“I always wanted to do some kind of kimono thing,” says Yoshiki Hayashi, cofounder, drummer and pianist of Japanese heavy metal band X Japan.
Born to parents who ran a Japanese kimono shop, Hayashi, who goes by his first name, was expected to one day take over the family business, but decided to pursue music after falling in love with Kiss and David Bowie at an early age. He cofounded X Japan with lead singer Toshimitsu Deyama, aka Toshi, in 1982, and though the band has seen its struggles — it disbanded in 1997 when Toshi got brainwashed by a cult and later saw two members take their own lives — it reunited 10 years ago and this month, made its debut at Coachella.
X Japan has a wildly loyal fan base in Japan but, like many artists, found it difficult to break through on an international scale. “It was always our dream to go overseas, outside of Japan, outside of Asia, but 20 years ago, it was almost impossible,” Yoshiki explains. He credits the Internet and social media with helping them gain popularity outside of Asia in recent years.
Scheduled at the same time as Beyoncé on Saturday night, X Japan’s Coachella set this weekend included a guest appearance from Marilyn Manson, who tweeted that he had previously been banned from the festival. The weekend prior, the group paid homage to their two deceased members, guitarist Hide and bassist Taiji, via holograms.
“Even though physically we have five of us, we are always playing with two of them as well, so basically seven of us are performing,” Yoshiki says. “Since it’s Coachella festival, I wanted to bring [Hide and Taiji] not only [spiritually], but visually, too.” The performance was also a comeback of sorts for the drummer, who underwent neck surgery in 2017.
A few years ago, Yoshiki returned to his family’s roots — albeit with an unconventional twist. “I met a very famous kimono creator [Keigo Kano], so we decided to create the kimono together,” he says. “I said, ‘We’re gonna create traditional kimonos, but I want to try something unusual.'”
The result? A line of “rock ‘n’ roll” kimonos that debuted too much buzz at Tokyo Fashion Week in 2015.
In addition to the kimono line, Yoshiki is producing jewelry and wine, and is working on X Japan’s first album in 22 years. He is also composing a symphony.
“I started playing classical piano when I was four years old,” he says. “Beethoven’s my biggest influence.”
From Beethoven to Kiss to kimonos. What will the 52-year-old possibly do next?
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