- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 8, 2011

TOKYO (AP) - Yoshiki has sold more than 30 million records. Concerts by his heavy metal band X Japan pack stadiums. Everywhere he goes, he is trailed by screaming fans. But that’s just being big in Japan.

Yoshiki has his eyes on bigger horizons: fame in the global music industry.

It’s not enough he has his share of followers in neighboring China, Taiwan and South Korea. What he wants is stardom in the U.S., the home of rock ‘n’ roll.

“I want to be a household name,” Yoshiki told The Associated Press in a recent interview. “If you’re going to do something, there is nothing but reaching the very top.”

A Los Angeles resident for more than a decade, Yoshiki, 45, has carefully planned his international debut, studying not only the Western music scene but also the English language.

A new album of X Japan hits _ tailor-made for American listeners, with lyrics translated into English and the tracks heavier on the bass _ is set for release this year, complete with a U.S. tour.

Last year, X Japan made its American performance debut at the Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago, alongside established artists including Lady Gaga and Green Day.

Still, Yoshiki, whose surname is Hayashi but goes by one name, knows he is aiming for a success that has long eluded Japanese pop artists.

The only exception has been Kyu Sakamoto, whose hit song “Sukiyaki” topped the 1963 Billboard charts. No one has come close since. Acts such as Puffy and Shonen Knife drew some attention, but mostly for their quirkiness.

Yoshiki believes X Japan’s chances for international glory have never been so good, given the foreign interest in frilly “costume-play” fashions, “manga” comic books and animation _ all key parts of so-called “cool Japan” cultural exports.

So, can X Japan join sushi, video games and Hello Kitty as a Japanese gift to the world? Are Americans ready for X Japan?

“I’m not sure,” said Yoshiki, who is soft-spoken and polite offstage, hiding behind dark glasses, in contrast to his fierce, trancelike stage persona. “In the U.S., anything can happen. I think we have a chance.”

X Japan was founded in 1982, when Yoshiki was still in high school. The band went on to pioneer an entire genre in Japan called “visual rock,” characterized by doll-like makeup, flashy costuming and spiky, colorful hair. X Japan disbanded in 1997, but has periodic comeback concerts.

Yoshiki, who started studying piano when he was 5 and drumming at 10, writes the X Japan scores, which juxtapose pensive balladic moments with the frantically throbbing beat and energy of rock.

American musician Marilyn Manson compares Yoshiki with rock icons like Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop and David Bowie.

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