA but also as a Korean singer, he has to bear a big responsibility to show a more than perfect stage. “To be honest, near the end, I was too tired that I didn’t know how I have performed in the song ‘Mission’. Also, when the concert has ended, not only I was happy but I also felt stunned. Nevertheless, after every concert, I always have some regrets and also emptiness in my heart, then I promise to myself that I will work even harder next time.”
# The daily life of a non-celebrity Kim Junsu
During the conversation with him, he has made me marvel at the serious worries a shining star has on stage, and also made me laugh at his unpolished carefree choice of words. “I like to be with my friends. My house is our hangout. If I am home, B2ST Kikwang, Pro-gamer Yeom Bosung, Seokyungjong etc will just press the password for my house door and come in. I like noise so I always call my friends to come over. Kikwang often comes when he has time to rest. Because all of us don’t like drinking alcohol so if Kikwang, Doojoon, Jisuk hyung etc come, we go to Hanriver at night to play basketball.”
Currently being the captain of celebrities soccer team FC MEN, he is well-known as a big soccer maniac, to the extent that he said himself “If I was born again, I want to become a soccer player”. “I am not the type that shies away but because I have to stand on stage, I cannot play as much as I want but despite of that, I am not someone who would play half-heartedly. Therefore, during the concert period, if I tell the managers that I go playing soccer, they will be in emergency mode. Even so, I still play whole-heartedly.” In 2011, he participated in Park Jisung’s charity soccer match held in Vietnam and played side by side with other players. He participated in the match not because he wanted to play but thanks to Park Jisung’s encouragement, he didn’t want to miss the opportunity to run on the same field with Park Jisung. “I played for fun but Vietnamese players thought I was a player for real and kept tackling me. If I kept the ball, I would get into big trouble so I passed it. (laugh) I’ve thought that I couldn’t play in the match but Jisung hyung offered me the chance ‘Aren’t you like soccer too? Let’s play together’ so I got to play. Honestly, my physical condition on that day was really bad but will there ever have another chance like that again, so I pretended to be okay and participated in. The national team’s manager even came to see my physical condition.”
# Go beyond an idol to become a musical actor
His ticket power is famous in the musical industry. There is a hearsay that trying to get ticket for his shows is like going through a real ‘ticket war’. With such exceptional ticket power and ability, he has became a top musical star. “Tickets were expensive yet all the seats were filled up. I am really thankful for that. Therefore, I cannot perform carelessly. I might have not met 100% of their expectations but at least, I just don’t want to hear that idol singers just rely on their popularity to enter the musical industry and stand on public stage. As a result, I’ve worked hard while carrying a sense of duty. Of course, I will work even harder in the future.” In fact, there are many different opinions over the advance into musical industry of idol singers.
Some might think that considering his popularity, it was easy for him to get casted, and also in order to selling tickets, there was no doubt that the producer would choose him. To overcome such opinions, he gritted his teeth harder. Still, he has also experienced the prejudice against idol. “I have to complete everything more perfectly in order to break that prejudice. Of course, there were many pressures. I also knew the fact that if the musical was ruined because of my fault, all the arrows would point at me. I can’t help but being more cautious and in every show, I don’t allow even the smallest mistake to happen. Nevertheless, I still felt so many prejudices. If I am off-key, there will be response like ‘See, this is why we can’t accept idol’. Still, I also know that there’s no other way than endure and let it go. That is because I know it is my job to change that kind of perception little by little.” As a result, all evaluations about Kim Junsu are now positive.
At ‘The Musical Awards’, he was honored to receive the popularity award for 3 consecutive years and be nominated for Best Actor award for 2 consecutive years. The feeling of being at a musical awards ceremony is very different from a music awards ceremony.
“At a music awards ceremony, I would be considered as a sunbae but at a musical awards ceremony, I am the maknae among maknaes. All the actors treat me well and nicely so I can do nothing but be grateful for that. I also feel alienated a bit but everyone is so nice to me. I have nothing to be ashamed of when being in this position. I hate the perception that I can sit at this position solely because of my popularity so I will work harder.”
# After debuting 9 years ago, I am still in the middle of growing just like before
This is already the 9th year since his debut. Many things happened but now he feels that he is clearly drawing out the path that he must walk through. “No matter what I do, I will always think carefully first then do it. I will think thoroughly about the picture of myself, the big picture of JYJ and decide on how I should do it. I have learnt a big lesson by comparing this time, this moment with the past. When looking at the final result, the joy is as big as the hard time I felt during preparation period. Now I don’t like anyone to order me to do this and that. That is not me but it is just a person who is well wrapped by someone else. Of course, packaging is also an art but I would like to build up my own perfect confidence rather than being under that shell. An artist needs to have his own thinking, his own color. Other members also feel happy when they do something by themselves and enjoy its fulfillment.” Advice he wants to give to the hoobaes is also in the same context. One cannot do everything 100% on their own but if they trust and communicate with their agency, they will become artist who never looses their own thinking. “It is not about doing everything the agency asks for blindly, it would be better to become an artist that can put his own justification in his works and speak up his mind. No matter if the agency is the one who decides the concept or not, we also have to fairly express our own opinion about the work. Undoubtedly, doing merely as what you say yourself is dangerous. Collecting opinion of people around is also important. I think if they can become an artist like that, they will find their own color inside of them and also develop their competitive power”. Challenging and building up his own self are what he enjoys the most these days. Building up one’s self is not something that can be done by one-sided communication. It is walking together with the staff toward the direction you want through mutual communication. He said that the failure he experiences on that road might cause him bigger risk than before but even so, he has no regrets. “Pressure and responsibility are one of the pleasures I am feeling right now. There is always crossroad and turning point. I want to make that turning point on my own. I still don’t know if I will succeed or fail but first of all, I won’t have any regret when doing what I want. I will find the common point between what I think and opinions of the staff then go forward in the future. Also, through all of that, I want to create mutual trust and happiness.”
#Editor’s note – Thanks XIA!
On a rainy day August 22, I’ve met Kim Junsu on the elegant Kyeongridan street. Before starting the outdoor photoshoot, in contrast with the gloomy look of the editor because the rain showed no sign of stopping, Junsu stepped into the photoshoot location with cheerful expression on his face. The concept for @star1 October issue’s photoshoot was named ‘Dandy & Wild’, inpired by Junsu’s two-sided charm. As the photoshoot must show 2 kinds of concept at once, we had a hard time not only fixing his clothes but also modifying the hair and make-up However, in this photoshoot that also made him feel tired, unexpectedly, as if he tried to removed the staff’s fatigue, he cracked jokes, pulled pranks and cheered up the atmosphere.
During the photoshoot, he discovered a piano at a corner. As if he was waiting for that moment, he started playing a sweet melody, then in the middle of that, he tilted his head and started singing along. If he has time, he will hum along a song, and he never realizes time has passed by when he starts talking about music. There is no need for any explanations to feel how much he loves music. “In daily life, I also believe in the power of positive thinking. Therefore, I always try my best to think positively. The rain is going to stop when our outdoor photoshoot starts.” Just as Junsu said, no, as if Junsu’s request has reached the sky, just about time when the indoor photoshoot ended, the rain really stopped and the bright sun shined down on us.
All the staff looked at Junsu and exclaimed in delight. We were able to finish the photoshoot on the street really quickly. Thanks to him, we were able to complete the photoshoot much much better than we expected. To Junsu who must have felt really tired because of the busy schedules in both domestic and overseas after releasing the album single but still did his best, also to the staff that helped me to wrap up the outdoor photoshoot quickly, I want to take this chance to say thank you to everyone. Thank you! Junsu!
EDITOR Kim Ruby
# Kim Junsu’s recommendation – This song in this situation.
While driving late at night or at dawn, listening to this song will make you feel happy
– No Gain
A song that will give your lover happiness if you sing it to her
A song that is good to listen when your heart is in pain, suffering from break-up
A good song to listen when you think of the person you miss.
– Even though I know
A song that pierces through your heart if you listen when you want to release stress
A song that makes your ears happy with polished ryhthm
A good song to listen when you want to be comforted by love that tingles your heart
– You are so Beautiful
In autumn when leaves are falling, a song that makes you happy if you listen to it while enjoying a cup of coffee
– Fallen leaves
A song that will cheer you up even when you hum it alone.
– Worse song to listen when you feel bad
When you are depressed and when you are happy, a song that will make you feel high no matter how your mood is
– Gangnam style
A song that is more interesting if you listen to it while appreciating the lyrics
– Don’t do that!