On September 11, rock star YOSHIKI appeared in London to accompany a screening of his directorial debut and feature film YOSHIKI: Under The Sky. The movie collects his recent musical collaborations with artists around the world, with the seasoned performer mainly at the seat of his piano on an open-air rooftop in tandem with the guest musicians often performing at other sites.
YOSHIKI, the leader and co-founder of X Japan and The Last Rockstars, has recently popped up worldwide—for instance, he just left his handprints at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles, the first Japanese artist to do so. His Classical 10th Anniversary World Tour will follow next month, including concerts in London, New York, and Los Angeles. He’ll then return to Los Angeles at the end of November, this time for The Last Rockstars concert.
The artists in YOSHIKI: Under The Sky include Germany’s The Scorpions, performing their peace anthem “Winds of Change”; China’s Jane Zhang; Britain’s Sarah Brightman; and American contributions from Lindsey Stirling, Nicole Scherzinger, St. Vincent, and The Chainsmokers. The SixTONES represented J-Pop, while HYDE and X Japan guitarist Sugizo came together with YOSHIKI for a new arrangement of “Red Swan,” the song featured in the third season of Attack on Titan.
The film’s structure is straightforward, with each song preceded by brief reflections on the artists’ mutual respect and shared history – for instance, a glimpse of a younger YOSHIKI covering “Winds of Change.” There were also fulsome tributes to YOSHIKI‘s departed X Japan bandmates, Taiji and hide. Mortality is pervasive in the film – the “Under the Sky” title refers to everyone alive, as YOSHIKI says he’s surprised to be after a lifetime of ill-health and tragedy. Later in the film, a strand involved YOSHIKI‘s online friendship with two married fans, one of whom was at the end of her life.
Following the Odeon Covent Garden cinema screening, YOSHIKI took to the stage for a half-hour Q&A. Toby Amies, director of the music documentary In The Court of the Crimson King about the British prog-rock band King Crimson was present to interview the “Forever Lover” singer. A music omnivore, YOSHIKI was naturally a fan of the group.
Amies opened questioning by coyly asking if YOSHIKI found it hard to work with himself. After he stopped laughing, YOSHIKI answered thoughtfully, “It’s rather hard to be a director and the subject at the same time. I always try to look at myself from the outside, like there’s a YOSHIKI, and then there’s a separate YOSHIKI. Sometimes, I hate that YOSHIKI. I don’t like who that YOSHIKI is a lot of the time. But at the same time, that YOSHIKI is trying hard too; I’m kind of good at separating those two Yoshikis.”
Amies also asked why YOSHIKI sought collaborators for the film, given he could sing himself. Unlike such artists, YOSHIKI said, “I am no good at all.” He prefers to record with another singer and tell them how the song should be sung. He also revealed how he stopped playing the trumpet when he realized he didn’t look good with it—”I looked like a frog!”
It wasn’t just YOSHIKI‘s instruments that have changed over time. He recalled his more rebellious days when he had long spiked hair and had to lean far over to get into a cab to avoid messing his hair up— he demonstrated, to the audience’s great amusement. He also revealed that no insurance company is willing to cover his vivid drumming sessions, which have caused him to collapse at some performances. In 2017, his enthusiastic head movements led to urgent neck surgery. YOSHIKI revealed he’s since learned to headbang in a healthier way.
“Don’t headbang down,” he urged.
YOSHIKI said he is considering a drum solo against an orchestra for the upcoming classical concerts. “The production side is saying, ‘YOSHIKI, what the f— are you thinking?’ Come on, I want to drum; I want to do something crazy.”
YOSHIKI also acknowledged the dark sides of his thoughts, bringing up both his father, whose death traumatized him as a child, and his mother, who died earlier this year. He reflected on how these events can color a person’s perspective.
“The same thing happens in the world, but it depends on how you look at those things; life can be beautiful or miserable, either way,” he opined.
When the Q&A ended, YOSHIKI seemed perfectly happy to be mobbed by the audience. He took selfies with his fans for several minutes before being escorted from the building to cheers and applause.