Yoshiki is a musical legend
in the way that it is difficult to become
without dying, overdosing on drugs, or otherwise turning into a living
. He has reinvented himself many times, all equally
emphasizing his goals as a performer, songwriter, producer, and person.
Above all, he has gone through the kind of shit that would cause a
lesser musician to lose all hope and curl up in a large house, jaded
alone. Yoshiki, however, continues: if you have not heard of him yet,
you likely will soon.
Yoshiki Hayashi was born on November 20, 1965 in Japan
. He officially
dropped his last name
at the start of his musical career, and now goes
by simply 'Yoshiki'.
When he was four years old, he began classical training in piano
lessons. This classical
influence continued to show itself throughout
his career; he regularly composes symphonic versions of rock songs and piano
to play with them.
When he was ten, Yoshiki found his dead father's body - he had
by hanging. This had a profound impact on Yoshiki's
life and caused him to later write the X Japan
Yoshiki grew up very close to his best friend Toshi
, and they were both
interested in music. During high school, Yoshiki learned to compose on
the piano and play a mad set of drums
; Toshi learned to play the guitar
and sing. Although Toshi had initially wanted to go to medical school
and become a doctor, he followed Yoshiki to Tokyo
after school to begin
a career in music. These two friends were the beginnings of X.
Yoshiki auditioned countless musicians for his musical brainchild;
unfortunately, due to his nature as a control freak
and a bit of a
, X went through many lineup changes in the early 80s
before finally securing hide
on lead guitar, Pata
on rhythm, and Taiji
on bass. Toshi gave up guitar and began to sing exclusively. With
Yoshiki's songwriting skills and talent to match, X - or X Japan -
eventually became the most popular, influential, and legendary Japanese
rock band to date.
They were not initially signed, however, due to Yoshiki's own
introduction of a style now called visual kei
. He wore dresses and
stockings; the band members spiked their hair yards high and
piled on makeup fit for Kabuki
theater. These did not go over well with
the major labels, and to prove them wrong, Yoshiki started his own
company - Extasy Records
. On the independent label, X released their
first album, Vanishing Vision
It was an instant success. In fact, it was one of just two indie albums
in Japanese history to place on the Oricon
charts (the other being an
album by Dir en grey
When Sony signed X Japan and Blue Blood
was released, the career of X
Japan exploded. They were a sensation, and Yoshiki was the star
To begin an opinionated section, there are many reasons that X, and
Yoshiki in particular, had so much success.
Yoshiki is brilliant. He doesn't just write songs, he writes epics.
Something like Amethyst
, an orchestral ballad, sounds like it could be
the soundtrack to a Shakespeare
an tragedy. Rose of Pain
are both over ten minutes long - they're beautiful, like like classical
rock symphonies. And don't forget Art of Life
, the magnum opus of a
full twenty-nine minutes - worth every one. This is not to say
Yoshiki is restricted to ballad
s - his badass rock songs are
. Blue Blood
. If you listen to an X
Japan song, chances are very good that Yoshiki wrote it (the most
noteable exceptions being the songs by hide).
Yoshiki is obscenely talented. Upon hearing the opening riffs of
, my sister commented, 'Holy crap - is that a drum machine?' I
replied, 'No, actually, that's called a Yoshiki.' Yoshiki, you see, is a
man who passed out regularly at shows from drumming too hard. It's
someone who ran from the piano to the drumset and back again during the
same song, someone who can play guitar well enough to write Week End
and arrange strings successfully enough to have the London Philharmonic
perform X Japan songs.
Yoshiki is also beautiful. If he doesn't downright claim
title of most-attractive-person-ever, then he's certainly a leading
During his decade-long career as X Japan's leader and star, Yoshiki
learned to produce, mix, arrange, and program. Simply put, he was
X Japan, to the point that the cover art
for their albums was often
just an artistic photograph of his face.
His personality made itself evident through stage shows and songs.
Yoshiki is a shameless drama queen
, and X Japan songs always display
their share of whispered words, sweeping string sections, and in the
case of Silent Jealousy
s. He's a very
intense, emotionally honest person, and arguably depressive, indicated
by blatantly self-destructive lyrics. Some of his compositions are so
self-absorbed and sad that they border on cheesy, but Yoshiki's sense of
artistry always manages to pull them off with style.
, unfortunately, often borders on insanity
, and a number of
complex factors (including band control, an overbearing attitude, and
Toshi's sudden marriage) caused Toshi make a decision to leave the band
in April of 1997. Understandably, Yoshiki was devastated, and he and
Toshi, extremely close for over twenty years, fought bitterly. hide
convinced Yoshiki to hold a Last Live with Toshi in December of 1997,
which was fraught with pain and emotion.
Following the breakup of X Japan, hide continued with his solo career,
and constantly had to reassure Yoshiki that his dreams hadn't turned to
dust. hide suggested that they try to reform X in the future, and
In May of 1998, hide committed suicide by hanging. He was the same age as
was rereleased and dedicated to hide. At the funeral, Yoshiki
and Toshi performed a tear-filled version of Forever Love
the most famous X Japan song in existence. Yoshiki also gave a speech,
attempting to comfort fans, but he was shaking and crying so hard that
he could barely hold the paper on which it was written.
The loss of so much of his life in just one year pushed Yoshiki close to
the edge. He went to his home in Los Angeles
and did nothing, no
interviews or songwriting, for a year. Many were afraid that he would
also kill himself.
He didn't. He wrote a classical piece, Anniversary
, and performed it
for the Emperor
of Japan's ten year anniversary in November of 1999. According to Yoshiki,
this was when he realised that he couldn't give up; he couldn't stop
performing, because - in his own words - "I love music as one human
being loves another human being
Since then, he has worked on projects as varying as his musical interests. He joined the popular trance group globe
, after working with its leader, Tetsuya Komuro
, on an earlier project called V2
. He has accepted the position as composer for the Japanese World Expo 2005
. He has released a classical album featuring the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra
playing orchestral versions of his most recent works, including Amethyst
Yoshiki's new pet project is Violet UK
artistic endeavor he has helmed, Violet UK is incredibly avant-garde. It blends rock,
, and ethereal vocals. It stays true to his vision of
visual kei by combining image with music: the live performances will
feature models in a choreographed fashion
show. A debut performance in 2002 managed to create an atmosphere in which a full orchestra, a beatbox/turntable, two female vocalists, and Yoshiki himself playing guitar and piano all feasibly fit on an opera stage and worked together beautifully. I couldn't even picture it until I saw it, but it's genius. He is
genius. hide once said of him, "It's difficult to know the meaning of genius, but if there was anyone I could possibly describe as a prodigy or genius, it would be that man."
In 2007 Yoshiki announced the reunion of X Japan. Their future is still being written.
Yoshiki lives and works in Los Angeles, recording, writing, and