Yoshiki Hayashi (林 佳樹, Hayashi Yoshiki, born November 20, 1965) is a Japanese musician, songwriter, composer and record producer. Better known by his stage name Yoshiki, he is best known as the leader and co-founder of the heavy metal band X Japan, for which he is the drummer, pianist and principal songwriter. The band achieved breakthrough success in the late 1980s, and besides being one of the first Japanese acts to achieve mainstream success while on an independent label, Extasy Records which he founded, the group is widely credited as one of the pioneers of the visual kei movement. Though the band disbanded in 1997, they reunited in 2007 after ten years. In 2000 and 2007, Yoshiki formed his solo musical project Violet UK and the Japanese rock supergroup S.K.I.N. respectively.
Yoshiki's solo career includes two classical studio albums: Eternal Melody (1993), produced by George Martin, Eternal Melody II (2005), and the classical compilation Yoshiki Classical (2013). He has collaborated and played with Tetsuya Komuro and Roger Taylor. 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, Japan, as the elder of two brothers. 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; 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, and soon with his childhood friend Toshi formed a band called Dynamite in 1977. Dynamite changed its name to Noise a year later.
1982-1992: X Japan:
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 Melody:
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" 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 various 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 takes place. In the early nineties through his record label would debut million selling bands Glay and Luna Sea. Also began learning about the 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" 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. 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 the top forty 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.
Although, he remained active as a producer, i.e. 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.:
In the beginning of the 21st century, he expanded his record label with sub-divisions, Extasy Japan and Extasy International, 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 City 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 also 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. 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.
2010-present: Solo career and Yoshiki Classical:
In 2010, Yoshiki with Toshi appeared and performed at Japan Expo in Paris on July 4. He teamed up with him 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. 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 South West 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. The hologram used the same technique during Coachella 2012. 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, Shangai, 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 November 2014, Yoshiki debuted the official Hello Kitty theme song, "Hello Hello", at the first Hello Kitty Con. He was also the guest of honor at Stan Lee's Comikaze Expo.
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 30 May.
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 501(c)(3) 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.
Other business ventures:
Yoshiki currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He owned Extasy Recording Studios, a recording studio complex in North Hollywood 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.
In 2009, with California winemaker Michael Mondavi, Yoshiki branded a small line of wine titled "Y", which consists of a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon from a 2008 vintage.
Yoshiki has partnered with researchers to investigate music as therapy.
Yoshiki has his own signature model of drumsticks from Tama Drums.
Tama Drums created a limited edition acrylic drum set for Yoshiki to use on stage, the ArtStar series. Yoshiki commented that the clear acrylic shells allow the stage lights to color his drums with varying hues, rather than being restricted to one color choice. He also noted that the clear drums are difficult to play because they do not have the usual responsive wooden shells; he said the acrylic drums require much more physical pounding to deliver a good sound. Yoshiki 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". In 2011, Yoshiki said he considers himself a groove drummer. He normally wears a neck brace when playing the drums, a result of his years of "headbanging" while drumming.
Kawai Yoshiki Custom
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.
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