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With “freedom and expansion” as their theme, “NCT” revolves around a new concept, without limitation in number of active groups or members. Of these, “NCT 127”, consisting of multi-national members from Japan, Korea, the U.S. and Canada, is a male dance and vocal group whose outstanding performance and ability of expressiveness, together with their heightened sensibility in music, have earned them acclamation the world over. This interview series showcases the individuality of each member through what they believe is their “own style”, delving into their approach on fashion to their methodology towards expressing themselves, as well as what their futures may hold, unraveling the group’s mystery from every angle all in the MEN’S NON-NO way. With special contents, including pre-interview questions the members have each carefully responded to, online interviews connecting Tokyo and Seoul, and exclusive photographs provided by the members themselves, this interview series is certain to be a positive contrast to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Featured in the third installment of this series is JOHNNY who is originally from Chicago in the U.S. Though it was an online interaction from across the sea, “DJ JOHNNY”, with his inherently gleeful personality, kept us on our toes with an interview filled with laughter from time to time. We also bring you an English version, which happens to be his native language!
*For this interview, JOHNNY spoke to us mainly in Korean. Parts in which he occasionally mixed in Japanese or English are described as “(in Japanese)” or “(in English)”, respectively.
What Is It That Makes You A Positive Self?
JOHNNY: (in English)Hey, there!
MEN’S NON-NO: JOHNNY-san, can you hear us?
J: (in Japanese) Yes! Hello! It’s been a while.
NCT 127’s staff members in Japan: (One by one) JOHNNY! We miss you!!
J: (in English) Oh, I miss YOU too! Woohoo! (in Japanese) Do I want to visit Japan!
MN: Wow. From the moment we’ve connected, you certainly have brought some excitement to the atmosphere (LOL). Thank you for joining us today, JOHNNY-san.
J: (in Japanese) Thank you for having me!
MN: Thank you so much for answering our pre-interview questions and for sending us such wonderful photographs in advance. Even though we knew you often take photographs, we were certainly taken by surprise at the level of refined taste that shows through your photographs. We simply couldn’t wait to share them with our readers.
J: Oh, that’s very kind of you to say〜
MN: Let’s kick off with one episode we would really like to share with everyone who reads this article. It happened about a year and a half ago, when we conducted our first exclusive interview with YUTA-san. At the time, JOHNNY-san, you were working on another project in the same studio building, but actually took the time to come all the way over to say hello to us. We later learned from your staff members that you always talk to a lot of people and communicate with them in that way. It may seem trivial, but we recall thinking how open-minded you are. Even though this series does not give the readers the opportunity to connect directly with you, we hope you can help us show off how charming you are, JOHNNY-san, to the fullest.
J: OK!! Sure, I’ll definitely try my best! I love it when everybody around me is full of smiles and laughter. That’s the type of person JOHNNY is.
MN: To our pre-interview questions, you wrote, “Hello! This is JOHNNY, the coolest member of NCT 127〜.” It was an up-beat self-introduction and the letters almost seemed like they were going to jump out of the page. We could tell how friendly you are.
J: Yes, but to enjoy those types of things, I too need the energy to do so! Self-care is essential to make it happen! First of all, I have to be physically healthy, so I exercise a lot; and my mind also needs to be healthy, so I make it a point to rest as good as I can! These are very important aspects for me.
MN: So you are making a conscious effort to keep your mind and body healthy. With the recent impact of the COVID-19, we imagine there are many disappointing circumstances, such as postponement or cancellation of exciting plans. How do you, JOHNNY-san, maintain your positive attitude?
J: That’s true. It’s really difficult to do anything right now. But that’s when I try to look at things from a different perspective. For example, I make it a point to do things I haven’t had the time to do up to now. I guess you might call it “self-development”… I’m particularly working on learning to play the piano.
MN: Ah, yes, you have played the keyboard at your concerts.
J: Exactly. I’m really practicing hard right now!
What Is the NCT 127 Style?
MN: For the pre-interview question on what you, JOHNNY-san, think is important in your group’s activities, you wrote, “Good music and style! These two are UNIVERSAL!” The theme of this series is exactly on thinking about your own style. Please start out by telling us what you think is the style of NCT 127 as a group.
J: Well, let’s see. In terms of style, instead of sticking to one direction, NCT 127 has continued to challenge itself by trying out many things, and we have always felt that it is important to constantly show our fans a new side. In this way, by constantly exploring different appearances and ways of expression, our staging also becomes more enjoyable, and that, I believe, is our style. With each and every song, we completely change ourselves, and I think that’s why everybody thinks that we are a bit more unique in comparison to other groups.
MN: As far as coolness points for NCT 127, you stated, “unshakable character.” When exactly do you feel this way?
J: Our motivation is always up there! We’ve shared both fun and hard times together up to now, so I think we’ve become a very tightly-knit team with a very strong bond. By gradually building on solid teamwork, we have established something strong enough that we are all looking towards the same direction. And that, I believe, has lead us to an unshakeable core when creating music.
MN: Is there something you are particular about as far as how you want to appeal to others?
J: It’s all about confidence! Don’t be afraid to express yourself at any time.
MN: Perhaps good teamwork has helped to boost individual confidence. Along with this interview, we would like to post a link of the piece you, JOHNNY-san, would really like your fans to see. What would you recommend?
J: I’d have to say “Kick It” above all! It clearly showcases our latest music and performance, as well as our fashion; everything can be fully enjoyed all at once, So, I highly recommend it.
MN: It seems that all of you are really proud of this song. Both YUTA-san and TAEYONG-san, whom we interviewed before you, also picked this one!
J: There is a phrase in the song, “자비는 없지 (There is no mercy)”, which is super cool, so please have a look!
MN: In addition to group activities, the members of NCT 127 also post videos on YouTube showcasing their various performances, such as freestyle dancing and performing cover songs. You can feel how each person enjoys the music in his own way and style of expression, and, JOHNNY-san, you even hosted an online event as a DJ.
J: As I mentioned a little earlier, since we are not able to go out like we used to, I began practicing instruments and creating music at home. I will continue to work diligently and further develop these aspects, so that our fans can enjoy even more from the comfort of their homes!
What Is the Most Precious Element in Who You Are?
MN: Speaking of being a DJ, JOHNNY-san, you also have experience as a radio personality. You seem to be good at listening to others and creating a fun atmosphere. Is there something that you find essential when interacting with different kinds of people?
J: I like to empathize with others, and as you just said, I love having fun, so I’m one of those positive types. When I meet someone, I try to look at their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
MN: To the question, “What constitutes who JOHNNY is?”, you responded, “Confidence, delicacy, and gentleness.” Does this have an impact on how you interact with others?
J: It may not look that way, but there is a delicate side to me and I have a lot of interest in the people around me. Of course, I’m interested in their appearance, like, “Oh, this person had a haircut,” but I am able to see the changes within them as well, like, “This person doesn’t seem to be in good shape today, I wonder if he or she is not feeling well…” So, I always wind up concerned about things like that.
MN: That’s why you mentioned delicacy and gentleness together with confidence. It seems like you pay attention to the details concerning people, but on top of that, it’s amazing that you try to see their strengths.
J: I think it’s because I really enjoy empathizing with others. That’s why, when I’m talking to the various members of NCT 127, I try to relate to each person as much as possible, while also finding their strengths. By doing so, I am able to take in a positive influence and learn a lot of things at the same time. For example, when I think, “Oh, this person’s strength is this”, I try to learn about it. I’m going to want to take it into my own self and grow in that way. That’s something I’ve always done, so by now, I may have already absorbed all the strengths of the other members! (LoL)
MN: Haha, so you’re a lump sum of good things.
J: That’s right. Haha.(LoL)
MN: To the question, “What kind of gap is there between the real you and how you want to be seen by others?”, you answered, “I want everything to match up!” Listening to you, the keywords “confidence, delicacy, and gentleness” are simply perfect.
J: (in Japanese) Oh, good!
MN: We asked you earlier about your group’s style, but when it comes to you personally, Johnny-san, what kind of self-producing do you find necessary?
J: In the same way with our group activities, I think the main thing is to express yourself. Regardless of the method, the process in which I try to thoroughly figure out how to express myself and what I want to present is essential to me.
MN: In what way do you overcome when that confidence is shaken or when fear takes over?
J: That would be self-induced suggestion. Like acting out myself as a role… I am able to overcome the fear by purposefully expressing outwardly, “I’m okay, I’m not afraid at all.”
MN: Is that something that is also necessary to achieve your goals without giving up on your dreams?
J: It is. the rest is determination. To think, “This is it, I have nothing else.” becomes the driving force behind it.
Do You Ever Think, “I’m So Glad it Was NCT 127”?
MN: When do you feel like you can freely be yourself the most, JOHNNY-san?
J: When I’m with the other members, I’d have to say. It’s an environment in which I know I’m at ease and most comfortable, and I’m able to fully say what I want to say and just be myself.
MN: To the question, “What does NCT 127 mean to you?”, you answered, “They are my family that I can grow with, move forward with, and they give me my life force!”. What would be the one thing that has had the most impact on you?
J: When working globally, I have been able to learn about different cultures, so I think it has had an impact on everything that’s me. The music, performance, style, everything about NCT 127 is wonderful, and I have respect for every member.
MN: To the question, “What piece of advice you have received from others has left the biggest impression on you?”, you brought up Taeil-san’s words, “If there’s something you want to do … just do it!”
J: These words that Taeil-san said to me left such an impression on me, because when I thought about my life, they gave me an entirely different perspective. I feel the words gave me the opportunity to reflect on myself. Not too many words jump out to me right now, but we as members often talk to each other and bounce back words to one another in this way.
What Rules Do You Have For Finding Your Favorites?
MN: To the question, “What is your favorite fashion for 2020 that says ‘this is my style!’”, you answered, “Something comfy yet cool!” You also wrote “the mood of the day” when asked, “what is the most important thing when you think about what to wear”. So, it seems that being natural is important to you.
J: I choose what to wear while thinking about “what I want to wear for this occasion?” Or… I often decide what to buy thinking, “Oh, the occasion is going to be like such-and-such, so I might as well buy this outfit.” The opposite in choosing never really happens.
MN: When we asked about “your most favorite item right now” and “your non-negotiable fashion commitment”, you answered to both questions, “A hoodie!” Your reasoning was “because I spend a lot of time outside, it’s comfortable in the green room”. So, in relation to what you mentioned earlier, it does meet the condition of being “comfy and cool”. You also sent us a photograph with good vibes. You’re wearing Vetements. You also took a picture of a Jil Sander bag as one of your favorite items, which is also fashionable.
J: I bought this Jil Sander bag just before the start of a music show I was in. I bought it because I can easily take it with me when I’m in and out of the television studio, and it’s also big enough to fit my iPad (laughs).
MN: You do shop wisely, don’t you?! Is there anything that changed about how you approach fashion since you moved to Seoul from Chicago?
J: My fashion hasn’t really changed much since I was in high school. That’s why I think the influence from living in America is still prominent. If anything has changed at all since then, it would probably be that my choice in colors has become a bit more subtle.
MN: You wrote that what you like about fashion right now, JOHNNY-san, is that “I can show what type of person I am.”
J: Aside from hoodies, I prefer loose and baggy silhouettes, and often wear bottoms like that. What I want to express to people is that “I’m casual and a person who likes comfort in that way.” When I’m comfortable, I feel like the person next to me can also be comfortable. But then, there are times when I want people to see me as a cool person, too (LOL).
MN: Looks like your fashion also speaks to how JOHNNY-san is an open-minded person.
J: Yes, I’d say that’s a good thing!
MN: Yes, it’s a very good thing.
What Triggers That Photo Moment For You?
MN: You also sent us a bunch of other photos, so let’s touch on more detail on what JOHNNY-san likes. You sent us a photo of your favorite camera as you often take photographs. The one in front is a “Sony α”. You use a good camera with superior depiction.
J: Yes, that’s right!
MN: This camera seems to be for the people who are particular about the finish of photos prefer it by choice. Can you tell us why you love to use it?
J: Of course! When I’m choosing a camera, “color” is the most important thing. Also, when I buy a lens, not a zoom lens, and lenses that work as I move and shoot. If I want to take a photo close by, I tend to pick up a wide lens as I prefer to go closer myself rather than letting the autofocus do it. The main object is not necessarily a person, but I prefer to take the surroundings together as well. It’s not that I was particularly influenced by anyone, but I simply like to take pictures.
MN: JOHNNY-san, you sent us a very lovely photo that you took.
J: That was in Seville, Spain. We were there to perform on stage for the “MTV Music Awards”, and I happen to have some time, so I took the shot.
MN: When you travel for work, do you also bring your camera with you and look for great surroundings to shoot?
J: Yes, I do. Our memory is not as good as we think it is, so I feel like it’s best to take pictures to remember things later.
MN: At what type of moment do you, JOHNNY-san, like to press the shutter release button most of the time?
J: There is an instant when I feel like I just need to capture a moment.
MN: We are told that this one is also of a landscape photographed by you, and though subtle, it’s a really lovely photo.
J: This is in Seoul. It was a simple road on the way to somewhere, but the sky was just so beautiful. It was serene and pure. I took the shot because I felt like I wanted to take a photo of it.
Tell Us About Your Memories of Chicago!
MN: JOHNNY-san, you mentioned a lot of movie titles as something that influenced you. “10 Things I Hate About You”, “Ferris Buller’s Day Off”, and “Dazed and Confused”.
J: They are all set in American high schools and the expression and production are a little comically exaggerated, but when I watch them, it reminds me of when I was in high school. They are simple and trivial ways of spending an ordinary day, and yet still there are always some fun moments in there. When I watch these movies, I feel like they are talking to me, and it makes me miss my high school days.
MN: YUTA-san told us about how he still remembers the Japanese dramas and music that he used to watch and listen to, and that he thinks that the other members have also been deeply influenced by things from their home countries that still linger on. Even for you, JOHNNY-san, when we talked about fashion earlier, you said that some things from living in America left you with a big impact. So, do you think that the inspirations from where you were raised relate to you now in some way?
J: Hmm, I do believe so. I used to also watch a lot of animation. When I was a kid, I used to like Disney and Pixar movies from America. There was always a theme of self-searching that went beyond adventure and journeys. I feel like I’m still trying to find myself to this day.
MN: So, your hometown is very important to you, isn’t it, JOHNNY-san? To our question, “What is the landscape that symbolizes who you are?”, you answered “Chicago”. You also wrote, “It was pretty awesome being a student,” to our question, “What are the best memories of your teens?” Do you have anything to say, now that you have made your dreams come true, about your thoughts now that you are away from your hometown and very active?
J: Like the main characters in animation movies I saw in the past, I think I’m still partway to my visions. So, I will likely lose my way at times and may run into difficult and challenging times, but it’s always going to be a happy ending. So, I want to say to myself to believe in it and live each day with confidence.
MN: You have a strong conviction.
J: (in Japanese) Giggle-giggle; how awesome!
MN: Haha. Your words have moved us a bit (laughs). There are probably many MEN’S NON-NO readers who have left their hometowns in pursuit of their dreams, just like you, JOHNNY-san. We think your words will be a shout-out to them.
J: Oh! really? I’m glad. Thanks for saying that.
MN: Thank you for talking to us thus far. We would like to wrap it up by asking you to tell us what your current style is, JOHNNY-san.
J: JOHNNY’s style right now is … “To be free !!!”
J: Yes. And I hope to always be able to express that freeness. It’s like wearing a fluorescent T-shirt when I’m feeling comfortable, free, and bubbly inside. I want to be able to express that “I’m free right now!” That’s how I want to be. I’ll even walk around in my pajamas if I want to. My style is to be able to have that relaxed sensibility in mind anytime I want it.
MN: It’s a very free and stylish way of being. It must be awesome.
J: Indeed, it is!
What Is Your Outlook on the Future?
MN: Please tell us about your future plans?
J: Above all, it’s about our Japanese album “LOVEHOLIC” to be released on December 23rd. I especially like one of the songs and it’s a throbbing song, so I hope you will all enjoy it.
MN: Please tell us about anything you would like us to keep up with about NCT 127 in the coming days.
J: All the members of NCT 127, including myself, love music so much and in a good way, we are ambitious. So, yes, we may seem greedy in a sense. All of us members want to show our best performance on stage in comparison to anybody else, so we hope that you will all watch over us as we grow each time we perform. And it would be wonderful if you would all fall for everything we do as we do!
MN: Thank you very much. This will definitely be an article full of your charm, JOHNNY-san. Thank you again.
J: (in Japanese) Thank you for having me!! Bye-bye! I’m sending my heart out as we speak ~!
Who do you admire as far as style is concerned?
The members! Our fans!
Of the stage outfits you have worn which is the most memorable?
That would be the “Cherry Bomb” outfit. It often got torn (LOL)
What fragrance best matches your style?
I usually put on something a little unique. The reason is because I want to leave an impression.
What do you think about the new forms of entertainment, like virtual live?
I’m counting on the technology to help us communicate with as many fans as possible on a larger scale and with higher quality.
How do you want to spend your 20s?
I’m always looking for the new me.
What motto do you live by.
To age gracefully.
MN: As per norm, we ask you to create your playlist for the end of the interview! Each time, we ask each member who appears in this series to list up their favorite and recommended NCT 127 songs, as well as their latest favorites songs from other artists. The plan is to accumulate these songs and put together an NCT 127 original playlist for MEN’S NON-NO. By clicking the image above, you can actually jump to sites, such as Apple Music, Spotify, AWA, etc. The songs listed by other members who appeared in the past are on point included in the list.
J: Cool! My selection is “Love Song” from NCT 127. This is because it has been raining a lot lately, you know?
MN: It’s raining in Seoul as well, I see, just like Tokyo. (Editor’s note: at the time of the interview).
J: In this song, there are lyrics that hint at, ‘I’m so tired of the rain, but it looks like it’s still going to be a good day because of you…’ I think this is a song that depicts rain as a very positive thing, so it would great if everyone would have a listen.
MN:That reason is so you, JOHNNY-san.
J: Aside from our songs, I’d have to say COLD PLAY’s “X & Y”. I’m sure there are MEN’S NON-NO readers that may have some very difficult times, perhaps bitter feelings, as they continue to work or study. When you listen to this song, it brings you up at times like that. That’s why I recommend it.
MN: Thanks for selecting a song that cheers all of us up.!
NCT 127 is the boys’ group of multinational members based in Seoul, South Korea and is very active in global scenes. Its latest album ‘NEO ZONE’ sold well over 1 million copies and is breaking the group’s own sales record still now. Their fans’ long-awaited album, Japan 2nd Mini album ‘LOVEHOLIC’ is announced to be released on February 17,2021! The lead of the album is a love song that the group had the try for the first time and is much anticipated. nct-jp.net
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