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Finding new ways to express yourself after years of being an artist is hard, but KINO has found a new path fitting for each of his creative endeavors. He’s a performer, living on stage as a K-Pop idol since 2016. He’s also a physical artist, displaying paintings in exhibitions in Seoul. KINO recently set up his own independent company NAKED and is strong-willed on taking over the world with it. His new single “Freaky Love” celebrates all that is fun about love and being truly delulu. Check out our new Q&A with KINO below. 

All of your music so far has varied in concept and vibe. Do you want to continue trying out different styles of music or are you trying to find a certain lane to stay in?

Of course, I want to continue trying out different styles of music. There will always be one big direction that will run through all of these as KINO’s niche. During the pandemic days, I was focused on making dance music. And now I’m making more easy-listening pop music. Experimenting with genres like drum and bass, just like in Fashion Style. Making beautiful melodies is my main specialty and mixing the melodies with new styles creates my signature color. I think I will keep experimenting with music and I hope people will enjoy them throughout.

Could you explain more of the backstory of your new song, “Freaky Love”? What was the inspiration behind the track?

I have wanted to make a light repetitive chorus. Like with Freaky Love, the subject matter of the song itself, it’s talking about love in a very lighthearted way. Because you know how like, love and feelings come in very different intensities, right? Not everything is all heavy and serious. So I wanted to write a song about the love or feeling that’s not that heavy. As for the music style, I’ve never done a very repetitive and simple song until now. So I wanted to try that as well. 

Do you have more music on the way after “Freaky Love”? Are there any longer form projects in the works? EP, album, anything like that?

Yes, there is. When it comes to music, there is always more on the way. And right now I’m giving out hints here and there on my socials. So if anyone is following, maybe not right now, but then later down the road, they will realize that, “Oh, this was the hint or clue of what’s coming!” But keep track of my socials in general. I’m planning on touring more as well. Like, not just [South] Korea and Asia, but the US too. 

So “Fashion Style” describes a love of the way someone expresses themselves through their style. And “Freaky Love” speaks about falling in love instantly with just the idea of being with someone. Is there something to be said about your tendency to write love songs? Are you a hopeless romantic and that bleeds into your music? 

In my life, love is indispensable. I cannot live without love, because love comes in different forms. It’s not just about love with a different person. It could be with my family or with friends, even with the computer. [laughs] So there are all these different affections. Right? So I want to express those kinds of feelings through songs. And there are so many different stories you can talk about in terms of love. “Freaky Love” is one case where it’s more about the light hearted, light feeling of love. And this whole concept of love is actually a new theme for the upcoming EP I’m preparing. So I’ll be dealing with different feelings and emotions and surroundings of love. So later down the road, you’ll find out more about those songs. I feel like lyrically as well, it’s [everyone’s] stories sung by me in a way, so it’s more relatable. It’s not just about me talking about my love stories, but something that we can all understand and relate to.

You’ve obviously had such an interesting journey from your time as a trainee until now. What has been the most rewarding experience of your career?

Under career, of course, it’s debuting with Pentagon. My members, each and every one of us is so different and unique. So from the beginning, we used to fight all the time, every single day. Of course, it was kind of a mess. But now, sometimes I can’t believe that like “Oh, we became a family.”. Like a real team. It’s unbelievable to me, you know, that feeling of missing them, but not at the same time? It’s like that. I’ve learned a lot from being a member of the team, for sure.

What lessons did you learn while being in a group that you can now take as a solo artist?

My members are so naughty. [laughs] They trained me hard and my skin is thickened, so I don’t get easily hurt by negativity. Nowadays, I’m feeling like I became altered because of my members. They trained me so hard.

Seems like they teased you as one of the maknaes (youngest members). So you’re like, I can handle anything now.

That’s right. And then I learned to be considerate of others. That was the most important part I realized when I started [working] by myself. I’m always grateful to have them as my team members.

Who or what inspires you lately in this new chapter of your life?

Actually, TikTok videos these days. Because there are so many different kinds of people on there. I can see every single day between 30 seconds, 15 seconds, how we are able to experience other people’s lives in less than a minute. On top of popular trends, I’ve been able to learn things that I didn’t even know I liked. So sometimes I am surprised. On TikTok, people say I’m “chronically online”. Before we started NAKED, I was not a user of TikTok. So I never knew about the culture on TikTok. 

You’ve discovered a whole new world.

Yeah, exactly. I became a new person.

Well, I mean, it’s an entire new audience that you probably didn’t realize that you had before. So now you’re like “Let’s go! Let’s get this thing moving!” So speaking of TikTok, kind of, but more musically, do you find it easier to collaborate with other creatives, or do you enjoy working alone?

So personally, personality wise yes of course. And efficiency wise, I’m of a kind [of person] who is more comfortable doing things by himself. And it actually works faster as well, but seldomly, if there’s luck, usually once or twice a year I meet a kind of person who I click with really well. It feels like Spider Man’s spidey senses. So that happens. And then we create, like, crazy amazing results. So last year it was the dancer Aiki, and this year, I’ve met another one recently. Very recently, yeah. So that’s on the way.

What about writing songs? Do you tend to jot down things in your notes by yourself and then bring them to a friend that you work with? Or is it more you just create when you’re with other people?

It’s case by case. But usually I write down my ideas or some references on my notes, and then I bring those to my friends who work with me. We make more detail from those ideas. That’s the usual.

That makes sense. It can’t be the same every time because you never know when inspiration will strike! What is something that new listeners or people that aren’t familiar with your journey and your music already, what should they know about KINO? What should they know that they’re getting into when they look into your TikToks?

I have always wanted to say to my listeners or my fans that I am funnier than you think and that I’m not that serious of a person. I’m always honest and I’m similar to you guys. The last sentence that I mentioned is connected to the direction of NAKED. Because I want that my people know that I’m different. Like, I’m not great. Celebrate. I’m just a person. I’m just a human being like you guys. That’s what I want to put into my layers.

Speaking of being yourself, you have many identities as an artist. You’ve just decided on the pseudonym CYAN for your physical art, and then you have KINO as your stage name and Kang Hyeong gu. So do you find comfort in separating your artistry into these different identities? And do you have a desire to keep those parts of your work separate, or do you think that in time, they will merge into one and you can really take advantage of having those different identities?

So to be honest, having one name is the basic and the best with one identity. There was no intention of me wanting to create different stage names or alias in general. But as I was diving into different sectors of art, as I was pursuing it, I realized that when I’m on it, I’m a bit different person from others, the KINO or Hyeong gu that people know or certain image that people have in that specific light. So I wanted to give a different perspective on that, so that wouldn’t translate back to the image or the expression that I want to make with the different form of art. Because every form of art, different field, I have different things I want to express. Three is enough, having more is too much.

It seems like you’re bringing out a different part of yourself with each of those identities. Not necessarily a new person, but finding something different in each of those parts of yourself.

What are your recent pop culture obsessions? Obviously one we already discussed is TikTok. You’ve got the TikToks down, but what else are you interested in currently?

Okay, I can say three things. Keeping up with the drama around Kanye West’s new album, The second one is Tyla’s “Water”, she’s so cool. Her music and dance is beautiful. I’ve never seen an artist like her, so I’m getting a lot of inspiration from her now and manifesting a collaboration with her one day. And then the last one is [my excitement for] Taylor Swift’s new album, The Tortured Poet’s Department. Yeah, exactly. These things are amazing.

A true musician’s answer. All three music related!

Check out KINO’s new single, “Freaky Love” here

Follow KINO on Instagram


  • Lily Dabbs

    hobbies include talking about beyoncé until everyone's sick and acting like my bedroom is the mcountdown stage at 3 AM

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