FTISLAND was featured in the February 2022 issue of WKOREA magazine and gave a wonderful interview where they talked about the past 15 years, their dreams, their future goals, their family bond with each other, and much more!
Read FTISLAND's interview below and let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
The long story began in 2007. Dreaming of becoming a rock band, the three members, Lee Hong Ki, Lee Jae Jin, Choi Min Hwan, met under the name FTISLAND. In this long journey, there were many sorrows and pain but what remains for them now is the unchanged passion for music and each other's existence.
Today, we filmed while wandering around Seoul at night. When we filmed the last cut, the temperature went to almost below zero degrees; at that point in time, Lee Jae Jin said this. "We White Skull never loses to the cold.”
Lee Hong Ki: Argh, it's embarrassing. Don't go around making it obvious that you have just been discharged from the military (laughs).
Haha. Should I call you a "Band that was discharged from the military" from now on?
Lee Jae Jin: That's right. With our maknae Min Hwanie as the last one, all three of us have been discharged.
When you debuted in 2007, I remembered you were being called an "Existing High School Student Band".
Lee Hong Ki: Min Hwanie was only in middle school then. Now we have become a band that has completed military service.
Didn't you cry like this when singing the debut song ‘Love Sick?’ “The sin of loving you a lot.” Lee Hong Ki was 18 years old at that time when he was singing about sin (laughs).
Lee Hong Ki: How would an 18-year-old know about the emotions of Love Sick (Laughs). At that time, I did the recording under stress for as long as three days. Later, I sang it almost out of anger. I was so angry. That was probably the first and the last time that I recorded a song for over three days.
I heard that men's attitude towards life before and after the military are quite different. How was it for the three of you?
Lee Hong Ki: As you spend time alone, you will start to think about your future. But after your discharge, all those thoughts became useless. At the beginning of my enlistment, I really made a huge resolution though.
For example, what kind of resolutions did you make?
Lee Hong Ki: When you just entered the training center, they handed out the military use notebooks to us. As there is nothing much to do, I wrote lyrics in there and wrote down 10 things that I wanted to do in the future. After becoming a sergeant, after a long while, I took it out one fine day to read but I got goosebumps and tore it all away (laughs). What I still remembered is that, as soon as I discharge the first thing that I should do was to take a family photo but I still haven't done it.
Choi Min Hwan: Everyone is the same. When you are discharged, you do not want to do it.
The year before, I met a celebrity in an interview and that person said that while serving as a conscripted policeman, he showed passion for taking lessons by inviting a dance teacher to the visiting room. Is this person a special case?
Lee Hong Ki: When I was serving the military, because of COVID-19, visiting was not possible. And that person was a conscripted policeman so he was (serving) in Seoul but I spent my military life in Gangwon-do. No one will come. All the way to Gangwon-do (laughs).
Lee Jae Jin: Of course, if I'm in the military, I am able to take one step back and look at my past life. I tried to plan for our future work. I think I worry a lot about the release of a new album. I'm thinking about, unlike when there are five members, now there's only three of us left, what kind of music style should we do. I really listened to a lot of music. Every time while listening, I immediately share with Hong Ki-hyung when I think 'Ah, this is something that we can try'.
Like what Lee Jae Jin said, the band was reorganized into a trio at the end of 2019. There must have been pressure about this.
Lee Hong Ki: Of course there is. When we first debuted, we mainly focused on vocals and singing, but over time, we were gradually increasing the proportion of the instruments to find the kind of music that we wanted to do, but now we are only left with the rhythmic instruments. The remaining three of us really looked for and listened to a lot of music, and we exchanged a lot of ideas on what's make up of simple instruments that we can do and let's try to do it with our own colours.
Lee Jae Jin: But there is no need to think restrictedly. If you look at bands overseas, they only have three members but during tours they are with regular session musicians. And also even if it's not guitar, you can also include other instruments. What's good about our team is that all of us write our songs personally. Even if each of us has a slightly different style, there seems to be a lot that we can do in the future.
Not long ago, you released the 8th Mini Album in December. I am not sure if it's because it consist of five songs about the emotions after a break up, it reminds me of the songs in the early days like 'Love Sick' or 'I Hope', 'Severely'.
Lee Hong Ki: The company first suggested to go with the mood of the early days. Around the time when we were about to discharge in 2020, the songs that we released in the past became an issue but not an issue.
That's right. There was a time when the broadcasters showed light to the music that were released in the early and mid-2000s.
Lee Hong Ki: I think men especially liked our songs back then. Anyway the company told us that the public would have missed our songs. So we though a lot about what kind of music could stimulate the memory (of the public). Through this album, instead of showing/expressing a new musical colour of the team, we want to express our feelings with 'It has been a while and we are saying hello'.
In line with the recent release of the album, you also appeared in variety shows "Omniscient Interfering View", "Mr House Husband 2". Lee Hong Ki and Lee Jae Jin are each acting in the musicals "Jack the Ripper", "Vampire Arthur". Now that you are unable to hold concert among various activities, I think that musicals will be a good window for you to quench your thirst for being on stage.
Lee Hong Ki: I was very surprised while doing the musical. As the audience is very close to us, we can match their pace and get their feedback right away. But we are only unable to do concerts. Among the numerous stages, the most intense one that make me feel alive is the concert where all of us stand together as FTISLAND.
It is already 15 years since your debut. When you first started the band, seems like you would not have imagined that 15 years would have gone by.
Lee Hong Ki: I don't think I have ever thought about the end though? I thought that FTISLAND will just keep going on. Of course, except the times when we fight while drinking (laughs).
Choi Min Hwan: Haha. I think it became natural at some point because we met each other when we were so young. I can't imagine my life without the band. Rather, it's awkward to hear people say 'You guys have been doing this for a long time'. It feels like, we are gonna continue doing this anyway so there's no such thing as doing it for a long time.
I felt it while filming today too but the atmosphere is really like 'family'. Over the years, I have also seen bands who are disgusted with each other but seems to continue for the sake of money.
Choi Min Hwan: Although the family-like atmosphere is also great, but more than that, it seems like the three of us still has that fighting spirit.I don't just do band for a living, but I also have my desire to reach the top as a drummer with just this instrument. One day there will be a band boom and a time comes when many people watch each instrument in the band carefully just like hiphop or trot. When that time comes, I have the desire to be a drummer that gains recognition (from the public).
Choi Min Hwan often said in several past interview that 'I'm waiting for the revival of rock music'.
Lee Hong Ki: The members always say this between us. 'It will come.' I was so surprised to see trot doing so well. My mother too is a fan of Lee Chan Won-ssi. There are goods/merchandise of Lee Chan Won-ssi at home. I thought, 'Ah, it will be to this extent. Once the boom comes'. That's why we are also desperate. We even talked about this lightly among ourselves. We thought about going on the band survival programme . Because we want to be stimulated. We thought it would be so much fun if we could start from the bottom. Of course, we have a certain amount of confidence.
If you were to really go on a survival programme, what would you appeal (the public) with?
Lee Hong Ki: First of all, we will do well. Our visuals is not bad either (laughs). There's something that we always want. ‘These people have made a mark in the Korean band industry.’ We want to hear that many bands were created/born because of us and we have set a good example, so we always hope to find a new stimulus.
In fact, I think you have set a precedent for boy bands. After FTISLAND's appearance, there's CNBLUE and N.Flying.
Lee Hong Ki: Eyy, it's not enough. If it's just this extent. The bands that you have just mentioned are all from the same company as us.
Lee Jae Jin: Of course to that extent it's great but I think it's another issue to be influence by a band and follow their footsteps musically. We have the ambition to become like that.
If you look up N.Flying's interviews, FTISLAND is basically a super band. In particular, Lee Hong Ki seems to be a called the 'pillar of emotional support' among them.
Lee Hong Ki: We have no choice but to like N.Flying. They are pretty isn't it? Because they are like us. At the beginning of our debut, I could not be so jealous of musicians from other companies. Although the genres might be different, it seems reliable when there's a senior who you could learn something from in the company. We did not have that. It was always just us. N.Flying is also the same genre as us, but above all the kids are so pretty. Because they are working hard. There's no way you can don't like them.
Is it because you are unable to receive it so you want to help them?
Lee Hong Ki: Of course. So we teach each other. We give each other lessons too.
When you look back at the past 15 years, what's the biggest crisis that you have met as a band?
Lee Jae Jin: What's amazing is that we met each other when we were so young. These days the people who debuted seems to work with a clear mind knowing what kind of person they want to be and what kind of love they want to receive. But for us, even when we were lived in the dorm, we just hung out like we were at a retreat. As far as I can remember, there was no competition. Because we each have our own role to play in the band. We were really free and got close with each other so it went in a very good direction every time there is a crisis. Because there was something (unspoken) between us that says 'I can't live without you and you can't live without me'. So when it comes to a team crisis, it seems like the only time that this happens is when the members fight. Unlike the goals that I dreamed of as a fantasy fairy tale when I was young, I saw the reality little by little over time.
Over the 15 years, we cannot miss out Choi Min Hwan's marriage as one of the changes. He is the youngest in the team but he is the head of the family with three children. To a certain extent, he might be the most adult out of the three of you. He must have approached Lee Hong Ki and Lee Jae Jin in a new way.
Lee Hong Ki: We always said this among the members that, Minhwannie will be the first to get married. Because once he gets into a relationship, he will do it for a long time. He is a friend with responsibility so we all thought that Minhwannie will be the first to get married.
Choi Min Hwan: I often talked about marriage to my hyungs. I want to hurry up and do it. Although I am the youngest in the team but I'm the eldest son at home. I always like to take the lead and lead something but I don't think I was satisfied as I have been the maknae for too long. So I want to build my own family, lead them and move together towards the same direction. Family is a team too.
Are the two of you affected by the words of the marriage evangelist?
Lee Hong Ki, Lee Jae Jin: Not at all (laughs).
Lee Jae Jin: Ah, there was this. On the day when Minhwannie's first child was born I went to the hospital and that was when I first new that I like babies/children. I originally kept my distance as I thought I might hurt him just by touching with my hands. But what's funny is I want to have a child but I don't want to get married (laughs).
Lee Hong Ki: I think it's the difference in personality. I am someone who has so many things that I want to do. That's why I am unable to do marriage and relationship well. If I have a girlfriend, I will need to pay attention to her but I always have to come first among all other people.
Now you guys look like couples who have lived together for a long time. What kind of person do you see your member as?
Lee Hong Ki: I have been saying this about Min Hwannie for a long time but he is a stone. Stubborn and honest. When I am stimulated by something, you can tell it right away. 'I got stimulated. I'm going to do this.' But this friend is the type to build it up little by little and then erupt at once.
Seems like Lee Hong Ki and Choi Min Hwan have totally opposite personalities.
Lee Hong Ki: Totally opposite. When I was younger, I thought Jaejinnie was really a textbook person, but now he seems to be more open. He became softer. And sometimes his thoughts are really deep. Perhaps he might be the most mature among the three of us.
Then, if we were to rank maturity, where will you rank?
Lee Hong Ki: I would be right at the bottom (Laughs). But I do that on purpose. I really hate the set standards or the framework. When I was in the band, I hated the fixed system so much that I purposely be pouty and left. I think the hole that I created while being pouty became a hole that the members can take a breather. Ah, of course, because of those pouty moments, our good points/side has started to fade by a little (Laughs).
Haha. Did you turn less 'pouty' as you get older?
Lee Jae Jin: It got reduced a lot. Hyung now gets a gentler kind of pouty (Laughs). What I like about Hongki-hyungie is that his personality is very fiery, and when he sees another thing, he gets all fired up again. I really like that. Hyung's unique intuition. In our team, the vocalist acts like a vocalist, the drummer acts like a drummer, and the bassist acts like a bassist. Although Min Hwanie is the maknae he is a very trustworthy friend. We fought a lot when we were younger, but at a certain point in time, I suddenly trusted him a lot.
Isn't it because there's the fiery Lee Hong Ki? Thus the honesty (value) shined more?
Lee Hong Ki: That's right. That's what synergy is (Laughs).
Haha. How does Choi Min Hwan view the two hyungs?
Choi Min Hwan: Actually, it seems like the three of us are getting more similar in terms of personality/temperamental. At first, I am really unable to understand Hong Ki-hyungie. Why does that hyung acts like this···.
Lee Jae Jin: Haha! Really it's unable to understand.
Choi Min Hwan: Because our personality is so much on the extreme opposite ends. If I don't put it nicely, I always thought ‘How can he got out like that every time?’. Like his relationship with the company (Laughs). Back then, in my point of view, it is wiser to be more tactful so that you will be able to gain some 'freedom'. But for hyung it always somehow or somewhere it felt like he was there. Anyway he is the vocalist and the face of our team so when we were viewed somewhere with Hong Ki-hyungie 'the FTISLAND kids are all like that' I hated it at first when we were all framed like that. But thinking back about it now, it's like what Hong Ki-hyung said, hyungie has released the leg cuffs that was tied to us. Thinking about it now, I am really grateful. I am also 'Hong Ki-fied' now that I do not like to be a loser anywhere.
Not necessarily true, but there are times when I feel that the fate of the band is determined by the vocalist, the frontman. On that point, Lee Hong Ki played a huge role, I think he alway felt the responsibility right?
Lee Hong Ki: Of course I always felt it. This was the one thing that I asked the members when we were renewing our contracts with the company recently. Will you be doing FTISLAND till the end, will you protect it till the end. For me I will 'protect FTISLAND' no matter what and the members think the same way too. And I strangely do not like the idea of solo albums.
The actual solo album too was released late in your eighth year of debut, and there has been no solo activities since then.
Lee Hong Ki: It was so boring. I have no intentions of doing it now too. When an idea comes to mind, I want to incorporate it with FTISLAND, and I don't think I want to express it as a solo album. Actually, I have heard this a lot since young. The vocalist is very important, and the band will disappears once the vocalist leaves. But I really hate that saying. I have never once thought about leaving and going out to do something alone in my 15 years of being in a band.
There's an impression that FTISLAND has achieved everything that you can do as a band. You have reached the top of the charts with your songs and held world tour. Nevertheless, do the three of you have any goals left?
Lee Hong Ki: There is something that we have dreamed of since we were young. It doesn't really make sense but with a private jet, you can bring along our family, girlfriend, friends and all go on a world tour together. Our dream is to perform and travel in the city that we arrived in.
It's the life of a rock star.
Lee Hong Ki: That's right. It is a dream that I want to achieve even if it's in the distant future.
Then, does it mean that Choi Min Hwan's three kids will also take the private jet?
Choi Min Hwan: Ah… I think it will be kinda tiring? (Laughs)
Lee Hong Ki: Haha, in the past you said you really wanted to try that!