Generic Korean

Archive for the ‘Kim Tae Won’ Category

Episode 226 

Date 2011.04.06

We begin this episode with KTW’s reputation as being a devil in the recording studio.  While KTW seems like a sweet guy, there’s a reason why the entire lineup for the band Boohwal has constantly changed through the years.  KTW acknowledges his hardheadedness and jokes that Park Wan Gyu (the band’s singer back during their “Lonely Nights” promotions) was insanely skinny back then because of the stress KTW gave him.  KTW has tried to soften his image recently and when the band was recording “Never Ending Story” with Lee Seung Chul, KTW let the Lee sing in whatever way he wanted.

Interestingly, the song “Never Ending Story” was the song that made KTW’s father acknowledge his son’s talents.  For decades, KTW only sought his dad’s approval but every time the band it #1, his dad reasoned that it wasn’t because of KTW’s musical abilities but because of xyz.  KTW again readily states that without Lee Seung Chul, the song would have never been as successful but truthfully Lee wouldn’t be where he is today without Boowhal either.  KTW thinks that their destinies are woven together and the drama they’ve experienced is the catalyst for beautiful music.   Anyways, when KTW won that year’s best songwriter award, his dad finally told KTW that he did well and KTW finally got the approval he was seeking.

KTW’s had many close encounters with death.  His first “rebirth” occurred at the beach.  He and a friend were swimming in shallow waters when the two began walking deeper and deeper in to the ocean.  It didn’t occur to them that they had fallen into a rip current and suddenly neither could touch the bottom.  They began to panic but if you’ve ever seen Bondi Rescue, you know there’s no way to swim against a rip current at that age.  (BTW why are all the Koreans who get rescued on Bondi Beach so embarrassing!).

The two began to drown and one of them got the great idea to swim under and hold the other up to get the attention of nearby swimmers.  The two took turns doing this until someone came and rescued them.  While every scoffs at the story, KTW swears that its true and till this day, he and his friend argue as to who had the idea and went under first .

In another story of near death, in 2005 doctors found a mass in his liver.  KTW thought that this was the end for him and made arrangements to metaphorically close up shop down to selling his car.  During this point he wrote the song “Beautiful Reality” for the movie “Eraser in my Head”…and then doctors told him he had been misdiagnosed.  I know it’s not  funny to think you’re dying but dude, of all the people it could happen to it had to be him.  LOL.

In 2009 he actually did have a health scare and had to lose 7kg and quit drinking.  In in 2011, he was diagnosed with cancer during the taping of Qualifications of Men.  The first thing he thought about was his wife and children.  He worried about how they would support themselves and felt extremely sorry to them for that.  At first he hid the truth from his wife but eventually told her about his cancer, which didn’t surprise her.  If anyone’s gone through more drama than KTW is his wife.  She’s stood by him during his stint at the mental institution, suicide attempts, near death experiences, and drug addiction.  To KTW, she’s the only person in the world that he’s afraid of.

She’s the reason I live and even if I tried, it would take more than my entire lifetime to repay her for everything she’s done for me.

Going back to his life as a variety show star, in 2008 he was invited to appear on Radio Star by his friend Kim Gura.  Kim is like the equivalent of Perez Hilton circa 2008.  Vicious yet hilariously true.  KTW talked about UFO’s and bragged about how awesome he was at the guitar only to fail miserably during the recording.  That show boosted him to stardom.  For 20 years KTW had been trying to made Boohwal a household name and all it took was one appearance on a tv show.

KTW’s popularity is so high that if you search “Kim Tae” on a portal the automatic results show “Kim Tae Won” at #1 and not Kim Tae Hee (a very popular actress).  Again the host calls bull on him but KTW replies with a caveat that it happens occasionally.  Jokingly, the host Kang Ho Dong does the same thing with his name except when he types “Kang” the first result will always be “Kang Ah Gee” aka Puppies.  Dude puppies are freaking powerful weapons of mass destruction.

While he originally hated the nickname deeming him the nation’s grandmother, he now enjoys showing both his variety and rock sides.  It makes him seem mysterious and tells the audience that if you want to keep a person’s interest, keep a lot of secrets.  Secrets are a great thing because the fact that only you know something gives you a spark in your eyes and makes people wonder about you. Uh, secrets also ruin families and create 16 episode misunderstandings in kdramas but okay.

In a hotly watched episode of Qualifications of Men called Harmony, the hosts were trained by the musical great Park Kollen to perform in a choir competition.  The final episode showed the entire cast along with several recruits performing Nella Fantasia and a cartoon melody to a huge standing ovation.  KTW was originally pissed off a Kollen because she never seemed to pay attention to him.  Regardless of how bad he was she just let him slide while Kollen reamed into the others.  I guess this was her reverse psychology at work because lol at KTW being mad that a teacher wasn’t scolding him.

On MBC’s The Great Birth Star Audition, KTW says that while looks are important in the entertainment industry, he was looking to give those who had been looked over because of their lack of visual prowess a chance at stardom.  For him, what’s important is not whether they win the entire competition but that these kids will have careers that last decades.  Preach my brother.  There are so many “one hit wonders” in music and its sad to see “has beens” trying to make it in the game when all they ever did in the game was provide a flash in the pants.

KTW says he can immediately tell who a person is when they walk into the audition.  Their life stories are written on their faces.  The second thing he notices are the singer’s left hand.  When they sing he can tell if they crave the stage or fear it by how they use their left hand.  So for those who are planning to audition for season 2 of the show, 1) don’t put your hand inside your pocket, and 2) if you put both your hands on your mic you’re terrified and you better be ready to be called out on it.

KTW’s daughter who is now in her teens is already growing her musician roots and KTW says to expect her one day showing up at an audition with her acoustic guitar.  Of course she might end up auditioning for Superstar K (a competing audition program starring Lee Seung Chul) to which KTW replies it’d be a great thing and jokingly implies that KTW might have to call Lee for support.  Finally the last advice KTW gives to aspiring singers is to throw away your prejudices about music.  Rock can join rap can join pop, etc and there’s no right or wrong.  Music is universal so go ahead and listen to everything the world’s got to offer.

For the songwriter, KTW tells the audience that the day after Kim Jaeji died in 1993, he began to write.  Everyday, regardless whether it was sensible or not, KTW would write in his journal and now has numerous volumes of illegible handwriting.  While KTW says that someone had previously stolen his work and therefore writes in a way he can only decipher, KTW seems to be unable to read some of his own writing. Some of the journals thoughts are simple memos like “when you’re thoughtlessly staring out a window and your friend wonders what is on you’re mind.”  and while these things are simply, its a big help to him in his writing.

Finally, the guru closes the show with a solution to KTW’s problems.  How is he going to keep all those promises?  The Guru answers that KTW already promised the audience by telling them everything on this show.  He’s stuck.  So if anyone ever sees KTW smoking, alert the show immediately!

And the consequences of breaking these promises:  1) take off the sunglasses, 2) cut his hair, 3) Make KTW call Lee Seung Chul “Hyung.”  Classic.

Episode 225 

Date 2011.03.30

Kim Tae Won is the leader and guitarist for one of Korea’s longest running bands called Boohwal aka “Rebirth.”  During the past 20 years KTW endured several personal and professional hardships including an addiction to drugs, a stint at a psychological institution, the sudden death of one of its band members and surviving cancer.  Through it all KTW managed to keep the band alive, wrote some of Korea’s best rock ballads and became famous as “the nation’s grandmother.”

While KTW’s songs were famous and Lee Seung Chul (original singer for Boohwal) was famous, the general public had no idea who this guy was.  That changed two years ago when he was invited to the sister program for Golden Fishery called Radio Star.  I’ve never seen that episode but from what I hear the audience loved his eccentric personality.  He began to appear on several variety programs and eventually became known as the nation’s grandmother.  Yes grandmother.  If you look at him from the back it’s pretty self explanatory.  KTW even did a commercial poking fun of his feminine side.

Yet even with his rising fame KTW pointed out the fact that the producers of this show never invited him until he announced his battle with cancer.  I love that about KTW.  He’s so honest but does it in such a self deprecating manner that its not depressing or offensive but funny.

KTW does a weekly show called “Qualifications of Men” and in one episode, each member of the show did a health check with the results to be revealed in the following week.  The main MC of Qualifications of Men along with the producer met KTW after a music program and gave him the bad news.  KTW felt like someone had hit him over the head with a hammer yet put on a brave face.  In February of 2011, he let the Qualifications of Men cameras follow him through his diagnosis and subsequent surgery and as of the airing of this episode, Kim had been given a clean bill of health.

And in the spirit of rock, three days after his surgery, KTW was back on tour with his band.  Interestingly there are a lot of criticisms toward Kim and his band saying Boohwal isn’t rock but ballad.  KTW who is also famous for his lyrical almost romantic words replied “we’re not rock.  we’re music.”

The guru wants to know why he’s come on the show and KTW says that he’s made so many promises to himself that he doesn’t know how to keep them all.  He’s always kept his promises.  Back in middle school, he promised he’d never swear and til this day, he hasn’t used a single curse word.  Amazing considering my mornings usually start out with “omg I’m going to fucking kill that alarm.”

KTW believes that things like swearing became boring after discovering the guitar.  Again he tries to be romantic.  He tells the group that the first chord he played was A minor.  It was so sad and melancholy that it drew him in.  The guru’s sidekick gently plays Am but then calls Kim out saying its the first chord to the Golden Fishery theme song which is everything but sad.

Also in 2009, he promised to quit drinking and to this day he’s never had another drop of alcohol.  He doesn’t even dream about it.  Again, diametrically opposed to me who dreams of soju and makgulli on a daily basis.  The one thing that KTW hasn’t been able to promise himself is to quit smoking.   KTW started smoking in his first year of high school and he knows its bad for him but he hasn’t been able to get himself to quit just yet.

After the general introduction a brief biography is laid out for KTW.  KTW was born April 12, 1965 as the youngest son of five children.  During his teens, he was known as one of the three guitar legends of Korea and in the 80’s he started a band called The End.  The band broke up before its debut but it lead to the introduction of KTW to Lee Seung Chul who became the band’s singer and shot them to stardom with the song “Heeyah.”  During the third album Lee left the group and Kim Jaegi was recruited as the replacement but he died in a tragic car accident while recording their third album.

Kim Jaegi’s brother Kim Jaehee was asked to sing for the band and the album was one of its most successful selling a million copies.  Subsequent singers and songs later the band was reunited with their original singer Lee Seung Chul in 2002, presenting the world with the great “Never Ending Story.”  However Lee again left the group and the band fell into another low, that is until KTW appeared on Radio Star which lead to several other TV shows, commercials and gigs.

Going back to KTW’s childhood, he revealed that his grandfather was extremely rich but due to some bad investments his family lost everything.  During elementary school, KTW became the school outcast and was not only harrassed by the students but by the teachers, who would hit him mercilessly for minor infractions.  He was so scarred that to this day he hates even the smell of the pencils.  But because of his experiences, he readily identifies with what society deems are the “outcasts” and “losers” and has given him an interesting perspective on life.

KTW says that the only reason he endured those rough times was because of his father.  As the youngest son, he was deeply attached to his father and would wait in anticipation each night for the sound of his father coughing as he entered the house, carrying a small snack for him.  Even to this day, that emotional memory lulls him to sleep.

The reason why KTW first learned the guitar was to show off.  His middle school class president was not only smart and good looking but also a guitar player.  Wanting some attention, KTW criticized the guy’s guitar skills and bragged that he could play songs by Led Zeppelin.  Realizing that the students would eventually call his bluff, KTW went home and tried to learn Led Zeppelin’s “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You” by ear.  Six months later he was hooked and once he touched the electric guitar and he never looked back.

Its a testament to his talent that this self taught guitar player would become a legend in the field.  KTW actually tried to take guitar lessons at one point in his life but soon realized he was learning at the faster rate than the teachers were comfortable teaching.  He says that all his life he searched for a genius mentor, someone like Doc Brown from Back to the Future leading Michael J. Fox on great adventures.  He realized no such person existed.  Instead he would have to become the Doc Brown so that another kid wouldn’t feel the disappointment he had felt.

As evidenced above, KTW is insanely passionate about the guitar.  He once took his 1965 Fender Stratocaster and sawed off the sides wondering what sound it would make.  After ruining three guitars he realized sawing parts off an electric guitar was a bad idea.  Yeah, I’d say he’s a guitar equivalent of crazy professor Brown.

Rehashing some history, KTW talks about how he started writing.  In 1985, KTW’s band Boohwal entered a competition against Shinawe (a now legendary Korean rock band).  Everything from the quality of Shinawe’s instruments to their physical appearance were impeccable and even as a 19 year old KTW knew the only way he’d be going to compete was to become a songwriter.

Speaking of looks, Lee Seung Chul was definitely the face of the group back in the 80’s.  The band actually opposed the addition of Lee but KTW fought hard for him because he had a great vibrato.  Of course the more famous and successful songs do feature Lee which goes to show KTW definitely has an ear for music.  After Lee left the group, KTW fell into addiction which haunted his music and personal life for several years.  During that time, he wrote a song for his girlfriend, now wife called Reminiscence III found on Boohwal’s second album.  That song and album bombed on the charts yet when Lee Seung Chul remade the song for his solo and called it “The Last Concert” it became an instant hit.  This made KTW even more miserable as if it affirmed for him his failure as a musician and he considered breaking up the band.

Eventually KTW met Kim Jaegi.  KTW he had never seen someone with the vocal abilities of Kim Jaegi and the only person who compared was Lee Sora.  So from the depths of KTW’s depression and addiction, he found a glimpse of hope in Kim and began to write and compose for Boohwal’s third album  While the song “사랑할수록” aka “As I Love” sold a million records, it was recorded in one session as Kim unfortunately died in a tragic car accident shortly afterwards.

Several years later, Lee Seung Chul approached KTW to do a reunion concert.  As part of their contract, KTW was commissioned to write a new song for the group.  However months passed and KTW continued to fight with writers block.  Most people are under the impression that his wife and children left him during this time and moved to Canada.  However, KTW tells the guru that this isn’t true.

As several news outlets reported after this show, KTW’s 11 year old son is autistic.  There is a huge stigma attached to mental and emotional problems in Korea and KTW’s wife left the country not because of her husband or because she was ashamed of her son but because the country and its people had emotionally scarred her and their child.

Its heartbreaking as KTW tells the guru and the entire country this story.  While he says that their family is extremely happy, his wife and children continue to live outside of Korea because of the hurt they feel from people.  He knows that there are so many children who are facing the same struggles as his son and he hopes that by revealing this secret, he can perhaps change people’s perceptions of autism.

KTW’s life story and the story behind Boohwal was recently portrayed in a mini drama called “Rock Rock Rock” starring Noh Min Woo.  KTW’s story is filled with a lot of heartache and emotional turmoil.  Not only was he addicted to drugs, he tried to commit suicide, he got swindled, his work was stolen, etc.  That’s a lot for a 47 year old to go through but maybe that’s why his songs are so good.

Yoo Hee Yeol’s Sketchbook recently had the band perform and the band invited several of Boohwal’s past singers.  Its interesting to see how different each singer sang the same song and if you can, its definitely worth watching.