Yoshiki and X Japan on stage at the Madison Square Garden, New York. Image courtesy of X Japan
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND– The true value of a great man is measured not by how many times he falls, but how many times he gets up and continues to strive for a better future. Yoshiki Hayashi, drummer-pianist-songwriter of Japanese rock icons X Japan, is an example of such a man. In spite of all the problems he has been confronted with, he continues to struggle to be the best pop icon to come out of Asia.
From one country to another, Yoshiki has continued to give his best on stage. Since he began his Yoshiki Classical World Tour early this year, he has travelled to different countries, including Mexico, Russia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan where he gave scintillating performances. In the United States, he has performed in Baltimore, New York, San Francisco and Hollywood amongst many others, elating many souls. Just recently, he was in front of a capacity crowd at the Madison Square Garden in New York as part of his Yoshiki Classical World Tour. Performing along with X Japan, the Asian pop icon proved why he is such a celebrated pianist and performer. Thunderous applause greeted him at the end of every performance.
On stage, Yoshiki is an amazing performer. Watching him perform with X Japan, it is easy to conclude that this is a man without troubles. On stage, he is always giving his best: funny, witty and sensitive. Behind the piano, he can simply be described as a genius. But Yoshiki like all other human beings carry his own burden. Some of his distressing experience came to the fore this summer during the annual Baltimore Otakon. In a brilliant performance at the Baltimore Convention Center, Yoshiki relived those touching events that have fostered his musical career.
During the performance Yoshiki reminisced on some of the most painful moments of his life. The death of Hide, a prominent member of the X Japan and close friend who was found dead in his home, was one of those memories that continues to haunt him till today. In 1997, Hide hung himself in what appeared an apparent suicide caused by years of depression. Although Yoshiki and Taiji disputed that it was suicide, it was clear that Yoshiki continues to blame himself, wishing he could have done more to save his friend. Hide’s death through the country into mourning. More than 50, 000 attended Hide’s funeral. But even as the country grief the death of this young star, three copycats suicide happened in Japan, adding salt to injury.
Yoshiki also talked about the breakup of X Japan. Formed more than 30 years ago by Yoshiki and singer Toshi Deyama, both teenagers, the group initially known as X, (now X Japan) was a bolt of lightning across Japan. In the 1980s, the group was at the peck of their career. Yoshiki and Toshi, lead guitarist Hideto “Hide” Matsumoto, bassist Taiji Sawada and second guitarist Tomoaki “Pata” Ishizuka gave the music world something to talk about. Besides selling more than 30 million albums and singles, the 55,000-seat Tokyo Dome was packed full 18 times with lovers of their music.
In such a short time, X Japan became rock legends and avatars of Japan’s most epochal rock-inspired youth movement “visual kei.” With thrash-metal singles like I’ll Kill You and Orgasm, X Japan warmed its way into the hearts of many people. Songs like Endless Rain, Blue Blood, and Jealousy produced under the Sony label, solidified X members stature as superstars, and fans fell over each other to get a glimpse of their hero. When the group returned from Los Angeles after recording Jealousy, Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force was mobilized to protect them from ecstatic crowd determined to celebrate their music icons.
The breakup of the group evidently caused Yoshiki an incredible pain. His agony showed through as he talked about events that led to the demise of the group. In spite of the success of the group, it was plagued by one issue after another. Musical differences and finances were the major points of contention as the group embraced success. In January 1992, Taiji left and his exit was marked by a cascading episode. After a well-publicized press conference at the Rockefeller Center to announce that they were leaving Sony for Atlantic Records and changing their name to X Japan -to avoid conflict with Los Angeles punks X-, each member went on to sign solo deals with different labels. The result of that wrong move was disastrous, as it marked the beginning of diminished stature for members of X and the group.
Speaking openly about the impact of his father’s death, Yoshiki could not hide his tears. Yoshiki’s was 10 years old when his father committed suicide. He was devastated. His father was not only a great source of inspiration to him, he was also one of his best confidants. So passionate was the discussion about the death of his father that the audience could not hold back tears. While many sobbed, others cried openly as they share the grief of their idol.
Integral to all the painful memories is the celebration of a pop icon. Over the years, Yoshiki has transformed his music , infusing hard rock with classical music. The infusion is a fulfillment of his childhood ambition. Even as Yoshiki was propagating his path in the rock world, he had his eyes on the piano and classical music. A piano prodigy who studied classical music at kindergarten age, Yoshiki, had been consumed by classical melody like Beethoven, Bach, Tchaikovsky or Rachmaninoff, even when he was committed to hard rock. During the 10th anniversary of Japan’s Emperor Akihito, Yoshiki composed and perform a piano concerto to the amazement of his fans. A confluence of those both music genre is what has distinguished Yoshiki from many others.
Painful as the death of his friend and father was, Yoshiki has not allowed it to define him. Even the breakup of X Japan did not inhibit his quest to succeed. Instead of been bogged down by his misfortunes, he has taken them as the impetus to succeed. Resilience and tenacity is what has gotten Yoshiki and X Japan to this point. Today, X Japan has continued to flourish, performing from one country to another. Yoshiki’s musical career has also continued to blossom. His Yoshiki Classical World Tour has given him even greater prominence in the entertainment world. Traveling through countries like U.S, Mexico, Russia, Germany, France, United Kingdom, China, Thailand, Taiwan and Japan, Yoshiki has continued to captivate his audience, dazzling them with his amazing piano skills.