Interview: Super Junior says “we could go for 20-30 more years”
Korean boy band Super Junior have returned to the local music scene with just ten of its 13 original members, namely Lee Teuk, Heechul, Shindong, Sungmin, Ryuwook, Yesung, Siwon, Eunhyuk, Donghae and Kyuhyun. Kang-in plans to enter the army to fulfill his mandatory two-year military service, Kibum is focusing on his acting career and Hangeng is currently embroiled in a legal battle with SM.
Yet once again, they are proving their reputation as one of Asia’s hottest idol groups was not falsely gained — their fourth full-length album received 200,000 preorders compared to their previous top-selling album “Sorry Sorry” which had secured 150,000 orders ahead of going on sale.
The group sat down with reporters on May 20 to talk about pursuing their singing career with three less members and the struggles they overcame to make a bigger and stronger comeback.
Q: There are a few members missing this time. How does it feel?
Heechul: Of course we’re sad. I also suffered from a bit of depression because of such incidents and I had a very hard time.
Q: A lot has happened within the team. Shindong, you confessed your love through your new album. How did your agency respond?
Heechul: I think they only let it out because they didn’t know what it means. (laugh)
Shindong: If I had written it in Korean, I think they would’ve asked me to do it next time. (laugh)
Heechul: I had talked about this earlier with Lee Teuk but if a fan had bought an album, saw that Shindong had written a code so cracks it to see he had asked someone to marry him… We’re lucky if the fan doesn’t rip up the album. (laugh) Shindong actually kept apologizing to us before we gave our comeback performance for “BONAMANA.”
Lee Teuk: There could’ve been mixed responses to what he did but we’re grateful that there have been a lot of good articles on it.
Shindong: I’ve become a romantic guy thanks to them. I’m thankful.
Q: Did you all know about this?
Lee Teuk: Heechul did.
Heechul: I agreed to Shindong when he told me he wanted to do this. I told him it’s great. A guy should confess when he has to. But when I saw what it [the code] read when it was deciphered… was it a sight to see. (laugh) I didn’t know it was going to be that serious.
Lee Teuk: We were in a photo shoot when he was writing it. He kept looking up something on the computer keyboard.
Q: Do you plan on getting married if for example, the song does well?
Lee Teuk: Like getting married if we sell over one million albums. (laugh)
Shindong: I will if we sell under one million. (laugh)
Heechul: I’ll sing the nuptial song. Love so hurts… (laugh)
Lee Teuk: It was only possible because it was Shindong. He’s the one who gave our group a friendly image. Everyone else is slim and good looking so there was a distance between the public and us…
Heechul: It sounds like you’re dissing Shindong.
Lee Teuk: No, I’m not dissing him. (laugh) I’m just saying that we must have Shindong on our team for his friendly image.
Shindong: I’m grateful that you think of me like that. I’m very grateful toward my group because I hear the word ‘pretty boy’ wherever we go. (laugh)
Heechul: Now, let’s not be too grateful toward each other. (laugh)
Q: The group went through a lot before this album came out so I think you must’ve felt different preparing for it. How did you feel while rehearsing?
Eunhyuk: Everyone was feeling different. It was great because we practiced with the determination we had when we first debuted. Donghae and I are in charge of the choreography so we had to take the lead in showing that we were going to work really hard this time. We got almost no sleep preparing for the album this time.
Donghae: I was so stressed that I even had nightmares. I was very shocked because I dreamt that we were on stage, rehearsing for our comeback performance, when everyone started snickering at us.
Lee Teuk: Eunhyuk said he had a similar dream too. I was very surprised that everyone was under so much pressure.
Q: Some poeple are pointing out that your title track “BONAMANA” is similar to your previous song “Sorry Sorry.”
Lee Teuk: I know. But I think that’s our style. It’s an extension of “Sorry Sorry” but also the last word to it.
Q: There’s a dance move which looks like you guys are skating.
Lee Teuk: The choreographer said he thinks of skating when he thinks of Korea. (laugh)
Q: The choreography for “BONAMANA” looks like it’s more complicated than before. Did you not have a hard time memorizing it? (laugh)
Eunhyuk: It was supposed to be even more difficult. We changed some of the difficult moves so they’d be easier because we had to keep some of the moves which were key to the song. The choreography was so difficult that every round of song we danced to was extremely tough. It felt like we were constantly running full speed.
Lee Teuk: Doesn’t our strength lie in the fact that we can pull off even the most complex choreography? (laugh) The choreographer said our moves this time is about energy. The person who came up with the choreography for “Sorry Sorry” came up with our choreography again this time. We’re very grateful to him because he was supposed to join the Michael Jackson tribute concert.
Q: Isn’t the new song hard to sing because there is a bounce to it that you have to ride with from the very start. Especially for the members who are used to singing ballad songs, how was it?
Kyuhyun: In my case, I’m better at singing ballads but it wasn’t too bad because I’ve been a dance singer. I have been practicing constantly. And I think I’ve been able to show diverse sides to myself through this album because there are a lot of ballad songs too.
Q: How was it singing Yoo Hee-yeol’s “Good Person”?
Kyuhyun: I was under a lot of pressure because it’s such a classic that I couldn’t mess up on it. We talked with the directors for a long time about the song, saying a certain part should be sung with such and such emotions, that we sounded we’re smiling too much in another segment, that this is a sad song.
Lee Teuk: We edited the song quite a bit because it’s a classic and Yoo Hee-yeol hosts his radio show right after ours so he asked about it too. After our album came out, he said he listened to our version of the song and when we asked “It’s not as great, right?” he said it was good so we were thankful.
Yesung: When I heard we would be recording “Good Person,” I thought it would be Park Hyo-shin’s “Good Person.” (laugh)
Q: Haha, Yesung, you must go on variety shows.
Yesung: I am extremely interested in variety shows. (laugh)
Q: Lee Teuk, Eunhyuk, Shindong, the three of you are regulars on SBS talk show “Steel Heart.” But it must be difficult trying to head a segment of the program for several minutes.
Lee Teuk: We’ve seen quite a number of photographs get ripped up (laugh) but the more it happens, the more intense photos the public wants to see but the less the celebrities want to reveal. I got to understand what a hard time comedians must have. And it’s usually hard to maintain a segment for more than three months but we’re into our ninth month now so it’s very tough. I’m thinking we should come up with something different.
Q: Isn’t it difficult getting the guests to display their talents on the show?
Lee Teuk: (Sigh and laugh) It’s really difficult. And many of them say they don’t want to so we have to keep persuading them.
Eunhyuk: I had never been that interested in variety shows but I started taking part in it little by little because it sounded like so much fun when I listened to other members of my group talk about it. And then we got to appear on “Steel Heart” but I’ve been under so much pressure to make people laugh. The other two have been leading the segment well though. Honestly, I’m doing a lot of freeriding. (laugh)
Yesung: When I see them talk to each other, it really looks like they don’t even have time to sleep because they’re so busy coming up with what they should do for “Steel Heart.” Shindong looks at the Internet a lot, Lee Teuk is the one who wraps up the jokes and Eunhyuk does well in spicing up the jokes. I didn’t know they’d do such a good job.
Q: Some of you do musicals. Have the experiences been helpful to your singing career as well?
Yesung: They have really helped a lot. I have gotten to try acting and do more thorough jobs with practicing singing live after being in a musical. I’ve also gone back to the mindset of when I was a new singer after meeting seniors in musicals. There were about 40 people who were older than me on set so I started by saying hello to each of them and handing them a cup of coffee.
Sungmin: I think I’ve learned to act with more freedom on stage after doing musicals. I used to just sing and dance before but I have to act and calculate for musicals so when I perform “BONAMANA,” I became more comfortable putting on expressions or actions that I never did before. So I want to keep doing musicals.
Q: You said on “Strong Heart” that Heechul almost quit Super Junior. Didn’t you guys need time to form some sort of mutual understanding again after having been through so much?
Lee Teuk: We talked a lot while we were on our Asia tour. Everyone usually has a lot of individual schedules to fulfill so we had time to talk before and after our concerts which is when we talked about everything. Heechul and I became very close because of our Asia tour.
Q: Then had you felt awkward around him before?
Lee Teuk: Not awkward but we had always told each other that we should only be friends. We didn’t talk much about work together. But with everything that had been going on, we ended up talking a lot about work too.
Heechul: Our personalities are completely opposite from each other and we haven’t really worked together that much either so that’s why we didn’t talk much even when we’re at home. We even started having different opinions on issues and after wondering why it was the case, Lee Teuk, Shindong and I said we should go back to eight years ago which was before we had debuted, and just let out everything, curse and all. That’s when things cleared up.
Q: What did you talk about?
Heechul: I just felt much better going back to the days we were friends and talking about anything and everything. Before, I had avoided appearing on variety shows with other members of my group because it felt uncomfortable and we had our difference of opinions. We would also have to talk about incidents we experienced as a group but there were many things I didn’t know because we were close as friends but not as a bandmates on the same group. But I ended up talking with Lee Teuk and Shindong for about five hours, felt much more comfortable after that, and decided to say what we did on “Strong Heart.” I have a lot of fun on variety shows these days.
Lee Teuk: He calls up producers himself these days and sets his own schedules. (laugh)
Q: Heechul, do you plan to continue appearing on variety shows?
Heechul: I’m considering making appearances here and there starting with the second season of “Family Outing” (laugh) but I know that I have my good days and bad days when I make guest appearances. And I don’t have that many stories to tell so I know people would get sick of me easily if I go on too many. That’s why I’m being more careful and preparing myself as an emcee. I personally would like to host a program like Super Junior’s “Super Show.” As a joke I tell producers and executives that I want to do a show like that. (laugh) I used to be very anxious. I was under the pressure to achieve something before I go to the army but it felt like I hadn’t quite found my place yet. But once I eased myself out of those feelings, I saw myself on a much larger picture. It’s my dream to act but I’ve also wanted to do a variety show with my group.
Q: We heard that Kang-in will be going to the army within the year. What about the rest of you?
Lee Teuk: I think we’ll be going next year or the year after that rather than this year. We plan on putting in our best efforts for our careers and go without having any regrets.
Q: You’re idols who are now even considering getting married. How do you feel compared to when you first debuted?
Lee Teuk: We’re aging with the people who liked us from when we debuted, which I think is amazing. I’m also surprised at how I’ve been able to stay so long in this industry. A lot has happened over the years which has helped me to grow stronger so I don’t think I’ll be shaken up by small incidents anymore. I think we’d be able to last for another 20 to 30 years at this rate. We’ll also have to go to the army soon and of course we should go since it’s our military duty to. I hope we’ll be able to say at the end of the year that we worked hard and have no regrets.