Jersey Beat Music Fanzine


by Deborah J. Draisin (and featuring Justine Perez)

X Japan co-founder Yoshiki Hayashi has been composing classical pieces since kindergarten. A pianist and drummer with a symphonic background, Yoshiki and longtime friend Toshimitsu Deyama formed X Japan in 1978 under the name Dynamite. Dynamite gave way to Noise, which then gave way simply to X until they could come up with something catchier. Needless to say, the name stuck.

Snubbed by the industry for years, the band struggled until Yoshiki’s mother, with pure belief in her son’s capabilities, poured her life savings into the band’s DIY project, Exstasy Records. They finally had their moment in 1987 when they caught the eye of Sony, who released X Japan’s breakthrough album, Blue Blood, two years later.
They signed with Atlantic next and put out two albums before calling it quits in 1997 with the departure of founding member Toshi.

After going solo for many years, Yoskihi reformed the band in 2007, but health problems forced the tour into postponement. The tour is now officially kicking off with a brand new album in the works.

X Japan is: Yoshiki Hayashi on drums and piano, Toshimitsu “Toshi” Deyama on lead vocals, Tomoaki “Pata” Ishizuka and Yune “Sugizo” Sugihara on guitar and backing vocals, and Hiroshi "Heath" Morie on bassHiroshi "Heath" Morie on bass (Sugizo also plays the violin.) Yoshiki was kind enough to spare us a few moments as he prepares for life on the road.

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Q: Nice to meet you, Yoshiki, this is Deb from Jersey Beat.

Yoshiki: Hello, how are you?

Q: Welcome to a tour of our country finally!

Yoshiki: Thank you, even though I’ve been living here for years now (both laugh.)

Q: It’s almost like you haven’t, though, because you’re here this whole time yet you’ve never toured, at least not as X Japan.

Yoshiki: I’m performing in my hometown finally!

Q: And now all your friends get to see you.

Yoshiki: I know! Now my friends are going to believe me that I’m a big shot (both laugh.)

Q: Awesome! So, you’re technically a twenty year old outfit, although you experienced an almost 14 year hiatus. What finally made you decide to get back into the studio together?

Yoshiki: Well, we broke up over 12 years ago - the reason being that Toshi (the vocalist) and I went our separate ways. Then, seven or eight years later, he called me out of nowhere and we started talking again. Before we decided to reunite the band, we had to fix our friendship. We grew up together; I met him when I was four years old. He was also my neighbor, and he happened to be a great vocalist. So a few years later, after we had that reunion, we didn’t know if it was going to be a one-time thing or continue.

Q: And then after that show went really well, you decided “Hey, let’s do it for real.”

Yoshiki: Yes, exactly; it’s sort of more like the beginning of the new X Japan.

Q: Wow, that’s exciting!

Yoshiki: I think so, yeah. We are still evolving after all these years, so yes, the tour that we are doing is going to be a combination of old X Japan and new X Japan.

Q: What do you think will be new like we’ve never seen before and what do you think will be more like the old?

Yoshiki: Okay, so we have a new guitarist who joined, Sugizo - he also plays the violin. I play piano as well - I started playing when I was four years old - so with both of us playing, it’s going to make the band very…

Q: Unique; a little more symphonic.

Yoshiki: Yeah, interesting: we go from very classical to very heavy rock.

Q: Your last studio album was comprised mostly of ballads. A lot must have changed since then in all of your lives since then - are you looking at a different direction as far as what types of songs these are going to be?

Yoshiki: Yes, I would say that the songs that we’re writing this year have got more edge to them – not necessarily fast, just edgier.

Q: That’s from living in L.A. all those years – you develop an attitude towards stuff (both laugh.) What have you been drawing upon this go-round to help you get inspired in the studio? What’s been getting you going?

Yoshiki: Everything inspires me, but I’m not really staying in Los Angeles all the time. I’ve been traveling - going back and forth between Tokyo and Los Angeles, but living in Hollywood inspires me a lot.

Q: Yes, I can imagine, and hopefully the songs will be every bit as brutal as I’m expecting them to be (both laugh.) You know, us New Yorkers, we have a little bit of a competitive thing with L.A..

Yoshiki: I actually used to have a condo in New York! I used to always go back and forth between Los Angeles and New York too.

Q: Comparison-wise, what do you think about each one versus the other?

Yoshiki: Well, Hollywood is very film-industry driven, whereas, to me, New York seems more fashion-industry driven.

Q: It’s probably similar to home, right?

Yoshiki: Um, Europe might be closer to Tokyo, actually.

Q: Hm; well the main drag in Tokyo was inspired by Times Square, though.

Yoshiki: Yeah, also New York weather is very similar to Tokyo.

Q: You mean it’s not 70 degrees all the time (both laugh.) Being identified as the main songwriter of the band, have you ever run into the assumption by others that you don’t value the other members’ input as much as perhaps you should? Has that ever gotten said to you, and how do you combat that?

Yoshiki: I listen to everything, every single suggestion and then try to incorporate everyone’s ideas into the songs.

Q: Everyone feels that they’re properly represented.

Yoshiki: Yes.

Q: That’s good, especially after all of the dischord that occurred earlier on, you probably wanted to feel a bit more like a lovefest to get everybody psyched.

Yoshiki: Especially in the case of the vocalist – he was beside me for a very long time, since we were kids, so I kind of took it for granted; I didn’t realize how great he was. So, after seven or eight years, I was like “Whoa, he was a gifted vocalist!”

Q: “I had this person under my nose the entire time and I never utilized them properly!”

Yoshiki: Exactly, and now I realized.

Q: And now we’re looking at bigger and better things because of it. I’d like to introduce Justine – she has a couple of questions that she’d like to personally ask.

Justine: Okay, so we recently met with Shinya of Dir en Grey. He let us know that you have been a tremendous influence upon him. Is that rewarding, knowing that you’ve assisted other talented musicians like yourself to follow their dreams like you have?

Yoshiki: Aw, thanks for the sweet words, and thank you to him for saying that! I love Dir en Grey – I produced the majority of their first album, but also Dir en Grey inspired me.

Q: How so?

Yoshiki: Well, because they started touring the U.S. several years ago, right? They were one of the first bands to play here.

Q: That is true.

Yoshiki: Yeah, I went to see their show a few times and I was like “Whoa!”

Q: They put on an amazing show.

Yoshiki: They do! So I may have inspired them in the beginning, but now they are inspiring me as well.

Q: So it’s like the student surpassing the teacher –that’s probably the greatest thing in the world.

Yoshiki: I was a bad example for teachers though (both laugh.)

Q: Why do you say that?

Yoshiki: I don’t know, my lifestyle is such a mess!

Q: Well, you’re in the den of inequity over there, so of course! What about your lifestyle do you think needs improving?

Yoshiki: Everything (both laugh.) I’m very…I don’t know, I can’t really find the right word, but I guess I’m very suicidal. You know, I just had neck surgery last year…

Q: Yes, how’s that working for you, are you gonna be okay for tour?

Yoshiki: Yes and no, I mean: yes, I’m okay for tour, but I have to wear a neck brace when I play the drums.

Q: It’s awkward, huh?

Yoshiki: Yeah, it’s hard, but I can’t play without it, because I can further harm my neck. So, it’s kind of weird, but at the same time, I don’t care. When I’m onstage, I just go for it.

Q: But that’s how you have to be – you can’t let things stop you.

Yoshiki: Nothing can stop me (both laugh.)

Q: You’re indestructible!

Yoshiki: So that’s why I say I’m not a great example.

Q: “Don’t do this, don’t break your neck while you’re playing!” Justine, I think you had a second question?

Justine: This is your first trip through the States; are you excited? What are you most looking forward to about exploring our city and the tour in general?

Yoshiki: It’s like I’m going to an unknown zone, so I’m gonna enjoy every single moment – even being on a tourbus or an airplane or meeting our fans throughout North America. I’m already so excited, I’m probably not going to get any sleep tonight. Coming here is a big part of our dream come true, so I may cry!

Q: You’re gonna cry? That’d make a more interesting show, I guess!

Yoshiki: After all those years of drama that we went through – breaking up the band and then some brainwashed things and then the injury.

Q: It’s like coming out at the other end and saying “Well, I guess this was supposed to happen this way.”

Yoshiki: Yes, except for this part.

Q: Except that you really wish you didn’t have to wear a neck brace right now.

Yoshiki: Also, I wish that the deceased member (guitarist Hideto “Hide” Matsumoto) could come with us.

Q: I know. Are you gonna do something for him, a little tribute?

Yoshiki: Yeah, we are trying to.

Q: That would be nice, to maybe let the fans have a little moment with you guys, because I’m sure they’re still dealing.

Yoshiki: Yeah, I think so too.

Q: I’m not sure that New York City will be able to pull off quite the same level of enthusiasm as Hollywood did, but are you aware of just how many fans you do have here, because it’s a lot!

Yoshiki: I kind of have an idea, but I don’t know yet.

Q: Until you see it for yourself.

Yoshiki: Yeah, we are about to find out!

Q: Either there’ll be crickets or there’ll be people. No, I can tell you right now that there is going to be a lot of people, and they’re gonna be outside sleeping on the street for days, waiting, and it’s going to be awesome! You’re gonna be leaving your bus in the morning to go get Starbucks, and you’re going to see a group of people camped outside the venue.

Yoshiki: I will have to drive by!

Q: Oh, you should; that would be really cool! I think that would make them really happy.
Yoshiki: Actually, I will! (**Editor’s Note: true to his word, Yoshiki not only stopped by, but he had his camera crew deliver hot chocolate to concertgoers waiting outside the Wiltern Theater in California.

Q: How fucking awesome was it to work with The Generalissimo, Mr. Stan Lee, because he is a legend!

Yoshiki: Stan Lee, yes! I just saw him a couple of days ago. He’s very, very energetic, and funny, even when we’re in a serious business meeting, he’s just funny all the time!

Q: He is funny! I follow him on twitter, he makes me laugh all the time. He puts people half his age to shame.

Yoshiki: I’m meeting him in New York, because that’s Comic Con weekend, so we may do some kind of panel or something (**Editor’s Note: they are indeed scheduled to do a panel together, on Saturday evening, entitled “Pop Culture: East Meets West.”)

Q: Oh that’s exciting for everybody, a little heads up for the Comic Con attendees (like myself.) The fans have been asking me repeatedly if we will ever see Art of Life played live in its entirety?

Yoshiki: You’ll find out…

Q: Ooh, you guys heard that, there could be a surprise coming! Yoshiki, thank you so much for your time, and my adopted daughter loves you to death.

Yoshiki (to Justine:) Are you coming to the show?

Justine: Yes, my friends and I are coming and we’re very excited!

Yoshiki: Great, I’m looking forward to seeing you!

Justine: Thank you!

Q: Thank you so much for your time.

Yoshiki: I had a great time!

Q: I had a great time, too. Looking forward to seeing you at Comic Con and at the show.

Yoshiki: Okay, thank you very much, New York, bye!



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