"Psychedelic Violence / Crime Of Visual Shock"
—X Japan band concept
X Japan is a Japanese rock band founded in 1982 by schoolmates Yoshiki Hayashi and Toshimitsu 'Toshi' Deyama. In the earlier years of their career they mostly played speed metal alongside some ballads, but in later years the speed metal shifted to a more progressive sound. They were not the first Visual Kei band, but they were certainly one of the movement's pioneers, and it is widely claimed that it was bandleader Yoshiki who is the Trope Namer for Visual Kei. X Japan are notable for becoming one of the first Japanese acts to gain notable success whilst being on an independent label, as well as the gravity-defying hair they sported in their earlier years (although in the early 90's the band began to wind down it's visual look, and by the time of the split in 1997, only hide's shocking pink hair remained.)
The band's membership has remained fairly consistent throughout, although in the very early days when X Japan, then just X, were touring locally, there was a spurt of support members. When the band reached the spotlight in the late 1980's, they had settled on a consistent lineup, and got through the next decade or so with only one change- bassist Taiji was replaced with Heath. Unusually, the bandleader was not a singer or guitarist, but pianist and drummer Yoshiki, who wrote most of the music and lyrics, and who had more or less total creative control over X Japan's direction. In the 80s, they were also the first Visual Kei band to appear in an American film (and may still be the only one to have done so): they appeared in a short scene in Tokyo Pop.
By the mid to late 1990's, X Japan had garnered huge popularity, and were filling enormous venues, but in 1997 they decided to split. The exact reasons for this are unknown, but the general consensus is that Toshi wished to leave the band for one reason or another and the other members chose to disband rather than replace him. Whatever had gone on, it was clear that there had been conflict somewhere along the line, because during the band's last live performance together, Yoshiki hugged Toshi, then later revealed that the hug had originally meant to be a punch.
After the split, the band went off in different directions. Toshi turned to performing 'healing music', Yoshiki set up a new project- Violet UK, hide continued work with his solo band and became a founding member of the American band Zilch, and Pata and Heath, after a decent sized hiatus, collaborated to do the same. However in 1998 disaster struck- hide was found having allegedly committed suicide. An ambulance was called, but it was too late, and hide died on the way to the hospital.
Despite this tragedy, in 2007 a reunion was announced, with several support guitarists, and eventually ex Luna Sea guitarist Sugizo taking over from hide. Three new songs were penned for X Japan, one of which, 'IV', was used for the end credits of the 'Saw IV' film. The other two are a vocal version of 'Without You' and a rock song called 'Jade,' which Yoshiki credited to hide's inspiration. A world tour was announced for 2008 and 2009, although it was later canceled due to a worsening of Yoshiki's neck injury that demanded emergency surgery. Updates in August 2009 suggested an album will be released by the end of 2009, then updates in 2010 suggested then... though due to other happenings that production date has been moved to spring 2011... then to spring 2012... then to who knows when.
Vocalist Toshi developed intercostal neuralgia around November 2009 and was unable to sing or tour as a result until 2010. Later, it would be known that this was due to his life situation's stress at the time. Meanwhile, Yoshiki's recovery and rehabilitation from his neck surgery continued and continues. The band's projects including the new album and any tours, therefore, were on hiatus until their promotional video shoot in Hollywood January 9th 2010, which was held on top of the Hollywood and Highland mall and open to the public.
Toshi announced in a subsequent press conference that he had left his religion, and accused its leader and his ex-wife of taking all his income for over 12 years, filing fraudulent tax returns and took out loans in his name without his knowledge. For a while, Masaya still owned many of Toshi's official properties and necessitated that Toshi change his stage name to Tosh1 as well as not have his own online sites for around a year until the legal matters were settled.
In 2010, the band played Toshi's, ahem, Tosh1's, "solo sayonara" show to raise money for him in Tokyo on February 24th, and recorded a new video since then as well as making several public appearances. X Japan played a set at the 2010 Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, and has also played an outdoor 2-day live at Yokohama's Nissan Stadium in Japan. Taiji Sawada rejoined the band then as a second bassist, but played no further gigs with them despite plans to do so, for a reason mentioned below.
The band began a successful North American tour on September 25, 2010, playing in Los Angeles on that night, then going to Oakland, Seattle, Vancouver BC, Chicago, Toronto, and New York City. Almost all venues were sold out. Later, it would be revealed that Yoshiki had been in incredibly poor health for most of the tour and it was "miraculous" that he managed to play all of the scheduled gigs.
On July 17, 2011, Taiji Sawada, the former bassist who reunited with them for the Yokohama 2010 gigs, died in Saipan in the CNMI. His death was considered suspicious, but was never completely investigated and was instead written off to a suicide, despite troubling evidence that he may have been killed.
The band is still working on the album projected for some date in 2011, and completed a successful world tour in 2011, including gigs in South Korea, China, and Thailand. They are also very active in charity work related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and the Thailand floods of 2011, auctioning off goods, donating large sums of money, and occasionally doing relief work themselves.
- Toshi- Vocals, occasionally guitar (on Voiceless Screaming, on a cover of Kiss's Hard Luck Woman, and in his solo work). Can play piano and has done solo piano duets with Yoshiki.
- Yoshiki- Drums, piano, keyboards, bandleader, can play guitar to a limited degree but has done so rarely.
- Sugizo - Guitar, violin.
- hide - Guitar, backing vocals, deceased 1998
- Pata - Guitar
- Heath - Bass
- Taiji - Bass, lead guitar on Voiceless Screaming, rare backing vocals. deceased 2011.
- Jun - Guitar, before hide
Not a member but deserves major honorary mention
- I.N.A. - Worked with X Japan as a mixer and programmer before becoming a member of hide's solo backup band. Still works with X Japan and often blogs about their tours. Chief programmer for hide's solo works and worked with other side projects Zilch and Dope HEA Dz. Was the primary creator and operator of the hologram of hide for the 2008-09 shows, which kind of makes him a performing member of X Japan in his own way.
- Vanishing Vision - 1988
- Blue Blood - 1989
- Jealousy - 1991
- Art of Life - 1993
- Dahlia - 1996
- "I'll Kill You" - 1985
- "Orgasm" - 1986
- "Kurenai" - 1989
- "Endless Rain" - 1989
- "Week End" - 1990
- "Silent Jealousy" - 1991
- "Standing Sex" - 1991 (One of the only songs not to appear on a studio album: it is restricted to the single and to live performances.)
- "Say Anything" - 1991
- "Tears" - 1993
- "Rusty Nail" - 1994
- "Longing" - 1995
- "Dahlia" - 1996
- "Forever Love" - 1996
- "Crucify My Love" - 1996
- "Scars" - 1996
- "The Last Song" - 1998
- "I.V." - 2007 (in Saw IV) 2008 (on Itunes)
- "Jade" - 2009 debut, complete single debut in 2011
- "Born To Be Free" - 2010 (bootleg of PV filming from Yoshiki Foundation party, officially debuted at Lollapalooza August 2010)
- "You With Crystal Piano" - 2010 (available on Toshi's myspace, to be released on a Toshi solo album and not as X Japan)
- "Scarlet Love Song" - 2011 (theme song for the Osamu Tezuka film "Buddha")
- All Drummers Are Animals: In the 2010 Jade music video, Yoshiki becomes a werewolf.
- Amen Break: At least used by Yoshiki (obvious, his being the drummer)
- Audience Participation Song: Kurenai, at least during the last live.
- "X" And its most legendary participation, the X jump? Millions of fans doing it at the same time = 2.0 earthquake.
- In the 2008 and 2009 lives, it was "Tears" and "X."
- In 2010, "IV," "Endless Rain", and "X".
- Ax Crazy: A recurring theme (possibly due to Author Appeal - Yoshiki has been mentally ill) in X Japan's lyrics. If they're not inside the mind of someone who is Ax Crazy ("Stop Bloody Rain," "I'll Kill You," "Kurenai," and "Week End") they're a deconstruction of Ax Crazy ("Week End"), exploring the boundary between sanity and Ax Crazy ("Art of Life") or telling the story of someone who is Ax Crazy ("Rose of Pain.")
- Bishonen: The anime avatars of the band members in both the original 1994 Rusty Nail and in the pachinko-game tie-in videos, all except for Pata.
- Black Sheep Hit: Forever Love. It's made it everywhere from an anime to a band member's funeral to a political campaign....
- Blood Bath: The song "Rose of Pain" from their album Blue Blood is about the Trope Namer Elizabeth Bathory and hints at this practice.
- BSOD Song: Two. "Art of Life" is the most famous, as it is Yoshiki's. "Drain" is arguable, but some see it as the beginning of hide's fall into a spiral of depression and self-harming behavior...
- Careful with That Axe: Toshi in live performance, though not on studio albums for the most part. In some intros to "Sadistic Desire," hide on backing vocals.
- Contemptible Cover: The cover art of Vanishing Vision.
- Cover Version: More covers in their early days as a band (including, but not limited to, "Anarchy In The UK," "20th Century Boy" (which is probably their most famous cover since it was performed with Kurenai as the B-side to the Kurenai single and in at least one show and one TV appearance), "Ode To Joy/Beethoven's 9th" (also a very famous cover due to its being a part of many performances of a certain more well known song), "Black Diamond," and more.
- Double Entendre: Quite a few. That said, the songs in which they are included are often incredibly lacking in any subtlety at all.
- Dramatic Shattering: The videos for "Week End" and "Jade."
- Dual-Meaning Chorus: "Week End." The song's chorus is about the suicidal/homicidal narrator being at "his wit's end" and "at the world's end" due to Yoshiki's odd wordplay. It makes sense, though: the idea being, "the end of a life" is indeed the "end of the world." For who's dying, anyway....
- Fan Service: It exists.
- Five-Man Band: In three iterations, no less.
- Five-Man Band 1987-1992:
- The Leader: Yoshiki
- The Lancer: hide and Taiji could switch this position.
- The Big Guy: Taiji (arguably the most "manly" member of the band, though he could also take The Lancer role equally to hide)
- The Smart Guy: Toshi
- The Heart: Pata strangely enough, at the time, being a Kindhearted Cat Lover and incredibly shy, as well as very pretty.
- Five-Man Band 1993-1997
- Five-Man Band 2008-?
- The Leader Yoshiki though he can often switch places as The Heart
- The Lancer: Heath took on this role, being the most visual member of the band.
- The Big Guy: Pata remained in this role as he continued to be the most "manly" of the band, despite being the shortest and slightest person in it as well.
- The Smart Guy: Sugizo moved into this role, with his focus on intellect and spirituality.
- The Heart: Toshi took on this role completely, being The Woobie from his experiences and a rallying point for the reunion of the band.
- Genre Roulette
- Greatest Hits Album: more than one.
- Grief Song: Tears, which was written for Yoshiki's father who committed suicide when Yoshiki was 10. Without You and Jade are both written for late guitarist and Yoshiki's best friend hide.
- Heavy Meta: See "Easy Fight Rambling" and arguably "Desperate Angel." "Joker" could arguably be this, if some of the song's lines do indeed refer to mitsukano Compensated Dating exchanges in Visual Kei.
- Heavy Metal Umlaut: Absolutely averted. No song in the X Japan discography has one of these, and none of the band members use them for their names (they instead go with odd capitalization, such as hide or ToshI). The closest they ever came to it was covering Motörhead.
- I'll Kill You!: The band's very first song (see the discography above)
- Indecipherable Lyrics: Played straight sometimes, averted others. Often dependent on performance.
- Intercourse with You: Many songs, especially before 1993.
- Interplay of Sex and Violence: Sadistic Desire, White Poem.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: "World Anthem," originally by Frank Marino.
- Last-Note Nightmare: 'Jade.' 'I.V.' could also qualify.
- Lead Bassist: Taiji, back in the 80s and early 90s.
- Metal Scream: Quite a few songs, most common in live.
- Misogyny Song: "Sadistic Desire" and "Vanishing Love."
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Their songs range from one to eight.
- Murder Ballad: "Week End." The lyrics are about a murder-suicide from the point of view of the ones committing them, and the music video consists of all of the band members dying in various ways. Bolivian Army Ending, Downer Ending, Everybody's Dead, Dave, and Kill'Em All are all Invoked Tropes in the universe of the PV.
- Noodle Incident: A literal one, actually caught on video. The band performed a song at a noodle shop in Yashiro in the late 1980s for a TV show. This (and their other TV interviews, according to Yoshiki's biography) were actually seen by some as the point when "Japanese heavy metal" and "Visual Kei" split from each other, in that the Japanese metal community of the time (such as it was) was allegedly incensed at the performance and at the members of X Japan for doing it as they viewed it as being AttentionWhores.
- Older Than They Look: Everyone except Pata. Yoshiki, Toshi, and Sugizo especially.
- Precision F-Strike: In the old concert open, in the lyrics for "Desperate Angel" and "Born To Be Free," and in backing vocals for "Joker."
- Rearrange the Song: Yoshiki really likes "Silent Jealousy" and has rearranged it at least twice for side projects, among other songs...
- Rockstar Song: "Easy Fight Rambling."
- Shout-Out: Yoshiki started out as a KISS fan, as did hide. There are therefore a fair amount of KISS shoutouts in X Japan, as well as shoutouts to other Western metal, rock, glam, and punk bands....
- Something About a Rose: In the 1994 anime PV for Rusty Nail, Yoshiki's anime avatar used roses as his weapon
- Talky Bookends: The video for Celebration.
- Too Much Information: Toshi brought this at a concert at the Wiltern in Los Angeles. "We've gained a lot, but we've lost a lot too..." and anyone who was there knows the rest.
- Try Not to Die: In the lyrics of "Born To Be Free."
- Video Full of Film Clips: The original one for "IV." Justified in that the song was the closing song to Saw IV.
- Virtual Ghost: hide's hologram in the 2008-2009 performances.
- Walking Shirtless Scene: Yoshiki. And Yoshiki.
- You Can Barely Stand: Yoshiki at the March 2008 Night of Destruction concert. Despite being in poor physical condition from his injuries, he played the usual full set for the band, and then tried Art of Life, collapsing midway through the song. Also slightly true for the hide memorial summit in 2008, when he played with those injuries and sustained a bad knee injury doing his traditional drum break.
- Also for Yoshiki in the 2010 North American Tour, as mentioned above.
- Younger Than They Look: Pata is only 46. He looks to be in his early 60s.