Indies eXplosion: The Early History of X JAPAN

X Japan: An Early HistoryWe delivered to you the sweeping story of X JAPAN throughout their entire history-making era. But before they were major, back in the days that the X stood alone, this band blew away the independent music scene with unstoppable force.

From some of their earliest lives at Kagurazaka Explosion to the tour leading up to their outstandingly successful major debut, we’ll follow X through the concerts, sell-out records, and other developments that catapulted X to fame in 1989 and ultimately brought us X JAPAN in 1992.  

 "My first thought probably would have been that I wouldn’t want to have anything to do with guys looking that scary."YOSHIKI

The "scary guys" YOSHIKI spoke of, when asked about how he might have felt long ago had he encountered X as some average listener, were the X members of their wilder days during the last Indies years, 1987 and 1988. X in those days was famous for their outrageous looks and behaviour, with YOSHIKI‘s in particular inspiring a number of drinking places for heavy metalers or rockers to post door notices of "no blondes" or even outright "no YOSHIKI," a detail still often repeated by the Japanese media today. Along with Dementia and then Saber Tiger, X was one of a trio of groups disparaged by the musical establishment as the "three Kantou trash bands." Beyond establishment, by discerning rock aficionados, X was not just noticed because of their notoriety. X was noticed because it was amazingly successful for an Indies band right from the start.

X history starts several years before those days; it can be said to go back to before X itself came into existence, to 1981, when YOSHIKI and TOSHI participated, and won individual prizes both, in the Yamaha sponsored "EASTWEST" amateur bands contest, which was considered one of the surest gateways to success for such bands. (Groups like Southern All Stars or Bakufu Slump, which became major successes later on, started out from that contest.) X itself was founded in 1982, as the third of the bands YOSHIKI and TOSHI created together during their school days, though due to the fact that they were still in high school, their activity was mostly limited to school festivals and local contests.

Deciding to try for success as professional musicians, YOSHIKI and TOSHI gave up classical music academy and medical school respectively after their high school graduation and instead moved to Tokyo, in the spring of 1984, to continue to perform as X with friends from their high school days. It was a move over which TOSHI in particular seems to have deliberated for quite a while, but in the end he agreed with YOSHIKI that if they were to try at all, there was no point in doing things halfway. It was also a move of which YOSHIKI later said that despite his liking for challenges and his inclination to put himself into impossible situations, he wondered ever after where found the courage back then to go through with it.

They made their Indies debut less than a year later, when their live house appearances, mainly in Tokyo, started in February of 1985, followed in June with their first single, "I’ll kill you." Released by Dada records, with "Break the darkness" as the B side and the line up of TOSHI on vocals, Terry and Tomoyuki on guitar, Atsushi on bass and YOSHIKI on drums, the run of 1,000 singles completely sold out, rather surprisingly for a complete newcomer band. Their first live appearances on record were at the end of the same month, on the 28th and 29th of June, at the Kagurazaka Explosion live house, with Eddie instead of Tomoyuki on guitar and Atsushi on bass, though listed under the stage name of Tokuo.

November of 1985 saw the release of HEAVY METAL FORCE 3, a compilation album with works from twelve bands, to which X contributed "Break the darkness," the lyrics completely in English. On the same album, a band originally named Saber Tiger (switching to Saver Tiger after they learned of a band with the same name in Sapporo) with HIDE on guitar performed the track "Vampire." The recording for it might be how YOSHIKI, TOSHI and HIDE originally met, though as members of the Kantou Indies scene, they might have known each other anyhow.

Also in November, on the 20th, was the first of the two live house performances — with the other on December 3rd — in which TAIJI made his first appearances on stage as a member of X, together with YOSHIKI, TOSHI and Jun as support player on guitar. This first time around, he left X after only a brief period with them, giving "musical differences" as his reason to quit to create Dead Wire with Kyo and Tetsu, who both later moved on to join D’Erlanger.

For nearly a year after that, from the end of 1985 through most of 1986, X performed with only YOSHIKI and TOSHI as permanent members and generally Jun on guitar and Hikaru on bass playing as support players, in the line up they released X‘s second single "Orgasm" with. Sold through YOSHIKI‘s own EXTASY Records in April 1986, the press run of 1,500 copies sold out almost instantly、according to old interviews surprising the X members more than anyone else. In the same month, X, in the form of YOSHIKI (doing most of the talking), TOSHI and Jun, made their very first appearance on TV, during the "Tensai Takeshi no genki ga deru terebi" variety show, though not actually performing during that program.

It was also during this period that YOSHIKI first met PATA, then leader of Judy, when after the departure of Judy‘s drummer, PATA was in need of a support drums player and people told him about "YOSHIKI from X." It was after YOSHIKI played support for Judy three or four times, that PATA, impressed with his drum skills, invited him to join Judy, since, as he said to him at the time, "your band doesn’t have any members anyway." YOSHIKI declined, though, stating he had X.

In Autumn of 1986, YOSHIKI and TAIJI accidentally met and started talking again、after which TAIJI apparently came to the conclusion that despite musical differences, X was the place where he belonged, and with that, he was back in the band. He was introduced as a full member of X again during the "hakkyou bakuhatsu ooabare GIG" ("insanity explosion great rioting gig") played at Meguro Rokumeikan (among other places) in November, during a performance in which HIDE, then still guitarist in Saver Tiger, joined X as guitarist during their encore that night.

A little later, reportedly on January 2nd, 1987, YOSHIKI called PATA, who was working at a video store after the disbanding of Judy, to ask him to play support guitar for X, for their contribution of "Stab me in the back" and "No Connexion" (track 5 and 6 respectively on the album) to the Victor Records "SKULL THRASH ZONE VOLUME 1" various artists compilation album. PATA agreed to participate for one week of recording time only, but it led to him playing support for X on a variety of occasions afterwards. After Saver Tiger disbanded, YOSHIKI persuaded HIDE, who had by then decided to give up on music, to join X and it was after that that PATA also finally accepted YOSHIKI‘s invitation.

1987 continued to be a very good year for X, as they set new attendance records for live houses, such as Meguro Live Station for their first "one man live" — events at which only one artist or band performs, instead of combined appearances by three or more bands which are more common for live houses — and later Osaka Bourbon House in July, often filling them beyond their official capacities and selling out gigs completely through advanced tickets sales, for three shows at Meguro Rokumeikan in August and November, again an incredible achievement then for an Indies band.

In a busy summer, July saw the band make their first appearance in a movie, "Tokyo Pop," now famous amongst fans for X’s brief presence. In August, they participated in the Kyoto Sports Valley "Rock Monsters" event, and handed out the free "XCLAMATION" promotional video, paid out of the members own pockets, and pretty much emptying them. (It was at one of X‘s Kyoto Sports Valley appearances that PATA, upon someone’s attempt to interview him, uttered his most often quoted comment of "Me, I’m not going to talk.") At the end of the year, on December 26th, they participated in the CBS SONY 1987 new talent audition tournament, in which they won the "upcoming artist" prize that led to their contract with CBS SONY on August 1st, 1988.

The beginning of 1988 started with some excitement, when an autograph session on January 15th at the opening of the Ishibashi musical instruments store’s Yokohama location was overwhelmed by a mass panic of overexcited fans. This would happen again on April 17th, when a session at the Harajuku UK Edison after the release of "Vanishing Vision" had to be canceled when excited and panicked fans got too far out of hand.

The album itself was recorded, according to later reports by the band members, over a period of three hundred hours during February and March while they also were touring, and was released on YOSHIKI‘s own EXTASY label on April 14th. The first press run of 10,000 records sold out at record speed within a week, an achievement previously unheard of in the Indies scene, instantly sending it to the top of Oricon Indies chart. Maybe even more remarkably, the album went as high as rank 19 on the official Oricon chart, the first Indies record ever to make it on that chart. That it was released as an Indies album and not on a major label was in fact YOSHIKI and the other members’ own decision, as they turned down offers from major production companies before and during the album’s recording.

Shortly after its release, X had their first hall concert on May 5th, at Nakano Koukaidou, which completely sold out, followed by the "Vanishing Tour" of twenty four live house gigs in twenty locations, which again set new attendance records for the Indies scene. After that tour, while already under contract with CBS SONY but prior to making their major debut, they participated in the "Heavy Metal Days" in Saitama on August 27th and another Kyoto Sports Valley open air event on September 4th, before going on the "Burn Out" tour through October. During that tour, YOSHIKI and TOSHI appeared on the popular "rajio de gomen" — "sorry it’s only radio" — talk show on the 18th, which was the start of more and more media appearances by X. The band participated in the famous "Street Fighting Men" event on November 18th, and finally ended their year with their participation in the Meguro Rokumeikan "All Night Metal Party."

January of 1989 was taken up by the recording of the "Blue Blood" album, but presented the members of X — and probably a lot of other people, though only X members seem to have officially commented on it — with two large surprises, in the form of concert ticket sales: on January 6th, advanced sales tickets for the March 16th Shibuya Koukaidou "Bakuhatsu Suzen gig" sold out in two hours, and on January 29th, advanced sales tickets for a similar event in Osaka did so in 30 minutes.

The "Blue Blood Tour" to promote the "Blue Blood" album started on March 13th, completely selling out in every single location, with tickets almost impossible to obtain as it went on, making X famous nationwide through its success.

To give fans who didn’t manage to get tickets a chance to see their favorite band at least in some way, on March 31st they started the first of their film gig tours — then called video concerts — hitting 132 locations nationwide before the end of April.

April 21st saw X‘s major debut with the "Blue Blood" album, which went on to become, despite being their first major release album, a million seller.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Written by Rika
Edited by Misha

 

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