BTS participated in “A Conversation with BTS,” an event at The Grammy Museum in September — as the first Korean artists invited to The Grammy Museum.
For any fans who weren’t lucky enough to snag a ticket to the event, the Grammy Museum released a full video of the chat with Grammy Museum’s artistic director Scott Goldman.
Here are all the fully translated and transcribed questions and answers from the event.
1. What was different this time, in terms of the performance at the Staples Center, than your last visit? Did you get a different experience or a different sense of feedback from the audience?
“To be honest, the biggest difference is that we were able to have four concerts at Staples Center. As well, at that concert venue, we were able to have our fans listen to the songs from our new album. There were many factors this time. We had much more confidence this time because we were involved in many parts of planning our stages. In that sense, our concerts at the Staples Center was very meaningful and a stage we have wanted to stand on for a long time.”
2. Tell me about the difference that you see in audiences here, in the United States, than you might see at home in Korea, in Japan, or any of the places you’ve been around the world. What’s different about American audiences?
“You know, you could feel it. Their heat, their energy. I want to say America surely had the number one and the biggest music market in the world, I’m really careful, but I try to say the level of their audience is very high and they know how to play. And the biggest difference, is they can speak and they can sing along to all the Korean lyrics although they are not Koreans.”
3. Do you find that unusual? That this is arguably the biggest music market in the world, almost exclusively English-speaking and you are singing in Korean, and they know every word.
“Honestly, in Korea many American pop stars come, but not every audience member can sing along to every song. While seeing that, I realize that our fans are really incredible and worked very hard to understand our lyrics so I feel very thankful.”
4. There is a tradition of these idol groups in Korea, K-pop bands that have come up before you. When you were put together…the intention was completely different. Could you talk a little bit about the conversations, that you had with Mr.Bang, about the formation of the band, the intention of the band, how the band would express themselves?
“Rather than having that as the goal or intention, Producer Bang had something that he always emphasized — especially when we worked on music. He said ‘I hope that you will use music to express what you’ve been through, what you think, and what you feel.’ So, when we first came together about 7 or 8 years ago and making music, we were in our teens and 20s then. I think it’s a big point of what made BTS, the issues we worked through then.”
“We want to be a kind of method of help for the world. And Mr.Bang really wanted to like you said, [had the] intention, wanted to make his music and his artist like that…We wanted to try and use our abilities and skills and our inside inspirations to help the world. And I think we feed each other, Mr.Bang and us, it made us into BTS.”
5. Were you aware of the success Mr.Bang had previously in K-Pop? Were you were aware of his work as a songwriter and producer?
“Of course, we were aware of his success. But that was not everything, because we thought his expertise was… actually he was famous for some ballads or slow tempo songs. We started with very powerful music and performances, so we weren’t 100% of his vision.”
6. One of the things you’ve been very public about, in terms of what concerns you, are the pressures that teenagers face — particularly in Korea but that may translate to other countries as well. Why is it important for you to speak about, to sing about, to write about the challenges that young people face in Korea?
“When I was a student, I was able to receive comfort and escape through music. As time passes and we looked back, we saw that people in their teens and 20s didn’t have a lot of valuable music to listen to that was healthy or influential — which we thought was unfortunate. This isn’t just in Korea. The pain, sadness, concerns that young people face is felt around the world, so we hope that through these relatable lyrics they can feel comforted. Through this, we had a big hope that there will be more ‘healthy’ music as well.”
7. Here’s one of the things that immediately caught me, watching your videos, is the first thing you see is the slate that comes up for Big Hit Entertainment. And it says…”music and artist for healing”. I can assure you I’ve never seen that on a Warner Brothers video or a Sony music video, so tell me what that means to you. What does “music and artist for healing” means to you guys?
“So, that was kind of a promise that we and Mr.Bang had right before our debut, so in 2013. What we promised was two things. We want to talk about and have to talk about what’s inside us and we want to be helpful to the world. We want to say, speak, and show something that the world needs. Especially our friends, teenagers and twenties. Life is supposed to be very ironic and unstable. And for teenagers and twenties, it’s moreso —we doubt ourselves, sometimes we want to live, sometimes we want to die. It changes day to day, even hour by hour. So “music and artists for healing” is kind of like a big slogan out of the slogans we had. We wanted to talk about what’s inside and we wanted to help many friends in the world.”
8. Let’s talk a little bit more about song-writing because you guys are very engaged in your song writing process. And, I’m wondering because it is 7 people…that’s a lot of people to collaborate…in writing a song. So, where does it start? Is it lyric, melody, concept for video? How does a song start for you?
“First of all, when you look at producing music we don’t look at just the album. There are many complex things that come together like styling, dance. First thing, would be the music. You can think of it as a song camp that goes on for 365 days a year. We all send melodies, if we think of lyrics we send that in, if we think of a theme we send that. Then, Bang PD would collect them and sort them out, giving out pointers…Like that, the music starts from there but doesn’t continue in a fixed sequence but develops all together which is another special thing about it.”
9. Are you always writing songs?
“Of course. I think all 7 of us are all working hard on certain parts of music production like lyrics or melody. We are trying to participate a lot, which changes our attitude toward the music while also making it more sincere.”
10. You take an idea and you go through stages…How is it that you’ve been able to stick with that and come up with these concepts that you can follow over a period of time?
“Like I said before, we want to find topics and stories in what’s in our real mind. So, five years ago in our debut, we talked about schools…with three albums. Then, we talked about youth with three albums. Then, folks grow up right?… They kind of grew up. We’re not going to school anymore and our attitude to life kind of changed a bit. We thought [about] what we could talk about now and what story the world needs most is love. But, love is kind of very abstract, very wide.
So, we started with the phrase, don’t know where it really came from, but someone said love is an ability. Many people mistake love with being in love, falling in love . Many people, especially teenagers and young years, they just fall in love. They think that they’re in love, but there’s no details to it. But if somebody doesn’t love themselves, they can’t love nobody — it’s a saying. Mr.Bang came up with it and we thought it was really great. We’re really young, and sometimes we make do some mistakes too.
We wanted to do this project with four parts and it’s really common to proceed stories with four parts in Korea. So we did a four part series, three albums and one video. There’s kind of a stage, like you said. We meet someone, we think we fell in love. But someday we just know that we’re different, we’re just not the same person, you’re not the one that I expected and then we break up. But, what’s in our real mind was that I just never loved myself so I couldn’t have loved no one. It’s really hard to express this in English, but I’m trying hard.
So that’s what we found out. And we’ve been doing for 2 years and a half. It’s really risky to pursue this for quite a long time as the music industry is really fast these days in the streaming world, good music and album coming out day by day. We took risks, and thanks to our fans they react to us, they felt us, they told us that they became to love themselves even a little more thanks to this album. For us, we made us think about what loving ourselves really means. So that was the real idea for this album.”
11. Did that begin with Cypher 4? Is that where that started?…It almost became a mantra that you are expressing to your audience.
“Our music has huge story arcs, it may be hard to understand the entire album or concept through listening to just one song. Think about the story arc that pierces through that album while listening to the album.”
12. How important to the story arc are the videos that you conceive and perform? Does that help you tell the stories that are important to you?
“From the beginning, the album concept comes out and then we film a music for the title song. The title song reflects the colour of that album so if you want to see what colour we want to express for that album, you could say it’s best to watch the music video for that album’s title song.”
13. Are there current artists…that are influencing your thinking or your approach to your songwriting and music? Who are you listening to?
“For myself, I listen to a lot of Korean pop music and American pop music but I don’t try to classify them. I try to encounter many genres, and if it’s an English song then I search for the lyrics and sometimes I receive inspiration from that. There are so many songs lately, that I try not to exclude any, and I try to listen to all genres.”
14. Do you think of K-Pop, as we know it here… as a genre? Do you think that it has quality separating it apart from other types of music?
“Honestly, well I’m a bit hesitant to speak here because it would seem like defining K-pop as a genre. Rather than understanding it as a a genre, it is more like ‘integrated content’. To understand K-pop, there is music, videos, clothes, makeup as well. All of these things come together as a visual and auditory package which might be what sets it apart from previous standards of music. Therefore, rather than understanding K-Pop as one genre, I think it’s easier to understand it as an integration of different cultural content.”
15. Because you do take from a lot of different sources. There’s balladry, music that you might hear in a club, rap, elements of R&B, EDM. I mean you draw from a lot of different sources in the process. Tell me a little bit about your relationship with your production team….What’s that process like?
“If you go to our company, there are different floors of production teams. There’s one with our personal studios as well as spaces where we can rest. We maintain a good relationship with our producers and think of them as our colleagues. We’re always open with our opinions, always openly expressing them, and there’s no hierarchy that defines us. When it’s time to produce the album, we practically live together. Like I said before, it feels like we’re holding a 365-day song camp. It’s very comfortable and I think if there was a sense of distance between us and our producers, we wouldn’t have good results. But because we put importance on that relationship, we’re able to try several genres within a short period of time.”
“More specifically, I want to say it’s like a good competition with our production team. You know good is always good and better is always better. And of course, in tracks, melodies, and lyrics, we try to compete. If somebody comes up with a better one, then we use that. So, we’re like good colleagues but in the same business team or classroom. We want to show our teacher a better…so it’s very good and healthy.”
16. So, it’s 7 guys in the band. I can’t expect that you all always agree on a song, a lyric, a step, however it might be. First of all, do you have disagreements? Maybe about writing a song or the way a certain choreograph move should work, how do you figure that out?
“I think that we are all quite level-headed. If something isn’t it, then it’s not it. If this isn’t that good, then definitely we say it. To our producing team as well. In terms of choreography, if something for example is too difficult physically…then we say it and direct the changes.”
“I think that while we’re recording as well, and we notice something about a certain part…although the members make good melodies and lyrics sometimes we might identify some problems while actually recording. At times like that, we will gather, and while listening to the music, discuss the changes so that the songs move towards a better direction.”
“I think that since we all respect each other, we don’t fight. We just listen to each other’s opinions, acknowledge them, and think of how to change. If someone doesn’t agree, we don’t reproach them for that.”
17. I know you guys got to walk around The Grammy Museum, what did you think?
“It was great that we could see the entire history of The GRAMMYs in one place.”
18. You have a remarkable relationship with your fans, in a way that perhaps few artists enjoy. Why is this relationship so important to you?
“It’s because the fans gave us the wings so that we could fly this high, so think there’s no choice but to have a close relationship with our fans.”
“Honestly, rather than us creating our success, we did it together with our fans and so we were able to have good results. Now, even our concerts aren’t something that we do alone we do it together with our many fans.”
19. 2nd album at the top of the Billboard 200 in the United states, within 4 months. I think that you might be first [band to do so.] What does that recognition mean to you?
“I think that shows our position as a group which emphasizes our responsibilities and burdens as a group. So in terms of music or how we act, in all aspects, we must consider doing what matches the place we are at.”
Watch the full interview here!
Did you miss BTS' intimate conversation at the Museum? We’ve got you covered. Watch the band share insight on their songwriting process, musical influences, and unique relationship with fans around the world!
Posted by GRAMMY Museum on Tuesday, October 23, 2018