Interview with YOSHIKI

interview - 04.03.2018 11:01

YOSHIKI visited Finland during his promotional tour for "We Are X", a documentary which tells the history of X JAPAN. He shared his thoughts concerning the documentary but also talked about his past and the future of X JAPAN.

YOSHIKI’s first visit to Finland was on October 18, 2017, during the promotional tour for the documentary "We Are X". The film tells the story of X JAPAN, and it has been shown in Finland three times before this; twice at the Oulu Music Video Festival 2016 and once during the Rokumentti Rock Film Festival 2016. The Finnish cinematic chain Finnkino presented the documentary once in three cities. YOSHIKI visited Helsinki and came to greet the fans after the film ended and answered their questions. JaME Finland had a chance to interview YOSHIKI before the screening, although the interview was done in collaboration with reporters from three other media outlets, and everyone took turns asking YOSHIKI questions.

What does it feel like to have cameras following you all the time? Has there ever been a time you had to say, “Not now”?

YOSHIKI: I’m pretty much used to it. However, the interviews are very hard, especially talking about the deaths of my friends and father.

What does the future of X JAPAN look like? What will happen after this promotional tour?

YOSHIKI: We are about to finish recording our new album. It’s our first album in over 20 years. So most likely we are going to be releasing the album next spring. Depending on my health, we may do a tour after. I just had neck surgery five months ago and am still recovering from that. As of now, I can’t play drums, but I want to find a way to play them again. So yeah, it’s actually going to be our first worldwide album release. Previously we have released albums just in Japan. I’m very excited but at the same time a bit nervous because I don’t know if I’ll be able to play drums again, but we’ll see.

Are you satisfied with how the documentary turned out or do you feel like something was left unsaid?

YOSHIKI: In order for a film to capture our story, you probably need a hundred hours, not a hundred minutes. (laughs) But I think the director/producer did an amazing job, capturing some of that main moments of X JAPAN, even the painful ones. The director and I have gotten messages that told us how because of this film the writer decided to keep on living instead of killing themselves. We got that kind of message, so I have to say I’m pretty satisfied.

You mentioned that you have hundreds of hours of material. How much of it did you actually have to go through for this film?

YOSHIKI: Tapes were used before digital recordings, so most of our collection consists of tapes. I’m being recorded all the time, so you can just imagine how much material there was for the director to go through. When Stephen (Kijak) started working with this film, he had to go through all that material, so I just said, “Good luck!” (laughs) He freaked out. He didn’t know what he was getting into. So there’s tons of material.

When you watch old material from the early 90s or late 80s, what kind of memories does it wake up?

YOSHIKI: Sad ones. But at the same time there are some happy moments as well. Although I wasn’t the one who went through the material; I basically just handed everything to the director/producer, so I wasn’t very involved in the process of making this film. I tried to be more of a subject than a creator or producer because the topic was so painful for me.

In the film you also told a little bit of what happened between 1997 and 2007, but how about the more recent past, like turning X JAPAN’s songs into symphonic orchestra versions. Are you still doing these kinds of things?

YOSHIKI: This year I had two Carnegie Hall shows in New York together with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. We mainly played my old compositions like the piano concerto I wrote for the Emperor of Japan, the composition I wrote for the Golden Globes, and a composition I wrote for the World Expo. We also played a few classical versions of X JAPAN songs. I played Tchaikovsky and Beethoven too. That was a very memorable show. You know, I played this year in London Wembley Arena with X JAPAN. That too was a memorable show. Then two months later, now five months ago, I had neck surgery. However, I made sure it didn’t stop me, so I kept recording and recording. Yeah, so right now I’m just, you know, promoting this “We Are X” film and recording X JAPAN’s album. Then as soon as the album is done I may also collaborate with Marilyn Manson and write some songs together. What else have I been doing…

The Hello Kitty theme song?

YOSHIKI: Yeah, that. And I’ve been doing classical music too.

Last week, based on this film, The Times newspaper's headline called X JAPAN “the world’s unluckiest band”. What are your thoughts on this? Do you think the expression is accurate?

YOSHIKI: Eh, they can of course say that. I mean, we could be the unluckiest – or maybe most traumatic – but at the same time, you know, after all those years we have so many amazing fans around the world. Also those fans are increasing, so you could also say that we are the luckiest band in the world.

Being visual has always been a big part of X JAPAN.

YOSHIKI: Of course music needs to come first, but the visuality has been very important to us. When we do the shows, we also dress up the stage, so why wouldn’t we dress up ourselves as well. We are very influenced by KISS and David Bowie, so yeah, visuality is a very important part of us.

Back in 1977, you said you were amazed when you saw KISS at the Budokan, and later on you even collaborated with them. You did an orchestra version of one of their songs for the Kiss My Ass album, right?


Black Diamond?

YOSHIKI: Yes. So I made a KISS song into a piano concerto. I was lucky to do that and to know members of KISS.

Do you think the interest and support towards X JAPAN is growing now that the documentary has gotten the media’s attention?

YOSHIKI: We didn’t make the film for this kind of reason, but the result is that we are getting a lot of attention around the world because of this film. Yeah, I think our music is somehow spreading through this film as well. We are lucky.

X JAPAN has now gotten attention worldwide. This must have been your dream for many years.

YOSHIKI: However, our life’s not over yet, right? So it depends on how we do in the future. As I said, we could be the luckiest band in the world.

During X JAPAN’s early years, you sometimes covered songs from other bands and played them in concerts. One of these songs was called Tragedy by a Finnish band called…

YOSHIKI: Hanoi Rocks!

Could you tell us more about this?

YOSHIKI: But how can you know that? Is it on YouTube or something?

I saw a set list on internet.

YOSHIKI: I completely forgot about that. Yeah, we used to cover Hanoi Rocks. (nostalgic)

How well did you know Hanoi Rocks back in the day?

YOSHIKI: I think that the song was from Hanoi Rocks’ first album.

Hanoi Rocks was a pretty big name in Japan during that time.

YOSHIKI: Yeah. I didn’t actually know that Hanoi Rocks is from Finland. And the Moomin too, right?

Yes! (all laugh) Have you learned any Finnish words yet?

YOSHIKI: What was that… Moi? (a greeting in Finnish; delighted laughing)

Do you still remember where the name X came from?

YOSHIKI: We couldn’t really figure out what our name should be, so we chose X as a temporary name. We eventually found out that X means infinite possibilities or something like that. Because of that name we kept trying and trying even though art was struggle. We also believed that nothing was impossible. So that’s why we kept the name X. Then when we went to America there was a band called X, so we were called X from Japan. That was a bit too long, so we just took away the ‘from’. I’m very happy with the name.

Based on the movie, it says that X JAPAN was the first internationally successful Japanese rock metal band, but there was a couple of other ones before, like Loudness. How familiar were you with those guys?

YOSHIKI: Completely familiar. They are an amazing band – even though we got into fights a couple of times. (laughs) Yeah, I mean they were way before us. Amazing musicians. Their style is more traditional. They are hard rock; you can categorize that. Their background was in punk rock, new wave and heavy metal, but X mixed everything. We didn’t really belong in any genre. So when I first met Loudness, they couldn’t figure out who we were. There was a party and I just lost it. I got into a huge fight, even though I respect them so much. Then eventually TAIJI, when he left X JAPAN, actually joined Loudness. I think they are still very active. I have much respect towards them. They are one of the first rock bands in Japan. I think pretty much the first rock band in Japan. So yeah, I respect them so much.

Loudness has actually played in Finland a couple of times.

YOSHIKI: Oh really? How big are they here?

They have played here two years in a row now, every summer, and they usually play at festivals. They have gotten a little bit of attention from the old school hard rock crowd.

YOSHIKI: They are amazing guitar players.

JaME would like to thank YOSHIKI, Manna Katajisto and the reporters Tove Selin, Marko Syrjälä and Arto Lehtinen from online medias, and
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