It takes only a moment before a popular singer hits rock bottom. At the very moment you say “Oops” or when you hadn’t even figured out what had happened, the world requires an explanation and numerous suspicions arise.
After becoming one of the most sought-after variety show guests with his witty words and receiving praise for every single he released, Epik High’s leader Tablo had suddenly hit the bottom last April. The infamous controversy around the his attendance at Stanford University rather quickly wiped Tablo off public situations. This famous musician had taken over a year to come back with his new album, “Fever.” Every line of his lyrics received great attention for their poetic aspects, and “Fever” took second and fifth place for Part I and Part II respectively.
Despite his new successes, the Tablo that met with OSEN media at the YG Entertainment building was thin enough to fit into female clothes, and even though he laughed and joked at times, he stated, “I think it’ll be difficult for me to go back to the person I was before.”
Q. This is the first interview with the media after a year and a half.
A. The way I can meet with reporters again and talk to them about music with laughter can be called something to be greatly celebrated.
Q. There must be a lot of things you wanted to say over the previous times, but why did you decide to speak up now? When the controversy was flourishing, there has been criticism that how Tablo dealt with the problem wasn’t very active.
A. At that time, there was a rather large amount of inaccurate reports (laugh) so it was hard to deal with those hundreds of articles. When that controversy first broke the surface, I had an exclusive interview after just two days. I also released my graduation certificate as well as the letters sent in by Stanford University’s professors to the public. On my part, I showed them all I could show, but it was buried in just a day.
For about a day, my opinion was made known, but the day after that, the doubts started to bubble up again. It just returned to the starting situation. In all honesty, I thought at that time that it was all useless. At that time, my daughter was just born, so it was important to stand by my family’s side so I had no time to mind the wars raging through the internet and the media. Looking back now, I still think that it was the right decision to make.
Q. So you didn’t know the situation on the Internet?
A. I came to know that there was such a thing happening on the internet at the postnatal care center. Before when my wife was pregnant, I honestly concentrated on my wife so much that I didn’t even have time to care about my album activities. Because if I did something else, my wife would have to be alone. When I saw the Internet for the first time, I thought, “What is this?”
Q. Then are you recovered enough now that you can talk about those things naturally?
A. It’s not that I went over to the recovering stage at one specific point in time. I think that every moment in time was slowly, slowly, a step further in recovering. Of course, I wouldn’t wish to bring this upon anyone, but it’s not a past that I’m determined not to bring up.
I lost a lot, but I also gained much. If I was a celebrity that was constantly loved, would I have been able to spend a lot of time with my child when she was born? Being able to have been there since the moment she was born is something that can’t be bought with money or effort, so it was a valuable period of grace given to me.
Q. How did you decide to come back?
A. As I looked after my child, I thought of music, and when she was asleep, I wrote it down somewhere, and as I did that, my phone filled up to the brim. Hye Jung (Tablo’s wife, actress Kang Hye Jung) said to me, “I would like it if you started to make music again.” She said that she missed the look in my eyes and my smile that rose when I created music. So after that, I started to really delve into producing.
Q. It’s said that the musicians that become a father have difficulty producing serious music.
A. I tried to be a good father, but at the same time, I was slightly sorry that I was unemployed. Whenever I looked at the baby, I kept thinking of that so it wasn’t a problem, creating serious music. As I looked at my baby, I was happy, but at the same time, I was really apologetic and there were emotions I can’t fit into one phrase.
One of the things that I’m still grateful for even up to now is that there must be a lot of people suffering things that are a lot more sad, wounding, and frustrating than what I went through- of course, I did despair greatly at that moment, but I am able to express that through music, right? Even if no one listened to it or not, the ability to be able to express something allowed me to think “I haven’t lost everything” even when I felt like I had lost all.
Q. Has your attitude towards music changed as well? If you were to speak of something that has changed from before?
A. Before, there were a lot of things that I wanted to show. At that time, I was young and hot-headed, so there were a lot of things I was conceited about. Both musically and personally. So there were times when I wanted to make music to flaunt, “Yeah, I’m this talented” and sometimes I just acted like I was strong. Now, I don’t have that. I’m not overly flamboyant, and there aren’t any elements that say, “Look at me.” I just made it like how it came to me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I became a husband, a father, and I think I’ve become an adult because the two most beautiful things in life have occurred to me.
Q. What was your original personality like?
A. Pessimistic. I had the kind of personality to explode if someone touched me. Before, I didn’t know, but looking back now, I think I was like that. Now, I don’t have that kind of thing anymore, whether it is because I’ve become tired or become more mature. Previously, I couldn’t stand any badmouthing done about me and I just wanted positive things to be spoken. I was hot-headed.
Q. During the academic forgery conspiracy, didn’t you feel resentful towards the Korean public?
A. I didn’t do any interviews in the country, but I have done an interview before with a foreign magazine. I didn’t like the way foreigners looked at this as though it was all Korea’s fault. So I wanted to say that this wasn’t Korea’s fault, but that the Internet was to be blamed. I emphasized that it could have happened anywhere, so I would like them if they wouldn’t misunderstand Koreans. Since I’ve been discriminated for a long time before when I was living overseas because I was a Korean, I was worried that there would be negative prejudice established about Korea because of my incident.
Q. Still, it could have been you were disappointed in the Korean public’s reaction.
A. Towards my fans, I had been disappointed with them briefly. At the start of the controversy, there was an incident that dug into my heart. My fans had broken CDs into pieces, took a photo, and sent it to me. That was so wounding. I also held the thought that while I’m going through such a difficult thing like this, where had all my numerous fans gone. There hadn’t been a single letter of comfort that I had received.
That time was so lonely and it felt like I had no one. But I don’t blame them. The thing I felt as I made my comeback this time was that as much as I didn’t want to go outside and felt discomfort about it, wouldn’t the people who cheered me on have felt the same? I thought that since if they revealed themselves as fans, people would attack them, so I understood that as the reason why they acted as they did.
Q. When you went up on the comeback stage of SBS’ “Inkigayo” you looked slightly awkward.
A. Compared to when I was a rookie and released an album, this time around is more surprising and new. When I went to the broadcasting company, I’d forgotten where the cameras were. I had to ask MC Jo Kwon which way I had to look at for the camera. He said to look there, but there were three cameras. I couldn’t find where the camera was. When I came back and monitored, I looked like an idiot. (Laugh)
Q. We heard that you were close to doing nothing for broadcasting activities. Why did you decide to pursue activities for a short time?
A. At first, I was planning to not carry out any activities. This album isn’t one that’s showy. It’s weird to go out by myself and continue to be sad while singing as well. It was just because it was music that was made without the purpose of standing in front of a crowd.
Q. I think there will be a lot of fans that will miss the bright, variety-ace Tablo. Will we not be able to see that kind of demeanor from that time again?
A. I think it’ll be hard for me to revert back to my old self. Truthfully, even in Epik High, I was the one to pursue gentle, lingering emotions. The thing I do best also colored this album. I don’t think I’ll change a lot in the future either.