Exclusive Interview with YOSHIKI and ToshI
The two members from X JAPAN talked with us about their thoughts on France, their new album and more.
Hello, YOSHIKI and ToshI, it’s so good to see you.
YOSHIKI and ToshI: (in French) Hello, how are you?
Good, and you?
YOSHIKI and ToshI: (in French) Great.
You’ve just played for the audience at Japan Expo. What are your first impressions of the live and the audience?
YOSHIKI: (in French) I am so happy to be here. (in Japanese) We are really moved by the welcome of our French fans and the audience, especially after the problems we had with X JAPAN. I even cried over it. We’ve been having a great time, it was a really special concert.
ToshI: It was really exciting!
What are the next projects and releases for X JAPAN?
YOSHIKI: We’ve recorded ninety percent of our new album. We originally planned to finish it before we came to Japan Expo, but we’ll go back to record and mix the last parts this month….Finally, I hope, I really hope (laughs), it can be released in September.
What can you tell us about this album?
YOSHIKI: This disc is a mix of fifty percent old songs and fifty percent new compositions. There will be old songs that we’ve never played, and new songs like BORN TO BE FREE, whose video we filmed in public some days ago.
Have you decided the title for this album?
YOSHIKI: We haven’t decided on a title yet, but I think it’s an excellent album!
You’ve recorded videos for this album in Los Angeles. Are you planning on filming other videos for it?
YOSHIKI: Yes, in a word, I’d love to…why not? (laughs) Maybe we can do it in France.
ToshI: We love France, and Paris…
YOSHIKI: Maybe we can come here to do the French version of ENDLESS RAIN.
ToshI: It’s really hard to sing in French.
You did so well!
ToshI: No, no, no…
Yes, you sang so well in French.
YOSHIKI: He worked very hard for that!
ToshI: It was my teacher.
YOSHIKI: No, that’s not true. (laughs)
Let’s talk about your concerts in Yokohama, at the Nissan Stadium in August. It will be the biggest concert you’ve ever done. Do you see it as a challenge?
YOSHIKI: Actually, it is a challenge for us, more in the sense that we had some problems with management. But in Japan, we decided to organize the concert.
You decided yourselves?
YOSHIKI:Yes, the group decided to play there. The management didn’t agree…it was also our decision to come play at Japan Expo.
So you were excited to come three years ago, and you really wanted to return to France.
YOSHIKI: Yes, exactly. I wanted to make up for having canceled our concerts in France three times. We really wanted to come back here and we hope to bring the whole group back here soon.
We’ve seen a lot of interviews and videos where you talk about problems with your neck and hand. Is that why you canceled before?
YOSHIKI: To be honest, despite being in physical therapy, I consulted a doctor to find out if it’d be possible to do concerts last year in France and he said yes. We were ready to come to France but our management canceled our trip. But we wanted to come back as soon as possible because we were all ready.
Were you surprised by the European audience? Are you surprised by your success here?
YOSHIKI: Yes, I’m always so surprised and happy with audience reception here. I think we have very special fans. Despite everything that’s happened, they still continue to support and love us… I don’t know how to explain this feeling, but we must be the most fortunate band in the world to have such amazing fans.
What are the main differences for you between the European and Japanese audiences?
YOSHIKI: That’s a very interesting question. (laughs)
ToshI: That’s a really tough one.
YOSHIKI: Hmmm, I think it’s just a matter of listening to the music (hesitates)….Really, I don’t know. (laughs)
It’s just a feeling?
YOSHIKI: Right, I think that’s about it.
And ToshI, it was your first time here, right? What did you think of the crowd?
ToshI: Yes, it was my first time coming here and meeting the European fans. It was wonderful! It really moved me and I want to come back right away for a real concert.
YOSHIKI: It was really your first time here in Paris, even outside of work?
ToshI: Yeah, it was.
YOSHIKI: You’ve never come to drink French wine?
ToshI: No, no. (laughs)
YOSHIKI: But it’s your favorite kind of wine. (laughs)
Oh really? You like French wine? Which ones, Bourgogne? Bordeaux?
ToshI: (hesitates) I don’t know. Just French wine. (laughs)
We talked a few minutes ago about your health problems, YOSHIKI. How are you now?
YOSHIKI: I’ll have to go back to the hospital in the coming years for my neck. As for my hand, I can move my fingers, but I don’t really have feeling in two of them. (mimes playing the piano) But my nerves are good and my fingers move. The damage is definitive but not that serious. I’m doing well, really. It’s rock’n’roll! (laughs)
What do you think about the actual state of Japanese music in the world? For instance, its progression since your debut.
YOSHIKI: That’s a very interesting question. When we started playing in Japan, rock wasn’t very popular. Now everyone listens to rock, everyone is into this music. It’s really interesting, so many people listening to Japanese music today.
Do you think the group is more free today than at its debut?
YOSHIKI: Yeah, I think so. It’s not just a question of the look, of having long blond, orange and red hair, but we’re just more free today than in the past, yes.
At your debut, when you were still X, did you think you’d become this famous?
YOSHIKI: I’ll tell you a secret, I didn’t think so. None of us thought the group would become as famous as it is today.
You didn’t think you’d become superstars?
YOSHIKI: We’ve always tried to become that, in everything. (laughs) We’re not superstars, just rockstars! (laughs)
What are your thoughts on this reformation, two years after? How do you feel about this new X JAPAN?
YOSHIKI: I have a pretty particular feeling about that. Really, we’ve been separated more than ten years, and when I first started discussing this reformation with ToshI, it had been years since we’d spoken with each other. When we reformed, we were still kind of closed off. X JAPAN isn’t just music for me, for us. It’s not just a question of the drummer. We have our differences mixed into X JAPAN. It’s also the sound of SUGIZO, PATA and hide, of course. These are influences for us, which come together to form X JAPAN.
Ten years ago, you said reforming X JAPAN was a mission for you, right? Is it still the same today?
YOSHIKI: Yes, it’s a kind of mission. I didn’t have real confidence at the time. Then, when I spoke with ToshI when we reformed and we said we’d go ahead, I had a new confidence. And despite our problems - with the management, with health, ToshI’s situation - I still had the feeling I have today, that no one could stop us.
You haven’t composed together for many years. Did you have ideas about the compositions you wanted to play when you reformed X JAPAN?
YOSHIKI: We had been separated for more than ten years, so I didn’t know what songs could be made for X JAPAN. But now I feel I understand what to create, what ideas make me say which song is good for this new X JAPAN, and I think we’ve made really great songs for our return.
Tell me about the new X JAPAN member, SUGIZO. Is he a regular member of your band?
YOSHIKI: Yes, SUGIZO is our sixth member, because hide is always there with us. SUGIZO recorded the whole album with us and he’s a regular member of X JAPAN.
Do you think you’ll use the hologram of hide for your next concerts?
YOSHIKI: I thought we would. (visibly very moved) I think it’s a really good idea, but it’s really difficult. I don’t have a good feeling about that...the hologram was too real. It seemed so real it was quite difficult to play with it there.
YOSHIKI, are you still working on VIOLET UK? Are you planning an album for this personal project?
YOSHIKI: Yes, I plan to. But I’d like to finish the new X JAPAN album. We have so many things to do! Release our album, start a world tour, schedule concerts. We’re really hoping to come here.
When? Is it wishful thinking or is it already being discussed?
YOSHIKI: I talked with our American management. It’s definitely scheduled for next year, but we’re really careful this time. Last year, in October, we were all ready for the show, even me, but management canceled. This time, we really want to be sure. It’s in the process, but we'll only tell you when everything’s confirmed one hundred percent. (laughs) It won’t be like Japan Expo or a convention, but a real concert date, with a real show.
And what about the other project you started two years ago, S.K.I.N.?
YOSHIKI: (smiles) I'm already working with X JAPAN and have VIOLET UK, so S.K.I.N. will be after all that and it’s not what's in my immediate thoughts.
ToshI, are you training your voice to easily change the tone, switching from shouting to singing in a clear voice?
ToshI: Not really, I don’t train too much…
YOSHIKI: I think ToshI was born with a gift from God. His voice is a present from the heavens. He doesn’t need to train for months to do what he does, he just does it, it’s almost natural for him. He just shows up and sings. Like magic…
ToshI: (very moved) Thank you very much, but I work my voice a little anyway. (smiles)
Are you planning in the future to play old X songs?
YOSHIKI and ToshI: Of course!
YOSHIKI: Yes, of course, we love all of our old songs, like Kurenai, ENDLESS RAIN and SILENT JEALOUSY, and we’ll definitely play them at our next lives! It will be a mix of old and new songs.
So the old songs won’t be forgotten.
YOSHIKI: Of course not! They’re sort of like our children. We can’t forget them like that.
Are you planning to re-record them?
YOSHIKI: Yes, definitely, we’ve been working on that. We changed the words, for example, translating them from Japanese to English, sometimes just a small part. But for example with Kurenai, we re-recorded it in English, but we kept the refrain in Japanese on purpose. For our songs on the album, even though we kept some parts in Japanese, we translated some words to English.
Because it’s difficult to translate the songs?
YOSHIKI: Yes, basically that's one of the reasons. That’s a really good point you raise. There are some words that are just impossible to translate. Also, our fans sing our songs in Japanese and like the Japanese pronunciation, so we can’t change everything.
ToshI, will you be doing some more work on your solo career?
ToshI: Yes. Why not? (laughs)
You don’t have anything specific in terms of upcoming projects?
ToshI: Of course! I’d really like to be a part of S.K.I.N.. I really appreciate the group’s music! (laughs) Why not as a percussionist. (laughs)
YOSHIKI: Or playing trumpet?
ToshI: Yes, the trumpet!
YOSHIKI: Yeah, you should know ToshI really plays the euphonium.
ToshI: Yes! (laughs)
YOSHIKI: Yeah, when we were young, we played in the same choir. At our first concert, ToshI didn’t sing and I didn’t play piano, but we played the trumpet and the euphonium. (laughs) It’s just an idea, but I think it might be a good one. (laughs)
That would actually be a very special live, right?
YOSHIKI and ToshI: Yes, a little special.
You used samples of hide on I.V. Are there other samples, and if so, will you use them in the future?
YOSHIKI: We did that for I.V., but it’s a difficult thing to put in place. We have to find a piece that’s right and put it in the song at a good moment. When we recorded I.V., it was at the moment of our reunion, so we absolutely had to have hide in the piece. We think we’ll do it in the future, really. We want to include riffs of hide in our future compositions, but it’s really tough to do.
Do you have a last message for your French audience?
YOSHIKI: (in French) I love you!
YOSHIKI and ToshI: (in French) Thank you so much.
JaME warmly thanks Damien Juric and Yaz Noya for making this interview possible, YOSHIKI and ToshI, and all the Japan Expo staff.