For several questions, HEESEUNG pondered in search of better answers and responded cautiously, asking for a bit more time to think over. Then he added, “Because of my personality I have to answer it well.”
In Dance JAM Live on April 4th, you were dancing with a snazzy suit on.
HEESEUNG: That’s right, it’s my own suit. I didn’t aim for anything by wearing it though. (laughs) It’s something similar to how I normally dress on days I pay more attention.
You seemed to have grown more interested in fashion these days, even wearing a pair of glasses without lenses on V LIVE.
HEESEUNG: I’m putting care into fashion since it’s a way of expressing myself. I’ve noticed that aside from our stage performances and activities, ENGENE were curious about our off-stage wardrobe and hobbies. So I wanted to demonstrate my flair under any circumstances; if I show that there are many more sides to me, ENGENE can better understand what kind of person I am. Above all, I hope they find me cool when they see me. (laughs)
What’s your standard in choosing clothes? You’ve said before that you don’t follow trends.
HEESEUNG: I’m actually quite clueless as to how. (laughs) It’s hard to keep up with the pace in trends like what’s popular from where, and I’m not fond of popular trends either. Rather than picturing how all the pieces match, I look at each item and buy anything I feel, Wow, this is really pretty. So I often get slightly carried away; like sometimes, other members would tell me, “today’s a bit off, HEESEUNG.” (laughs) Anyway, that’s how I pick my outfit every day.
In an -note you once said, “I watch movies to foster creativity and sentimentality.”
HEESEUNG: I think we can get inspiration anytime, anywhere, so I try living with my ears and eyes open. Rather than search for new movies, I tend to re-watch the ones I already watched - and recently I saw Alvin and the Chipmunks. (laughs) I wondered what was going through my head while watching it a long time ago. It felt very different than when I was a child; being young, the movie was endlessly funny, cute, and had good songs, but now as you know, I meet a lot of people, working in a team – the movie was not the same anymore with a different viewpoint.
Is studying English also part of your effort to broaden your horizon? It was impressive to see you speak English from time to time with the ENGENE during the recent V LIVEs.
HEESEUNG: It is. I like both English and Japanese. We live in a global age and all. (laughs) Many ENGENE are Koreans, but since there are ENGENE with many other nationalities as well, I try to speak English often, hoping to communicate more. Speaking is not up there yet but my listening is pretty good. During our fan signing events through video calls, ENGENE from different countries tell me this and that, which always stick in my memory. The messages are mostly, “you’re doing well, hang in there! And stay healthy.”
You even took on the English narration of “Intro : The Invitation,” the first track of this album BORDER : CARNIVAL.
HEESEUNG: I stumbled upon an opportunity once, being suggested to record a narration. I gave it a go, and the producers said my pronunciation was better than expected, so we went with it. But then, after recording, it felt way different than how I usually spoke in English. When I normally speak, my pronunciation gets across smoothly enough; listening to the recording chunk-by-chunk though, a lot of the parts sounded awkward. Listening to Jake’s pre-recorded guide for practice helped me a lot.
You must’ve put a lot of care into this album in many different ways. You said it was an “album I strived hard to move away from the image I was thinking about since our debut.”
HEESEUNG: Since all the songs have different tones, it was tough at first to express each distinctly. “Drunk-Dazed” is powerful and “Not For Sale” clean and light; and when I suddenly turned from practicing “Drunk-Dazed” to “Not For Sale,” switching my facial expression was a challenge. (laughs) So I focused on the lyrics to understand the track’s vibe, and while shooting the music videos, I tried to identify the imageries at the shooting site, because the music video’s mood is connected to the song’s message. The concepts for this album’s songs to be put on stage are all different, and I think the diverse charms will be conveyed nicely as we prepared. I hope you look forward to them. (laughs)
The practicing process with so many considerations like that must not be easy, but I got the sense that you make practice enjoyable in Dance JAM Live.
HEESEUNG: I think having fun during practice leads to a good outcome. So I try to liven up the mood even if it means acting silly or letting go of the polished image. When practice is repeated, tension runs high on some days, or things don’t pan out well. It’s why even if a bit forced, that intentional “let’s do this” attitude you bring to practice is important - then you get to absorb and learn faster while enjoying it too.
Maybe that’s what brought the members closer. I remember you taking the members’ pictures with a camera to commemorate the last broadcast of BORDER : DAY ONE.
HEESEUNG: It’s me being sentimental. (laughs) I wanted to capture them since those were the last moments of promotions for that album. I usually like taking photos when I go somewhere. For example, during Weverse magazine shoots, I would take photos of us simply having a meal. Just by glancing at the pictures later, I can recall the surrounding scenery; I look back on the fun parts thinking, So after the meal, we had such and such shoots, and this and that happened, and so on.
So you really cherish the moments spent together with the members.
HEESEUNG: It’s so nice to have debuted with the younger team members. I actually feel I owe them an apology. Since everything we encountered after the debut was a first for me too, there was a period of adjustment. Living together as trainees under one roof was new; some unexpected things would happen while working together; and handling the busy schedules makes you focus intensely, so you lose weight too. (laughs). I learned a lot watching the younger members. Now that I became firmer, there are more things I can do for the younger members as an older member. So what matters more is what I do from here on out. I’d like to take care of the younger members more and have them rely on me more.
In EN-TER key when you were playing the pushing game with SUNGHOON and SUNOO, there was a passing comment in the conversation, “I’m camera shy.” Does it suggest any concern over showing yourself?
HEESEUNG: Honestly, I don’t find being on stage too hard. I just do my best to put on the performance I’ve prepared; but I’m personally less than satisfied when it comes to showing myself enjoying a conversation or other natural looks in front of the camera. I can often spice up the mood when I talk comfortably with the younger members, but I’m usually really shy and can be quite serious to a point that some people may find boring. Off stage I’m just a person who lives my life with passion. (laughs)
When you took on Cosmopolitan’s “TikTok Challenge Challenge,” I remember you being embarrassed despite your exceptional dance moves.
HEESEUNG: (laughs) I don’t get stressed out though. Except for when I’m dancing or singing, I usually just let my thoughts run their course – that’s how I can focus better on work. You may not find such a personality interesting, but I even like that part; parts I find myself lacking seem to be getting better too. Other than ENHYPEN members I got close to quickly, it used to take a long time for me to get close or comfortable with someone. But now, I whittled that down to about an hour - think that’s pretty good. (laughs) But, if we have offline fan signing events again soon and I get to communicate with ENGENE face to face, just imagining it makes my nerves tremble; I mean I’m so shy, I may not be able to express all that I feel inside; so I’m striving to change it for sure.
I’m sure you will. One of the reviews after the EN-CONNECT off-line fan meeting described you as having “superb stage manners.”
HEESEUNG: Ah, the first day of the fan meeting, I was overwhelmed with anticipation and thrill, feeling super nervous. Since I had to be on stage while getting a grip on myself, I did extra hard, giving my all – since it was our very first time presenting in real life. But the moment we started showcasing on stage, tension melted away instantly; I felt like strutting my stuff more in front of ENGENE. To show myself to ENGENE and expressing it through the performance on stage was such a blast. I’ve actually seen that review as well. (laughs) I was really proud of myself.
It must’ve been very meaningful to see ENGENE in front of you for the first time since the debut.
HEESEUNG: I was just over the moon. It was like, So this is what the past 4, 5 years of hard preparation was about, and it occurred to me what profound joy it is to look at each other face to face. Though I’m usually quite bashful and not good at eye-contact, I still tried to make as much eye-contact as possible with ENGENE. But with the current circumstances being what they are, we had to perform without them on the second day. That made me feel…um, not good - inside my head there was this ringing sound, like “ding.” The whole time I was performing thoughts like, Ah, right this moment they were clapping for me and now they aren’t, and About now, I bit into a lemon and endured it, but they’re not laughing anymore – were running through my head and that made me sad.
The sense of loss must be indescribable.
HEESEUNG: Yes, it is. No matter how often you’ve been on stage, having ENGENE across from you versus not having them is like night and day. But that one time I met ENGENE at EN-CONNECT was really an incredibly huge experience. Because we were returning to the stage after learning more about stage manners and various gestures with the live audience, we were able to enhance our stage performance during the subsequent stages.
I think you got better in many ways. I was surprised to see you hit that high key in Block B’s “Very Good” showcase in KCON:TACT 3.
HEESEUNG: Actually, my usual range is up to a slightly lower key. I made a lot of efforts to reach that high note you mentioned. (laughs) There were many trials – a lot of vocal training and practicing in various ways. It gets a bit hard at moments when I think that my capacity comes up short. But what I can say for sure is that I don’t feel burdened by these things; I think you have to go through these things without ifs and buts.
So when you’re preparing for a stage, there’s a process of continually making yourself evolve.
HEESEUNG: Yes. During the EN-CONNECT fan meeting, my new challenge was to get the rap part down from BTS’ track “Boy In Luv.” I’m really into rap, but when I was a trainee I stopped practicing it midway, feeling the need to focus on singing. It was hard when I picked up the practice again after a long pause. Thankfully SUGA’s recorded guide was available, which I continually listened to for practice, and later I did it my own style. But with so many different elements in rap, I might’ve failed to bring out all the nuances. I was eager to showcase my talents to ENGENE but it wasn’t satisfactory after all.
You seem to be constantly pondering about the stage. In the March Monthly Review, you described yourself as someone who “has a lot on their mind.”
HEESEUNG: ENGENE are probably aware of my personality like that. (laughs) Some people think deeply about one thing, and others think about a lot of things; I’m both, and it actually serves me well when I practice. That’s because when you dance and sing, you have to pay careful attention to numerous things, each also requires a deep dive of its own. But at night, this kind of personality fills my head with a lot of thoughts - ‘ah, I want to become better looking,’ is an example (laughs) And in terms of music, ‘I hope I come off looking like this’ or ‘I’ll try something like this tomorrow.’
Ultimately, those are thoughts geared towards presenting an improved image to ENGENE. Now, this brings us to the last question: what kind of person do you want to be for ENGENE going forward?
HEESEUNG: Ah, could you give me a little moment to think? These kinds of questions really throw me off; because of my personality, I have to answer it well. (laughs) I’ll answer after some thought. I want to be someone who is always inspiring. I want certain things of me to inspire ENGENE and encourage them to be more awesome. And by becoming a more awesome person myself, I want to be someone who makes ENHYPEN and all ENGENE more awesome.
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