It looks like at any moment the pink T-shirt holding in his bulging muscles will be able to contain him no more: shoulders that look as if they have spread another 10 cm in the last year from a new and deeper confidence in his words and ways. K-Pop’s brightest star Rain, who will kick off a world tour at a release event for his fourth album at the main stadium at the Jamsil Olympic Stadium on Oct. 13., agreed to a chat with the Chosun Ilbo.
“What happens now will determine whether I’ll be taking a big step forward or staying where I’m at,” he says. “If you just grasp a handful of sand, it will only slip through your fingers. You need to sprinkle water on the sand to make mud, which can then become cement and be made into a building.”
“This world tour is the biggest opportunity I’ve ever had in my life,” says the pop star, who has prepared for it as much as humanly possible. The biggest difference between this and his last tour is that a top crew that has worked on the shows of all the top U.S. and U.K. stars has been assembled for the show. “Things that no Korean musician has yet been able to do are happening now,” he says. “Even when those who come to the show reach their 40s and 50s, they will automatically think of it whenever it rains, that’s the kind of masterpiece that I will make. When I was drinking with (tour) producer Jamie King, he said, ‘I’m the best there is. If I can’t make your stage the best, there’s no reason for me to be here.’ It was like a spark.”
After wrapping up his Madison Square Garden concert back in February, Rain had two choices. There was the perhaps too hasty fast track: putting together an album in English and heading guns blazing into the U.S. market. And the slower and surer option: heading back to Asia to cement his popularity with a world tour first. He went with the second option. “I thought that the first order of business should be giving a big gift back to the audiences in Asia. Towards the end of next year, I’ll officially release an album in English, and then I’d better get up on those Billboard Charts,” he says.
“I don’t have the words to express how ready I am for battle. Usually, once the curtain goes up, the roars of the audience shake me like a wave and electricity surges from head to toe. But now I’m in that state of excitement even though the concerts haven’t started.”
Rain’s ambitions as an actor are not too modest either. He recently finished work on the latest film by director Park Chan-wook, Cyborg Girl. In the midst of all that, he has also been putting together his fourth album and preparing for the tour, putting his daily schedule a long way from comfort. “I sleep for one or two hours,” he admits.
“In my days as a backup dancer, a mentor of mine who was the drummer said something that always stayed with me: ‘When you lie down in bed at night, if comfortable sleep doesn’t come to you, you haven’t put everything into your work that day.” These days, when I lie down for bed, I am often uneasy. I struggle to think of just what it is that I’ve done wrong, then finally, I just get back up and practice dancing and singing again. It seems like I may have some kind of an obsession.”
Even though Rain lives as though there are 48 hours in a day, he still meets his friends from time to time. But he confesses, “After just the first shot of Soju, I start asking myself, ‘Is it really OK for me to be messing around like this now?’ and then it is difficult for me to just enjoy small talk.” His “obsession” with work is more than your garden variety self-motivation. “Yes, I’m a workaholic.”
“When I think of how I wasn’t able to even buy a meal, or a bouquet of flowers, for my mother who left this world after she couldn’t get adequate treatment for her diabetes, I realize that I can’t spend one minute or even one second in vain,” the singer says. “People who have gone five days without food see the world with different eyes. A lot of my older friends tell me that I should spend more of my money.”
The album, to be released at the event on 13th, has his fans all over the world on pins and needles. “In places that have been ravaged by war and starvation, the falling Rain brings the sprouts of peace and love,” is the theme that was chosen to base the album around, explains the singer.
In August last year, Rain donated enough to have 50 wells built in Kampot, Cambodia. “It was such a small thing, but many people helped, so we had good results.” Recalling the Time 100 party last May, where the singer rubbed shoulders with some real big-timers, he says, “I was introduced with the phrase, ‘In North Korea there’s Kim Jong-il, in South Korea there’s Rain,’ and I was together with Condoleezza Rice and Jerry Bruckheimer, it was like a fantastic dream. I was infused with a new energy when I returned home.” Back in my days as a dancer, whenever things became overwhelming, I used to head up Mt. Namsan, he says, closing his eyes.
“Then I said to myself, ‘Someday every single one of those people down there will know my name.’ These days, when I think about the U.S., it brings back those memories. Now is only the beginning. Soon the day will come when everyone in the U.S., the home of pop music, will also recognize that Rain is the top star.”