GQ Korea - September Issue
HUENINGKAI Interview

GQ: We discovered a lot of unfamiliar expressions on HueningKai today.
HUENINGKAI: It was new to me as well. It’s a contrasting vibe from what I had before.
 
GQ: We think you’ve added a new vibe as you moved past your second full album.

HUENINGKAI: It was a time for me to solely immerse myself in emotions. I find emotions to be most important when I’m singing. Most of our songs have a strong story so we’re paying special attention to how we deliver the lyrics.
 
GQ: What did you think about while you were trying out the concept of the title song, <0X1 LOVESONG (I Know I Love You) feat. Seori>? It must be the first time that you tried to express this deep, sorrowful expression.
HUENINGKAI: It was actually easier for me to immerse myself in it because the theme was so clear. There’s an English drama called <The End of the F***ing World> that I referred to (while preparing). It’s a story about the main character going on a journey to escape from the world and finding true love. It’s a similar flow of a story so I automatically was able to immerse myself in those emotions.
 
GQ: Do you particularly like stories in the romance genre?
HUENINGKAI: To be honest, when I was young, I wasn’t able to understand it well. I was curious as to why people cried while watching these. I used to like fantasy or action genres more than romance. 
 
GQ: Do you understand it now?
HUENINGKAI: Yes, it’s fun. The longingly sad emotions were better than I thought.

GQ: Can you recommend us a movie that was particularly memorable?
HUENINGKAI: Have you watched <Be with you>? I watched both the original Japanese version and the Korean remake version, but they left a lasting impact on me. I also enjoyed watching <My tomorrow, your yesterday> as well.
 
GQ: That’s unexpected. For music, you like the rock genre the best.
HUENINGKAI: That’s right. I really love band music.
 
GQ: Did you watch the <Super Band 2> that’s airing right now?
HUENINGKAI: I only watched season 1, but I should watch that as well. While I was a radio DJ for a bit at EBS, the band LUCY came as a guest once. They were really good at singing.
 
GQ: HueningKai also started as a frontman, right? You were the vocalist position in the band group that you created in middle school.
HUENINGKAI: I had a friend who was good at playing the guitar. We suddenly came up with the idea of creating a band one day so the five of us started that. To be honest, I thought I would be in charge of drums.
 
GQ: What was the name of the band?
HUENINGKAI: “Yongmun-Middle School” Band. That’s our school name. Come to think of it, we didn’t really come up with a special band name.

 
GQ: Anyways, you must’ve learned a lot of things while playing music with your friends.
HUENINGKAI: That’s right. Communication is very important in a band. You have to collaborate well with each other. One time, we just left behind a song we were in the midst of practicing and suddenly changed songs. We were like, “what should we do” but we cheered each other up like “we can do this!” and concentrated together, and we were able to play it through in a few days.

GQ: That must’ve been the foundation for your group activities now.
HUENINGKAI: That’s when I fully learned the concept of teamwork. While practicing, even if our teamwork slightly gets out of step, if we get it right once, we start to progress through it really fast. As we figure out our teamwork, I also feel like I’m gradually growing as well. In one sense, that must be the benefit of being in a team. We share thoughts with our members, and since we do share our thoughts, we learn how to be considerate with one another. We start to slowly grow as we think of and rely on each other. There are times when you don’t know your own shortcomings. 
 
GQ: We’re curious about HueningKai’s own image that you didn’t even know about.
HUENINGKAI: I didn’t know I had this much aegyo. Hehe. I’m joking. To be honest, while we were trainees, we weren’t able to reveal our true feelings. I still find this hard now so I’m still working hard to think about how to talk about my true feelings well. Still, I think I’m able to somewhat talk about it now. Also, I’m working hard to throw away negative emotions and try to think about things in the most positive way possible.
 
GQ: You were in charge of being the energizer position in the team, so you must be giving out energy more than receiving it. Do you remember writing “don’t get swept away by emotions” as your motto in life?
HUENINGKAI: When was that? I did say that before. I’m the type of person to reflect on it by myself and swallow my emotions. Of course, this can backfire on me, but I don’t really let it build up emotions either. I don’t think I’ve exploded big either.
 

GQ: You’re mature. To be honest, if you’re twenty, it seems fine for you to just be truthful.

HUENINGKAI: I think this style fits me best. I used to be so moody that people told me they could just read my expressions, but ever since my debut, a lot of things have changed. Our members were surprised as well.

GQ: You seemed to have experienced very eventful puberty.
HUENINGKAI: It was quite an interesting puberty. There are times when you’re homesick while you’re living in a dorm. I became obstinate towards my members, and I was confused about my emotions. I was very young. It was really helpful for my members to hold me back while I was like that. I think puberty hit me for a bit then, but afterward, it flowed away naturally.
 
GQ: Hearing that, we thought of your debut song. The “horns” from <One Day, Horns Grew From My Head (CROWN)> represent the pain of puberty. What kind of mark did those horns leave for you?
HUENINGKAI: They’re precious memories. I think the pain of puberty that I experienced before my debut is another stepping stone for me. Actually, I think it was a period of time that I needed at least once. Thanks to that, I was able to move further ahead and grow. I’m so proud that this song is our debut song. There is definitely a reason that it had to be this song.
 
GQ: Since the songs that TOMORROW X TOGETHER has released so far contains words we use daily and lyrics that people can relate to, it feels like we’re opening up our own diary. What song hits home the most for you?
HUENINGKAI: There’s no change to the fact that I still like our debut song. I really immersed myself from the moment I first heard it. The melody was bright but if you look closely at the lyrics, there are a lot of sad parts to it. While we were figuring out the choreography, we were going to save that aspect of the song, but we changed it in the end. I remember practicing with a longing and sad expression at the beginning of our practice of the song.

GQ: We can’t forget the first song that you produced, <Dear Sputnik>. We think that your mindset about producing songs has changed as well, so how was it?
HUENINGKAI: I’m so proud because it’s the exact sort of image of the song I was thinking of. I’m planning on writing various songs in different genres in the future. A plainly calm song might be nice as well.

GQ: There’s a lot of instruments that you can play, right? People sometimes call you “Hue-zart.”
HUENINGKAI: To be honest, my skills move up and down… but I thought that it would be a waste for me to throw away my special talent, which is instruments. I’m still continuing to practice piano, and my father taught me the guitar. I’ve learned a lot of musical things from my father. The scene of my childhood that I spent in China is very clear in my head. I found my father, who was busking and providing happiness to people with music, very cool and respectable. I also remember the calming songs that he’d sing with a guitar as I’m about to fall asleep. Like a lullaby.
 
GQ: It must’ve been a natural thing for you to love music.
HUENINGKAI: That’s right. It does seem like those memories had the greatest influence. Also, I didn’t know since I was young back then, but my father was quite handsome.
 
GQ: We heard that your dream job other than one relating to music was a reporter. If you were interviewing HueningKai, what would you like to ask first?
HUENINGKAI: It would be “have you reached the goal you wanted to achieve?” I’m not talking about a small goal, but my final goal.

GQ: What do you consider to be your final goal?
HUENINGKAI: There’s a lot of things mixed in there, but I’d like to try to really move people’s emotions through music.

GQ: We’re also curious about the answer to that question.
HUENINGKAI: That’s difficult. I think I’d answer, “it’s still a work in progress.” I still think there’s a long way to go.
 
GQ: We think that you’re currently already a vocalist with absorptive power, but what do you still think is lacking?
HUENINGKAI: How should I say this, I’m confident that I can sing while very concentrated if it’s in the rock genre, but I still think I need to experiment with genres that move away from that. Even though I might be singing it correctly, sometimes I feel like I haven’t fully reached the right light of emotions.
 
GQ: There must’ve been a song that you found hard to immerse yourself in.
HUENINGKAI: There is a song that feels like a sore finger to me. The theme and the vibe of <Can’t You See Me?> were pretty hard for me. I didn’t know how I was supposed to make expressions for that back then. I think I’d be able to do it well if we were to do it again now.
 
GQ: That’s a healthy worry. You also tried a new singing method recently, right?
HUENINGKAI: Yes, I tried to scratch my voice and sing roughly so that you can feel the heartache while listening. It’s a new challenge, but I think I’ve succeeded. It was really fun while I sang it too. These days, I’ve been pondering about how I can sing in order to increase the sense of immersion. Since my throat starts to tire out if I continuously sing, I’m trying to find ways for me to not use too much strength and sing more comfortably.
 
GQ: If we were to ask you the same question, “have you reached the goal you wanted to achieve?” 5 years later, would HueningKai have reached the goal you wanted to reach?
HUENINGKAI: If I could, I’d like to answer, “I’m almost there.”