X Japan's Sugizo Wants to Save the Whales

Categories: Q&A
Following up on an interview we did a couple of years ago when he was here with Juno Reactor, we sat down with new X Japan guitarist Sugizo backstage after the band's recent show at the Fox Theater. Always an engaging interview subject, and frequently very funny (he claims that the other members of his band Luna Sea don't want to tour in America because they can't live without Japanese food every day), he explained both his decision to join X Japan and his personal connection to the band via his close friendship with the band's late guitarist Hide.

A hardworking guy who exudes quiet confidence rather than arrogance, Sugizo remains focused on making music for the sheer joy of it (though that focus has its downsides -- seriously, someone please make this man take a vacation). Having evolved into an unexpectedly centered, spiritual sort of person, he's also willing to use his fame to draw attention to serious issues. Read on for Sugizo's thoughts on how L.A. compares to San Francisco, the future of both X Japan and Luna Sea, and the issue of whaling in Japan.
How did you get involved with X? It seems like you have so many other projects already.

Good question, but very difficult to answer. It think for me this was a very natural thing. I don't know why I can do that. (laughs)

You've known all these guys for a long time, right?

Yes, a very long time. Of course with Luna Sea and my solo projects, that's just me. And Luna Sea, our style is very different from X Japan. X Japan's style is more heavy metal.

Your style is more sort of ambient and trance, when you're by yourself.

Yes, that's my favorite musical style. X Japan's style is kind of my roots.

Were you ever in a band that was more like that, a hard rock band?

Yes, when I was a high school student. My band was sort of power metal, heavy metal, but with [Luna Sea drummer] Shinya. This style is not my own solo style, and not like Luna Sea, but it's a very natural fit for my musical capacities.

With this role you're stepping into with X, it has to be sort of a challenge given how people felt about [late guitarist] Hide. You two were friends, right?

He was like my older brother. Our relationship was very close. At that time I was much closer to him than to [band leader/drummer/pianist] Yoshiki. It was a very long time ago. He passed away 12 years ago, so he is a legend. His existence is so big. Of course I have a lot of pressure to play Hide's parts and it's stressful...

It seems like not many people would necessarily have wanted to step into those shoes. Even though it's a great job with a lot of exposure, it's a lot of pressure.

Yeah, you're right.

How did you feel the first time you had to step out on stage?

The first time was very difficult for me. I told Yoshiki "I'm sorry, I cannot do this, it's too much pressure." The X fans don't need me. Maybe it's no good if I join. But after that we had so many conversations. At that time I understood -- X Japan needs new life. Not just the nineties revival of X Japan -- they chose to have a new life, new music, new destiny. If X Japan just wanted to be a nineties revival, just history...

... Nostalgia

Yes, nostalgia. Then maybe they wouldn't need me, but they chose new life, not just history. Then I understood their decision, and of course our relationship is very good, over twenty years old, so I accepted the offer. I think my life is so curious. (laughs) But it's a fun life.

Moving to Luna Sea for a moment, you guys are coming over here to play just in LA?

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