[08.05.13] YOSHIKI's interview at Rhythm & Drums magazine
The return of the legendary drum hero, creator of destruction and beauty!!!
Towards the end of the 80s legendary band X JAPAN appeared out of nowhere making shock waves among the Japanese rock scene. Possessing unrivaled speed, YOSHIKI’s endless two-bass drumming not only pushed the physical limits of the body to the max, but was also responsible for inspiring a new generation of youth to take up the instrument in admiration. However, in 1997 YOSHIKI’s drumming came to halt with X JAPAN’s breakup. This year amidst a mountain of rumours and speculation??? YOSHIKI finally broke the 10 year silence making a return to the scene again on the drums. To celebrate his current return to the drums we’ll be asking YOSHIKI about his relationship with the drums.
YOSHIKI gives an insight into "the drums", after returning to the stage once more as a drummer.
I: In a hotel room just after the 3 Day performance at Tokyo Dome we ask YOSHIKI what drumming means to him now after such a long absence. The thoughts he shared with us in this interview about his drumming career were filled with many fond memories.
Y: I had to start by getting used to them again. I shut out all my thoughts and just began by touching the drums.
I: Firstly, I want to ask what the drums mean and have meant to you at each stage of your life, starting from the period of X JAPAN’s heyday up until the current reunion, as well as what they meant to you during your absence from the scene.
Y: Well, you know lately I think I’ve become like a producer. I’ve been playing the drums during sampling and mixing but last year’s concert with the band S.K.I.N. was probably the last time I’ve played through a full song, so my body is still not used to it yet (laughs).
I: Before performing as S.K.I.N’s drummer overseas how much contact had you had with the drums?
Y: I really hadn’t touched them. The last time I actually sat and played right to the end of 1 song was about 10 years ago, so until the last minute I kept thinking “I wonder if I can pull this off?”
I: During that time didn’t you feel like playing at all?
Y: Not really. I don’t hate playing or anything, it’s just that it’s really tough. Maybe it’s hard to understand until you’ve tried it yourself but with the double bass pedal at around 150 bpm then it’s alright. Once you start getting higher than that it’s a kind of like being athlete. It’s tough.
I: Was there something that made you think of drumming for S.K.I.N.?
Y: It didn’t matter so much what instrument I played. I thought drumming was simply the instrument I would choose as my most strongest. With the Tokyo Dome shows although the set and stage made it in time, as a drummer I was only so so I guess. With the upcoming shows we’re doing overseas (Paris and New York have so far been confirmed) both psychically and technically I want to be back to full strength or as close to 100% as possible. Of course I’m still a drummer but being leader and producer of the band I have to think about the entire production, from the opening, to the setlist and ending BGM etc, so my drumming kind of gets left till last. Even up until the very last minute I feel like I’ll only just be able to pull it off. For a whole month I cleared my thoughts and just got used to drumming again by going over the basics. I practiced the double bass and paradiel etc over and over (laughs).
TOSHI, PATA and HEATH they had all remained as either guitarists, or vocalists, but since I had basically been away from the scene (laughs). It was really tough for me.
I: I think your body in a way made up for that and filled in the gaps for you, right?
Y: I think so. We had the old scores for about half of the setlist so I referenced from that while playing. I also got a lot of muscular pain so I bought an oxygen capsule so I attended to meetings over the phone as well as looking over the scores trying desperately to remember them all in time while inside. Especially with ART OF LIFE which we did on day 1, we had only been practiced once before the day of the concert so I was looking at the music and playing it out inside my head until the very last minute. It was easy to perform songs we had the scores for, but say for example KURENAI we had no score for and I hadn’t played it for 10 years so I had to listen to the CD and copy by ear. All the while I was thinking to myself damn this is hard (laugh).
I: You played live while reading the scores?
Y: Yeh, for some of the songs I did. Like ART OF LIFE and our new song I.V. I think. We had 4 drum technicians on the day one of whom could read sheet music, so she turned the pages for me. It would have been better if we could have had the scores for all of the songs, but we didn’t make it in time.
I: Can you actually follow the music with your eyes while drumming at that speed?
Y: Well I play the piano so I just by glancing at the music I can take a whole page in. I guess I my sight reading is pretty good as well.
I: You never cease to amaze me.
Y: If I didn’t have that we wouldn’t have made it in time (laughs). Learning the songs that we had the scores for didn’t take long but the rest were hard work. In any case, I write everything even the toms on sheet music.
I: I heard that you write out every single sound that you have in your mind on the score, but I didn’t think that extended as far writing each part for the drums.
Y: Yep, I write it all out. Although lately I also do stuff with digital recording but I write out most of it. Actually, I score out all the detailed drum phrases first. Other than drum solo’s everything is first completely scored out. I believe that what’s in your head is limitless, but if you use an instrument you end up limiting yourself with your technique. This is also true for guitars, strings, and any other instrument.
I: When you are writing the scores can you also feel the tempo?
Y: Yes. It’s usually around 10bpm off, but I can basically get down the tempo.
I: Now that you’ve had to relearn old performances by ear how do you feel about them?
Y: I didn’t ever think I’d be playing them again so "painful" is the word that sums it up I think (laugh). Ahh, but I enjoyed playing I.V.. The tempo is different to all the other X songs up until now and... of course I wanted to link in HIDE’s guitar parts so we can’t fiddle with the arrangement, making it tough since we have to perform it faithful to the original.
I: I think that fans would have been happy about that though.
Y: They’ve been so supportive of us till now so...I thought I’m doing this... who cares what happens to my body. I’ve always been the destructive type (laughs).
I: Can you tell us what makes you drum above and beyond your body’s physical limit?
Y: Honestly I could play soft if you asked me to play soft. It just wouldn’t be very exciting. I don’t think my feelings would be conveyed. Above and beyond technique what I want people to see is my spirit. In a sense I think that’s more important than musical competence in isolation.
I: Did you always have this philosophy when you began drumming as a child?
Y: It just sort of happened naturally, I was about 9 years old. How should I put it...? I think drumming, if you leave out the technical aspects, is about either running or walking. Your upper body and your legs just follow naturally. You can either run full steam ahead, or you can trend softly. That’s the way it feels to me.
I: And, you run full steam ahead?
Y: I guess so. Oh, and the crystal drums aren’t loud enough at all (laughs). Drumming normally barely makes any sound at all. They look nice but sound wise you really have to hit them hard.
I: Since you mentioned it, what made you choose Tama drums?
Y: I wanted a crystal drum set and Tama offered to make it for me so I went with them. Recording in LA I’m using Titan drums, but I’ve been very happy with Tama’s support over the years. (DOUBLE CHECK THIS)
I: Do you mainly use Titans for recoding?
Y: Yes, mainly Titan’s. They have a great sound to them. Titan itself..... , however mine have specially made shell’s so they sound great. Considering that, the crystal kit’s sound is a bit... (laughs). Everyone get’s a shock when they see my sticks. Even with tuning they aren’t’ loud enough.
I: I remember that Tama released limited edition YOSHIKI model acrylic kits in the past. I heard they were completely sold out in no time.
Y: I wonder if all the people who bought those have wrecked their bodies by now (laugh). Cos, those are really tough to play.
The first thing I thought after completing the 3 DAY show was "Let’s practice!"(laughs)
I: Was there anything you noticed as a drummer having done the X JAPAN concerts?
Y: I am a producer, band leader, and of course I also play piano, but I guess that my role in the band is drummer. Also I felt more than ever that I have to fulfill my role. Out of the 5 of us, HIDE included, I realized that I am the drummer and that although it might sound a bit strange me saying this now, I want to grow even better as a drummer in preparation for the upcoming concerts.
I: Am I right in saying that the "band sound" is something very dear to you?
Y: I love it. It comes with extra pain but I think it’s even more important in this new generation, with sampling etc. I love Massive Attack, and I’ve gone and watched concerts including the Chemical Brothers, and I feel that without drums, the music is of course still cool, but I feel that drums have a special place still. Banging out the rhythm on the drums somehow creates a different level of energy.
I: You said this morning at X JAPAN’s press conference that you don’t know if the band will continue on into the future, but can we take it that even without X JAPAN we’ll still be able to witness YOSHIKI on the drums?
Y: As long as I’m playing in a band, I think I’ll always be a drummer. I still have VIOLET UK. I play the drums recording for VIOLET UK... yeh, I’m doing some pretty heavy stuff with that also.
There is a difference. For recording I drum 2 to 3 times back to back right through. Then we edit and fix up the finer details. For some reason and I don’t know why, but with drums the 1st take is always the best. With current technology you quantize and add in sound after sound, so with concerts I think that the more I perform I like to go for a "live" sound. I feel that in this generation of sound it feels better not to have everything falling perfectly into place, but rather let the rhythm wonder a little. So in that sense whether you are a guitarist or a drummer, a band is where you can contribute an individual flavour.
I: Out of all the parts, the drums bring out the most individuality, wouldn’t you agree?
Y: I guess they do.
My philosophy in regards to the role of the drums, is that above all they should lift both the energy level of the song and that of the vocalist. I look at whatever profound rhythm I have when I write my songs and then go and try to master the technique that allows me to convey that energy. I also want to try even crazier things with my drum solos. Finally my number one strength is doing a 16th of a note beat on the double bass and a 6 repeat ontop (with my sticks). It’s actually pretty hard! I used to get tired out and couldn’t keep it up, but this time in the drum solo I got pretty into it so it felt great.
I: I think there are a lot of pro drummers around who got initially their inspiration to play the drums from you. How do you feel about that?
Y: All I can say is I’m thrilled to hear that. My image of a drummer of when I was a child was that they were sort of like the one who keeps things going from behind the shadows. And I know it’s strange for me to say this, but I don’t think you’ll find a drummer that stuck out as much as I did (laughs)! So, I’m so happy that there are people who took up drumming because of me.
I: I think those people are delighted that you have made a comeback to the drums.
Y: Personally I think the reason I started the drums was very strange...I originally began the piano at age 4 and then a little bit of guitar, then I saw Peter Chris from KISS and was so awe inspired it made me want to start drumming. After that I ask my mother for a drum kit as a birthday present and she went out and got me one, that was how I got started. Then my father passed away... He used to play piano but apparently his dream was to become a drummer. I didn’t know that when I took up drumming actually, but later on my mother said to me "You know it was your father’s dream to become a drummer". When I heard that I got goose bumps all over. And yeh, after that I became both a pianist and drummer. When X was starting out my hair was all spiky and my drumming wild and I didn’t have the image of pianist, I was more like a drummer 95% of the time. Recently though it’s more like 60% drums and for the rest of the time I’m a pianist. Although I think I’m still seen more as a drummer. But for me it’s more 50/50 I guess, I’m both. With the recent developments if I’m to continue as a band member I want to give as close to 120% of myself to both instruments as possible. I don’t want to be content with being known as a drummer who can play both instruments, but one that is great at both. Although I collapsed into bed the day after (the Tokyo Dome shows) I don’t know why but I thought to myself ‘Time to practice!’ (laughs)... Yep, the first thing I thought after the 3 Day concerts was "Time to practice!" (laughs).
I: I certainly don’t think there is anyone else who pushes themselves so hard on the drums. What do you feel is your biggest strength?
Y: I guess it’s that the fans are also inspired when I play with all my strength. I don’t think I could play at anything other than full strength. Even though it caused many collapses during past tours I am just not the sort of person that just sits back says OK and does everything according plan and then at the end is told Good Job, its not me. I give my all each and everytime. For example, even if we tour I don’t think people get a chance to see us that much so I give my all thinking "This may be the only time they get to see us". You know for the 3 Days I thought "I don’t care if I die, as long as I finish the 3 Days" (laughs). It was that tough and that’s how much of my soul I put into it.
I: The recent lives came after quite an absence... and I guess you must have been thinking "I have to give my all"...
Y: That’s right. Not just keeping up the rhythm or whatever, but I just kept thinking "I’m going to beat it out right till the end". And if one should locks up I’d use the other. That’s the extent of my will to to give my all, and I did have confidence but at the same time I was thinking all along "Doesn’t matter if I die trying". And on day one I smashed the drums and dove into them... I guess I’m kind of asking for it aren’t I (laughs).
I: So, you didn’t think about saving your strength for the last day at all?
Y: Not at all. That’s right. I was thinking doesn’t matter if I’m covered in blood I’ll give my all until the end, I had no intention of saving my strength. I wouldn’t be able to stand myself if I did. I just couldn’t do that.
No matter what when raising the bpm during rehearsals I don’t stop moving my feet.
I: With upcoming shows in New York and Paris scheduled, have you started rehearsing a bit?
Y: Actual rehearsals will begin fairly soon I think but first I’ll find time in my schedule to rehearse individually.
I: Is there something you specifically focus on each and everytime you go into the studio?
Y: Yes. With double bass I work on gradually increasing the bpm from 90 to 180. When I get to 120 bpm I play around 30 minutes nonstop. No matter what when raising the bpm during rehearsals I don’t stop moving my feet. Of course the drum kit moves around a bit so I play while it’s being fixed (laugh). I play normally up top and add in a 6 repeat as I day dream about stuff. Gradually my body warms up so I follow up by increasing the speed in shorter bursts. When I’m feeling really good I try things like playing at 200 bpm. Also I always play songs at 10 to 15 bpm slower. I don’t know why but somehow doing that makes it easier to keep up the rhythm later on (when playing at normal speed). X’s Rusty Nail is around 173 bpm however I practice playing that at 163 bpm over and over. I then don’t increase the tempo until playing with the band. Because, after doing that and then playing at normal speed again with faster songs the double bass feels slower.
I: When you practice like that do you play with right foot leading first?
Y: I do both but more with the right... aa, I do practice leading with the left foot. Its ok at 130 bpm but I can’t do it at faster bpms. I also practice doing paradiel hand and foot combinations, right hand with left foot, left hand with right foot. I practice them equally. But right hand and right foot come most naturally and the rest I have to practice twice as hard and get as close to possible to making them even.
I: The double bass then is essentional for you YOSHIKI?
Y: That’s right... Put simply, take it away from me and what do I have left? (laughs). That’s how much apart of me it’s become. I guess it’s naturally apart of me. And I’ve loved it since I was child. You could of course get that dandandan sound by sliding your right foot over the pedal, but I think you get more volume I think using both feet. Take for example Higuchi-san from Loudness who I think is a great drummer he stuck to a single bass drum. If you can get that sound with one pedal then it’s ok, but I would do the same thing using the double kick.
I: Finally, do you have a message for our readers?
Y: I’m a pianist, producer and have various "faces" but now this time I was able to realize that I’m really a drummer. Although I’ve been absent for a long time I believe that the drums are a limitless wonderful instrument, so much so that I myself want to start practicing again from the beginning. I hope that you all go for it and try your best. Together let’s once more make the drum world heard.
(c) Rhythm & Drums magazine
ThanX for English translation kazooms (Danny Rosenbaum)
| Категория: Interview | Translated by His[Majesty]Queen | 2008.06.28
| Author: Rhythm & Drums magazine
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