X Japan Embark on Their First American Tour
Japanese power-metal titans X Japan have long reigned as one of the most important hard-rock acts in Asia, selling more than 30 million albums over the last 22 years and filling the 50,000-seated Tokyo Dome 18 times. But the veteran rockers aren’t satisfied. On September 25, X Japan will embark on their first North American tour. The band will also release their first album in North America early in 2011. X Japan drummer Yoshiki sits down with Revolver to fill us in about the tour.
REVOLVER X Japan have seen huge success in Asia. Is it frustrating to come to a country where you have to play much smaller venues?
YOSHIKI Actually, it's very exciting. When we first started, we had to go through that process to become a big artist and we can do that again. Not many artists can do that twice! Also, we can't play places this small, with this kind of intimate vibe, anymore in Japan without creating some sort of security craziness but we get that again here, and that's great. So we are looking forward to doing that.
Other Japanese bands, like Dir En Grey, have tried to make the jump to American audiences. Why are you confident that X Japan can succeed in America?
You know, I produced the debut album for Dir En Grey. They are very good friends of mine and they came to our show in Japan about a month ago. OK, why am I confident? It's a combination of a lot of different reasons. First of all, I have been living here [in Los Angeles] for more than 10 years. I didn't just come from Japan to go into a new market. I wouldn't say I know completely but I kind of know what's going on here. Also, it's the same thing, when we debuted in Japan. We are very different. Now it's called Visual-Kei, but back then, with our look, we were like an unknown monster. Back then the Japanese scene was very 'poppy.' There weren't many heavy, hard rock bands; maybe a total of three. The biggest rock band at that time was called Loudness, who sold maybe 50,000, but I said, "I want to sell a million copies, I want to sell out the Tokyo Dome with 50,000 seats." People thought I was crazy. People asked me, "Why do you think you can make it?" There was no reason. I just think we can do it.
Can you learn anything from the other bands that have tried?
Yes. I would not say anything bad about any other band but I would say that the look and hype is secondary. The most important thing is the music. And we do have a strong music background. We are very confident about our music. Of course, all of those other things help, but even though X Japan has had tons of hype, that might be helping, but X Japan is all about music.
How do you think your musical style fits in with the current American rock scene?
Our musical style never fits anywhere, anytime, so it doesn't matter. In the Japanese scene or the American scene, our style doesn't fit, and at the same time, fits anywhere.
What do you think American audiences can gain the most from your live performances?
Our passion for music, something you have never seen or heard.
You’ve lived in Los Angeles and speak English. What advantages do you have in your attempt to conquer America?
I've been living in Los Angeles, but I don't speak English fluently. Both [vocalist] Toshi and I are still learning. It's not easy to sing in English and speak in English, but we are really trying and will get better and better, I promise. But I've been living here for a while and I listen to the radio and see the TV, so that gives us a little advantage. I know the culture better. I know In-N-Out Burger.
X Japan’s first American release is set to come out early in 2011. How did writing lyrics in English affect the creative process?
In the last five or six years, I've been writing all new songs only in English. So with new songs, it's no problem. But 50 percent of the songs on the new album are some of X Japan's greatest hits, which were originally written in Japanese, so translating from Japanese to English is the hardest. For some reason, English needs more words, so I had to almost rewrite lyrics but keep the same message. That was the difficult part. The thing is, since living here, I dream in English. I had neck surgery and when I was under the anesthesia, my doctor told me I was talking. I asked him if I was talking in English or Japanese, and he said English. So even when I dream, I dream in English, so it's easier for me to write English lyrics.
Interview by Cody Thomas