ARTISTdirect.com Q&A: X Japan
Thu, 07 Oct 2010 08:47:26
X Japan Videos
You've probably not heard of X Japan...yet. But they have a rich, impressive history that I am more than happy to give you a crash course in. Ready? Here goes: They are one of the biggest rock bands in Japanese history. They've sold more than 30-million units worldwide. They've filled Japan's 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome 18 times. You doing the math here? That's a lot of people. Yet the band is but a blip on American music fan's radar. That ought to change soon, though.
Culturally, X Japan established their footing. They pioneered "Visual-Kei," a movement that went on to become a catalyst for today's worldwide Anime craze.
Yoshiki, the band's leader, is a dynamic individual. He is a songwriter, a drummer, fabulously coiffed and a classically-trained pianist who was commissioned to compose and perform a piano concerto for the Emperor of Japan to help celebrate the Emperor's 10th year on the throne. He also has a charitable foundation, the Yoshiki Foundation America, a non-profit, public benefit corporation. Yoshiki is a true modern Renaissance man.
Is your jaw hitting the floor right now? Are you asking yourself, "How the hell have I not heard about this band yet?" Well relax, it's all in due time. X Japan have begun their ascent. The band is currently on tour -their first US trek- and will release their first U.S. album in early 2011.
Sure, X Japan have more than conquered Japan but they're not going to rest on their laurels. The band wants to capture the hearts of Americans. ARTISTdirect's Amy Sciarretto spoke to Yoshiki about the flurry of activity surrounding himself and X Japan. Remember, you read about X Japan here...first!
You made your major performance debut with Lollapalooza over the summer in Chicago. How did it feel? Like a coming out party?
The Lollapalooza gig gave us the confidence that we could try and make it in the US. We feel like who knows if we will make it or not, but at least we can try.
It was your first major US show. Were you nervous?
Yes and no. We have played much bigger places in Japan, but it was our first US X Japan show, so yes, we were nervous.
You've composed a song for the Japanese Emperor and have sold out venues that hold tens of thousands of fans. What motivates you to want to rock America?
Outside of Japan, it has been a dream to come to America, so it is a part of our overall dream. Being famous in Japan won't complete our dream. That's not enough. We are not greedy or anything. But why stop there! The sky is the limit.
I notice that Japanese culture often influences American culture. What's big in Japan is big in America, only six months later. Maybe X Japan are on that track.
Yes, that is true, but Japanese culture is influenced by America and Europe, too! The cultures are influencing each other. In X Japan, we are influenced by KISS, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie and we just combined all those elements and made our own style.
X Japan has some theatrical, glam rock and pop elements - you guys go big!
It's all about entertainment. We love music and we love the music we make, which is our main focus, anyway. At the same time, when you go to the show, just seeing bands playing straight without all the extras might be boring for the fans to watch. I want to entertain people.
Let's talk about your diversity! You have a classical music background and you were invited to compose and perform for the Emperor of Japan. That had to be a highlight of your musical career, so how did that come to pass?
That's an interesting one. First off, we were honored to compose and perform for the Emperor. When I was composing a piano concerto, what I created was longer than 20 minutes. But people were going to have to stand during my performance, so the government had asked me to make it shorter so I cut it down to seven minutes. It was much shorter than my original score. The alternate version is almost 20 minutes. I guess the people there were happy that they could sit down.
When the Emperor requested that you write something, did you almost faint? That's such an honor. It probably made your parents proud.
I asked my mother, 'What do I do?' and she said, 'Do it!' I mean, my mother was never proud of my work. I mean, she was proud of me, but she didn't really get what was going on...
Like most parents…
Yes, she was like a mom. We are from a traditional Japanese background and value the concept of family. My mother used to run a Kimono shop, which is very traditional. So right after I had performed, they invited me to the palace and I took my mother, so she was like, 'Finally, I am so proud of you!'
Lately, X Japan is everywhere: interviewed by news anchor Diane Sawyer, profiled in Details, playing Lollapalooza. Do you feel like American audiences are slowly catching on to X Japan?
We'd like to and it will not be easy but at least we are trying. I did not come here yesterday and I have been in Los Angeles for 10 years now.
Are you an LA transplant? Do you still live in Japan at all or are you here permanently?
I go back and forth between Los Angeles and Tokyo!
That has to afford you some great frequent flyer miles and cultural excitement.
[Laughs] I spend the majority of my time here, though.
What is your favorite thing about LA?
I moved here since we are achieved our popularity in Japan and I had to move here. I ended up buying a recording studio here in Los Angeles. Living here, I also do some soundtrack work for Hollywood movies, too, so it is the perfect place for me to be. I did Repo: The Genetic Opera and I also did the theme song, "I.V." for Saw IV a few years ago, which was played over the closing credits.
You really do do everything, Yoshiki! Tell us about your Yoshiki Foundation, which is arts-based!
I established it in the States and in Japan, since I lost my father when I was young and I had a hard time as a kid, I want to support those children who have unfortunate situations, so I created the foundation. Every time I perform, I do some type of charity event, whether it is inviting some kids to the show or donating something for them.
You are on your first US tour - what are you loving most about it?
I am looking forward to everything. Whatever happens, happens. We are heavy, we are fast and were melodic and we have some ballads, and we have classical backgrounds so we have those elements, too, and we look flashy. That's what we're about.