Yoshiki Hayashi is musician, songwriter, composer and record producer. Better known by his stage name Yoshiki, he is the leader and a co-founder of the heavy metal band X Japan.
I met with Yoshiki to discuss the documentary WE ARE X and his upcoming performance at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
YRB: After viewing the film, it seems like you have accomplished so much in your career. You had a lot of goals. Did you achieve all of them?
YOSHIKI: Yes and No. When I decide to get to a specific place, I go there. I’m a go-getter. When I set to do something. I just do it.
I feel like my career has just started. I don’t feel like I have achieved anything outside of Japan.
YRB: When is the DVD for the Madison Square Garden concert being released? We were at the concert and it was an amazing experience. It’s hard to explain to people.
YOSHIKI: Sometime in 2017. I agree, we did a lot of shows, but there was something really special about that performance.
YRB: You talk a lot about pain in the documentary and it comes out in your music. Does that still drive and inspire you, or is it something else?
YOSHIKI: Pretty much everything. Pain, but my fans gave me a second life. I could have been dead. Since I got another opportunity to do this, I will just do it until I turn into ashes. My fans are my inspiration.
YRB: There is a scene in the film, where your doctor tells you to take it easy with your playing. Did you take his advice?
YOSHIKI: It was a funny scene in the movie and a good advice. Sometimes I just don’t use as many muscles, I try to relax. My style is very heavy and fast. If it’s very difficult to play some songs, I just have to play.
YRB: What happened to S.K.I.N ? (S.K.I.N is a music project founded by several Japanese rock musicians in 2007. They are Yoshiki, Gackt, Sugizo and Miyavi.)
YOSHIKI: They are all friends of mine. Gackt and l had drinks a few months ago. We talk about it, but we are just all over the place. It will happen when the timing is right.
Like X Japan, I NEVER thought X Japan could come back. For several reasons, we lost a member, hide.
Toshi was “brainwashed”. I never thought we would reunite again. But it happened.
YRB: What is your relationship now with Toshi?
YOSHIKI: We are pretty close. I’ve known him since kindergarten. So he will always be my friend no matter what.
YRB: What music do you listen to when you’re not creating music?
YOSHIKI: I listen to a lot of classical music. These days a lot of Rachmaninoff. I love Radiohead. I listen to EDM, too. Depends on my mood.
YRB: The movie depicts you as hardly ever sleeping or eating. How much of that is true?
YOSHIKI: That is so true! No exaggeration at all. I didn’t sleep at all last night (laughs).
YRB: What do you like to eat?
YOSHIKI: I like to eat tons of chocolate and tons of cake! But I’m touring now so I’m on a strict diet.
YRB: Is there an artist you want to work with?
YOSHIKI: Marilyn Mason. We are working on a song together.
YRB: What was it like doing the music for the film Goemon?
YOSHIKI: The director Kazuaki Kiriya showed me the film before it was finished. He told me “We need a strong beautiful ballad for the ending.”.
That ended up being “Rosa“. I think it is one of the strongest songs I ever wrote.
YRB: Do you like working with film or performing more?
YOSHIKI: I like both worlds. It’s just that working with film is a little different, but I enjoy the process.
YRB: How often do you write music? Do you write everyday?
YOSHIKI: Pretty much. All I need is music score. A piece of paper, so I can write anywhere.
YRB: How do you make the distinction between writing a classical piece or an X Japan song?
YOSHIKI: That’s a good question. Sometimes I think I wrote a classical piece and if it has an edge it ends up being an X Japan song and vice versa. So I go back and forth between classical and rock.
YRB: How do you feel about the X Japan film, We Are X?
YOSHIKI: So far it has been in several film festivals. I’m actually a little afraid (laughs).
First I was very nervous. I felt very exposed. But now that we are getting an amazing reaction. It’s changing my life.
YRB: What was the decision to play at Carnegie Hall?
YOSHIKI: I did a classical tour 2 years ago in over 10 countries. We talked about it back then but I didn’t think I was ready mentally. You just don’t go and play Madison Square Garden. I definitely wanted to do it.
A few months ago my agent called and told me someone cancelled the dates in January because of Friday the 13th. I’m not superstitious. To me that’s Rock and Roll! It was a sign, so I decided that is when I would perform.
YRB: Are you working on any new albums in between the tour dates?
YOSHIKI: Yes. A new X Japan album is about 100% done just some finishing touches of editing and mixing.
We decided to do an additional song for the song, so that was what delayed it from being released last year.
A new classical album, too, but that may take a little longer. I plan to debut some new classical songs at Carnegie Hall.
Recently, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced “LA VENUS”, composed by Yoshiki, as one of the songs in contention for a nomination for this year’s “Best Original Song” at the 89th Academy Awards®.
Yoshiki performs with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra at Carnegie Hall on January 12th and January 13th, 2017.