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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. This piece features their leader, TAEYONG. One day just before the end of the rainy season in Tokyo, TAEYONG was generous enough to share much about himself and the group, fashion, music that has influenced him, and about what the future has in store! In the same way as our prior story, we give you an English version in addition to the Japanese version!
*In this interview, TAEYONG talked in Korean. Since he occasionally spoke Japanese in a friendly manner, the part is written as (In Japanese).
What Do You Think Is The “Key” To Getting To Know TAEYONG?
TAEYONG: (In Japanese) Hello, my name is TAEYONG. Long time no see! I really wish we could visit Japan. It’s great to see you today.
MEN’S NON-NO: You speak Japanese very well! TAEYONG-san, thank you very much for writing back to us with your answers to our pre-interview questions… and so generously.
T: (In Japanese) Thank you right back for your questions.
MN: Our newsroom is very interested in your fashion as well as your performance. So, we have been particularly looking forward to talking with you today.
T: (In Japanese) I’m truly looking forward to this, too!
MN: The readers of MEN’S NON-NO, who are fashion lovers, are really going to enjoy this interview. To begin with, could you give us a word for our readers?
T: I’d like to convey a message to all the readers of MEN’S NON-NO and all the fans who continue to support NCT 127 through this interview series. Even though we are not able to visit Japan due to these circumstances, I am very happy to be able to see you all through MEN’S NON-NO WEB. It is always our hope to get closer to each of you, the fans, not only through our performances, but also by introducing and sharing our variety in styles, as well as what each of us wear on our own time. Thank you for being with us.
MN: In our pre-interview questions, we asked every member of NCT 127 how you would like to introduce yourself to the readers of MEN’S NON-NO as if you were a friend meeting for the first time. Your answer was very simple and to the point;
“I am someone who loves to dance and rap.”
When did you realize that this was the core of who you are?
T: This is actually what I just recently started feeling. It has been four years since my debut, which makes this my fifth year as a performing artist. I have been on many stages. In the past, I think the help I received from those around me, and my colleagues, is how I was encouraged to work hard and somehow gain confidence in what I did. But now, having gone through that process, I feel I have grown enough to be able to adequately show my rap and dance skills on stage.
MN: To the question, “What is the one thing that you can hold your head up high about?” you wrote,
“TAEYONG on stage.”
T: Yes, that’s right! I feel like I have just reached the point where I am fully ready to stand on stage.
MN: Do you have an ideal about yourself as to how you would like to be seen by others?
T: Well… I aspire to show all of me to the audience. So, if they could all just watch over me with a little more interest, I’m sure they will be able to understand everything about me.
MN: From the aspects of “dance” and “rap” that are important to you right now, could you share with us which songs and what sections of each song you really want the fans to see, respectively?
T: For rap, I would say ‘Chain’, which was our debut song in Japan. We have a Japanese version and a Korean version, so we rap in both languages. Then, I would say my solo song, ‘Long Flight’, which was just released over a year ago. For dance, I would say ‘Kick It’, which YUTA-san also brought up in the previous interview.
MN: Speaking of dance, you have posted many online videos of your freestyle dancing.
T: I have a lot of recommendations, but if I were to pick just one, it would have to be the one where I dance to The Pack’s ‘Oh Go’. I have great memories of how much fun it was to shoot that one with other members of NCT 127, and more than anything, the scenery was pivotal. We shot that one in Thailand. When shooting a video for my freestyle dancing, I’m very particular about the scenery. This is because I always want to incorporate the beautiful landscape I find in all the places from each country we travel to when touring. It’s not like I prepare before going to a location, but rather, shoot when we run into a place that I find beautiful. So, the dancing may not always be perfect, but I am pleased about this video where we were able to capture the beautiful landscape in Thailand.
MN: So, it is a creative piece of work where your inspiration came to life.
T: Yes, exactly. There are times when I don’t quite nail it, but I always aim to get a good one.
What Is Vital For You As A Global Artist?
MN: Is there something that is vital for you when performing in different countries under the slogan “To the world”?
T: I think this is something we share with many other artists. Each country has its own language and some words should not be used. There are also ways you shouldn’t act. So, you have to be aware of these things. Each time we are on the stage, I believe it is important to communicate with our fans in each country. I try to understand the culture and come up with a style that is appropriate for that culture. At the same time, I also want to share with the audience what I feel emotionally at that moment, as well as how touched I am. As I mentioned earlier, the scenery is very important to me, and I honestly just love to see the landscapes, So, when I find the beauty in that country, I simply want to share that with the fans of other countries.That is why I try to take as many photographs as I can.
MN: That’s wonderful. As a memorable place while traveling around the world, you were kind enough to send us some photographs of the location for your music video ‘Highway to Heaven.’ Did you also take those photographs yourself?
T: Yes, that’s right. I felt so uplifted then, too. It was always my dream to dance in beautiful places, so I couldn’t help but dance there as well.
MN: From the photo, you could tell how free you were and how uplifting it was for you. Due to the impact of COVID-19, it is difficult to go places to see nice landscapes, but your photographs are certain to lift the spirits of your fans.
T: Awesome! I hope so, too.
What Kind Of Team Is NCT 127?
MN: As the leader of the group, what kind of a team would you say is NCT 127? Could you tell us some of the good points?
T: First of all, I don’t really think of myself as a leader, most of the time (LOL). But as TAEYONG, one of the team members, I can honestly say that each and every one of us has so many possibilities, with the power to open many doors. That is why I think we are a team that will be able to continue to enjoy sharing our time with our fans for a long time to come and build on good memories together. For me, all the members are kind, respectful, multi-talented, and I have nothing but praise for their personalities. Even though there are a lot of us, I believe that we all understand one another. This is always something I think about, but we already work hard to do our best and we do live up to expectations. So all we really need to do, is continue to do ‘our norm’, and that to me, is taking our cool to another level.
MN: How wonderful it must be to feel so proud of everyone in your group.
T: Of course, the power in our performances are something to be said for! I personally have also been deeply inspired by NCT 127 when it comes to music. Even with life in general, the great memories keep piling up every day, and it has also been a blessing to meet so many of our fans.
Any Memorable Moments With Your Fans?
MN: Speaking of your fans and being cool, to our question, “What does NCT 127 consider as being cool”, you answered,
“The coolest thing would be the cheering voices of our fans heard from the stage.”
What do your fans mean to you?
T: That is a very tough question (in Japanese). I am always surrounded by many super nice people, and even though I am perfectly happy, we receive further support and love from the fans. I really appreciate how they make me want to try harder, which is a driving force that motivates me even more. So, in the same way, I want to think about our fans as much as they do about us.
MN: What memorable moment do you have of looking into the audience from the stage?
T: On our last Japan tour, I loved the atmosphere when we sang the song titled ‘Long Slow Distance’. The setlist prior to that song was mainly performance-based with intricate staging, but suddenly the mood became very calm and serene. When we were singing this song, I felt like we were able to take the time to really look into our fans’ faces, and that the fans were also able to look into our faces. That was a memorable moment that felt amazing.
Getting To Know Fashionista TAEYONG’s History Of Being Fashionable
MN: Now, let’s talk about fashion. We were excited to see your unique sense of style from your Instagram photos. We believe fashion is indispensable when talking about TAEYONG-san.
T: Oh, boy! I believe fashion is a tool for expressing myself and that it represents how I feel on any given day.
MN: For the question, “What does fashion mean to you”, you wrote,
“Fashion = the person, Lee TAEYONG; the artist, Lee TAEYONG”.
T: I’ve loved fashion since I was a child, and I always wore unique outfits. When I was in kindergarten, I wore a leather beret and a leather jacket my parents bought for me.
T: Most kids at that age don’t really wear outfits like that, you know (LOL)? But for me, I loved and wore outfits like that. Even now I wear what I feel like wearing without reason. It makes me feel good by doing so, and that’s why I believe fashion is the easiest way to express myself on any given day. I also think it shows my personality. The reason being, I wear something different every day and I wear whatever I want regardless of the season, so our fans see my fashion and often ask me, “Why do you go sleeveless in the winter and wear a suit in the summer?” (LOL) That is when I realized I may have been in this kind of routine since I was a child.
T: Basically, it means that I wear a suit in the summer because I don’t want to be in the sun and I take it all off in winter because I don’t want to feel so bundled up. So, there you have it, fashion does reflect my personality (LOL).
MN: So, you cherish your honest feelings. TAEYONG-san, your sense of style is very flexible. For example, smoothly incorporating to your fashion bijou accessories mainly enjoyed by women conventionally, or enjoying mix-and-match styling, like, wearing a fur coat with a sporty item, such as track pants. We can feel that you are not stereotypical, and that you have a very positive attitude towards fashion.
T: I know that some of my inspiration had to have come from somewhere, so I’m sure that’s why I dress the way I do. However, I also believe there are no fixed rules when it comes to clothing or accessories. So, I tend to avoid so-called formalities, and embrace the feeling of being free. In doing so, it becomes natural, and for me, it really works. So if I do have a source of inspiration, it would have to be not being restricted. The rest is just challenging myself to try anything, especially when I find something I really like. That is all there is to it.
MN: This is a photo of an item you created on your own. It looks like a Dior saddlebag. Do you often do things like this?
T: I am not really good at drawing, but when it comes to new ideas for ‘matching’, that’s my thing. For example, painting this item in this way because of its shape. I love to look at the balance of an item and match the colors and patterns with the item. I don’t come up with the ideas when I buy an item, but rather pick up the paintbrush whenever the feeling overcomes me. In addition to that, I sometimes cut my bottoms and change shoelaces to fit my style.
MN: That is very artistic of you.
T: It certainly is a very personal inspiration (chuckling). But I do also like to wear basic items. I like to routinely be relaxed in over-sized T-shirts and bottoms. To be honest, I like pastel color tones in shades, such as pink, but I do often find myself buying fashion items in basic colors, like black and white, since they are easy to use.
MN: You shared a photo of a pair of sandals as your most recent favorite item!
T: Yes! I love sandals lately. There are times when I base the coordination of my outfit to match my sandals.
Show Us Your Current Favorite Coordinated Outfit!
MN: You sent us a photo of what you wear on your own time. What is the focal point of this outfit?
T: (In Japanese) haha, great weather!
MN: The weather?
T: The focal point was how great the weather was. I don’t really wear bottoms in short lengths. But I chose these shorts to match the weather. It worked well with the long-sleeved top, and I also liked the color combination, so this is what I wore on that day.
MN: As you mentioned earlier with the story about dance, TAEYONG-san, you really do care about the environment and landscape you are in whatever the moment… as well as what you feel when you are there…
T: Yes, that’s right. I always have a daily routine. I usually look at the sky at the start of the day, thinking about the day ahead. After all, I do love the landscape and it’s important to me.
MN: So, it appears for you, music and fashion are connected to the landscape. As you look at the sky every day, is there something that you found unforgettable about the sky somewhere at a particular moment?
T: I think it was when we were flying over Russia or Ukraine, but the sky I saw from inside the airplane was unforgettable. I took photos and posted on Instagram as well. I always thought that only blue or white clouds existed, but maybe because it was raining that day, the clouds looked purple and green. The sky was just so beautiful and unforgettable.
How Did You Come To Know About Music and Culture, And What Are Your influences?
MN: When looking over your responses to our questions, it feels like your older sister has had a significant impact on you. In response to the question about your influences, you said, “My sister. My sister has had a big impact on me because a lot of the things I like, for example, Japanese anime by Studio Ghibli and music, like Justin Timberlake, they all came from my sister.” Then, in response to the question about who you admire because of his or her style, you answered, “I used to like Cole Mohr because of my sister. His style was so funk and super cool.”
T: Whenever I had difficult times, my sister was always there to be by my side, so it was only natural that I came to rely on her. Every little thing, really even things that were trivial, became good memories for me. For example, during the hot summer months, sometimes I slept in my sister’s room because she had an air conditioner. That was when she showed me Ghibli movies and we had some good times together. Also, I got a hand-me-down MP3 player from my sister, and when I looked at the song list inside, the music my sister listened to was in there. Justin Timberlake and a lot of other pop songs. I wasn’t that interested in the music at the time, but after I listened to it, I found there were a lot of really good songs. So, that’s when I started listening to that type of music even more.
MN: So, that’s why your sister pops up more than once regarding your influences.
T: Yes. To think those tiny little memories would one day become a huge part of who I am now. I really think I owe it to my sister, That’s why I love my sister so much, and I still rely on her as well.
MN: You sent us a lot of valuable photographs this time that has helped us to get to know the TAEYONG of today. Among these is this one… Perhaps your room? It seems like a lot of your favorite things are tightly packed inside, and there are various Ghibli goods here as well.
T: That’s right! This is my room right now. Some of the Ghibli goods are gifts from fans, and this is how I decorate with them!
MN: You have collected a lot of interesting things, including the comic series of “Demon Slayer: Kimetsu No Yaiba”.
T: (In Japanese) Yes! I have read every single manga! I am a huge fan of “Demon Slayer”. I also bought the videos!
MN: Who’s your favorite character?
MN: Shinobu Kocho?
T: Yes! Shinobu Kocho!! Hehe (laughs).
MN: What do you like about her?
T: I like how she looks adorable, but inside her personality is completely the opposite.
MN: Here is another photo of your room. We can see the microphone that is said to be the source of your inspiration. To the question, “What do you like to spend your time doing the most,” you wrote, “When I’m working on songwriting…”
T: In the early days around the time of our debut, I enjoyed working in a quiet room. But lately, I’ve been able to work fast, even in the noisiest of studios. Also, I am often inspired when I’m taking a shower, so I wind up touching my smartphone with my wet hands.
MN: Hope you don’t break it (LOL).
T: Yes, so far so good (laughs)
What Kind Of Adult Do You Want To Live To Be?
MN: There were some responses that caught our attention that had nothing to do with your group activities or fashion, so let’s go into detail regarding those. In response to the question, “What kind of an adult do you want to become?”, you answered, “I want to be an adult that someone can rely on.” Is there a reason behind this?
T: In the process of growing up, other than my parents, I feel like I met adults in society for the first time after joining SM (SM Entertainment, an agency for NCT 127). I mean, I’m sure I was blessed with good adults around me back then as well, but at that time I was a child and didn’t really think about it. But after I joined SM Entertainment, I met adults I could look up to, and there was a time when I knew I wanted to become like that. So, as I grew older and the years passed by, when I started to think “I wonder what kind of an adult I’ll become”, I always felt like I wanted the strength to be able to protect someone, and to have the intellectual sharpness and cleverness to be able to do so. So, I could have just as easily responded that “I want to become a decent adult”, but because I want to be an adult who has the strength to be able to protect someone, I wrote, “I want to become an adult that someone can rely on.”
MN: To the question, “What do you want to conquer?”, your response of “I want to conquer the future to come,” was also quite impressive.
T: Even though I haven’t lived that long, when you jump into society and live your life, I’ve come to learn that you have to conquer your past, the present, and the future. I am able to do what I want to do right now because I was fortunate enough to find a good agency. So, in that respect, I am grateful to both the past and the present. But who really knows what the future will bring, you know? I’m sure that many of you are hoping to live your lives while preparing for the future, and I am the just same. So, in answer to this question, that is the reason why I wrote that I want to conquer the future more than I do the past or present. I feel that I want to place my worries on the future more than anything else because it has yet to come.
MN: You mentioned earlier that you “want to become an adult that someone can rely on”. We can see how you deeply care about the people around you, while also having a positive outlook on the future.
T: Well, I think a big part of it has to do with the fact that I am surrounded by good people. As I continue to work, I can honestly say that I am the type of person who has a strong sense of always being helped by the people around me. The fact is, these people care about me, support me, and work alongside me, and I hope to continue to work with them for a long time to come. This desire heightens my sense of responsibility. The same is true for the other members. The more I am surrounded by good people, the greater my sense of responsibility becomes.
MN: You said you don’t really think of yourself as the leader, but it seems like you are aware of your surroundings and that you have various thoughts on your mind.
T: Hahaha, no, no.
MN: Finally, to sum up your story thus far, what would you say, TAEYONG-san’s “My Own Style” is…
T: It’s about “meeting” others. Everyone around me and the agency has made me who I am today. I love them all. I want to cherish each and every person I meet, so that I can have the opportunities to step into environments that are good and to be able to achieve what I want to do.
MN: Please tell us what we can expect from NCT 127 in the future.
T: Our new 2nd mini-album for Japan, ‘LOVEHOLIC’, will be released on December 23rd. We are working on it now, and you can expect great things! We look forward to seeing you all in Japan soon.
MN: Thank you very much for today.
T: (In Japanese) Thank you right back. Looking forward to the next time〜!
What is your sense of style and the scent that best matches it?
I don’t particularly wear perfume, but I regularly use an alcohol-based spray.
I like the scent on my clothes once they dry after being washed.
When it comes to fashion, are there any details you are obsessed about?
White socks. I prefer long socks over short socks.
What would you say is a landscape that symbolizes who you are?
What is the best memory you have from your teens?
When I joined S.M. Entertainment as a trainee. I’m glad I was able to discover what I didn’t know about myself.
How do you want to spend your 20s?
I would like to experience various tours and perform in front of everybody on many more stages.
What dream would you like to achieve in your life other than music?
I want to try drawing and also travel.
MN: Now, it’s time for The Playlist, which has already become a regular custom here! We ask each member of NCT 127 to list up their favorite and recommended NCT 127 songs, as well as songs from other artists during this interview series, to make an original playlist for MEN’S NON-NO. By clicking on the image above, you can jump to sites such as Apple Music and Spotify, so please share it with all the readers of this series.
T: First is “No Longer” by NCT 127. When I went out with the other members and sang it by myself, they were very excited. So, it became one of my favorites! As for other artists, I’ve been listening a lot to “Meet Me in Amsterdam” lately.
MN: From RINI?
T: (In Japanese) Yes! I love this song.
MN: Got it. Just two songs? YUTA-san had 5 songs the last time… (laughs).
T: He did? Hahaha!
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 December 23, 2020! 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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