We Are!!! X!!!

As we all know, X Japan has been part of my core self for over half of my life. The only other components you need to create a Kalu in their purest form are Final Fantasy VII and Yu Yu Hakusho. Big surprise, right? Maybe someday I’ll write about the other two, but today is entirely devoted to X.

I was thirteen when I first came across X Japan. 2003– the year of Neopets and making sure you were the coolest kid on the site. Usually, I had InuYasha themed profiles and store fronts given the fact that I was a high ranked council member for the largest InuYasha guild on the entire site. I was a Big Deal, folks! Sometimes, you just gotta get rowdy and shake things up. I took my HTML work very, very seriously. So there I was, browsing anime MIDI files to come up with new ideas, and I found a song titled “Forever Love”. I learned shortly after that it was a song by X Japan and used as the credits music for X: The Movie. I was completely unfamiliar with X/1999 as a whole at the time, but I was completely enamored. I’m serious! I was sold on watching a movie and exploring this “new” band with one song! Between making things work on a baby computer running Windows ’98 and YouTube not even existing yet, it wasn’t exactly easy for me to branch out from those tiny files. I didn’t care. I was young and in love~ I followed them as well as a kid with little understanding of their limited technology could. Little did I know, this band could leave such an impression on me that they would be a part of my life from then on out.

X was formed in 1982 by best friends Yoshiki and Toshi– drums and vocals, respectively. For several years, other members would change frequently. By 1987, though, X had a stable line-up. The original dream team was comprised of: Toshi on vocals, Yoshiki on drums, hide on lead guitar, Pata on rhythm guitar, and Taiji on bass.

Inspired by KISS, David Bowie, and even Kabuki theater, X was leading a revolution for their generation’s rebellion. Rock music was a way for them, and many like them, to let go. They’re often credited with being the band that started the visual kei movement. It’s essentially what glam was in the States– a look rather than a specific sound. Their first album, Vanishing Vision, sold 10,000 copies within one week! Blue Blood debuted at number six on the Oricon chart and tour dates were selling out in advance. Their first album to debut at number one was Jealousy— it sold 600,000 copies. The same year, 1991, they played at the Tokyo Dome which is the largest indoor venue in Japan. The beginning of 1992 was met with three sold out Tokyo Dome dates. Sadly, shortly after, it was announced that Taiji was leaving the band. It was explained as “musical differences” though Taiji wrote in an autobiography that it was due to payment imbalance between members. Yoshiki refuses to speak about the reason even now. Heath joined the band as their new bassist.

X Japan is a Japanese heavy metal band from Chiba, formed in 1982 by drummer Yoshiki and lead vocalist Toshi. Predominantly a power/speed metal band with heavy symphonic elements, they later gravitated towards a progressive sound with an emphasis on ballads. Besides being one of the first Japanese acts to achieve mainstream success while on an independent label, the group is widely credited as one of the pioneers of visual kei, a movement among Japanese musicians comparable to Western glam. *

With their powerful popularity in Japan, they attempted to branch out as an international band. This included the name change from X to X Japan to avoid confusion with the American band X. This ultimately failed do to the members speaking very little English at the time. They continued to dominate Japan, though. Over the next four years, they released two more albums as they continued to play shows at Tokyo Dome every year. Art of Life was an solid twenty-nine minute long track! The end of 1997 was the year X Japan announced they would be disbanding. Toshi decided that his current lifestyle as a rock star was no longer satisfying him. It would come to light many years later that Toshi was brainwashed by a cult and was abused both physically and mentally. The Last Live was their farewell show.

By the time X Japan came into my life, it was well after their disbanding. Between that moment in their career to the moment I found them, hide had died in what was ruled as suicide. Members Yoshiki and Taiji didn’t believe it. They said it would have been an accident due to hide drinking that night and was most likely just stretching with a technique that the other members frequently used. Regardless of the true reason, it sparked “copycat suicides” from several fans. Ja, Zoo, hide’s third solo album, was released after his death. It sold over one million copies and hit number one on the charts. Yoshiki went on to produce and release some classical work while Heath resumed solo activities and forming other bands.

From 2003 to 2007, during the pretty important parts of my teenage experience, I was pretty much following a dead band. The last studio album was released in 1996. I was a six year old that was afraid of the game over music in Tetris in 1996! X Japan’s music was an incredible way for me to cope. I was still struggling to come to terms with the death of my father, trying to navigate my way through school as an abuse victim, and of course the usual teen love breakups. It’s embarrassing now, but, oh goodness… I used to listen to “Tears” and “The Last Song” constantly after my first boyfriend broke up with me. I clung to those sad songs and thought, “Oh man, I’ve totally felt like this before.” I’m laughing so much as I type this out. I’m so embarrassed! Please forgive me for not grasping the true meaning behind those ballads, Yoshiki!

Of course, after sadness comes anger. I was quite the angry child for a long, long time. That’s when I really started loving tracks like “Kurenai” and “Dahlia“. I don’t know about you, but being able to thrash out bad feelings was, and is, a gift. Nothing quite like pulling up Blue Blood while home alone and rage like it was the only thing that mattered. It wasn’t always about the lyrics back then, I just needed more ways to explore emotions I was taught to bottle up no matter what. To hell with being over a decade late to the party, they lead the way through my own rebellion. I learned a lot about myself and what I needed for that time in my life. I always and will have a long way to go, but X Japan has helped me learn to let loose.

Take a wild guess at how I found out that they reunited in 2007. Do it! Can’t figure it out? Oh, boy… Remember when Saw movies were a thing? In 2007, we were at Saw IV and I had a tradition of seeing each one in theaters. I was awkwardly loyal to gore parties like that, and I’m only half sorry. Anyway, I saw IV in theaters as usual. I didn’t really check for news on the movie or anything, so I had no idea what was in store for me outside of some gross imagery. I always, always sat through the credits and out of nowhere, I heard Toshi’s voice! You bet your ass I knew immediately. Needless to say, I started sobbing in the theater. I had no idea they had gotten back together let alone did the theme song for Saw IV. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe it. At first I was kinda mad that they’d do stuff without hide, but I realized they were using his old recordings for songs and used unreleased stuff he did to add to their songs. That was one of those moments where I was really happy but it hurt my heart in such a way that was beyond words. They even wrote a song in memory of hide– “Without You”.

After reuniting, they started touring again! Since they didn’t have a member to fill in for hide long term, people would stand in for a night or two. Sugizo of Luna Sea was one of them and he officially joined the band in 2009. During concerts, clips of hide would be in the background and they’d even sample his solos and voice. At one point they even used a hologram!

2010 was the year X Japan finally made it to perform in the US. They played Lollapalooza in Chicago. Shortly after, the band played for two nights in Japan. Taiji returned to play bass during “X”. Later that year, they embarked on their very first North American tour. Talks of a new album began to surface– the first in nearly twenty years.

In 2011, more tragedy struck. During a flight, he had a violent outburst that required multiple people holding him back. He was arrested in Saipan as a result. Taiji then attempted suicide by hanging himself with his bed sheet. This rendered him brain dead, and both his mother and fiancée decided to take him off life support.

Sprinkled through those years, new singles were released. These include “Jade” and “Scarlet Love Song“. A remastered compilation album dropped during the summer of 2014. That was after well over another two years of inactivity! 2014 was the year of dreams of coming true. After years and years of trying to really take off in North America, X Japan was able to play at Madison Square Garden. Twelve long years of work paid off. Yoshiki made a point to mention that it was a dream of hide’s for years. The entire venue was heartbroken for him, but we were also reminded that hide still plays with them no matter where they are. 💞 Did I mention that I sobbed for four hours straight at this concert? My dream of being able to see them perform came true during one of their most important shows to date. That’s a pretty big deal, alright?

The next year, the new album that was mentioned back in 2010 had a decided release date. It was set to be released March 11, 2016. The next day was planned for a large concert in London as well as premiering their documentary We Are X. 2015 also brought on the first tour through Japan in twenty years. Things were really beginning to look up for everyone.

Here comes January 2016– Pata was admitted an ICU in Tokyo. He was diagnosed with colon diverticulitis and a severe blood clot, but was in a stable condition. Pata was released in March but had to return in August. To focus on recovery and doing everything they could to prevent something worse, everything that year was postponed to 2017. So far this year we’ve seen the Wembley show, the release of both the soundtrack and the film for We Are X, and Yoshiki even played at Carnegie Hall! In May, Yoshiki had surgery. Due to his years of thrashing, he needed an artificial disc placed between vertebrae. He’s currently recovering well though, as always, he’s pushing himself far too hard. He has intentions of a solo tour as well as X Japan activities this year! I’m honestly very concerned for him. All we can do is be strong for him and that’s exactly what I intend to do.

A band born from pain and constantly reminded that time stops for no one, X Japan is sort of an enigma. I’ve dedicated well over half of my life to these guys and I’m still learning new things about them. It’s honestly pretty fun! It feels like we’re learning and growing together and I think that’s very important. We Are X  really drives home the point that if we, the fans, did not exist, neither would this band. We keep each other going. That bond formed so easily that it’s natural to call them my family.

As I mentioned before, we “met” when I was barely a teenager. My life was in quite a dangerous place back then. Due to what’s already obvious about my past, I was a very quiet and shy kid. Your friend Kalu was just as much as a crybaby back then as I am now. Not even remotely having a diagnosis and just assuming how awful I felt was normal didn’t help much either. I was repressing every part of myself possible. Of course I couldn’t like girls! I had to be a girl! There’s absolutely no way I’d be depressed or suicidal if no one noticed to validate me, right? This can’t possibly be abuse if no one’s saying anything! Much like every other kid in the early 2000s, I turned to the internet to escape.

All I had prior to that was FFVII. I clung to that like my life depended on it. I had learned so much from the game and it helped me through the loss of my father. I didn’t really know how to connect to other things or people at the time. Those message boards gave me a chance to learn. The friends I made back then were so important to my growth. I learned a lot about myself and how I could see the world. It was wonderful making friendships with people I couldn’t even see because we didn’t have to prove anything to anyone. We just existed and we enjoyed that. Looking back, that was truly the first time I ever actively cultivated a group of safe and worthwhile friends. Honestly, I miss them constantly. I hope they’re all doing well.

Thanks to them, once X Japan crossed my path, I was ready. At least in some way I was ready. As ready as a kid could be for something that big, I suppose. I accepted that I felt extreme sadness and anger– that’s what I mean. 😋 They let me live through their pain as a way to let mine out. I had a real outlet for feelings. We all know how ridiculous feelings are at that age! I was a mess with a capital MESS. I’m still thankful for that help as a child. To go through all of those toxic feelings and situations alone was so difficult; I finally felt understood even if I didn’t get to speak to them personally. I think their music speaks for itself. While it’s not even remotely uncommon for a band to put this much heart and soul into their work, X is what got me.

X! YOU DON’T HAVE TO HESITATE!
GET YOURSELF OUT!
YOU KNOW YOU ARE THE BEST!
LET’S GET CRAZY!

X Japan has taught me so much over the last 14 years we’ve spent together. I couldn’t put much of it to use until I got older, though. I’ve learned safer ways to let out emotions; I’ve found comfort; I’ve found a family. The idea of being true to yourself even if it’s kinda weird is always a hard one to grasp. I held myself back for so long that I’m impressed with my ability to come out as far as I have so rapidly. They’ve taught me to never give up on your dreams. Always, always keep going. Never stop fighting. You’ll get there. I think I’ll always need that reminder. I’ve spent a lot of time feeling like I’ve had no direction or purpose as I’m sure many of you have as well. Having the constant support of Yoshiki, Toshi, hide, Taiji, Heath, Pata, and Sugizo keeps me going. I have a much better support system these days, of course, but these guys have been with me for so long. I don’t really know what I’d do without them. Honestly, I don’t want to think of a time without them. Being X is calming. I have a place to belong no matter what comes my way. Even at my current age, feeling like I really belong to anything is still pretty hard! I’m working on that, though. All in good time.

So, here we are in 2017. I’m still absolutely 110% here for X Japan. That’s honestly never going to change, let’s be real. I still listen to their music constantly. I’m checking news for anything between public appearances to making sure Yoshiki isn’t hurt again. My aesthetic is always the X Japan hoodie, sometimes the beanie, that David bought as an anniversary gift. Hell, Yoshiki even follows me on twitter now! When’s the last time I cried on twitter about them, by the way? Might need to get one in sometime soon.

It seems as though my story with them is still going strong and I could not be happier. Just wait until I get my tattoo…

How’d we do, boss? Did you enjoy the wild ride that is X Japan and My Feelings? God, I hope so. This has been such a journey to plan and write out. I’m really glad I’m actually seeing this through. If you want even more information, or to just see things with your own eyes, please check out the documentary! I’m about to introduce my roommate and their partner to it tonight, to be honest with you. 😉

As always, thank you for being here with me! I can’t put into words how much it means to have people reading this and interacting with me in some way. I’d absolutely love to hear what bands do this for you! Please let me know sometime~ We can share our favorite songs.

Say it with me, please.
WE. ARE. X. ♥