Yoshiki Hayashi (林 佳樹 Hayashi Yoshiki, born November 20, 1965), known by the mononym Yoshiki, is a Japanese musician, songwriter, composer and record producer. He is best known as a co-founder of the visual kei rock band X Japan, for which he is the drummer, pianist and main songwriter. Yoshiki's solo career includes two classical studio albums—Eternal Melody (1993), produced by George Martin, and Eternal Melody II (2005)—and the classical compilation Yoshiki Classical (2013). Described by Billboard as a "musical innovator" and named "one of the most influential composers in Japanese history" by Consequence of Sound, Yoshiki has also collaborated and played with artists such as Tetsuya Komuro, Roger Taylor, Gene Simmons, and Sarah Brightman.
Yoshiki in 2016
November 20, 1965
Tateyama, Chiba, Japan
|Agent||William Morris Endeavor|
In 1999, at the request of the Japanese government, he composed and performed a classical song at a celebration in honor of the tenth anniversary of Emperor Akihito's enthronement. For the 69th Golden Globe Awards, the show's original musical theme was composed by Yoshiki and became available for digital download on iTunes, with all proceeds going to charity.
Yoshiki was born on November 20, 1965 in Tateyama, Chiba Prefecture, as the elder of two brothers in a musically oriented family. His father was a tap dancer and jazz pianist, his mother played the shamisen, while his aunt played the koto. He began taking piano lessons and music theory at age four. He then became interested in classical works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. In elementary school, he played the trumpet in the brass band, and around age ten started composing songs for piano. This period was a decisive point in his life. He was 10 years old when his father committed suicide; he found relief in rock music. After discovering the music of American hard rock band Kiss, he started learning to play drums and guitar. Yoshiki was also influenced by works from Led Zeppelin, Iron Maiden, Sex Pistols, David Bowie, Queen, The Beatles, Charged GBH and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Soon with his childhood friend Toshi formed a band called Dynamite in 1977. Dynamite changed its name to Noise a year later.
1982–1997: X JapanEdit
When Noise disbanded in 1982, Yoshiki and Toshi formed a new band, which they named X while they tried to think of another name, but the name stuck. In 1986, Yoshiki founded his own independent record label, Extasy Records, in order to distribute the band's music. On December 26, 1987, the band participated in an audition held by CBS/Sony which led to a recording contract in August of the following year. The band's breakthrough came in 1989 with the release of their second, and major debut, album Blue Blood, which reached number six on the Oricon chart and charted for more than 100 weeks. In 1990, the band received the "Grand Prix New Artist of the Year" award at the 4th Japan Gold Disc Awards. In 1991 they released their hit million-selling album Jealousy, and were the first Japanese metal band to perform in Japan's largest indoor concert venue, the Tokyo Dome. The following year they announced the renaming of the band to X Japan in order to launch an international career with an American album release, however, this ultimately did not happen.
1991–1999: Solo work and Eternal MelodyEdit
That same year he began his first solo activities outside X. Collaborating with Tetsuya Komuro for the rock unit V2, with a concert on December 5 at the Tokyo Bay NK Hall and the single "Haitoku no Hitomi ~Eyes of Venus~/Virginity" (背徳の瞳〜Eyes of Venus〜) in January 1992, which reached number two on the chart. On December 12, Yoshiki released his first album, the classical compilation Yoshiki Selection, which includes classical works, and its sequel followed six years later.
In 1992, he bought a recording studio complex in North Hollywood, California, US. Extasy Recording Studios would become where recordings for nearly all his projects take place, until he sold it in the 2010s. In the early 1990s through his record label would debut million-selling bands Glay and Luna Sea. He began learning about jazz improvisation and orchestration.
On April 21, 1993 he released his first original solo album, the classical studio album Eternal Melody, which was performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and produced by the Beatles producer George Martin. Besides including orchestral arrangements of X Japan songs, it contained two new songs as well. The album reached number 6 on the charts. On November 3, the singles "Amethyst" and "Ima wo Dakishimete" (今を抱きしめて) were released and reached number five and three respectively on the charts. The later single was a karaoke adaptation of the second orchestral song from the first single, but name credit went to TBS as it was the theme song to one of their dramas, recorded by the lead actors under the group name NOA. In 1994, it was the 35th annual best-selling single and won the "Excellence award" at the 36th Japan Record Awards.
In 1994, Yoshiki worked with Queen drummer Roger Taylor on a song he composed, "Foreign Sand", which Roger wrote the lyrics for. They performed the song at The Great Music Experience event in May, partly backed by Unesco, which featured many other Japanese and Western musicians. The single was released in June, and reached the top fifteen in Japan, and 26th in the UK. That same month, the Kiss tribute album Kiss My Ass was released, for which Yoshiki contributed an orchestral arrangement of "Black Diamond" played by the American Symphony Orchestra.
With X Japan's popularity increasing, Yoshiki and the band collaborated with Mugen Motorsports and sponsored racer Katsumi Yamamoto, who drove for team "X Japan Racing" in the 1995 season of Formula Nippon. In the 1996 season, they sponsored Ralf Schumacher with both him and the team winning the championship. In 1997, with Toshi decision to leave the band as the success-oriented life of a rock star failed to satisfy him emotionally, the band's dissolution was officially announced in September 1997. X Japan performed their farewell show at the Tokyo Dome on December 31, 1997 making it the last of five consecutive New Year's Eves the group performed in that stadium. Soon afterwards, in May 1998, the band's lead guitarist hide died, and Yoshiki withdrew from the public scene, as he was battling suicidal thoughts and eventually sought the help of a psychiatrist.
Although, he remained active as a producer, for example for the band Dir En Grey, and contributed a cover song on a hide tribute album, Tribute Spirits. On November 12, at the Tokyo Imperial Palace a celebration in honor of the tenth anniversary of Emperors Akihito enthronement was held and at the request of the Japanese government, Yoshiki composed and performed the song "Anniversary".
2000–2009: Eternal Melody II, Violet UK and S.K.I.N.Edit
In the beginning of the 21st century, he expanded his record label with sub-divisions, Extasy Japan and Extasy International in collaboration with Warner Music, and produced several artists. In 2000, he collaborated with 7-Eleven on a series of TV commercials, for which he provided the songs "Blind Dance" and "The Other Side" by his solo musical project Violet UK. Two years prior, he contributed the song "Sane" for the 1998 film In God's Hands. The project idea was born in 1991, when Yoshiki was recording in his studio, initially doing sessions with Mick Karn and Jane Child, but it was postponed. The music involves a fusion of trip rock, breakbeat, and classical piano strings.
In September 2002, he joined the dance-oriented pop group led by Tetsuya Komuro, Globe. Though his only contribution was the single "Seize the Light" and, after recording an album, they went on hiatus with Yoshiki not rejoining them afterwards. On December 3 and 4, he held symphonic concerts with the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, at Tokyo International Forum. They performed older orchestral arrangements and songs created for Violet UK, featuring female singers Daughter and Nicole Scherzinger, with Nicole singing "I'll Be Your Love". That same song was released the following year as the debut single for Dahlia, an American-Japanese female singer, and later used as the official theme song of the world's fair, Expo 2005.
In 2003 and 2004, he provided the theme songs "Kimi Dake Dakara" and "Sekai no Owari no Yoru ni" for NHK's 50th anniversary commemorative broadcast and the 90th anniversary of Takarazuka Revue. In 2004, he helped produce the South Korean rock band The TRAX. In 2005, a second classical solo album titled Eternal Melody II was released on March 23. The next day, Yoshiki conducted the Super World Orchestra in the opening ceremony of the World's Fair in the performance of a classical version of "I'll Be Your Love." At the end of the same month, a DVD recording of his previous symphonic concert was released. In December, the Violet UK song "Sex and Religion" was released via the iTunes Store, and soon afterwards "Mary Mona Lisa" unofficially via Myspace.
In 2006, Yoshiki appeared at the Otakon convention on August 6, where it was publicly announced that he would be forming a band named S.K.I.N. with rock singer Gackt, soon afterwards they were joined by Sugizo. At the JRock Revolution Festival on May 25, 2007, which was organized by Yoshiki, it was announced that Miyavi was joining. There were high expectations for the band, like to be the first Asian band to conquer the world charts, beginning with America, and to lead a rock revolution and starting a new era of rock and roll, by opening the market for Japanese in the Western music industry. But after their debut performance on June 29, 2007, at the Anime Expo in Long Beach, all activities were stopped.
That same year he co-produced the soundtrack for the 2007 film Catacombs, which included the Violet UK song "Blue Butterfly" and was released by his Extasy Records International. On October 22, 2007, X Japan's living members reunited and appeared together for the first time in over 10 years at a public filming of the promotion video for their new single "I.V.", which was created for the American horror movie Saw IV and played during the end credits but was not included on the soundtrack album. On September 20, 2007, at a Catacombs preview in Japan, it was announced that Yoshiki would be producing the 2008 rock musical Repo! The Genetic Opera and its soundtrack, along with composing one extra track for it. In 2009, he contributed the theme song "Blue Sky Heaven" for the 30th anniversary of a Nippon Television program, and for the Japanese historical fantasy film Goemon he wrote the Violet UK song "Rosa", which was released on April 29 via iTunes. That year he again collaborated with Mugen Motorsports and racing car constructor Dome for the Super GT series championship. In July 2009, he had to undergo surgery for a slipped disc in his neck, and was told by doctors to refrain from heavy drumming. His neck is so severely damaged that Yoshiki's management has said that it, "would force a professional rugby player to retire."
2010–2017: Solo career and Yoshiki ClassicalEdit
In 2010, Yoshiki with Toshi appeared and performed at Japan Expo in Paris on July 4. In October, he fainted in his hotel room on X Japan's tour, and was subsequently diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. He teamed up with Toshi again on January 24–25, 2011, at the first expensive high-end dinner show for their project ToshI feat Yoshiki, where an orchestra was utilized and later a live album released of the show. On March 6, Yoshiki co-organized with fashion producer Jay FR (from the fashion festival "Tokyo Girls Collection") a fashion and music event "Asia Girls Explosion" at Yoyogi National Stadium. At the event many special guest models walked the runway, Yoshiki's own kimono line that he designed, and both X Japan and Violet UK performed. On May 27, "Yoshiki Radio" was launched on Sirius XM's Boneyard station. The hour-long program hosted by Yoshiki, aired the first Sunday of every month at 9 p.m. ET. On July 21, at San Diego Comic-Con International, Yoshiki unveiled the comic book series Blood Red Dragon, which was done in collaboration with American comic book legends Stan Lee and Todd McFarlane and stars a superhero version of himself.
In 2012, Yoshiki composed the theme song for the 69th Golden Globe Awards, and on January 15, 2013, the theme was officially released through iTunes in 111 countries, with all proceeds being donated to charities chosen by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. A wax figure of Yoshiki was unveiled at Madame Tussauds Hong Kong wax museum in May 2012. In 2013, Yoshiki's figure was moved to the Tokyo location. On August 27, 2013, the third classical studio album Yoshiki Classical was released. It debuted as the #1 overall classical seller in Japan, and the #2 in the United States iTunes Store chartlist. In celebration of its release, a special live performance was held at the Grammy Museum.
On March 14, 2014, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, Yoshiki performed a duet piano piece during his concert at the Qui Restaurant; one part played by him, and the other played by a hologram of himself. On April 25, Yoshiki started his first classical world tour in Costa Mesa, California, and continued throughout the world, visiting San Francisco, Mexico City, Moscow, Berlin, Paris, London, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Taipei, Tokyo and Osaka. The tour setup featured Yoshiki on piano, several strings as cellos and viola, and vocalist Katie Fitzgerald from Violet UK. Performances included classical versions of songs he composed, as well depending on the venue, some famous composers like Tchaikovsky. For an upcoming Japanese 3D CG animated film Saint Seiya: Legend of Sanctuary, Yoshiki contributed theme song "Hero" and it was unveiled on the tour. In October 2014, Yoshiki performed a concert at Madison Square Garden with X Japan. It was the group's largest U.S. headlining performance. In November 2014, Yoshiki debuted the official Hello Kitty theme song, "Hello Hello", at the first Hello Kitty Con. He was the guest of honor at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo.
In April 2015, Yoshiki was a guest speaker and performer at the New Economy Summit (NES). In July, he performed at the Hyper Japan Festival in London, together with Toshi. Yoshiki performed with a string quartet at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. The We Are X film, a documentary on X Japan and Yoshiki, premiered at Sundance and was selected for the World Cinema Documentary Competition. In November 2016, he won the Asian Icon Award at the Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards in Tokyo. In 2016, he embarked on another classical world tour, with performances in Tokyo and Osaka, and a Hong Kong show that had to be cancelled due to the promoter's mistake and rescheduled as a free concert on December 30.
Yoshiki's second solo classical tour commenced in Osaka Castle Hall on December 5, 2016 with three days at the Tokyo International Forum on December 6, 7 and 8, a performance at Hong Kong's AsiaWorld-Expo scheduled for December 29 and Carnegie Hall, New York on Jan 12 and 13. The Carnegie Hall performances included the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. The Tokyo concerts in December were an acclaimed success but the Hong Kong Concert on December 29 had to be canceled two hours before the show. The cancellation was due to an oversight by the promoter in applying for the entertainment license necessary to perform the show. However the date was fulfilled on the following day, December 30, by Yoshiki performing for free with ticket holders being refunded, the first time ever for a major music artist to do such a thing in Hong Kong. The concerts in Carnegie Hall on January 12 and 13 were successful sellout shows. Yoshiki also included in the show a surprise performance of The Star-Spangled Banner after a heartfelt speech about his personal pursuit of the American Dream.
2017–present: Neck surgery, "Red Swan" and "Miracle"Edit
In January 2017, Yoshiki performed two sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York. In March 2017, Yoshiki performed with a 4-piece string quartet at Hong Kong's Asia Film Awards. In April 2017, Yoshiki debuted a special collaboration T-shirt with rock group KISS titled “YOSHIKISS”. During these performances, he lost sensation in his left hand and was rediagnosed with cervical foraminal stenosis. In May 2017, it was announced that Yoshiki would undergo emergency cervical artificial disc replacement surgery in Los Angeles on May 16, resulting in the cancelling of his schedule for May, and future events being possibly cancelled or rescheduled based on discussions after his surgery. The surgery was successful, with his surgical wound expected to take six weeks to heal, and for him to make a 90% recovery in six months. However, the recovery period for the pain in his hand is unknown.
In August 2017, Yoshiki was chosen for the cover of Vogue Japan, as the first Japanese male to do so. In July 2017, Yoshiki performed six concerts with X Japan. He also performed a series of seven Evening with Yoshiki dinner shows in Osaka, Nagoya, and Tokyo. In October 2017, Yoshiki completed a 10-country tour of Europe promoting the documentary We Are X.
In 2018, Yoshiki released a song titled "Red Swan" featuring Hyde, which is the opening theme song of the third season of the Attack on Titan anime. In September, it was announced that Yoshiki would feature on Sarah Brightman's album Hymn, with a newly recorded version of his composition "Miracle". The digital single version of "Miracle" hit the top 10 on classical charts in 15 countries, and Yoshiki was announced as a guest performer on Sarah Brightman's Hymn World Tour in 2019 in selected cities in the US and Japan. In October 2018, Yoshiki was the special guest for the Tokyo opening of Yves Saint Laurent's YSL Beauty Hotel, participating in a female makeup demonstration applied by Yves Saint Laurent's beauty director Tom Pecheux. On New Year's Eve in 2018, he performed in the traditional TV show, Kōhaku Uta Gassen, where, for the first time in the show's history, he was a member of both the Red and the White teams, teaming up with Hyde for a performance of Red Swan and then joining Brightman for Miracle.
In January 2019, it was announced that Yoshiki will partner with The H Collective to write the theme songs for the 4th installment of Vin Diesel's XXX film series and the animated feature film Spycies. In February 2019, Yoshiki appeared as the featured pianist on Hyde's single "Zipang", and in March 2019, New York-area PBS station WNET Thirteen premiered a one-hour version of his 2017 Carnegie Hall concert.
When asked what the albums were the most influential for him, Yoshiki named Alive! by Kiss, Led Zeppelin IV by Led Zeppelin and Killers by Iron Maiden. Yoshiki stated he loved "the punkish elements" of the albums Iron Maiden and Killers by Iron Maiden and that their work got him into punk rock. He was into punk rock bands from the United Kingdom and Japan such as The Exploited, Chaos UK, Discharge, G.I.S.M. and Gauze around 1984. He also cited the Sex Pistols, The Clash and G.B.H. as his favorite bands.
Yoshiki has also named Schubert's "Unfinished" Symphony and Beethoven's 5th Symphony as influences. Other than those above, his favorite classical composers included J.S. Bach, Schoenberg, Berg, Tchaikovsky, Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Chopin.
He named John Bonham as his biggest drumming inspiration and cited Cozy Powell as the reason he started to play double bass drums. He also likes Peter Criss, Shuichi Murakami, Jun Aoyama from T-Square, and Minato Masafumi from Dead End. He picked George Winston, Keith Jarrett, Vladimir Horowitz and Mishiba Satoshi from Kinniku Shōjo Tai as his favorite pianists. The Köln Concert by Keith Jarrett got him started to learn jazz theory and improvisation. He also studied jazz piano under Dick Marx and Shelly Berg.
In 1995, in response to the Kobe earthquake, Yoshiki held an X Japan's Christmas Eve charity concert in Osaka, and presented the certifications of new pianos to students whose schools were damaged during the earthquake.
In 2009, he invited 200 young orphans to attend two X Japan's concerts in January in Hong Kong, and donated money to a charity organization for orphans. On March 29 and 31, he visited a town in the province of Sichuan, China, which was devastated by the earthquake in 2008, and donated musical instruments to the schools in the area. He again invited children from the local orphanages in Taipei, Taiwan, to be the special guests in the X Japans's concert on May 30.
In 2010, he founded Yoshiki Foundation America, a California non-profit, public benefit corporation with tax-exempt status as a section 501(c)3. On July 1, the foundation hosted a free benefit fan bash for charity at Club Nokia, Los Angeles. Beneficiaries included the Grammy Foundation, Make-A-Wish Foundation, and St. Vincent Meals on Wheels.
In 2011, to provide aid to the victims of March 11's Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, the Foundation in association with Yahoo! Japan organized the Japan Relief Fundraising Auction, and all the benefits were sent to the Japanese Red Cross. Yoshiki auctioned one of his Kawai Crystal Grand CR-40 pianos, and with restructuring verification system by Yahoo! Auctions, because offers reached high as $20 million, it got sold for $134,931.
In 2014, Yoshiki Foundation America partnered with the MusiCares Foundation in an auction for a private dinner with Yoshiki. The auction awarded the two highest bidders each with a dinner and raised $62,000 for the Grammy Foundation and MusiCares.
In 2017, Yoshiki Foundation America donated $100,000 to Hurricane Harvey relief efforts through the MusiCares Foundation. In 2018, the YFA organization donated 10 million yen to assist victims of flooding in Japan, and an additional 10 million yen to assist recovery from the 2018 Hokkaido Eastern Iburi earthquake.
In April 2019, Yoshiki donated $87,900 to Korea for a forest fire accident in Gangwon-do, Korea.
In June 2019, Yoshiki visited the Frost School of Music at the University of Miami where he made a $150,000 donation and held a masterclass for students, where he advised the future musicians to "play every concert as if it is your last." Yoshiki's efforts were recognized by the renaming of the Frost School of Music Dean's office as "Yoshiki Dean's Suite".
Yoshiki founded Extasy Records in Japan in 1986, using money he received from his mother when she sold her business. The labels Extasy Japan and Extasy Records International were later established around 2000. Yoshiki founded the Japanese record label Platinum Records in April 1992, as an affiliate of PolyGram.
He owned Extasy Recording Studios, a recording studio complex in North Hollywood, Los Angeles formerly known as One On One Recording, which he bought from the previous owner Jim David in 1992 and renamed after his own record label in 1999. It was sold in 2012, and is now 17 Hertz Studio.
He bought Brooklyn Recording Studios, which housed the Los Angeles offices of Maverick Records, in April 1998 from owners Madonna and Freddy DeMann. He renamed it One on One South, before using it as the headquarters of Extasy Records International.
Yoshiki owns and operates another LA recording complex, which was formerly known as Larrabee East.
Having grown up in a family that managed a kimono store, Yoshiki debuted a line of rock-inspired kimonos, Yoshikimono, at the Asia Girls Explosion fashion event in collaboration with Tokyo Girls Collection in 2011. The collection debuted its first fashion show during the finale of the 2015 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in Tokyo. In 2015, the Yoshiki Channel was launched on Niconico Video, a Japanese video platform. The channel streams exclusive live shows and distributes links for movies and magazines.
Yoshiki said he considers himself a groove drummer. He normally wears a neck brace when playing the drums; as a result of his years of "headbanging" while drumming, he injured his neck and had to undergo surgery. In 2015, Yoshiki stated he is more of a songwriter than a drummer.
Tama Drums created a custom-made acrylic drum set for Yoshiki to use on stage, the ArtStar series. Yoshiki admitted that the clear acrylic shells are great for appearances, allowing the stage lights to color his drums with varying hues, but are not ideal sound-wise. He has explained that the clear drums are difficult to play because they do not have the usual responsiveness of wooden shells and are not very durable; as they require much more physical pounding to deliver a good sound and that causes the heads to be essentially ruined after only a single concert. Yoshiki's live kit uses two 24-inch (610 mm) kick drums, and centers the 14" snare drum directly in front of him. He usually works with five tom drums: three rack toms with diameters of 10 inches (250 mm), 12" and 13", and two floor toms with diameters of 16" and 18". However, in the studio he uses a custom made titanium kit with Evans coated heads.
Yoshiki usually performs on a Kawai Crystal II Grand Piano CR-40A. Kawai also makes a Yoshiki-model grand piano of traditional wooden design. He has a constant numbness of two fingers on his left hand that he says makes it difficult to play piano. He also suffers from chronic tendonitis on his right hand, which may cause him to be unable to play musical instruments in the future.
- Solo studio albums
Tours and concertsEdit
- December 3–4, 2002: Symphonic Concert, Tokyo International Forum, Tokyo
- 2014: Yoshiki Classical World Tour Part 1
- 2016: Yoshiki Classical World Tour Part 2
- January 12–13, 2017: Yoshiki Classical Special with Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, Carnegie Hall, New York
- August 26 and 29, 2017: Evening With Yoshiki, Nagoya, Osaka
- June 24, 2018: Lunatic Fest
- July 13–16, August 31, September 1, 2018: Breakfast with Yoshiki, Evening with Yoshiki, Tokyo
- With X Japan
|1994||36th Japan Record Awards.||Excellence award||NOA: Ima wo dakishimete (今を抱きしめて)||Won|
|2013||Billboard Japan Music Awards||Classic Artist of the Year||Yoshiki||Nominated|
|2016||Classic Rock Roll of Honour Awards||Asian Icon Award||Won|
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