“Oh, I think I’ll turn into ash!” (Mir) Although they complained while doing their photo shoot under the fiery sun, MBLAQ exuded fierce looks from their eyes as soon as the camera started snapping them, instantly becoming the professional idol stars they are with more than three and half years’ singing career under their belt. And though they released their manly beauty in such a way, they went straight back to being boys in their twenties during breaks, focusing on mobile games and chatting about a popular animation.
Back in the K-pop scene for the first time in a year and four months, MBLAQ said they “never wasted time” (Seungho) and rightly so: during that time they held their first Asia tour, pursued activities in Japan, and gained presence in the fields of singing, acting and variety shows.
TenAsia met with Seungho, G.O, Joon, Cheon Dung and Mir at a café in Seoul on a hot early summer day.
Q. How do you feel about the first week since your comeback?
Seungho: I realized this all over again but singers just need to be on stage. Every time we give our first performances, we feel frustrated over the things we failed to do as well as we did when practicing because we just want to do so well.
Q. Many mainstream hip-hop artists including Primary and Zion.T participated in your album, but so did G.O, Mir, and Cheon Dung.
Seungho: Yes, they did. Cheon Dung worked with composer Seo Jeong-hwan, member of ’90s idol group Untitle, on intro tune “Sexy Beat” and “Dress Up.” G.O composed and wrote “R U OK?” with Primary, while Mir wrote the lyrics for two songs. Every time we release an album, we try to show various styles of music rather than sticking to the vibe of the title tune because it’s possible to make an album coherent with songs with different emotions. While preparing this album for a year and half, we picked these six songs out of hundreds. We hope people will listen to the entire album rather than just the title track since we’re that much more attached to the whole thing.
Q. For the people that are used to seeing you guys on TV variety shows, it could feel weird to see you on stage. Plus, you guys are completely different when you’re on stage versus off stage.
Seungho: Although we need to take care of our image as singers and there are many things we shouldn’t do because we’re idol stars, we think it’s okay to go easier on those limitations and instead, just do well enough on stage that nobody will think of those sides to us. We wanted to be told that we’re great and sexy when we’re on stage and really funny and friendly when we’re off stage.
Q. Your appearance on tvN’s “SNL Korea” was pretty shocking for an idol star too. In the episode dubbed “Step by Step,” the way in which you guys dissed yourselves left a strong impression.
Seungho: If it was about a really pitiful story or an incident that people viewed unfavorably, it would’ve done us damage. But it was good opportunity to give viewers a good laugh and each member got to appeal to the audiences as well, like how I compared myself to actor Yoo Seung-ho, who has a much longer career than mine.
Boy band MBLAQ member Seungho during a photo shoot with TenAsia in Seoul on June 10, 2013. [TenAsia/ Gue Hye Jung]
Q. To tell you the truth, Cheong Dung, you were the most surprising member with your comical acting on the show. Since you are also good at impersonating people, would you consider yourself as being funny?
Cheon Dung: I do like funny things. Yet I don’t really try to be funny because I don’t think I am, but my comical instincts come into play when the mood is right. I rarely let myself go in that way though, because if I joined in with these guys, we’d be a total mess (laughs).
Seungho: We’re never depressed when we’re together. When we’re having a hard time, we’ve been cheery by encouraging ourselves, and I think that’s what you need most when you work as a group. I’m sure that other groups get along just fine too but we pride ourselves in the close friendship that we have and the fun we have because of it. There are so many funny incidents that have happened in our house and studio, but we can’t say them because they’re not suitable for telling (laughs).
Cheon Dung: If Mir’s real life hit airwaves, he would even defeat Jim Carrey (huge laugh).
Q. There must be more individual activities each of you pursue now. Is there any subtle competition that comes from that?
Seungho: It doesn’t matter at all if only one of us gets good response and the agency keeps giving just him work. I think everyone needs to do better when they’re doing well, and everyone will get their time. Not once have I thought, ‘I could do better’ when such a situation came up. We rather monitor each other’s work and make fun of the person that does a bad job. That’s the way we go about it (laughs)
Q. G.O, you cemented your position as a vocalist through KBS singing competition show “Immortal Songs.” Any plans for a solo debut?
G.O: I don’t want to rush into undertaking solo activities because I think there are many other colors I can show you as a member of MBLAQ. There’ll come a day when I have the capability to produce my own album and I think that’ll be the right time for me to try going solo. Right now, I need to find my color and gain the ability to appeal to the public. In “Immortal Songs,” I learned so much by just listening to senior singers.
Q. You and Seungho rotated the same role in the version of musical “Gwanghwamun Yeonga” which showed in Japan. And you were in Japan for the second time this year, in Tokyo, following the first time in Osaka last year. What’s your favorite number of the musical?
G.O: I cherish the song “When My Love Passes By” because it’s the song that best fits the flow of the story. It has such beautiful lyrics and it was arranged so well that I cried every time I performed the number.
Reporter. Lee Hye Ji firstname.lastname@example.org
Photographer. Gue Hye Jung email@example.com
Editor. Jessica Kim