B.A.P Dazed & Confused / the conversation that didn’t make the final edit
(original article) (do not lift quotes without crediting)
Many of the songs on the album are complex, emotional rollercoasters which have to be interpreted musically by members who may not share that experience. How do you direct them to deliver the right feel for each track?
"For one song to be completed not only B.A.P but a number of staff need to work together so we slowly make a blueprint through time and conversation. We all listen to the song together before working on it. We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses so by talking about who’s voice would match which part and what each member thinks about the story or the message in the song is extremely helpful. Instead of me explaining ‘it’s like this’, we talk about our own experiences or add details into the situation to at least indirectly experience the emotions and identify with the song. All the members are artists, they have rich emotions and they’re very detailed so they’re good at immersing themselves. There are times when they surprise me because their expressions are better than what I’d intended!"
When 1004 (Angel) took first place you seemed relieved as well as happy. If that comeback hadn’t gotten you the firsts would you have begun looking at your career in a different way? Was there the thought of “if this song doesn’t get us that number 1, I’m gonna…”
"To be honest, whenever we start preparing for an album we don’t think “we must take first place”. But with ‘1004(Angel)’ we hoped to receive lots of love and we’re so thankful that an album with such a special meaning took our first first place. If ‘1004(Angel)’ had not won the firsts? Hmm… well, the only thing that’s changed is that we were happy and grateful for the fact that people are beginning to listen to our music. Our aim and responsibility to make better music remains. If we hadn’t achieved number one, then we’d simply try harder to make better music. B.A.P has always dreamed what people said would be impossible and our dreams became real. We’ve made music that does not get swept away by trend and music that includes truthful messages. Even if no one recognised our work, we would’ve continued to keep our unique style and beliefs and we’ll do so in the future."
As a lead vocalist you’re required to interpret and emote. How do you connect with what you’re singing, do you try and find a moment in your life similar or see the song like a film in your mind?
"The connection between the person making the music and the person listening is the most important. But to make this connection work, a sufficient relationship between the makers is necessary. We need to have the same emotions and thoughts to make a piecethat holds one whole message. We listen to common music with similar feelings and referencing films or music can help. You can organise feelings you’ve not directly experienced or find diverse choices in ways of expressing a feeling but the danger is you start to copy. So I just try to focus on our music itself and to understand how to directly pass on an emotion it’s best to be face to face, telling each other stories and sharing our experiences, feelings, discoveries. Not only when a member is recording their part, but from when we hear the song for the first time to the final mastering of the track, through the whole process. Our common goal is to make good music and that’s when we become the most honest with our emotions.”
You’ve said you were trying to find different sides of your voice by listening to a lot of varying genres… you feel you’ve achieved this yet? Or is this a continual learning curve?
"It’s very important to continuously challenge myself to new things as B.A.P explores a variety of music so I try to study a wide range of music to find the various colours that are in my subconscious. In the past I was limited myself by only listening to the genres and artists that I was interested in. Now I listen to everything, from hip-hop and R&B, to jazz and rock because of the others, they know a lot of good artists and songs. Honestly, I can’t say that I am satisfied with my singing. I’ve improved but because music is always changing and moving forward there’s still a lot for me to learn. Alone, I may not be able to complete myself but the members understand me best and follow the same dreams so in the future we’ll be able to make invaluable music. I’ll sing and work even harder until that day!”
With some songs given new arrangements for the tour has there been a particular personal favourite or challenge? For example, for LOE 2013 Coma became quite rock and you got switch up your vocal style into a bit of a belting sound.
"As people give their precious time to meet us and hear us at the concert, we consider the preparation meticulously. We arrange our songs in a new format, re-create sounds through a band, add an acting part or a dance routine or a narration. The new arrangements mean we spend a lot of time practising but this is where we’re able to grow the most. Especially on this tour, I was curious about the audience reaction ‘Body&Soul’ but, personally, I have a recollection of my solo performance at Seoul. ‘It’s All Lies’ was one of my favourite songs but I felt the new version would fit my voice a lot better and I have a lot of affection towards this new arrangement because I’d always wanted to challenge myself with a deep, dream-like atmosphere, with an emotional vocal line."
During this new chapter of the LOE tour, what’s your favourite moment of each show – it can be a song or an interlude?
"Last year when we started the first tour, I liked the moments preparing for the stage after finishing all the rehearsals. I felt so excited waiting to meet the fans. I go over the show in my head once more, study about the city that we are performing in and look forward to the show every time, thinking, ‘what will the performance be like today?’. People may think that performances are familiar, daily happenings for B.A.P but as every performance is live, it’s a series of new moments. But as we started this year’s tour I felt happiest after finishing a performance well and seeing the smiling fans. It’s probably impossible to express it in words how moving it was, I guess it was like an exhilarating moment? That I was able to give the gift of a having good time even if only for a short while, I mean, I realised the fact that we, the fans and us as B.A.P together, have made a time that will be remembered as an amazing moment. It’s why during this year’s tour as I finish each performance I look carefully at the faces of each fan, one by one."
Your vocals have come a long way and your performance has become far more confident. How did you feel when you heard your parts on First Sensibility, particularly that sustained high note on ‘Body & Soul’?
"While working ‘First Sensibility’ I felt the need to strengthen my vocal abilities as a singer, even though my main role was focused on dance and performance in the past. So I listened to Daehyun and Youngjae to practise and learn. ‘Body&Soul’ was a challenge for me. The pitch was a lot higher than what I was used to and on top of that, I took on an important part for the flow of the song so I felt the pressure to do well. It’d be a lie if I said I hadn’t worried but I tried hard and experimented to do my best. There’s still a lot to be learned, but I was extremely happy to hear people say ‘I can see how much you’ve grown’ after listening to the album."
Even as you improved vocally were you at all nervous by the thought of having more parts written for you? How did you deal with that? In fact, how do you deal generally with things that make you nervous?
"I don’t think the amount of parts or performance that you have affects the amount of contribution you make in a song but I know how much influence it could have on the listeners and so I think having more parts, in that sense, is important. So when given more parts, I do worry and tense up but the feeling of excitement is actually bigger. When I’m standing in front of the mic in the recording booth, when I’m checking the mic before going up on stage, my heart starts to beat. In a song with more parts, this feeling of excitement lingers on for longer. I’m a very optimistic person so even in a nerve-racking situation, I feel stimulated more than nervous or worried. If possible, I try to keep calm and devote myself to each moment."
The difference between performing and off-stage Jongup is startlingly. When you’re on stage what goes through your mind? How do you tap into that powerful, sexier side of yourself?
"On stage there is no ‘NG’ and the attention of the entire audience is centered so I believe it’s the moment to show our most perfect image. That’s clearest when it’s my part as well as when I’m doing the choreography at the back with the other members. When I get on stage my entire head is filled with the thought of the song and I have no room for any other thoughts.
Before we get on stage, we tell each other to ‘do well today’. That might be when I am hypnotised as ‘Jongup of B.A.P’, or even the ‘lead character of the song’. When I’m completely absorbed in the song there’s no need to concern myself with other thing and as my image is not forced, my style and character remains. And I think that image of me is what the fans love most.”
You’ve re-done three singles for the Japanese fans. When you have to focus on re-recording and doing new MV’s for them do you begin to see them differently? And which feels the most re-energised or new?
"I felt that it was more like recording and shooting a new song than ‘re-recording’ or ‘re-shooting’ due to the fact that it was in a new language and it had to be styled completely differently to fit the Japanese culture. When we worked on the Japanese versions of the songs, the atmosphere was naturally different from the Korean version. Perhaps it was because we’d grown since we first released the Korean version. The fans will probably find that the songs seem fresh as well. Mmmn, if I had to choose, I would say it was ‘No Mercy’. The Korean version of ‘No Mercy’ was fun in that it was the first time using saturi rap. It was hard to save that in the Japanese version and it was a shame. However, we were able to use traditional Korean instruments to create music and show traditional choreography. Through that, we received a lot of love so I was extremely happy."
(CR: Taylor Glasby)