[INTERVIEW] TEEN TOP 10Asia Magazine
Teen Top was still young and fresh. They changed for their second mini-album “It’s” by adding a carefree spirit to their powerful performances but they were still themselves off camera, busy playing pranks on each other. That is why the performances that each member now gives individually, which stands out more than the performances they gave in the past as a group, may be closer to what they are truly like. 10Asia met with the members of Teen Top who are now not only cheerful off camera but have also started to show their individual charms after learning to enjoy being on stage more.(CAP)When is it the hardest for you to control your group? When they’re hungry? When you try to wake them up in the morning? Or when you’re rehearsing?
C.A.P: All three. [laughs] And in the morning in particular when I try to wake Niel up.
Niel: Come on, that was just once! It was on a day that only three of us had schedules to fulfill in the morning but I was so tired that when C.A.P tried to wake me up, I responded, “I’m not going.” And I guess that scared him.
C.A.P: You were like that this morning too!
Niel: He woke me up very quietly today.
C.A.P: I’m scared of them when they eat as well because they eat all of my side dishes as well. [laughs]
This is what you would call transformation. On stage, Teen Top’s leader C.A.P is a rapper whose strength lies in his low voice but off stage, he becomes the ‘guy next door’ who leads the joking and chatting. The so-called command of a leader is nowhere to be seen. But before you know it, he then turns into a reliable leader who comforts the members of his group with a fatherly smile. So if you are not aware of C.A.P’s ability to change himself depending on the situation, it may not be easy to approach him. Because although he jokes around with his fans to become at ease with them, he says, “Some of them are still scared of me.” But once you start getting used to seeing the members of his group give him a hard time for not washing his make-up off before going to bed because “it’s like skin so it doesn’t feel unpleasant,” all such uneasiness disappears. Why don’t we keep our eyes on CAP who in general may have a difficult time controlling his group but is also a permissive enough leader to say there is “nothing” he wants from his group. Because you may just get to see another hidden side to him lurch to you.(Chunji)If you could pursue your activities as units within Teen Top?
Changjo: We’d compete against each other after splitting into units with three people each.
Chunji: Then there’d be three in the mature team [points to Niel, C.A.P and Changjo] and then L.Joe, Ricky and I could represent the team’s good looks!
Niel: Being unique is more popular than looking pretty these days.
Chunji: But because people look at your looks first!
L.Joe: Yes, I think we’d win.
Niel: We’ll probably be quite popular by the time we’re ready to pursue our activities in units. And by then, people might be sick of our looks!
Chunji: No! You can’t have a team without the good-looking people!
When the members of Teen Top fought to check whether Chunji remembered all of their birthdays, Chunji answered with ease. With full awareness of the characteristics of each member of his group, Chunji led on the conversations by presenting the information he knew of at the right times. The thing Chunji said he wants to do the most when he enters college this year is to go on a group blind date and he is good-looking enough to be able to say that he would introduce himself as “representing the one with the good looks in Teen Top.” Yet on stage he is a vocalist who with his difficult high notes harmonizes with Niel’s unique tone of singing and a smart colleague who advised L.Joe, “Look at your scene partner’s ears if you feel awkward looking at her eyes” for when he played the main character to their music video for “Crazy.” Also, he complimented the more quiet members of his group by saying, “Producer Brave Sound really liked Changjo’s voice” and proved his sense of consideration for them by explaining “It probably means you like to confess your feelings to them while holding their hands, right?” when L.Joe’s innocence was doubted when he answered “actions over words” to how he appeals to women. Hence him repeating “I’m the best!” when recording songs probably raises the level of skill for all of Teen Top, not just him.(Changjo)
You’ve been getting more parts to sing since “Don’t Spray Perfume.” Is there any effort in particular that you put in to get more parts?
Changjo: I do it with the help of the members of my group, not alone. When I’m receiving lessons, my singing teacher helps me and when I’m not receiving lessons, everyone in my group helps me so I think that’s why I’m improving. Chunji who “rings the grounds and the skies” and Niel with his “sentimental voice” help me out a lot in particular.
Niel: That’s right! It was our teaching that helped. Changjo will gradually rise above us.
Changjo is growing. Gone is the baby fat from his cheeks which had stood out even more in the past because of the sunglasses he wore for “Supa Luv” and during the time that he has grown enough to be the tallest on his team, the confidence of this once-shy boy has grown as well. That is why Changjo, passionate to try his hand at everything declared, “The next person who gets to play the main character to the music video should be me instead of the next person in line in terms of age” and his hand shot into the air saying that he would enter the swimming race for MBC’s “Idol Star Athletics & Swimming Competition” although he has “never tried swimming before.” Him joking, “I just wanted to feel Chunji’s warm embrace” when reminded of his past of how he showed tears on a reality show at the start of his career while being trained to jump from high altitudes and confidently stating, “I hope that one day, we’ll get to dance to choreography where my opinion has been reflected,” while referring to his talent in dancing is definitely a new side to Changjo. That is why his slight imprudence to “beat everybody” if he got to appear on SBS’ “Running Man” and determination to be recognized will stimulate the rapid growth Changjo will see in days to come.(Ricky)
I heard that you were the most envious of L.Joe getting to play the main character to the music video for “Crazy.”
Ricky: I had actually taken acting lessons when I was young so I thought I’d be able to do well if I got the part. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t.
Niel: But I think Ricky’s become very greedy and moody. Maybe he’s going through puberty?
Chunji: Even now he’s really quiet.
Changjo: Every guy wants to look cool.
Niel: Actually, you could call Ricky the ‘authority’ of our team. [laughs]
Ricky: No! I wasn’t trying to be serious! Come on. I think everybody is just trying to make things seem that way. You don’t know how cute I can act and how hard I clean the house.
Ricky, the youngest member of the group, was quiet. And it was not only because of his cold. To the older members of his team, Ricky may be the weird guy who “eats all green vegetables except cucumbers” and like a younger brother who is “being a crybaby over a cold, not suffering from a cold and fatigue.” Yet rumor that he is ‘first in line’ in Teen Top although the meek-eyed youngest member of the group, gained believability because of a strange maturity about him which did not let him lose his pace. But Ricky, who does research to look sexy for his performances for “Crazy,” had concerns in his own way. “I want to look cool too but I talk like a baby and act cute because my fans like it. But I’m a man too now so I’m hoping they’ll see me as more than just ‘lovely’,” the 16-year-old confessed sincerely. Well, sorry. But you are lovely.(L.Joe)
Niel: [looks toward L.Joe standing across the room] L.Joe is great even with photo shoots he has been provided the wardrobe for.
C.A.P: [making sure L.Joe hears] Wow, you look awesome! You’re like a male doll!
Niel: To start with, he’s just really good looking. And he’s great at taking photographs of himself. I can’t so I don’t know how he’s so good at them.
Changjo: He manages to pick up one because he takes over 300 of them at a time!
Niel: No, but really, L.Joe is different from other people. He’s like a dragon from a myth.
Chunji: He just doesn’t exist. [laughs]
L.Joe: (after listening nearby) Hmm… I think that’s a good thing but also a bad thing.
Varied beats can serve as syncopation and make music colorful. In that sense, 18-year-old L.Joe is like interesting music that is an irregular mix of an innocent boy and a proud man. One moment, he laughed like a young boy after saying, “Aren’t we going to do interviews? I don’t want you to be bored” to reporters who were watching each member of the group getting their individual photos taken ahead of the interviews while another moment, he expressed his strong sense of pride in another matter. For example, him looking stumped when the members of his group excessively complimented his cooking yet proudly declaring, “He got the right guy” when they talked about how he played music for Chunji’s college entrance exam displayed his different charms. He would not talk when it was not his turn to but when asked what they think of pursuing their activities in trio units, a confident L.Joe answered, “I think we’d win.” This versus the L.Joe who constantly checks his hair in the mirror versus the L.Joe that embarrassedly talked about shooting a romantic scene in the music video for “Crazy” while confessing he likes movies like “If Only,” was fun to watch. That is why although L.Joe may go from one extreme to another, he knows how to make all of it his own and hence, he is music that makes one listen carefully to.(Niel)
You were great in MBC’s “Idol Star Athletics & Swimming Competition.”
Niel: Surprisingly, I took first place with the high jump. Although I’m sure I would’ve automatically slid down to third place if Sangchoo and SHINee’s Minho had taken part in the competition as well. And I actually fell over as soon as I started on the hurdles.
Changjo: Ready! Go! Splat! [laughs]
Niel: No, but I think I made a mistake because Andy pressured me before the game. He said he’d give me a handsome prize if I did well but also told me to expect to be punished severely if I did poorly.
Chunji: He says it’s all because of Andy. When he really just did bad!
C.A.P: I’m going to tell on you!
Niel: I went to the finals for swimming as well but my swimming goggles came off during the game. I think I could’ve placed at least third but came in last because of my goggles. [laughs]
Changjo: Wow, what an excuse!
Answers flew forth from here and there when a question was asked but Niel’s answers in particular stood out. And it was not just because of his voice which was about half a tone higher than everybody else’s. Niel’s answers, in which he stressed each word, contained a certainty and reasoning that was all of his own. He sounded like he was being playful when he laughingly said, “When I first got this perm, I was upset because I thought I’d have a hard time going out but I like it now because I can stand out on stage” regarding his hairstyle which earned him the nickname of ‘Niel Jackson’ because it is similar to Michael Jackson’s hair. But strangely enough, he convinced one of his answer, “We’ll probably be quite popular by the time we’re ready to pursue our activities in units so some other charm about us other than our looks would appeal to people” when asked what his strength would be if they were trio units. One moment, he goofed off with the members of his group but give the witty answer of “a dad who takes care of us and an older brother who goofs off with us a lot” when asked to explain the difference between producer Bang Shi-hyuk who worked on their last album and Brave Sound who worked on their new album. On how to overcome the fear of stepping into a recording studio, Niel explained, “By just listening to and singing the song enough that you will know the melody accurately.” Leaving a lasting impression of the expressions he had when he gave his answers with his big eyes, suiting his nickname of ‘goby,’ is also the odd charm to this brave boy.