X Japan's Yoshiki on Touring the U.S., the Loss of Hide, and the Future of the Band
Four years old. I started playing drums when I was 10.
At what point did you start thinking about making the transition from classical music to something else?
At ten years old, when I lost my father.
Going back to the beginnings of X, over here it's completely different to how it is in Japan; nobody really knows who you are. Can you give a brief background for people who don't know the history of X Japan, like how you formed and how you became such a dominant band in the Japanese market?
Toshi and I met in kindergarten. We formed X in elementary school.
Why the name "X"?
We couldn't come up with a name (laughs). So we said, let's temporarily name it X for now, and then we found out that X has a lot of possibility in terms of meaning. So when we were 15 or 16 years old, in high school, we were playing as X.
Where were you playing at that point?
High school, how do you say it, festivals?
We don't have prom. More like a festival in front of students. We were already playing original songs and people loved us so it was like, hey, we may be good. We didn't know. We came from Chiba prefecture way outside of Tokyo.
How far away is that?
A few hours drive away. It depends on where it is, it's a big prefecture. Part of it is adjacent to Tokyo, but our town is kind of out in the countryside. These days maybe an hour's drive from Tokyo. So we went to Tokyo to test how good we were. We participated in some kind of contest.
Like a battle of the bands type thing?
Yeah. Then we played a couple of those contests and at some of them Toshi got the "best vocalist" and I got the "best drummer", and it gave us more confidence, like whoa, we might be good! And then Toshi and I went to Tokyo and started looking for members. So then I found all the other members and they were actually the leaders of bands, like Hide was the leader of his own band, Pata was the leader of his own band. I recruited them. Then, a few years later, we started performing at certain clubs and the labels started coming to us asking to release our albums. Everyone was telling us what to do. We hated it.
These were major labels?
We ended up signing to Sony Records, but before that we released our own albums. There are tons of rules in rock - people say that if you're doing speed metal you shouldn't put the makeup on; if you're playing hard rock you shouldn't have Mohawks. I was like, fuck that. So I basically said, fuck everything, we should do whatever we want. So we just started putting make-up on, doing crazy hair and crazy clothes.
How long did it take you guys to get ready, back when you were doing the hair and everything?
And how do you get out of it at the end of the night?
(laughs) Yeah, it's like, couple of bottles of shampoo. One time I was halfway done and I had to go on stage, so I was like whoa, what should I do? So I just left it half up and that made my style for a while, people liked it. (laughs) We were making our own scene even though we were the black sheep of the music scene. People hated us.
Was it like, you're disrespectful? Or they just didn't know how to classify you?