Yoshiki seeks global rock glory for X Japan

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“They can make it wherever they want,” Mason told the AP when asked of X Japan’s chances for success outside Japan. “His music is very, very strong. It is important. It is very American.”

Izumi Narita, an 18-year-old high school student from suburban Tokyo, is another believer.

“There is no other band like X Japan,” she said. “It’s fantastic how Yoshiki stoically pursues what he believes in, without ever compromising.”

Less optimistic is pop music critic Steve McClure, the former Tokyo bureau chief for Billboard magazine, who doubts X Japan’s appeal can extend beyond a niche audience.

“Good luck to Yoshiki. But don’t hold your breath,” he said.

To duplicate the kind of fame Yoshiki has achieved in Japan would be a challenge for anyone.

He has glossed the covers of dozens of magazines. He has his own line of jewelry, his own video game, his own wine. At a recent fashion show, he showed “Yoshikimono,” a punk-inspired kimono. Former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is among his fans.

When X Japan guitarist Hideto Matsumoto, 33, nicknamed Hide, was found dead in his apartment from an apparent suicide in 1998, the nation went into mourning. A teenager died in one of several copycat suicide attempts that followed.

Over the years, Yoshiki has expanded into producing bands for his label Extasy Records, and writing movie scores such as “Saw IV.” In 1999, he wrote and performed a classical piano composition for Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko.

Yoshiki acknowledges that if he becomes famous in the West, he might miss the anonymity he now enjoys in the U.S. to go grocery shopping without getting mobbed by fans.

“I’ll deal with it when I get there,” he said.

Fame is important because music saved him, Yoshiki says. The root of his creative drive is a hidden rage inside, the anger and loneliness he felt growing up, not understanding why his father committed suicide when Yoshiki was 10, leaving him, his mother and his brother.

“I had nowhere to turn” except for music, Yoshiki said. “Then, I realized there was no need to suppress my feelings in music. Music is wonderful. I want to help others, too, and give back to music.”

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