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Epik High Interview High Cut Magazine: Temperature of Contemplation

November 22, 2017

Korean Hip Hop Epik High Cut Interview
This interview is taken from the October 19th volume 208 edition of High Cut magazine. In this edition Epik High sat with High Cut Magazine and talked about their new album that dropped in early November 2017. The title of this interview is Temperature of Contemplation referring to the amount of thought they put into this album, possibly? I personally think it should have been titled “Something Wonderful.” (You’ll know why if you read the interview.)

We included shots from the website at the top and a few shots from the magazine at the bottom. We also tried to translate all the clothing because sometimes you just need to know.
Korean Hip Hop Epik High Cut Interview

Korean Hip Hop Epik High Cut Interview
High Cut | Translated by Bah+Doo

The voice you can hear again when the fall gets deeper, the song by returning wandering performing group Epik High.

Epik High is coming back with a new album. It has been 3 years since Shoebox dropped in 2014. They refused the temptation of pre-leased songs or singles, which is common practice now, and put dozens of songs in one album. Tablo said, “I don’t know how many people will click the play all button in 2017,” but his facial expression is that of confidence and not self-deprecation. Is it still possible for them to be top in the charts again this time? We met Epik High’s three members, Tablo, Tukutz, and Mithra, who have just finished mixing their album.

You are going to release your 9th regular album on Oct 29. I heard the album is gloomy (or dark) overall.
Mithra Maybe people described it like that because our album is not bright, hmm.. It is not gloomy (or dark)
Tablo In my point of view, several kinds of music exists. First, the music you listen to when you go to a club. The music you listen to in a car, full of hopes like what kind of clothing am I going to wear, what kind of people am I going to meet, how fun it will be… Second, the music you listen to in the club. Lastly, the music you listen to in a taxi feeling dreary after leaving the club. I think there are more of the first two kinds of music. But it is relatively rare to find chill music to listen to after leaving the club in a drearily early morning while thinking, ‘Ah, it was hectic.’ This album is that kind of music.

It has been 3 years since you released Shoebox in 2014 and I heard it actually took you two years to produce it. What is the reason it took that long?
Tablo I wanted to make music, but I didn’t want to show the result. It kind of sounds silly and on the other hand… hmm. Never mind. It sounds silly in any aspect. At first, we made music because we wanted to release an album, but releasing an album is the most anticipated part of our music producing process. While producing music, it is okay to fail or make mistakes, it is even fun because they have a positive effect. However, after releasing an album, those kinds of failures or mistakes only become negative. It makes me timid, even afraid of it. When you only listen to our music, we can be portrayed as very confident people, but we are not those kinds of people at all. That is why it took longer. We make more and more and remove, add, and change.

Epik High even says they are afraid of their music being evaluated?
Tukutz The mistakes we are talking about are the failures we make while producing music. It is necessary to produce a good album and it is the fun part. But I don’t care about the evaluation after releasing the album.
Tablo It is because we are the strictest to ourselves. I don’t think even the biggest hater with the highest standards will be stricter than ours. Of course, we care about what kind of facial expressions our fans and others who like our music make at our concert. That is why we have a concert right after releasing an album. We want to perform live and see the people’s reaction. That is the most accurate evaluation of our album. We will perform at Han-nam dong Bluesquare on Nov 3-4.

I heard this album is for people in their 30’s.
Tukutz It is because we are in our 30’s, but it isn’t only for people in their 30’s.
Tablo First of all, my daughter Haru, who is very hard to please, told me she likes this album. After listening to this album, she said, “I like it!”.

What is Haru’s accuracy rate on picking up hit songs?
Tablo Very accurate. All the songs she picked in our last album became successful. Happen Ending, Spoiler, Born Hater. Ah, of course, Born Hater was modified for a 5-year-old. In addition, this album is resonating with people in their thirties, but it will touch the hearts of people in their teens and twenties more. We are in our thirties, but actually, we don’t understand the thirties too much. However, we have thought about the twenties for the last 10 years. It has been 20 years since we looked back at teens. We were busy experiencing that time and had no time to think about it. I think we will keep making songs for people in their teens and 20’s even when we are in our 40’s and 50’s.

I remember you were thinking about how you would do your music when you three have family in The Return of Superman
Tablo Thra said we should disband.
Tukutz No, disband after having kids.
Mithra Then eventually we changed our mind.

This album is the first regular album that you produced after all of you married. Any changes?
Tukutz Not much change.
Tablo We should listen to Thra. We don’t know.
Mithra There were no noticeable changes in producing the album itself. We work until we make things happen, then when we were too tired we just went home. It was similar. I was worried a lot at the beginning, but fortunately, she understood me.
Tablo All of them were surprised at the beginning. “Does this take this much time and hard effort?” Most people, including my friends, think music is easily produced. For example, it takes three minutes to make a three-minute song. Usually doesn’t day and night change when producing music? However, since we have a family, our routine chanced like an office worker.
Mithra We go back home on the weekends and go home before one to two a.m during work days. I try to do that at least because I feel sorry.
Tablo Moreover, we have to prepare the kids to go to school. Anyhow, we have to be awake by then so if we don’t keep the routine, it makes our life hard. I even have parents meeting with Haru’s teacher on the day of the albums’ release. Tukutz has a field day at the concert.
Tukutz Well, I have to attend. Maybe it will help the concert since I would be warmed up. I am looking forward to it.
Tablo We spent those times for…
Mithra Drinking!
Tablo Chit-chatting.
Mithra Gaming!
Tablo We wasted that time with spacing out, but now we removed all the time wasters.

Last year you performed at ‘Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’ in the US as the first Korean band, not as an indie band.
Tukutz It was a really wonderful experience.
Tablo At first, I was super tense since I thought no one would come. ‘Why did Americans invite us? Isn’t this a place where someone like Kanye West performs?’ Fortunately, it was very successful and some of the American radio stations were interested in it. We also made a lot of American fans and talked about an American tour. I never thought about something like entering some other market, but we perform wherever our fans want us.

Did you make some personal relationships with foreign musicians?
Tablo Actually, we co-produced one of the songs in the album with Kanye West’s producing team. Tukutz made it. Kanye West picked that song when it was done, but didn’t use it in his album. So, we told them we will use it. We changed it to our own style and included it in the album.

What if Kanye West calls you and wants that song again?
Tablo We will give it to him!

Can you tell me the title of the song?
Tablo It is still a secret.
Tukutz I would be regretful if it was pre-released.
Tablo Please write it as if it is pre-released, it would be regretful.

Epik High’s album is known for it’s great featured artists. I heard some great musicians, including I.U., are participating in this album.
Tablo I talked about it a few times, even though Epik High is a hip-hop group, we are influenced a lot by open band groups like Toy or 015B. From the beginning, we wanted to try various genres of music, including Ballad, Rock, and movie soundtracks. In order to do that, our three colors are not enough. To do all we want to try, we approach it as if we make a movie. We write the story, direct, and Mise-en-Scène, then cast actors to express them. That is more interesting for us as producers, and that is what people like about us.

The best replies for a related article was this. ‘Epik High and Younha is the truth (is the way to go)’.
Tablo Tired of it? (Truth=Jin-ri in Korean, Tired of something= Jil-ri da. Wordplay)
Tukutz Can you be tired of it?

I mean the “truth (Jin-ri)”.
Tablo Ah, (laughs) I heard it as well. The perfect match. We have a few of them. Epik High and Younha, Epik High and Taeyang, Epik High and Kim Jong-wan form Nell.

There are personas for movie directors. Is it a similar concept?
Tablo Right, persona. If we work with the same musician all the time, it would be boring so we rotate one by one. (laughs)
Tukutz Maybe one of three will be in this album?

From Sung Si-kyung, Im Chang-jung, 4men, TWICE, Highlight, BtoB, GOT7, NU’EST W, to JBJ … objectively, who do you think will be the first in the chart?
Tablo Objectively, I don’t care. I just want people to pay more attention to the music industry. It appears that people are interested in music because there are many auditioning program or music variety shows, but it is not true. People don’t care about music much at all. Now it is so easy to listen to music wherever and whenever. We witnessed the changes. When we debuted, Rain’s How to Avoid the Sun was released. We toured together with Hyori noona when she was actively working, and when BIGBANG released Lies we sang Love Love Love. We were in the golden age of the music industry which people remember, we were the happiest at that moment. Probably, all the singers think the same. At that time, there was no champion, first place, second place, all the singers just enjoyed making music.
Tukutz Right. Everyone was the champion.

Compared to that time, the music industry changed dramatically. Cassette tapes, CDs to MP3, then it is a streaming era and now the concept of the album became playlists.
Tablo That is why, contradictorily, the need and validity of producing an album has increased. People listen to music based on playlists means, for example, on a rainy-day people want to listen to songs that match the mood of that day. Whatever theme the musicians use to make the album, people need them more. Fortunately, our albums present many different sounds but have one ongoing theme, so it is okay to listen to from the beginning to the end.

The status of Hip-Hop changed as well. Nowadays, the number one dream for primary school kids is MC.
Tablo I wanted to be an MC when I was little, Yoo Jae-suk (Tukutz shook his head and Mithra didn’t respond to it at all as if he is used to it), Johnny Cash, Johnny Yune, Oprah Winfrey…
Tukutz I thought about it a lot when we debuted, and after that, early and mid-2000, people said ‘Hip-hop is the trend’. Well, I think Hip-Hops never been out of sight of the general public.
Tablo It is like ‘This is the era of the Internet’. (laughs) It has been 17 years since people talked about it. However, there are still articles about it in business newspapers. ‘Oh? Those people already forgot about Y2K?’
Tukutz Recently I read a self-development book and the title was ‘Now it is time to play with content.’ I was so surprised to see it (laughs), well, then how did he survive without any content till now?
Tablo Content started with the Bible.
Tukutz You have to have content to start anything ‘Now it is time to play with content’ what the F. I had to think for a long time.

Your album title is We’ve Done Something Wonderful. It is what Steve Jobs used to say.
Tablo Steve Jobs said ‘Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful, that’s what matters to me.’ I want to live like that as well. We may fail one day, we may be disappointed in the world or to myself. However, how wonderful would it be if I can think, ‘We’ve done something wonderful’ before going to bed?

Tablo once said, “One thing I didn’t like (Epik High) was, we produced something and gave people happy moments, but we always started the next project before we enjoyed it. Therefore, we don’t have many memories of that moment.” What about now? Did you accumulate lots of good memories while preparing this album?
Tablo The memory I wanted back then was ‘Be happy!’ something like that. But now I think just working together itself is a memory. Like the conversations we had while working or some trivial moments. It isn’t like some important moment that may go through my mind like a flash when I die but it is still ‘We’ve Done Something Wonderful.’

What do the three of you want to ultimately show people through this album?
Tukutz I will do it visually since I am not a person that express emotions with lyrics. A foggy highway.
Tablo That sounds dangerous.
Tukutz Of course, it is dangerous. But it also sounds thrilling as well, isn’t it? I like to walk around on those streets as well. You can’t quite say it is dawn or the middle of the night. Not like eerie or gloomy.
Mithra For me, it is like the lakeside at sunset.
Tukutz Oh, that sounds good. (or it is plausible)

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
Tukutz Denim shirts are from Levi’s, wool fabric pants are from Transit by I.M.Z Premium, the hat is from Super-duper hats by AMABILIA.
Tablo turtleneck top is from Vivienne Westwood, gingham check cardigan is from Custom Yellow, natural washing jeans are from Piece Worker, vintage glasses are from Ray-Ban by Luxottica Korea.
Mithra turtleneck top is from Cliff Wear, the denim jacket is by ZARA, Jeans are from Peace Walker, the beanie is from North Project by Platform Place.

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
Tukutz inner denim jacket is from American Eagle, gray suit jacket and pants are from Time Homme, the shoes are from Premiata.
Mithra green zip-up sweater is from Sandro Homme, the Herringbone Jacket is from Canali, the windowpane check pants are by H&M, the gray knit beanie is from Helen Kaminski, and the shoes are from Ugg.
(Left page) The inner striped shirts are by ZARA, the sweater that looks like a hanging muffler is by Nohant, the relaxed fit pants are from H&M, and the suede shoes are from Fred Perry.

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
Mithra Warm colored check pattern coat is from ZARA, the inner knit vest is from Sunspel by RAUM, gray pants are from COS, the green beanie is from Norse Project by Platform place.
Tukutz Turtleneck top is from Nohant, the checkered jacket is from H&M. Corduroy pants are from Norse Project by Platform place.
Tablo wine colored turtleneck is from CK Calvin Klein, large buttoned striped shirts are from YMC, Jacket is from Messagerie by IMG Premium.

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
The calm colored check patterned coat is from ZARA, logo decorated sweatshirts are from Moncler, corduroy pants are from Customellow.

(Right page) Oversized coat with big cool collar is from Customellow, old-fashioned gold-framed glasses are from Ray-Ban by Luxottica Korea, the top is from the editor’s collection.

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
Tukutz Khaki colored shirts are from YMC, knit jacket with naturally loosened strands is from Transit by IMG Premium. Pants are from Zero lounge, shoes are from Brooks Brothers.
Tablo Indi pink colored shirts are from COS, navy colored jacket and vest are from Itineris by IMG Premium, corduroy pants are from Beslow, shoes are from Fred Perry, the glasses in the pocket are from Maska.

(Right page) Tukutz Dark blue denim shirts are from Levi’s, pants are from Transit by IMG Premium, black and gray sneakers are from Premiata, the glasses in the shirt pocket are from Maska. Tablo top is from Vivienne Westwood, the checkered cardigan is from Customellow, jeans with folded leg hems are from Piece-Worker, all black sneakers are from Converse. Mithra Brick colored top is from Clif Wear, the striped denim jacket is from ZARA, jeans are from Piece-Worker, the black beanie is from Neil Barrett, the shoes are from Ugg.

Epik High Cut magazine music Korean
The turtleneck top is from Vivienne Westwood, the checkered cardigan with quilting is from Customellow.
The jeans are from Piece-Worker, thin gold-framed glasses are from Ray-Ban by Luxottica Korea.
(Right page) Mandarin colored shirts are from Beslow, herringbone pants are from Berwich by IMG Premium, the hat is from Super Duper Hat by Amabilia.

Reporter Lee Young-woo Photographer Park Ja-wook Hair Choi So-hee Makeup Kang Suk-gyu Illustration Tablo, Mithra, Assistant Lee Min-kyeong, Chu Eun-sil

Source High Cut

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