Exclusive Interview with YOSHIKI
Before the start of X JAPAN's North American tour, JaME was able to hold an interview and received a video message from band leader YOSHIKI.
We recently heard that you were having some health problems. How are you feeling today? Are you better?
YOSHIKI: I don't think I have health problems, I think I'm just exhausted. (laughs)
X JAPAN has finally performed in the USA with Lollapalooza. How do you feel about finally being able to tour the country?
YOSHIKI: It was a very special moment because it has been our dream to perform outside of Japan. Performing at the Lollapalooza festival gave us more confidence because while we were performing, the audience grew to a few thousand people. So finally touring the US, this is part of our dream, so everyone is excited. And a little bit nervous!
How do you feel about playing in smaller venues here in the US?
YOSHIKI: Actually, we like that. (laughs) When we perform in Japan, it's such a big venue, but we feel like we have to go back to the basics. Although we are having a fresh start in the US, we don't have to start from the very bottom and perform at small clubs. For a few thousand people, that's great. We won't have that much lighting or such, but we can go back to the basics.
The American audience would definitely appreciate the smaller venue because it will be a more intimate show for them.
YOSHIKI: Yes, we'll be able to see the audience's faces. (laughs)
Besides the fans reactions and concert etiquette, is playing in the US very different from Japan?
YOSHIKI: In the US, we only performed at Lollapalooza. It was great, they were very passionate and supportive. So we're going to find out more as the tour progresses. However, in the US, we won't really have the luxury we have in Japan. In Japan, we have so many people working for us that every single detail is taken care of. Of course we do as much as we can, but maybe this will be rougher. Also, come to think of it, we haven't toured in a very long time. Not even in Japan; we usually only do stadium shows in Tokyo. Yeah, it's very exciting. Since we'll be going back to the basics, we'll really be able to rock easily.
The X JAPAN tour is covering all the major cities, but you're mainly staying to the west and east coasts. Why weren't there any scheduled in between, such as in Texas?
YOSHIKI: I would love to go to Texas! You see this is our first step. If this tour is successful then we're going to go to more venues next year. It's more experimenting, like how it'll happen then we'll tour more next year.
X JAPAN is a very popular band. Considering that artists such as MIYAVI and Dir en grey have toured the USA, does that give you more confidence that this tour will be more successful?
YOSHIKI: Yes and no. MIYAVI and Dir en grey are great bands, great artists. X JAPAN may be much bigger in Japan, but that doesn't mean we'll be much bigger here in the US. In the US, we have to start from zero. Well, no, we don't have to start from zero, we do have supporters, but we do have to start from the basics again. But at the same time, we'll be performing in the US, which is great!
Something we noticed is that in interviews you mostly mention ToshI, SUGIZO and HIDE. But what about PATA and HEATH? How are they doing? How are they coping with the upcoming tour?
YOSHIKI: They're very excited. I just got back from Tokyo yesterday, but I was recording with HEATH and PATA last week in Japan. They're very excited. (laughs) They have very calm personalities so... (laughs)
We know that you're going to release a new studio album. Are there any new updates about it? How will it differ from older X JAPAN releases that we all know so well?
YOSHIKI: We're still recording it, but I would say we're about 90% done. We're still finishing it. Well, 50% of it will be older X JAPAN songs, and the other 50% will be newer songs. I don't know; it might be edgier. I would say edgier.
The older X JAPAN songs, are you re-recording them?
YOSHIKI: Yes, but we're just re-recording the vocals for some of the songs.
Other than the member changes, what are some of the main differences between X JAPAN now and twenty years ago?
YOSHIKI: Hmm. We are older. (laughs) That doesn't mean we act more calm or anything like that though. We may be older, but we're still kids at heart.
X JAPAN has been regarded in a negative way by some people due to cancellations and changes of plans. How do you deal with the negative feedback?
YOSHIKI: Well, we did have a lot of problems. We had a problem with our management. Also we had problems with our health. Unfortunately, what's done is done. For some people, especially those in France, I sincerely apologize that we had to cancel our performances so many times. Also countries like South Korea. But we're going to start all over again; we hired new management. I can't guarantee our health, but we're going to try to take as much care of our health as we can. We're not going to disappoint you this time. We are looking forward to seeing our fans.
You are practically a household name to fans in Japan as well as many other various parts of the world. How will you approach the mainstream US market?
YOSHIKI: I guess there isn't a shortcut. So we're just going to do what we did in Japan. We're just going to rock hard. (laughs)
There are so many new, successful bands in Japan who also have many overseas fans. How do you compete with them?
YOSHIKI: Well... we're just going to have to compete with them. (laughs) Yeah, there are a lot of great bands.
There is a photo of you meeting with the late Michael Jackson and you were also recently compared to U2's Bono. Among such artists you've worked with or met, who has been the most influential to you?
YOSHIKI: Well, I don't know. Those are very big names. Like Michael Jackson was very inspirational. I've met a lot of great bands in Japan. It doesn't have to be a very huge name. A lot of artists I've met were very inspirational to me, not just huge names.
Looking back at X JAPAN's extensive career, do you have any regrets?
YOSHIKI: Interesting question. (thinks) I don't know. I don't actually know if I have any. I may have, but I cannot go back or I can't remember. I don't know. I wanted to come to come here, to tour outside of Japan with hide. So it's not a regret, but just sad. But at the same time I feel like we're doing this together. Actually a few weeks ago, I visited his grave to tell him that we were doing this together.
Considering you have an eclectic repertoire, here's a fun question: You were involved with the 2008 American film "Repo: The Genetic Opera." How was it working on a musical?
YOSHIKI: It was very interesting and at the same time was very hard. I had to produce every single song and some of the songs were coming from singers who didn't have a singing background. It was very hard work, but at the same time it was very interesting. The movie itself was very different. A very fun kind of movie.
Lastly, will you please give a final message to your waiting audience?
YOSHIKI: We are very excited to start touring the US. Hopefully, it will go well. To those who are in the places we can't tour this time and those in Europe and Asia, we are going to start all over again. So I'm really looking forward to performing and meeting you guys.
JaME would like to thank YOSHIKI and Chase Wang for this interview. And many thanks to the JaME team.