CL for I-D (April) Magazine Interview!
ID: So how did CL and Jeremy’s stars first cross?
CL: Actually we go way back. When our first album came out, Jeremy saw the video and I was wearing his shoe collaboration with Adidas. Then he came to Korea to make a photoshoot with me and my band and that’s how we met. You know when you meet someone and you just know you’re going to be good friends? We had that connection and since then we’ve been like best friends. We can’t see each other that often, but we keep in touch, and when we are together we go shopping, we eat, we talk. I think we talk a lot!
ID: What do you like to shop?
CL: I love mixing everything, though when I shop I’m more into vintage. I collect vintage Chanel and Versace. I’m saving it for big videos and stuff.
ID: Where do you shop?
CL: Well, Japan has a lot of good vintage places and all these crazy clothes, these Japanese punk kind of clothes. So I go to Tokyo mostly, and then I’ll go to Hong Kong for brands, because they have everything there. I go a lot to New York to shop too.
ID: Who’s 2NE1′s stylist?
CL: His name’s Xin, he’s a good friend of ours. He went to Saint Martins here in London and we’ve been working together since our first album. He’s actually with me right now, upstairs in a hotel room.
iD: So who’s come to London with you?
CL: Right now it’s my stylist, hair, make-up, manager, and some of my friends are here too. I don’t know if you’ve heard of Big Bang?
ID: I love Big Bang!
CL: Cool, well G-Dragon’s here right now! He came to hang.
ID: So what have you two been doing in the hotel for fun?
CL: That sounds weird [laughs]! He’s actually very good friends with my stylist, he came to see my stylist not me, but we’re all friends, so…they’re doing something together in the hotel room, not me!
ID: I meet CL in a small room full of boxes of clothes, towers of them everywhere, one night in Bethnal Green’s Town Hall Hotel. It’s not her upstairs room, it’s her manager’s and they’re in town to shoot for a Korean fashion magazine in freezing cold London town; later that night it starts snowing, and doesn’t stop for days. The hotel’s quiet, sparsely occupied, and no one’s noticed that two of Seoul’s most notorious pop stars are hidden away in its rooms. With blond plaits, super XL vintage LA Raiders jersey (“This is all I’m wearing!”) and jaguar print Jeremy Scott x Adidas x Timberlands (the only pair in the world, made specially for her) Chae Lin is cute and sweet, even a little shy. But soon she’s laughing, telling amazing stories about her physics professor dad who designs robots and writes kids books, her time training to be a K-pop singer, and how her record company won’t allow her any boyfriends.
ID: What was it like when you were young?
CL: I moved around a lot because of my dad, he’s a professor so he was teaching. I was born in Korea but as soon I was born I moved to France, and then Japan for seven or eight years, and then Korea, and then back to France to study for a couple years of junior high, and then back to Korea.
ID: What’s your dad a professor of?
CL: Physics, it’s crazy! I don’t have any of his blood. I’m no good at physics.
ID: What’s it like having a physics professor as a dad?
CL: Actually he loves art, he designs these giant robots, they’ve appeared in stores in France, in the Louvre and the Palais de Tokyo. He designs all these robots and also writes books for children.
ID: What sort of books?
CL: He started writing books for my sister and me when we were young. We didn’t grow up watching TV, we would just paint all day long with my dad when we were little, that’s what we did every day. He wrote stories for us and actually released them as a book, and then he wrote more books for children.
ID: Can you tell us one of the stories?
CL: It’s so crazy because it’s all about travelling around the world with a character called ‘Kaka’; in French that means ‘poop’, but in Korea it means ‘heading’… it’s weird. Kaka could jump high and travel, he could fly around the world, and he would go to different places and meet animals and people and make friends. That’s what all the stories are about, that you can be friends with anyone. I remember when he saw a ladybug he always told me, ‘Don’t be scared, they are your friends.’
CL: I know! He’s a dreamer.
ID: Do you think you can make friends with anyone?
CL: Yeah, of course.
ID: And now you fly all around the world.
CL: I know… I’m Kaka right now!
ID: CL sings but she’s best known as the world’s cutest rapper, ‘CL the baddest female Seoul City ever had,’ switching from Korean to English and back in her poppy flows for 2NE1 and, our favourite, her heartfelt dance duet with Minzy, Please Don’t Go; a curious song that hops from euphoria to abstraction at the drop of a hat. CL’s signed to all powerful YG Entertainment, home of boy bands and girl bands and Gangnam Style, which is to K-pop what Death Row Records once was to hip hop.
ID: So how did it all start?
CL: I loved singing when I was young and, I don’t know, one day I just started rapping. First of all, I listen to a lot of rap music. I love that whole attitude. It has power, a different kind of power than singing. And I just fell into it.
ID: What rappers are you into?
CL: I love A$AP Rocky. He’s really cool, I like what he represents. But these days I listen to a lot of singing too, I love Lana Del Rey and Frank Ocean… and Miguel, I love Miguel! That’s good music.
ID: Lana Del Rey says something I like at the end of the Ride video, “I am fucking crazy but I am free.’ Are you free?
CL: Hmmm… I don’t know, I think I’m free. I have an alter ego, I have that switch, One side of me is totally in control of myself, and the other is free, enjoying everything.
ID: What do you do for fun?
CL: I might sound like a nerd but I really love recording, making music, and videos and photoshoots. I love what I do so that’s what I do for fun every day. I’m not good at taking a day off; I haven’t taken a holiday in four years. I only know how to work. I don’t like partying; I don’t go out that much. I really stay in the studio or my house.
ID: Are you in the studio at the moment?
CL: I am actually, I got shit from my bandmates [laughs] because we’re recording every day, 24/7, and I had to come back to London for a week so they have to stop that for me. I’ll be back there in the studio as soon as I’m in Seoul. Last year we couldn’t make an album because of our tour, so now we’re working hard for it.
ID: How did you become a K-pop star?
CL: In Korea we have a system, it’s not like in the US or the UK; I was trained. Actually I had the shortest time in training of anyone in 2NE1, only two years in a company, I was preparing for my solo album back then. One day the four of us - Minzy, Dara, Bom and me - got together and recorded a song called Pretty Boy and it sounded good, it sounded right, and from then we started recording lots and lots. it was natural, it just happened.
ID: How did you start the training?
CL: I was a big fan of Teddy [Park, who produces all her music] when I was young he’s a rapper and I always listened to his album, and that’s why I wanted to go into his company, YG Family. I sent him all my videos and tapes, but I never had a response for three years so I was like, ‘Oh this not gonna work?’ Then one day I thought, ‘Maybe he didn’t see the video?’ SO I was waiting in front of the building, it was winter, it was really cold and I actually handed it to him in person and he called me right back. It was really dramatic if I think back, it was a crazy thing to do, but I was young and I thought, ‘I have to do this. I don’t want to regret this.’
ID: Never give up!
ID: What was training like?
CL: You live with music all the time. I had vocal lessons, dance lessons – all kinds of dance lessons – and language lessons too, like Japanese and Chinese because we go all around the world. It was like school, but it was fun because you’re doing what you enjoy – together every day with your bandmates, practising and singing, listening to music and all that.
ID: Do you still live with your band?
CL: We have a big house that we’re all supposed to live in but I live separately [laughs]. I don’t go there a lot.
ID: Is it true that your boss at YG family won’t allow you any boyfriends?
CL: Yeah! We have this rule he made for us that we can’t date guys for five years, that started when our first album came out. But out here, people don’t really care if pop stars date people. Do they care?
ID: Only the fans.
CL: The fans care?
ID: Well sometimes if a girl’s out with, say, Harry Styles, she’ll have death threats…
CL: Yeah, that’s how it is! It’s kind of worse in Korea. People are stricter about dating. I think he did that for us to be careful, I don’t know [laughs]… We’re called ‘idols’. I don’t really see ourselves as an idol group but that’s what we are in Korea so we have to be careful. He’s looking out for us.
ID: What do you have to do as an idol?
CL: You know how Japanese singers have idol groups? That’s what it’s like in Korea too. You have to be perfect. You have to perform well, you shouldn’t date anyone, you can’t go to clubs and you can’t have your free time. The fans are strict. They have that standard image, especially with girls because boys could date somebody…
ID: So the boy bands are freer?
CL: Yeah, they are, but the fans are crazier about them because… you know what I mean! It’s so different from out here. It’s a different culture.
ID: I think over here people kind of want their stars to fuck up in a way.
CL: I mean it’s like that in Korea too, but that’s why YG is looking out for us.
ID: So five years without a boyfriend, how long do you have left?
CL: I’m very close! I have a year left… Actually YG cut back two years for the older two girls, Bom and Dara, because they’re older [they’re both 28] and they have to start dating guys. I think they’re free now this year.
ID: So what happens then?
CL: I have no idea! They were like, ‘YAY!’ but if you don’t date guys for three years. it’s hard to pick that up. I think they’re working on it.
ID: I’m sure you’ll all be ok.
CL: Minzy and me are still locked in so we don’t know [laughs]!
ID: What’s the best and worst thing about your life?
CL: I’m doing what I love, that’s the best thing; and the worst thing is that I’m doing what I love, every day. Because I can’t get out of this for one second, I’m always in this, that’s the best and worst thing.
ID: You’re living the dream?
CL: No! No! If you were in my shoes you wouldn’t be saying that.
ID: Everyone wants to be a pop star or a footballer.
CL: But I think that’s the same all around the world, everyone wants to…
ID: And not everyone can be?
CL: No, I believe everyone could be, they just have to pay what it takes.
ID: So… do you have any advice for the dreamers?
CL: I think they should live, and really have fun, when they’re young. I want people to dream. Because I feel like a lot of young kids don’t have any dreams these days, they give up easily, or they feel like they have everything planned out. So I hope they can dream and be excited about what’s going to happen tomorrow, because everything is possible, yeah!
Magazine Scans: (queenchaerin)
Transcribed by firstname.lastname@example.org