Yixing: As an idol, the three most important points are: first, the fans, second, the company, and third, oneself. The reason why I’ve placed the fans at first place is, if there weren’t any fans giving us their unconditional, selfless love, how did we become idols? When you are an idol and have gained fans, if there weren’t a good company to package you properly, to provide you with good music and platforms and opportunities, how did we present ourselves to the public? As an idol, you are a role model for many people, which means that the basic morals that everyone has and can achieve, we have to do it ten, or hundred times more.
Yixing: Making music is something very free. It is not to say that once you have a good idea you would be able to write a good song. The composing team has to take time to blend and adjust to share the same vision in order to make good music. Everyone has their own ideas and imaginations when it comes to music. Whether it is them editing the tracks I’ve produced, or I edit others’ songs, the way in which everyone polishes up each others’ works and ideas is like interacting with other people. Actually, what I’ve learned the most from the production team in our company, are ‘the spirit of teamwork’ and the art of being a person.
Yixing: Injuries and illnesses are common aspects of life. A car that has been running for 20 years will face many problems. Having lived the past 20+ years, getting injured and sick is very normal . These are things I ought to experience and not something exceptionally difficult to bear.
Yixing: Actually, “I’m Lay” (solo stage in TLP) was originally written for EXO, but the teachers didn’t find it suitable so I used it for myself. Up until now, I’ve written many songs and I hope that the company will let EXO sing at least one of them in the future.
Yixing: There were fans who used to tell me that I don’t have to bow that many times, but first of all, bowing is for expressing gratefulness or apologies, and it is also a part of the Chinese tradition. It’s a pity that there are fewer people paying attention to this part of the culture nowadays, so why can’t I bring attention to it? And every time, there are people who come from different parts of the world to see us, and the environment that I’m in consists of people who work so hard for us silently, and I can’t thank all these people individually, so by doing a big bow or just a simple smile, isn’t it a way for me to express my gratitude and repay them?
Q: You were in charge of composing, choreography, and even the stage design for “I’m Lay”, showing a new side to yourself, can you tell us what the concept is about?
Yixing: After listening to the song you will know that, it starts off with a very noisy scene that sounds like a busy street, I want to paint an image of me sitting in the middle of a street, with many people walking by, and I start my song off with Beatbox. I have also included the element of human’s breathing sounds into my song. When people around me don’t pay attention to me, the sound of their breath and footsteps etc can all become elements of my music right? This is my music, this is me. Actually, this concept is about “Lay is someone no one can ever figure out”. Hahahaha
Q: My perception of your solo stage was, an extremely powerful explosion in a short period of time
Yixing: Thank you.. Firstly, I’ve made the drumbeats really strong, so that I can express that “I’m a very strong man”, but there will be times when I’ll be a little.. how do I put it, a little “naughty”. Upon listening, the strong beats will ignite one’s curiosity for me. For my fans, I’ve changed the actions for “Put your hands up” to the “L” hand-gesture. And they can’t possibly let me sit on the floor of the concert stage so there has to be a chair. People often perceive that only mics can be placed on the mic stand, but I’ve placed a cap there instead, because I wanna dance. One day, when a mic sits on that mic stand, it would mean that I’m gonna sing, so please anticipate~
Q: So the cap is an essential element in your choreography this time?
Yixing: Yup, before the explosion of my charisma there has to be a moment of low-profile. But when one’s facial expression becomes one with the cap, it will allow him to give off a different charm when dancing. Actually different elements can represent different sides to me, though I haven’t thought of which part of me does the piano represent, but the cap definitely represents dance.
Q: Current dancing style that you are obsessed with?
Yixing: I have a particular thing for Urban, and for the past two years America has seen the appearance of many new dancers, Urban’s techniques and styles are constantly updating. To be honest, the trainings that we have now are mainly for the stage, we rarely focus on just one style now. We have many activities lately so there is barely any time for me to practice, but if I have the time, I will use it to focus on Urban.
Q: I’ve noticed that you played a song on the piano backstage at Jackie Chan’s concert. Though when the programme was aired, it was said to be Jay Chou’s song, it doesn’t sound like it.
Yixing: Ah, that was a song composed by me. Because it’s still in the process of perfecting, it doesn’t have a name yet. But if I’ve enough preparations I might use it in the future. That song was inspired by the song I use for practice, do you know “Childhood Memories”?
Yixing: Yupyup, for this song, I was playing the notes that I was the most familiar with at that time the way I would while playing “Childhood Memories”, and surprisingly it suited the emotions I had at a specific period of time, and the song was formed thereafter.
Q: You didn’t specialize in this area in school, but you could play by ear, so is it true that you have perfect pitch?
Yixing: My friend from the Shanghai Music Academy told me that it is relative pitch, and not perfect pitch, because no matter what melody it is I could put it together, and break it down in terms of the chords that I am familiar with. Because I have my own ideas and feelings and habits when it comes to music, so I manage to put these habits into use. And it is not true that I can play every single melody that I hear, it depends on whether the chords involved can be translated into my own, if the two matches, I can play it in no time.
Being a diva composer, Lay’s inspiration comes from the tiniest details in life, be it games, movies, TV, or internet news, the various emotions are all sources of his inspiration. If the room feels empty upon waking up, he would want to fill it up with beatbox. A composer seeks for and places emphasis on layers and melodies, lyrics are just as important too. To Lay, he finds that he isn’t that good in writing lyrics, only expressing his feelings in the most straightforward manner. But “If you are tired after putting your hands up for so long do you want to rest for a while” such lyrics have still managed to stir up common feelings among fans. “It’s the simple lyrics that will make the people who have once helped me understand, I know everything that they have done for me, I want to express that through the song for them, and that’s enough.”
Q: When composing, do you usually come up with the lyrics or the song first?
Yixing: I’d come up with the song first, because I don’t do melodies, I do tracks. And every time when I’m done with the tracks it doesn’t have any melody. Which causes me headaches.. Let me count.. (bites his lower lips and stares at the ceiling) There was only a few times I had a melody in mind first, but most of the time I start off with the tracks. And then record according to it, but I’m still not good at that, just that I’m good with the tracks.
Q: So how many finished pieces do you have? With mainly what kind of style?
Yixing: I can’t keep track of it, I have too many, the computer is full of them. I get surprised by it myself, too, whenever I bring it around to let others have a listen. “Oh I have this many tracks!” I’m a tracks millionaire! There are all types of songs, all very emotional.
Q: Does the hypercritical nature of a Libra affect you in any way when you are composing?
Yixing: Yes, I’m very conservative when it comes to track-making, I’m not the kind who will play with all the shortcut keys, I just do it manually, A few days ago when I was composing, I picked two tracks and was thinking about what I can add on to it, and when I came back from thinking I realised that the two tracks disappeared, and I couldn’t remember the names. I spent half a day looking for them, and I chanced upon another track that seemed promising…. So this kind of repeats itself, and when I finally found the tracks my inspiration was running out. Something I learned from the composer hyung that is very helpful, is to Save immediately.
Q: If you were EXO’s producer, how would you write songs for everyone?
Yixing: Firstly, I have to custom-made songs according to the member’s vocal range, that will show off the individual member’s vocals. Because one song can have many versions, I will make one version for the 11 of us, but as for M, the Chinese version will be more “Chinese-fied”, with modern elements. I’m constantly trying to write a song for EXO that is one of a kind in the world, the world’s first.
Q: What will that song be like?
Yixing: Hmm… (Five seconds later) It’s a secret.
Q: Okay then, what are its main points?
Yixing: It has to be a style that no one has experimented with before, of course it is impossible to be 100% different from the rest, it wouldn’t receive any attention if it was to be different from everyone’s taste. I don’t know if I can manage to express whatever that I’m thinking of , but I’m constantly learning and working hard. I have no worries about EXO’s ability to slay that song, in actual fact the reason why EXO is able to digest different styles isn’t because we are very pro, it’s just that we were willing to put in both effort and time into practising, the company has also provided us with a very conducive environment, and allowed us to learn many things. It will be my honour if I was to be given with the chance of choreographing for EXO, I still have rooms for improvement, and I am working hard on it.
Q: What do you think of being an idol?
Yixing: There are three important points to being an idol. First of all it’s the fans, followed by the company, and then yourself. Firstly, the term “idol” was a close-to derogatory term back then, referring to one’s overly blinded love and respect for another, and now, it has become something positive. The reason why I’ve placed the fans at the first place is, if there weren’t any fans giving us their unconditional, selfless love, how do we become idols in the first place? When you have become an idol, gained fans, but if there wasn’t any company to package you properly, to provide you with good music and platforms and opportunities, how do we present ourselves to the public? As an idol, you are a role model to many, the basic morals that everyone has and can achieve, we have to do it ten, or hundred times more, for example, respecting the elders and caring for the young. I was trained in a Korean entertainment company, so this is how I think, I’m not sure if I share the same thinking as the idols back in our country.
Q: But for your age, it is considered a very matured thinking by an artiste already.
Yixing: Thank you.
Q: From the moment you’ve become a trainee, you have been practicing non-stop, while the boys your age were emerging themselves in the colorful world, how did you pull through that?
Yixing: I thought about things. I thought about the people who love me, how disappointed will they be if they see me not working hard. Thought about my grandparents, they are already getting on in years, I have to do them proud. My mum worked really hard for me, I don’t bear to see her efforts get wasted. It may seem like a joke when I say “More than ten hours a day”, but I have managed to pull through it, and I am still persisting.
Q: Current goal?
Yixing: It will be great if just one of my songs will be used in EXO’s album, pleading the company~~
Q: Regarding “I normally don’t joke around”?
Yixing: Actually if you put it the other way round it means “once I joke around it’s different from the rest”. The company has its own image that it wants its artistes to uphold. I can’t ruin the team’s image whenever I want to try to be funny, so I normally don’t joke around. Once the team’s image has matured, I will be able to, and, it won’t be something generic~ However, I don’t really get why sometimes people laugh whenever I say something. But it’s okay, as long as everyone is happy~
Q: Is melancholy always a part of you?
Yixing: You can’t really say that, just that whenever I stare into space it has a great influence on others… Especially if they are close friends of mine, if they understand me they will know what situation I’m in, so they get affected easily.
Q: It’s not an easy thing to do, to make Chanyeol “depressed” (referring to Showtime)
Yixing: Heh.. Actually (on the day of EXO’s Showtime recording) I wasn’t in a very good condition, I wasn’t able to take care of my body/health because of the busy schedule, plus, you have to present your most natural state on the show, so I was feeling down, naturally. Also, living together, Chanyeol understands my health condition back then, so he was affected by me. To result in such contrasting emotions, should be counted as a good variety reaction I guess.
Q: Practicing and composing seem like a huge part of your life apart from your job. You are always suffering from injuries, and it’s so tough…
Yixing: It’s just that I spend more time at home, people can’t see me. Injuries and illnesses are unavoidable things in life. A car that has been running for 20 years will face many problems, what more a human like me who lived for twenty plus years, it’s very normal. This is something that I ought to experience, and this is nothing exceptionally unendurable. But if this is worrying everyone, I will take note next time, and show more of my brighter side.
Q: What was the toughest part that you guys had to go through a week before EXO’s first solo concert?
Yixing: Before that, all of the rehearsals were made for twelve people, everything was already in form, we have already practiced for months, the last week was intended for us to tidy up the orders and digest the tiny details. The sudden leaving nullified everything that we have done initially, like a pizza that’s missing a slice. The original 6-6 has become “5-5 plus an another 1”. To make up for this missing corner we have to constantly change the formations.
For the entire week, we practiced from 9AM in the morning until 6AM the next day. Everyday. The K members didn’t even have time to rest, they were sent to the broadcast stations thereafter to promote the song. Us who are in M just went back to the dorm to rest for a while and then return to the company. That week was spent, repeating this routine of practicing endlessly. The torment and fatigue that we have experienced both physically and mentally, and the way our members have encouraged and gave one another strength, are memories that are unforgettable.
Q: Conviction is very important at this time.
Yixing: I was most touched when, everyone was really tired, and knew how difficult and how much it has hit us, K team had it a lot worse, they practically didn’t even have time to sleep, but the M members were feeling really down. So though the K members were obviously very tired, they always bring out their most optimistic side whenever they see the M team. Like Baekhyun and Chanyeol will always rush over immediately to give us support and encouragement, Suho and Kai, too. Kyungsoo is different, he doesn’t have the outgoing/noisy personality, but he would come over to give me a massage on the shoulders while saying “hyung” at the same time… Sehun was the one who moved me the most, he’s so young but he knows how to care for his elder brothers, always shouting “EXO!!”, “We are one!!” at the top of his voice, always cheering us on with the brightest smile. Seeing that kid, I ran to a corner when no one else was looking, and shed the tears that I’ve held in for the longest of time.
Q: But you guys made it, and completed the concerts coolly, and brought positive energy to everyone and demonstrated a positive image, how meaningful that is.. Don’t tell me that you didn’t tear up.
Yixing: Of course I was touched, and couldn’t bear to end it, especially on the last day. How do I even describe that moment? It was exceptionally precious. Be it the feeling of us still being together on stage, or the images of us crying offstage, they are all precious. That moment was too significant and meaningful, I almost cried, but I tried my best to hold it in.
Q: We are all concerned about your status and how you felt thus far.
Yixing: Lately I’ve been writing songs, resting, and relaxing. (Q: Playing with ants?) Yup, ahahaha. You have to have a good body in order to be in a good condition. I’m really very calm now, no matter what happens.
Q: Yeah you sure are, what have you been doing when the others are out shopping and watching movies?
Yixing: At home, composing. I go down to train my body at times, and then return to composing songs. When I start to get headaches from it I go for massages, and then return to composing again. Because once you have tracks you have to consider what instruments to go in and what not, you have to listen repeatedly but I can’t use the loud speaker at home since it will affect the rest, so I use headphones. But after some time my head will hurt so that’s why I go for massages.
Q: Shout out to the Lay two years ago and the present Lay?
Yixing: Two years ago, you guys have worked hard, Lay you have worked hard too. Now, everyone let’s continue to work hard.
Q: What will you change if you were to travel back in time?
Yixing: When I was young, my grandmother injured her leg because of a car accident, and that resulted in her having difficulties in walking, so I would like to return and warn my grandparents, “Don’t go out today, stay at home and cook me something yummy. I will accompany you all.” And she wouldn’t have injured herself like this. Grandma used to love dancing a lot.. Only if she didn’t injured her leg… She wouldn’t have to sit this far and watch other people dance, and I would be happy.
Q: How do you interact with your family, since you only get to go back practically just twice a year?
Yixing: I realised, after growing up, that they are more like kids now. But I feel really really happy and blissful whenever I’m with them. I wasn’t like this when I was studying. They used to say, “You are obviously good, and good at everything, but why do you have to focus on singing, dancing and musical instruments everyday?” But they are more open-minded now and our communication goes on a lot more smoothly.
Q: How often do you make a call back home?
Yixing: Sometimes it’s thrice a week, sometimes it’s once a month. My mum says that I’m a pig. And she once said, “Told you that you don’t need to contact me, you don’t even know anything I must as well search on the net” Haha, I’m bad when it comes to the concept of time, schedules too.. Most of the time, it will be me practicing and the members coming over to tell me “Hey we’re going to Shanghai tomorrow”, and I will be stunned. “Ah? It’s tomorrow??”
Q: As a man, when do you find yourself the most manly? When do you find yourself the most egoistical? And when do you find yourself the most conceited?
Yixing: As a man, I am the most manly whenever I am protecting whoever I want to protect. I am the most confident on stage. I think being egoistical is an attitude, I pretty much do like myself, well at the very least I don’t dislike myself. As for being conceited, sometimes I feel like I argue with others because I know some stuff, but after calming down I realise that I don’t know anything at all. But back then I was so full of myself, that’s that kind of conceitedness that isn’t good.
Q & A
Q: First thing in your mind when you wake up?
A: The first thought? When do I leave?
Q: … You are a workaholic..
A: This is your lament right? Is that a question? If that’s a question, I would say, yes.
Q:… Thumbs up for you. Let’s continue. How many of the contacts on your phone do you normally keep in touch with?
A: 50? Not saying that I contact all 50 of them everyday, but that my conversation logs consist of this 50.
Q: How many times do you bathe a day? For how long?
A: At least twice a day. Each time being half an hour long.
Q: What kind of animal do you think you are like?
A: Rabbit. Because it looks gentle, but it also has it’s own personality. Go try playing with its ears, it will stare at you, till you put it down.
Q: What kind of car do you have in mind, now that you have gotten a license.
A: I don’t know anything about cars, just the common brands I see normally, so it’s just gonna be either Benz or Audi
Q: What makes you timid?
A: Whenever I’m standing at somewhere tall
Q: At this moment, the top three tracks in your phone?
A: Top three… You You You, EXO-M’s Thunder, and One Last Cry, I listened to it the entire night last night.
Q: Song recommendation to comfort everyone’s unsettled souls?
A: Everyone’s feeling unsettled? Then let’s wait, I will write a song to make your worries disappear.
Q: To Yixing, music is?
A: We can’t live without music in our lives, just like how we can’t not eat fruits, just like how we can’t not eat rice, can’t not have wifi. Music has the ability to make us happy or sad. It commands our emotions. To me, music is everything. I’m Zhang Yixing.
Trans © n_1s2ggn9