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X Japan (エックス ジャパン, Ekkusu Japan) is a Japanese heavy metal band, which pioneered the J-rock and visual kei movements in Japan. They were known for their musical genius and outrageous hairstyles, and was the first band to achieve the successful amalgamation of western heavy metal with an eastern tolerance of cross dressers. Their first hairstyles, consisting of basic blonde rocker hair with the occasional Mohawk, propelled them to popularity. Their subsequent innovations in the field of hair physics, often featuring gravity-defying locks arranged in complex classical motifs, has influenced every single J-rock artist and made them one of the greatest bands in Japan.
1982-1988: Early Years
The band was first conceived by drummer/pianist Yoshiki and vocalist Toshi when the duo was still in high school. It was then named “X”, which was presumably the shape of hairstyle that creative genius Yoshiki made to go with the release of their first single. Toshi was able to display his trademark singing voice, which would range from being "beautiful, dreamy and full of emotion" to "something akin to the high-pitched screeches of various dying farm animals". Unable to find musicians technically proficient enough to match Yoshiki’s roaring golden locks, the band had to use a succession of temporary guitarists until they met hide and Pata. hide became the band’s lead guitarist, and was so rebelliously cool that his name can only be spelled in lowercase . Pata became the rhythm guitarist. Compared to hide, he was more low-key, but nevertheless appreciated the nuances of giant hair - enough to wear a “giant fan/inverted cone thingy” as his hair for 3 years. Their lineup was completed by bassist Taiji, who was responsible for some of their clothing designs involving lace, leather, bright colours and Christmas lights.
X Japan released their first album, Vanishing Vision, under Yoshiki’s independent record label Extasy Records. Besides its prominently BDSM-themed album cover, it featured the “giant vertical hair” of Toshi, the “giant golden mane” of hide, and the “several giant spikes on one side” of Yoshiki. Most of the recording was done in under an hour, with the rest of the time dedicated to styling the hair of the band members. Their hair was supposed to make them as metal as possible, and it worked. However, nobody could afford an orchestra at that time, so there was nothing else to do but party and get really drunk, and also to assault some hotel clerks with their brutal axes. Anyway, Vanishing Vision was released in Japan to critical acclaim, and was considered X Japan's breakout album.
X Japan next album would be Blue Blood, which saw them reach even greater heights, figuratively with their music and literally with their hair. With the sales of Vanishing Vision, Yoshiki was finally able to hire the orchestra that he had always dreamed of. He then forced all 50 of them to style his hair, in a form that is a mixture of Mozart's powdered wigs and Gene Simmon's unwashed, mold-infested mass. Needless to say, the result was awesome, with the height of the "mass" increasing exponentially with every powdered wig Yoshiki piled onto it. The album Blue Blood contained X Japan classics such as “Kurenai”, with guitar parts that hide can only play while sporting red poofy hair that is 4 feet in diameter. The album also featured re-recordings of previously released singles, such as “Orgasm”, which is basically the sound of Yoshiki having sex accompanied by a five part band and his philharmonic orchestra.
With Blue Blood, the band achieved nationwide fame. They toured all over Japan, and got banned from more than 20 hotels for "damages" incurred during their wild parties and drunken misadventures. In between rare moments of sobriety, Yoshiki managed to write most of his next album, Jealousy. The arrangement of the album’s title track, “Silent Jealousy”, was especially noted as a fan favourite, as it was done by Yoshiki while he was high on burnt Wagnerian manuscripts. The album also featured a few piano ballads - a direct result of Yoshiki's new hobby of cross-dressing. In his rare moments of sobriety, Yoshiki found that his audience hated him less when he dressed himself as a pretty girl, because, presumably, of his increase in musical ability while in drag. This is the look Yoshiki would adopt while promoting Jealousy, and X Japan skyrocketed to popularity. By 1991 the band no longer play in pubs and clubs. They restricted their shows to stadiums, as band members have increasing trouble getting under doors and low ceilings due to their ever-increasing hair size. X Japan's first Tokyo Dome performance is still remembered fondly today, as it has left a fog of hairspray in the atmosphere that has yet to dissipate.
By 1992, the band had gained enough international renown to warrant a name change to X Japan, a self-explanatory name that avoids confusion with the X of America. Around this time Yoshiki also fired their bassist Taiji, due to “creative differences”. A cursory glance of X Japan group photos will reveal that Taiji likes to dress like an ugly, manly drag queen, while Yoshiki prefers to fool people into thinking that he's a sweet and demure Asian chick. Yoshiki also delighted in releasing nude photobooks of himself, which annoyed Taiji because he was made to pay for them just like everyone else. Eventually Taiji left the band, so Yoshiki hired another bassist, Heath, to replace him, and sought to have past footages of Taiji edited so that he is always hidden behind other band members.
With Taiji out of the way, Yoshiki is now free to fully express his creativity by wearing as much lipstick and as many wedding dresses as he wished. He had been insisting that other band members appear in drag as well, in hopes that it might boost their musical ability. It seemed that Yoshiki was not as successful as he had hoped, especially on Toshi and Pata who remained stubbornly unfashionable. After having too many khaki-themed fashion disasters at various Japanese gameshows, they are henceforth only allowed to wear simple leather jackets and sunglasses. Yoshiki also felt a change in direction is needed for his own hair. Instead of keeping it tall, stiff and vertical, it became soft and wavy, perfect for being swung around in the most dramatic movements possible.
As an expression of the band’s new-found direction in fashion, Yoshiki wrote the band’s magnum opus, Art of Life, in 1993. Art of Life was an album that contained only one song - the orchestra blazing, guitar shredding, piano destroying, 29 minutes long “Art of Life”. The song contained 20 minutes of guitar solos, 17 minutes of drumming, 10 minutes of a piano solo, and about 5 seconds of singing. Surprisingly popular in Japan, as most prog music are, it was touted by reviewers as “the best thing they have ever seen". Everyone rushed to analyse Yoshiki’s new ten foot, multi-layered hair which he wore during his piano solo. There was also Yoshiki’s hair swinging actions in which his hair jerked, whirled, and swirled in ways that reflected an ever-shifting time signature. The piano solo itself went something like "BAM bam BAM!! CLANK! BAM!" for 10 minutes, because Yoshiki was hitting random piano keys with his fists, elbows, and at one point, sat on the keys with his ass. When asked about it later, Yoshiki claimed that it was avant-garde, and was promptly praised by critics for his artisticiness. At the same time, interpretations for the piano solo ranged from "a complex metaphor for life" to being "an expression of rage experienced when one runs out of hairspray".
With the announcement of lead singer Toshi to leave the band in 1997, due to “religious reasons”, X Japan released their last album, Dahlia. Widely agreed to be X Japan’s best album ever, Dahlia was a great success and sold millions of copies. It was notable for containing much more diversity than any of the band’s previous albums. For instance, with its four piano-driven ballads, it is able to contain even more draggy and feminine goodness than ever before. Also, there was the band’s new foray into industrial/alternative rock thanks to songwriting contributions from hide. This means that during the "Dahlia Tour", hide would have complex mechanisms rigged onto his hair in the form of a fountain that shoots out water in harmony with his guitar solos. The cover of Dahlia, however, marked a new level of unabashed self-promotion for Yoshiki, who was the only person on every album cover since Jealousy, and who famously said to his band, “Only my face gets to appear on album covers! If you don’t like it, then nobody gets to appear on album covers, at all!”
Yoshiki announced the breakup of the band and they held their last concert, “Last Live”, before officially dissolving in 1997. Members then part their separate ways, each pursuing increasingly questionable solo projects. Tragically, just one year later, hide died after hanging himself in his apartment, due to either suicide or accidental death. As the most well-loved member of X Japan, and also because of his greatly successful solo career since 1993, hide's loyal fanbase is estimated to be three-quarters of the population of Japan. Free of his band and especially Yoshiki during much of his solo career, hide was allowed full control of his creative direction. This resulted in lyrics about "pervert mounds", vaginas, and people sucking/licking things, and even a band insightfully named Spread Beaver. Naturally, this made him very popular with Japanese high school girls. hide's death devastated the whole of Japan, including millions of girls who attended his 2 mile long funeral procession, accompanied by police helicopters and first aid tents. His death was also a huge blow to the surviving members of X Japan, who, after they recovered from the grief, vowed to have as many hide memorial concerts as possible. However, due to various circumstances, X Japan itself would remain separated for another 9 years.
2007 to Present
After a decade spent pursuing a myriad of solo projects, band members began to miss the good old days when they were swimming in royalties and industrial strength hairspray. Yoshiki in particular, found that he was not getting enough recognition in his various music projects such as S.K.I.N., Violet UK and having hide memorial concerts. At the band’s 50th hide memorial concert, Yoshiki and Toshi both expressed the wish to get the band back together, and at the band’s 51th hide memorial concert, Sugizo, the former lead guitarist of J-rock band Luna Sea, was announced as an additional guitarist that will join the newly reformed X Japan. Millions of fans rejoiced at the news of X Japan’s reunion. As a reassurance to fans that newcomer Sugizo will not replace hide, the band made him stand at the very back and unplug his guitar at every concert. To further remind fans that he's not hide, Sugizo can only wear one colour - black, and must keep the diameter of his hair under 5 inches at all times.
The band’s next step is to relocate themselves to Los Angeles, where Yoshiki had been living for a decade pursuing actresses, models and hotel heiresses. With the reunited X Japan, Yoshiki wrote a few songs, like “I.V.”, the Saw IV soundtrack which is a tribute to hide, and “Jade”, the high-pitched and incomprehensible industrial rock track which is a tribute to hide. January of 2010 saw the band perform on a transparent platform in downtown LA, which attracted a sizable crowd of middle-aged Japanese women chanting “hide, hide” in a zombie-like fashion.
Additionally, grief-stricken Japanese scientists have found a way to render hide by hologram. This hide hologram can play guitar, strut around on stage, and make incredibly inappropriate remarks about its sexuality. It has only performed once due to being drunk most of the time. Because of this, X Japan is planning to do away with guitars altogether in all future concerts. Their most recent concert in Hong Kong consisted of playing pre-recorded guitar riffs by hide to millions of weeping fans for three hours. Accompanying the guitar riffs are old videos of hide walking around with exaggerated actions - something he did surprisingly often when he was still alive. It is not known when the band will run out of hide material that they can play live, but Yoshiki has assured fans that if that ever happens, they will just replay everything all over again.
- Yoshiki "Yoshiki" Hayashi - Drums, piano.
- Toshimitsu "Toshi" Deyama - Vocals.
- Hideto "hide" Matsumoto - Lead guitar, despite being deceased.
- Tomoaki "Pata" Ishizuka - Rhythm guitar.
- Hiroshi "Heath" Morie - Bass.
- Yūne "Sugizo" Sugihara - Allegedly lead guitar.
- Taiji "Taiji" Sawada - Bass.
- And a bunch of other people who are not really important.
- ↑ Even Wikipedia spells his name in lowercase. He is just that cool.
- ↑ Yoshiki’s other favourites are Bach pieces chopped up with a large cleaver and stepped on repeatedly.
- ↑ Yet another use for hide's hair.
- ↑ The relationship of a J-rocker’s femininity with his skill in music, then a mere theory by Yoshiki, is now accepted as fact. This is another example of Yoshiki’s massive contributions to J-rock.
- ↑ Like all real art, it has its fair share of people who don’t understand it, and proceed to criticise with comments like, “Even my six year old can charge someone 700,000 yen to watch him smash piano keys for 10 minutes.”
- ↑ Yes, a hologram. Youtube it.