Mark, a member of NCT, found himself walking into an atypical space, unsure of where he had landed. It was a surreal moment like he had stepped into a golden magic hour.
<W Korea> Mark looked incredibly dashing in his Polo Ralph Lauren attire as he seemed to have landed in an unknown space.
MARK During the photoshoot, I realized again that Polo Ralph Lauren suits me so well (laughs). It’s not a joke. It’s a brand I’ve loved since I was a kid, and now being an ambassador for them, I feel incredibly fortunate. There were a few outfits from the photoshoot that I wanted to take home with me as well.
You’ve been quite busy recently, right? Since your time in Korea is limited, we had to move up the shoot for VOL.5 a little earlier than originally planned.
I just arrived in Korea today and I’m scheduled to leave again the day after tomorrow. Tomorrow, I’ll be shooting the music video for my new single “Golden Hour.”
I was surprised when I looked at your overseas tour schedule. NCT 127’s tour <Neo City-The Link> took place over approximately a year, traveling to Asia, North America, and South America, and finished with the Mexico City concert in January of this year. NCT Dream’s tour <The Dream Show> started in September last year. How is your overall condition these days?
I am feeling good at this moment. It’s hard to fully focus on the present when I am too busy. That’s why I try to look back at how I am in each moment. Right now, I feel good during the photoshoot and interview for <W Korea>. Also, I tend to be resilient even when facing challenges. Maybe I can say I am kind of dull or not too much sensitive. Of course, there are moments when I feel tired, especially considering we have a large number of members in our group. But when I see the members, I feel responsibility and strength and it also motivates me.
Mark, you had a pretty big world tour a few years ago as NCT 127. Do you feel the difference from then?
Yes, indeed. In 2019, when we had a tour on a tour bus for over a month, it was my first experience traveling abroad for more than a month. The scale of the concerts and the overall experience were different from previous tours. Having gained that experience, this time I made an effort to enjoy any free time we had, even if it meant exploring the local area outside of hotels and concert venues. For example, if we were in Texas, we tried to make time to enjoy a Texas barbecue to create more memories with my fellow members. Overall, I feel like I’ve grown in many ways through touring, and it’s been a valuable opportunity for personal growth.
Did you make any new discoveries or attempts during the tour?
During NCT 127 tours, I have carried my music equipment such as a laptop and a microphone with me. Although I anticipated having limited free time, having my equipment with me made a difference. It allowed me to work on musical ideas that came to mind during the tour. Interestingly, I even found myself brainstorming and creating music in my hotel room during the tour and I was able to do a lot. It was a new experience for me.
On April 7th, before the release of the book, your second solo single ‘Golden Hour’ is unveiled. It is part of the ‘Station : NCT Lab’ project, which features a variety of music releases from NCT members, including solo songs, unit songs, and self-composed tracks.
Yes, I released the music and music video, but I am not promoting them separately. The song is enjoyable and I am pleased with how the lyrics turned out. It’s completely different from ‘CHILD’, which I released as part of the Station project over a year ago, in terms of content, emotions, and atmosphere. Of course, I worked with my crew again for this project, and collaborating with them always brings out small ideas that we can develop further, saying “This is good” or “Let’s try this”.
What is the motif of your latest song?
I’m not good at cooking at all. I was cooking fried eggs on a variety show, but I messed even that up. However, one of my fans sent a picture of the fried eggs to Gordon Ramsay using Twitter and asked him saying it was made by her boyfriend and asked for his opinion. When Gordon Ramsay saw the picture, he replied with something like, ‘Find a new date’. (Laugh) Fans all know this story. I used that incident as a motif to write the lyrics for this song.
The motif itself has an interesting element, doesn’t it?
I had a lot of fun working with my crew members during the process. We constantly came up with interesting lyrics and ideas.
In the solo track “CHILD” that you first released through the Station project, your vocals stood out. Even though you’re a rapper, you’ve also handled vocal parts several times. I heard that you passed your audition as a vocalist at first and only later discovered your skills as a rapper, is that true?
I’m a bit getting shy. I can say I passed the audition not because I was good at singing, but rather because at that time I couldn’t do rap or anything else and just liked singing more.
I always share a story during interviews with K-pop artists about how long it would take for them to become a jewel just like they are now.
I didn’t even know, but I have a strong ability to pull myself together. As I was placed in a completely different environment from my past as a trainee and as an artist, I gradually discovered new aspects of myself. I realized that I have a strong side to me, and people around me have also mentioned it.
“When ‘CHILD’ was released, a behind-the-scenes interview video that included some interesting stories was also released. I found it impressive because it gave some clues to understanding Mark better. I became curious about this particular quote: ‘To others, I may seem like a good person, but to myself, I don’t think I am that good of a person.”
This might be related to the time when I was hard on myself during my trainee days, I usually push myself which could have contributed to my growth. Sometimes my mom says something like, “Your body met the wrong owner” (laughs). I don’t think I’ve ever thought about taking care of and loving myself more. I need to make more effort to understand and love myself better.
One thing that busy people can easily overlook is taking care of themselves. To love and cherish oneself, one needs to have a sense of inner peace and good health. Alternatively, for very selfish people, no matter the situation, they will always prioritize taking care of their own bodies and mind.
In the past, I never really thought about “treating myself well.” It was through music that I became aware of that sense. I learned to look at myself objectively, acknowledge my strengths and weaknesses, and love myself without comparing myself to others because myself is just who I am. To do that, I think it takes effort and dedication.
Do you still feel like a child?
Yes, completely. I guess I can become an adult someday too, right?
Do you want to become a adult soon?
I want to become an adult in terms of life, but I think it’s okay to remain a child in music.
What is the reason for feeling like a child?
Well, I think it’s because I still find it difficult to face the world on my own. There’s still so much I don’t know about the world.
It’s unlikely that you will have to face the world alone anytime soon, is it?
I believe that in the end, it’s important to be able to stand on your own for your life. I’m not really fond of relying on anyone else. While I’m confident that I can do well for someone if someone relies on me, I feel uncomfortable asking for help or relying on others. So I think that in every aspect, I should be able to face the world alone.
What kind of child were you when you were a kid?
I think I was a kid when I came to Korea and I was in middle school. I think I was a bit foolish back then. I should have been more thoughtful.
What kind of thoughts do children have? They just live their lives.
I just stayed home without much thought, and I regret not being more active and experiencing more during that time. I think I could have learned more if I was more active. I’ve been a trainee and musician for about 10 years now, and I feel like I skipped over things that only happen during my teenage. There are many musicians in the same situation as me, but I feel like I have particularly lived only with music, which made me feel like I’m missing out on small pieces of life. It feels like I’m not yet a complete sculpture, if that makes sense.
But you do tour as a world-famous musician now. What do your parents say about you as a musician? It is known that your family lived in Canada but came back to Korea while you were trained as a musician in Korea.
My parents always believed in me. The process of our family moving to Korea was not easy at first, but they are grateful that we were able to settle down in Korea together. They thank me for being the reason behind it.
You picked your father as your ideal man in an interview, right?
I feel like I’m increasingly influenced by my dad these days. If I were a girl, I would have chosen my mom as the ideal female figure. Recently, we’ve been filming a documentary for NCT 127, and we had a chance to look at old family photos. I noticed that my mom and dad looked even younger, prettier, and more handsome than my older brother and I did at that age. It was quite emotional. I am currently 25 years old in Korean age. My parents got married when they were around 26, which is around a similar age as me in Korean age. They got married, immigrated to a foreign country, and raised two sons there. As I get older, my respect for my parents grows.
It seems that there are quite a few videos on the SM YouTube channel showing artists in the recording studio. As I watched those videos, I felt like you are someone who is very critical of yourself. It’s more about personality and temperament than ability.
Do you see that side of me? That’s right. I’ve never really recorded easily. Even though I’m not a rookie anymore as you know. I guess I must be that kind of person.
The song “Favorite (Vampire)” from NCT 127’s 3rd repackaged album, which was released in the fall of 2021, has a different vibe compared to songs like “A-Yo”, “Sticker” or “Cherry Bomb”. How was it when you recorded it?
We also felt like a bit of a challenge, but it was another “hit”! It’s a song written by my favorite composer, Kenzie. I still remember that Kenzie really pushed me hard during recording. Actually, every time I work with Kenzie, it feels like that.
Just like acting, the results can vary depending on the director’s direction. Do you feel the same way, Mark?
Yes, definitely. As I gained more experience in recording, my “ear” was developed for better sound. When I record with various engineers and directors, there are times when I feel confident that my opinion is right. So these days, I often record with confidence, but there are people with much more reliable ears than mine. There are directors like Kenzie and some legendary directors. They have keen attention to detail and can bring out the best in me. So after recording, it feels like I’ve received a lesson.
When you listen to music alone on a quiet night sometimes you can newly discover ad-libs or subtle details in the artist’s performance and it’s very enjoyable.
Yes. In fact, all the music in the world is the result of these intricate details coming together. Without these little details, even a great and wonderful piece of music could have turned out differently.
What else do you like besides music?
Sure! I want to start writing sometime. I had a dream of becoming a writer before I take SM audition. Of course, I have been passionate about singing, but it was just a hobby. People can start writing regardless of their age so if you start cultivating a habit of writing slowly from now on, I believe there is a possibility that you may come up with your own works in the future.
Do you sometimes write a diary?
Yes, I used to write it diligently in 2020. For a whole year, without missing a day, until the end! But since 2021, I haven’t written it at all.
Did you focus on writing diaries during the pandemic when your schedule was different from before? Have you ever revisited the diaries you wrote during that time?
Wow, never did that. Now that I think about it, I suddenly want to find and read those diaries. I used to record my daily worries or things I wanted to remember. I wrote them in one of the notebooks I received as a gift from fans, so it holds even more meaning. If I want to take care of myself, I should first know myself well, right?
It seems like you enjoy writing outside of music. And if you can describe a quality that you have, what would it be?
Hmm… I don’t think I’m a bad person (laughs). Everyone has a “core” quality that they are born with, right? Fortunately, I think my core has to be a “good person.” Another thing I’ve been feeling lately is that if I believe “I can do it,” then I can do it. I’m not the type of person who is initially good at something and can do it with ease. But if I set my mind to “I’m gonna do it,” then I eventually accomplish it, no matter what it is. It may take time, but I have the perseverance to see things through. Before perseverance, what’s needed is to make up your mind to do it in the first place.
When Mark, who still sometimes feels like a kid himself, says that he can accomplish anything if he sets his mind to it. Mark knows how to objectively look at himself so when he says this, it feels genuine. As a member of NCT, what kind of mind do you have now, Mark?
Whether it’s NCT 127 or NCT Dream, we have accumulated a considerable amount of experience as artists. I believe that it’s important to improve ourselves from now on. After all, music is important. We are determined to solidify our position through music and prove ourselves even more. If I have personal goals, I want to enjoy bigger things. For example, performing on a larger scale and communicating with more audiences. This is also a goal as a team member. In conclusion, we will work harder than any other 8-year-old group.