Continuous exploration and effort in a cycle of experience, accumulation and growth: the bottomless well of personal discipline that keeps JAY from sitting still and instead forever heading out further and climbing higher to reach his dreams.
You posted a picture you took with your new camera on Weverse.
JAY: Yes, with my digital camera—it’s a Leica. I was watching a drama series in the middle of the night and one of the characters had a name that was similar to the camera. So it came to mind, and I ended up browsing their website. There was only one box left of that edition in all of Korea. (laughs) I was going to buy it someday, but then something sort of came over me that night and I ended up making the purchase then and there. I’ve always been really interested in collecting things. I’m similar to the fans that way. (laughs) I had a lot of fun taking pictures of the scenery in Las Vegas and at the Grand Canyon. I plan to take pictures whenever I go abroad and then post them all together.
Your camera’s the 007 Edition, right? It reminds me of how you got into the movie series. You’re done binge-watching all of them, right?
JAY: I binged them all. I don’t have anything left to watch now. (laughs) Every one of the Bonds has their own charm, so when I was watching the series from start to finish, every time the actor changed, I kept thinking, “This guy’s the best.” If anyone’s going to watch them, they should watch them all from start to finish. (laughs) Every one that stars Daniel Craig is a classic, but if you’re into dark, moody things, I recommend Skyfall. I liked Casino Royale too. Another one I liked was Licence to Kill, which was with Timothy Dalton. I’m also into Japanese noir these days. The characters are always really confident no matter what they’re up against and have a strong belief in what they’re doing is right, which makes them really cool.
You have a lot of hobbies, but the one that’s really grabbed you lately is electric guitar.
JAY: I have one at home that I practice with and another one at the label, so I try to get some practice in whenever I have time. I didn’t feel confident playing electric guitar before because I didn’t have enough time to practice, but I’m slowly picking it up again. I’m interested in rock these days. I picked up a few guitars that looked and sounded just the way I like and tried those out. From there I chose the one that sounded the best and loudest. I can’t play anything that flashy yet, so I chose an all-rounder that sounds decent for just about any genre. If I end up getting decent at the guitar, I think I’ll explore some other instruments as well. I want to learn the bass while I’m at it and learn the basics of piano and drums. And then I’d also like to learn the harmonica and saxophone just for my own enjoyment.
The harmonica? That’s quite an unconventional choice.
JAY: The band Oasis put on a show in Knebworth, England before, and during the concert there’s a part with harmonica—the intro to “The Masterplan.” You don’t really hear the harmonica much these days, right? But I thought it was really outstanding and so cool when I heard that.
You’re really into Oasis. The first song you played on Red Night on Weverse Live recently was “Champagne Supernova.”
JAY: A lot of old rock stars are kind of weird but I think Oasis has a cool attitude. “When we write a song, we don’t write about pessimistic things. Even if I don’t have anything at all, when it’s in a song, I sing like I have everything in the world, and I don’t want to make depressing, pessimistic songs that my children will have to listen to someday.” I saw an interview where they said something along those lines. Personally, I think Oasis is really good at expressing optimism. I feel uplifted when I listen to songs with hopeful lyrics like “Whatever,” “Stand by Me,” “Live Forever” or “Stop Crying Your Heart Out.” Of course the music sounds good, too, but I think the messages are cool and inspiring.
It seems like you’ve always liked rock. It was pretty clear when you showed off your Spotify Wrapped on Weverse Live.
JAY: These days a lot of music’s influenced by rock but reinterpreted in a modern way, and then that evolves into whole new genres. I listen to a lot of modern songs like that and some older classics too. I listen all the way back to the 1950s. (laughs) I think what makes old music so captivating is the vibe and the romance. I think the vibe and romance capture something that people can never quite have. I think what people call vibe and romance is a feeling of old times and the traces they left behind. I think I’m someone who likes romance in that sense. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve wished I could hop in a time machine and go back to some of their concerts. There’s something uniquely special and completely different from today about things from the old days that only they have. I even have the live LP from Oasis’ Knebworth concert and every time I listen to it I wish I could just go back to that time.
It’s true that you can’t go back in time to see them (laughs) but you did recently see Harry Styles in concert.
JAY: That was so much fun. It made me feel like I have so much to learn. I think that having the same mindset as the world’s best and most famous performers would help me become a better artist. It’s great seeing a lot of famous people in concert in Korea and abroad and watching them perform live. I think that feeling is an important source of motivation for us when we do our own work.
You put out a cover song back in March with Japanese musician Yuuri. That must’ve been good motivation for you.
JAY: There seems to be a limit to how much you can motivate yourself from within no matter your line of work, the kind of person you are or what situation you find yourself in. So I think looking to the outside world for stimulation when I’m not sure what I should be doing is a good way to keep myself from sitting still. It’s great if I have the opportunity to see concerts or collaborate with someone like I did recently. I don’t think the things I learned and the experience I gained from that are going anywhere, either. I think that, as I build up more and more experience, I’ll be changing myself without even knowing it. Then I’ll be able to do more things and it’ll make me work harder and help me grow.
All that growing you did seems to be reflected in the new album too. The lead single, “Bite Me,” feels different from anything you’ve done before. How did you feel about it?
JAY: I’d say it’s among the most easy-listening of our singles to date as far as genre goes. The producer who made it for us is really famous. He’s behind well-known hits that have charted on Billboard, so it was amazing and I was really grateful and honored. I think we found a unique way of expressing “Bite Me” in a compact way that lets people focus on the main point and keeps it easy to understand.
It sounds like easy listening but your vocals on the track are highly nuanced.
JAY: I really enjoyed recording the vocals for this album. Every song has its own charming points. They’re all so good that it’s hard to pick a favorite. It wasn’t hard to sing anything either. I tried to sound laid back when I was recording my vocals. HEESEUNG even directed the vocals for “Bite Me.” I feel like all of us are a step closer to finding our own voices. I’ve had to sing a lot of low notes and a lot of high notes, too, and I think that fluidity and power in my vocals is my specialty. No one ever told me my voice was faltering while I was singing. (laughs) On top of that, I’ve spent a lot of time getting inspiration from outside myself and thought everything through and practiced a lot. I think it’s pretty clear that I’ve improved over last time.
Was all the experience you got on your last world tour any help while you were getting ready for your comeback?
JAY: When you’re on tour, the most important thing is that you can wrap up each concert without any issues. There were many different aspects to the experience—good things, hard things, exhausting things. Everything. The most important thing is never to let it show during a concert even if you’re practically exhausted. I guess it’s like how if you’ve been in a 50-60°C desert and then move immediately to a salt sauna, it would feel cool and refreshing. (laughs) Touring is like level-three spicy, so promoting feels nice and mild by comparison. I always felt somewhat free and easy on stage but now I feel even more calm, cool and collected.
It must mean a lot to you that this comeback comes on the heels of meeting so many fans from all different parts of the world.
JAY: This is the first comeback we’ve done since the tour, so we’re really looking forward to it. I’m sure I’ve changed and I’m excited to be able to do better. I felt something very real each and every moment I met ENGENE from all different places. The numbers don’t tell you the whole story. I think the clearest way to know is to see ENGENE for real, up close.
It sounds like the feeling of experiencing things firsthand means a lot to you.
JAY: All experiences can be applied somewhere in life, and often in ways you wouldn’t expect. For example, if I never thought about learning Japanese when I was young, I never would’ve been able to feel the emotion of Yuuri’s song. (laughs) And then I never would’ve been able to meet him or work together. You never know what kind of lesson an opportunity today will lead to tomorrow. Each experience connects to all the others, so I don’t think any of them are ever worthless. I’m doing the things I want to do and that I have an interest in and passion for, and I’m putting my whole heart into them.
I think sports are among the things you’re most passionate about.
JAY: Our group absolutely loves sports. We all play soccer and baseball. I enjoy those sports, and I also like making myself look good through weight training and so-called body toning, but I lack the strength and energy lately. (laughs)
I see you’re still regularly investing time in your interests despite your busy schedule.
JAY: I think you could call the combination of putting in an effort, doing things you like and doing what you have to do self-improvement. I think giving myself something to do and keeping myself busy when I have some downtime is my way of keeping myself healthy. It’s possible to lose sight of where you’re going while working so I’m trying to keep myself stimulated here and there to prevent that. I think it’s important to make sure I keep refueling myself so that I can do the things I have to do and know what I need.
I remember you said in 2022 ENniversary MAGAZINE that your self-improvement is leading to a boost in self-esteem.
JAY: I worried about a lot of things when I was younger and was never the type to have high self-esteem, so I tried to find meaning in my life by just trying new things. It eventually turned into a habit and then my personality. It's a self-constructed way of raising your self-esteem. I think you can improve your abilities and your skillset by continuously practicing, learning and making things that you think are cool, great and valuable, and I think you can get your own meaning out of life that way. I really think everyone is capable of doing it. (laughs)
Then what meaning have you found for your life and as a member of ENHYPEN?
JAY: I try my best to do everything I can for the other members. I do have a tendency to give up outright on things I can’t do on occasion (laughs) but I want to at least help out where I can. I think I like taking care of other people and helping guide them, so I think I’ll try to stay passionate in order to be a good influence on others. I think the difference between inanimate objects and actual living things is that something like a chair or a desk are made for a specific purpose, but people are born without any predetermined purpose for existing. And it’s your job to spend your whole life looking for it. I think it’s best to find out why you’re needed in the world and grow according to that.
Unauthorized reproduction and distribution prohibited.