Yoshiki spends most of his time either at home in the company of the 20 people he employs, or in the studio he bought in 1993—the one where Metallica recorded their eponymous album, popularly known as Black Album. (Metallica producer Bob Rock had the space booked for his next project, but Yoshiki dropped a few million, renamed it Extasy Recording Studio, and kicked Rock out.) He says when he drinks, he drinks, though he's careful not to make a public display of it like he did during the glory years. Now he ventures out only once a week for business dinners at, say, Matsuhisa, before unwinding at clubs like Bar Sinister, a Hollywood Goth nightspot, with one of his four assistants. "One of us is always with him," says primary assistant Lauren, a skinny doe-eyed beauty dressed in short shorts and black thigh-high socks. "He doesn't talk to too many people." He used to have a girlfriend, Julia Voth, an up-and-coming Canadian model/actress, but he broke up with her in June after six years together. "I was too busy," he says without emotion, waving his hand dismissively like a petulant teenager. "I mean, I want to get married. I think. I guess. I don't know."
"When he says he doesn't have any good friends, I honestly believe him," says Phil Quartararo, Yoshiki and X Japan's manager, who, as then president of Warner Bros. Records, signed Yoshiki to a solo deal in 2000. "He lives for the mystery and cultivating that myth." Yoshiki might like to walk the aisles of Ralph's in anonymity, but when the ego needs a shot, he likes to make an appearance where he's sure to get recognized, including the occasional movie premiere. (This is It, most recently). But when X Japan goes out on the road, will Yoshiki be able to keep the adoration at arms length? (Will he even want to?) Either way, the prospect of widespread success in the U.S. remains an iffy proposition. Anime might have a massive following among 12 year-olds and the downtown hipster class, but that doesn't necessarily translate into fondness for an unironic brand of bombastic arena rock that can sometimes sound about 20 years behind the curve. For every Rush (Canada) and Phoenix (France) there are hundreds of Tragically Hips and Noir Désirs—bands you've never heard of for a reason.
Yoshiki is well aware of the obstacles that face any foreign rock outfit trying to make it in rock's birthplace. Still, X Japan's 50-minute, five-song blast at Lollapalooza was lauded as one of the weekend highlights by both fans and critics, and Yoshiki plans to keep that momentum going. "We played heavy songs—I didn't want to lose people with the ballads," he tells me on the phone a couple weeks later, following two enormous stadium shows outside of Tokyo. "I know what I'm doing. And now, after Lollapalooza, I want success in the U.S. more than I ever did. It's a long, winding road. But we're going to run, not walk."Read More:
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