Tuesday, June 29, 2010

TOP Interview with ARENA Magazine

Between Classic and Punk

Working for a fashion magazine has made me wonder about men’s classic suit, what exactly is it. That’s right. If I had to choose the one fashion item made for men, it would be the suit. Inspired from army uniforms and as the modern age spread wide open, black, white, navy blue, brown suits have been in the spotlight as the secret weapon that completes a man’s proportions and quality.

But I don’t want to go along with the idea that places the ‘man in a suit’ as either an offensive being or a controlled, conservative man. If we look back in history, there was the fantastic French cuff paired with the the wide collar dress shirt; there was Jean Cocteau, who knew how to naturally reconcile a surreal imagination; Andy Warhol, who spent his mornings creatively, his nights chasing pleasure at ‘Studio 54,’ all under the motto of ‘Labor and art are synonymous’; and John Lennon, who lived in the public eye with acts for humanity and personified the hippie lifestyle all in one. If I had to pick one person in the hotspot of Korean society, who personifies both the suit’s temperance and punk’s freedom, it would be TOP.

And indeed he did. In the drama ‘IRIS,’ TOP, who could show off his charisma just through his firmly closed lips, donned a fitted suit and gave us a peek at how he could effuse free inspiration just with his eyes. And the results, which is recorded through a colorful photo spread and simplistic interview, can be found here.

In a low voice, Andy Warhol would repetitively say, ‘Art is soon labor.’ He accumulated enormous wealth and did not hesitate to sell his work at ten times the value to collectors, and once he was satisfied with the ‘fruit of his labor,’ would run the night at New York’s legendary discotheque of the 1970’s ‘Studio 54’ with singer Debbie Harry and writer Truman Capote. Even on the night that he produced the legendary album ‘The Velvet Underground and Nico,’ even on the morning that he completed working on the art that would take the Rolling Stone’s aura up a notch, a few days before ‘Studio 54’ closed its doors because of a death due to cocaine overdose, while comforting the stout Truman Capote, Andy Warhol would be seen in vintage Italian shoes, a wide-set black tie, the symbol of the blue-colllar worker blue jeans, with a black jacket that mysteriously matched the entire ensemble, and no doubt in his Andy-Warhol-trademark makeup, staring straight ahead without shame.

Do you know why Arena called you out even while you’re being harassed by a murderous schedule? It’s because we thought TOP was the only figure who could simultaneously personify both the classic suit and the punk style.

Ah, even just hearing it is a big burden. I don’t know much else but that as I face my mid-twenties, my personal style has undergone a change. For example in my teens I was crazy about street fashion that originated from hip-hop, so whenever I got some money I would feverishly collect sneakers. Now I tend to choose suits or accessories that have quality and are moderate. Even though my occupation is one that must stand at the forefront of trends, I rather distance myself from focusing on trends. That is what you would call irony. The reason is simple. One moment I realized that following trends is too easy. I realized how important ‘classic’ was for men. Especially in Korean society, the concepts ‘artistic sense’ and ‘hard temperance’ don’t mix well in general.

I wonder too. Why is that? I mean, why do I prefer classic things even though I still want to be a free soul and widely avoid having people define me. Truthfully, I’ve lost myself in music to the point where I don’t have any interest in the rest of the world.

People scold me saying, “You should also be aware of what’s going on in the world,” but I pay no attention. I use an iPhone but the only application I use is to send texts to my family members. I don’t go out on my free days because I don’t want to waste my energy for no reason. I want to use up all my energy in music. Of course, people would think I’m odd. (laughs) The day I let myself go in this way, the word ‘classic’ suddenly began to take its place inside of me.

‘The Fallen Beatle’ John Lennon was painfully trucking through the so-called ‘Lost year 1974.’ Everything was a mess after breaking up with Yoko Ono, and the great singer was wandering at rock-bottom, unable to come up with a memorable melody or a single lyric, being drained by fans who still thought of him as the ‘upright, crop-haired youth.’ He found his breakthrough in drugs and alcohol. The days were stained with escape and corruption, violence and destruction.

Exactly one year later, he stood quietly on the outdoor stage that he declared he would never return to. Blue skies, lush recording, distinctive round glasses, and the formal white suit that was faintly showcased in the legendary album Abbey Road, with his freely flowing hairstyle. His inner thoughts were harmoniously soaked with Yoko Ono, opposition to the Vietnamese War, the freedom to act in the bedroom, Asian-style meditation, and free hippie mentality.

He was evaluated as an artist that crossed between singer and actor. Whether he was writing lyrics, developing a style, or being hit with a novel idea, there must have been some source of inspiration?

There wasn’t anything particularly tremendous… If I had to choose, it would probably be his maternal grandfather. He had been a writer. This is probably why he had enjoyed writing since he was little, and continued to make an effort to write his lyrics himself. Rather than inheriting the talent, he was probably enchanted the image of his grandfather writing. He was someone who enjoyed wearing suits, and helped him realize what stylish freedom is. Up until the moment he passed away, he would constantly say, “Fatten your soul with meditation.” It’s the source of my personal motto to become more ‘TOP-like.’

What does it mean to be ‘TOP-like’?

A man, cool and clever even to other men? (laughs) I’m joking. It’s hard to express it specifically, but since our debut I made an effort to show a ‘TOP-like image’ on stage as a member of Big Bang. Being silent, with not many changes in facial expression, and maintaining a consistent style was all an extension of that. At first it wasn’t easy finding a balance between my true inner self and the image that was seen on the outside. It stressed me out a lot, but recently I’ve been thinking that trying to differentiate my true self is of no importance. Whether it’s something I’m born with or something I worked on after becoming more mature, it’s all ‘something’ that exists inside of me. The ‘tender-hearted and soft boy’ is TOP and the ‘strong man who doesn’t lose his focus even while breathlessly crossing between a war scene and the stage’ is also TOP. Inner peace and a stimulating life, both are important to me. I acted with intensity in the midst of exploding bombs in the middle of winter in Hap Cheon for greater stimulation, and performed at over ten concerts in Japan for my thirst for the stage. Like the grandfather’s advice, now is the time to fatten my soul through meditation.

Truman Capote lived to see the age of 59. He had been writing up to the day before he died of drug overdose. The black tuxedo he was going to wear to a party the next day was neatly hanging on the wall. Even though he became broke, he never gave up on style, and at the side of America’s greatest journalist was only a woman named Joanne Carson, who remained his friend. He had been calmly writing down how he had somehow carefully typed three short stories for her birthday without rest due to nervousness because she, who enjoyed Flaubert, Proust, and Conan Doyle, asked to see his writing; and about how he came up with a new black suit.

Even when going to see one of his own plays, when going to a high society meeting, and even when offering bribes to prison guards so that he could go in and peek at killers’ grim psyche, he would not forget to slick back his blond hair, his clear voice, large horn-rimmed glasses, and tight fitting tuxedo, and this Capote regarded his black tuxedo, his alter ego until the very moment he closed his eyes for the last time.

As a musician, and as an actor, if you had a fundamental desire?

Obviously it’s to surprise people. Whether it be music or film or literature, I learned that the end goal of all genres of art is to shock, and I believe that even now. If that wasn’t my goal I wouldn’t have been able to endure such a hard process from when I was younger until now. I wish this wouldn’t come across as conceited, but if I had to express my pure greed…, my ultimate goal would be to hear people after many years that it was Big Bang’s generation. I’d love it if we could achieve a title like ‘post-Beatles generation’ or ‘before and after the Rolling Stones.’ If I were to say it humbly, I would love it if even after Big Bang entered the stage and years pass since people listened to our music, we could still steadily maintain the inspiration we received during that time.

Then what kind of man do you think you’ll be in your thirties and forties?

My preferences, personality, and inner self would have changed a lot since my teens, but the one thing that would not have changed would be my ‘mental age.’ (laughs) It would be because I’ll always make an effort to remain pure even in this busy society and in this extremely sharp celebrity world. Especially in this occupation in which inspiration is important, preserving that ‘pure emotion’ is an indispensable challenge. In any case, I’m not a business man.

Once I pass my 30s and reach my 40s, I’m sure I’ll become smarter and more mature. But the icon of ‘TOP, who runs hard in order to put forth a great result with both the contradictory attitudes of sharp control and unsteady freedom’ will be immortal; no, I really want it to be immortal.

Source: Arenakorea
Trans Credits: seungie
(Please do not remove any credits when taking out news from theksource.)


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