X Japan band leader Yoshiki talks about filming “We Are X”

Yoshiki seen at The Los Angeles Premiere "We Are X" on Monday, October 03, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. / Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Drafthouse Films/AP Images
Yoshiki seen at The Los Angeles Premiere “We Are X” on Monday, October 03, 2016, in Los Angeles, CA. / Photo by Eric Charbonneau/Invision for Drafthouse Films/AP Images

From the production team behind the Oscar-winning “Searching for Sugar Man” comes “We Are X,” a documentary about the rock-and-roll band, X Japan, the world’s biggest and most successful band you’ve never heard of…yet.

We had an opportunity to sit down and chat with X Japan drummer and band leader Yoshiki. You can also read more about the documentary here.

Interview questions by ChinLin Pan and Catherine Gutierrez and other publications

I read online that you were hesitant about doing a documentary. What changed your mind?

Yoshiki: My agent asked me if I could do this documentary. I said it was too painful to talk about the story, too painful to go back to those memories. So several years [later], eventually people convinced me that the story we had can save people’s lives, can give people courage. So it’s important for us to talk about the story, so I decided to do it.

Now that the film is out there. How do you feel about your story being told?

Yoshiki: When I first saw the semi-finished version, I was shocked. If you put everything into 90-100 minutes, it’s too much. It’s too crazy to be true. So I couldn’t say a word. But I think I’ve watched it at least several times by now. I started thinking about what people would think watching this film, you know? I went to several film festivals: Sundance, SXSW, to Moscow, to China in Shanghai, I just came from London a few weeks ago. The reaction was amazing.

Yoshiki sits triumphantly atop a guitarthemed version of the Iron Throne in Drafthouse Films’ "We Are X." / Courtesy of Drafthouse Films
Yoshiki sits triumphantly atop a guitar-themed version of the Iron Throne in Drafthouse Films’ “We Are X.” / Courtesy of Drafthouse Films

What was the most challenging part?

Yoshiki: The hardest part was the interview. Stephen asked me to speak in details about when I found my father dead on the floor. Also, looking at the footage of my bandmate’s funeral, I remember that moment. Going back to that moment was not easy.

What do you hope people take away from the film?

Yoshiki: Nothing is impossible. After all those things that happened to us, we are still here. We are still moving forward. I never thought in a million years that the band and I would reunite. Now, I just came from a Japan [festival]: we did three nights of headlining in Tokyo last week. We will be in London next month. I will be performing here in America with a Tokyo orchestra at Carnegie Hall in this coming January for two nights. I just want people to think that nothing is impossible. You can co-exist [with pain in life] and move forward, so life is not that bad.

Can you tell us about the new album?

Yoshiki: Yes! We are releasing the new album. It’s our first album in 20 years. It’s our first worldwide debut album. We wrote everything in English. I don’t know how people will take it. But it’s pretty edgy. I’m just finishing. As of now, we’re planning to release it in March.

Is there a reason why it’s in English?

Yoshiki: I always wanted to make an English album. I moved to Los Angeles almost 20 years. I move back and forth a lot. There are a few lines in Japanese but it’s 99 percent in English. The reason? I don’t know. I started writing in English.

There were always different looks. Can you talk about that? It was beautiful.

Yoshiki: When I was 10, I found out about KISS. It was very shocking. I started listening to David Bowie and I was influenced by his looks. Also punk rock bands like the Pistols. We grew up in Japan so there are animation characters and kabuki. We combined all those things and recreated it. Some people think we are kind of similar to heavy metal rock bands. Don’t get me wrong: I love those bands as well. [Our roots’ come more from a punk rock and David Bowie-ish kind of thing.

What do you hope that audiences that may not have heard of X Japan take away? Do you hope they go back and listen to your old music or listen to your new album?

Yoshiki: The world is getting smaller and smaller. 30 years ago, I never thought our music would spread this much. If they’re interested in our music, listen to our old or new music, that would be cool. We didn’t make this film to introduce the film; we decided to make this film because like I said this film can save people’s lives.

Can you talk about your classical music training and going into punk rock?

Yoshiki: It was almost necessary. When my father took his own life, I had a big question: WHY, WHY, WHY, WHY? I was really angry, really sad, crying out loud everyday. Playing classical music wasn’t enough. Finding out about rock kind of saved me. I didn’t stop playing classical music [either] so I do both.

“We Are X” opens in theaters in Austin on Oct. 28. Check out the trailer below.

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