Taiji Sawada Memorial

file - 09.04.2011 06:00

In memory of Taiji Sawada.

Recently, the music world was shocked by the unexpected news about the suicidal death of Taiji Sawada, a member of many great bands, two of which gained a status of legends. TAIJI was considered by many as a world-class bassist, especially talented in slapping and tapping techniques. Defiant to the very end and following his own path, he left a void in the hearts of fans which won’t be filled easily.

It was hot summer day when TAIJI was born on July 12, 1966 in Ichigawa, Chiba Prefecture, as the second son in Sawada’s family. When in junior high school, he tried to play on his father’s guitar, inspired by songs of groups like Queen — he was especially impressed by We Are The Champions — and The Beatles. At that time, he said that he was "really passionate about western music.” TAIJI was also interested in sports, training in running and swimming, and he was a member of football and baseball teams in primary school. Besides that, he also liked cooking. When he was a fourth grader in primary school, he founded a restaurant in his house, named "Restaurant ‘TAIJI’," opened on weekends and very popular among his friends. It offered several types of dishes, and an entrance ticket cost only 50 yen.

However, his love for music prevailed. At the age of sixteen, TAIJI left school and formed his first band named Trash, in which he played the roles of leader and main guitarist. Two years later, he changed a little in his musical interests. He switched to bass and under the name Ray joined the band Dementia. He remained in it until 1985 and recorded one single and live album. During this period, he met for the first time in the club Kagurazaka "Explosion" one of the future members of possibly his most famous band, hide, who was in those days the leader of Saber Tiger.

After leaving Dementia, TAIJI worked briefly with various bands such as Prowler and the short-lived Dead Wire which members were also Kyo and Tetsu, now in D’ERLANGER. TAIJI also played several concerts with X before he finally joined their line-up at the end of 1986 and remained in it till 1992. As he said in one of his recent interviews, that band was everything to him: "Originally, rock came from America [to Japan]. While everybody [in Japan] was still copying American rock, I was recording with X (...) I felt that finally, there was a band that could introduce such a great unique Japanese sound.”

TAIJI was undoubtedly one of the authors of X’s success. It was partly thanks to him that the band’s concerts were characterised by such a huge dose of energy, and fans could be grateful for at least a few impressive songs and incredible bass parts. TAIJI was involved in the recording of the first three albums of X, which also featured tracks written by him — Phantom of Guilt, Voicless Screaming and Desperate Angel. Others, previously unpublished, were later released on the compilation CD Rose & Blood - Indies of X-. In addition, in 1988, TAIJI with other X members appeared in a short episode of American movie "Tokyo Pop.”

TAIJI’s and X’s paths diverged after five years of playing together — the band’s last concert with its original line up took place in Tokyo Dome on January 7, 1992. It was the last of three consecutive lives at this venue and was later released on the DVD called On the Verge of Destruction 1992.1.7 Tokyo Dome Live. The official reasons of TAIJI’s departure were musical differences. The bassist didn’t agree with such a huge number of ballads in group’s repertoire. In his opinion, rock music needed harsher sounds. However, as he mentioned in his autobiography, the real reasons were financial issues and constant quarrels with YOSHIKI, which didn’t have a good impact on X’s situation during that time. As a result, TAIJI was asked to leave. Nevertheless, as he said in one of the interviews, X was still alive in his heart.

After leaving X, TAIJI was invited by guitarist Akira Takasaki to join the line up of legendary metal group LOUDNESS, which had inspired him in his teenage period. Despite the opinion expressed in one of the interviews that he considered the time and experience with LOUDNESS as incredibly valuable, TAIJI didn’t stay long in the band and left in November 1993 after recording only one studio album to start his own band. It was D.T.R, or Dirty Trashroad, whose sound can be described as melodic heavy metal. The songs they created, sung only in English, gained attention with their powerful rhythm and strong vocals as well as Taiji Fujimoto’s masterful guitar playing. The band disbanded after the vocalist left the group, but before that, they managed to make a significant impact on the Japanese metal scene. Also, at that time, TAIJI divorced his wife and stayed homeless for a while.

Within the next couple of years TAIJI took part in numerous projects and worked with various bands. In 1995 he joined a supergroup called Kings which was active only for a short period of time It consisted of Shuichi Aoiki from Night Hawks, guitarist Luke Takamura from SEIKIMA-II and drummer Satoshi "Joe" Miyawaki from 44 MAGNUM and Spread Beaver. Two years later, TAIJI started Cloud Nine, which he left in 2001 because of personal reasons, and OTOKAZE, in which the vocalist was his beloved younger sister Masayo. OTOKAZE created fast, pop-rock songs and released only one album in November 2004.

In 2006, D.T.R resumed their activity with a slightly changed line up, but called it quits three years later. The band had planned a revival under the name Death To Rive a little later as the members lost the rights to the original name. At the same time another one of TAIJI’s bands, TAIJI with HEAVEN’s, was founded. Due to constant line up changes, the band officially started activities three years later and released their first mini-album, which sounds were reminiscent of the heavier parts of X’s Jealousy, in January 2010. TAIJI returned to Cloud Nine and in 2009 joined another supergroup THE KILLING RED ADDICTION, consisting also of former COLOR member Tommy Dynamite, former GASTUNK member Tatsu and Kenzi from ∀NTI FEMINISM. The band played several lives the same year, including a show in Los Angeles on June 22, and released a cover of GASTUNK’s Devil via iTunes. TAIJI made an appearance in the movie "Attitude,” directed by Tommy Dynamite in which he was searching for an original idea of rock alongside artists like PATA and members of Ladies Room, BY-SEXUAL, Kamaitachi and The Stalin. He was also a model and jewelry designer for Arizona Freedom.

Moreover, in 2010, TAIJI, with his old friend guitarist Shu, started another band called TSP, TAIJI & Shu Project. The bassist described it in the interviews as something that would definitely appeal to his fans. However, the band wasn’t able to release their debut album, but only a few tracks on various compilations. Despite the previously stated lack of interest, TAIJI also joined his bandmates from his best-known band and on August 12 took part in a press conference organised by X JAPAN, as well as played as a guest in two concerts which took place at Nissan Stadium in Yokohama. After those lives, YOSHIKI said in one of the interviews that it was possible that TAIJI would play with them again in the future. In addition, in 2009 and 2010 TAIJI once again played with LOUDNESS, taking part in lives dedicated to their late drummer Munetaka Higuchi.

TAIJI’s autobiography published in 2000, entitled "Uchuu o kakeru tomo e: densetsu no bando X no sei to shi,” introduced an image of a man filled with passion for music, curious about the world and open to other people as well as having his own opinion and knowing how to defend it. It also spoke about a man who struggled with different adversities and problems, often caused by a strong sense of justice which developed in his early childhood, and going through various ups and downs. According to his bandmates from TSP, TAIJI was very direct and serious, but at the same time very empathic; he tried to support others in difficult moments, giving them courage and inspiration. Since childhood, he hated to do the same things as others — he considered it as pointless and tried to avoid it. He said, “So I think that I was always regarded as an annoying 'bump on the forehead' by X. Though I realized that they thought about me in this way, I still couldn't change. There was nothing around me that could sway me. This is because I have always lived spontaneously.”

In recent years, TAIJI had been struggling with health problems. For a couple of years he suffered from the side effects of a stroke and epilepsy — for some time he wasn’t even able to speak or write. He also had a difficult surgery that involved inserting a hip replacement, after which there were complications. Despite the initial doctor's prognosis, he was able to walk without using crutches, which he considered a miracle. Regardless of the many hardships, he never lost his passion for music and still believed that the words he used to often repeat – "never say ‘can’t’” – were true.

Everything had seemingly fallen into place and was going in the best direction when all plans and intentions were suddenly negated by a recent affair. On July 11, 2011, TAIJI was arrested for public nuisance and the assault of a flight attendant right after his plane landed at the international airport in Saipan. He didn’t give reasons for his strange behaviour; the court-appointed lawyer only said that his client was "upset with himself” because of what had happened in the airplane. Three days later, TAIJI was transferred to the ICU after he attempted suicide whilst in custody. Unfortunately, the doctors failed to save him. He was pronounced brain dead and on July 17, as a result of his family's decision, he was taken off the life support system. He passed away around noon at the age of 45.

TAIJI's sudden and unexpected death surprised everyone. Many of his friends as well as fans couldn’t believe what had happened and recover from the shock. YOSHIKI wrote on his Twitter account: "Receiving the news of TAIJI’s death has left me speechless. I don’t know how to cope with the loss yet. (...) Playing at the Nissan Stadium together last year brings back memories as if it was yesterday.” Many of his friends put on their sites farewell messages in which they wrote that Japanese scene received a big blow, losing such a brilliant bassist whom they could undoubtedly feel proud of. SUGIZO, among others, mentioned on his blog: "TAIJI was loved and needed by many people, yet he took his own life. This is a very sorrowful thing. (...) There is one thing I can say (...): Those of us who are still living should feel heartfelt gratitude for our lives. Those of us who are still living must not waste the lives we have left.”
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