Would I have the right to happiness? Why is it that I’m mired so deeply in such shallow wound. Living is like getting through a hail of arrows, but why do I have such a big target tacked on my heart?” Along the piano melody, Tablo’s soliloquial words start. It was the first of Tablo’s music after the widely publicized turmoil. Almost as if to burst out, his rap was taut, and Lee Sora’s endlessly solitary vocal sang, “Even without the tears I cry now.”
It was Tablo’s first solo album, Fever’s End’s first track, “Home”.
Every one of the ten tracks were the poems that sluiced at the bottom of his heart when all thought it was the lowest dip of his life. And when the sea of poems, made up of ‘the sadness that has become the home’, had reached its high tide, Tablo returned. Fever’s End, which was released in two parts on October 21st and November 1st respectively, reached the first in both Canadian and American iTunes Hip-Hop album chart, and Part 1 and Part 2 each reached Billboard World Album chart 2nd and 5th place.
Tablo, who showed up for the interview with Vogue in after a year and half of hiatus, had lost weight than before, and for him smiling was still clumsy. Of course, the act of guessing at the musician’s state of mind through the lyrics is more often than not self-indulgent; this is so as much as the act of aligning an author’s novel with the novelist’s biography. However, Tablo’s question which borrows his friend Bong Taegyu’s voice sounds too genuine. In “Thankful Breaths” he asks, “Can I stop hurting now? Can I stop being afraid now? Can I just laugh as much as I have cried?” Can he?
Q: It’s a music that simply reflect the title, “Fever’s End”. Did you start the album with the particular phrase in mind?
A: At the start of it, I didn’t think start with the thought of playing the music for someone else. I didn’t even imagine that I would come to a place where I could present the music to others. While I was working on a variety of things, there was a time when we had to rush our baby daughter to the emergency room. I was very taken aback when the fever spots sprout out all over her, but Hyejeong said to me, “the fever spots have to sprout for your body to heal. “ That was quite memorable to me, thinking “i hope I had also blossomed my fever spots….”
Q: the album cover art was also quite impressive. It was authored by Kim Nampyo.
A: I had the opportune chance to come across his work, and it impressed on me. It felt as if I could see myself in the painting. So I contacted him early with my lyrics. The inner design is a rearrangement of his previous works, and the album cover was redrawn [in that same stylistic choice]. I asked for the white tiger. My daughter was born on the year of white tiger and even the dream [my wife had about my daughter’s birth] had a white tiger in it. She is rather like a white tiger. She’s really cute but at the same time there is a fierce side to her. Definitely.
Q: At the end of “At the Bottom” we can hear the voice of your daughter as well.
A: It was the was sound clip for when she said “daddy” for the first time. Although I inadvertently took a hiatus, all the while I was with her, spending the time together and recording all the moments starting from her birth. I was lucky. She runs around and dances now. I’m sorry and thankful [for that].
Q: It’s a single CD release, but you released the album online in two parts.
A: Epik High had never done it before, and it was the first for YG as well. Temporally considering, the part one was from last year till early this year and after that would be the part two. But as I was making the album, it was just a single flow. Ultimately I think I did well by dividing it into two; this album was fairly heavy. I thought it would be easier for the listeners to digest it in parts. Also the message of hope and preciousness of happiness stood out more because of it.
Q: You have mentioned that you wished your music would console and be of comfort for the lonely and the hurt, has it been consoling for you?
A: I think there something that sounds a bit grandiose because of the term ‘music’. When you feeling stifling or feel like you are swamped with some tough feelings, you knit or do crosswords. You bear it all spending time like that. I think [the music] was something like knitting, for me.
Q: What was the very first song you finished?
A: The first track, “Home”. It was about last June. I didn’t have any lull in my life to write a song. I didn’t even have time enough to turn on the computer. I think it was more along the lines of having lots of different lines in my head than it was working on a song. It wasn’t the easiest to jot things down while having a month old baby who need my full attention. You just fall down exhausted at the end of day. It just remembering what you have thought up. After that you slowly move on to playing [the tune on] piano. I only had piano at home. That’s why I have a lot of piano melodies on this album. The most recent one [that I made] is “Thankful Breath”.
Q: Lee Sora, Taeyang, Naul, Bong Taegyu, etc. The featuring list is quite something. How did you liaise with them for the album?
A: To tell you the truth, I wanted to participate on this album on an advisory capacity. I would script and direct, but I wanted others to bring in the emotional register instead of me. Writing was good enough but to express by myself was much tougher act. Mostly I featured those who had been a great help and strength for me. I consoled myself listening to Lee Sora and Naul’s songs. “Home” and “Airbag” was written with them in mind from the beginning. I asked Tae Yang for a featuring on a different song but after I started working with YG I just rewrote a new song. The others were the ones who were actually there for me in my time of need.
Q: It was a surprise to see you join a big agency like YG. Of course your wife [Kang Hyejeong] is part of the agency but you had been at the same agency [Woollim] since your debut as Epik High and you even founded an independent label, Map the Soul.
A: For me it wasn’t surprising or unusual. Because I was restarting my work in the music industry, from which I had been severed entirely for a long period of time, what I had done in the past wasn’t important. It was just like starting all over again from the beginning. I left my agency [Woollim] when the incident blew up. When I was undergoing everything I didn’t have a manager, and I was entirely solitary. For me what I desperately need is a mentor and a family-like environment. Hyejeong and YG has been by my side, watching me work. I thought it would be possible at YG. I was lonely then.
Q: What would happen to Epik High?
A: Having gone beyond even formulating about our solo works, we had already written our solo albums since the fifth albums. Even if we didn’t have any particularly upsetting event in our music life we would have made the same decision. Epik High’s music had become stagnant. Suddenly we found ourselves doing the same thing over and over again. We didn’t want to be the group who would rework people’s nostalgia. For the sake of development, I felt the need to walk individual paths and to make our own worlds. Wouldn’t it be more empowering to come together then? And that’s what we are doing now. Tukutz is working on his solo work after the military service. Before Mithra went in [for the military service] I asked what he wanted to do, and he answered that he wanted to do a solo album. I told him then that I would have his songs all made for when he came out. And there are a lot of songs made for him.
Q: In “Expiry Date” there is a part that reads, “[I’m afraid] of becoming a book that no one will read, of becoming a song that no one will listen”
A: Even in a relationship you might think, “what if I become someone who can no longer be loved by this person?” and because everyone ages, you might think for a second, “what if i become useless in my late years? For me, I have already felt what it’s like to be discarded. So now I’m aware that you can be abandoned regardless of my own volition. It’s frightening, but I have to accept it.
Q: to transcribe your true feelings, and to expose that bare heart to the public is something that would require great courage?
A: That’s such a thankful comment, but for me I have never considered it to be a courageous thing. Courage is exercised, not just for me but, for something greater and tremendous than myself. To call what is essentially me expressing my feelings to people to be a courage is too grand for what it is.
Q: Let’s talk about the thankful people that the song “Thankful Breaths” talk about.
A: I have once made something like a bucket list. Turns out that the why that I have to live for are very small things. For example, I am watching a drama, and I am really curious as to how the series would end. If I want to watch it to the end, I have to live another day. When that show’s over there is another, funnier one. That’s life. Watching variety shows, I had such fun, and those turned out to be those tiny things that would keep me going. After, seeing that side of things, I realized that there are so many people that I have to be thankful for. So I wanted to use the expression, “I’m even thankful for your sighs.” That’s a breath, too. That’s me breathing, too.
Q: Is there a happy and joyful memory from working on this album?
A: The working [on the album] itself wasn’t a happy thing. But by working I could come back to my normalcy, and because of that I could open my heart to the people that I cherish. I enjoyed that. Working on these sings, I felt quite lonely. Since I worked all by myself, except for the featuring recordings.
Q: Some people have suggested that “if god gave Tablo sorrow, then god gave us solace and pathos.”
A: If that means to say that I have to suffer in order for someone else to be consoled, then in the past I would have asked whether I had to suffer for music? Perhaps it’s because now I am a someone’s father and someone’s husband, but now I think a bit differently. If I’m going to be hurt anyways, I would rather have something positive come out of that experience. They say a swan makes its most beautiful sound when it dies. Of course not being hurt would be the best.
Q: You reopened your twitter account.
A: Yes. It’s been a year. But I don’t do it as much as I used to. I am not following anyone. The reason being that there were people who would go after and attack people that I was following. I was okay with insults being thrown at me, but I stopped twitter when my friends and acquaintances were being attacked.
Q: It was quite surprising to see you, who had the worst experience with the online venues, return to SNS.
A: Considering that people will abuse anything in anyway if they set their minds to it, I couldn’t think that I should live without internet. There are plenty of positive spaces that do and tell good things.
Q: You’ve never thought to stop doing music?
A: If I have to think music in the same family as the celebrity media then I would have likes to quit all of it. I wrote that “even listening to music was uncomfortable,” and I really did feel uncomfortable. But even then I found myself humming to music. I didn’t know if it was a routine or a habit, maybe both. So I stopped thinking about quitting.
Q: That’s thankful. We can listen to good music.
A: Yes. I’m quite thankful for this moment in many ways.
On the way back after the interview, the radio played Tablo’s “Tide”. An idol singer who seemed to be the DJ dwelled on the lyric, reading it out several times, “you are in danger. Get swept away. You resist against the tide, when the world is a fishbowl.” Tablo’s song flowed out like the tide.
Source: Vogue Korea
Translation by footnote @ Icarus Walks
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