Usually when you catch up with a rock star at 4 a.m., it's hardly ever a good thing. But in the case of Japanese rocker Yoshiki, it's just an average evening. No, he wasn't partying hard. Instead, he was in the midst of preparing for his upcoming tour of very special shows across the globe. He'll be starting his tour at the Segerstrom Center in Costa Mesa this Friday night.
While some in the States may not be familiar with the singer, in his native Japan, he's debatably the biggest rock star in the land fronting metal band X Japan. In fact, he's been nicknamed the “Bono of Japan,” but a better comparison, at least in terms of sleeping habits, could be Axl Rose. But he's awake because he's working on something that very few accomplished rockers would even dare to do: a classical tour.
The origins of Yoshiki Classical came when he was asked to compose the theme song for the Golden Globes. It was released in last August and has done quite well. The album debuted at no. 1 on the iTunes Classical Music Charts in 10 countries. Yoshiki Classical's success should have been the impetus to tour, but the 48-year-old wasn't planning on hitting the road.
But slowly his mindset started to change. After playing a small showcase at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, when his agent encouraged him to do a classical world tour showcasing this different side of his musical prowess. Though he resisted, after being asked four times, Yoshiki deciding to bring the record on tour.
“I wanted to show my craft to the rock and pop audience as well,” the singer says from his home in Tokyo. “I'm trying to be good and hopefully they enjoy what they hear.”
Though he was initially interested in the music of Beethoven and Schubert, Yoshiki gradually moved away from those sounds when he formed X Japan, a group that is more likely to be associated with KISS than traditional composers.
Even though he's known as a rock icon, Yoshiki has never gravitated too far from the piano. He writes most of his songs on piano, having started playing classical music when he was four. Moving to classical music wasn't as much a departure as it is a continuation of what he's done, albeit on a much different level.
“I compose everything in my head and then I write the score,” he explains. “After I finish writing the score, I make sure that all the right chords are in place.”
With only two shows in the United States (the other show is in San Francisco the night after OC), Yoshiki is ready to prove to audiences that's an equal adept composer as he is rock star. As opposed to playing with a traditional rock band, Yoshiki is going to playing with a seven-piece string section. Considering that this something that was out of the realm as recently as a year ago, Yoshiki can't hide his feelings heading into opening night.
“I'm excited and I'm nervous,” he confesses. “I've been doing rock for a long time and I'm so glad to be spreading classical music to rock audiences as well and they will hopefully see a side of me they never saw before.”
Daniel Kohn is a writer based in Southern California. With bylines in an assortment of outlets, Kohn primarily specializes in music with other interests ranging from sports to food. As a transplant, Kohn loves the beautiful weather and is glad he no longer has to deal with brutal winters. If you see him, say hi and of course, he’s always willing to down a beer or two…if you’re paying.