With less than three months under their belts at the time, Monsta X was by far the newest group at KCON 2015, but you wouldn’t be able to tell. The huge audience roars recalled the reaction to BTS, the breakout act of last year’s KCON, before they embarked on a sold-out U.S. tour.
The septet made the most of their first U.S. venture, by not only singing for and meeting fans, but making a surprise appearance during the convention and performing in a dance battle with fellow boy band GOT7.
As expected from a rookie group, the boys were a bit shy, but remarkably professional talking to Billboard backstage before they hit the Staples Center stage. English-speaking member I.M concentrated when he spoke while Minhyuk was very excited and well-spoken. While they remained tight-lipped about new music at the time (a new EP titled Rush was just announced for next week) and some questions required the whole group to weigh in, the band told us about their first American trip together, rivalries with other K-pop rookies and, finally, who each member’s ultimate musical inspiration is — which got each Monsta X man to bust out of his shell.
You’re about to perform at a massive arena here at the Staples Center. What’s going through your heads?
Monsta X: All of the acts performing tonight are really good singers, it’s very honorable and we’ll never forget this. We know that the L.A. Lakers play here too, so it feels really interesting to perform here.
It’s your first time traveling and performing in America. What’s this experience been like together?
We didn’t expect fans over here to know us so it’s been a really cheerful trip. We did the fan meeting session today and it’s really been like a dream.
Were fans at the airport to see you? What was that like?
It was our first time [coming to America] and there were fans! We were so surprised. We were just walking by ourselves and then they showed up.
How do you think they became so excited and passionate so quickly?
It might be because of our powerful dance and some strong music, but we’re energetic, we have our own energy. We call ourselves the K-pop “Avengers” because we get together and perform energetically — even though we’re all new together and were recently put together.
Your debut single was “Trespassing,” a really strong hip-hop track. Why was it the perfect song to debut with?
“Trespassing” means we’re young and that we’re trying to break into new things. It represents all our individual members.
There’s several other new groups also taking off with an emphasis on hip-hop-inspire sound like BTS, Seventeen, iKON. How do you view the competition?
There are so many things to learn from all these other groups. There’s so many different groups and we mostly focus on watching them for something to learn. Even if we’re all new, there are things we can learn from one other.
Who inspires Monsta X as a whole?
As group, it would have to be BIGBANG.
And then individually, who are you ultimate inspirations?
I.M: Big Sean. He’s cool. He’s has a small-sized body, but very big energy and you can tell in his music that there’s a story to the music. I feel like I can learn a lot of things from him.
Shownu: Usher, he’s also cool. He has an aura and his personality is very cool.
Jooheon: My favorite “musician” would be Young Money, YMCMB; the whole record label. And I like Michael Jackson. Because I’m a rapper, and as a rapper, Young Money appeals to my rapper side. As a performer, I think Michael Jackson is an important performer and overall I really admire Michael Jackson.
Kihyun: Michael Jackson too, and Justin Timberlake. I like their music and their styles are different from each other. I saw Justin Timberlake’s concert, he was performing just by himself and that was amazing.
Hyungwon: John Legend. He has a low voice tone and he can play piano. He creates a mood that I like.
Wonho: Kanye West. I like the beats he makes and the actual music. But also his fashion inspires me. Whenever he goes places, I like what he does. I’m just a really big fan of Kanye West, I follow everything he does.
Minhyuk: J. Cole. Whenever I see his music videos, I just say, “Wow.” He’s very creative. Whenever he makes a new video, it’s amazing.