Interview: X Japan Bandleader Yoshiki Hayashi Talks Next Album, Neck Braces, and More
By Natalie Perez
X Japan, one of the most influential heavy-metal bands within Japanese history, have kept their fans patiently waiting for a new album for two decades--the group's last studio record, the ballad-heavy Dalia, was released in 1996. In 2011, the group dropped a new single "Jade," and at the time, X Japan’s leader, songwriter, drummer, and pianist had said, "This is a years-long dream of X Japan's, to release a record in America and in Europe," adding, "Music is very powerful, and we believe it can help us bridge the gap between east and west. We hope that 'Jade' will be the first step." Revolver caught up with Hayashi to get the details on the band's latest steps.
REVOLVER Can you introduce yourself, and tell me what role you play in X Japan?
YOSHIKI HAYASHI Google me. [Laughs] Sorry, I’m joking. I’m the drummer, pianist, and leader of the band.
Can you tell me what the music scene is like in Chiba, Japan, are there any bands from there you could recommend?
Chiba is next to Tokyo. It’s pretty much the same as what’s going on in Tokyo. I check some Japanese bands once in a while, but it’s hard to name a few.
Do you think not being from a big city like LA or NY influences your sound?
I grew up in a place called Tateyama, which is a small town near the ocean. But my parents bought me bunch of vinyl records when I was a child. It’s not so much that I was influenced by the place but was influenced by my father who bought me a lot of classical music vinyl records. Then when he died, that’s when I discovered rock music myself.
You guys were once known as X then changed it to X Japan. What does this name symbolize and mean?
Yes, we started off as X. But when we first came to the US, we found out that there is a band called X, so we named our band X Japan. It means where we came from. We just thought the sound of it was cool as well.
Can you tell me why you wear a neck brace in all of your performances?
Because of the drum style I’ve been playing, I injured my neck. A few years ago, I had a major neck surgery. My doctor told me not to play drums anymore but I still decided to go on a tour. He said that it was suicidal to do that, but if I had to play, he told me I must at least wear a neck brace. But to be honest, I don’t know how many shows I can play till it breaks. [Laughs]
In 2010, you did a North American tour, and in 2011, European, Latin American, and Southeast Asian tours. When can we expect to see you guys return to these parts of the world?
Let me just say it’s in the works. Each member of X Japan has its own management so it makes my job very difficult, getting everyone together to even talk. But now I can say I’m pretty sure we will start touring again next year.
Tell me about your English-language debut single, the song "Jade."
I wanted to describe a new style of X Japan, and still contain the beautiful melodies and aggressiveness, as well as heavy sounds. But I also wanted to make a statement that X Japan is evolving.
Where are you in the recording process of the new album?
I’m just waiting for a few members’ schedule to complete the remaining parts. So unless I come up with another new song, it’s pretty much done.
How does it make you feel to be creating an English-language album. Is it something you guys have always wanted to do?
Even these days I intentionally write some parts in Japanese, but English comes naturally when I think about rhyming and how it flows. On top, of that I’ve been living in the US for more than 15 years, so it was very organic to write the lyrics in English.
Who is producing the album? How has the producer aided the recording process?
I think we have a notorious producer who doesn’t finish the album. Please blame him, don’t blame me…. Well, the other side of me. Every record we made has had such an impact in the scene, including us. So we just don’t want to create an album that we look back and say, “It was just one of those albums." We want the album to have a significant meaning and impact for us.