"I’m Proud of This Song. It’s a Totally Addictive Melody"
The X Japan drummer/songwriter and globally renowned artist was tapped to compose this year’s Golden Globes theme song. Kenny Herzog spoke to Yoshiki about the honor, why he's excited for a Ricky Gervais teasing, and where plans for X’s next record fit into all this.
Words by Kenny Herzog
Like Anchorman’s Ron Burgundy, Yoshiki is kind of a big deal. It was only a matter of time until Hollywood summoned the X Japan maestro and multi-instrumentalist for something loftier than writing music for the Saw franchise (though X’s “I.V.” was arguably Saw IV’s shining moment). Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA) President Dr. Aida Takia-O’Reilly—herself a native Egyptian—reached out to Yoshiki shortly after being instated in 2011. She’d hoped he would compose this year’s Golden Globes theme song and help send a message of global inclusion to the ceremony’s audience.
Naturally, Yoshiki embraced the opportunity as both a privilege and creative challenge, and a chance to continue pursuing his quest to make music that affects people from ocean to ocean. Not that it was easy. (Wrangling musicians and engineers during the holidays can be a logistical nightmare.) But as he explains below in his latest interview with Kenny Herzog (who spoke to the philanthropic hard-rock icon just after last summer’s tragic earthquake in Japan), Yoshiki is confident he delivered a song that’s fittingly grand but will make his worldwide fans no less X-static.
You just turned the Golden Globes theme into the HFPA this week. For all your and X Japan’s fans, how would you describe what they can expect?
You can hear a Yoshiki melody in it, then also there’s an element of classical music and an element of rock. I combined those together.
Did you consult songs from years past or just do your own thing?
I watched some DVDs of several years of the Golden Globes. Also, I was there last year, so I know what kind of vibe [they need].
Also, the president of HFPA gave me some keywords, like it needs to be Hollywood, needs to be prestigious, needs to be edgy.
So I listened to all those words carefully, digested in my head and then composed the song.
Is it a song you feel kicks ass beyond that grandeur and prestige?
I’ve never really done this kind of instrumental piece with an orchestra and a band together.
When I composed for the Japanese emperor, it was kind of a concerto. When I composed for the World Expo [in 2005], it had pop vibes too, but kind of a classical base.
This is a little more rock ‘n’ roll, but with classical in it. I’m proud of this song. It’s a totally addictive melody. I wanted to come up with something very catchy and still have some kind of depth.
Your creative process was immediately impacted after last year’s earthquake in Japan. Did any of the emotion from that find its way into the Globes song?
I think that kind of thing is still in me. It’s always in me, so no matter what song I write. I don’t think I can write a 100 percent happy song. I wouldn’t call it sadness, but something’s in it always. That element is always in me and then every single song I write.
Is this collaboration with the Globes the start of a possible next path for you after it becomes physically impractical to tour with X?
[Laughs] I don’t know, we’ll see. When I got this call, I was pretty surprised. But when I was writing the song, I kind of understood why I was asked to do it, because I have both backgrounds—classical and rock. At the same time, I don’t believe in shortcuts.
You have to work hard to get there, so I’m really lucky to be able to do this kind of job, but going to the next step, I just have to keep working hard… The next thing after this is just complete the X Japan album.
I’ve been asked to be music director for a certain film. I can’t say the name, but I kept saying, “I need to finish X Japan album, can I do it after?” But [the Globes] is the only one [where] I said, “I would love to do this.” But I will do the X Japan album right after.
Was writing and composing the Globes theme a process you actually enjoyed?
I loved the process and everything. It was just kind of challenging. Not the composition; the hardest part was I just finished a world tour and had to do a few appearances, so I had to compose this song during the holidays. This song has drums, bass and guitar, a big orchestra and also piano. I played everything except orchestra, but it’s hard to get all those people Christmas season or New Year’s. Also, those engineers and all that staff.
Also, [I had to] try to win over this pressure. There are so many big names in Hollywood, so I didn’t want to disappoint all these people who gave me this opportunity. I had confidence at the same time [that] I’m gonna create a great song, something only I can do.
Are you worried that Ricky Gervais will tease you or the song at all during his opening monologue?
It’s gonna be an honor to even get mentioned. [Laughs] I was there last year, and as I was eating and drinking, I had to ask my friend, “Did he just say that? Is he allowed to say it?” Towards the end of the show I started laughing. So, if he even mentioned one word, good or bad, I’d be honored.
The Golden Globe Awards airs this Sunday, January 15th, on NBC.