X JAPAN INTERVIEW:
THE ART OF LIFE AND THE CITY OF LIGHTS
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
They signed with Atlantic next and put out two albums before
calling it quits in 1997 with the departure of founding
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.
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
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
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
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
Yoshiki: Yeah, also New York weather is very similar to
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
Q: Everyone feels that they’re properly represented.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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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