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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

X Japan's Sugizo Wants to Save the Whales

Posted By on Tue, Oct 12, 2010 at 11:50 AM

click to enlarge Sugizo
  • Sugizo
Sugizo
Following up on an interview we did a couple of years ago when he was here with Juno Reactor, we sat down with new X Japan guitarist Sugizo backstage after the band's recent show at the Fox Theater. Always an engaging interview subject, and frequently very funny (he claims that the other members of his band Luna Sea don't want to tour in America because they can't live without Japanese food every day), he explained both his decision to join X Japan and his personal connection to the band via his close friendship with the band's late guitarist Hide.

A hardworking guy who exudes quiet confidence rather than arrogance, Sugizo remains focused on making music for the sheer joy of it (though that focus has its downsides -- seriously, someone please make this man take a vacation). Having evolved into an unexpectedly centered, spiritual sort of person, he's also willing to use his fame to draw attention to serious issues. Read on for Sugizo's thoughts on how L.A. compares to San Francisco, the future of both X Japan and Luna Sea, and the issue of whaling in Japan.

How did you get involved with X? It seems like you have so many other projects already.

Good question, but very difficult to answer. It think for me this was a very natural thing. I don't know why I can do that. (laughs)

You've known all these guys for a long time, right?

Yes, a very long time. Of course with Luna Sea and my solo projects, that's just me. And Luna Sea, our style is very different from X Japan. X Japan's style is more heavy metal.

Your style is more sort of ambient and trance, when you're by yourself.

Yes, that's my favorite musical style. X Japan's style is kind of my roots.

Were you ever in a band that was more like that, a hard rock band?

Yes, when I was a high school student. My band was sort of power metal, heavy metal, but with [Luna Sea drummer] Shinya. This style is not my own solo style, and not like Luna Sea, but it's a very natural fit for my musical capacities.

With this role you're stepping into with X, it has to be sort of a challenge given how people felt about [late guitarist] Hide. You two were friends, right?

He was like my older brother. Our relationship was very close. At that time I was much closer to him than to [band leader/drummer/pianist] Yoshiki. It was a very long time ago. He passed away 12 years

ago, so he is a legend. His existence is so big. Of course I have a lot of pressure to

play Hide's parts and it's stressful...

It seems like not many people would necessarily have wanted to step into those shoes. Even though it's a great job with a lot of exposure, it's a lot of pressure.

Yeah, you're right.

How did you feel the first time you had to step out on stage?

The first time was very difficult for me. I told Yoshiki "I'm sorry, I cannot do this, it's too much pressure." The X fans don't need me. Maybe it's no good if I join. But after that we had so many conversations. At that time I understood -- X Japan needs new life. Not just the nineties revival of X Japan -- they chose to have a new life, new music, new destiny. If X Japan just wanted to be a nineties revival, just history...

... Nostalgia

Yes, nostalgia. Then maybe they wouldn't need me, but they chose new life, not just history. Then I understood their decision, and of course our relationship is very good, over twenty years old, so I accepted the offer. I think my life is so curious. (laughs) But it's a fun life.

Moving to Luna Sea for a moment, you guys are coming over here to play just in LA?

Yes, for this tour we just have one show in America and one show in Europe, in Germany. Also, a few areas in Asia. This is the first time for us playing in America. At first we needed to choose just one important place. But honestly, I don't like LA. I really like San Francisco.

Why? Some people love L.A. and some hate it.

L.A. is very good as an entertainment center, but for me it's too much, too -- many people there are too selfish. So many people's egos are too much for me. My feeling is that in L.A. people don't want to unite. But in San Francisco people are more open, more -- how do you say it? More kind and more open. The feeling is very good.

How does it feel doing shows with X compared to doing shows with Luna Sea?

For me it's very natural. I'll just say this -- I think my musical capacity is very wide. For me to switch between Juno Reactor's style, Luna Sea's style, X Japan's style, it's not a big deal. I just love music.

Would you be bored if you were just doing one band?

I cannot imagine that. (laughs) Of course when I was younger, when I was 27, 28 years old, my focus was just Luna Sea. But now I cannot imagine that feeling. Luna Sea, Juno Reactor, X Japan, my own solo stuff, it's all part of me.

How are you guys doing on a personal level in Luna Sea? Last time we spoke you said that by the time you broke up you were getting very irritated with each other. How is everybody getting along?

I think Luna Sea is our home ground, like a family. Sometimes a family's relationship gets bad, the relationships with father, mother, brother, sister. Luna Sea is like a family. A few years ago the relationship was very bad, very difficult, so we had to stop.

Was there anything in particular that drove you to that or were you just around each other too much?

Yes, too much, and we had too much ego. But three years ago we reunited. Of course at first I didn't want to do it.

Why?

Because Luna Sea was my big trauma. Was.

Were you still holding on to bad feelings about the whole thing?

Yes, I was holding bad feeling for the last ten years. But so many people around me, other members, wanted to. At first I didn't want to do it but I said OK, I'll try it.

Was it just supposed to be one or two shows?

Just one show. And when we played again in the rehearsal studio the feeling was amazing. I couldn't have imagined that feeling. I felt like it was my fate to return to Luna Sea, like here is my home. For the last seven years I didn't want to go back to my home. I just wanted new experiences and I wanted to go to new places. But at last I came back to my home. Until a few years ago I didn't have that feeling, but now I know the truth. Luna Sea is our home, we cannot change that.

Have you let go of whatever anger or bad feelings you had?

Yes, exactly. We're family. We are five brothers.

No matter how angry they might make you, your family is still your family.

Yes, and we were family back then too, but now we realize that more deeply because we are more mature.

Now, go back and give us the history of Luna Sea. When did you guys start?

Inoran and J and I met in junior high. And Shinya and I were high school classmates. We were best friends, and J and Inoran were best friends. When we were high school students of course we had a rock band.

But you were a classical music kid.

Yes, and Shinya also. He mastered traditional taiko drums, which is one of the oldest

Japanese musical instruments. And of course I played the violin. Even though Shinya

and I mastered different music instruments, our musical skill was already good and

comparable. When we were high school students Shinya and I had a band,

and Inoran and J had their band, and our bands had a very good relationship to each

other.

But you were still two separate units at that point.

Yes, also Ryuichi was in another band.

I'm trying to think where you would have fit into the scene at the time, because in a way Luna Sea was kind of like X. Your style was very different, not standard.

At first our style was very hardcore punk. Hardcore punk meets gothic, kind of? I really love gothic.

Ryuichi looked very gothic back then, almost like the singer from Dead or Alive.

Exactly. Our personal style was after that though. At first our style was very hardcore and gothic, not pop. But already Ryuichi loved the Beatles, and Shinya loved Japanese pop bands. Inoran, J and I loved hardcore stuff.

How did that happen, that you went from being a hardcore punk band to this light, airy sort of sound?

I don't know why we changed but I remember that it was an important thing. Usually we searched for our own way, our own style, not to copy.

All bands when they start out tend to sound like they're copying, and then they find their own sound.

Yes, exactly. But we didn't want to copy X Japan, we didn't want to follow any big Japanese band. We searched for our own original style, our own way to play music and our own guitar style, our own fashion and make-up. In all things we really made our own style. It was very important.

Another thing that occurred to me that's kind of funny is here you are doing this tour with X, and they're all very excited because this is the first time they've toured the US, but for you it's really not the same. Where do you like playing? You said you wish you'd been able to see more of San Francisco. What other places did you really feel like, "I like this place, I want to come back here?"

Of course San Francisco is very good for me, I really love it. For Juno, Greece is very beautiful. Three years ago with Juno I visited Athens and almost four or five thousand people came. That feeling was amazing. Maybe 80 percent of our audience is party people, techno and trance people, but almost 20 percent are just gothic and J-Rock fans.

Ben has a slightly gothic look too.

Yes, Juno's style is very gothic.

It's not really happy-happy techno.

Exactly. More dark.

Going back to Luna Sea, are you recording any new material?

Yes. Right now we're making new stuff.

After the show in December is there a possibility of that opening up into a real tour here?

I hope so, but for the other members, some of them really really need Japanese food every day. (laughs)

So you, you've got all this different stuff going on, what's your goal as a musician? Is there anything that you still feel like you haven't done?

I just want to make my own music. And talking about the things that I haven't done

music wise, I feel that I've accomplished most of what I wanted to do.

Of course now I'm involved with X Japan, Luna Sea, I don't have time to work on my own music. I'm too busy and there's been too much going around me for last few months. I really need to have a good break from all that and I want to have some time on my own.

Moving away from music, you're also involved with Greenpeace. I heard you adopted a whale?

Yes. The whaling problem is very big in Japan. We shouldn't hunt whales and dolphins. And Japanese people still now want to eat whale and dolphin.

They still do?

Yes. It's very bad, I think. We shouldn't eat them. It's so sad. I think we should change our point of view about food. It's really a problem now and, we should know more about it and we should try to find a way to resolve it. This issue is very big and we should change. Of course for ecology reasons, ecosystem reasons, life, and of course, oil.

Why do you think people are so resistant to the idea of change?

I think people have become too egoistic. This planet is our mother. We need this planet;

we need this air, water, ground and forest. It's important, but we forgot because our ego is too big. Now we should change. We should shift our minds. Even a small shift changes things around. Maybe we don't need an extreme change.

Do you feel like it's something where you can make any difference? Is it frustrating to you that it's hard to get people to care? I mean, you have the microphone, you have a public voice. What do you hope to do with it?

I think we can agitate. It's a very important responsibility for artists because we have a very big chance to send a message from our hearts. I think artists are responsible for passing the right messages to the public. We should learn more about those issues so we can spread the truth about what is really going on, because it's our responsibility. I think for me to make new music, I need to visit and tour many countries and places to get inspired. I need to meet many new people, too. I just want to send an important message for our planet and for our universe. That is a very simple thing which human can do for our planet.

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Kirsty Evans

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