Otakon 2010: X Japan at the Masquerade and Press Conference

The staff brought out musical instruments in preparation for Hayashi Yoshiki and Sugizo to step onstage. Yoshiki was on a sleek Yamaha grand piano and Sugizo held a beautiful violin. According to the records, the violin he was holding was an ESP brand Kranz EV-75. The first song was ‘Forever Love’.

After the piece, the MC appeared onstage to thank them and ask them questions. It was a pretty funny start: “Yoshiki, Sugizo, let me say on behalf of everyone at Otakon-” Yoshiki saids something to interrupt and everyone laughs. ^^; “Welcome and thank you.”

Q: Yoshiki, this is your second time at Baltimore. Sugizo, this is your first time. Have you been having a good time so far and are you enjoying yourself?
Sugizo: Yes, yes, it’s very big. *audience laughs* It’s very beautiful too. *audience applauds*
Yoshiki: This is the second time for me…do you remember me? *audience screams* This is actually the first convention that I came to. Then I remember the first time when I was here, somebody from the audience jumped on stage and kissed me. [A guy actually said, ‘I would do that. XD] Is that girl here?

Audience member: She is here!
Yoshiki: She is? *looks* No, different face. *laughs* Just kidding.

Q: What do you think about Otakon so far and the people here.
Yoshiki: It’s great!

Q: What kind of differences do you see between your Japanese and American fans?
Yoshiki: You guys are both awesome.
Sugizo: Very different type, but both are beautiful.
Yoshiki: So, what’s the difference?
Sugizo: I think you are more open. I think Japanese are more polite. *audience laughs* I think you are not quiet.
Yoshiki: Okay, let me translate. That means you guys are both-more fucking great.

Q: What is your favorite song to perform from X Japan?
Yoshiki: Well, whatever you guys want. *audience starts screaming out titles*

MC: Well pretty much everything.
Yoshiki: We only perform X Japan songs by the way.

Q: We heard you have some new songs. When will they debut?
Yoshiki: Very soon, very soon.

Q: We hear you will be playing at Lollapalooza next week, are you looking forward to your performance? Can you share what songs you will perform there?
Yoshiki: Yes, I have been living in America for a long time. Actually I live in Los Angeles, so it’s been my dream to perform in America. It’s such a honor. Also, I don’t know how to describe this feeling but it’s a very special moment for us. I think when I was here three or four years ago…which one? *audience shouts ‘four’* Four years ago, yes. At that time, I was talking about reuniting X Japan. At that time I had no idea if we can reunite. Thank you so much because of you guys, we are here. Of course, thank Sugizo for joining the band too. Yeah. The songs we’re performing, we’re performing the song called ‘IV’, and than there is this relatively new song called ‘Jade’. By the way, I just finished the mixing last week. It’ll be our first single for our world wide release. The rest you have to come and check it out.

Q: What other cities are you going to tour in the US? *audience screams New York*
Yoshiki: It’s not confirmed yet, but I guess in October, we’re coming to Washington D.C. *audience explodes* and New York. *audience explodes again*

Yoshiki announces the last song. “I will perform one more song. I’m not the vocalist, the vocalist is in Japan, couldn’t make it, but he saids hi too. I just want to thank you so much for supporting us. And um…um…”

Audience member: “I love you, Yoshiki!”
Yoshiki: I love you too. *audience applauds*

The MC appeared to save the two with the announcement of ‘Endless Rain’.

After the song, there seemed to be a standing ovation…though I couldn’t tell since I (and the rest of the press) got up to head to the press room for the conference.

Yoshiki and Sugizo Press Conference

The press conference was held in a room away from the main hall. When they entered, they stood there for awhile as all the cameras went off. Than the Q&A started.

Q: Sanspo.com published a story last week saying that you had reconciled with Sawada Taiji and he would perform as a guest with the band. Is there any truth to that rumor?
Yoshiki: Well, I wouldn’t say we reconciled, well I mean, I don’t know that I’d use the word reconciled. I saw him at Hide’s funeral about 12 years ago so we talked. But I never thought we were going to perform together again. But recently, Toshi met Taiji again for the first time in, I don’t know ten years or so. Then he kind of gave me an idea, “So maybe you guys should meet too.” Then last time I was Japan, in Tokyo we went drinking. Then we started talking about something maybe playing again. You know it’s not like…Heath’s the bass player, he’s here. So, he’s more like a guest musician. So…it’s not confirmed yet. The show is two week from now, but.

Q: What are your favorite manga or anime? Or is there any current titles that you are aware of?
Sugizo: Ah, so many.
Yoshiki: For example?
Sugizo: For example, Ghost in the Shell and of course Gundam.
Q: Which Gundam?
Sugizo: I don’t know.
Yoshiki: Sailor Moon *press laughs* I’m serious! I’m serious! Umm…why not?

Q: Going back to the Taiji question. If he does perform with you are you going to be playing any Taiji songs that he’s written.
Yoshiki: Possibly, possibly, possibility. Yes. But nothing’s confirmed so…we don’t know yet. But there’s a big possibility.

Q: Can you tell us what led to the decision in LA you recorded a new videos for several songs, including ‘Rusty Nail’ that previously has a radio. What led to the decision to redo that video?
Yoshiki: Okay, so ‘Rusty Nail’ we’re also making an English version as well. So I rewrote the song in English, and that’s another reason to do a music video. Yeah, that’s the reason. That song’s going to make it to the US album.

Q: At Lollapalooza are you guys going to be performing mostly songs sung in English or are you going to perform some in Japanese as well?
Yoshiki: Good question. I’ve been contemplating what we should be doing. Because a lot of songs we are performing, we do have English versions. But…because of our fanbase in general, we may want to share some of the Japanese lyrics as well. So, some songs could be a combination of both Japanese and English. Some songs we may just go for the English version. Some just the Japanese version. What do you think?

Q: I think you should do both.
Yoshiki: Ok! *audience laughter*

Q: On the topic of Lollapalooza, what are your anticipations for it and do you intend to meet Lady Gaga or other artists performing at the festival?
Yoshiki: I think Lady Gaga is performing August 6th. And I want to watch that. Actually, I went to see her show in Los Angeles last year. Well, it’s gonna be a big day for us because it’s just our first performance, except today. But yeah…um anticipation… Well for sure we’re gonna rock. And then…um…I don’t know, what do you think?
Q: Rock out.
Yoshiki: Rock out…yeah.

Q: What are your thoughts for the future of visual kei? I see a lot more Japanese artists are consistantly trying to hit the American market. Than I see other Japanese bands appear in anime conventions or other venues. But they end up breaking up or something happens. So what do you think is the future of visual kei?
Yoshiki: Yery interesting and deep question. Um…I don’t know. *laughs* Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to break into the market. Well, I’m almost shocked right now because I moved to Los Angeles like more than 10 years ago and I wasn’t really listening to Japanese music for several years. Then I came back to Tokyo again and went “Oh…visual kei evolved.” And it was a very interesting thing. There are a lot of new great bands doing a lot of great shows. So visual kei is…I think it’s going to last. It’s gonna keep evolving. It won’t die, I think. The answer to the American market, that’s a whole new level. So, hopefully we are one of the band to break into the market. We just have to keep trying.

Q: Personal preference, quiet or loud?
Yoshiki: You mean?
Q:: Do you like quiet sounds or loud sounds?
Yoshiki: Both, that’s why I do classical music and rock.
Q: I was surprised. You were very quiet.
Yoshiki: Am I quiet?
Q: Today? Yeah.
Yoshiki: Oh yeah today, yeah. You haven’t seen the other side yet. *audience laughs*

Q: This is a question for the both of you. What would you do if you could do anything or work with anyone, live or dead, what would you do?
Yoshiki: You mean any project? *translate question into Japanese for Sugizo*
Sugizo: I really want to play on the moon. *audience laughs* I’m serious.
Yoshiki: It’s…very soon. But you have to play in the US tour first. *audience laughs*

Q: A couple years ago you released remastered versions of ‘Blue Blood’ and ‘Jealousy’. Have you given any thought to remastering ‘Vanishing Vision’?
Yoshiki: Interesting…maybe we should. Yeah…probably.

Q:: You’re currently working on a new album. What can you tell us about it other than the fact that it’s all in English?
Yoshiki: Okay. So, I’d say 50% of the songs are old songs. Such as ‘Kurenai’ or ‘Rusty Nail’ or ‘Tears’. And some are kind of new songs, like ‘IV’, ‘Jade’, or ‘Born to Be Free’. And we just recorded a music video for, along with the songs I haven’t even named yet. But, the recording’s done. Yeah, it’s a combination.

Q: How did you become involved with Repo?
Yoshiki: Ok, um…how did I get involved with that? So I was working on the movie called ‘Catacombs’, I actually composed the end title. Then the same director was working on ‘Saw’ and ‘Repo’. Actually Darren Bousman, the director of ‘Saw IV’ was also directed ‘Repo’. So then somehow, because of that connection, that lead to me producing the music for that movie.

Q: Would you like to work on more film projects in the future?
Yoshiki: Sure…working on a film project is very interesting because I’m not completely in charge. So it’s an interesting thing, when I was working on that project, ‘Repo’, Darren Bousman and I got into a nice argument. I said “You’re fired. Right?” He said, “You can’t fire me, I can fire you.” Because he’s the movie director, I’m the music director. So what I’m trying to say is, in the music world I’m usually completely in charge. I just keep going on and on and on, but working on a movie project, there’s somebody to stop me doing music forever. At the same time when I’m composing I think about pictures and then scenes in my head. So working on the movie projects is very, very interesting and very inspiring.

Q: You mentioned something about seeing scenes and pictures when you compose music. Do you every experience synesthesia…when you hear musical notes you see things like colors in your head.
Yoshiki: Sure.
Q: Are they more colors or are they definitely scenes?
Yoshiki: Um…interesting…. Sometimes very specific, sometimes very ambiguous. Umm…but, for some reason, if it’s color, I don’t see pink or something. I only see very dark red or something bloody. I don’t know why. Yeah, something dark and beautiful. If it’s a scene, I always…in a good way though, I always have some kind of death involved. Kind of like, as I said in a positive way to see the moment we are living right this moment. When I compose I usually think about that: living, death and life and dark.

Q: You’ve worked with various visual kei fashion labels before, behind the scenes just wearing their clothes. But how did it come forward to actually be presenting with h.Naoto with their presence on stage?
Yoshiki: h.Naoto, right? Well, one day I was reading some Japanese magazine then I saw his clothes and said “This is cool.” Then my management talked to them and then, “Sure, lets do something together.” So, that’s it.

Q: Alice Cooper, KISS, Twisted Sister. They all pioneered extreme levels of fashion to improve their noteraity in spite of being excellent musicians. X Japan obviously did the same thing to get a big foothold in the Japanese market with visual kei. What I have to ask is as you tone down the visual kei, how do you plan to continue differentiating yourselves from other great artists in America as you attempt to release an album in English?
Yoshiki: Hm…Good question.
Sugizo: I think just music’s good. It’s real music skill and sense. Every great band has great, great player, a great composer.
Yoshiki: Okay, yeah. Same thing. The fashion is very important for us as well. Of course it is visual kei. But at the same time, we think the music is the core, the main part. Than we’re pretty confident our music is pretty strong. Well, I wouldn’t say strong. We are very different. Well, I wouldn’t say different…unique. Because of our background, both Sugizo and I, and Toshi, three of us have classical music background, besides rock. Then of course, I do respect a lot of the bands you mentioned. We’re not trying to differentiate with somebody. Of course, we’re going to get compared with a lot of bands, but what we are trying to do is just be ourselves, not trying to be somebody. Just being ourselves, then we’re just gonna go for it.

Q: For Lollapalooza (it’s a pretty big rock festival) similar to an earlier question, there are many rock bands, you will be a band in a crowd. What kind of message would your band want to send to your fans for your US debut?
Yoshiki: Something new is coming to America. And I hope it’s gonna be some kind of like historical moment. Um…I don’t know….
Sugizo: I think…my message is very simple. Music has no borders.
Yoshiki: Interesting, but there have been the invisible walls between east and west. Than hopefully we can put a hole into that wall and then smash it totally. Eventually.

Q: How exactly did it come about that your American debut is at Lollapalooza? It’s a pretty big thing to have your first show be at a big festival like that.
Yoshiki: Well, um…I live in Los Angeles. I’d been talking to several managers or agents about how X Japan should debut in America. We thought about doing a club tour, we thought about doing a small hall tour. But then some of my people who I work with said, “How about Coachella, how about Lollapalooza…” and then I was like “Hmm…that’s very interesting. Let me think about it.” Then recently my agent said, “Let’s do it. If X Japan is ready, we can have a very good spot for X Japan.” So, that’s it. I’ve known those people.

Q: In Tokyo you have really large productions when you play concerts. On your US tour what kind of production are you kind of anticipating?
Yoshiki: Well, obviously we are just starting in the US. Now we are gonna do whatever we can have. It doesn’t have to be a huge production. We can play in clubs and everything. So, we cannot bring that huge drum riser or the production to the US until the day we can perform in a big arena. But the lighting and all of those things are part of our show as well. So we’re gonna try as much as we can. But at the same time, we are ready to perform anywhere. Without even lighting. Yeah…without even anything as long as we can play. So we do have kind of the same mentality, like when we debuted in Japan a long time ago. We didn’t have that kind of production when we first started in Japan. So we have the same mindset. We’re just starting again. Which is very exciting. To be born again.

Q: Thank you very much for your time. And I’d like to ask, what is your message for the fans who are looking forward to seeing your live shows in the United States.
Sugizo: This is really big honor for me. I really respected X Japan from a very long time ago and X Japan’s musical skill and sense is very great. When I joined them I thought, “I need more practice!” It is very, very important for me and now I am part of X Japan, it is very exciting. This time is our American debut, too exciting. How can I say? I’m just excited, and I really love Americans, all Americans.
Yoshiki: I’m very excited that finally we can perform in the US. And because of our fans, because of you guys, we could reunite the band. So without you, basically we are nothing. Nothing and nobody. I want to say thank you so much for supporting us and I would like you to support X Japan for the future as well. And we will do anything to make it up, to live up to your expectation. Yeah, we’re ready to rock the world. Thank you and I love you.

The flash from camera lights appeared as they stood up to leave the room.