“We Are X” opens with a bang, as we see an energized Yoshiki pounding out a last hoorah on his infamous crystal drum set for screaming fans at Madison Square Garden.
He exits the stage, and we follow his winding, speedy walk through the hallways. Finally we see him enter his dressing room and slump into a chair, exhausted.
X Japan’s performance at Madison Square Garden in 2014 is one that fans across the world are still talking about. “We Are X” takes us back four days before the concert to show exactly what steps went into the production. It then goes even further to show what the band accomplished before reaching that day.
Like everything X Japan, “We Are X” is fast-paced, riveting, loud and intensely visual. Since its production, it has premiered at film festivals across the world and taken home awards for editing at Sundance and title design at SXSW.
For readers who are not familiar with X Japan, the legendary rock band shook up the Japanese music scene with their debut in the late 1980s, going on to sell over 30 million records. Now rock icons, they are well known as pioneers of Visual Kei.
Unfortunately, their 34 years were not always smooth. The film delves into the dark parts of their long history with a new depth, exploring the trials, difficulties and tragedies that befell them along the way.
At the core of this story are the personal experiences of drummer and pianist Yoshiki. From the first time he met vocalist Toshi in pre-K to his present day work to popularize X Japan in the USA, Yoshiki’s life is examined.
In personal interviews, he opens up about his frailty in youth, the devastation of his father’s suicide, bassist Taiji’s departure from the band, his falling out with Toshi, the deaths of Hide and Taiji, and his health issues in the present day. Through the film, fans can gain a deeper understanding of Yoshiki’s musical inspiration, internal struggles and hopes for the future.
The film also features very rare instances of Toshi discussing the breakup of X Japan, the cult that he joined, and the time he spent brainwashed. He reveals what ultimately caused him to doubt the cult, and Yoshiki’s role in bringing him back from it.
The tragedy of Hide’s untimely death is reflected on through personal stories from the band. Yoshiki describes the parallel of losing both his father and Hide, and confesses his thoughts and feelings after Hide’s death.
These sad moments are not glossed over, rather they are discussed openly and with depth. In the context of the film, they help to emphasize the inspiring successes of X Japan’s story.
Clips of the members rocking out on stage and hanging out behind the scenes make the audience smile and laugh. The band members share fond stories of each other and the work that they did together. Viewers are given insight into the production of some of their classics, including Art of Life.
Many people have been moved by X Japan’s music over the years, and they have a lot to say about it. There are clips of fans from all over the world describing exactly what they love about the band in full costume.
Other stars including Dir en Grey, Mucc, Guns n’ Roses and Marilyn Manson discuss X Japan as a band that they sincerely look up to, and offer their personal compliments. Gene Simmons of KISS comments “If those guys were born in America, they might be the biggest band in the world.”
Overall, “We Are X” is a must see for X Japan fans. It answers questions, introduces new footage and evokes both laughter and tears. It is a movie that will surely be interesting and enjoyable for viewers who are new to the band as well. Any fan of rock music would be fascinated.
At the end of the screening, Yoshiki and director Steven Kijak came out to talk about the film and answer some questions from the audience.
Kijak had never heard of X Japan and commented that one google image search was enough to convince him to do the film. He spoke of his love of the Blue Blood slogan “Psychedelic Violence, Crimes of Visual Shock” and confessed that these were the words of inspiration he had offered for the award winning title design.
Yoshiki was asked about his future plans. He answered that he was happy to have finished the film and announced the exciting news of his upcoming classical performances at Carnegie Hall. He promised that the album is 99% done.
One audience member asked if they were planning on releasing a full live DVD of the Madison Square Garden performance, and Yoshiki answered that he believes it is in the works.
Finally, when asked about the hardest of times, Yoshiki answered that even when he could not be fully positive, he tried to make sure that the positive thoughts outweighed the negative, even by just a tiny bit.
If you live in Los Angeles, don’t miss the chance to see the film and ask Mr. Kijak and Yoshiki questions of your own. Check out the following dates below, and for more information, click here. Screenings in other cities will be announced at a later date. To follow news related to the film, see the official site.
We Are X @ NuArt Theatre (Los Angeles)
Fri, Oct 21, 7:30pm show w/Q&A w/ Filmmaker Stephen Kijak and Yoshiki (Leader of Japanese superstar rock band X Japan)
Sat, Oct 22, 7:30pm show w/Q&A w/Filmmaker Stephen Kijak
Sun, Oct 23, 5:10pm show w/Q&A w/Filmmaker Stephen Kijak