A Life Less Ordinary
Interviewer: เก้า มีนานนท์ (Kao Meenanon)
‘Halley’s Comet returns to Earth’s vicinity and becomes visible about every 76 years.’
Travelling from South Korea to Thailand didn’t take that much time. However, since making his debut as a member of 2PM boy band several years ago, this was the very first time Nichkhun worked with HAMBURGER Magazine. We would like to talk to him about various topics in his life before the sky, rain, wind, and sunlight would draw him back to Thailand again next time. When the time came, with more experience and maturity, he would probably have more stories to tell us.
Nichkhun flew from Korea to attend the press conference of his new movie Chalui – Touch the Sky in Thailand. However, a day before the press conference, his schedule was packed with photoshoots for three Thai magazines.
Of course, HAMBURGER was one of them.
Nichkhun’s conversation with us in the evening was held at the end of the day filled with hectic fashion photoshoots. Nichkhun came down from the second story dressing room and comfortably sat on an arm-chair. He changed into his own clothes that he wore since morning, a Mickey Mouse t-shirt, hood jacket, pants, and sneakers. They were the same clothes Nichkhun wore when he took photos with photoshoot crews of two other magazines. I didn’t miss a chance to click like on his photos spread all over the social media platforms.
We saved serious questions for later. Actually, we would like to know an ordinary life of a Thai boy band idol who became famous in Korea. Let’s get to know a boy who enjoyably lived away from home, who was beloved by people from several countries, and who was more than an idol. A person who became an inspiration and idol for others.
Nichkhun welcomed us with a friendly smile and answered every question we wanted to know. We noticed, apart from releasing music with 2PM, Nichkhun recently delved into various different fields, especially acting. Nichkhun offered a great performance in GTH studios’ Seven Something (2012). This year Nichkhun accepted the role in another Thai movie, Chalui – Touch the Sky. It was a remake version of Chalui, directed by Adirek Watleela, which was hugely successful decades ago. Nichkhun would tell us how he got involved with the project.
“I have never seen the original version of Chalui (1988) which was released a long time ago. I was really young and lived in the USA. When I met Uncle (Adirek Watleela), he told me he produced the original film for those who had dreams. You didn’t have to dream to be stars, singers, or entertainers. No matter what you dreamed to be, if you worked hard and dedicated yourself to what you loved, someday you would succeed. Uncle wanted to deliver that message to everyone.”
“Uncle said he wanted me to be an inspiration in this remake version. He wanted me to send these messages to young generation and the filming would be shot in Korea. I was deeply honoured and decided to accept the role. Uncle also gave me a painting that he drew and signed. I am really thankful.” The boy band idol who released hit songs like Heartbeat laughed shyly. I asked if it was necessary for him as a superstar to demand merely important roles.
“Absolutely not, especially in this film. If I were a lead actor, the story would become hard to believe since people know who I am. When I started filming with Jesse (Jesse Mekwattana) and Nicky (Nachat Jantapan), I have realized I am their inspiration and idol.”
“For this reason, my role in Chalui – Touch the Sky which is close to reality is more appropriate. I acted as a singer and a star in Korea. One day two boys from Thailand flew to Korea to meet me. They considered me their idol. They encountered many obstacles and problems later on. I don’t have to be the protagonist in any dramas/films I choose to be in.”
“I have liked acting for a long time. If I have some free time, I will learn by watching movies. I have seen some movies repeatedly for a few times. For the first time, I enjoyed the entertaining story. Then for the second and third time, I focused on specific details, such as filming techniques and certain actors’ performances. For the movies that I like, I still find them enjoyable even when I have seen them for several times.”
Some of Nichkhun’s previous works included Kindaichi Shounen No Jikenbo (2014), a Japanese drama, and One and a Half Summer (2014), a Chinese drama. It seemed Nichkhun had chosen various roles. Judging from his acting in Seven Something, I believed he could be a great actor.
“I hope so.” Nichkhun smiled. “But I have to keep on trying and practicing acting.”
“I have been continuously contacted for many projects but I have to consider many relevant factors such as the scripts and my work schedule. I can’t spend all my time on acting. I have to perform in 2PM’s concerts in Japan and overseas.”
“Do you have any actors or directors you especially want to work with?” Nichkhun replied my question with the name of Ananda Everingham.
“I have watched Shutter (2004) and Ploy (2007). I think he is a great actor and also handsome. I want to be his opponent and we fight over the same girl.” The singer who had recently accepted more acting roles ended his sentence with an innocent smile. I hurriedly asked the next question. “Do you think your acting has improved after you have been in many acting projects?”
“I think my acting is still mediocre. I’m still not good at acting. Though I have been in many projects, I didn’t have time to seriously learn the art of acting. Normally actors read scripts together before shooting a movie or drama and they will hold worship ceremonies before the opening of a film shoot. But I didn’t have time to attend the worship ceremonies for my Chinese dramas. I didn’t attend the script reading for Seven Something. I met Suquan (Suquan Bulakul, the female protagonist) and read the script with her just one day before shooting the film. It was like this every single time because I didn’t have enough time. I had to do homework alone and met the cast and crew at the filming sites.
“With this kind of situation, sometimes what I understood about the character conflicted with the director’s view. When I acted as I prepared to, the director might say “Nichkhun, wait a minute. Your character is not like that.” So I was confused. (laugh) The director told me to start it all over again which was different from what I prepared and practiced. Therefore, I don’t know how my acting is so far. But I think I understand more about acting.”
I asked him about his overall improvement. After working for several years, do you still have other aspects you want to improve?
“Oh. Definitely. I have to improve myself in almost every aspect. Everyone thinks of me as just an idol and I don’t consider myself an artist. I have to sing other composers’ songs, do dance moves that people choreographed for us. We have to depend on other people to take care of our outfits and hairstyles. Thus, I have to work really hard to improve myself, from being an idol to an artist.
“Lately, 2PM have tried to compose our own songs and come up with our album concepts. We have tried to suggest our ideas regarding hairstyles and outfits to our staff. We told them which hairstyles and outfits we wanted for certain songs.
“I have written a song called Let It Rain. I hope to write more songs in the future. I’m continually trying and learning to improve myself such as learning how to play a musical instrument. I can play piano and it helps my music composition.”
Updates about Nichkhun at the moment
Some aspects of our way of life such as taste, interest, and liking, changed over time. We would like to know what the 26-year-old idol was interested in, from his new shoes, favorite songs, foods, and inspirational movies.
Q: What kinds of songs are in you playlists on your phone?
“Most of them are ballads or songs that make me calm. (laugh) Another You by Brian McKnight, My Dear by Jeff Bernat, Not a Bad Thing by Justin Timberlake, She’s The One by Robbie Williams, and For The Rest of My Life by Robin Thicke.
“I have listened to some of these songs for a long time. These old songs are still nice. It depends on my mood. Someday I just wanted to listen to Backstreet Boys’ songs.”
Q: What are the first and the last things you do when you wake up and before you go to sleep?
“I drink a large glass of water when I wake up. I have been doing this since I was young. Water helps cleanse our body flushing out potential harmful toxins.”
“Before I go to bed, I usually turn on my aromatic steamer to help me relaxed. I don’t like to turn on an air conditioner even when I am in Thailand. I may turn it on sometimes but I will turn it off before I sleep. Otherwise my throat will be dry and it hurts when I sing.”
Q: Do you have trouble falling asleep?
“Usually I can fall asleep quickly but I can sleep only when I am lying in bed. I rarely sleep when I am travelling on a plane or travelling by car. I won’t fall asleep even though the journeys are long, except when I go to the USA which takes over 10 hours.”
Q: What’re your airplane activities?
“Watching movies, eating, listening to music, and reading. That’s it.” (laugh)
Q: What books are you reading now?
“I like to read self-improvement books. They help me improve myself, such as my mind among other things. The latest book I read is Think Like a Freak (by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner). These economists wrote about how to inspire people to do things they don’t want to do and to help them change their mind and do those things. Reading this book helps me too because my work is to draw people’s attention. I learn how to improve myself so as to make more people interested in my works. I can even adapt them to those who don’t like me. How am I going to change their mind?
“I am not going to say these books will certainly work in real lives. But I have tried to change and improve myself unceasingly. One day those people who dislike us may have positive thoughts, want to be nicer to us, and help us. Facial expressions or a single word can change people’s minds and feelings.”
Q: Can you name the latest place you have visited that you travelled alone without bodyguards and staff?
“(laugh) Last Saturday I drove to a badminton court in Korea alone. I drove out town for around 40 minutes. I like to play badminton. I am a badminton player but lately I rarely have a chance to play badminton with some senior players I know.”
Q: In one year, how many days do you have for your most private time?
“Wow. It’s a difficult question. My real private time is spent at home. I will stay at home all day long and do whatever I want. I think I have less than three months in one year for such time. I am always busy with works. I sleep after I finish my works. Then I wake up to work again. My life is always like this.”
Q: If you can go anywhere you want, where do you want to go?
“Actually I want to go to Egypt. I want to see pyramids. I think it’s marvelous that people built these constructions thousand years ago. I don’t know if they were built by humans or aliens.”
Q: Do you believe in extraterrestrial life?
“I believe extraterrestrial beings exist. I don’t think humans are the only living creatures in this enormous universe. After watching Interstellar (2014), I feel it is possible those who will come to help us may not be aliens from other planets, but members of our race from the next thousand years. During the time, technology must be considerably advanced.”
Q: What are the latest items you bought with your own money and by yourself?
“Possibly New Balance shoes. I like comfortable shoes. They don’t have to be expensive. I like to wear my Converse shoes. I wear these New Balance shoes for jogging, going to a fitness center, and working out.”
Q: What are accessories you bought most frequently?
“Shoes. But I really don’t buy them often. I think shoes are accessories that are most worth the money. After wearing your clothes, you need to clean them and they stretch. However, we can continue to wear shoes even though they are dirty and we seldom have to clean them.”
Q: What’s your favorite color?
“I like red. Some parts of my shoes are usually red.” (Nichkhun laughed and looked down at his Nike shoes with red stripes.)
Q: Do you have anything you still don’t have a chance to do?
“Parachute jumping. The level of height for parachute jumping is not frightening like people believed. If we jump from a plane, we will see a vast area under us like we are floating. People have told me bungee jumping is more terrifying. We will see the land in front of us so I am scared to do bungee jump.”
Q: Are you afraid of heights?
“I am not afraid of them but I don’t like them either.” (laugh)
Q: When Koreans ask you about Thailand, what topics do you have to talk about most often?
“Phuket, Krabi or Ko Samui.”
Q: Which tourist sites in Thailand you haven’t visited?
“I want to enjoy Songkran festival. (laugh) I haven’t enjoyed the experience of Songkran for 15 years. When I was young, I used to enjoy the water fights near my home. My house was in the Phutthamonthon district so our family had to play among ourselves.”
Q: What are you going to do in the next 20 years? Where are you going to be? Will you still be an artist? Will you live in Korea or come back to Thailand?
“I haven’t thought that far. I believe I will have some kind of works. I may open a restaurant. It will be peaceful and not very big. A restaurant that I can manage by myself. I want to cook and learn how to come up with new recipes.”
Q: Do you like to cook?
“I do but I am lazy. I don’t know which ingredients should be in this and that recipe. I am afraid I will mess up and the foods must be thrown away.”
Q: What is your best dish?
“Omelette (laugh) and spaghetti dish. It’s not difficult to cook these dishes. I used to cook them with my brother when I lived with him. Sometimes I cooked the spaghetti and he made the sauce and sometimes we took turns cooking them. We had different ways of making sauces. I liked to use butter, onions and meats. I would sprinkle pepper powder and then add spaghetti.”
Q: Have you cooked for your mother?
“I am afraid to do that. It’s easier for us men to cook for ourselves.” (laugh)
Q: Which Thai dishes do you think of when you are in Thailand?
“I like Sukhothai Noodle cooked by my mom. My mom used to live in Sukhothai Province and knows the recipe.”
Q: Why don’t you ask your mother to teach you to cook this dish?
“She has once taught me but I can’t remember. There are several details such as bone boiling and preparing ingredients and side dishes.”
LET IT GO
LET IT FLOW
Good time passed quickly. Before we said goodbye, we asked Nichkhun to talk about the richness of life. His life journey had covered 26 years. He had spent a large part of his life in Korea. After debuting with 2PM for over 8 years, Nichkhun had been admired and received high praise. He also encountered love scandals and committed mistakes. They unquestionably enriched his life and we did not miss a chance to look backwards to certain parts of his journey.
Q: What’s the difference between Thai and Korean entertainment industries? Thai people have believed the Korean entertainment world is more strict and difficult. How is it in reality?
“It’s true. In the entertainment business, Korean managers and companies that we belong to are very strict about certain matters including taking photos and meeting people.”
“In Thailand, it’s friendlier. Both industries have some pros and cons. The benefits of the Korean ways are the protection of artists. They try to prevent bad things from happening. They think artists are their products that must be in the best quality. If a lot of people can take photos of them, the artists may be viewed as too ordinary.”
“In Thailand, people can get closers to stars. They feel like these stars are working in the entertainment world, not some kinds of untouchable gods or idols. It’s a different concept in Korea. People in Korea may admire certain stars but they may not be able to reach them or meet them. Thus, we have stalkers (who obsessively follow and target stars) there. Normally fans cannot meet their beloved stars no matter how long you wait for them.”
Q: Let’s talk about the time you studied in the USA before JYP Entertainment found you. If it were a Thai music company, would you decide to become a singer in Thailand?
“In fact, I have never thought to work in this field. But I have to admit I didn’t concentrate on my studies. I liked to play sports, especially badminton.
“I was not a bad student but I liked to spend my time hanging out with friends and playing sports. I never thought to excel in other fields. I hid my grades from my family for a long time. Later on my school possibly wondered why my parents never called them. So they sent my grades to Thailand. (laugh) My parents were really upset after knowing about my slipping grades.”
“Coincidentally it was during the time I passed JYP audition. When they accepted me into the company, my father told me to get away from my friends, from people I knew. He believed I would become a degenerate. (laugh) I spent the following years practicing in Korea. If a Thai company contacted me to work here, my family certainly wouldn’t allow it. My parents never thought I should work in this field.”
Q: How often do you visit The Street, the coffee shop that 2PM owned? Can you recommend menus that you most often ordered or great menus for fans?
“I don’t go there very often but I bought coffee there because it’s close to our company. I usually visit The Street before I go to work. My favorite drinks are Americano, black coffee, and vanilla latte. For those who would like to try the foods there, I recommend ham and cheese sandwiches. The toast is crispy and very delicious. It goes really well with ham and cheese. I like to order them for breakfast.”
“When we talked about opening this coffee shop, we didn’t want it to be too luxurious. We want to sell coffee in the morning and meals at lunch. We want to open the shop late into the night so we can sell alcoholic beverages. People can hang out there.”
Q: For the past few years, you have done many interesting things. Designing bags for rosa.K x Nichkhun Collection is one of them. How’s the response? If you have to design other products in the future, what do you want to do?
“The response is pretty great. (smile) We have also launched Real Love which is a special campaign held from March to May. Income from selling these bags will be donated to single mother and orphanage foundations.”
“If I have to design a product all by myself… I don’t know if shoes are too difficult. I think designing watches is interesting. I like sportswear watches. I feel like I can wear them for any occasion.”
Q: If you have to dream ahead into the future as best you can, what are your dreams like?
“In a few years, my friends will have to enlist in the army. At the present, I dream to continuously cherish and maintain our friendships for the next ten and twenty years. Even when we don’t have an opportunity to work together, I want us to keep calling each other. I want us to fly to see each other when we no longer live in the same country.
“My dreams are getting closer to becoming a reality because military enlistment is inevitable. They have deferred their military service duty (due to works and studies). I am the only member who was exempted from enlistment after I took part in the army recruitment lottery.
“Therefore I would like to focus on group works more than solo works at the moment. I prefer performing with my friends to doing individual works. Usually when I have some free time, I will film for a drama in China or have activities in Thailand. But this year I would like to spend more time with my friends in Korea. We have recently planned to travel overseas together, possibly in the USA.
“I will rent a car and take them to visit several places. It should be easy because some of my friends are living there. 2PM’s members want to go to Las Vegas and San Francisco. We are planning a road trip where we can drive and travel along these routes.”
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of being a solo artist and delivering your works with your band mates?
“The first benefit of working as a group is having friends. I am working alone today but when I return to Korea, I can see my friends again. I am happy every single time when I meet my friends again. We call each other and hang out when we have some free time. I want to tell you I am so glad that I have met these 5 friends who are good, decent and sincere. Though some of our characteristics and personality traits are different, we are sincere to each other. We honestly talk about how we feel. Age is irrelevant in our group. A younger member can ask older members to have a talk with him and vice versa. If we are upset with what a certain member has done, we directly talk to him. Why did you do that? When that member explains his actions, we are ready to understand him. This is the way we resolve conflicts and misunderstandings. We are always ready to talk among our group.
“The downside is the fact that you may meet band members that you can’t get along with. Living with them must be hell. You have to work as a group, share your ideas, your room, and basically everything. Living with people you dislike can become outright torture. You must unavoidably spend time with them. It’s very fortunate 2PM’s members love each other like we are in the same family.”
Q: What are the latest lessons you have learned?
“Nothing in life is certain.
“Your appearance, wealth, and fame can vanish in the blink of an eye. I travel by plane very often. Sometime I have to be in a speeding car because we are afraid to be late. I feel like I can die at any moment.
“Working in the entertainment world, I have learned that nothing is predictable. After reaching a certain point, you have to fall down. It depends on how you fall, with misery or contentment that you have once been up there. If you have good and positive thoughts, you may possibly bounce back again. That’s life. Anyway the wind blows, you just live your life and make the best out of what you have today.”
Q: No matter where you are, moral supports are considerably important. When you live in Korea, who has offered you the most essential moral support?
“My family and my Thai fans. I checked out Pantip.com website once in a while. After reading those comments, I am deeply touched and proud to be born a Thai. When my fans or people have said they are proud Nichkhun is Thai, I feel like life is worth living. As a Thai, I can make my fellow countrymen proud. Many people have wanted to be in my position and couldn’t achieve their dreams. Some wanted to be national athletes but didn’t succeed. I am blessed to be here, to represent Thailand overseas, and to become an inspiration for others. It’s such a wonderful feeling.”
Q: Is it difficult being an idol and inspiration for others?
“Very much so.
“There are several things I want to do but wanting is not enough. I have to think carefully before doing anything. If I do certain things, people who like me may imitate my actions. However, in actuality, people can make mistakes all the time. We just shouldn’t do everything we want to.
“People liked to ask me “What’s your advice for those who consider you their idol?” I want to say having a person as your idol can give you great motivation. Still you must not forget everyone has a different lifestyle, taste, and experience. Duplicating everything your idol has done doesn’t mean you will become your idol. You should take certain aspects of his/her life as the groundwork for self-motivation. Then you should try and choose ways of life that best suit you. You should continue doing this until you have achieved your dreams.”
Q: You have become people’s idol. Who is your idol?
“My parents. My father never demands anything. He once told me I didn’t have to buy anything for him. He lives a simple and sufficient life. Despite having money today, I have tried to follow my father’s footsteps. I still continue wearing my same old shoes. Those shoes remind me of some good memories. I keep telling myself they are still usable. If they are not worn out, I can wear them. I won’t buy new shoes just because the shoes I am wearing are dirty. I think it’s a waste of money.
“At the present, I tried to live modestly. I am careful with my water and electricity use. I frequently stay in hotels. Some hotels have posted a sign informing us how many trees will be planted if we opt to reuse our towels. If for the past three days we have used only one towel, we have helped plant many trees.
Q: Is your father strict?
“Yes. When I was young and didn’t properly greet my relatives at my grandmother’s house, my father didn’t allow me to leave home. I was not allowed to visit my grandmother if I didn’t learn to pay respect.
“When I was young, I was punished by whipping. My father always told me he would punish me if I ignored his warning for the third time. At Ma Boon Khrong Shopping Mall, I ran around in a Japanese restaurant. People would get hurt if I knocked over those hot soup bowls.
“My father warned me “Khun, stop running around.” After repeating it for the third time, he pulled me in front of the restaurant, took of his belt and whipped me.” (laugh) My father was quite strict when I was a child. But when I grew up, my father is one of the kindest persons in the world.”
Q: When you have your own child, are you going to be a strict father?
“It’s possible I will be pretty strict. But I will be reasonable too. My father always taught us to be reasonable. When we whined for new toys, he would ask “Why do want to buy them?” and we replied “to play.” (laugh) He would further ask “How long are you going to play them?” “I… don’t… know…. But my friends have them.” “And why do you have to buy them just because your friends have them?” “Um. I don’t know. Ok. I don’t want them.” (laugh)
Q: What is the item you have used for the longest period of time? How long have you used it?
“I think it’s a black backpack that my mother bought me before I went to study in the USA. I still keep it though I don’t use it every day. I keep things in the backpack. My mother bought it from a shopping mall. It has several pockets. I chose this backpack because I had to store many items when travelling by plane.
“If you look at my old photos, you will see a black backpack with several keychains. My mother seldom bought things for me. Mostly she took me to badminton courts, to study painting, to attend tutorial classes, and to learn piano.”
Q: People asked for autographs and wanted to take a photo with their idols. Whose signature do you want to ask for?
“Paulo Coelho. He’s a Brazilian author. I think he’s around 63 years old. I admire his ways of thinking. I have tried to live a sufficient life like him. If we think positively, positive things will happen. We don’t have to try so hard. We merely have to change our thoughts. He has many followers on twitter including me. He likes to tweet great sayings or messages for his followers.
Trans THAI-ENG by: Daffodil0624