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[Interview]YOSHIKI: “You Have to Force Your Way Through.” (Part One)

“Rock is dead.” The decisive words of YOSHIKI, when asked in America about the state of music today. Of course, this is not his true opinion, but simply a key phrase to describe the current state of Western music, a depressed and melancholic look from his time in America. What is the current state of X JAPAN'S new album? Are there plans to release it now, when electronic dance music is at its peak? And, before that, what kind of music will we be seeing from YOSHIKI's barrage of work as a producer as he continues to work furiously toward change?


In this edition, we are putting the spotlight on the side of YOSHIKI that his listeners don't get to see: how he holds his own making albums, doing performances, and putting together new work.

■ “No, no, I write three minute songs, too.” (Laughs.)
──You're a huge influence in the Japanese musical business, working hard to change the state of music today; so with that in mind, where are you on X JAPAN's album now?

YOSHIKI:The same as before. I've been working on both X JAPAN and Violet UK, but I haven't made any progress on the actual composition of the album itself since the start of the year.

──Which means?

YOSHIKI:For example, there were a lot of rock albums released in 2012. Muse、Linkin Park、Green Day...they sold well, and they were each good albums in their own right, and I like all the bands myself, but I still had a vague sense of dissatisfaction, somehow...there wasn't an album that really caused a sensation. Since I devote so much time to making music, I consider the mindset of “At least we got it out there” as a failure. I create my music with a sense of purpose; with the idea that it has to change something by being released. If I think this way, how can I put this, that's when I started thinking, “can I just release this as it is, just like everyone else does?” Is everyone just looking for an album, any album, at the start of everything?

──That's a rather serious answer, isn't it.

YOSHIKI:I've asked fans on Twitter what kind of album I should put out, and I'm always listening to the advice of people in the industry, agents, and management, but lately, they've all been saying 'It's tough to listen to full albums, isn't it'.

──That's the trend in recent years, isn't it.

YOSHIKI:I don't know if people can't listen to whole albums if the whole thing isn't quality work, or if it doesn't have anything to do with quality at all as much as it is that it's difficult to listen to any one thing for a long period of time. I think that people's attention spans are much shorter than they used to be a long time ago. Since I'm always thinking about things like that, I want to make the best album for the era I'm living in now, and since it seems like that would be an EP, or a mini-album as we call it in Japan, I think that maybe it would be better to split it up into two albums.

──You didn't start recording with that idea?

YOSHIKI:At the start, I was writing with the notion of just doing one album, so when I started thinking of maybe splitting it up, then it turned into, well, let's write one or two more songs then, something like that. (Laughs.) Though I haven't really brought my thoughts together yet. I think I'll probably have to make a decision in the next two or three months, so now I'm doing research on various point so that I can be satisfied with what happens with it.

──YOSHIKI, are you consciously aware of how listening to music as an audience member changes how one looks at it?

YOSHIKI:I am, yes. A long time ago was the era of the LP, so you would listen to one side, and then turn it over and listen to the other side, but the CD really changed things in making it possible to listen to everything at once. That was ground-breaking. But, now, even I don't seriously focus on a single album and listen to it from start to finish. I generally just listen to the main hits and that's it.

──In any case, there are a lot of people these days who just listen to things on shuffle, aren't there.

YOSHIKI:Ah, yeah, there are.

──If there's no meaning in the “album” way of recording because of that, there really may be no real meaning to doing it that way at all.

YOSHIKI:That's certainly true. That's one of the points that is decided by the individual listener, I think, whether that has meaning or not. Until now, there's a part of the process for me that has been very reckless and overbearing, but on the other hand there's always another side of me that is always looking at things from the customer's point of view.

──Is that why you're self-producing now?

YOSHIKI:Sometimes, I think things like, “YOSHIKI, are you stupid?” or “YOSHIKI, what in the world are you thinking, just get yourself together and do things properly”, but there are also times where I think, “I did well!” It's like I have another self that is YOSHIKI the producer. Thinking of it that way, I can clearly see the part of me that's saying, “I'm telling myself the album's almost finished, but can I really release it like this?”

──What do you think is the source of that sense of crisis that you have?

YOSHIKI:Now, you see, I've said that rock is dead in America.

──Because they do nothing but R&B and Hip-hop there?

YOSHIKI:And electronic dance and stuff too. Of course, it is what it is, and I don't hate it or anything, but I wish that there would be a little bit more rock getting released. But, everyone says rock is dead. So, why did it die? Maybe it's that rock musicians have all started turning toward a style that's closer to pop music, or, they're just looking to satisfy their core demographic now, so they're going where the fans go. I feel as if there's a huge divide between the two sides, now. I don't think there are very many artists who are sitting in the middle of the two styles. So, if you really want to make a mark in a market like that, you really have to have a seriously amazing and deep concept, and condense it down to two or three 30 minute albums...or at least that line of thinking has become stronger in my mind recently.

──What do you think of the subscription model of music sales?

YOSHIKI:I think it's a good thing, and I think that it was sure to become that way. YouTube will use that model too, I think. iTunes is most certainly going that way, or at least I think it will, and there's a lot of focus on singles at the moment. With that in mind, I really am forced to wonder what the value of albums will be.

──There could also be a huge significance in the fact that releases will no longer be restricted by packaging, as well.

YOSHIKI:Originally, even though the capacity of the packaging should have had to change based on the music that you were creating, until now, we have been forced to decide which music to choose to fit on to the packaging we've been given. The reason why hit songs are about three minutes long, well, that's because if they were any longer, they couldn't air on MTV, right? Now, if you're preparing something for YouTube, they tell you that even three minutes is long. Everyone wants to see songs that are about two minutes. While we have to be aware of the reactions and trends of our listeners, at the same time, we're thinking about how to fight them...that's the real battle.

──YOSHIKI, you would say that.

YOSHIKI:I have things I want to express in the most comfortable way for me, and that's why I wrote “ART OF LIFE” even though it was in direct opposition to the trend at the time. But, how can I stand in opposition to the trend now? How can I release my best work? (Editorial note: “ART OF LIFE” became a hit song in 1990, selling over 600,000 copies despite being 29 minutes long in an era where radio play and tie-ups with television shows were a huge factor in record sales.)

──Does X JAPAN even have any short songs? Like within three minutes...

YOSHIKI:We don't really have many short songs. Generally they run about five to seven minutes.

──You don't really think about if it can be played on the radio or not, do you?

YOSHIKI:I don't. Even though this isn't an X JAPAN song, the “Golden Globe Theme” I composed was short; it looks like the fans thought it was on the short side as well. It's three minutes and 47 seconds long, but it's a short song for me, so everyone thought it was just the short version (Laughs). There were a lot of people writing to me like, “You should have a long version around there somewhere, please release that one too.” And I said to them, “no, no, I write three minute songs, too.” (Laughs.)

Continued in [Interview] YOSHIKI: “You Have to Force Your Way Through.” (Part Two)

Interview & Text:Tetsuya Karasumaru, BARKS Head Editor

9/25/2013 Release
WPCL-11616 (CD)3,150 yen(Tax in)
2.Seize The Light (Classical Version)
3.Golden Globe Theme
4.Tears (Classical Version)
5.Red Christmas (Classical Version)
6.Rosa (Classical Version)
8.Forever Love (Classical Version)
9.I'll Be Your Love (Classical Version)
11.Golden Globe Theme (Quartet Version)

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