X Japan are one of the most successful rock groups in Japanese history. The band has sold more than 30 million albums, singles and videos combined. They have sold out Japan’s 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome 18 times and played to tens of thousands of fans outside of Japan. X Japan were formed in 1982 by Yoshiki and Toshi while they were still teenagers. Today the band is releasing their brand new documentary ‘We Are X’ in theatres across all Europe.
‘We Are X’ is an intimate portrait of the incredible X Japan story, tainted by tragic losses and crowned by astonishing successes. The film has gathered the praise of major media across UK and Europe, including an extensive cover feature in The Times – T2. In addition, ‘We Are X’ was officially selected for the Sundance Film Festival, SXSW and the BFI London Film Festival, winning multiple awards.
Before its premiere at the Odeon in Covent Garden, London, we have the pleasure to chat with drummer and founder Yoshiki about this phenomenal documentary and their future projects with the band.
What makes London so special to you and X Japan?
Yoshiki: London has a special place in my heart because it was the first city I went to outside of Japan. I had the pleasure to work with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, George Michael, The Beatles and I also did a collaboration with the drummer from Queen.
You are here tonight for the premiere of ‘We Are X’, why do you think it’s had a great response all over the world?
Our story is very dramatic, almost too dramatic to be true. Through this film we definitely showed our weaknesses. Usually when artists try to create documentaries, especially if they are still alive, they tend to show their best side, almost bragging about how great and big they are. Instead, we kinda showed how screwed up we are. People probably relate to this movie because we showed our human side before anything else.
You got some very positive comments from big artists in your documentary, which one flattered you the most?
I would have to say Gene Simmons from Kiss, he said we could be the biggest band in the world and that’s such a huge complement. Kiss was the first band I saw live and they inspired me to pursue my career in music.
What about Marilyn Manson? I know you guys are pretty close
Yes, we are. And we are actually in the process of making music together too. Gene and Manson also showed up to our documentary premiere in Los Angeles just to support me as friends.
You guys have had a bit of a image change, from crazy big hair to a more moderate rock ‘n roll look, do we call it growing up or is there any other reason behind it?
We love keep changing style, David Bowie kept changing looks and personas and I’ve always been influenced by him. I don’t consider myself as fashionable as David Bowie though (laughs).
Everything you wrote recently are mainly ballads, is this a way to break through further?
Yoshiki- Part of the reason is definitely breaking through the world, I don’t deny that, but at the same time I have to say I’m under no influence to create a certain song if I don’t like it so I consider myself quite lucky for that. This might be why we didn’t write anything new in the last twenty years although we are just finishing our new album now.
Also you tend to write all lyrics in English nowadays, is it a choice to get more international recognition?
That too but also because I’ve been living in LA for the last twenty years so I’ve started thinking and even dreaming in English. Although my English is not perfect and my Japanese is kinda screwed up so I feel like I’m not speaking correctly in any language at the moment (laughs).
And how does this change to English has affected your older Japanese fans?
I think they are being really supportive as more and more Japanese people speak fluent English nowadays. There are still fans who ask the same question but we never stopped writing our lyrics in Japanese too.
I have read you are a fitness fanatic, is that part of the reason why you look so young?
I work out a lot, I just had my neck surgery a few months ago so I had to slow down a bit but I believe that drinking one or two glasses of red wine a day helps you keeping young too.
How are you doing after your surgery?
I’m OK you know, I’m still feeling a bit of pain and numbness at times but I think I knew at one point I’d have needed this surgery so I was kinda prepared for it. Still, I was very scared prior the operation but I promised myself to recover and go back on stage to play drums. I took it as a challenge and that made me very excited to accomplish it.
Whats’s next for X Japan?
We are finishing to record our new album which happens to be our first in the last twenty two years if we release it next year. This is an album aimed towards the whole world, not only for Japan, we want to target every single country now. Depending on my health conditions, which I’m very confident about, we are also planning a world tour. I’ll have to come back to the UK soon.