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Exclusive Interview with X Japan Leader Yoshiki

Naomi Umemura

Shibuya: On now to Arts Beat, with Marie Yanaka. And today, X marks the spot.

Yanaka: That's right. X Japan is one of the country's most enduring rock bands. It's also made a name for itself internationally. A new album and another international tour are in the works for this year.

Shibuya: The front man of X Japan is Yoshiki, I believe.

Yanaka: Yeah, he plays drums, keyboards, and piano and writes songs. He's also been supporting victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, visiting schools and meeting with residents face-to-face. Music healed his life, and he hopes it will do the same for others. Here's part of our exclusive interview with him, and an insight into X Japan's long story of light and shadows.

X Japan organized a concert for disaster victims at a small place in Ishinomaki.

Half of the150 people in the audience were locals, there by invitation. The rest of the tickets were auctioned online. The proceeds-- more than 200 thousand dollars --were donated to the community.

"When that thing happened, all the attention from the world was there. But, eventually, you know... People didn't forget, but people not really paying attention to what's going on in Ishinomaki. So, I went to bring the attention back to... So people would talk about what's going on in Ishinomaki."
Yoshiki / X Japan

Since its debut in 1989, the band has turned out both rock tunes heavy on attitude and beautiful ballads. That unique sensibility turned it into a major attraction.

Riding that wave of success, the band set its sights on overseas markets. But somehow, it failed to find its footing.

X Japan broke up in 1997 when Toshi, the vocalist, left the group. Soon afterward, Hide, the guitarist, died.

In 2007, Yoshiki approached Toshi to mend their relationship, and eventually they reunited.

Much to their surprise, the band members found their international reputation had grown during the lost decade. Thank the Internet and social media for that.

Between 2009 and 2011, X Japan took to the stage in sixteen countries and regions.

"X Japan has been my favorite band since twelve years old."

"Yoshiki's songs really changed our lives."

"During those 10 years we were not really doing a band after we broke up, fans are spreading our music. Not only Japanese fans. Fans in America, Mexico, France, England, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, Chili. Everybody is spreading our music to their friends and family, or... We are just so lucky to have those amazing fans. Playing overseas made us realize e really love to perform. As long as there are fans, we would like to go anywhere. We want to rock. That made us realize, how much we like to rock."
Yoshiki / X Japan

The tune 'Without You' is dedicated to the late Hide. The sense of heartache is characteristic of Yoshiki's songs.

"Sometimes I think about the pain we have, we have to go through. The pain can go back to... You know, when I was 10 years old, when I lost my father. I think my father's suicide really affected me, because it's not like an accident, it's not like he was sick or anything. Why did you leave? Why did you leave this world? What's the meaning of living here? Why do we live here? I started thinking. Always like that."
Yoshiki / X Japan

Yoshiki also expressed his feelings for his late father through the music.

"I think pain, that kind of pain. It's always there. You just have to deal with it. That kind of scar will never heal. But together with our fans, we can be positive and keep on going."
Yoshiki / X Japan

In October 2014, X Japan performed at New York's Madison Square Garden. Almost 20 years after its farewell concert at the Tokyo Dome, the band was once again playing Forever Love. The audience was filled with empathy for the band's quest to overcome adversity.

"X Japan is not only five of us. Not only seven of us. I mean, five of us plus Hide and Taiji. All those fans are X Japan as well. So, it's not only us. That's the reason I didn't give up. Doing the band sometimes is not that easy."
Yoshiki / X Japan

In March, the band will play Wembley Arena in the UK, one of the world's most famous rock venues.

Shibuya: This is quite a rare opportunity. I've never seen a long interview like this with him before... and in English!

Yanaka: Yes, our staff member who put this story together, Naomi Umemura, has been looking for a chance to interview him for several years. Last month, he said OK and spoke with us right after a three-hour concert in Nagoya. He talked late into the night about his love for music and for his fans.

Beppu: When will the new album be released?

Yanaka: On March 11th, the 5th anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami.

Shibuya: And on Monday, the 18th, you can watch a shorter version of this report, on Newsline.

*You will leave the NHK website. 

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