[BTS Syndrome 2]
Interview with Big Hit’s producer Pdogg
Big Hit Entertainment’s (Big Hit) producer Pdogg (real name: Kang Hyo Won) is a figure that cannot be forgotten when one discusses the success of BTS, the group that is receiving explosive popularity all around the world. From their debut single ‘2 COOL 4 SKOOL’ to their recently released album ‘Love Yourself承 Her’, all of BTS’ albums have been passed through the hands of Pdogg.
The dreams, happiness, love, and the serious concerns of the reality of this generation; the music of BTS that has stolen the hearts not only of those nationally, but internationally too; of which is being judged to have released a new energy in the kpop market that lagged post-PSY. We begin an interview with Pdogg, who has been the most closely involved with BTS from their planning stages to make music that is shaking the world. The following is a series of questions and answers.
Please introduce yourself.
Hello. I am Big Hit’s producer Pdogg. I am pursuing trendy music with a hip-hop base. The name ‘Pdogg’ was created by the P in ‘Producer’ and ‘Dogg’ from the rapper SnoopDogg who I have liked from a young age. ‘Dogg’ also holds the meaning of being ‘a cool guy’, and so you can simply think of [the stage name] to mean ‘a cool producer’.”
In what way did you end up joining Big Hit?
When I was 25, I came to know of a composing community run by President Bang Shi Hyuk, and I started to upload pieces of music there. The pieces received a good response, and 2~3 of them were chosen for 8eight and Im Jung Hee’s albums, and so I naturally ended up joining Big Hit.
What do you think is the greatest strength of the Big Hit company?
I think it could be President Bang Shi Hyuk’s attitude towards contents. He holds the firm opinion that ‘the contents have to be good for the public to be convinced’. Because of this, we’re the type that works constantly until we reach a satisfactory end result.
Furthermore, there are no singers or producers that don’t genuinely love music. Even our BTS friends, after finishing their schedules late in the night, come into their studios and work on music until the morning. And it’s not as if anyone ordered them to do so. I think they’re able to do it proactively because they truly love music. Indeed, our staff also think it is obvious to work solidly with a love for the artists. I think this could also be considered a great strength.
With what kind of direction and positioning was BTS planned to be?
In the earliest days, we wanted to make a team of idols who rapped. But through meetings with external stakeholders, we planned for them to be hip-hop idols. We decided to make a team that could perform well with a hip-hop base. And we also planned for the artists to tell the stories of those their age in their teens and 20s.
Before debut, how did their [music] studies progress?
Because there were some members with a great understanding of hip hop, and others with less, we first had lessons where they could naturally become used to hip-hop with their bodies and ears. Rather than force or rote teaching, we made an atmosphere where they could like it for themselves. We also had time where we could listen from old hip-hop to newer hip-hop music and talk about it together.
I’m curious to know how you work on music with the members.
While it must be different for each song, we first form an overall framework through the individuals’ way of viewing the world, and their current situation. Generally, we start the detailed process from there. In some cases, I make the framework, the members join in, and it gets completed that way. You can just see it that there’s no definite process because it depends on the piece. If we take the metaphor of a puzzle, once the members make each of the individual pieces, I look for the good pieces and complete the picture – I guess you could say that’s my role.
What do you think differentiates BTS from the rest?
All the members genuinely like music and work hard. On top of this, because they speak about their own stories through their music, there are no lies, and I think that’s what makes them charismatic. I think it’s because of this that many fans are able to empathise with them.
If there is a song that you’ve done with BTS that you think particularly fondly of, and if you could explain the reason why.
I think I could choose ‘I Need U’. At the time we worked on it, it was personally a very difficult period for me. If it didn’t do better than their first album single ‘Danger’, I wondered what kind of music we would have to do, and I had no faith in my ability. I wanted to give up, but President Bang Shi Hyuk waited for me. At such a point in time, with good fortune, the song ‘I Need U’ was released. It is the song that gave BTS the foundation it needed, and for that reason, I’m fond of it.
Recently, BTS is reveling in success not only nationally, but internationally. What do you think is the driving force of their success?
While there’s probably lots of causes for this, I think it’s that when heard internationally, it is comparatively not so ‘Kpop-like’, holding not such a dissimilar sound to foundational pop, and that it is packaged in an incredible performance.
In their debut era, it is true that there was a negative perception of BTS who claimed to be ‘hip hop idols’.
In the beginning, it was so hard to make hip-hop music that could be performed in such a way. While it is not so difficult anymore, it was very hard in the beginning.
With their recent success internationally, there is greater interest in them. Hasn’t this increased your burden as a producer?
While it is of course burdensome, I think we’ve been given a challenge to enter an unknown world. Because of this, I’m working really happily. I don’t even have much concern about working collaboratively with international producers. This is because even if we work collaboratively, it melts into the BTS style, and so rather, I’m approaching it with good feeling.
If you drop a hint about the sort of music BTS will show us in the future?
First, because a new series has started with ‘Love Yourself 承 Her’, we are planning to continue that. After that, the decisions will change based on BTS’ situation and the members’ sentiments at that point.
What do you think is the charismatic point of K-pop?
I think it’s how cool and showy performances come together with trendy music to be an experience for the sight and hearing. I don’t think that language is an emotional barrier for music anymore, wherever you are in the world. Because the idea of ‘visual music’ is becoming stronger, and K-pop especially brings together performance and music, I think there is enormous potential for it to compete well with other styles in the worldwide music market. I think it will be important to make K-Pop respected as a specific genre in the future. For it not to only be enjoyed by a specific group of people, but just like we enjoy listening to pop music, I think it would be good if there’s a time people all over the world enjoy listening to kpop.
How do you consider the increase in ‘self-producing idols’?
Idol music in particular cannot be distinguished from performance. Because of this, I think it’s an obvious thing for them to make music themselves and create choreography themselves as long as they have the talent.
It can’t be easy to understand and read the recent trends, so if you had your own ‘know-how’?
Honestly, because through the internet you can see the same music and fashion trends simultaneously all throughout the world now, I don’t have a specific ‘know-how’. I am working hard to become knowledgeable and interested in various fields to be able to read and capture the trends within an overflowing well of information.
What do you think is your own greatest strength as a producer?
I’m really interested in sound and explore it a lot. Because I think a good producer has their own sound, I work hard to make my own sound. By using equipment from the 80-90s analogue era to recent ones too, I am working to make my own sort of sound that’s different from anybody else’s.
What do you think is the most important virtue or ability that a music producer must subscribe to?
I think you cannot be scared of new challenges. If you’re scared of new challenges, you can only do the same style of music you’ve always done. Another thing is that when you make music, you need to be able to make that into a complete image. It’s because you need to deliver the message you want clearly for the public to receive it well.
Please give a piece of advice to those dreaming to become producers.
I want to tell them to listen to a lot of music without regard to genre. And, the first responsibility of a producer is to allow the star musician to shine by filling in their lacking parts and highlighting their good parts. I think if you work solidly behind the scenes to make a star musician, the producer too will gradually become a star producer.
I am curious about your aspirations as a producer.
I want to make an album that is loved by the whole world. Like Max Martin, the Swedish producer, I want to always try new things, and convince the general public of that new style of music. Thank you for the great love given to me for my music. As I have always done, I will continue to try to make new and cool music and albums that aren’t hard to listen to/understand.
Source: No Cut News, by Kim Hyun Shik, 5th December 2017