We Are X
To all the dads that rock, we salute you. To all the dads that rock from a comfy armchair, we salute you too. No doubt your love of shredding bands will be passed down to your mini bangers of heads, but there’s one band that was criminally overlooked in the seminal movie School of Rock.
X Japan tried to crack the West, and have had a degree of success among their loyal, international hardcore fans, but nothing like the scale on their home turf.
The documentary, We are X comes from the same Oscar-winning producers of Searching for Sugar Man; a masterclass in music documentary and storytelling. There are parallels here – Rodriguez and X’s stories are both tinged with sadness, both films feature amazing music with a bonafide narrative behind them, and the opportunity to educate audiences about music and musicians that will probably have slipped by their radar.
Billed as ‘the world’s biggest and most successful band you’ve never heard of … yet’, X Japan’s story starts as you’d imagine, in the ‘now’ on the eve of a reunion gig to end them all at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and then goes back to the band’s beginning where they met as school friends, periodically telling their personal history with the band and each other.
This is where the emotional core of the film lies, and for dads? It doesn’t get any more humbling than watching Yoshiki, the band leader and drummer through a turbulent and emotional history with the band, get choked up talking about how, as a young, classically trained pianist, his father never saw him evolve and develop into the rock behemoth that puts many, many other bands in the shade.
His family found his father dead one day, and it was quickly dealt with. Yoshiki is forever in that limbo we never want to be in, where we lose a parent at a young age.
The film is about rock. Music. East and West. But it’s essentially about family. How the band found each other, worked with each other, created together and dealt with some very heavy losses that you’d carry around forever, as family, and as brothers.
It looks amazing. Light relief (of sorts) comes from the OUTRAGEOUS hair and costumes they were sporting, going into the 90’s. They dressed like cultural magpies, nicking from the lurid 80’s, the punk aesthetic, new romantic and a darker, more industrial edge splashed with PVC and chains.
The band have been going three decades, and the ‘troubles’ they faced are not exactly of the Amy, Kurt or G’n’R excess we’d typically expect. If there was, there was no mention. We are X is haunting, intimate and takes the band story to a deeply personal level.
Deaths. Suicides. A cult. Band break-ups. Obsessive fans. A look at a sometimes alien culture that looks like ours but is a world apart. We are X has it all, accompanied by, of course, their music and amazing editing that mixes archive, concert and talking heads with a very tripped out visual style and score that hangs it all together beautifully. The director, Stephen Kijak (Stones in Exile, Scott Walker: 30 Century Man) has created an emotional, compelling visual document that will scorch your retinas and embed itself in your memory.
Yoshiki himself is pound for pound one of the best (if not the best!) drummers in the world. At one point in rehearsal, he asks ‘…can I just do the last ten minutes of that drum solo again?’ Gotta chuckle.
He rocks so hard, he’s had neck surgery from head banging for so long, and a permanently painful shoulder injury that he describes as a friend, enemy and lover. Yoshiki is the principal songwriter and drummer in the band. As aforementioned he’s also a classically trained pianist that has composed and played for the Emperor and Empress, worked with Sir George Martin, and has even had a superhero based on him by Stan Lee (a massive fan). Legend barely cuts it.
Watching him and the band through the years, you do see them age, but strangely (maybe due to good make-up, wearing black and shades indoors) not that much.
We Are X is an amazing documentary. If you didn’t know them before, you will be scouring streaming sites to dive into their illustrious back cat after watching it. If you can’t get to many gigs these days, then this will definitely curb a little bit of than hunger.
The band – Yoshiki, Toshi, Hide and a later, revolving cast went through the mill, but X Japan is still producing and touring in their current form. If you’re lucky, you can grab a ticket for Wembley’s March 4th gig. It’s gonna be x-traordinary.
WE ARE X will celebrate its UK Premiere on 28th February and will screen in cinemas nationwide 2nd March – Go See It !!!
Images courtesy of ar-pr.co.uk