YOSHIKI: A Maestro’s Journey from Rock to “REQUIEM”
Interview by Christan Copeland
September 26, 2023
2023 has been a remarkably busy year for YOSHIKI – caught in the whirlwind of launching a global concert tour, promoting his fashion line, debuting boy group XY, and premiering his directorial debut documentary YOSHIKI: Under the Sky in major global cities
Amid a densely packed schedule, YOSHIKI solidified his global icon status on September 14 by becoming the first Japanese artist to be honored with a hand and footprint ceremony at the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood since the tradition began in 1927.
YOSHIKI’s fast paced rock star image is a contrast to the gentler artist that we meet in interviews. YOSHIKI thinks carefully and expresses himself in a reserved, almost demure manner. Yet, there is always an underlying glee in YOSHIKI’s voice as he talks about the preparation for his upcoming 10th Anniversary World Tour, “REQUIEM”.
“REQUIEM,” your upcoming classical tour in Japan, the UK, and the U.S., is coming up very soon. How do you prepare for a classical concert versus preparing for a rock concert with The Last Rockstars?
YOSHIKI: The difference is I have four teammates I can count on. Hyde, Miyavi, Sugizo, we all have our opinions and contribute to the music, so we work to put together the best show as “The Last Rockstars”. For Requiem, I have many performers I work with onstage, but I am the conductor, so I have to take the lead. Even now we are still finalizing the set list and working on the orchestration. There will be some performances where I will go back and forth with drums and piano, so there is a lot I have to prepare. There’s more pressure, but I will give it my all.
We heard rumors that you will play drums at your classical concerts. How do you connect “rock” and “classical” in a show like this?
YOSHIKI: Actually, it’s not that hard. Rock and classical share a lot of the same structure. They share a lot of the same rhythms and melodies. When I compose, I write the music from my memory, I don’t need an instrument to write the music. So, depending on the style, I make some adjustments to the arrangements. I also trained classically as a child, since I was four, and then I played rock drums. So, classical and rock have always been a part of me. It’s not so difficult.
What is the biggest challenge in preparing a rock song to be performed by a full orchestra?
YOSHIKI: I’m still in the process of rehearsing and finalizing the show. There are things I’ve never done before in my rock or classical performances and that will be my challenge. I have songs off my classical album that I will add some rock elements to, and it will be something new for my audience. I have guest performers and some surprises I’m excited to show. Maybe the audience will be shocked?
When you were selecting the songs for the classical concert, what theme connects them?
YOSHIKI: Honestly, this may sound a bit cliché, but I want to connect with the fans. I said this in my Under the Sky movie, but I want to connect with the fans and return the love that they have given me and X Japan over the years. My mother passed away last year, and through my tears I wrote “Requiem.” So, my theme is maybe love and hope? My fans always send messages about how my music has helped them through tough times. Making music also helps me to live… I want to share that hope and return the love I’ve received through my music.
I was moved by the musical performances in your film YOSHIKI: Under the Sky. What songs from the film can fans expect to see at your classical concerts?
YOSHIKI: Thank you for saying that. You will hear “Red Swan”, “Angel”, “Forever Love”, “Endless Rain”… (laughs) maybe, almost all the songs from my movie? A lot of the songs from the film will be in the show along with songs from my classical album, but they will sound a bit different from what audiences have heard before. We’re preparing a special show. Maybe it will be shocking? We will see.
On stage and film, you’ve collaborated with such a wide range of artists from many different countries and many different genres. — like KISS, Scorpions, Sarah Brightman, and The Chainsmokers. What is on your mind when you start a new collaboration?
YOSHIKI: I don’t really have much in mind other than I am also a fan of theirs. It’s really an honor for me to work with these artists. I wanted to work with artists across genres, not just rock, and show performances that anyone could enjoy. Some of the artists, I was already a fan of their music, and I reached out and they said yes. I wanted to share music that really touches people, and to show music has no boundaries, so the artists were chosen in that way.
Under the Sky was three years in the making, however, you’ve mentioned there might be a Part Two? What do you want to explore in your next film?
YOSHIKI: Honestly, I’m not sure. Maybe after the concert, I’ll be able to focus on what I will do next. I was thinking maybe I can do a continuation of Under the Sky? Like another concert documentary. Honestly, I haven’t had much time to think about it, but maybe after the tour…
You are the first Japanese artist in almost 100 years to be honored by the Chinese Theatre in Hollywood with a handprint and footprint ceremony. Congratulations! You have so many achievements in entertainment – music, film, fashion — but you say you want to do more. After the classical tour in October and The Last Rockstars shows in November — what’s next?
YOSHIKI: Honestly, I don’t know what’s next. I don’t think that I’ve really achieved anything particularly special. Everything that I’m able to do and where I go — it’s because of my fans and their love that I am able to be here today. I was able to achieve my dreams because of their support and love. So, I’m so thankful to my fans. But… I’m never sure what I will do next, I just know that there is still so much more I want to try. I think there is still more for me to do. What I will do next will be a surprise even for me. (Laughs)
Yoshiki Classical 10th Anniversary World Tour with Orchestra 2023 “REQUIEM”
Tokyo Garden Theater – October 7-9
Royal Albert Hall (London) – October 13
Dolby Theatre (Los Angeles) – October 20
Carnegie Hall (New York) – October 28