X Japan in Hong Kong 2009
|Also known as||X, エックス|
|Genres||Heavy metal, progressive metal, power metal, speed metal, symphonic metal, glam metal|
|Years active||1982–97, 2007–present|
|Labels||Dada, Extasy, CBS/Sony, Ki/oon, MMG, East West Japan, Atlantic, Polydor, Tofu, EMI|
|Associated acts||S.K.I.N., Ra:IN, Luna Sea, Zilch, Loudness|
|Past members||Former members|
X Japan (エックス・ジャパン Ekkusu Japan ) is a Japanese heavy metal band from Chiba, formed in 1982 by Toshi and Yoshiki. Originally named X (エックス Ekkusu ), the group achieved their breakthrough success in 1989 with the release of their second album Blue Blood. They started out mainly as a power/speed metal band, but later gravitated towards a progressive sound with an emphasis on ballads.
Besides being one of the first Japanese acts to achieve mainstream success while on an independent label, the group is widely credited as one of the pioneers of visual kei, a movement among Japanese musicians comparable to Western glam. In 2003, HMV Japan ranked the band at number 40 on their list of the 100 most important Japanese pop acts.
After sixteen years, four albums, and selling out the 55,000 seat Tokyo Dome 18 times, X Japan disbanded in 1997. However after ten years, the band reunited in 2007 and recorded the new song "I.V.". Over the next two years they performed several concerts, including their first overseas show in Hong Kong, before holding their first North American tour from September 25 to October 10, 2010. In 2011, X Japan went on their first world tour throughout Europe, South America and Asia.
In 1977, Toshi and Yoshiki formed a band called Dynamite in their hometown of Tateyama, Chiba, when they were just 11 years old. Dynamite changed its name to Noise in 1978, while they were still in high school. In 1982, Noise disbanded and Yoshiki and Toshi formed a new band, they named it X while they tried to think of another name, but the name stuck. X began to actively perform in the Tokyo area in 1985 with a frequently changing lineup. Their first single, "I'll Kill You" was released on Dada Records in June and the band contributed "Break the Darkness" to the sampler Heavy Metal Force III in November, which also featured a song by Saver Tiger. In November 1985 bassist Taiji (ex:Dementia) joined X, though he left the group shortly thereafter.
To ensure a continuous outlet for the band's music, Yoshiki founded the independent label Extasy Records in April 1986, and released their second single "Orgasm". Taiji would officially rejoin the band in November of that same year. The songs "Stab Me in the Back" and "No Connexion", for the February 1987 Victor Records sampler Skull Thrash Zone Volume I, were recorded with Pata (ex:Judy) as a support guitar player. Soon after these recordings hide (ex:Saver Tiger) joined as a guitarist. After Pata once again provided support, this time at a live show, he officially joined completing the group's first well-known lineup.
In August 1987 they performed at the Rock Monster event at Kyoto Sports Valley and gave out their first home video, Xclamation. On December 26, 1987, the band participated in an audition held by CBS/Sony which led to a recording contract in August of the following year. In the meantime the band released its first album, Vanishing Vision through Extasy Records on April 14, 1988, and toured extensively in support of the record. The album's first press of 10,000 copies sold out in a week, topping the Oricon indies chart and reaching number 19 on the main chart. The Vanishing Tour Vol.2 took the band to 20 locations for 24 shows from June to July, while the Burn Out Tour had 12 performances throughout October. In November, X participated in music magazine Rockin'f's Street Fighting Men concert at Differ Ariake Arena. That year the members also made a brief cameo appearance in the American film Tokyo Pop, starring Carrie Hamilton and Diamond Yukai.
X's sold out Blue Blood Tour started on March 13, with two of the concerts selling out in advanced, including the March 16 show at Shibuya Public Hall, which was later released on home video as Blue Blood Tour Bakuhatsu Sunzen Gig. The album Blue Blood was released on April 21, 1989, and debuted at number six on the Oricon chart. The single "Kurenai" reached number five and the band went on the Rose and Blood tour, which was temporarily suspended when Yoshiki collapsed after a November 22 concert. This success earned the band the "Grand Prix New Artist of the Year" award at the 4th annual Japan Gold Disc Awards in 1990. On November 24, 1990, X flew to Los Angeles to begin recording their follow-up album, Jealousy. When members arrived back in Japan in June, 500 members of the Japan Self-Defence Forces were at the airport to control the crowd. The album was released on July 1, 1991, and debuted at number one, selling over 600,000 copies. It was later certified million by the RIAJ. In August the band performed their first concert at Japan's largest indoor concert venue, the Tokyo Dome. Footage from most of the band's shows in that stadium would later be released on CD and home video. The show was part of the Violence in Jealousy tour, which lasted to the end of the year and once again saw Yoshiki collapse after the October 24 Yokohama Arena gig. December 8 saw the X with Orchestra concert at NHK Hall, where, as the name suggests, the band performed backed by an orchestra.
1992 began with three sold out concerts at the Tokyo Dome, titled Tokyo Dome 3 Days ~On the Verge of Destruction~, on January 5-7. The title was possibly more meaningful than it appears at first glance, as on January 31 it was announced that bass player Taiji had left the group. The official reason given for his departure was due to musical differences. However in his autobiography, Taiji claims he was asked to leave because he confronted Yoshiki due to the substantial income gap between Yoshiki and each of the other members. On August 24, 1992, the band held a press conference in New York at Rockefeller Center. There, Heath (ex:Media Youth) was announced as their new bass player. Around this time, the band's success in Japan made an international breakthrough appear likely, leading to them leaving Sony for an American record contract with Atlantic Records and the renaming of the band from X to X Japan, in order to distinguish from the American punk group X. (An American album release would never happen.) Their first show with Heath was at the October 1992 Extasy Summit at Osaka-jō Hall.
1993–97: X Japan
Art of Life was released on August 28, 1993, by Atlantic Records, and is comprised solely of the 29-minute, heavily orchestrated title track. It debuted at number one, however the band only performed two concerts that year, as each member began solo careers. Aptly titled X Japan Returns, the concerts were held at the Tokyo Dome on December 30 and 31, marking the beginning of a New Year's Eve tradition that would last until the group's disbandment. The solo careers continued into the following year, with X Japan only performing four shows. The first two were the last two days of the The Great Music Experience, and the others were December 30-31 at the Tokyo Dome, titled Aoi Yoru (青い夜, Blue Night) and Shiroi Yoru (白い夜, White Night) respectively.
1995 was also quiet, until November 19 when the band began the tour for their next album, Dahlia Tour 1995-1996. Around this time, the group dropped most of its original visual kei aesthetics in favor of a more casual look. While it wasn't released until November 4, 1996, singles from the album had been released as early as a few months after Art of Life. Though this caused Dahlia to contain relatively little new material, the album reached number one on the charts. The tour was originally scheduled to end on March 31, 1996, however, it was cut short when Yoshiki herniated cervical vertebrae after the March 13 show. They did however perform their tradition of two Tokyo Dome concerts on December 30-31, titled Resurrection Night (復活の夜) and Reckless Night (無謀な夜).
On September 22, 1997, at 1pm, Yoshiki, hide, Pata and Heath held a press conference where they announced that X Japan would disband. Vocalist Toshi decided to leave the band as the glamorous, success-oriented life of a rock star failed to satisfy him emotionally, as opposed to a simpler life and career. He later stated that he had made the decision back in April 1996, though it wasn't publicly disclosed. X Japan performed their farewell show, aptly titled The Last Live ~Last Night~, at the Tokyo Dome on December 31, 1997, making it the last of five consecutive New Year's Eves the group performed at the stadium. Although later that same day they played "Forever Love" at that year's Kōhaku Uta Gassen, marking their true last performance.
1998–2007: Post X Japan
While reissues, compilations and live footage continued to be released, the members of X Japan pursued solo careers and other projects. hide, who released his first solo album Hide Your Face in 1994, continued his solo career with a sound distinctively different from X Japan's music, leaning more towards alternative rock, until his death on May 2, 1998. Just two months later, the debut album 3.2.1. from his American-based band Zilch, which included Ray McVeigh (The Professionals), Paul Raven (Killing Joke) and Joey Castillo (Queens of the Stone Age), was released. His third solo album Ja, Zoo, formally including his live band Spread Beaver, was released and became his most successful, having reached number one and sold over a million copies.
Toshi's solo career, which began in 1992, has been extensive, with him having released over 30 albums and performed numerous acoustic shows for smaller audiences. According to his website, his Utatabi Traveling Concert tour included over 3,000 concerts between 1999 and 2003.
After both having released solo albums in the early 90s, Pata and Heath teamed up with Spread Beaver percussionist/programmer I.N.A., who worked on several of X Japan's releases, to provide a track for the 1998 hide tribute album Tribute Spirits. The three would reunite again in 2000 to form Dope HEADz, which released two albums before ceasing activity. Heath then continued his solo career and Pata formed the instrumental rock group Ra:IN, which later added Spread Beaver keyboardist DIE.
Before the band's breakup, Yoshiki had already independently collaborated with Queen drummer Roger Taylor on the single "Foreign Sand" and provided the Japanese contribution to the international Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, an orchestral arrangement of the song "Black Diamond". A compilation with orchestral treatments of X Japan songs, titled Eternal Melody was also released. It was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and among others featured The Beatles producer George Martin as an arranger.
Since 1998 Yoshiki has engaged in numerous activities, such as briefly being a member of the pop band Globe, producing singles for the Korean rock band TRAX and numerous others, as well as working on his solo project Violet UK, which has yet to publish a major release. He has also contributed music to the movie Catacombs and produced the soundtrack of Repo! The Genetic Opera. On May 25, 2007, the formation of the supergroup S.K.I.N. was announced, which besides Yoshiki consists of pop/rock artists Gackt and Miyavi, as well as Luna Sea guitarist Sugizo. The band gave its first and only performance at the Anime Expo convention in Long Beach, California on June 29, 2007.
According to a report by the newspaper Sponichi, Toshi visited Yoshiki in Los Angeles in November 2006 to work on the song "Without You" as a tribute to hide. On March 21, 2007, Toshi announced on his website that he and Yoshiki had recently resumed working together, stating that a "new project" would commence soon. Rumors of a X Japan reunion subsequently began, and in June Yoshiki was reported as having expressed interest in a tour (beginning in Los Angeles), "Without You" being released as a single and that he was in talks with Heath and Pata regarding their participation.
The band made its first public appearance on October 22, 2007, on the rooftop of the shopping center Aqua City in Odaiba, Tokyo, to film a music video for the newly recorded song "I.V.". The song was used as the theme of the American horror movie Saw IV. It was written by Yoshiki and recorded with all X Japan members of the pre-breakup lineup, as it utilizes previously unreleased guitar tracks by hide. "I.V." was released through iTunes on January 23, 2008, topping the store's charts on that day.
On January 20, 2008, two Tokyo Dome concert dates were announced for March 28 and March 30. Due to popular demand, they added another concert for the 29th. These three shows were entitled Resume Attack 2008 I.V. - Towards Destruction, with each individual concert titled Night of Destruction, Night of Madness and Night of Creation, respectively, and featured three guest guitarists filling in for the late hide - Wes Borland, Richard Fortus and Sugizo. The March 28 concert was aired live on the pay-per-view channel WOWOW. During the song "Art of Life" a hologram of hide (taken from footage of the "Art of Life" performance at the Tokyo Dome in 1993) played alongside the band. Because of technical difficulties, possibly due to the hologram, the first concert was delayed for over two hours and later came to an abrupt end when drummer Yoshiki collapsed eight songs into the performance. The subsequent shows were without such difficulties and during a press conference, plans for a concert in Paris, France on July 5, 2008, were announced, with an intended audience of 20,000 people. In addition to the Paris date, plans for concerts at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on September 13, and at the Taipei World Trade Center in Taipei on August 2 were also announced.
2008–10: Delays, Sugizo joins and first North American tour
The hide memorial summit took place on May 3 and 4, 2008 at Ajinomoto Stadium, with X Japan performing the second day, as a tribute to the musician who was also a former X guitarist. Numerous other popular acts such as T.M.Revolution, Oblivion Dust and Versailles also performed, with Phantasmagoria and Luna Sea even reuniting for one day. Organizers planned for an estimated 100,000 fans to attend the two shows. On June 8, it was reported that all of X Japan's previously scheduled shows would be postponed until further notice, due to a recurrence of Yoshiki's disc herniation. The Paris and Taipei concerts were re-scheduled, Paris for November 22, 2009.
On September 15, 2008, Yoshiki held a press conference in Tokyo, where he announced a new, unnamed X Japan song was in the works. Concerts at Saitama Super Arena on Christmas and New Year's Eve 2008 were also announced. After the conference Yoshiki went on a promotional tour across Asia. On November 7, the French ticketing website Avos announced that the planned ticket sale for the show in Paris would be canceled. Later that day, X Japan released a press statement through their French language website apologizing for the second postponement and announced that the planned Christmas shows would likely suffer a similar fate. In early January the previously announced Taiwan concert date was postponed for a second time. On December 31, X Japan performed their New Year's Eve countdown performance at the Akasaka Blitz.
On January 15, 2009, the band arrived in Hong Kong for their January 16 and 17 shows. On May 1, it was announced that Sugizo officially joined X Japan as lead guitarist. Their first show with him as a full member was held the next day at the Tokyo Dome, where they played "Jade" for the first time.
On January 9, 2010, the band made its first public U.S. appearance by shooting four new music videos in Hollywood. The four videos were for "Rusty Nail", "Endless Rain", "I.V.", and their new song "Jade". In February, Yoshiki confirmed that X Japan will be performing at Lollapalooza in August. Later that month, he announced at a press event that the band would be relocating to Los Angeles, California, with a concert being planned for a "simple" venue in the city area to mark the band's first official North American show. It was also announced that a sixth album was in the works and was expected to be released in the fall.
In March 2010, Yoshiki filed a lawsuit against Nexstar Corporation, for 375 million yen in damages. The claim states that after X Japan reunited, they entered a contract with Nexstar Corporation in January 2008, which included the use of some recordings. That initial deal was for 600 million yen in advance royalties and contract money, which has been entirely unpaid. Between 2008 and 2009, the company also sponsored ten of the band's concerts in Japan and other parts of Asia. About 320 million yen in performance fees and merchandise sales from those concerts is due to the band as well. In all, the total unpaid amount is more than 900 million yen. The lawsuit is currently seeking only 375 million yen for the revenue earned from the concerts, but should the case go to trial, Yoshiki's side plans to file an additional claim for the 600 million yen in the initial contract.
On July 1, the band appeared at Club Nokia in Los Angeles where they performed an acoustic setlist, and recorded a music video for the new song, "Born to Be Free". On July 4, the two founding members Toshi and Yoshiki, appeared in Paris at the Japan Expo 2010 where they performed some songs. During the following month, X Japan and Yoshiki were featured in numerous newspapers and websites such as ABC News, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Sun-Times. X Japan performed at Lollapalooza 2010 in Grant Park, Chicago on August 8. In the following days, Yoshiki did a Q&A article with the Phoenix New Times and was interviewed by ABC News.
On August 14 and 15, 2010, the band performed a two-day show at Nissan Stadium, the largest stadium in Japan. It was reported[by whom?] that over 100,000 fans attended the two shows with some estimates as high as 140,000 in attendance. Ex-bassist Taiji joined them on stage both nights as a guest for the song "X", he would die the following year. Soon after, former deceased guitarist hide's management company, Headwax Organization, filed a lawsuit against Yoshiki and X Japan's management, Japan Music Agency, for using images of the former member without a formal agreement in place. The claim states that in 2000 the two companies signed an agreement allowing Yoshiki and X Japan to use visual images of hide during concerts. However, images were used at these Nissan Stadium shows, when apparently the contract was expired.
From September 25 to October 10, X Japan performed their first ever North American tour with dates in Los Angeles, Oakland, Seattle, Chicago, Vancouver, Toronto and New York City. On December 17, Yoshiki announced that a new X Japan song, "Scarlet Love Song", was composed for the animated movie adaptation of the Buddha manga.
2011–present: World tour and new album
It was announced on January 27, 2011, that X Japan signed a 3-year agreement with EMI in November 2010. The label will handle the American distribution of their single "Jade", which was to be released on March 15, and their untitled album, which was set for release in late summer. In promotion of the new album, it was also stated they would be touring extensively around the world throughout 2011. X Japan performed on March 6 at Asia Girls Explosion, a fashion event and music concert that Yoshiki created with Jay FR. It was announced they would perform in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru later in the year.
Due to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan on March 11, the band decided to postpone the release of "Jade" until June 28. Yoshiki also decided to auction off one of his used signature Kawai crystal grand pianos, of which all proceeds were sent to help provide aid to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami.
"Scarlet Love Song" was released in Japan on June 8, and on June 28 their first worldwide single, "Jade", was released, both on iTunes. That same day they performed in London, the first concert of the European leg of their ongoing world tour, which was followed by Paris on July 1, Utrecht on July 2 and Berlin on July 4.
X Japan also performed at the 2011 Summer Sonic festival that was held on August 13 and 14, in Tokyo and Osaka. Their world tour's South American concerts were; Santiago on September 9, São Paulo on September 11, Buenos Aires on September 14, Lima on September 16 and Mexico City on September 18. The Asian leg of the tour brought stops in Seoul on October 28, Shanghai on October 30, Hong Kong on November 4, Taipei on November 6 and Bangkok on November 8. The Beijing show, originally scheduled for November 2, was cancelled by the promoters on October 25 due to "technical and production issues".
"Kurenai", X's major debut single, is a fast power metal song with heavy symphonic elements and has become one of the band's signature songs.
A piano driven ballad with classical orchestration, "Tears" was the band's first material released with bassist Heath.
X's only single written by someone other than Yoshiki, "Scars" is a progressive metal song by the band's deceased former guitarist hide.
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X Japan's music developed in the wake of American and British glam and heavy metal music and is characterized by driving power metal compositions with symphonic elements (e.g. "Kurenai", "Silent Jealousy") and emotional ballads (e.g. "Endless Rain", "Forever Love"). Many of the group's songs make use of orchestrated passages, particularly on longer tracks such as the ten and a half minute "Tears", "Crucify My Love", and the twenty-nine minute "Art of Life". The majority of the band's lyrics are in Japanese, the band's native language, however many instances show the lyrics alternating from Japanese to English and back. Examples of this include the spoken-word background vocals during the bridge of "Rusty Nail", multiple lines (including the entire prechorus) of the song "Week End", and the entirely English "Alive" and "Drain".
The majority of the band's catalog of music was written by Yoshiki with relatively little composition from the other members. hide contributed several songs, including the single "Scars", while Pata's only claim is "White Wind from Mr. Martin ~Pata's Nap~". Toshi's contributions are limited to lyrics for a few songs. Taiji contributed music to a couple of songs, notably "Voiceless Screaming" from the album Jealousy, for which, when performed live, he played the acoustic guitar. Heath's only writing credit is the instrumental song "Wriggle" on the 1996 album Dahlia, which he wrote with Pata. Only one song is credited as a full band collaboration, "Easy Fight Rambling" on the 1989 album Blue Blood. Of song's from the band's lesser-known former members, only the track "Time Trip Loving" from the single "Orgasm", composed by Jun with Toshi writing the lyrics, was officially released. In 2010 it was reported that Sugizo has written some songs, though no further information was given.
Yoshiki's composing style tends to make use of chords in sequences of eights or more with riff-based motifs or call-and-response style phrasing. He has maintained this style for the majority of his career as a composer. Having played classical piano since he was 3 years old, Yoshiki claims to be as influenced by classical music as he is by rock, a claim which is evident when considering the breadth of music released by the band. While also serving as the main songwriter Yoshiki has production credit on much of X Japan's later material. During live performances the band relies, for the most part, on its members (with drummer and pianist Yoshiki and guitarist and violinist Sugizo switching between their instruments) and prerecorded tracks for orchestrated strings, spoken word passages, and more recently, some of hide's guitar parts.
Legacy and influence
X Japan are considered one of the founders of visual kei, a movement among Japanese musicians comparable to Western glam. In 2011, Yoshiki described their early years and the movement's development as "when we started the band, the problem was we didn’t belong anywhere. Because we were playing very heavy music, we were wearing tons of make-up and crazy outfits. So we couldn’t belong anywhere", "[We did our own thing and] that eventually became visual kei". He added "But visual kei is more like a spirit, it’s not a music style or, you know… I think it is a freedom about describing myself, a freedom to express myself, that’s what I believe visual kei is." Upon former guitarist hide's death in 1998, less than a year after the band broke up, Billboard's Steve McClure declared it "the end of an era", "X were the first generation of visual kei bands... For the next generation of bands, it's like: That's it. The torch has been passed to us." Many bands and artists, most related to visual kei, count them as an influence or look up to them, including Miyavi, Dir en grey, Syu of Galneryus, The Gazette, Tōru Kawauchi from 12012, Maya of LM.C, Yuuki from Unsraw, Kei of Dio – Distraught Overlord, aie from Deadman, Screw's Jin, and DaizyStripper. Each member of Versailles cites X as influences, with singer Kamijo saying "I think there isn't anyone in the Japanese music business who hasn't been influenced by them". Leda of Galneryus and Deluhi claims he was not even interested in music until a friend played him X Japan and Luna Sea, and also declared X Japan's music his "Bible".
X Japan were popular among rebellious youths, who were attracted to "the tone of alienation and frustration for which X was revered". Their music was described by one journalist as having "an angry sound that rejected the cookie-cutter principles of Japanese society." In 1998, Radio and TV host Bryan Burton-Lewis explained "In Japan, the image that we have of the X audience is rural kids going through a rebellion phase. They put their life into being X fans: they dress like it, they breathe it".
They have also been named one of the first Japanese acts to achieve mainstream success while on an independent record label. HMV Japan ranked the band number 40 on a 2003 list of the 100 most important Japanese pop acts, and in 2010 they came in third in a poll by Oricon on which Japanese bands people want around for future generations. In 2010, Consequence of Sound named X Japan one of their Top 15 Cult Acts.
However, X Japan have also made a mark outside of the music industry. Japan's former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is a well-known fan of the band. His political party, the Liberal Democratic Party, have even used X's song "Forever Love" in several commercials in 2001. In 1999, at the request of the Japanese government, Yoshiki composed and performed a classical song for Japan's Emperor Akihito at a celebration in honor of the tenth anniversary of his enthronement.
- Toshi – lead vocals, acoustic guitar (1982–97, 2007–present)
- Yoshiki – drums, piano, keyboards, bandleader (1982–97, 2007–present)
- Pata – rhythm guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (1987–97, 2007–present)
- Heath – bass guitar, backing vocals (1992–97, 2007–present)
- Sugizo – lead guitar, violin, backing vocals (2009–present)
- Yuji "Terry" Izumisawa (泉沢裕二 Izumisawa Yuji ) – guitar (1982–85)
- Tomoyuki "Tomo" Ogata (オガタトモユキ Ogata Tomoyuki ) – guitar (1984–85)
- Atsushi Tokuo (徳応アツシ Tokuo Atsushi ) – bass guitar (1984–85)
- Kenichi "Eddie Van" Koide (小出健一 Koide Kenichi ) – guitar (1985)
- Yoshifumi "Hally" Yoshida (吉田良文 Yoshida Yoshifumi ) – guitar (1985)
- Mita "Zen/Xenon" Kazuaki (三田一光 Kazuaki Mita ) – guitar (1985–86)
- Hisashi "Jun/Shu" Takai (高井寿 Takai Hisashi ) – guitar (1985, 1986)
- Hikaru Utaka (宇高光 Utaka Hikaru ) – bass guitar (1985–86)
- Masanori "Kerry" Takahashi (高橋雅則 Takahashi Masanori ) – guitar (1986)
- Satoru Inoue (井上悟 Inoue Satoru ) – guitar (1986)
- Isao – guitar (1987)
- Taiji – bass guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (1985, 1986–92)
- hide – lead guitar, acoustic guitar, backing vocals (1987–97)
- Although hide is deceased, the band still considers him a member and introduces him at every concert, with the group going as far as to play audio/video clips of his voice/guitar for some songs.
- Studio albums
- Vanishing Vision (April 14, 1988)
- Blue Blood (April 21, 1989)
- Jealousy (June 1, 1991)
- Art of Life (August 28, 1993)
- Dahlia (November 4, 1996)
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