Interviews

X Japan's Yoshiki on Lollapalooza, Hide, and Taking Over America with Japanese Rock

I'm riding in an elevator up to the highest floors of Chicago's Ritz Carlton with publicist Heidi Ellen Robinson-Fitzgerald. For a sweet lady, she represents some hard-hitting acts including Slayer, Anthrax, and even the legendary producer Rick Rubin. Today I will not be meeting any of them. No, instead she will introduce me to her latest client: Yoshiki, the heart of X Japan.

She tries to prep me for my interview by explaining that Yoshiki is terribly reluctant to talk too favorably about himself and I have a hard time believing her. I know what the man has achieved! We're talking 21 million albums sold with X Japan. He was asked by the Japanese emperor to compose a song celebrating the ten year anniversary of his reign. He has composed Japan's best-selling classical album and he did it with George Martin; the same producer who worked with this little band from Liverpool you might have heard of on albums like Sgt. Pepper and Abbey Road.

Now he and the rest of X Japan are mounting the strongest attempt by a Japanese band to capture the American audience ever; starting with a main stage performance at Lollapalooza tomorrow afternoon and followed up by a new album almost entirely in English and a North American tour.

So humble? Yeah, I wasn't buying it when she told me nor when we walked into his palatial suite complete with a baby grand piano.

Then Yoshiki descended a spiral stair case from the master bedroom and started speaking to me with his disarmingly timid nature about his motivations for taking on the world with X Japan, where it all began, where it fell apart, and where he hopes it might end up.

New Times: How does it feel to know you're about to play the largest show a Japanese and has ever played in this country?

Yoshiki: Exciting. Very, very exciting. Yeah.

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Jonathan McNamara