Posts Tagged ‘ drums ’

Interview: Yoshiki’s new ways to express himself

Picture courtesy of YSK Entertainment

Call him dedicated or call him reckless. You would probably be correct either way. X Japan drummer, pianist and band leader Yoshiki severely damaged his neck due to his intense drumming style to the point that he needed neck surgery. In fact, since the last time I sat down with Yoshiki, he had surgery again, this time to replace a disc in his neck with an artificial alternative. While he appears to be more conscious of the health risks of his playing style than ever, he is also driven to pick up drumming again. If only to promote the new X Japan album, that he has been working on for years now.

It feels weird. I had neck surgery several years ago, but then they carved a bone to make a little space between the bones“, Yoshiki explains his most recent surgery. “This time, a disc in my neck was completely worn out, so they had to put plastic and metal into my neck. It was a big operation. Last time, they went through the back of my neck. This time, they went through the front. They had to pull the vocal cords aside and place the artificial disc. It’s a pretty intense surgery.
Is it a definitive thing or did the doctor give you an estimation of when you can play again?
The way I play drums is not good for my health. Period. That’s what my doctor said. So I just have to find a way to play drums the healthy way. There are some things I have to focus on. First off: headbanging is bad. At some point, people have to stop doing that. I guess I have reached the epitome. It brought me to this position: I had two neck surgeries. So we have to find a different way to express ourselves. Not only the artists, also the audience. Otherwise, we’re all going to have neck surgery in the end.
What’s your physical therapy like these days?
It is focused on building muscles in my neck. My nervous system is already damaged though. Luckily, my motor skills are still fine, so I can move my hands. But because of the nerve damage, I can’t really feel anything properly anymore. There’s always a burning sensation in my hand. It’s very uncomfortable. A terrible feeling. So I just have to find a different way to express myself. Without headbanging.
Does your situation impact your compositions at all, in the sense that you adapt what you write to what you can play?
Fortunately, I finished every single drum track for the upcoming album before surgery. But as of now, I can’t play drums. That’s what the doctor said: no more drums. The way I play drums is just too much, but I’m trying to find a way to go back to the stage as a drummer. Then I’ll play as hard as I can, as soon as I can. But believe it or not: the day after the surgery, I was already in the studio. There are things I can still do. Some editing, for instance.
Ever since we started working on the album, I haven’t really stopped. Even when we were doing the Wembley show back in March; I was in London doing some interviews and preparing for the concert, but I also booked a recording studio and I was also working on the new album. And I thought about it, since I’m in Europe now, to see if I had some extra time. I would like to keep recording. But my schedule is really tight, so I couldn’t do it this time.


Yoshiki already addressed the elephant in the room himself: the new X Japan album, their first studio album since the 1996 release ‘Dahlia’. “Pretty much all tracking is done. There is one more song I need to play piano to and I’m just adding a last touch, by means of sound effects or guitar effects or something like that. Vocal tracking is done, even the strings – we have recorded an orchestra – are done. So now I just have to find the time to go back to the studio and finish it. I’m trying to have it done by the end of this year.
Is the oldest material still up to your own quality standards after so much time?
Good question… I think so. I mean, I like it. It’s really hard for me to say I like the songs, because I’m super picky, but I think this album is going to be amazing.
Have you found the right label for the release of this album yet?
Most likely it will be Sony Records. Worldwide. I think the whole world will get it at the same time.
Is Extasy Records (Yoshiki’s own label, originally founded to release X Japan’s albums) still active at all?
Yes and no. As of now, I’m planning on producing artists, but I just have to concentrate on finishing X Japan’s album before I do any other things. Also, I have so much promotion and so many interviews to do for the ‘We Are X’ film, so I’m trying to find the time. I always have people looking for artists. Actually, I get a demo pretty much every day. Sometimes I’m really overwhelmed by what I hear. But it’s so hard for me to find the time to even produce now. So unless it is someone extremely good… Well, even then I would probably introduce them to some label or something.


If the documentary ‘We Are X’, which is in theaters now, shows anything, it is that the Japanese music industry is something that is almost impossible to imagine for westerners. There are superstars in Japan that hardly anyone in the west has ever heard of. Yoshiki does note an increase in interest in X Japan now that the movie is out: “The added interest is great, but we dit not make this film for that kind of purpose.
A lot of Japanese bands make a very clear distinction between their indie days and their major days. You have been in both situations. Are the differences really that big?
I don’t know. Of course, during our indies era, we had no director, no producers, no label telling us what to do. It was all about us. When we signed to a label, suddenly there were a lot of people telling us what to do. And sometimes that was great advice, sometimes it was not. But basically it is still you. You are making this music, so in essence, I don’t think it’s not that different.
Are there any projects you are working on at the moment?
I’ve been working with Marilyn Manson on a project of the two of us, but first I need the finish the new X Japan album. Also I’m working on a new classical album. Piano and a symphony orchestra, something like that.
Would you ever consider making a follow-up to ‘We Are X’?
I don’t know. We’re always filming, so there’s always enough material and there’s always a chance that there will be something else. But as of now, we are trying finish recording our new album. If anything comes out, it will definitely be after our new album. I’m pretty sure it will be released next spring.
Can I hold you to that?

Dutch readers can watch ‘We Are X’ on Picl.


Yoshiki in the Slagwerkkrant

Are you a fan of X Japan or do you need a Christmas gift for someone who is? May I suggest you the new issue of the Slagwerkkrant? Included is an interview with their drummer, pianist and band leader Yoshiki. It’s based on the same conversation as the interview I published here a couple of weeks ago, but there’s a bigger emphasis on his playing and his equipment. If you’re a drummer, make sure you get it. If only because there’s a lot of educational material and drum equipment, as well as interesting interviews with the likes of Steve Smith and the awesome Jay Bellerose.

Ironically, we have Yoshiki in the magazine graced by a cover with a kit from Sakae drums, which is also Japanese.

For a preview, check out this link.

Slagwerkkrant featuring my interview with Pauw

Even though I don’t contribute to as many issues of the Slagwerkkrant than I do to Gitarist – which would be technically impossible anyway, given that Gitarist is released twice as much per year – I am always happy to interview for them. Especially when the conversations are as nice as the one I had with Rens Ottink from the Dutch psychedelic band Pauw. He’s a very friendly guy and it was fun to talk about his vintage drumkits and some of the recording tricks he used for the band’s debut album ‘Macrocosm Microcosm’. What tricks? I guess you’ll just have to buy the Slagwerkkrant; it’s in stores now.

And if you’re enthusiastic about drumming; what are you waiting for? There’s loads of product tests, as well as interviews with the likes of Dream Theater’s Mike Mangini and Madonna’s drummer Brian Frasier Moore, while Mark Guiliana talks about his contributions to David Bowie’s last record ‘Blackstar’. I despise Bowie’s music – no, I’m not among the hordes of people who suddenly like him now that he passed away – but even I found it an interesting read. Oh and before I forget: the Noorderslag feature has two photos that I took and includes my reviews on the showcases of Typhoon, Jett Rebel and the aforementioned Pauw.

My work in stores this week

This month’s issue of Gitarist is once again full of my work. Besides a myriad of reviews, there’s seven pages of interviews from my hand and I must be honest: I’m proud of that. One of them is devoted to Armel Paap from Rondé – which just might be the next big thing in Holland, I wouldn’t be surprised – and three pages each to Brian Pots of psychedelic Rockers Pauw and the amazing Gary Clark Jr.. Clark’s new record ‘The Story Of Sonny Boy Slim’ is one of the best albums I have heard this year and our conversation about the album (on which Clark played almost all the instruments himself) was very interesting. Read all about it! The acoustic guitar special – including lots of easily overlooked basic information – is a very cool read as well.

My contributions to drum magazine Slagwerkkrant are relatively limited, but being the rhythm junkie that I am, I always enjoy talking to drummers. Especially if their band is as interesting as My Baby. Their drummer Joost van Dijck is a cool guy and My Baby’s Voodoo Blues and Trance inspired sound – sounds unlikely, but it’s true, check their new album ‘Shamanaid’ for evidence – is unique. And he’s not the only awesome drummer featured in this month’s issue; former Sugarhill Records house drummer Dennis Chambers, Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain, Typhoon’s Eddy Addai and Primus’ Tim Alexander all have some space devoted to them. And let’s not forget all those product reviews…

Both magazines are in stores in the Netherlands and Belgium, so get them while they still have that amazing new magazine smell!

Many heroes new and old in Gitarist and Slagwerkkrant

Gitarist’s last issue for this year (well, technically it’s the January 2014 issue…) contains a lot of interesting stuff. And you certainly won’t hear me say that all of it is mine, because it isn’t. First of all, Adrian Vandenberg – “Adje” for fellow Dutchies – is back! My chief editor Mark van Schaick has written a long and informative feature on his new band MoonKings. I certainly can’t wait to hear the album, but I’ll have to wait until February 24th in order to do so. My compliments to mr. Vandenberg for working with young musicians rather than taking the easy way out and ask a couple of big names to join him.

As for my contributions, there are interviews with some brand new heroes. I talked to Eric Campbell from Vancouver’s No Sinner about their fantastic debut album ‘Boo Hoo Hoo’. To tell you the truth, I have an incredible weak spot for Colleen Rennison’s fantastic vocals and the general old school Rock ‘n’ Soul sound of the band. Check this band out if you haven’t yet! Also, I spoke to brand new Legion Of The Damned guitarist Twan van Geel about his contributions to the band’s brand new ‘Ravenous Plague’ album. I have been a fan of Van Geel’s playing and writing ever since I heard him with Flesh Made Sin and this is definitely Legion’s best album yet!

In addition, I had an interesting conversation (and somewhat decent photo shoot) with Marillion’s Steve Rothery, whose hero Andy Latimer is also featured in the magazine (that interview was done by my colleague Stefan Heger, however). The interview my colleague Martine Sipma had with master repair man Hans Pluut is well worth your time as well. If you wonder what to spend your most recent salary on: there’s loads of reviews as well, among which quite a few from my hand.

If guitars aren’t your thing, but drums are, get Slagwerkkrant instead. I had an interesting conversation with Damian Lopez of Amsterdam’s Red Eyes that is published, but be sure to check out the interviews with new Dream Theater Mike Mangini – who also drummed on Annihilator’s ‘Set The World On Fire’, an album I listen to quite a lot – and Peter Gabriel’s most amazing drummer Manu Katché as well!

And if that’s not enough to cure your new year’s boredom, I will publish my end-of-year list tomorrow, hoping to entertain you a little further with that.

Loads of new publications in stores now!

For those of you who need something to read during the dark, family obligation ridden days around Christmas, you may want to consider reading some of the stuff I wrote, because a lot of it appeared in stores these last few days.

Gitarist features two big stories of mine this month. First of all, there’s the interview I had with Estelle Stijkel of the amazing The Jacks. She’s got an awesome, Slash and Jimmy Page influenced style and displays that on a downright awesome custom Les Paul to boot. We talked about her gear and the new release ‘Epic Trois’, the second EP The Jacks released this year. I would like to urge anyone to go out and check The Jacks, because they’re my best “new discovery” of this year. I’m also very proud of the picture I took that is included with the interview. Also, I talked with returning Focus guitarist Menno Gootjes – who incidentally was one of Estelle’s teachers – about his return to the legendary group, his Les Paul Classic, his amps and his general style. I loved his former band Nine Volt as well. I reviewed The Jacks’ combined release of their three EP’s and Bad Brains’ awesome new album and besides that, there’s an interview with John McLaughlin, a special about Fuzz Faces, a feature on Fender reissues and loads and loads more. Be sure to vote for the Gitarist poll as well!

Those of you interested in drums and percussion would do right by checking out the new issue of Slagwerkkrant. Besides the interview I had with Case Mayfield’s new drummer Nienke Overmars about her unexpected inclusion in the singer/songwriter’s touring entourage and her equipment, there’s a very interesting interview my chief editor Mark van Schaick had with Metal drummer extraordinaire Dirk Verbeuren as an introduction to the new segment he will have in the magazine, Ralph Rolle of Chic – a very beloved band for yours truly – is interviewed and among the others interviewed are Thomas Lang and Chris Dave. As you can see: we’re covering lots of different genres with equal love for rhythms!

Digging deeper into the technical side of recording music, Interface will deliver. My input in this month’s issue is limited to an interview with The Gathering’s René Rutten about the recordings of their brand new album ‘Disclosure’ – a different take on the same conversation appeared in last month’s issue of Gitarist – but there’s more interesting stuff in there. In-depth analysis on the Korg Krome, Cakewalk Sonar X2 and many other new software and hardware releases, something really interesting for me in the shape of a workshop on recording acoustic guitars and interviews, including one with Benny Blanco, who is responsible for two of the biggest abominations on the radio at the moment (‘Move Like Jagger’ and ‘Diamonds), but it’s an insightful interview nonetheless.

And if that’s not enough for you… There will no doubt be more reviews on here. Let’s not forget that the year is nearly at an end and that allows me to do the only thing I like about these festivities: end-of-year-lists!

New interviews in Gitarist and Slagwerkkrant

This post is a little overdue, figuring that the magazines first appeared in stores last week, but if you are interested in my writings, there’s two more magazines for you to check out! First of all, the new issue of the Slagwerkkrant features an interview I had with Carsten Brunsveld from Holland’s own amazing John Coffey. Seriously, I don’t like Hardcore at all, but they just have the right amount of old school Rock ‘n’ Roll energy to make it work. Their album ‘Bright Companions’ is easily the best Dutch Hardcore album I’ve ever heard. We sat down to talk about their recording sessions in Sweden and Carsten’s equipment and influences. As you might have seen: Triggerfinger’s Mario Goossens has the coverstory. Also a killer band!

Gitarist this month features an interesting interview I had with Wintersun’s band brain Jari Mäenpää about the long interval between their debut album and the brand new ‘Time I’ album and the settings on their Axe-FX system. Also, reviews on that album and Devin Townsend’s awesome ‘Epicloud’ are included. And while you’re reading it anyway, be sure to check out the top 30 rhythm guitarists. I won’t tell you who’s leading the list, but I can tell you that I wasn’t surprised. A very justified number one.

There’s a lot more coming up. I’ll try and keep you as up to date as possible!