Yoshiki (X Japan) (Paris, 2017, English interview)
The rockumentary "We Are X" which tells the dramatic story of the cult Japanese band X Japan, will come out on December 6th in France. We had the priviledge to meet Yoshiki to discuss the movie, but also his career as leader of X Japan, which was formed in 1982, and his numerous other projects such as composing and performing a piano concerto for the Emperor of Japan.
My first question is about the upcoming album. I hear that the lyrics
are mostly in English. Is there anything you have changed about your
music apart from the lyrics to make it a global success?
Yoshiki : The
reason the next album is going to be pretty much all in English is
because I started living in Los Angeles over 20 years ago, and started
thinking and dreaming in English. So it came naturally to me. I didn’t
think that much about achieving success, so we didn’t really change
anything, I just wanted to create the next album and make it edgier.
It’s just an evolved version of X Japan. If that becomes a success that
would be great, but you never know about that.
In the film We
are X , Gene Simmons says that if you were born in England or America,
you would perhaps be the biggest band in the world. What is your opinion
about that? Do you think nowadays it’s easier for non-English speaking
bands to achieve international success?
Y: I think so, I
wouldn’t say easy but easier than before. I mean, 20 - 30 years ago it
was almost impossible for artists from Japan or other parts of the world
to get well-known or to be even discovered, but because of the
internet, any new music from anywhere can spread in the world. What Gene
Simmons said was the biggest compliment I ever got. We always released
our albums in Japan, for the Japanese audience, but this time we are
releasing worldwide. It’s really contradicting what I said before, but
we have never really tried it so that means after all those years, we
could be... I wouldn’t say the biggest band in the world, but a pretty
Sometimes people think that Visual Kei is all about
looks or that it’s similar to Western Glam. You dropped the flamboyant
looks a long time ago but have you kept the spirit of Visual Kei? How
can you explain the Visual Kei movement to people who are not quite
familiar with it?
Y: Some people confuse Visual Kei with US 80s
Heavy Hair Metal or Hair rock bands. Don’t get me wrong, I love those
bands, but we came from Punk Rock or New wave so Visual Kei is not only a
music genre, it’s more like a spirit, a movement. For example, X Japan
could not belong anywhere when it came to genre, because we played heavy
music with our crazy androgynous looks. People or critics couldn’t
categorize us so we had to create our own genre. What we were trying to
convey was the freedom of what you can express about yourself,
basically that Rock should have more freedom to do anything. Then
eventually, a lot of bands started following that direction and it
became a movement. So in short, the Visual Kei movement is very Punk
rock, it’s all about rebelling against anything that limits us.
often say that composing for the Emperor of Japan was a turning point
in your career and in your life, that it helped you move forward when
you were very depressed. Can you describe the new approach you had to
composing this particular piece of music?
Y: At that time you
know it was right after X Japan broke up, also Hide passed away, so
almost everything I created fell apart, including my confidence. I also
started to ask myself existential questions. About a year later, I was
asked to compose for the Emperor of Japan, for the 10th anniversary of
his reign, so I was like ‘Can I do it?’ . I was kind of scared , but I
ended up composing a piano concerto. Then, after accomplishing that, I
performed at the Imperial palace. I was impressed and thought I had
created great music. Also, when I heard the audience, their voice and
everything from the stage, I was like ‘WOW, I think I should be on stage
as a musician’. It also gave me back my confidence so yeah, it was a
There’s a picture of you sitting with David Bowie in the film. On what occasion did you meet him? How did he influence you?
I think he came to Japan to promote one of his concerts, so I was asked
to do an interview with him, it was for the radio. I always liked David
Bowie, because he was not afraid to experiment you know, he kept
creating new interesting personae, so he was very influencial to me.
Also, when I asked him the question: ‘Where do you draw the line between
life on stage and life off stage?’, he couldn’t answer. At that moment,
I started feeling like he had no life off stage. Basically it’s like
saying ‘As long as I’m living, I should just be on stage regardless of
whether I’m literally on stage or not, even when I’m by myself or
composing’. So, he made me think a lot about what Art is supposed to be,
something like that.
Do you still have unreleased material from Hide that you would like to use in your songs?
Yes, I think I have a lot, but I don’t know, I feel like we are still
playing with him in our hearts. It’s almost like Hide’s in the new album
(which we are about to finish recording), regardless of whether or not I
used his recordings. When I was composing the songs I would say ‘Hide
would play the guitar in this style’, so I just used my imagination and
adapted his vision into the album. So the answer is yes, I do have a lot
of Hide’s unreleased recordings, but I don’t have to use them.
You’ve been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years, does Japan seem like a foreign country to you now?
No, I go to Japan almost every month so I can say that I still live
there. I travel a lot so I feel like I’m living on Earth.
You’ve been recording songs with Marilyn Manson. Can you give us more details about the project?
Well, he’s a very good friend of mine, he comes to my studio sometimes
and we talk about our lives. So instead of just talking and getting
drunk, we decided to create music together.
So yeah, we have already recorded a few songs.
I think people will be surprised to see David Lynch in the film. I know he directed
the video for ‘Longing’. Was he the one who wanted to collaborate with you? Do you remember what it was like to work with him?
I think my manager at that time suggested that, and Lynch accepted.
Actually I saw him a few weeks ago in Los Angeles. It was very inspiring
to work with him. Not only him actually but also George Martin. I was
lucky enough to work with those amazing directors / producers.
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